Category Archives: Politics

As election nears, contributions and complaints mount

SEIU Local 1021 has donated $24,000 this election cycle to help candidates it supports. Its funds went into an independent expenditure committee that paid for this website.
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An independent expenditure group backed by one of Berkeley’s largest unions has poured $8,112 into Jesse Arreguín’s mayoral campaign, spending the funds on a website to promote his views.

The independent expenditure group is named the “Berkeley Working Families Supporting Arreguín and Worthington for Mayor, Moore and Bartlett for City Council, Tregub, Soto-Vigil, Murphy, and Simon-Weisberg for Rent Board 2016.”

SEIU Local 1021, which represents Berkeley’s library workers, clerical workers, maintenance staff, recreational staff and health workers has put in $24,000, according to campaign finance reports.

The group has also spent about $163 each on a number of candidates, including Kriss Worthington, who is running for mayor, Darryl Moore and Ben Bartlett, who are running for City Council, and Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Christina Murphy, Igor Tregub, and Leah Simon-Weisberg, who are running for rent board.

Thursday at midnight is another campaign finance deadline that might show where the rest of the funds have been spent. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Why undergrounding utilities is not the answer to earthquake and firestorm safety

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With the anniversaries of the Loma Prieta earthquake and the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm occurring in the middle of a “hot” election, there’s been much discussion about safety in the hills. Councilwoman Susan Wengraf has made this a key issue in her bid for re-election to the Council for District 6, by promising to “underground all utilities in the city” — a promise that is not only not impractical but dangerous because it leads the city away from solutions that will actually save … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyside’s Voter’s Edge guide helps you sort through the candidates, measures in the Nov. 8 election

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Confused about measures T1, U1 and V1? Want a quick rundown on the candidates for Berkeley mayor, or your local council seat? Berkeleyside would encourage you to check out our own voluminous coverage to really dig into the details. But this election we’ve also partnered with Maplight to give you a powerful tool to sort through candidates and measures up and down the ballot.

Voter’s Edge gives you a personalized ballot, with information on endorsements, positions, donors and more in one easy-to-use site.

See Berkeleyside’s 2016 Election Hub for all our coverage.

Depending on which council district you live in, your ballot probably has 12 or 13 different races (from president to mayor to school board to Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District director) and 32 — yes, 32 — different ballot measures.  … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Why 10 current and former Berkeley elected officials endorse Laurie Capitelli

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We are former and current Berkeley elected officials who are united in our support for Laurie Capitelli as our next mayor. With our direct firsthand experience, we all deeply appreciate Laurie’s love for Berkeley, his trustworthiness, good humor, compassion, decency and intelligence. We urge you to vote for Laurie as your first choice.

Laurie is a team builder. A leader in the campaign to tax the soda industry, Laurie built the broad coalition and served on the steering committee that beat Big Soda. Laurie has the collaborative skills and leadership that are needed to continue the fight for public health and ensure that Alta Bates continues to serve our community.

Laurie is a mediator and consensus builder. Laurie negotiated the groundbreaking $15 minimum wage, bringing together labor, businesses and nonprofits in a historic agreement. Prior to this achievement, Laurie co-authored and led the passage of two $15 minimum wage measures in 2015 and 2016, which were among the most progressive wage measures in the nation, reaching $15 several years faster than the state of California.

Laurie believes in the transformative power of education and has raised millions of dollars for our public schools. As a former school teacher, Laurie is committed to closing Berkeley’s achievement gap by establishing universal preschool. It’s no surprise that every endorsing School Board member supports Laurie. … Continue reading »

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2 weeks before election, soda tax debate intensifies

Proponents of Oakland's Measure HH are canvasing and phonebanking in an effort to raise awareness among voters. Photo: Oakland V.S. Big Soda/ Facebook
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In less than two weeks, the Bay Area may have the most cities with the highest concentration of excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). On Nov. 8, citizens in Oakland, Albany and San Francisco will head to the polls to decide whether they will follow in the footsteps of Berkeley to implement a soda tax. Voters in Boulder, Colo., will also be deciding on a similar measure.

Read more about the Berkeley soda tax on Berkeleyside/Nosh.

In fall 2014, Berkeley pioneered the nation’s first soda tax, known as Measure D, which placed a penny-per-ounce tax on distributors of SSBs. Both Oakland and Albany’s measures will, if passed, enact the same tax. 

SSBs is a designation applying to sodas, energy drinks, pre-sweetened teas and caloric sweeteners, which have been linked to high rates of chronic illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. The designation excludes infant formula, milk products and fruit and vegetable juices. Policymakers in favor of Measure D believed the measure would decrease the consumption of SSBs, which would be a first step in combating associated chronic illness. Some studies seem to back this up (see below).Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Don’t let developers buy Berkeley’s election

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In Berkeley, it’s sometimes easy to feel like our local politics are immune to the kind of cronyism and monied influence that afflicts most localities. After all, we like to think of ourselves as a well-informed, progressive city. We opposed Citizen’s United. We want money out of politics . . . Bernie Sanders did very well here in the primary…so we would never vote for people or ballot measures that have been bought by corporate, big monied special interests.

Or would we?

Sadly, Big Money has arrived in Berkeley – in the form of Big Development – and more than ever before, they are busy trying to buy this election. Berkeley voters deserve to know which candidates and campaigns are being influenced – bought – by huge infusions of cash from those whose only interest in Berkeley is to maximize their own profits. These folks do NOT have the community’s best interests at heart, or in mind, but they are pouring cash in right now: developers, landlords and the consultants who depend on them to make a living, as well as national, state and local political action committees (PACs). … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote yes on U1 and no on Measure DD to fund affordable housing

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The affordability crisis in rental housing is clear to everyone. Rising rents create hardship for tenants and result in unprecedented profits for large landlords. Taxing those windfall profits to provide affordable housing is the right thing to do. That’s why a broad community coalition of affordable housing and homeless services advocates created Measure U1 and persuaded a unanimous City Council to put it on the ballot.

Measure U1 will raise at least $3.5 million that can be used for affordable housing every year. It increases the business license tax that larger landlords already pay by an average of just $30 per unit per month.

Large landlords can easily afford to pay this tax. They are charging $82 million more in rent per year than just a few years ago. Landlords are prohibited by law from passing this tax onto tenants with few exceptions. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Some insights into ranked choice voting in Berkeley

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I recently read your coverage of Berkeley candidates for the Nov. 8 election. One city council candidate encouraged voters to only vote for her and not rank other candidates — this is a political tactic called “bullet voting” — and suggested ranked choice voting has “unintended consequences.”

Bullet Voting

I would like to point out that some campaigns mistakenly believe that if their supporters rank other candidates second or third, this would somehow dilute the strength of that voter’s … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: A better way to address the housing crisis

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After so much media coverage of the bizarre presidential race, I find it refreshing to finally start to hear more about local races, where an eclectic cast of characters contending for many local offices are discussing hugely important issues that impact our daily lives, including one of the Bay Area’s favorite hot button issues: housing.

This issue is near and dear to my heart. Having grown up in the Mission District in San Francisco and having lived in the Bay … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Equitable access to quality education has the power to transform society — Vote yes on Measure E1

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Berkeley has long been recognized for its diversity and openness to differences, intellectual curiosity and civic engagement.

The values of this city resonate with us as a family. A city that believes and stands for social good and gathers around each other for real collective action – be it opposition to the Vietnam War or equal access for disabled individuals – setting the stage for the country to follow its lead. A city that values equitable access to quality education … Continue reading »

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Address verification work continues for Berkeley Unified

The Bonar Street headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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The Berkeley Unified School District has continued its stepped-up efforts to cut down on enrollment fraud during its second year of widespread home visits and address verifications prompted by a new policy adopted by the School Board last year.

Wednesday night, the board got an update from BUSD admissions manager Francisco Martinez about how enrollment and address verifications have gone so far in the 2016-17 school year.

Martinez was charged by BUSD last year with keeping a closer eye on school enrollment. As part of the new board policy, students in certain grades are required to provide proof of residency — such as a utility bill and additional documents — before being allowed to re-enroll.

This year, the families of all students heading into middle and high school had to provide proof of Berkeley residency if they wished to continue to attend BUSD.

Of nearly 700 students who attended fifth grade in Berkeley last year, 33 did not provide the documents, and went elsewhere for middle school, according to Wednesday night’s enrollment update. Of approximately 740 rising ninth-graders, 28 did not submit documents and they, too, left for other districts.

District staff also visited 503 homes as part of the address verification process “when the staff believes this is necessary to ensure compliance with the Berkeley residency requirement.” As a result of that process, 89 students were not enrolled in Berkeley for the current school year. According to the report, home visits took place in Berkeley, Oakland and West Contra Costa County. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote ‘yes’ on Measure T1, the $100M bond measure

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No, infrastructure is not “sexy”, but it is critical to our quality of life. And Berkeley has not invested adequately in it for many years. We need to change that.

Enter Measure T1. T1 authorizes a $100 million bond to renew our parks and failing critical infrastructure. Although bond money from Measure M (streets and watershed, 2012) and parcel tax money from Measure F (parks, 2014) have helped, we have much more to do. Even the highest priority repairs are not being made in some facilities, while parks, storm sewers, and our watersheds need major investments. We’re losing ground.

Now is the time. If deterioration continues, the costs increase dramatically as timely maintenance becomes impossible and we need more repair or rebuilding. And, very importantly, bond prices are at historic lows. We learned from Measures M and F how to cooperate across Commissions in a transparent, robust community process to determine priorities. We can move ahead with T1 investments using what we’ve learned in an inclusive, effective way. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: It takes a special person to lead Berkeley and it’s Laurie Capitelli

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I’ve been living in Berkeley since 1967, then as an entering freshman at the University of California. I attended Cal through the Oakland Induction Center protests, People’s Park, was tear gassed on my way to class, and was among the first graduating class of CNR (Conservation of Natural Resources). In 1976, I opened The Focal Point on Ashby, and have enjoyed living in this wonderfully diverse, and at times, “quite nuts” city. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

It takes a special person to lead Berkeley – it is unique. Most of us have a strong opinion or 10 to share, and therefore, building consensus is an art form. That’s why I strongly support the candidacy of Laurie Capitelli to be our next Mayor. I’ve known Laurie for more than 25 years. We have worked together on the renovation/operation of the Elmwood Theater, collaborating with the City of Berkeley and the community after a fire that caused great damage to the property. We worked with city staff, Mayor Loni Hancock and community leaders to save a city landmark, volunteering countless hours to save the theater, which today provides us with some of the finest films, many independently made. … Continue reading »

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