Berkeley, city of hookers?

The November election in Berkeley just got a little more interesting. In addition to the expected tight race between Nader and Kerry for the favor of the city's eccentric voters, a citizen initiative measure will grace the ballot, calling on the police to make arresting prostitutes and their customers a low priority. If it passes, there is every reason to expect that a substantially larger number of the Bay Area's numerous hookers, male and female, will favor the city with their presence, adding yet another layer of edginess to a city already world—renowned for its looniness.

I have little doubt that the measure will pass. Offered a chance to thumb their noses at authority, the city's electorate rarely demurs.

Incorrectly called 'decriminalization,' even by the San Francisco Chronicle, which should know better, the measure would not repeal any laws against prostitution, which will remain illegal under state law. Instead, the initiative merely calls on the Berkeley police to allow the law to be flouted. It is thus part of a dangerous trend all over America, but concentrated in allegedly—progressive enclaves like Madison, Wisconsin or Ann Arbor, Michigan, in which police are urged to ignore violations of certain laws. Call it 'selective enforcement,' or 'optional illegality,' for instance, both of which phrases are more accurate than 'decriminalization.'

So, I suppose that next year I will be treated to the spectacle of streetwalkers openly plying their trade on the city's major thoroughfares. The city's hotels and motels will become more prosperous, at least those which offer ample parking for visitors. And landlords will have a new set of tenants for efficiency apartments.

I guess this is what a 'progressive' city would call 'progress.' At least we will finally a better definition of what they mean by "progressive politics."

Prostitution in Berkeley has been in the national spotlight a lot in the recent past.

A few years ago, in 2000, one of the city's largest landlords, Lakireddy Bali Reddy, was discovered to have been importing teen—age girls from his native India, putting them to work as what is today called 'sex—workers.' One of them died when a space heater malfunctioned, but the 'sex slavery' aspect remained unnoticed. However, locals made an awful fuss about it when a newspaper got to work assigning investigative reporters to the subject.  Which of the Bay Area's newspapers copped the honors for busting the story wide open? The Berkeley High School Jacket, a student newspaper. The enterprising student reporters and editors have won journalism awards, and a major Hollywood studio is said to have in development a film about their exploits. Mr. Reddy has now begun an extended stay in a local prison.

Then last year, a Berkeley High School teacher, Shannon Williams, was arrested in Oakland for prostitution, having allegedly advertised her services on the internet. She not only pleaded innocent, but proclaimed herself a feminist and a victim, comparing herself to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Notwithstanding the self—proclaimed nobility of her cause, she later copped a plea, and took a conviction for disturbing the peace, with six months probation as the only penalty, something I don't recall Dr. King ever doing.

Ms. Williams is taking a year off, having accumulated a sufficient nest egg from her part time supplementary occupation, but proclaims her fitness to return to the classroom. And the head of the California PTA for Alameda County is not unsympathetic:

"As long as she's not bringing it into the classroom, maybe it's not a problem," said Carol—Ann Kock—Weser, who emphasized that her opinion did not represent PTA policy.

So what message are Berkeley High School students to take? If prostitution is no big deal, if teachers can freely ply that trade when class is dismissed at 3 PM, then why did Mr. Reddy go to the slammer? Was it for the crime of outsourcing to India? Or might the age of the girls involved have something to do with it? If so, then the students will learn that they merely have to wait for graduation before emulating a teacher. Or, if it was organizing a ring that was the crime, they would have only to look at the person who organized the petition drive, one Robyn Few,

who became an advocate after being arrested by federal authorities a year ago along with more than 30 women allegedly involved in a multistate prostitution ring. Few pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit prostitution and is on probation.

Maybe Mr. Reddy's real crime was being a wealthy landlord, who started as a poor immigrant, and made a success of himself, despite America being a racist society? In Berkeley, such conduct is tantamount to blasphemy. Now that's a lesson which would fit well into the Berkeley High School curriculum, with no inconsistency.

The November election in Berkeley just got a little more interesting. In addition to the expected tight race between Nader and Kerry for the favor of the city's eccentric voters, a citizen initiative measure will grace the ballot, calling on the police to make arresting prostitutes and their customers a low priority. If it passes, there is every reason to expect that a substantially larger number of the Bay Area's numerous hookers, male and female, will favor the city with their presence, adding yet another layer of edginess to a city already world—renowned for its looniness.

I have little doubt that the measure will pass. Offered a chance to thumb their noses at authority, the city's electorate rarely demurs.

Incorrectly called 'decriminalization,' even by the San Francisco Chronicle, which should know better, the measure would not repeal any laws against prostitution, which will remain illegal under state law. Instead, the initiative merely calls on the Berkeley police to allow the law to be flouted. It is thus part of a dangerous trend all over America, but concentrated in allegedly—progressive enclaves like Madison, Wisconsin or Ann Arbor, Michigan, in which police are urged to ignore violations of certain laws. Call it 'selective enforcement,' or 'optional illegality,' for instance, both of which phrases are more accurate than 'decriminalization.'

So, I suppose that next year I will be treated to the spectacle of streetwalkers openly plying their trade on the city's major thoroughfares. The city's hotels and motels will become more prosperous, at least those which offer ample parking for visitors. And landlords will have a new set of tenants for efficiency apartments.

I guess this is what a 'progressive' city would call 'progress.' At least we will finally a better definition of what they mean by "progressive politics."

Prostitution in Berkeley has been in the national spotlight a lot in the recent past.

A few years ago, in 2000, one of the city's largest landlords, Lakireddy Bali Reddy, was discovered to have been importing teen—age girls from his native India, putting them to work as what is today called 'sex—workers.' One of them died when a space heater malfunctioned, but the 'sex slavery' aspect remained unnoticed. However, locals made an awful fuss about it when a newspaper got to work assigning investigative reporters to the subject.  Which of the Bay Area's newspapers copped the honors for busting the story wide open? The Berkeley High School Jacket, a student newspaper. The enterprising student reporters and editors have won journalism awards, and a major Hollywood studio is said to have in development a film about their exploits. Mr. Reddy has now begun an extended stay in a local prison.

Then last year, a Berkeley High School teacher, Shannon Williams, was arrested in Oakland for prostitution, having allegedly advertised her services on the internet. She not only pleaded innocent, but proclaimed herself a feminist and a victim, comparing herself to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Notwithstanding the self—proclaimed nobility of her cause, she later copped a plea, and took a conviction for disturbing the peace, with six months probation as the only penalty, something I don't recall Dr. King ever doing.

Ms. Williams is taking a year off, having accumulated a sufficient nest egg from her part time supplementary occupation, but proclaims her fitness to return to the classroom. And the head of the California PTA for Alameda County is not unsympathetic:

"As long as she's not bringing it into the classroom, maybe it's not a problem," said Carol—Ann Kock—Weser, who emphasized that her opinion did not represent PTA policy.

So what message are Berkeley High School students to take? If prostitution is no big deal, if teachers can freely ply that trade when class is dismissed at 3 PM, then why did Mr. Reddy go to the slammer? Was it for the crime of outsourcing to India? Or might the age of the girls involved have something to do with it? If so, then the students will learn that they merely have to wait for graduation before emulating a teacher. Or, if it was organizing a ring that was the crime, they would have only to look at the person who organized the petition drive, one Robyn Few,

who became an advocate after being arrested by federal authorities a year ago along with more than 30 women allegedly involved in a multistate prostitution ring. Few pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit prostitution and is on probation.

Maybe Mr. Reddy's real crime was being a wealthy landlord, who started as a poor immigrant, and made a success of himself, despite America being a racist society? In Berkeley, such conduct is tantamount to blasphemy. Now that's a lesson which would fit well into the Berkeley High School curriculum, with no inconsistency.