Category Archives: Government
The rainbow flag, a symbol of diversity and inclusiveness, was raised over Berkeley City Hall on Tuesday, to mark arguments in the US Supreme Court on Proposition 8. It will also fly tomorrow, during arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Berkeley is joining cities all around the country to show support for full equality,” said Judy Appel, a member of the school board, and executive director of Our Family Coalition, which promotes social justice and inclusiveness of LGBTQ families. … Continue reading »
The public works capital improvement program was the focus of the budget worksession that preceded Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Public Works Director Andrew Clough and his colleagues presented an ambitious roster of projects for the next five years, but cautioned that the plans do not keep up with the city’s needs.
“The city’s public infrastructure is indeed suffering,” Clough said. “But all is not grim. We’re here not only to tell you what we don’t have, but also what we have done and what we plan to do.” … Continue reading »
For more than a month, a desk in the middle of a fourth grade classroom at Jefferson Elementary School sat conspicuously empty.
Until December, 9-year-old Rodrigo Guzman occupied the desk, one of four clustered together. But when Rodrigo and his parents were denied re-entry from Mexico into the United States in January because their visas had expired, the desk sat empty for at least a month, a sentinel of sorts to the hope that Rodrigo would rejoin 27 classmates. Finally, Rodrigo’s teacher, Barbara Wenger took it out.
“We were just waiting for him to get back from his family vacation,” said Wenger. “We were just waiting. After we realized he was not going to come back we rearranged the classroom and removed the desk.”
But even though Rodrigo, who came to Berkeley when his was 18 months’ old, is stuck near Mexico City, desperately missing Little Caesar’s pizza, tacos from Rubio’s, and Fruit Gushers, his classmates are not giving up hope he will return. … Continue reading »
The Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday night to ask the U.S. Postal Service to press the pause button on its plans to relocate its downtown services and sell the Allston Way facility — for at least one year.
Members of the public who hope to keep the post office open were more subdued than those who attended a meeting in late February, with just a handful of people speaking about the historic building’s importance and why it should maintain its postal services. But they cheered and clapped throughout the meeting as council members expressed unanimous support to fight to keep the building open.
The postal service has said, in a written statement, that the building will likely be sold because of a “26-percent drop in total mail volume over the past three years, brought about by the diversion to electronic communication and business transactions.” … Continue reading »
Nearly 200 Berkeleyans came to Willard Middle School on Thursday night to hear and offer ideas about improving Telegraph Avenue, which has suffered in recent years from declining retail sales, empty lots and plenty of handwringing.
“I have great enthusiasm and great optimism that we’re going to make things happen,” said Mayor Tom Bates after the meeting. “I’m not going to hold back, it’s too important an issue. I’m going to really immerse myself in the issue. I’m not going to let this drop. I have this term of office, and I intend to fully maximize what I can do.”
Bates said there are a number of factors that mean current efforts could really mean a new start for Telegraph, particularly the three concrete projects planned for the unused corners of Telegraph and Haste, and the university’s redevelopment of the student center on Bancroft Way, which could encourage much greater activity and flow of pedestrians. … Continue reading »
On Tuesday, the US Post Office listened to around 50 Berkeley residents tell them why they did not want the historic downtown Berkeley post office building to be put up for sale. They witnessed a 200-strong rally with singing and chanting, and were subjected to not a litte heckling and jibes.
Benjamin Franklin made an appearance in the guise of local actor Josh Kornbluth. (“Welcome to Berkeley,” he said. “I think you’ll find Berkeley will work with you and the founding fathers will be behind you.”) Mayor Tom Bates received a rousing round of applause when he said he and the Council — who, in a rare show of unanimity, are agreed on this issue — would fight to prevent a sale. And the two Post Office staffers who had called the public meeting as per protocol outlined, with stark numbers, just how dire the financial situation is for USPS nationally, and why the public organization believes it makes sense to divest itself of a building only a fraction of which is now used for postal services.
Speaking for USPS, Augustine Ruiz and Diana Alvarado said the organization’s ideal scenario would be to stay at the current location, renting space from new owners. … Continue reading »
The United States Postal Service is holding a public meeting tonight to discuss the proposal to relocate the downtown Berkeley Post Office and sell its existing building at 2000 Allston Way.
The USPS says the sale is necessary to generate revenue after the organization has experienced a 26% drop in mail volume over the past three years.
A group of local residents who opposes the sale is expected to hold rally outside the Berkeley City Council Chambers where the meeting is taking place, starting at 6:00 p.m.. Local monologist and actor Josh Kornbluth is participating in the rally and will be at the hearing. The Save the Berkeley Post Office group argues the the city cannot lose a historic, architecturally significant building which was built with public funds. … Continue reading »
2012 was a year of big changes for the Berkeley Public Library. Two of its branches, Claremont and North, reopened after extensive remodeling. Two other branches, South and West, closed for their own redos.
As Donna Corbeil, the library’s director, put it in the library’s annual report, “library spaces have moved far beyond the traditional hushed reading room.” Instead of just offering books at brick and mortar locations, the library is providing services to “Berkeley’s continuum of learning and inspiration,” according to Corbeil.
This means lending books, magazines, music, and films the way people want them, whether from traditional paper book format to downloadable eBooks and music, to online digital formats. … Continue reading »
Berkeley’s City Council on Tuesday night received the first biennial report on the city’s long-term liabilities. The detailed breakdowns in the report from city budget manager Teresa Berkeley-Simmons make clear that the main areas with significant liabilities are police pensions, maintenance of city facilities, and watershed and storm drain maintenance and improvements.
Speaking about the presentation of the report, Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel said she hoped the Council would agree that budget reporting was improving generally and that the council members’ feedback would contribute to even more enhancements. She said the genesis of the current report could be traced back to 2005 when staff produced a report on employee benefits, then in 2008 when staff started putting information about unfunded liabilities in the budget document, and finally in the fall of 2011 when presentations were made on the status of capital assets and infrastructure. … Continue reading »
On Tuesday night, the City Council’s subcommittee on the main post office met and heard public comment on the proposed sale of the historic building. Berkeleyside was there, live tweeting. Read our Storify on the meeting: … Continue reading »
After an acrimonious battle last year over Measure S, which sought to prohibit sitting on commercial sidewalks, Berkeley’s City Council pointed the way on Tuesday night to a more consensual approach to homelessness.
Councilman Jesse Arreguín’s Compassionate Sidewalks plan calls for a working group on homelessness to “conduct a series of focused workshops and discussions on a wide range of issues related to homelessness and to develop an action plan with policy, program, and funding recommendations around ending homelessness.” (Arreguín wrote about his proposal in a Berkeleyside op-ed on Monday.) … Continue reading »
Berkeley City Council last night unanimously approved both the Downtown Streets & Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP) and a schedule of fees that will help fund the proposed projects. SOSIP aims to help create a more pedestrian-oriented neighborhood downtown, and will help guide the design of parks, plazas and streetscapes in the area.
The SOSIP is the first concrete action on the streets and open space provisions of the Downtown Area Plan, which was approved by the council in March 2012.
“I’m very excited about a lot of the projects put forward,” said council member Jesse Arreguín, whose district includes downtown. ”If we can do even a fraction of these projects, it would really make a difference in making downtown a much more pedestrian friendly and vibrant environment.”
The major projects identified in the SOSIP as priorities are: … Continue reading »
Berkeley’s General Fund projections include a deficit of more than $5 million over the next two years, requiring city leaders to take a tough look at its more cash-strapped departments to reign in costs.
To close the gap, the city’s budget manager has recommended recurring 2% General Fund reductions across the board for city departments. Departments will present their recommendations to the city manager and City Council in the coming months.
In a work session last Tuesday night, the city’s budget manager gave Berkeley City Council members a forecast for the next two years, and pointed to areas that may pose challenges going forward. (See a PDF of her presentation.)
Three more work sessions have been planned to allow council members, city staff and members of the public to learn more about, and weigh in on, city finances. Scroll to the bottom of this story to see the dates for upcoming public meetings on the budget.