Category Archives: Politics

Op-ed: Save our green downtown: Vote ‘no’ on Measure R

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Jacquelyn McCormick’s Sept. 9th Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside is filled with misinformation about Measure R. Measure R is a 28-page downtown initiative on this November’s ballot that would impose strict new requirements on housing and office projects in Berkeley’s downtown.

McCormick claims that Measure R would assure that new buildings in Berkeley’s downtown provide new community benefits. What she didn’t admit is that measure R is full of poison pills that would stop construction of the new buildings that … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Robert Reich: “If a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere”

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I was phoned the other night in middle of dinner by an earnest young man named Spencer, who said he was doing a survey.

Rather than hang up I agreed to answer his questions. He asked me if I knew a soda tax would be on the ballot in Berkeley in November. When I said yes, he then asked whether I trusted the Berkeley city government to spend the revenues wisely.

At that moment I recognized a classic “push poll,” … Continue reading »

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True green not green-washed: we must support Measure R

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I am supporting Measure R 2014 Green Downtown Initiative for the following reasons:

In 2010, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved Measure R, but our City Council has not delivered on its promises.  Here is how the measure read:  

“Shall the City of Berkeley adopt policies to revitalize the downtown and help make Berkeley one of the greenest cities in the United States by meeting our climate action goals; concentrating housing, jobs and cultural destinations near transit, shops and amenities; preserving … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Soda kills — we need to vote ‘yes’ on Measure D

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In two months, Berkeley voters will decide whether ours will be the first U.S. city to enact a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (or tie with San Francisco which has a similar measure on the ballot). When I heard about the soda tax, “Measure D,” I immediately cast aside most of my to-do list (cleaning the oven survived the purge but colonoscopy did not) and volunteered to help the Healthy Child Coalition trounce Big Soda.

I was an easy recruit … Continue reading »

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Judge changes Berkeley ‘soda tax’ ballot language

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled this week on what to change, and what to retain, in the ballot materials for a sugar-sweetened beverage tax set to come before Berkeley voters in November.

After hearing arguments Friday, Judge Evelio Grillo ruled Tuesday that some of the language in the ballot materials adopted by the Berkeley City Council earlier this year violated state election laws, was partial and should be changed, but also said language about who will pay the tax — it is to be levied on distributors — can be left as-is.

The sugar-sweetened beverage tax, Measure D, would levy a 1 cent-per-fluid-ounce general tax on distributors of soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, and sweetened teas, and the bulk syrup used to sweeten them. If successful, Berkeley could be the first city in the nation to pass such a tax, though San Francisco has also taken up the fight.

Supporters for the tax include a long list of community organizations, city and school district officials and other individuals. The campaign has called itself “Berkeley vs. Big Soda,” the Healthy Child Initiative and, now, Yes on Measure D. (The group is kicking off a lecture series this week regarding “the impacts of sugar-sweetened beverages.”) According to campaign filings from August, the group had about $21,000 on hand.

The opposition campaign, No on D — which previously was called No Berkeley Beverage Tax — has described itself as “a coalition of citizens, local businesses, and community organizations” but has published no list of supporters. According to its website, however, it has received “major funding” totaling $300,000 from the American Beverage Association. … Continue reading »

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Judge tweaks downtown ballot summary after lawsuit

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that several of the words used by the Berkeley City Council in the ballot summary for a proposed downtown initiative to go before voters in November were biased and inaccurate, and has amended its description slightly.

In his 12-page order, Judge Evelio Grillo said he found three words in the 71-word ballot summary describing Measure R to be inaccurate and two words to be “implicit advocacy.”

Read Berkeleyside’s coverage of the downtown initiative.

The matter came before Grillo after Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín and several others filed a lawsuit in August arguing that the language used by the council in the summary was misleading and inaccurate.

Friday, attorneys for both sides made their cases before Grillo in his courtroom in downtown Oakland.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley zoning ballot language heading to court

Downtown-resized
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Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín filed a lawsuit against Berkeley on Wednesday seeking to overturn ballot language that will be used to describe a downtown zoning initiative.

Arreguín wants an Alameda County Superior Court judge to take up the matter immediately, since final ballot language for the November 2014 election is due Sept. 2. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuit filed over Berkeley ‘soda tax’ ballot

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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Two men have filed a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley and the Berkeley City Council asking for changes to adopted ballot language related to the so-called “soda tax” set to come before voters in November.

The sugar-sweetened beverage tax would levy a 1 cent-per-fluid-ounce general tax on distributors of “sugary drinks” and the bulk syrup used to sweeten them. If successful, Berkeley could be the first city in the nation to pass such a tax, though San Francisco has also taken up the fight.

Lawsuit proponents argue that the ballot language adopted by council in July, as well as the city attorney’s analysis of the issue, are “false, misleading, and illegally biased,” and have asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge to force the city to adjust them before they are sent to voters this fall.

Josh Daniels, Berkeley School Board president and co-chair of the Healthy Child Initiative — the community group lobbying in support of the new tax — described the lawsuit as a “bullying tactic.” He said it’s the latest move by the No Berkeley Beverage Tax team to try to sway voters, in addition to a push poll and focus group meetings that were held with local residents earlier this summer. … Continue reading »

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Soda tax, school board race, open council seat bring campaign cash to Berkeley

The proponents of a tax on soda kicked off their campaign on Aug. 2. Photo: Berkeley vs Big Soda
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The lure of an open Berkeley City Council seat has turned the race to replace Gordon Wozniak in November into a big bucks proposition.

The District 8 race for Wozniak’s position, the city’s proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax on distributors and the Berkeley School Board race — with four people vying for three seats — are already bringing in significant campaign contributions as the November 2014 election approaches.

Read Berkeleyside’s 2014 election coverageContinue reading »

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Wording of Berkeley ballot initiative headed to court

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The backers of a downtown Berkeley initiative that voters will consider in November plan to file a lawsuit next week to force the city to change the wording in the ballot measure. They contend that the summary is inaccurate, biased and misleading.

The decision to go to court was in response to Berkeley’s decision not to voluntarily change the wording of the ballot measure. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín had sent a letter on July 21 to City Attorney Zach Cowan asking for changes, but Cowan responded in a July 24 letter that he did not have the power to modify the wording. Only the Berkeley City Council, which is in recess until September, can make those changes, Cowan said.

“It is unfortunate that the City Council was not advised, at the time the biased and factually inaccurate Ballot Statement language was put forward, that such language violates legal standards,” Arreguín wrote Cowan on July 30. “In light of that omission, and given that the City Council is on recess, we have no choice but to seek judicial relief to protect the rights of all Berkeley voters to fair elections.”

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Berkeley councilman faces PR man in ‘soda tax’ debate

Councilman Laurie Capitelli speaks to the crowd at the debate at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Monday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Though they were arguing about sugar, Councilman Laurie Capitelli and Los Angeles PR man Matt Rodriguez were anything but sweet to each other at a Monday debate about a ballot measure set to come before Berkeley voters in November.

The lunchtime discussion, hosted by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, was about the controversial Berkeley sugar-sweetened beverage tax set for the November 2014 ballot.

Capitelli, one of the initiative’s main proponents, argued for the tax on behalf of the grassroots group Berkeley vs. Big Soda, likening it to the 20th century movements to begin taxing tobacco products. Matt Rodriguez, of Los Angeles-based public relations firm Rodriguez Strategies, represented the “No Berkeley Beverage Tax” campaign and argued that the tax would be regressive and harmful to business and the broader community. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Asphalt: New technology will reduce odors

Berkeley Asphalt plant on Virginia St. Photo: Mary Flaherty
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Berkeley Asphalt plans to invest in a new manufacturing process designed to reduce emissions and odors in its West Berkeley neighborhood starting in January, officials announced recently.

Its neighbors have complained about the noise, odors, and pollution from the plant for at least 20 years, most recently in June when a group questioned whether the plant has been violating its use permit with excess odors and noise.

What the company has decided to do is convert to a new technology called “warm-mix” asphalt, which produces paving material at a lower temperature than traditional asphalt, yet performs as well on the road and releases fewer pollutants into the air, according to company officials. The decision was the result of negotiations between the company and city staff that began last year.

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Berkeley parks advocates push back after council drops bond from November ballot

The Berkeley rose garden pergola needs major repairs and has been closed to park visitors since April. Photo: Daniel Parks
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The public dismay was palpable last month when the Berkeley City Council decided, in a surprise move, to put a parks tax before voters this fall without a related bond measure that would have infused parks and pools around the city with much-needed cash, reversing an earlier vote on the items.

The $1.7 million parks tax, if approved by voters, would essentially maintain the status quo for maintenance and staffing needs, and cost the owner of an average-size home an additional $43 a year. (That same homeowner already pays about $240 a year for the existing parks tax.)

Had it gone to voters, the proposed $20 million parks bond could have helped re-open Willard Pool, improve the King and West Campus pools, put millions toward Aquatic Park, James Kenney Park and the much-loved rose garden, and repair tennis courts and ballfields around the city, in addition to addressing other significant needs. (See a financial breakdown of several possible iterations of the bond and tax proposal.)

The city estimated that the joint bond and tax measure would have added just $15 more than the tax alone to the bill for owners of an average Berkeley home, defined by the city as 1,900 square feet. … Continue reading »

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