We can take it as read that 2012 will be filled with news. It’s an election year, both national and mayoral, the economy’s glacial improvement still weighs on the city and local business, and, if the lack of rain so far is any indication, we may be facing drought conditions as the year moves on. On Berkeleyside, we take a moment on the first day of the year to make some resolutions for our city. At the bottom of the post, we run a slide rule over the performance of our resolutions in 2011 (spoiler: we did much better than in 2010).
1. The city makes progress on solving its long-term budget issues. There are a host of budgetary issues facing Berkeley, from streets improvement to storm drains to parks. The big prize for improving the long-term outlook is resolving a new contract with the police — police pensions are the biggest liability the city faces, as made clear in the December work session.
2. Something goes right for Telegraph Avenue. We wish it hadn’t been the case, but 2011 was an annus horribilis for Telegraph. Perhaps there’s nowhere to go but up. It’s plausible that 2012 could bring a fast-track plan for the Sequoia Apartments site, progress on the vacant site opposite, and further action by the university in People’s Park to improve sanitation and safety along the lines recommended by the Telegraph Business Improvement District.
3. Berkeley attracts more retailers that aren’t drugstores. The arrival of the Apple Store on Fourth Street was a true business highlight of 2011. The first swallow heralding a new dawn for retailers in Berkeley?
4. The first phase of the downtown improvements really has an impact. Downtown Berkeley became a property-based improvement district in 2011. The funds from the PBID will be flowing to a series of environmental improvements. Together with projects like the Helios Building and the ambitious new restaurant, Comal, let’s hope it catalyzes some real change.
5. One of the Berkeley sites is chosen for the Berkeley Lab second campus. On a pure mathematical basis, the odds for Berkeley look good — it has a hand in three of the six shortlisted sites. Only Aquatic Park West is entirely in Berkeley, but Berkeley land is in both the Golden Gate Fields and the Wareham Emeryville/Berkeley proposal. With any of the three, plenty of spin-off opportunities as well as fuller restaurants and stores will be a consequence for Berkeley.
6. A real start is made on the new Berkeley Art Museum home downtown. Not all of our readers were enamored of the Diller Scofidio + Renfro design for the new BAM on Center Street. But progress on the project would be a great shot in the arm for Berkeley’s growing status in the arts.
7. A new superintendent for Berkeley schools kickstarts new optimism. There are many great things to be said about Berkeley schools, which have weathered tough state budgets far better than most. But the achievement gap remains a persistent problem and parents are concerned that projects they support, like the dual-language immersion programs, are being trimmed. There will be a new superintendent this year, as Bill Huyett retires. Time for a new start.
8. Continued improvements in crime rates. Significant strides were made in 2011 in violent crime in Berkeley. Let’s see more progress in all kinds of crime throughout the city.
9. A year for UC Berkeley to revive. Berkeley was the first public university in the country to launch a program for significant financial aid for middle class families. Maybe MCAP can be the first step in a fight back against the cuts and squeezes faced by what remains one of the world’s great universities.
10. More laughter. Berkeleyans have many qualities, but an ability to laugh at ourselves is not prominent. Let’s find more time to laugh at the occasional absurdities in our city.
That takes care of 2012. How did we do with our 2011 resolutions? Not too bad. As we did last year, we’ve given 0 for no movement (or backward movement), a ½ point for some improvement and a full 1 point for true progress.
1. Berkeley schools weather the budget cuts. Huyett and the school board did pretty well. 1 point
2. Substantial drop in violent crime. From five homicides to just one. 1 point
3. Continue to punch above our weight in arts. Berkeley Rep, Aurora, Cal Performances. No doubt: 1 point
4. West Berkeley to emerge as center for entrepreneurship and technology. A plan was passed, but achievement remains to be seen: half point
5. Business optimism returns. Not quite: zero points
6. University adds to Nobel roster. Saul Perlmutter: one point
7. Politicians concentrate on things that matter. More budget discussions, fewer symbolic resolutions (but some persist): half point
8. Live up to being a bike-friendly city. Repaving a chunk of Sacramento helps, but plenty more to be done: half point
9. More late night eating and drinking. We don’t see them: zero points
10. Stop worrying and learn to love recycling carts. We did it: one point
That’s a very encouraging 6.5 out of 10. Phew.