David Oertel, The President of Humanist Hall located at 390 27th Street, Oakland, CA, is in trouble. But, from the looks of things, the man who owns the facility that was once the home of The Wellstone Democratic Club I was a member of, thinks he’s getting into what the late Representative John Lewis would call “good trouble.”
To cut to the chase, Mr. Oertel thinks the COVID-19 Pandemic is a hoax, and the Shelter-In-Place-Without-Compensation Policy (as I call it because bricks-and-mortar business owners aren’t compensated for closing) that has become standard issue, has cost him a lot of money. So much that, earlier this year, he took the action of defying it.
According to social media reports, Humanist Hall has held a number of what are called “maskless” events drawing well over 100 people, and on the Facebook Page for the venue, there are scores of messages and videos advocating the idea that, again, the COVID-19 Pandemic is a hoax. David Oertel holds that idea, even though three-percent of the American population has tested positive for the Coronavirus at this time.
That led to a series of events which ultimately focused on an Alameda County Superior Court case called, “The People vs. David Oertel”. But, given the way this story is unfolding, it’s more appropriate to call it “Some Of The People vs. David Oertel.” But what is Humanist Hall?
Humanist Hall is called the Fellowship of Humanity and has been around since 1935. It’s a place I’ve visited many times, mainly for political events held by The Wellstone Democratic Club (as was the case in my vlog above featuring 2014 Oakland Mayoral Race candidates Bryan Parker and Joe Tuman crashing the Wellstone endorsement meeting), and prides itself as “a venue for progressive causes and for celebrations for oppressed minorities located at 390 27th Street.” Because of it’s focus of allowing events that might be called unpopular and loud to be held there, Humanist Hall has been marked a legal nuisance a number of times, before and going back over 15 years. But this time is different, and because the events surrounding it are such that Humanist Hall could go from being a name to a historic political marker, much like People’s Park in Berkeley.
The reason is that – while I disagree with David Oertel’s take, and am here in Georgia helping and looking after my 86-year-old Mom, while maintaining my place in Adams Point in Oakland – the fact is a large number of people around the World think the Pandemic is a hoax. In various places around the World, protests and court battles have ensued. Moreover, some have even denied it even as they were dying because of it. And while I’m not yet ready to brand David Oertel as something akin to the anti-development People’s Park activists I covered as a columnist for The Montclarion in 1994, he’s starting to take on that look. That’s because while he’s agreed to the court ordered restraining order, else he would be jailed, he’s also vowed to re-open, and soon.
In the interim, David has taken to the Facebook Page to write “CoVid-19 is a hoax designed to destroy independent people as well as serve many other globalist agendas!” But, I think, the real problem rests simply in his inability to make money in his usual way, by renting out his space. That points to a clear problem with the Shelter-In-Place policy as its practiced in America: it does not pay people to stay at home.
For some reason, American Government has been largely allergic to the idea of paying people to stay at home during the Pandemic. The result has been trillions of dollars in economic damage to America. It’s not just the loss of income, but the near-elimination of the informal economy marked by such actions as tips to bartenders. But, lawmakers like Republican Senator Lindsay Graham seem to forget about tipping when they remark that people who received Pandemic-related unemployment compensation were making more money staying at home than working. The fact is, while tipping is a part of standard hourly wage reports, much of it goes unreported. Now, I argue, the very legs of our economic system have been taken out from under us by a rule that comes without any real incentive to comply with it, absent fear and shame. It’s easier for people like me, who make their money online, to respond to fear and shame, but its harder for the David Oertels of the world.
And the other related problem with the way we do Shelter-In-Place in America, is that we forget that venues need to be maintained; without staff to walk in and make repairs on a regular basis, such accidents as a busted pipe can go unknown for weeks. That happened to a famous Oakland bar owned by a friend of mine, and resulted in a water bill of over $10,000.
The City of Oakland and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and California Governor Gavin Newsom should lead the charge to have the Federal Government compensate Americans to stay at home, and pay for the cost of business interruptions. Mayor Schaaf and The Oakland City Council should lobby the California Legislature to modify SB-628 Beale that currently allows California cities and towns to establish tax increment financing zones for infrastructure development, to raise money to pay business owners to stay at home because of COVID-18. In this, Section 53398.52. (a) (1) of the Government Code – the law where it reads “A district may finance any of the following:” – should be changed to add “compensation of business owners in a designated area impacted by COVID-19” That would go a long way toward compliance with stay-at-home policy, and a cause a dramatic reduction in the spread of the Coronavirus.
A Possible Revolt Unless Action Is Taken
Huntington Beach is providing a window into a possible future: a series of large-scale protests, growing with the passing of time, and that could threaten our very system of governance. Add to that the actions of our current lame-duck President Trump, and we have a potentially lethal mix of politics and social unrest.
These events are not to be taken lightly and ignoring them is foolish – at best. They are directly related, not so much to orders to stay-in-place, but the clear lack of monetary compensation to do so. On top of that, I believe the Trump Campaign is financing these efforts, where it can perhaps even to hiring organizations like Crowds On Demand – where one can hire up to 2,000 “protestors” in 36 hours notice.
Moreover the application, and then re-application of stay-in-place orders, even as costs to maintain homes and businesses continue to remain but without any kind of moratorium or subsidy, all-but assures these revolts will become more and more common, and could morph into political counter-culture movements. The answer is clear: people must be paid to stay at home.
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