Category Archives: Comment

Op-ed: Berkeley schools need a facilities master plan

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In an op-ed published on Berkeleyside yesterday, Mark Lemkin, a long-time Berkeley resident with two children at local schools, says it’s time Berkeley Unified School District had a Facilities Master Plan.

“For the past 14 years, BUSD has authorized $327 million in capital improvements,” he writes. “That represents approximately $15,000 in taxes per household, or about $35,000 per student, a generous investment by Berkeley residents. Most people are surprised to learn, however, that BUSD has allocated these resources without a Facilities Master Plan.  … Continue reading »

Berkeley’s Measure R: Two conflicting opinions

Four years after voters adopted a new vision for downtown, they may be asked to refine it. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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Recently, Berkeleyside has published two op-ed pieces in its Opinionator section on Measure R, the ballot initiative supporters say will put more “green” in local development, but which opponents argue will stop new projects that are contributing to a downtown renaissance and are bringing critical amenities to the city.

On Sept. 9, Jacquelyn McCormick, the President of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association and a candidate for City Council in District 8, wrote about why she was supporting Measure R.Continue reading »

Op-ed: ‘In its battle with Big Soda, Berkeley may once again make history’

Robert Reich. Photo: Victoria Bernal
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As election season approaches, the Berkeley vs Big Soda battle is heating up. Measure D, which is on the ballot, would see a tax put on sugar-sweetened beverages. An op-ed on the subject by a Berkeley parent published on Berkeleyside on Monday has generated over 370 comments and counting.

Today, in our Opinionator section, we publish a piece on the issue by Robert Reich who says that, if a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere.

“Big Soda knows that, which is why it’s determined to kill it here,” writes the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.  … Continue reading »


Op-ed: Support Measure R — true green not green-washed

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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In November, Measure R, a proposed downtown initiative, will go before Berkeley voters. Among other things, the measure addresses issues like building height and the approvals process for developers, including transportation and affordable housing. (See Berkeleyside’s downtown initiative cheat sheet.)

In 2010, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved Measure R, but, in an Opinionator piece published today on Berkeleyside, Jacquelyn McCormick argues that the City Council has not delivered on its promises.

McCormick, President of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association and a candidate for City Council in District 8, delineates in what ways she believes our local government has failed to deliver, and urges people to support Measure R. … Continue reading »

Op-ed: Soda kills — why we must vote yes on Measure D

Berkeley will vote on Measure D, the so-called Soda Tax, in November. Photo: Vox Efx
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In two months, Berkeley voters will decide whether their city will be the first in the country to enact a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (or tie with San Francisco which has a similar measure on the ballot).

When Berkeley parent Erica Etelson heard about Measure D, the so-called Soda Tax, she immediately volunteered “to help the Healthy Child Coalition trounce Big Soda.”

In an Opinionator piece published today on Berkeleyside, Etelson explains why she was an easy recruit. Sugary drinks are the number one source of calories for low-income Americans, she says. “In addition to diabetes, sugar is now known to cause heart disease, fatty liver disease, hypertension, obesity and stroke. Once upon a time, drinking a Coke seemed a harmless enough activity, but now we know better. Soda kills,” she writes. … Continue reading »


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 »

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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »