Category Archives: Government
Berkeley councilman says city mishandled legal fees in Measure S redistricting lawsuit; city disagrees
Less than a week before Berkeley voters will decide whether to adopt new council district boundaries, a local official has criticized the city for how it handled legal fees for a lawsuit over the proposed council lines that are on the Nov. 4 ballot with Measure S.
It’s the latest rebuke in a prolonged public battle over district lines that began in earnest last year. City officials and staff have countered that proper procedure was, in fact, followed, and that nothing inappropriate occurred.
At Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting, local resident Stefan Elgstrand told officials he had been dismayed to learn about the payment by staff of $140,000 — which he said council did not approve — to lawyers who represented the city in a lawsuit related to redistricting earlier this year. Elgstrand, who was previously an intern for Councilman Kriss Worthington, authored a map last year that was rejected by council and has been among those leading the charge to have the adopted map thrown out. He’s also a lead organizer in the opposition campaign against Measure S. Since Elgstrand’s public comment Tuesday, Councilman Jesse Arreguín and his aide Anthony Sanchez have added their voices to the criticism, and publicly excoriated the city for how it handled the payment of the legal fees.
City officials have been working to adopt new district lines for several years, but the process has been contentious. Council adopted a new map in December, and said the boundaries had garnered widespread community approval and complied with all legal requirements. Critics of that map — including Elgstrand, Arreguín, Worthington, Phoebe Sorgen and Council 1 challenger Alejandro Soto-Vigil — then led a referendum drive to force council to rescind that map in favor of a compromise, or put the issue to the voters.
The referendum drive was successful, which suspended the use of the map council had adopted. The city then took to the courts to determine which lines should be used leading up to the November election. A judge ultimately ruled that the map council adopted should determine the districts up through Nov. 4. … Continue reading »
The League of Women Voters urges a YES vote on Berkeley’s Measure F, the Parks Tax. Measure F proposes a modest increase of 2.1 cents per square foot in the current parcel tax that funds maintenance and repair of 52 parks as well as trails, medians, and 35,000 street trees.
The current tax and its inflation index are inadequate to meet the needs of the parks and urban forest. The budget of the Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront is running a … Continue reading »
On behalf of all Berkeley teachers, I ask you to vote yes on Measure D for the health of our children.
Ask any teacher in Berkeley and they will tell you that there is a strong connection between physical health and academics. Indeed, research has shown that when students are healthy, they are much more likely to attend school and be ready to learn; and when students are not healthy, their academics suffer. According to the California School Board’s Association:
Remember when people could smoke in restaurants, on airplanes, and at work? This changed, thanks to tireless efforts by health advocates like me.
In 1988, California voters passed an excise tax on the tobacco industry which raised prices, reduced consumption, and funded programs that successfully advocated for clean indoor air laws in cities across the state. The resulting groundswell eventually convinced state leaders to reject tobacco campaign donations and take action. This took decades because we had to fight Big … Continue reading »
Last March after Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan received a prestigious national American Planning Association award, I wrote the following for the “Cal Planner” newsletter:
“In the end, support was overwhelming as eight of nine Council members adopted a new Downtown Area Plan … but what a long, strange trip it has been. The 2012 ‘DAP’ was forged from the crucible of Berkeley’s special style of community decision-making — fueled by passionate debate across almost 200 public meetings, … everyone … Continue reading »
On Nov. 4, Berkeley voters will show where they stand on Measure D, the so-called Soda Tax. The proposed tax on sugary beverages has been one of the most hotly debated Berkeley issues in the city’s history, and certainly one that has brought in record levels of campaign expenditure. The No on Measure D lobby has spent $2.3 million in an attempt to defeat the tax, according to campaign finance reports. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has contributed $432,071 in support of the soda tax. (That includes $265,235 for network advertising for commercials during the World Series, $96,836 for cable ads, and a cash donation of $170,000 to the Yes on Measure D effort.) UC Berkeley’s Robert Reich has been vocal in his views — writing a blog post about the issue titled “In its battle with Big Soda, Berkeley may once again make history,” and shooting a video on the same subject.
Gael McKeon has spent several weeks documenting both sides of the campaign with his camera to create this photo essay of a pivotal moment in Berkeley’s political history, one that may set the stage for change nationwide. We publish it exclusively on Berkeleyside. (The ‘No on D’ campaign declined to participate in this story.) … Continue reading »
The lowdown: Berkeley council on police partnerships, release of balloons, cell phone safety law, more
Police partnerships, good government policy recommendations, safety sheets from cell phone retailers, and environmental admonishments from balloon vendors: It’s all scheduled to come up Tuesday night before the Berkeley City Council. Scroll down to learn about the highlights of this week’s council agenda. Not all items are included, so be sure to check the full agenda to learn more. … Continue reading »
Among the many ballot propositions up for a vote on Election Day, Proposition O — which makes some seemingly minor fixes to the city’s recall law – is very low down on the public discussion list. But it is actually a very useful fix to the law, one that takes the step of heading off some future lawsuits whenever a recall comes back into play.
This change may not seem like an obvious repair that needs to be made. While … Continue reading »
Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, contributed another $285,000 in support of the Yes on Measure D campaign in the last few days, bringing his total contribution to $370,000. More may be coming, according to Howard Wolfson, his senior aide.
Bloomberg paid $200,000 for television ads, including one that aired during the fourth game of the World Series, according to Wolfson. (Campaign finance statements had not been filed as of press time). A second ad will run on Berkeley cable television through the election, he said. Bloomberg also gave a second $85,000 directly to the Yes on Measure D campaign. … Continue reading »
The Green Downtown Initiative is the latest chapter in the land use battle between big developers and the rest of us.
In 2010, Berkeley voters approved a different Measure R, which asked voters to adopt a “Green Vision” for the downtown, ostensibly to meet the City’s climate action goals. The measure promised voters that in exchange for a few tall buildings, Berkeley would become one of the greenest cities in the United States.
Unfortunately, the City Council majority enacted zoning … Continue reading »
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 »
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.
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 »