Open letter to the People's Park Community Advisory Board:
Just wanted to share these statistics to balance out the slanted portrayal of crime central being in the Southside Neighborhood. If one considers population, Southside is not the most dangerous neighborhood in Berkeley. West Berkeley, in fact, is where the alarming crime statistics are if Berkeley should be putting resources into neighborhoods by crime statistics.
This of course does not lessen the seriousness of the issue of crime nor our will to deal with it as a community in every neighborhood. I believe there could be a lot of common ground in working toward this goal. Which is why I am so concerned about foolhardy plans that I believe will increase rather than decrease crime in our neighborhoods. Denying people basic needs will undoubtedly increase tensions and suffering. I am convinced that places of quiet to commune with nature is one of these basic needs for us to keep our humanity.
There are however steps for People's Park that we can agree upon that will make our community safer. Here are some suggestions:
1. Encourage more public events in the Park. (The advisory board already suggested art shows and classes, book swaps, Tai Chi, wheelchair basketball, movies as well as concerts.)
2. Lessen Crime by providing for the needs of the less fortunate. (Set up regular counseling services, create a freestore (to replace the box) to distribute dry free clothes, create housing, treatment, and employment opportunities, etc.)
3. Beautify and enhance the Park and the gardens by expanding community participation. (Join the Garden Club. This is the way to successfully make changes in this park. User development is what this Park is uniquely landmarked for and must be respected)
4. Create more public dialogue for increasing understanding and achieving common goals. (We need forums and processes where the different elements of our community can meet and find solutions). We could also institute a guides program like downtown Berkeley used to help people feel more comfortable.
5. Increase community presence by encouraging groups to use the Park more. (A yoga group came to the Park last week. Hold meetings there, celebrations, picnics, anything that brings out groups of people to help dispel fears of and actual dangers in the park. Use it.)
This is an important moment. It relies on you understanding the delicacy of the situation. We can find improvements that we could all agree upon. Or you could plunge the Park into another crisis of protest and bad feeling. Seems to me we could all spend our time in better ways. It is not change in and of itself that we resist. It is change that has not involved the many people who hold the Park dear. It is change that discounts the remarkable history and victory that People's Park still clings to. A History of People, not institutions, hired contractors, or hierarchies, but People who work together and create something, not for money, but out of care and dreams and love. It is too precious to sell out for some people's false fears. We won't.
Suggesting bulldozing the landscaped mounds to prevent crime is like suggesting that all houses should have transparent walls to prevent domestic violence, or getting rid of buildings all together to keep lines of sight open. Maybe it would lower crime statistics for awhile but of course it is absurd, we need buildings like we need parks and natural refuges. To really prevent crimes requires dealing with the real causes of crime. Not attacking fruit trees.
I hope you will be wise and advise well. Changes in People's Park must be done with careful process to maintain the delicate peace we have enjoyed for 10 years now. See you at your meeting on Monday December 4th, 7pm at 2362 Bancroft (below Dana).