Category Archives: Government

Op-ed: Lessons from the war on tobacco: How to beat Big Soda

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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 »

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Op-ed: Democracy, transparency and Measure R

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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 »

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Photo essay: Berkeley, a city consumed by a soda tax

2-McDonalds
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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 $532,071 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.

Read Berkeleyside’s detailed coverage of Measure D

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 »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on police partnerships, release of balloons, cell phone safety law, more

Councilman Jesse Arreguín would like the release by adults of Mylar balloons to be a ticketable offense. Photo: Grace Blue/Flickr
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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 »

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Op-ed: Proposition O is a very useful fix to the law

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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 »

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Michael Bloomberg has now spent $370K in support of Measure D; other Berkeley election news

A still from the Yes on Measure D ad paid for by Michael R Bloomberg. It ran during the 4th game of the World Series
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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.

All you need to know about the elections is at Berkeleyside’s Election Hub.

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 »

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Op-ed: Measure R delivers on the green promise for downtown

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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 »

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Berkeley city attorney: Main post office may have sold

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The Berkeley city attorney has informed the City Council he believes someone has purchased the downtown U.S. post office at 2000 Allston Way, and that it is time for Berkeley to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service to stop the sale.

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

Zach Cowan, Berkeley’s city attorney, told Berkeleyside 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 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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