Category Archives: Government

Assembly race: Echols, Thurmond to debate in Berkeley

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One of the most hotly contested seats in the Nov. 4 election is the race for Assembly District 15. Nancy Skinner, who has held the seat for six years, is termed out of office and is stepping down.

The battle for the vacant seat pits two Democrats against one another – Tony Thurmond, a former member of the Richmond City Council and the West Contra Costa School Board, and Elizabeth Echols. Echols has never held public office but has served under two presidents, including a recent stint as the regional administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Obama. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley bans feeding of wildlife in parks, public spaces

Squirrel. Photo: Doug Mosher
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On Oct. 1, a new law went into effect in Berkeley that prohibits the feeding of wild animals in city parks and other public spaces. Enforcement brings with it minimum fines of $100 after an initial warning period, and up to $500 for multiple infractions within a year.

The ordinance applies to the feeding of all wildlife, but was conceived in response to an outcry earlier this year when the city said it would exterminate ground squirrels at César Chávez Park. This was to address Regional Water Quality Control Board concerns that squirrel burrows might be causing toxics underneath the park to leach into the bay, and thus present a threat to the landfill cap.

New ‘No Feeding Wildlife’ signs and educational brochures have been placed at César Chávez Park. … Continue reading »

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After 3 years of negotiations, Berkeley school district and union reach tentative agreement

Berkeley Council of Classified Employees demonstrated on Friday March 28, 2014 outside BUSD's HQ on Bonar Street. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A fact-finding panel brought in to assist with talks between the Berkeley Unified School District and one of its unions finally led to a contract breakthrough – after three years of negotiations.

The district and the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, which represents 590 employees, hammered out the details of an agreement on Wednesday. … Continue reading »

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Government

Streamlined housing crisis center slated for Berkeley

Homeless services in Berkeley. Image: City of Berkeley
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A new one-stop homelessness services shop is in the works in Berkeley.

Announced Tuesday night, the city is changing the way it funds programs offered in town, to prioritize the people with the highest needs, in line with a federal mandate to streamline services into a coordinated system.

The city is looking to create a central office where anyone seeking services will begin the process. Currently, there are too many entry points, as well as duplicative services and a mis-match between those who receive the highest level of assistance and those who needs it most, staff said Tuesday at a work session with the Berkeley City Council.

The city spends about $3 million a year on a range of programs. That is not set to change. But how the money is divvied up, and exactly which types of services receive money, will be different. Unlike the current system, programs will have to fit into set categories to qualify for city support. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: We trust officials to spend soda tax money wisely

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In “Beverage companies donate $800,000 to fight soda tax,” an article published on Berkeleyside on Sept. 22, 2014, I laughed when I read ‘No on D’ spokesperson Roger Salazar’s explanation as to why an unprecedented $800,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Association (ABA) is required to fight a local Berkeley political campaign. His reasoning? That extraordinary measures are needed to fight the moral authority of the Berkeley City Council.

Really? Who truly cares about the future of Berkeley’s … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s minimum wage is $10 starting today, Oct. 1

Minimum wage rally in May 2014 in Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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Starting today, Oct. 1, a new minimum wage goes into effect in Berkeley with a citywide rate of $10 an hour. This is a dollar higher than the state’s minimum and puts Berkeley among the American cities that have a local minimum wage that exceeds state and federal minimums.

The move is the first step in a three-stage plan that sees today’s hike to $10, followed by increases annually for two years after that: on Oct. 1, 2015, to $11; and on Oct. 1, 2016, to $12.53. This last rate will match the amount expected in Oakland under a ballot measure in that city likely to pass in November. The Berkeley plan received final approval in an unanimous council vote June 24.

Read Berkeleyside’s coverage to date of what led to the minimum wage raise.

“[The] boost to $10 is an important milestone in our efforts to improve the conditions and rights of low-wage workers in Berkeley,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. … Continue reading »

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With Berkeley set to change civic center zoning, US Postal Service ponders lawsuit

The Berkeley City Council is poised to set up new zoning standards in Civic Center. Image: City of Berkeley
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The U.S. Postal Service is pushing back against a city proposal to limit development at its downtown Berkeley post office property, which has been up for sale since 2012.

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is slated to approve that proposal, to establish more restrictive development standards in Berkeley’s civic center on nine parcels, including the post office property at Allston Way and Milvia Street.

An attorney for the post office, R. Clark Morrison, has sent five letters to the city since January in opposition to the plan, decrying it as spot zoning, and saying the city’s decision not to pursue a full environmental review in connection with the plan is at odds with its own code and the law. On Monday, Morrison declined to comment on the matter, but one city staffer familiar with the issue said the USPS is likely to sue the city if council approves the zoning changes.

Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz Jr. said via email Monday that “The Postal Service is evaluating all options with respect to the actions taken by the City of Berkeley, including evaluating the possibility of litigation.” … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on homelessness, ride-sharing, minimum wage, solar bins, more

A "family" of homeless youth in Berkeley. Photo: Keith Chastain
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The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday this week, with a special session on how the city is working to streamline its approach to homeless services at 5:30 p.m., and the regular meeting at 7 p.m.

The special session

Coming up first, an in-depth look at homelessness in Berkeley, including an update about an effort to improve the way people access services the city offers. Earlier this year, the city hired a consultant to look closely at the city’s process for providing services. The consultant highlighted several areas for improvement, noting that the city is providing overlapping and duplicative services to people; that those with the highest needs are not “effectively targeted” for help; that money is not focused enough on helping people get housing; and that the delayed process for data-entry is also leading to inefficiencies. Read the report. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Measure D will not reduce soda consumption

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I was visiting recently with a fellow Berkeley parent while at the Washington Elementary School Fall Fair. He wanted to know if I was familiar with Measure D, and wanted to encourage me to support it.

Rather than avoid the topic, I agreed to indulge him and struck up a conversation about the pros and cons of this measure. After all, my family does not consume soda, and we have made healthy eating a cornerstone of our lifestyle. Additionally, I have … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Support Measure F for care, repair of Berkeley parks

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Life sometimes comes full circle. Eighteen years ago, I jumped into public service in Berkeley as a novice member of the Parks & Recreation Commission, experiencing first hand the tremendous assets we have in our parks, paths, street trees, and recreational facilities. Now, as I approach my final days serving on the City Council, one of my top priorities and personal passions is to see that we preserve these assets, well beyond my tenure.   That is why I am supporting … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Why a liberal mother of 2 is voting no on Measure D

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I begin with this confession: I don’t drink soda and I never have. My boys, ages 9 and 12, don’t drink soda, either. In fact, I’ve never even let them try it, because I didn’t want them to like it. If either of them has tried it, he didn’t tell me about it, or there would have been a lecture about sugar and empty calories. We don’t even drink juice; it’s only water and low fat milk for us.

It … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Why the 2014 Measure R is not ‘true green’

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In 2010, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly ratified a different Measure R, which gave city council the go-ahead to adopt the Downtown Area Plan, a plan created through an open and transparent process with wide community participation. It became law in 2012. The people who opposed the Downtown Area Plan in 2010 are now proposing a new measure, also Measure R, a complex bill that proposes to “fix” a wide range of supposed shortcomings in the Plan. These “fixes” will undo the … Continue reading »

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Beverage companies donate $800K to fight soda tax

The PAC against a soda tax in Berkeley has poured $800,000 into the No on Measure D campaign. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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The political arm of the American Beverage Association donated $500,000 on Sept. 16 to fight a proposed tax on sugary beverages in Berkeley, bringing to $800,000 the amount of money it has poured into the No on Measure D campaign.

The contribution, which appears to be the single largest in Berkeley history, will be used to print materials, mail campaign flyers, send campaign workers door-to-door, and pay for advertisements in newspapers and on websites. (Full disclosure: Berkeleyside has a number of No on D ads on its site, as well as a Yes on D ad.) … Continue reading »

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