Mic Check!

"The irony of this situation is that while the City of Menlo Park envisions the enormous benefits that Facebook could bring to the city, San Mateo County is envisioning locking more people up."

I have been thinking about the expansion of Facebook into the Belle Haven Community for a number of weeks.

I have called the Belle Haven Community (East Menlo) my home for over fifty-five years.

Although this is California, I feel that I have been living in the deep, deep, deep South. Instead of living on the other side of the tracks, I lived on the .

Over the course of the last 55 years I still see my city as divided, not only geographically, but by race and class. I do not think that the quality of our school, sidewalks, streets, parks, police services and recreational centers are the same in the Belle Haven community as the other side of Highway 101. Because of this, it seems to me that the City Council of Menlo Park has never really represented my interest as a person living in the Belle Haven Community.  

The Council’s lack of concern for my community became even more apparent to me when I attended a recent City Council meeting in which the issue of was discussed. 

I want Facebook to be part of my community, but I keep asking myself what would make Facebook a good neighbor? This question has not been adequately addressed to date. I have been to two different meetings regarding Facebook and there were very few residents from the Belle Haven Community in attendance. We need a well-organized old-school community meeting where we can air our differences and find our commonality. We need a space and a place where we can identify our common interests and give birth to a unified response to Facebook’s plans.

At the City Council meeting that I attended, people spoke in favor of Facebook expanding their campus. Many of them kept mentioning how grateful they were to have received their from Facebook. to support Facebook’s promise of employment. Does this promise include training and high-tech jobs for the most marginalized people in the county? 

This area gave birth to the silicon chip, but this economic driver didn’t cause every boat to rise in my community.

In fact, while many people west of Highway 101 were getting rich, people east of Highway 101 were getting prison sentences. I think the irony of this situation is that while the City of Menlo Park envisions the enormous benefits that Facebook could bring to the city, San Mateo County is envisioning . Why else would they be considering a new county jail in this very poor economy?

I am excited to hear of the wonderful gift of that Facebook intends to plant and their efforts to make the bike and walking trails and routes more accessible. I think these are worthwhile improvements. But are they just public relations? Do they make Facebook a genuinely caring neighbor? Do they add up to an adequate community benefits agreement? They certainly won’t solve the problem we in Belle Haven already face, before Facebook’s expansion, extreme difficulty in exiting our community in the morning and returning in the evening.

When I spoke before the City Council, I asked for access to employment and asked the City to insure that Facebook employment policies did not discriminate against people with criminal conviction histories. After all, we live in this community too. However, by the time I had driven home I knew that I had spoken in the voice of an ex-slave trying to hock labor.

Would jobs alone make a billion dollar corporation a good neighbor? What about the people who are too old to work and who have been living here for multiple decades and generations, in the shadow of financial inequity? After all when the people at Facebook use the restroom their waste will flow through the pipes paid for by tax dollars of our elders. 

When they ride their bikes on the street they will be on the street paid for by the preceeding generations. When they use the park, they use an amenity that was paid for by the retirees in my community. For many of them Facebook remains just an abstract notion. Their children are grown and in many cases have moved away. Laptops and bike trails will do little to remedy the community needs that they have.  

It’s not right. Facebook is about to go public. As a result, more people will enter the ranks of the 1%. In light of this, it’s shameful to think that our community might only muster up the nerve to ask for are a handful of jobs, training to serve the rich, a few computers and community improvements that ready our neighborhoods for further gentrification. 

Facebook is one of the most powerful and successful companies in the world today and they have the resources to be an excellent neighbor. They should assure us that we will not be displaced and that our community will remain in-tact. Let’s shift the paradigm this time and make it more than a question of a few service jobs for poor folks. Facebook can provide training that prepares us to become managers and owners.

What’s more, if Facebook can make hundreds of millionaires and even some billionaires they can certainly set up a foundation dedicated to protecting the interest of the residents of their neighborhood, the small Belle Haven Community. The foundation can be set up so that the interest on the principle is utilized to provide scholarships for higher education for the youth in our community. They can give stocks options to our older residents and make grants for people to hold on to their homes or to remodel them in these troubling times. If they still have the urge to plant trees, they can improve our few small parks. A board comprised of community members could be established, something that we control.

I propose that the City Council of Menlo Park support Belle Haven residents in reaching a robust with Facebook, one that fairly serves the needs of our neighborhoods. We need a meeting and a chance to pull together the best minds of Belle Haven to work on this. This is something that I think many of our parents would have done.

Once again, I must reiterate that I would like to see Facebook as my neighbor but like any other neighbors, my wish is that the people moving in next door will be good ones. If you find this extremely difficult to follow just consider what is being demanded by people who now recognize they are part of the 99%. Well, my neighbors and I are the bottom part of the 99%. 

Mic check!    

-Dorsey Nunn

Executive Director, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children 

Dorsey Nunn February 25, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Dear Bob, We do not all have the same things to choose from nor the same choices. It seems to me that each day we move further way from the principle of fairness. I was not asking the Facebook millionaires and billionaires give up anything that would have sincerely impacted their individual wealth. I did not even ask that we level the playing field which we have never done in the history of this nation. During course of new millionaires and billionaires trying to protect their unusally large sums of money and wealth they will most likely hire acountants and tax lawyers. They will be looking to find every advantage they can and while searching for these advantages they could easily establish a foundation to protect their new neighbors. In fact, their children for multiple generations will be as privileged as my children will be as disadvantaged. They may not owe me anything but I would be absolutely stupid to silently sit here and not recognize that the housing stock is going to be impacted, that my environment is going to be polluted by more cars and the income disparity will be more in my face than ever before. This time I will not have to look to foreign countries to see people exploited in the manufacture of tennis shoes or computers because this time it could be me and my neighborhood. Is this is how it is going to look when cyber space intersects with the real world? Must we automatically infect the next generation with the virus of greed, selfishness and indifference.
Hannah February 25, 2012 at 06:13 AM
"BTW - You are "demanding FULL transparency....." - why in God's name do they owe YOU that?" Bob...this is America, a supposedly 'equal' country...do you honestly need an explanation (no offense!)...Manuel, I very much like what you said about big businesses' need to remain transparent and accountable to the residents. Where are the city & regional planners?!
Bob Dylan February 25, 2012 at 08:43 PM
We must have a different sense of what "equal" is all about. Thing should be equal from a gender, race and age perspective. In my opinion, from what I can tell of your definition of "equal" you are treading on a very slippery slope. Are you ready to "equalize" your income, your standard of life, the residence in which YOU chose to live, to people that are homeless or have less than you? I respect the fact that you, and believe it or not myself, take great pride and feel a great sense of duty to help those in need, but it need not be regulated, nor laws made, to make sure we "equalize" everything. In the real world that is socialism, and darn near communism. How 'bout we hold ourselves accountable, and strive hard to make something of ourselves, never, ever giving up, and not depend on others for our sense of worth, or standard of living? If FB intrudes on your way of life, then yes ask for mitigation, but just because they're "rich" doesn't mean they own you a thing.
Ifnotnow March 08, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Bill Gates Sr and Warren Buffet - among others, have spoken quite clearly to the point that corporate wealth in this country - including the wealth of individual entrepreneurs is built on the backs of many people (not on the corporate payrolls) and with the support of infrastructure, court systems, legal apparatus etc. paid for by taxpayers who are not wealthy - innovation, hard work, ambition - these are all factors in some people's success - but none of them are sufficient conditions - The outrageous inequality we have in the US today is the product of a political system that has been captured by corporate power - a power that rigs the game in their favor. There is nothing "natural" about fb's success - fb's wealth is the result of our current system which functions as a "Socialism for the Rich" and an out of control capitalism for the rest of us - Oh Bob - you used to know which way the wind was blowing. What happened?
Bob Dylan March 08, 2012 at 12:24 AM
It certainly is built on the backs of some people, you are right. However, in majority of the cases it is not their backs that most of the risk occurs, nor again have they invested time, energy, schooling, money etc., to build the company. If you go to work for a company, which again is YOUR choice for which to work, you have the opportunity and the choice to excel, work hard, and climb the ladder of success. It is not my fault, nor the company's fault, again in most cases, if you succeed or do not succeed. It's the best system on earth, it's what made us great. Unfortunately, those that wish to attempt to produce a utopian society continue to water it down with regulation after regulation, to the point of where executives and heads of companies want to keep it all for themselves, or take it off-shore. I don't blame them. Just look at what is going on in California, if it wasn't for nice weather and the proximity to Asia, this state would be toast. Part of the "outrageous inequality" is because of education, the connected and the unconnected is very obvious. In California, If you are not high tech, or seek to educate yourself on high tech, you will struggle. Is that my fault? Nope. And, of course we have the housing boom and bust, from where most of the wealth has been generated - I guess that idea of making sure everyone could own a home, didn't work out too well, did it?? Ask Mr. Buffet how his $40M lawsuit is going against the feds for taxing him too much?


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