Pfc. Bradley Manning, charged with leaking classified information

As the City Council tonight considers the Peace & Justice Commission’s resolution to declare Pfc. Bradley Manning a hero, its members might also want to reflect on the poll we conducted on Berkeleyside about the commission itself.

We asked whether the Peace & Justice Commission has a valuable role for Berkeley. The poll isn’t scientific: readers self-select to answer and it’s vulnerable — should someone care enough — to organized blocs of voters. So take the result with a grain of salt. At time of writing, we’ve had 364 respondents, and 54% say the P&J commission isn’t valuable, 41% say it is, and 5% don’t know.

Perhaps more valuable than the raw numbers is the debate the poll sparked in the comments, which had 33 submissions at time of writing. Again, opinion was split. A number of commenters contented themselves with terse expressions of approval — “Please keep the commission going for all our sake and for Berkeley” — or criticism — “Why does it exist? It does not represent me.” Many were more extended arguments. They’re all worth reading (even the assertion — joking, I hope — by commissioner Phoebe Sorgen that pseudonymous comments could have been written by me or by “right-wingers from Texas” who I enlisted to write).

Many people questioned the cost of the commission to the city. As several commenters pointed out, the P&J commissioners serve on a voluntary basis. P&J commissioners are appointed by city councilmembers and school board members. Berkeleyside plans to look into the costs in overheads and any additional support of Berkeley’s 33 commissions (there are another seven boards and three committees).

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...