[Part of last night's city council meeting.]
Last night, there was a genuine effort to co-opt OccupySacramento, a blatant attempt by the Mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, former NBA star and close personal friend of the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. He's also a corporate tool. Everyone knows it. He got elected during a period of "star worship" -- the kind that put Arnold Schwarzenegger into the Corner Office at the Capitol. A good deal of his luster has worn off. The former mayor whom he beat in a hard fought election has a tendency to snicker morbidly about it. She was bitter at first, but now she just takes it in stride.
KJ wants more than anything to build a new basketball arena in Sacramento as his Legacy, and he has committed a relatively huge chunk of civic time and money to see that it is done. (Truth to tell, the current arena sucks goat testicles. It is awful.) Much of the City Council meeting last night was about progress on the Arena and Railyards project. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars -- I think it was at $350,000,000 for the arena alone at last report, and probably another $200,000,000 to $300,000,000 for improvements to the Railyards. All in a four or five year time line. This is really all Kevin is concerned about. There is nothing more important to him, and it would appear that there is little that is more important to the rest of the council. This is their baby. They want it so bad they can taste it. As always in Sacramento, the People are ambivalent about it. They like the idea; they don't like the cost and they don't like the fact that the project will further enrich the already filthy rich at the public expense.
KJ seemed to see the Occupation as a kind of plaything last night. An amusing diversion from his Important Work. He saw something that he wanted to take advantage of, and he moved quickly and surely to do just that.
All the rhetorical flourishes of the speakers were simply unheard by him -- and I would assume unheard by the other August Council Members as well. They had less interest in what was said than they had in the style and assurance with which it was delivered, the cuteness of some of the speakers, the quality of their delivery, or their personal knowledge of some of them. It was a hearing in which literally nothing that was said was heard by the Council, and certainly not by the Mayor. Well, except for once, when a speaker challenged the Mayor to say whether they were going to vote tonight, and KJ refused to answer until after the speaker finished his remarks. At that point, Kevin said that no, the Council was not going to vote. They couldn't. The Occupy Sacrament agenda item was not an action item (a misstatement which will have consequences for the city, but I'll get to that), so they couldn't vote on removing the camping ordinance -- which was not what was being requested -- or anything else. This was just an opportunity for representatives of OccupySacramento to be heard, and then the Council would discuss it, and then we'd see what would happen. The speaker KJ said this to replied, "That is unacceptable!" There was a good deal of murmuring among the multitude, but the Mayor's response was, "I understand you see that as 'unacceptable,' but that's how the Council has to work."
After the OS speakers finished and two of the Council members spoke on the issue, basically proposing a "compromise," the Mayor stepped in and "made an offer." He would agree to go over to the Plaza (across the street from the City Hall) sometime this week and meet with some of the leaders of the Occupation -- which he started to designate last night -- to work on a Resolution of the Occupation that he would then, he said, be able to take to Washington with him the next time he went to see the President, and he could give copies to anyone else who needed to hear from OccupySacramento. He would do this because he -- and all the rest of the Council -- believes in the aims and intentions of the Occupiers. He called forth one of the Occupiers whom he knew from previous appearances before the Council to serve as coordinator -- and putative Leader -- of his Visitation Across The Street.
Now. THAT was a direct effort at co-optation, and it almost worked. It was so unexpected. At first there seemed to be agreement among the Occupiers present that this was a good idea, but then some got to thinking about it and got angry. "What about the arrests?" they said. "Stop the arrests!" He said no. The camping ordinance would remain in place. They said, "Stop the arrests!" He just sort of grinned, and said he'd coordinate with the man he'd designated the time and place for dialogue with the Occupation leaders.
On to other business.
The mood in the room was very hostile by that point. The Occupiers trooped out, disgusted.
But that is the way this city works -- as many who have been through this process know and tried to warn the more naive among the Occupation. KJ -- and his wife Michele Rhee - are masters at manipulating people to get what they want.
And what they want, clearly, is to say to the White House -- and anyone else who wants to listen -- that they have found the way to Break the Occupation! No lie. That's exactly what they are setting up to do.
The absolute fury after the meeting was a wonder to behold. They knew they'd been had, but not necessarily why or even how.
The arrests re-commenced at 11:36pm. And they will not end until one or the other side gets tired of them.