Category Archives: Comment

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Op-ed: Are Berkeley schools victims of their own success?

Students eating lunch at Malcolm X Elementary School. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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In the past few years, Malcolm X Elementary School has gone from a student population of about 400 students to nearly 600. It’s not alone. Many of Berkeley Unified’s schools are grappling with increasing numbers of kids and not necessarily seeing a corresponding growth in resources to handle them.

In an Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside, Joshua Room, a BUSD graduate himself and former president of Malcolm X PTA, argues that our schools are bursting at the seams and there do not seem to be good short- or long-term alternatives for accommodating the increase. Why, he asks, does BUSD seem “to be repeatedly caught off-guard by this continuing, explosive growth?” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley restaurant is approved: Let it open

Comal's owners are planning to open a new restaurant at 2635 Ashby, but may be delayed by a lawsuit. Photo: Google Maps
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Last year, the owners of Comal restaurant in downtown Berkeley applied to the city to open a new restaurant in the Elmwood neighborhood. Community meetings were held, the proposal was vetted by the city’s zoning board, there were public hearings, as well as an appeal. Ultimately, the plan was given the go-ahead.

Then a group called the Elmwood Neighborhood Association filed a lawsuit against the city and the restaurant’s owners, claiming that Berkeley violated environmental laws when it made a “negative declaration” that determined the new restaurant, at 2635 Ashby Ave. near College Avenue, would not create significant noise, parking or odor problems.

April Gilbert, who has lived in the Elmwood for eight years, and Berkeley for 40 years, had never heard of the association. In an Opinionator piece published by Berkeleyside, she argues that this small group does not represent her, nor, she believes, the many local residents who support the idea new restaurant. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Parks bond needs strict accountability and vision

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At its meeting tomorrow night, the Berkeley City Council will consider again how to raise funds for Berkeley’s parks.

In an Opinionator op-ed published today on Berkeleyside, parks advocate Marc Beyeler argues that the best path for the Council — and for the city and its residents — will be to place a Mello-Roos combined funding measure on the November ballot. A Mello-Roos measure would provide both capital and continued operating funding, but it also demands a two-thirds vote for passage. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Minimum wage plan is raising bar too far, too fast

Poster produced by the Berkeley Alliance of Small Businesses
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More than 100 small Berkeley businesses from across the city have joined forces as the Berkeley Small Business Alliance. The group is taking a stand on the plan to raise the minimum wage, set to be voted on at tonight’s City Council meeting.

In an Opinionator piece published today on Berkeleyside the Alliance says it supports the need to raise the minimum wage, but argues that the proposal as it stands may have too many unintended consequences on the small businesses that represent the backbone of Berkeley’s economy.

The plan under consideration “is simply raising the bar too far, too fast,” they say.

The Alliance is asking the mayor to postpone a vote to raise Berkeley’s minimum wage until a thorough Minimum Wage Impact Study is completed.

Read the op-ed in our Opinionator section and join the conversation there by leaving a comment. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: 2 views on Berkeley’s minimum wage hike plan

Independent bookshops will be among the small businesses impacted by a minimum wage hike. Photo: Angelica Portales
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Today, Berkeleyside published two op-ed columns in its Opinionator section that address the city of Berkeley’s ongoing discussion about raising the minimum wage.

Berkeley resident Marian Lever argues that it’s important not to forget the impact of a minimum wage increase on Berkeley’s many small businesses, which, she says, are such an important part of the fabric of the city. “The communities that populated Cody’s and Black Oak Books were real communities in the truest sense of the word,” she says, and we don’t want to lose more bookstores and other independent merchants. She asks that we be as respectful of the small business owners as we are of the employees.

Separately, Amy Shrago and Annie Flores, co-presidents of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Alameda North Chapter, urge the Berkeley City Council to pass a local minimum wage with no exclusions, because, they say, a higher minimum wage is critically important to women’s financial health. “As an organization that supports growing both the political and economic power of women, we know that a higher minimum wage is critically important to women’s economic security,” they write. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Can we get some notice before a tree is cut down?

Trees. Photo- Moyan Brenn
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Berkeleyan Ryan Mytika came home one day recently to find a fruit tree on his street had disappeared. He thinks the city should give residents some warning before they cut down a much-loved neighborhood tree.

Why not tag a tree with a notice when it is scheduled for removal, he asks in an Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside.

“If we can display details on building proposals, why not alert the neighborhood publicly of a tree’s last stand? Seems like a graceful, easy thing to do,’ he writes.

What do you think? Join the conversation by leaving a comment on the post. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Beware deceptive downtown plan petition

The interior of the Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way. It is landmarked on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo: Charlotte Wayne.
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In an op-ed today, Mayor Tom Bates urges Berkeley voters not to sign a petition for a November ballot measure about development downtown.

Bates argues that the petition poses as a way to save Berkeley’s Main Post Office, but its “main thrust… is to impose prohibitively restrictive fees and requirements on new projects in Berkeley’s core downtown.” Further, according to Bates, the measure would not guarantee that the post office continues operations.

The target of Bates’ concern is a ballot initiative by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and others to overhaul elements of the Downtown Area Plan, which was endorsed by voters in 2010 and codified by the City Council in 2012.

According to initiative supporters, the modifications would restore the “green” in the “Green Vision” parts of the Downtown Area Plan. Bates writes that the proposed measure “would sabotage several pending projects to deliver needed housing units and cultural amenities designed to realize our Climate Action Plan strategy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by concentrating housing and public activity near transit hubs.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Say no to tip penalties with minimum wage rise

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Berkeley is currently considering raising the minimum wage, and part of the debate has focused on tip penalties — in other words, employers could deduct the tips an employee receives from their hourly wage obligations.

In an Opinionator column published on Berkeleyside, Van Nguyen, coordinator of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay, argues that this illegal mechanism (according to California Labor Code Section 351) will exacerbate the economic instability of workers.

“Across the country there are many efforts to abolish the tipped minimum wage,” he says. “There is no reason why a leader like Berkeley should be regressing on a destructive path, while others are moving forward.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Tasers are new kind of force, not alternative to guns

The Berkeley City Council will consider asking city staff on May 6 to prepare report on the use of Tasers.   Photo: Creative Commons
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Three Berkeley City Council members are bringing the issue of Taser use by local police to the forefront with a proposed council agenda item currently set for consideration tomorrow, May 6.

In an Opinionator piece published today on Berkeleyside, Andrea Prichett, a Berkeley middle school teacher and a founding member of Copwatch, argues that giving Tasers to police will give them a new kind of force to use, a force that has proved deadly to 540 people since 2001.

It’s a misconception that Tasers are an effective alternative to guns, Prichett argues. She says Tasers will be disproportionately applied to minorities, the homeless, and those with mental health issues — exactly the vulnerable populations that Berkeley should be helping.

Instead of calling on May 6 for a study on the use of Tasers, Prichett asks the City Council to “study how this city can attend to mental health emergencies in a more humane way. Let the City Council study the NAACP recommendations made many months ago that were a call for action to improve the quality of life for African Americans in Berkeley.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Ouch! I was priced out of my Berkeley block

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Reichi Lee had coveted the three-bedroom house right across the street from her in the Berkeley flats for a long time, so, when it came on the market recently, priced at $769,000, she and her husband carefully laid the groundwork to make an offer the sellers couldn’t refuse.

Except they did. And the house sold for more than $1 million cash, after receiving more than 20 offers. In an Opinionator column published on Berkeleyside, Lee writes about her sickening realization that in the current market, for a house on her very own block, trying her best meant not even coming close. Her experience, and the lessons she learned from it, provide a sobering a reality check for other hopeful homebuyers out there.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment in the Comment section on the op-ed. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Redistricting process reeks of cynicism

Detail of the BSDC map, one of several under consideration for Berkeley.
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In an Opinionator column published today on Berkeleyside, Barbara Gilbert, a long-time City Council watcher and community activist, says she has been “appalled” by the redistricting process. She indicts both City Council factions as cynical and hypocritical in their maneuvering.

In the piece, Gilbert tries to sort out the history and motivations behind the various redistricting proposals. She also questions why city officials have singled out students as the only “community of interest” to be recognized in the various plans.

What’s your view? Join the conversation in the Comments section on the Opinionator piece.Continue reading »

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Op-ed: It’s time to compromise on Berkeley redistricting 

Detail of the BSDC map, one of several under consideration for Berkeley.
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Redistricting returns to the Berkeley City Council agenda tonight with two related items slated for discussion. The city is also headed to court this afternoon to try to get clarity on district lines for November 2014.

In an Opinionator column published today on Berkeleyside, George Beier, who may stand as a candidate for District 8 depending on the outcome of the debate, argues that it’s time to reach a compromise on the issue. He says voting for the Compromise Map will stop wasting taxpayer dollars, ensure timely elections, and get the subject out of the courts.

What’s your view? Join the conversation in the Comments section on the Opinionator piece. … Continue reading »

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Op-Ed: Think, ask questions, before signing a petition

Petition
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It’s spring which means there’s an election season on the horizon. That also means, in the weeks ahead, we can all expect to be approached by petition signature gatherers on our street corners, in front of Peet’s, the Bowl, the Cheese Board and the Farmers Market.

In an Opinionator column published today on Berkeleyside, Berkeley councilman Laurie Capitelli urges us to pause, and think carefully about our signatures and their importance before committing them to paper. He advocates asking a few pertinent questions to … Continue reading »