Berkeley parks advocates push back after council drops bond from November ballot

The Berkeley rose garden pergola needs major repairs and has been closed to park visitors since April. Photo: Daniel Parks

The Berkeley rose garden pergola needs major repairs and has been closed to park visitors since April. Photo: Daniel Parks

The public dismay was palpable last month when the Berkeley City Council decided, in a surprise move, to put a parks tax before voters this fall without a related bond measure that would have infused parks and pools around the city with much-needed cash, reversing an earlier vote on the items.

The $1.7 million parks tax, if approved by voters, would essentially maintain the status quo for maintenance and staffing needs, and cost the owner of an average-size home an additional $43 a year. (That same homeowner already pays about $240 a year for the existing parks tax.)

Had it gone to voters, the proposed $20 million parks bond could have helped re-open Willard Pool, improve the King and West Campus pools, put millions toward Aquatic Park, James Kenney Park and the much-loved rose garden, and repair tennis courts and ballfields around the city, in addition to addressing other significant needs. (See a financial breakdown of several possible iterations of the bond and tax proposal.)

The city estimated that the joint bond and tax measure would have added just $15 more than the tax alone to the bill for owners of an average Berkeley home, defined by the city as 1,900 square feet.

City staff said the $1.7 million tax increase will allocate $500,000 to the existing structural deficit in the parks department, $450,000 for major parks maintenance and $750,000 for major building maintenance. The city manager said those seeking more information about how the money will be spent — if approved by voters — should peruse a February report on parks needs. According to that report, the city needs more than $25 million to pay for existing parks projects in addition to the structural deficit in maintenance and staffing, as well as building repairs.

Parks advocates say there has been no published project list of funding priorities for the tax, which has been a cause for concern.

Dozens turned out to support Willard Pool on Wednesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Re-opening Willard Pool and a new Santa Fe Right of Way project both received community support over the past year. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The 6-3 council vote June 24 was a particular slap in the face, parks advocates said, after a preliminary vote earlier in June in which eight Berkeley council members pledged to support the combined tax and bond measure, which is called a Mello-Roos.

The Mello-Roos approach had been recommended to council by the city Parks and Waterfront Commission after a lengthy public process with extensive community testimony in 2013. Parks advocates continued to champion the combined measure during a series of public and private meetings with officials through 2014.

And, though council support at times appeared uncertain, the near-unanimous vote by elected officials June 10 — along with encouraging comments from Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel — indicated the likely success of the Mello-Roos of reaching voters in November.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates cast the lone dissenting vote June 10. He said it would be wiser to go for the parks tax now and come back to voters later with the bond. By the time council reconvened for its next meeting, June 24, five council members had come around to the Bates perspective. (Council members Jesse Arreguín, Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington were opposed.)

The turn-around left many parks supporters stunned and disillusioned, and questioning how a public process — which had gone on for nearly a year with so much engagement, and a unified position from key stakeholders and parks commissioners — could have resulted in a decision that seemed diametrically opposed to the public will. The seeming consensus of the June 10 vote, too, left many wondering what had gone wrong.

Letter decries “dismissal of so much community input”

This week, six of those stakeholders sent a letter to council to share their experience of the past year’s dialogue about parks funding, and offer some ideas they believe would fix what they described as the city’s “dysfunctional” public planning process.

They said the June 24 council vote “discarded” months of public hearings and commission deliberations attended by hundreds of people; the commission recommendation for a Mello-Roos package; and “a public groundswell in which hundreds more residents came to Council meetings and advocated for Willard Pool, the Santa Fe Right of Way gardens, and other parks projects around town.”

The letter was signed by John Steere, president of Berkeley Partners for Parks; George Beier, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association; Robert Collier, co-chair of the campaign for measures N and O in 2012; Beebo Turman of the Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative; Shawna McCarroll of the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition; and Nancy Carleton, who has served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board, and ran two successful parks measures in 2000.

They said they believe the vote left many wondering why they should even bother to participate in public planning processes at all. They asked council to stop wasting time on expensive master plans that ultimately have no effect, to be more transparent about the priorities of city staff, to encourage “more communication, less stonewalling,” and to design better voter surveys that would more accurately take the public temperature.

The group also said the process had been stymied by “inflated” figures that artificially drove up the costs of the combined measure to a level beyond what was actually needed: “The Parks Department’s cost figures and priority lists for capital projects were divulged slowly…. our requests for clarification of parks project costs often were ignored.”

The signatories said they had been frustrated by a lack of information from the city. One said that, in February, the city’s public information officer told him he would no longer communicate with the group about the poll or potential bond measures. After an email from the city spokesman discouraging further communication, “Our follow-up queries to him were met with silence,” according to the letter.

Council members who withdrew their support for the Mello-Roos cited two opinion polls earlier this year, which they said ultimately led them to believe the joint measure would fail. (See a council presentation of the second survey’s results and a report about them.)

Those who wrote the letter to the city, however, said the polls did not reflect public sentiment: “Despite our frequent requests, those surveys attempted no apples-to-apples comparison of realistically priced versions of a Mello-Roos and Parks Tax.… The voter surveys wound up being of little use for parks decision-making.”

In the end, they said, coming up with a better process will be critical in the future, given the huge decisions the city will need to make down the road, as pension costs rise and infrastructure needs become more pressing.

Council members: “We have to get our current house in order”

Two of the council members who changed their votes in June to support the tax only, rather than the Mello-Roos, said they ultimately decided now was not the time to be investing in new projects, and that they did not believe there would be community support for the bigger ask.

Councilwoman Linda Maio. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Councilwoman Linda Maio. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Council members Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli had been working with parks advocates to come up with a compromise Mello-Roos that was slimmed down from a $25 million bond and $2 million tax proposal from staff. It was that compromise measure — for a $19 million bond and $1.1 million tax — that received eight council votes June 10.

Strangely, it was the more expensive $25 million bond and $2 million tax proposed by staff that appeared on the June 24 council agenda, rather than the compromise that had received near unanimous support earlier that month.

Maio said after the June 24 vote that she had “really struggled” over which path to take. She said she had wanted to support Willard Pool and the Santa Fe Right of Way project, as well as the other projects on the priority list for bond money, but that it came down to “keeping our house in order” with the tax.

She acknowledged that the community survey “didn’t test everything,” but said she did not feel there was strong enough voter support to put the bond to voters. She said she thought including Willard Pool in any proposal would make it vulnerable, and “decided to come down on the more prudent approach.” She said she supports both the Willard community and Berkeley Partners for Parks — which has pushed for the creation of park space along the Santa Fe Right of Way — but ultimately had to “make that hard decision on behalf of the city.”

Capitelli echoed those concerns: “I just feel we have to get our current house in order before we move forward with new projects.”

Councilman Laurie Capitelli. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Councilman Laurie Capitelli. Photo: Emilie Raguso

He said he hopes the community does support the tax increase — which he said would cost an extra $3 a month to the owner of an average-sized home — and that the city plans to look at the longer-term projects in coming years.

“I think it’s going to be a tough row no matter what,” he said, of the November election. “We’re doing the prudent thing: We’re moving slowly. We’re doing it incrementally.”

Capitelli said it wasn’t just the polls that indicated a lack of support for the Mello-Roos, but also his conversations around town.

“I know some people were disappointed with me, and disappointed with Linda, but you gotta do what you think is right sometimes,” he said, of their position change on the Mello-Roos issue.

Parks and Waterfront Commission Chairman Jim McGrath said, in the end, he felt the public process had been legitimate, even though council did not go for the commission’s Mello-Roos recommendation.

“I’m happy that the council took it seriously and made a hard decision,” he said. “We dropped kind of a hot potato in their lap.”

He said the tax would make a difference, even if doesn’t achieve everything the Mello-Roos might have done.

“It won’t fix the parks overnight,” McGrath said. “Five years from now, there will still be a lot of things that need to be improved. But it will start to reduce the backlog.”

He also said the city should put together a comprehensive business plan to look at its municipal facilities needs, which are extensive.

Arreguín: “The process was bad”

Councilman Jesse Arreguin. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Councilman Jesse Arreguín. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Councilman Jesse Arreguín — one of the three officials who voted against putting only the tax on the ballot — said the Mello-Roos would have allowed for a more equitable distribution of parks resources and improvements around the city.

“We need to make sure that all of Berkeley is served,” he said. “That we didn’t go for an option that could have served the entire community is unfortunate. It’s disheartening.”

He said he had been troubled by sudden changes in the order of the June 24 meeting agenda, which pushed the adoption of the parks tax ahead of any discussion of the Mello-Roos. Arreguín said that essentially shut down consideration of the combined measure, and was also confusing to the public: “The process was bad,” he said. “I don’t think the council acted in good faith, to be honest with you.”

He said he had also been surprised when Maio, Capitelli and the others changed course after the earlier vote in June when Mayor Bates alone had voted against the Mello-Roos.

“The only explanation I can have for it is that the mayor had lobbied the council and gotten them to change their vote,” Arreguín said.

Councilman Kriss Worthington. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Councilman Kriss Worthington. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Councilman Kriss Worthington said he, too, had been disappointed by the outcome and by the way the meeting was organized. He said the tax increase will not begin to address everything that’s needed.

“There’s so much that needs to be fixed, and then what they voted for doesn’t really fix it,” he said. “The rich, the poor and the middle class all use the parks and love the parks. It was very strange and shocking to see such a basic bread-and-butter proposal get defeated after just about the whole council had said they wanted to do it.”

Worthington noted that, in all the community meetings about how to fund the parks, he could recall just one person who spoke against the Mello-Roos approach.

“I don’t know why they bailed on something that we’ve spent more than a year talking about,” he said. “It was a very strange result and process.”

Advocates: Grassroots support likely to be limited for parks tax

Robert Collier, one of the leaders of the Mello-Roos campaign, said one problem with the tax that will come before voters is that it’s unclear exactly how the money will be spent.

“Berkeley’s parks definitely need help, but what the City Council voted to put on the ballot isn’t a parks tax. It’s a city manager tax. There’s no transparency about how much of its $1.7 million annual revenues would be spent actually fixing the parks, how much on saving crucial staff jobs such as maintenance and gardeners, or how much would get swallowed by the city’s administrative overhead and budgetary reserves,” he said. “Exactly what voters would get for their money is totally unclear. And that lack of clarity will be a field day for opponents.” 

Collier said he doesn’t see volunteers getting out to fight for the tax measure, though he said they won’t oppose it either: “Berkeley’s parks and pools advocacy groups will regretfully sit this one out.”

Community members testified that they would have turned out in droves to push for the Mello-Roos, activating their neighborhood networks and organizing a vigorous campaign to spread the word about why that approach deserved support throughout the city. Collier said that won’t happen now.

“We would have had a really active community campaign with lots of people power. The parks tax will have nobody. It will be a ghost campaign,” he said.

George Beier, who is running for a seat in District 8 and leads the Willard Neighborhood Association, said council made the wrong decision when it voted for the tax alone.

“I think that the bond, which had the pool and the rose garden and Aquatic Park and other beloved city institutions, I think that is a much easier sell to the voters than just an increase in the parks tax,” he said. “There’s a lot of resistance out there to creating special measures to pay salaries.”

He said parks advocates had worked hard within the public process, turning out for many hours of commission and council meetings to help identify parks funding priorities: just what the city had requested.

“We didn’t go rogue or anything. We followed the process to the letter, and then they just tossed it all out the window,” Beier said. “Why go through that whole process if we’re not going to use the data that we collect, and we’re not going to use the priorities that the citizens have provided? It could have been a whole new vision for Berkeley, and I’m just sad it didn’t happen.”

Jacquelyn McCormick, who heads the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association, and is also running to represent District 8, said her neighborhood group had been in support of the Mello-Roos but is not in favor of the tax.

She said there is too much uncertainty about how the tax money would be used, and was concerned about how the vote had ultimately come down in late June.

“I think it was predetermined by the mayor,” McCormick said. “Clearly he got what he wanted.”

She said coming back to the public later with the bond proposal — which the mayor and others have suggested — “is almost double dipping.”

“This is a world-class city that deserves world-class parks and world-class infrastructure, and we don’t have it,” McCormick said. Of the Mello-Roos she added: “It’s incredibly disappointing to the people who would have worked to get this passed.”

Read more Election 2014 coverage on Berkeleyside. Read more about the parks funding community process.

Related:
Op-ed: Big vision and strict accountability required to save Berkeley parks (06.23.14)
Berkeley voters likely to see joint parks funding measure (06.11.14)
Plans firm up for Berkeley soda tax, city parks measures (05.21.14)
Willard pool reopening on agenda for park bond measure (02.13.14)
Council to study $20M parks bond, 10% parks tax boost (12.12.13)
Berkeley groups want old railroad bed to be a public park (11.20.13)
Willard Pool supporters turn out for parks meeting (10.17.13)
Berkeley Tuolumne Camp supporters push to rebuild (10.16.13)
Commission, public discuss priorities for Berkeley’s parks (10.04.13)
4 public meetings planned on future of Berkeley parks (09.25.13)
Pensions, infrastructure key Berkeley budget liabilities (02.20.13)
More than $100m needed for parks, rec and waterfront (09.29.11)

Follow Berkeleyside on Twitter and Facebook. Email us at tips@berkeleyside.com. Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.

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  • guest

    The story and comments miss some important points. First, The leaders of the Mello-Roos bond were, from the beginning, at war with staff over costs. The parks advocates insisted that everything could be done for less and pushed hard against staff who were swamped at the time with the aftermath of the fire that destroyed Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. Staff take direction from the Council, not citizen activists, and the leadership of the Mello-Roos measure were relentless in their demands. Second, they also downplayed the results of the polls aka community surveys that indicated only 50% support for Willard Pool and the Santa Fe right-of-way, in the face of a 67% requirement, but a parks tax increase got the necessary % especially when the information was added that services and facilities would have to close. The Council’s action was prudent because the failure of the Mello-Roos would not only have meant lay-offs and closures but doomed Willard Pool forever. At least, delay keeps hope alive for building support for the reopening of a pool serving a southside junior high school. This is a tragic tale because there in fact is nobody in evidence yet willing to take the lead in advancing the parks tax, the Council seems divided and the community dispirited and confused. Parks (which includes forestry) by the way used to be under Public Works. Both departments are underfunded for repair and upkeep of existing facilities and infrastructure. We have to find a way, and the parks tax is affordable.

  • Bateman

    Berkeleyside, thanks for this excellent overview of the process, and the players. All that’s missing is an expose of the Mayor’s true reasons for scuttling the smaller Mello-Roos proposal.
    Absent a bond measure for multiple projects including Willard Pool and Santa Fe ROW, I’m voting against the mere maintenance tax measure, and I’ll be encouraging all of my neighbors to do the same. This was a cowardly decision by the Council to ignore the breadth of public input and cave for the mayor.

  • NO, NO, NO!!!

    “No answers, just attacks”

    Sounds like a good description of the typical Berkeleyside commenter who says NO to everything.

    Why don’t you answer my question: If your proposals are so obviously good, why doesn’t a single councilmember support them? Why are you against the council majority, even more against the council minority, and not for anyone?

    I think the only possible answer is that you are out of touch with reality and don’t understand the constraints that the council faces. Do you have a better answer?

  • guest

    Your math doesn’t seem to add up. Can you clarify?

    You say:

    “A 1,900 square foot home would probably pay about $2,900 per year in
    taxes through special assessment for City government and Berkeley public
    schools.”

    “Berkeley’s median sales price is about $813,000 (as per trulia.com).
    Such a home would pay about $382 in ad valorem taxes each year to the
    City of Berkeley and about $1,143 to Berkeley public schools.”

    “I’d estimate that a 1,900 square foot home in Berkeley that sold for $813,000 in 2014 would pay about $15,200″

    But $2,900 + $382 + $1443 =/= $15,200

    I think maybe there is a typo in your value of $382 for ad valorem tax to the city.

  • Woolsey

    Affordable? Sure, every incremental tax is affordable. At one point, public safety, parks, etc. were paid from general revenues. Then the City Council discovered they could get extra revenue by asking the citizens to vote for bonds or extra taxes on themselves for the items the citizens really wanted, like libraries, parks, paramedics. It’s extortion really – don’t vote the new tax, well, we’ll just shut down your park or close the Willard pool. Why don’t they ask us to vote on the redundant health department or the sweetheart retirement packages?

  • guest

    ” Why don’t they ask us to vote on the redundant health department or the sweetheart retirement packages?”

    Unfortunately, it turns out that this department actually isn’t redundant. The powers that be decided, in their infinite wisdom, to replace the County function with one of their own devising and over which they exercise control.

    Sadly for all of us, part of their control is to shut down this function on their ‘furlough Fridays’ or whatever days they shut down city services. What happens if you need these services on those days? You don’t get them. The county won’t serve us because we live in Berkeley which has opted out of their system and Berkeley won’t serve us because…well because it’s Furlough Friday.

  • Woolsey

    Typical Berkeley mismanagement. Berkeley should dump its own unresponsive and self-serving health department and rejoin Alameda County. Virtually every other city in the state is part of its county health program.

  • .

    So then we opt back into the County services and shut down the redundant functions.

  • FiatSlug

    Exactly.

  • FiatSlug

    Actually, there’s not typo.

    What’s missing is:
    o the Countywide tax (1.0000% = $8,130),
    o the School Community College tax (.0434% = $352.84)
    o BART (0.0043% = $34.96)
    o East Bay Regional Park District (0.0051% = $41.46)
    o EBMUD Special District 1 (wastewater treatment; 0.0068% = $55.28)
    Those ad valorem assessments total a little more than $8,600.

    Then there are a few other special assessments which are not city based:
    o Mosquito Abatement (1.74)
    o CSA Paramedic ($28.36)
    o CSA Vector Control ($5.92)
    o CSA Lead Abatement ($10.00)
    o Peralta CCD Measure B ($48.00)
    o CSA Vector Control B ($4.08)
    o Mosquito Assess 2 ($2.50)
    o AC Transit Measure VV ($96.00)
    o EBMUD Wetweather ($82.34)
    o East Bay Trail LLD ($5.44)
    o EBRPD Park Safety/M ($12.00)
    Those fixed charges or special assessments are close to $300.

    So, that’s a little more than $8,900 that I did not include initially.

  • Jacob Lynn

    One reading of the situation is that they chose to ignore a set of loud voices who want more money for parks on the basis of a survey that indicated that the “people” didn’t actually support the priorities of the parks advocates. I don’t know enough to have a strong opinion either way, but this theory seems more likely to me.

  • guest

    It’s not a theory. Most of the history is available on-line. You can watch the videos study the surveys, and read the Berkeleyside articles. Willard Pool and the Santa Fe right of way, two of the top projects advocated by the Mello-Roos leaders, did not get sufficient approval so the Council decided to float a tax increase instead of the bond.

  • guest

    The “breadth of public input” was not reflected in the polls. The Mayor probably listened to the City Manager and staff who ran down the number of full-time workers who will be laid off if the structural deficit of the Parks department is not corrected. And closure of facilities, services, and programs is also a possibility. The Mello-Roos key projects did not have sufficient support in the community survey. The true reasons are just those: the threat to jobs and programs. The City Manager and the Mayor are a team. Would you have it otherwise?

  • guest

    Is your mortgage or rent extortion? The grocery bill, the gas pump total? Everything costs money, including public services , and if the users and the public don’t pay for them, they get shut down. If you don’t like to pay for items in the City budget, then become an activist and agitate. But don’t call a bill for services extortion.

  • guest

    WE ALREADY PAY FOR ALL THOSE THINGS. The city is taking money meant for regular infrastructure and ongoing costs and using them to fund redundant services we don’t need.

  • guest

    I definitely would if I could. I was not given a choice.

  • Woolsey

    Per an earlier comment, a special tax was not required for parks until 1997. That’s when the City Council figured out they could dangle the parks, libraries, etc in front of us and we would keep on voting additional taxes on ourselves

  • guest

    Why don’t you answer any of my questions, which I asked you first?

    Why do you believe that the city needs more money? Why do you believe it
    is acceptable for the city of Berkeley to provide taxpayers with
    substandard services despite already having some of the highest taxes in
    the state?

    I haven’t mentioned the city council at all, so I’m not sure why you keep harping on the issue. They aren’t the only – or most important – decision makers when it comes to city funding.

  • guest

    Agree, at least in theory. It’s not that I doubt that the needs are broad, it’s just every single City project has a crazy runaway budget, so there’s no chance it will all get done. Another point: why the runaway budgets? These construction projects need to be better managed. Where is the weakness? Does anyone with knowledge of some of the prior projects know? I’m thinking the animal shelter, baseball field, skatepark… what else? Why is there such embarassingly out-of-control cost overrun?

  • lol

    You must be joking. Of all the (questionable) reasons to favor the Council majority, their steadfast stewardship of our treasury is not even remotely among them.

  • Steve Redmond

    The Mayor has been in someone’s pocket for some time and the City Council wastes voters time pretending to “listen” to the community while forging ahead with bigger and bigger development plans. Once Berkeley is a replica of San Francisco or maybe LA they will be “happy”. My own personal experience with the Parking debacle is that staff don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks and are hellbent on the same old jack up the rates approach to “opening” parking spaces.
    A new broom is needed in Berkeley to make it a much more crime free and livable city. And please don’t get me started on crime which is rampant with a robberies, breaks ins and muggings often with firearms. Students at Berkeley often risk life and limb instead of being safe and protected.. The parks are poorly protected and instead of being community assets are often places for violence, waste both solid and liquid. The latest gaff of dumping Willard Pool despite enormous support shows how out of touch the City Council is with citizens. What is worse is the cynical comments aobut ‘not enough community support’ as a smokescreen for another agenda. Too may dollars are wasted on planning commisisons, consultants etc that could go for parks and pools but when you ahve a huge bureacracy with big salarties and benefits one must fill up their importance with wasteful projects that really fool no one and are relatively useless.

  • dana

    Only problem there is the city staff required to collect those fees. My bet is it would be a total loss

  • guest

    Maybe they could hire some of the bums they let live under the overpasses.

  • guest

    “Is your mortgage or rent extortion?”

    No. Neither is extortion.

    Each is a contractual relationship in which the rules are known, agreed to in the beginning, enforceable using existing legal processes, and can be terminated or modified only by the terms of the agreement or other known rules or principles.

    Unlike the ‘political processes’, in no sense is either of these contractual relationships between me and another party subject to unknown and unknowable whims and gaffes of others whose interests and motivations are unknown.

  • ermahguerst

    Thank you. I for one do not wish to raise the City Council’s allowance until they demonstrate that they can actually stick to a budget.

  • guest

    Last year, parcel taxes constituted 45% of my total bill. Ad valorem taxes were 65%. That’s a majority, but not the vast one you seem to think.

  • guest

    Typo — parcel taxes were 35%, ad valorem 65% of the whole. My other point still holds. That’s a big chunk of change.

  • Guest

    Providing parks and recreation services for citizens is one of the core functions of a city. Why are Berkeley citizens paying extra taxes for these services…where are the rest of our tax dollars going… and why is the city, once again, saying “either vote for this or we will cut your services” like it did with Willard Pool? The budget for 2014/15 should have passed assuming the initiative would NOT pass. If the city is in such a bad financial state, why were furloughs eliminated and why were workers given raises? The Berkeley City Council needs to manage its city manager. Berkeley workers earn high wages not to mention excellent health benefits in retirement. Read this: http://www.dailycal.org/2013/03/04/berkeley-city-employees-paid-eight-best-in-the-state/

  • guest

    I was polled on both the parks and the downtown measures, and I found the language extremely confusing. The polltaker read the questions very fast, and one is asked to respond yes or no or more positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative, very negative to high complex questions. Honestly, I have no idea whether it was Mello-Roos or a tax, and I still can’t believe the downtown initiative requires three restrooms in any given location. I certainly don’t know how I would vote on either of them if the election were held today.

  • Guest

    Extortion. That is exactly what it is. Seriously, Berkeley City Council and City Manager Daniels, since when is funding of basic community services (like parks and pools) a luxury?

  • Guest

    Exactly!!!!!!

  • Guest

    Yes, again, exactly! Taseraurus, you are my new idol.

  • NO, NO, NO!!!

    Okay, here are my answers:

    “Why do you believe that the city needs more money?”

    If all nine councilmembers agree that we need more money for parks, and the only disagreement is between the council majority that wants a smaller amount of money and the council minority that wants a larger amount of money, I trust that consensus among our elected representatives more than I trust anonymous internet commenters who are obviously more angry than they are rational.

    “Why do you believe it is acceptable for the city of Berkeley to provide taxpayers with substandard services despite already having some of the highest taxes in the state?”

    That question is on the same level as “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” I’ll just answer that I would much rather live in Berkeley than in El Cerrito, Emeryville, or Walnut Creek, so I don’t think that Berkeley is doing such a bad job. Our housing prices show that a lot of people agree with me and prefer to live in Berkeley. Of course, our high taxes might also have something to do with all the tax-exempt University-owned property in Berkeley.

    Now that I have answered your questions, you can answer mine:

    If your proposals are so obviously good, why doesn’t a single
    councilmember support them? Why are you against the council majority,
    even more against the council minority, and not for anyone? I think the only possible answer is that you are out of touch with reality and don’t understand the constraints that the council faces. Do you have a better answer?

  • guest

    Interesting that every single one of your answers include personal attacks. Interesting that you are willing to simply believe whatever you’re told without asking for evidence or showing the slightest bit of curiosity. Interesting that your answers willfully ignore the reality of our crumbling infrastructure that is the result of decades of mismanagement of funds and wrong priorities.

    “If your proposals are so obviously good, why doesn’t a single councilmember support them?”
    Because keeping on doing the same thing is easier than making real change and hard decisions. Because reorganizing priorities and cutting redundancies and waste would mean job cuts and be politically unpopular. Just because something is EASY doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do.

    “Why are you against the council majority, even more against the council minority, and not for anyone?”

    Against in what way? I voted for Bates and voted for my incumbent council member in the last election.

    Is it possible for you to discuss issues without resorting to flinging around insults any time you disagree with someone?

  • Chris J

    I say ‘may be in incorrect’ because I wasn’t certain and didn’t want to make the assertion, personally, that the assertion WAS correct. You have provided some in depth analysis to take my uncertainty to certainty. Thanks for being aware.

  • Akkizza

    It was possible in the past, but not now. Halcyon Park was a great example of that. The Parks Department today does not want to work with residents, even though there are many willing to volunteer time and money to maintain parks and develop new ones. What I’ve been told is that they just view that as more work.

    Albany, on the other hand, uses an army of volunteers in their parks. It’s really too bad that Berkeley’s Parks Department won’t shift their attitude and use all the free, willing, and eager resources in this town.

  • Minerva

    But when they’re old someone else will have saved the parks for them, right? I’m old now, but when I was younger I had kids too, and I still found time for civic responsibility. The people pictured, some of whom I know, are still working to conserve our resources for a future they won’t even be around to enjoy, and they should be thanked instead of dissed by the slacker generation.

  • guest

    Like the schools and libraries, parks and rec, need financial help that is stable and constant, as opposed to the general fund that goes up and down with the economy and gets fed by variable taxes like business and property transfer. The City cannot budget based on the assumption that a tax or bond MIGHT pass. The City Manager uses her remarkable skills to balance the budget and keep as much staff as possible. People demand services. Workers get raises that are negotiated. If you think they are paid too much, then lobby your city council, who depend on labor for support at election time. The Parks, Rec, and Waterfront department is huge. There are 52 parks in the City, plus the camps which are in a state of post fire emergency, the forestry division that keeps thousands of street trees healthy, and the waterfront, which is supervised by PRW but is run as an enterprise zone, the Marina fund. The facilities are heavily used and get deteriorated, just like your house, and must be repaired and maintained. There are inflationary factors like the cost of building materials. Built anything lately? The special tax that supports all this (based on square footage, not assessed valuation) cannot keep up with costs and so the department is running a structural deficit. That means either a bump up in the tax or a cut back meaning layoffs and closures. The tax increase is $39 for the average 1900 square foot home. It’s a dinner out in a cheaper restaurant.

  • guest

    What has this to do with the needs of the parks, recreational, and waterfront department budget which is running a structural deficit? Two City Councilmembers, Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli, made the decision not to support the Mello-Roos bond measure and support a more modest parks tax increase because they thought that in an off-year election, the latter would have a better chance. If the Mello-Roos had gone on the ballot, Willard Pool, would have become the main issue, and if it lost, the pool would have been closed with little chance of reopening, because the vote would be viewed as a referendum on the pool, which did not do well in the polling. The Mello-Roos was a huge risk. No only would defeat have damned Willard but there would be lay-offs and closures of other facilities.

  • guest

    Polling is an imperfect craft. That is understood by all involved but everybody does it, because there are few other ways of testing the waters of public opinion.

  • guest

    What redundant services you don’t need? Ok, you don’t own a dog so you don’t need the Ohlone dog park, but your neighbor does. So maybe instead you have a booth at a fair in Live Oak park. Well somebody has to clean up. There are 52 parks, and even in the unlikely event that you don’t need or use any of them, proximity to a park raises your property value. Ditto if you and your block has street trees. They have to be maintained. No kids in the many recreation programs? What other activities would you have these kids do?

  • guest

    That can happen in 2016. Don’t give up on Willard Pool.

  • guest

    It’s a problem. But our own projects pale in comparison to the the Bay Bridge. Still, we do need more watchdogs. Gone to a commission meeting lately? That’s a good place to find out what’s going on because staff must report to the commissions.