Keeping up with the foolishness in California is not difficult. Just look to Berkeley, home of the University of California’s flagship campus. The city continues to go where no other has gone before, deep into pure Blue State madness.
Writing last year in National Review, Alexander Nazaryan and Alexandra DeSanctis said, “Berkeley has been living its own truth for the last half century, sailing ideologically away from the landmass of America like those two ships headed into the shimmering gap of the Golden Gate.” No one should be surprised it remains “equivocal in its assessment of Stalin.”
Berkeley was the first city to “ditch” Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day; the first to tax sugary drinks; the first to blackball businesses involved in building the border wall; and the first “to launch meat-free Green Monday.” Earlier this year it passed an ordinance considered “the most ambitious municipal legislation in the U.S. aimed at reducing the use of single-use disposable foodware.”
It is a city driven by left-wing “values” hosting, and greatly influenced by, a university filled with faculty and students who are also sailing away from mainstream America.
What happens in Berkeley, though, unfortunately doesn’t always stay there. Its progressive ideas have a way of filtering out to other cities.
In a stark expression of its political dementia, Berkeley has gone to war with natural gas, becoming the first municipality in the country to outlaw gas connections in new homes by a unanimous vote of the city council. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, “natural gas infrastructure in new buildings” will be violations of city law. From that point forward, says the San Francisco Chronicle, “all new single-family homes, townhomes and small apartment buildings” can useonly electricity, a significantly more expensive energy source than natural gas.
The city is closely following the progressive script, which requires its performers to believe they can save the planet, and maybe even mankind, if only they can seize control of our civilization. Therefore, Berkeley must ban natural gas because it “is a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions” in the city. This was done in earnest, as if eliminating natural gas combustion in Berkeley — population 122,000 on a planet of 7.5 billion — will have any effect whatsoever on Earth’s average temperature. Even if every city in the developed world copied and applied what is inarguably a batty policy, there would still be zero impact on the global climate.
But never mind the facts. The most important outcome of the ban is that the Berkeley City Council was able to demonstrate its moral superiority. Which is why the same city council unanimously — again — decided this month to no longer call manholes “manholes.” From hence, they will be “maintenance holes.”
There will be no more “manpower,” either. It will be renamed “human effort.” “Chairmen” and “policemen” have both been purged. “Policewoman” will be dumped, as well. No “sisters,” no “brothers,” either. They will be “siblings” in all official city business. All references to “he, she, him, her, himself, herself” will be forbidden, replaced by a title or non-gendered description.
According to City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, the municipal code had just to be amended so that it would “include gender-neutral pronouns,” which would be achieved “by eliminating any gender preference language within the municipal code.” The goal is to “promote equality.” So why does it seem so divisive?
Though second to none in pursuit of meaningless policy, Berkeley was likely inspired by a state law that provides “a third gender option on the state driver’s license, identification card, and birth certificate,” which took effect in 2019.
Berkeley certainly occupies a class of its own. But this is California, and the foolishness is decentralized. In Sacramento County, for instance, residents are being reminded that zoning codes have virtually criminalized car repair and maintenance on residential property. News of what appears to be a warning that a crackdown is coming has naturally caused some concern.
“This is deeply troubling,” writes Jason Torchinsky. Only “terrible people … sad, tedious people” would make such a law, he says, the sort who “won’t rest until the world is slathered in boring grayscale crossovers.”
“That’s not a world I want to live in,” says Torchinsky, “and that’s why these laws need scrutiny and pushback.”
It’s the world Californians live in, and until there is more “scrutiny and pushback,” the limits on liberty will only get tighter.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute, a nonprofit group advocating for limited government.