Category Archives: Politics

The lowdown: Berkeley council on minimum wage, ballot measures, homelessness, street paving, more

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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Election season is already heating up, with a special session tonight, before the regular Berkeley City Council meeting, on possible ballot measures for November. Then, at the regular Feb. 9 meeting: the latest minimum wage proposal; a zoning permit appeal for a project approved on Blake Street; the paving plan update; a proposal to restrict parking in the Berkeley Hills; several items related to homelessness and housing; and a living wage for city employees. Could be a long night, with 16 items on the action calendar alone. Scroll down to see how to follow live meeting coverage and participate from afar. … Continue reading »

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They’re off: Candidates file campaign finance statements

Election 2014
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The Berkeley political jostling has begun, even though elections will, of course, only be held in November.

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín has raised close to $25,000 for his race for mayor, almost four times as much as City Councilman Laurie Capitelli, his strongest opponent.

Capitelli, who has been endorsed by a majority of the city council, raised $6,380 in the six months leading up to Dec. 31, 2105, according to campaign finance statements.

Read more about the 2016 Berkeley election.

There is a $250 limit for individual contributions in Berkeley candidate elections. Businesses cannot contribute.

Some of those who contributed $250 to Capitelli’s campaign are those involved with Berkeley’s current construction boom. They include Denise Pinkston, a developer and vice-chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board; David Trachtenberg, an architect who has designed a number of the multi-family apartment buildings now rising in Berkeley; Richard Millikan, who helped develop the Fourth Street shopping district; Aileen Dolby, a commercial realtor for Colliers International; and Patrick Leaper, a colleague of Capitelli’s at Red Oak Realty. Capitelli told Berkeleyside that he just started his fundraising the last two weeks of December, a holiday period, and he is “confident” he will eventually have the funds to get his message out to voters. … Continue reading »

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Council approves $1.5M to fight soda consumption

Two high-school students on their lunch break carry food and drink out of the McDonald’s on University Avenue in Berkeley. Photo, taken on Monday Oct. 20, 2014, by Gael McKeon
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Officials voted Tuesday night to step up the fight against sugary drinks in Berkeley by boosting public health staffing, helping pay for school nutrition programs and funding grants to help limit the impacts of, and access to, sugar-sweetened beverages.

The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to allocate $1.5 million from the general fund in the coming fiscal year to those efforts. The vote was in response to a request from a citizen board, the “Sugar Sweetened Beverage Products Panel of Experts,” which has been working since last May to come up with recommendations to guide the city following the successful passage of Measure D, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on drinks with added sweeteners such as sodas, and energy and coffee drinks.

Berkeley was lauded as the first city in the nation to pass a tax on sugary drinks. The measure was approved with 75% of the vote in November 2014.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the soda tax.

Since tax collection began last May, the city has brought more than $1.2 million into the general fund, staff said Tuesday night. Council members said they want to do their best to align any spending plans with tax revenues, though all the money is technically part of the general fund. … Continue reading »

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With mayor and two councilmen stepping aside, Berkeley’s election is heating up

Max Anderson
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After serving 12 years on the Berkeley City Council — and another 12 on various city commissions — Max Anderson has decided not to run for another council term.

Anderson’s exit from the race for District 3 in South Berkeley has already attracted two strong candidates and more are certain to file their election papers in the next few months. John Selawsky, who served on the Berkeley Unified School District School Board for 12 years and who currently sits on the Rent Stabilization Board, is running. So is Deborah Matthews, a Realtor who has served on numerous city boards, including the Planning and Housing commissions and the Zoning Adjustments Board.

Ben Bartlett, who currently sits on the Planning Commission and is a former member of the Police Review Commission, has also said he will run for the District 3 seat, although he has not yet filed papers. The last date to file papers for a Berkeley council seat is July 18. … Continue reading »

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Laurie Capitelli to run for mayor of Berkeley in 2016

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City councilman Laurie Capitelli took out papers this week to set up a campaign to run for mayor of Berkeley.

“My plans are to run for mayor,” he confirmed to Berkeleyside Tuesday evening during a break in the city council meeting.

Capitelli said he will make a formal announcement in early December.

Capitelli is the second councilman to seek the mayor’s office. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín declared his candidacy in October.

Tom Bates, the current mayor, said during his last campaign that he did not intend to seek re-election.

Capitelli represents District 5, which embraces a large swath of North Berkeley, starting north of Cedar Street and taking in a significant stretch of Solano Avenue and the Thousand Oaks neighborhood.

Capitelli moved to Berkeley to attend Cal in 1964 and graduated in 1967 with a degree in political science. After teaching high-school history for a few years, he joined Red Oak Realty in 1978, according to a biography on the real estate agent’s website. He was elected to the Berkeley City Council in 2004. He is a board member of the Elmwood Theatre Foundation and the Berkeley Public Education Foundation, and has served on the Berkeley Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board. … Continue reading »

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Jesse Arreguín formally announces run for mayor

Jesse Arreguín has formally announced his mayoral bid. Photo: Arreguín for Mayor campaign
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City Councilman Jesse Arreguín formally announced Thursday that he is running for Berkeley mayor by sending out an email statement declaring his candidacy. He will follow that up with a kick-off rally Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. in a location that will be announced later.

Arreguín said Berkeley needs to be a city “that works for everyone” and pledged in the statement to unify the city and produce results. He said the No. 1 challenge facing Berkeley is affordability.

“We must ensure Berkeley remains a diverse and vibrant city,” said Arreguín. “That means protecting and expanding affordable housing and fighting displacement. It also means tackling health, economic and educational disparities, so everyone in Berkeley has the opportunity to succeed.” … Continue reading »

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Oops! Did Jesse Arreguín inadvertently declare he is running for mayor?

Jesse Arreguin changed the name of his Facebook page on Oct. 19 to declare his candidacy for mayor.
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Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín may have inadvertently announced his candidacy for mayor Monday when he changed the name of his Facebook page from “Jesse Arreguín for City Council,” to “Jesse Arreguín for Mayor.”

The change triggered an automatic notice to all of his followers, including Berkeleyside, which then sent out the following tweet at 3:48 p.m.:

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Suit against zoning board’s Tregub resolved after apology

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The president of the Berkeley Property Owners Alliance has dropped a libel lawsuit against Igor Tregub, a former candidate for the Rent Stabilization Board and a current Zoning Adjustments Board commissioner, ending three years of controversy.

Sid Lakireddy and Tregub resolved the lawsuit after Tregub agreed to apologize for sending out an inflammatory email during the 2012 election linking Lakireddy to crimes committed by his uncle, Lakireddy Bali Reddy.

Tregub recently emailed the apology to his mailing list — to the same people who received the controversial email during the election.

“On October 18, 2012, I made a fateful mistake,” Tregub wrote. “The intent of this email is to apologize to a valued member of the Berkeley community who was rightly upset by my printed words.

“In the midst of a heated campaign for reelection, I mistakenly made inaccurate accusations about the President of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, Sid Lakireddy. I wrongly connected him to crimes committed in the 1990’s by one of his uncles, Lakireddy Balireddy, that had absolutely nothing to do with Sid.” … Continue reading »

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Soda tax raises $116,000 of revenue in first month

Councilman Laurie Capitelli speaking at a press conference held in Berkeley Monday to report on how the soda tax was working. Photo: Melati Indah Citrawireja
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Berkeley’s soda tax has generated $116,000 in revenue in the first month of its operation, according to Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who announced the figure at a press conference May 18 in front of Old City Hall.

The money was sourced from 36 different sugar-sweetened beverage distributors, and is on target to raise $1.2 million in its first year, according to Capitelli.

Proceeds from the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which was passed overwhelmingly by Berkeley voters with 75% approval in November, go into Berkeley’s General Fund. They will be allocated by a newly appointed panel of experts, operating with input from the community. The panel will hold its first meeting tomorrow, Tuesday May 19, at 6 p.m.

Read more on Berkeley’s historic soda tax.

“We’re well on our way to a smooth implementation,” Capitelli said at the press conference. “We wanted to get it right.”  … Continue reading »

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Around $3.4M spent on Berkeley soda tax campaign

The No on Measure D campaign covered the Ashby BART station with signs - on the floor, on the walls, and next to the ticket machines. BART made the campaign takes some of the signs down on Oc. 8. Photo: Marian Mabel
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The tally is in: the campaign surrounding Measure D, the one cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages, cost $3,374,155, according to recently filed campaign statements.

The soda industry spent $2,445,107 to unsuccessfully battle Measure D in the November election, with most of the funds going to campaign consultants and media companies, according to the campaign statements.Continue reading »

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Black Cal students repaint The Big C to reflect African flag

The students from Black Student Union who painted Cal’s “C” the colors of the Pan African flag. Back row: Isis Dillard, Eniola Abioye, Blake Simons.
Front row: Alana Banks, Gabrielle Shuman, Lauren Butler. Photo: Mara Van Ells
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Six UC Berkeley students woke up before dawn to climb into the Berkeley Hills to paint a school symbol red, black and green.

The students, members of the Black Student Union, lugged cans of paint and other supplies up the hill in darkness to paint the formerly golden giant letter C the colors of the Pan African Flag.

The Big C is a large concrete block that was built into a hill overlooking campus in 1908. Since then, it’s become tradition for opposing teams, such as Stanford University, to paint the Cal symbol their own school colors and for Berkeley students to repaint the structure gold. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley seeks experts for ‘soda tax’ advisory panel

Vicki Alexander, co-chair of the Yes on D campaign, spoke at a pro-soda tax demo outside Old City Hall in July. Photo: Berkeley vs Big Soda
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The city of Berkeley has put out a call for experts interested in joining a new advisory panel to set spending priorities for “soda tax” dollars approved by voters in November.

Four Berkeley City Council members who make up a subcommittee focused on Measure D, the sugar-sweetened beverage tax, released the application to the community in late December. The deadline is Jan. 17.

The 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages has been conservatively estimated to bring perhaps $200,000 into city coffers each year, according to Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development. But that number is very much hypothetical, due to the numerous variables — such as local consumption figures, how the city collects the money and whether UC Berkeley will also collect the tax — that will impact the final tally.

Read complete Berkeleyside soda tax coverage, and see the text of the measure.

Berkeley Councilman Laurie Capitelli said previously that, though the tax went into effect Jan. 1, the city will wait to spend any of the money until all legal questions about the tax have been resolved. Officials had earlier expressed some concern that an opponent of the tax might file a lawsuit to challenge it. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said, as of Monday, no legal action has been filed. … Continue reading »

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Lori Droste takes District 8 council seat by 16 votes

Lori Droste is the new District 8 councilwoman. Photo courtesy of Facebook
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Final tallies released Wednesday night make Lori Droste the narrow winner in what became a tense and protracted race for Berkeley City Council District 8.

Alameda county will certify the results by Monday, but all votes have been counted, leaving Droste with 2,072 votes, or 50.19%, compared to opponent George Beier’s 2,056 votes, or 49.81%.

Beier has said he will not challenge the results.

“I’m humbled by the support of District 8 and I look forward to working hard on Council,” Droste said. “I want to congratulate all my opponents for running a great race.” … Continue reading »

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