Category Archives: Government

Berkeley City Attorney: Main Post office may have been sold

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The Berkeley City Attorney has informed the City Council that he believes someone has purchased the Main Post office  at 2000 Allston Way and that it is time for Berkeley to file a lawsuit against the United States Post Office to stop the sale.

A letter to that effect was leaked to the Berkeley Daily Planet, which published it on Thursday.

Zach Cowan, the city attorney, told Berkeleyside that he could not share the letter he sent to council since it was privileged attorney-client communication. But Cowan said the version on the Planet website was accurate.

“It is my conclusion that at a minimum a buyer has been chosen, and that it is likely that there is at least a letter of understanding in place, if not a contract and perhaps an open escrow,” Cowan wrote to the council, according to the Daily Planet.Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Measure R will kill emerging downtown renaissance

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Berkeley has an international reputation as a free-thinking, expressive, welcoming and experimental city.  The current battle over the city’s downtown and November’s Measure R contradicts this image of ourselves, and in the worst possible way.

While promoted as a “soak-the-evil-developers” proposal, in reality Measure R is a thinly disguised attempt to freeze Berkeley in the past and wall off a potentially larger and more vibrant downtown to new residents. Rather than being progressive and welcoming, Measure R will keep people … Continue reading »

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Outside money, solar funds in Assembly campaigns

Echols and Thurmond debated each other in Berkeley on Oct. 7. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Big outside money is playing a large role in California legislative races this year, and the East Bay is not immune to the trend.

Independent Expenditure committees have donated $265,600 so far in support of State Assembly District 15 candidate Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond city council member and $150,775 to his opponent, Elizabeth Echols, the regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Petroleum and cigarette interests are two of many contributors to the independent expenditure groups backing Thurmond, prompting  Echols to send out mailers warning voters about the “Big Oil,” tobacco, and “predatory lenders” backing Thurmond.

Berkeleyside’s Election Hub: All you need to know about the elections

But a firefighters union, the AFL-CIO, PG&E, and pharmaceutical and real estate groups have also been giving to the vaguely named independent expenditure (IE) committees that have been spending generously in support of Thurmond. Since the start of the year, the Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, A California Business Coalition (ACT) has reported spending $202,516 in support of the candidate. Keep California Strong has spent $63,084 and he has also received outside support from the nurses union PAC. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on disaster prep, longterm parking in South Berkeley, ambulance issues, more

Berkeley City Council, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Scroll down to learn about the highlights of this week’s Berkeley City Council agenda.

The special session: Disaster preparedness

At 5:30 p.m., Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong will give an overview to council about the city’s approach to disaster preparedness and emergency management. (It’s good timing, as the city just held its annual community-wide disaster preparedness training day Saturday.) The report from Dong also serves as training for council about the role it must play during a disaster. The packet includes a 30-page report called “Resilience in Berkeley: Highlights from 25 years of community support.” Read the report. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Measure D — a doctor’s perspective

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I am a Berkeley doctor. I support Measure D, and want to comment on specious and incorrect arguments by Jill Herschman and Dan McDunn, both of whom argued against the measure in op-ed pieces published on Berkeleyside.

I assume that the flyers with the allegations summarized below, and distributed door to door with the statement “Paid for by No on D ….” by the American Beverage Association PAC ” do contain original belief statements written by the two Berkeley residents named … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Linda Maio is not the best environmental candidate

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The Sierra Club Bay Chapter made a big mistake when it endorsed incumbent Linda Maio for Berkeley City Council.

In 2013, Maio led the move to gut a proposed ordinance that would have improved the information that dental patients receive about mercury dental amalgam fillings. She killed the mandates that two Berkeley commissions had spent six months crafting, which included informed consent for dental patients and signage requirements for dental offices.

Pro-environment Councilmember Arreguín and others tried to continue the issue for further study, but Maio, in her leadership role as Vice-Mayor, convinced the majority … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote no on Measure R — it’s a misleading initiative

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Most of us want a new downtown; why are we asked over and over to keep the old one? Why do we have to fight another misleading initiative — Measure R?

After years of debate on a plan to revitalize our downtown, we had the first initiative campaign to stop it, and a subsequent election, in which the plan was approved overwhelmingly by voters in every precinct in Berkeley. It provided for a new green downtown with new housing for … Continue reading »

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Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg donates $85,000 to support Berkeley’s proposed soda tax

Michael Bloomberg
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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who fought unsuccessfully to establish a cap on the size of soda portions sold in that city, has donated $85,000 to the Yes on Measure D campaign.

His contribution – the largest the soda tax advocates have gotten to date – is one of three significant donations made by national groups in recent days, according to Josh Daniels, the co-chair of the campaign. The American Heart Association recently gave $23,000 and the Center for Science in the Public Interest kicked in $15,000. … Continue reading »

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District 8 candidates share their vision for downtown

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The race for Berkeley’s District 8 seat, soon to be vacated by City Councilman Gordon Wozniak, is the most competitive of the 2014 election season. Four candidates are vying for the post: George Beier, Michael Alvarez Cohen, Lori Droste, and Jacquelyn McCormick.

The Downtown Berkeley Association recently sent a set of questions to the four candidates. They mostly focused on their vision of the downtown, although one asked about the city’s finances. We publish their responses below:

Read more about the Berkeley 2014 elections on BerkeleysideContinue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley’s Measure R is bad government

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Conceived with no public input and bewildering in detail, Berkeley’s Measure R sets a new low for proposals fostering bad government.

Measure R on the 2014 Berkeley ballot is 28 pages of complex zoning minutia, increased plan and development requirements (including some that are legally questionable), wage and other requirements, prohibitions, and a Civic Center District Overlay. It has pages of detail and tables with specifics including one six page table setting out precisely the kind of permits required for … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The goal is health: Measure D brings us closer

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The going was tough in the late 1990s when a passionate and diverse group of Berkeley citizen-activists wrote the first school food policy in the nation. Through conflict and compromise, they worked long and hard to get the policy passed and supported by the Board of Education.

Yet, nothing much changed until a middle schooler died of diabetes in 2001.

This event so shocked then-Berkeley School Superintendent Michelle Lawrence that she harnessed her institutional willpower to kickstart the total transformation … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on racial discrimination, Parker Place, curbside EV charging grant, more

Parker Place permits: On council's action calendar for Tuesday night. Here, the view of what's proposed at 2600 Shattuck Ave. Image: LPAS Architecture + Design
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The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday, with a special session on race-related workforce issues at 5:30 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m.

The special session

Council will hear from a consultant hired last year to look at complaints regarding city practices related to race. A consultant who interviewed city employees about 20 complaints made recommendations for improvement earlier this year. Tuesday evening will be the first chance for council to have an in-depth public discussion about those findings. Council also will hear what the police department is doing to limit the possibility of racial profiling, and about additional resources the city has put into mental health outreach services. Read the report.

The action calendar

PARKER PLACE PLANS STALLED BY APPEAL The mixed-use housing and commercial complex planned for Shattuck Avenue and Parker Street — called Parker Place — is on council’s agenda Tuesday due to an appeal of a recent, unanimous zoning board decision to adjust the project’s permits. Staff says council should uphold the zoning board’s decision. Parker Place was first approved by council in January 2012, and sought to make some adjustments in August of this year after being acquired by Lennar Multifamily Communities and Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management. Berkeleyside will have the full story later this week.Continue reading »

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Campaign donations reach record levels in Berkeley; beverage companies donate $1.4M to defeat soda tax

Dustan Batton of Rodriguez Strategies  (left) and Josh Daniels (right) argue the merits of Measure D, a proposed tax on sugary beverages, at an election event on Oct. 6. Batton is a spokesman for the No on D campaign, and Daniels is co-chair of the Yes on D campaign. Photo: Mark Coplan
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The beverage industry in recent days contributed another $600,000 to its fight to defeat Measure D, a proposed tax in Berkeley on sugary beverages, bringing the amount it has given so far to $1.4 million.

The contribution comes on top of $7.7 million the beverage industry has donated to stop a similar soda tax measure on San Francisco’s ballot. The Measure D campaign had already won the distinction of being the most expensive in Berkeley, and the new contribution made Oct. 1 only accentuates that fact. The beverage industry spent more than $2.6 million to defeat a similar tax in Richmond in 2012. … Continue reading »

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