Berkeley mayor launches new education initiative, talks challenges and successes, at State of the City address

Mayor Tom Bates gave his State of the City address Wednesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates gave his State of the City address Wednesday. Photo: Emilie Raguso

For the first time in three years, Mayor Tom Bates addressed the city in a special event Wednesday designed to highlight the challenges and opportunities Berkeley is facing.

About 70 people attended Bates’ “State of the City” address at Berkeley City College to hear what the mayor had to say.

After an introduction from Berkeley City College president Deborah Budd — who said Bates is known as the school’s “founding father” — the mayor highlighted Berkeley’s downtown housing and restaurant boom, a clean-up effort underway on Telegraph Avenue, the city’s 50-year low in crime reports, and a variety of sustainability successes around town.

Details were slim, but Bates also launched a new school-related initiative, the Berkeley Pathway to College, that will aim to help local students attain higher education levels than they do currently.

He said the city budget — though currently largely balanced — continues to be Berkeley’s biggest challenge, with “just no money” for major spending, and a bleak outlook in the years ahead due to rising pension and health care costs.

“We have to figure out how we can do the job better, or as good… with less people,” Bates said. “It’s not going to be easy.”

About 70 people attended the State of the City on Wednesday. Photo: Michael Bailey

About 70 people attended the State of the City on Wednesday. Photo: Michael Bailey

Bates described the extensive development underway in downtown Berkeley as “the greening of downtown,” due to its push to have more people living and working near transit hubs in the city center. He pointed to successes in building the city’s start-up community — in collaboration with UC Berkeley, the city’s Office of Economic Development and other partners. And he said, at this point, the main need downtown is for high-quality office space.

In discussing his efforts to help clean-up Telegraph Avenue, he said he had initially been hesitant to get involved because, technically, it’s the territory of the council member who represents that area, District 7. He pointed to positive atmospheres on Solano and College avenues, recognizing council members Laurie Capitelli and Gordon Wozniak by name, but said the sorry state of Telegraph ultimately forced his hand.

“I finally said, ‘I just can’t take it anymore,'” Bates said, as he described stepped-up clean-up and beautification campaigns, money he’s designated from his own office fund to help make changes, the fledging Sundays on Telegraph street festival that started last year, and a decision by the City Council on Tuesday night to allow for more density on the avenue.

(District 7 is part of Councilman Kriss Worthington’s area of the city, though Bates did not mention him by name. Worthington was among four council members, as well as Jesse Arreguín and Max Anderson, who were not in attendance Wednesday night. Councilwoman Linda Maio is traveling out of the area this week.)

The mayor spent a long time Wednesday speaking about the city’s efforts to fight climate change, noting that he himself became a “convert” to the cause after meeting former Vice President Al Gore. Bates said climate change would be the one issue he saw himself fighting until the end of his life.

Bates described Berkeley as an excellent place for environmental progress: “There are more Prius cars here than in Japan,” he told the crowd with a smile.

He also said there are more than 1,200 solar installations in the city, and that Berkeley has one of the lowest permitting costs in the state for allowing them. He pointed to the 5,000 new trees the city has planted since 2000, as well as reductions in water use and landfill waste throughout the community.

He also mentioned the conversion of 8,000 Berkeley streetlights to LED bulbs — expected within the next year or so — which he said will reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 6.5% and save $380,000 a year.

As part of his own push to fight climate change, Bates sold his car years back and is known for using his feet as his main form of transport around Berkeley. He said, however, that he loves new cars and that the switch hadn’t been easy: “That’s why I need a Tesla,” he quipped. “Though I’m not quite in that bracket.”

He said the city has 375 electric cars, and mentioned an increasing number of charging stations around town.

Bates gave a quick pitch about upcoming elections, asking attendees to support county transportation tax Measure B — which would bring $3 million a year to Berkeley — as well as the parks tax and the sugar tax.

But he urged the community not to vote for a plan he said is designed to “stop growth downtown,” the Green Downtown Public Commons Initiative. (Berkeleyside will be writing about all the initiatives underway; bookmark our elections section to stay tuned.)

Members of the public and city staff alike took the opportunity Wednesday to connect with Mayor Tom Bates. (Behind the mayor and a citizen are city manager Christine Daniel and deputy city manager William Rogers (right). Photo: About 70 people attended the State of the City on Wednesday. Photo: Michael Bailey

Members of the public and city staff took the opportunity Wednesday to connect with Mayor Tom Bates. (Behind the mayor and a citizen are City Manager Christine Daniel, left, and Deputy City Manager William Rogers. Photo: Michael Bailey

Bates talked about the continuing success of the city’s 2020 Vision program to help close the achievement gap, and ended his hour-long talk with a brief mention of the new “Berkeley Pathway to College” plan, which is in the very early stages.

Sbeydeh Viveros Walton, the mayor’s senior aide, said the mayor’s hope is to make it easier for all local students to reach college, and that the announcement was a call to action to help build out the concept. She said the mayor’s office is working with Berkeley City College on a “cohort model” to help students be more successful, and is also seeking grant funding to take a closer look at the needs of current students.

Despite the lack of detail, several attendees said his Pathway to College concept was among the most inspiring ideas presented by Bates on Wednesday. Attendees said they appreciated the “very balanced overview,” and the details about sustainability successes.

But several members of the public also said they were worried about the increasing density downtown and throughout the city.

“It’s important to concentrate people in the core,” said Moni Law, a Berkeley resident. “But it needs to be affordable and accessible as well.”

One resident who attended said it’s time to stop the growth altogether.

“There are too many people living here now,” said Ralph Witten. “I can’t even park in front of my own house.”

Mayor on downtown, Telegraph, bike sharing, minimum wage at State of the City (04.28.14)
City Manager Christine Daniel details Berkeley’s finances (11.01.13)
Mayor Bates on tackling city’s worst deficit in years (06.17.10)

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  • Guest

    How about a Berkeley Pathway to Careers that allows students who aren’t interested in college to apprentice in a skilled trade so they can get jobs straight out of high school instead of just graduating with a worthless diploma?

  • fran haselsteiner

    When he took office, Mayor Bates said publicly that he would help deal with Dwight Way’s traffic. We’ve only seen increasing traffic. When we talk about climate change, why does that discussion exclude automobile traffic? Most–easily 98 percent–is single-occupant vehicles. I’m not attacking you, Mr. Bates–but when do we see real change?

  • Dan

    I don’t see any comments about Berkeley’s unfunded liabilities. Is this not a very major concern or are we just kicking the issue down the road?

  • I agree. even though I don’t live there, I do however, visit family from time to time traveling by car only 5 hours away in the Sierra Nevada area.

    I wanted to comment on the increase growth of the city has certainly made a big impact on city and residential streets.

    Perhaps the city of Berkeley could implement permit parking for residents. Give the resident one guest parking permit with no extra cost involved.

    You can’t stop growth from happening. Thats out of anyones control or responsibility. What really needs to be in place is a plan to bring sustainability to the residential areas. Particularly near the college/university. Reduce the flow of traffic to the university for bicycles for one day of the week say Sunday. That way there is no fussy families going out to enjoy an afternoon to shop, eat at the local venues without the conflicts of honking horns and drivers on the road. Simple as that.
    Feel free to chime in the discussion. Thank you.

  • MissNDemocracy

    Did anyone ask why he wasted $30,000 in public funds (our taxes) via the City illegally suing itself to impose gerrymanding that had been stayed by a citizen referendum? The mayor and colleagues could still approve one of the many acceptable alternative maps, which would prevent wasting more of our taxes defending an appeal. BS readers, please sign this related petition:

  • Whoa Mule

    That’s why they named the soccer field after Bates, he’s such a good kicker.

  • Carlos “Even More” Danger

    Because the referendum to which you refer was a cynical ploy by entrenched, regressive ideologues seeking to undermine the democratic process and consolidate their own power.

    The WAA triumvirate has been WAAsting our time and money for far too long. Berkeley deserves better.

  • Walk to Work

    Give the resident one guest parking permit with no extra cost involved.

    Oh no, not that. Residents will just sell / rent these to the city workers who want to park in RPP areas.

    You want to cut emissions? Here’s a simple policy change: Berkeley Police and other city-owned vehicles are forbidden to be used as private transit to/from residential parking outside of RPP. Employees can certainly walk from California to BPD headquarters without being chauffeured during daylight hours.

    Seriously: I invite you to hang out on California and observe the pick up / drop off activity.

  • Carlos “Even More” Danger

    Your answer is in the attached….

  • sam g

    Bates touts his lack of a car as a model for the rest of us. I saw him and his wife leaving Ragoon All-Stars restaurant on Russell and Telly last week (blocks from his house). They entered her free state subsidized car (special plates) and drove off. i’d sell my car too if the state provided my wife with a free one.

  • eyes wide open

    Probably sooner than some might think – expect the mayor to leave office early, and accept a sinecure with UC.

  • guest

    How about a BERKELEY WALKS TO SCHOOL program that allows parents to send their children to the school nearest to where they live without having to engage in a ridiculous and outdated lottery system.

  • guest

    Did anyone ask why he wasted $30,000 in public funds (our taxes) via the
    City illegally suing itself to impose gerrymanding that had been stayed
    by a citizen referendum?

    This is the most ass-backwards way of retelling the story of Worthington’s referendum drive I’ve ever seen.

    Kriss Worthington was the one who wanted a gerrymandered map he designed for the express purpose of trying to bolster his reelection campaign to be used, even though he didn’t bother to submit it until weeks after the deadline.

    Kriss Worthington is the one who organized a referendum drive using paid signature gatherers – who several people have said were spreading misinformation – to collect enough signatures to try to block a student district because he was unhappy with the results of a 4-year democratic process.

    Kriss Worthington is directly responsible for costing the taxpayers of the city of Berkeley $30,000.00 as the result of a shameful campaign to undermine democracy for his own personal gain.

  • guest

    When she is in Sacramento, he has no car at all. I sometimes see him walking around Berkeley, going long distances at a speed I could not keep up with.

  • oldie

    Which is why he can do without a car and perhaps you can’t. He’s lucky to still be so athletic in his mid-seventies, but many are not so lucky and need to use cars.

  • good neighbor

    “He pointed to positive atmospheres on Solano and College avenues, recognizing council members Laurie Capitelli and Gordon Wozniak by name”…I moved to the Solano trendy neighborhood in 1976–so I don’t think Capitelli gets the credit (tho some stores and theatres have closed during his tenure) and College was trendy long before Wozniak. Does Arreguin get the credit for Downtown improvements. The mayor should think about the whole city.

  • CB

    What exaggeration are you talking about?

    If we aren’t headed for the crisis of complete polar meltdown, 246 feet of sea level rise and the drowning of the habitat occupied by half of humanity, just with the CO₂ already in the air, why isn’t there a single previous example in Earth’s history of polar ice caps withstanding CO₂ so high?

  • guest

    >Does Arreguin get the credit for Downtown improvements

    Considering that Arreguin actively fought those improvements, no.

  • Woolsey

    It’s like looking up at the mountain and seeing a land slide coming your way and saying, ‘oh well, that’s just to big to deal with.’ I wish we could take legal actions against these dreadful politicians when the fiscal landslide hits (or at least take their names off the public facilities they’ve attached them to).

  • sandy

    That’s a partisan blog.

  • guest

    Irrelevant response. Sam g attacked Bates by saying that he really had a car. I defended him by saying that he often did not have a car.

    No one said that 100% of all people can do without a car – not in American cites, which are built around the automobile.

  • AnthonySanchez

    This is in addition to actually voting FOR the ultimate iteration of the DAP after being able to include significantly more protections and benefits than otherwise would have been included. AND, on top of that, we help small businesses ALL the time navigate out labyrinthine permitting process and disputes with our City>

    And this is only a quick example to show that we are very much a part of the state of Downtown and its improvements.

    The Mayor’s omission of us is more partisan than it is factual.

    One person alone cannot do all that it took to change Downtown -it’s a team effort, and frankly, many businesses and community members themselves should get kudos for contributing to the positive changes we see.

  • guest

    Click on his name, and you will see that there are over 5,000 comments all over the country. The comments repeat the same things over and over again.

    They include mindless denier talking points, such as “Science has never been 100% certain so why are you still “believing” it will be a crisis.”

    If the doctors all told him he had a disease that could be cured with a certain treatment, would he say “Medicine has never been 100% certain”?

    How could anyone be so mindless as to say that you have to be 100% certain before acting? If everyone followed that principle, we would never do anything.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Incredibly incorrect. Who voted to go to court instead of resolving the issue? Hint: we don’t have 5 votes to stop it from going to court nor the 5 votes to respond to the referendum by compromising and saving us thousands of dollars. The record doesn’t lie, we never ever advocated the Council taking this elective course.

    We voted for a compromise and we voted against a lawsuit. On that basis alone, to suggest we’re responsible for a choice by the Majority Council is flat-out dishonest.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Yes, indeed. I know the person personally and he works in the planning industry, which is not to say working in that industry a bad thing at all, but it is that orientation that shapes how he sees out politics.

  • guest

    Worthington & Arreguin knew from the beginning that this was exactly what would happen when Worthington submitted his gerrymandered map far after the deadline and then funded a misleading referendum signature drive.

    The political terrorism practiced by Worthington & Arreguin – DO WHAT WE WANT OR WE’LL COST YOU LOTS OF MONEY! – is 100% responsible for the entirety of the cost of the lawsuit.

  • guest

    Arreguin voted NO on the original DAP and was part of yet ANOTHER idiotic and costly referendum that forced the issue onto the ballot only to have voters approve it anyway.

    So, yeah, no matter how you want to spin it Arreguin actively fought improvements to the downtown area.

  • sam g

    If you talk to Bates about transportation or neighborhood parking he’ll repeatedly say “What do you need a car for? I don’t have a car, i walk everywhere.” He has use of a free state paid car and rides in it a lot. I don’t know how many days his wife is out of town but i know a hypocrite when I see one (not you Bates)..

  • AnthonySanchez

    Hmmmmm, but negotiated with the Mayor post-measure R and voted for it. I can’t quite reconcile that away. What you says does not compute.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Facts don’t support you. We’ve always said let’s compromise. Council said no, put it on the ballot and went to Court. Frankly, that blew our anticipation of what would actually happen. We never knew the City would be so gungho on wasting money to sue itself.

    WE VOTED FOR COMPROMISE. WE VOTED AGAINST PUTTING IT ON THE BALLOT. Don’t try to twist the facts after the fact to give cover to those who absurdly sued themselves.

    FACTS, please. Facts. Like, really, please heed the facts.

  • guest

    Voting for it later does not absolve Arreguin of his original NO vote in opposition to the will of Berkeley voters and subsequent costly referendum.

  • AnthonySanchez

    The referendum was never voted on the ballot -it was rescinded. Measure R was not the DAP and was a separate Measure in response to the referendum petition. And the result of our opposition evolved the plan and you can’t erase our Yes vote, either. Hate us, but don’t get it twisted, my anonymous friend. I wish you well.

  • guest

    Yes, facts like the FACT that all of this happened because Worthington and Arreguin refused to follow the rules of the 4-year redistricting process and funded a misleading referendum campaign where paid signature gatherers lied to voters about what they were signing so that they could try to disrupt the democratic process and force the democratically elected majority to cave in to their demands.

    Worthington and Arreguin are 100% responsible for the fallout from the referendum, including the costs of the referendum. If they had bothered to follow the rules we’d have a student district right now instead of wasting thirty thousand dollars of taxpayer money and ending up with yet another issue on the ballot because a screeching minority wasn’t happy with the decisions made by a majority of the democratically elected city council.

  • AnthonySanchez

    I am really trying to get this straight. You’re trying to say it’s our fault that Council consciously chose a lawsuit over resolution? That literally makes no sense. None.

    If you truly feel that it is factually our fault, please feel free to have Council bill us and see if that is even possible. Of course, that won’t happen because there’s no basis for it. Case closed, mon ami l’anonymat.

  • Merry J.

    Solano’s in trouble at the moment.

  • Guest

    Since when is it the job of a 1%er Bureaucrat to help anyone but themselves and their cronies?

  • More Karl Rove style tactics of the Big Lie, blaming the victim, and attributing to your opponent the exact illegal acts that those who pay you used! Worthington’s volunteers, and supporters of local democracy, are the ones who followed the legal democratic process and exercised our right to redress of government when faced with an incalcitrant council majority who violated the City Charter and the Brown Act in at least 4 ways.

  • Berkeley Women

    In the District 8 city council race (southeast corner of Berkeley), Mike Alvarez Cohen’s plan addresses Bates’ number 1 impediment to improving our infrastructure and services: .

  • Green Gal

    This website is mostly gibberish.

  • guest

    Solano, College? How about the “Grocery Ghetto” around University and San Pablo. Too many vacant store fronts there and South Sacramento/Adeline. Both areas have potential but the City seems to do little to help.

  • guest

    No, it’s your fault that you ignored the 3-year public process for redistricting and tried to get your map approved by submitting it after the deadline and using the referendum process and putting the council in a situation where they had to either agree to a compromise map that the public hadn’t had a chance to have a say on during the redistricting process or spend $30k fighting your legal shenanigans in court.

    You had 3 years to submit your maps and work for a compromise solution, but apparently Worthington & Arreguin don’t think that the rules that everyone else has to follow should apply to them.

  • guest

    Lying to a tiny minority of voters to get them to sign a referendum to try to overturn a redistricting map that was the result of 3 years of open public discussion is the exact OPPOSITE of democracy.