Category Archives: Comment

Op:ed: Mayor Bates accuses former Mayor Shirley Dean of abusing the Public Records Act

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Most government records are subject to California’s Public Records Act, which means cities like Berkeley have to turn over internal documents when asked. The California Public Records Act defines public records as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.”

In an Opinionator piece in Berkeleyside, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates lambasts former Mayor Shirley Dean for a public records request she made that he says is far-reaching and will take up so much time that it will render the city government ineffective. … Continue reading »

Op-ed: Loss of Christine Daniel reflects serious and growing problem within Berkeley government

City Manager Christine Daniel, leaving for the deputy position in Oakland. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Christine Daniel has only been city manager for three years, but in that short amount of time her work addressing Berkeley’s unfunded pension liabilities has been impressive, argue the board members of the North East Berkeley Association in an Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside.

“Ms. Daniel did a superb job in outlining the City’s vast unfunded liabilities over time and in creating budgets which more clearly addressed these liabilities. Under her leadership, we have seen great improvements in the way plans and projects for parks, streets, and other services are conceptualized, presented and budgeted,” the five board members write. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: BUSD takes multi-tier approach to help students at Berkeley Technology Academy

Berkeley Technology Academy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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In an Opinionator piece, Donald Evans, the Berkeley school superintendent, discusses the many challenges facing the students at the district’s alternative high school, Berkeley Technology Academy.

Since “90% of the students who attend BTA bring with them a history of profound exposure to complex traumatic stress that often has created significant barriers to both academic and personal development,” Evans says it is important that the school district adopts a multi-faceted approach to helping these students. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Berkeley Technology Academy, rentals, UC and fossil fuels, Adeline Street, $15 wage, Harold Way

Berkeley Technology Academy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeleyside’s Opinionator section continues to draw passionate, well-articulated argument on a number of topical issues.

In case you missed them, here’s a recap of six recent op-eds:

BERKELEY TECHNOLOGY ACADEMY After Berkeleyside published a lengthy investigative story on the troubled Berkeley Technology Academy, the city’s second high school, John Fike, a teacher on special assignment there, advocated for a positive response. “Rather than cast blame, point fingers and re-count unfortunate anecdotes of past and current students in crisis situations, I’d like to take this opportunity to provide additional context about the challenge of our school, and how some of us think and hope we might become better and more effective at serving our students, who are indeed — as our Principal Quintana accurately states — simultaneously “brilliant kids” and “traumatized,” he writes.Continue reading »

Op-ed: Don’t penalize small Airbnb proprietors

The owners of this rent-controlled apartment complex at 3100 College Ave. are renting out three of its apartments on Airbnb. Berkeley law does not allow rentals shorter than 14 days. Photo: Melati
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On Tuesday, June 9, the Berkeley City Council is set to consider eliminating the restrictions on short-term rentals. It is currently illegal to rent out apartments and rooms in the city for fewer than 14 days. However, there are thousands of short-term rentals listed on Airbnb, VRBO, Home Away and other websites, and many in the city contend they are depleting the permanent housing supply. Berkeley officials are seeking to balance private entrepreneurship with a good supply of rental units.

In an Opinionator piece, West Berkeley homeowner Jenny Lederer argues that the proposed measure — which will be further vetted by the city’s Planning Commission and Housing Advisory Commission  — will unnecessarily penalize homeowners who have freestanding in-law units and unused spaces. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: BTA teacher asks, how can we support our kids?

Berkeley Technology Academy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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On Wednesday, Berkeleyside reporter Emilie Raguso took an in-depth look at a range of challenges faced by the Berkeley Technology Academy community.

Today, B-Tech teacher John Fike shares his views about where the conversation can go from here.

Fike writes that there is a conversation happening now in Southern California about whether to deem complex trauma — which is experienced by the vast majority of BTA students — a federally recognized disability. If that happens, Fike writes, this could be a “watershed moment in public education in our state and country.”

Fike also notes that, given the huge challenges faced by the students, it makes sense that teachers and other staff on campus would be affected by the intensity, too.

“In a broad sense, the article about our school is an accurate reflection of all these complex emotions and responses. The ‘alarm’ that was raised in that article needs to be understood as a desperate cry for help in a profoundly challenging situation,” he writes. … Continue reading »

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Op-eds: Strong feelings about proposed Berkeley project

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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Downtown Berkeley hasn’t seen a development proposal like The Residences at Berkeley Plaza for decades. An 180-foot tall apartment building with two towers and more than 10,000 square feet of retail on its ground floor, 2211 Harold Way promises to be transformative.

There are many people who think the structure is too large. In a pair of recently published op-eds, one UC Berkeley professor argues that the citizens of Berkeley got scammed when they voted for Measure R and the Downtown Area Plan. He says it really was a scheme to enrich developers, rather than help the average Berkeley resident. Meanwhile, a long-time Berkeley resident argues that city officials must demand that the developers build more affordable housing than is currently required.  … Continue reading »

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Op-ed explains community college is no easy path to Cal

Berkeley City College celebrates 40 years in business starting this weekend. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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When Adena Ishii read a Facebook rant against community college transfers to UC Berkeley, she was determined to set the record straight.

Ishii transferred from Berkeley City College and Moorpark Community College to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. She’s now Program Coordinator of BCC’s Transfer Service Community, and in an op-ed on Berkeleyside’s Opinionator, she makes a powerful case for the path she and many other students follow to Cal and other UC campuses.

“Transfer students often face overwhelmingly challenging life experiences, and we don’t all have the same opportunities or privileges that are often associated with freshman admits,” writes Ishii. … Continue reading »

Two op-eds argue Berkeley is going in wrong direction

Hikers taking a break at Dorothy Bolte Park. Photo: gina g10
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The Berkeley City Council will consider tonight the scope of capital projects in the city during the next five years. With Berkeley’s population growing, and new investment flowing in, in the form of apartment buildings and new restaurants around town, residents might expect Berkeley would start spending more to improve its parks, streets and other facilities. But, Isabelle Gaston argues in an Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside, capital spending will actually go down, leading to a further decay of the city’s infrastructure. The culprit: the rising cost of employee benefits. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley Mayor, councilman offer solution to city’s need for more affordable housing

The Aquatic mixed-use development at 800 University Ave. in Berkeley could open by summer 2015. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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In an op-ed published Monday on Berkeleyside, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Laurie Capitelli, a member of the Berkeley City Council representing District 5, offer a solution to what they say is currently an imperfect approach to securing affordable housing in the city.

Their proposal — which is on tonight’s City Council agenda – is to create a “city density bonus” which would see developers who want to build housing pay a fee into the Housing Trust Fund.

“The developers would gain more units and the community would gain more affordable housing,” they say. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Schools, libraries, parks — and what price water?

Mayor Tom Bate's new water conservation challenge hopes to raise awareness about California's serious drought. Photo: Steve Johnson
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This month is not over but Berkeleyside has already published several op-eds of note in its Opinionator section.

Two tackle Berkeley’s parks and facilities. Diz Swift says it’s time for a coherent plan to maintain city facilities. “We need priorities and the realization that maybe we can’t afford to keep it all. If we just go on like this, our beautiful public spaces will gradually decay,” she writes.

Meanwhile, Isabelle Gaston questions why the increase in the amount spent on parks in Berkeley is not proportional to the increase spent on salaries, benefits and running the city. “Why are clubhouses, public swimming pools and senior centers routinely being closed in Berkeley — one of the richest cities and most highly taxed in all of California?” she asks. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: On park maintenance and misallocated budgets

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In the past few days, Berkeleyside has published two opinion pieces focused on the city’s parks and spending.

Diz Swift, a Berkeley public works commissioner, argued last week that Berkeley does not have the money to maintain all of the city’s parks and other facilities. There is an urgent need, Swift writes, to write “an over-arching, coherent plan for maintaining city facilities.”

“We’re very good at building new things,” Swift writes, “but then we neglect to remember we have to have funds to maintain them. Maintenance just isn’t very ‘sexy.'” … Continue reading »

Op-eds: On soda tax, accessory units, and homelessness

A "family" of homeless youth in Berkeley. Photo: Keith Chastain
Homeless youth in Berkeley: two op-ed pieces published recently on Berkeleyside address the recent vote by City Council to tackle the impact of homelessness. Photo: Keith Chastain
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In the past few days Berkeleyside has published several opinion pieces worth highlighting.

Robert Reich, Laurie Capitelli and Dr. Vicki Alexander put their names collectively to an op-ed in which they argue that, while Berkeley may have passed a historic soda tax in November, the campaign has not ended for Big Soda. “Having spent over $2 million (almost $50 per voter!) during the campaign, Big Soda has embarked on a campaign to discredit Measure D even before it has a chance to take effect,” they write, citing as an example concerns expressed by soda distributors in an article published on Berkeleyside. Read the full op-ed in our Opinionator section. … Continue reading »