Category Archives: Politics

Kriss Worthington to run for mayor of Berkeley

Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington
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City Councilman Kriss Worthington has decided to run for mayor, a move intended to use try to use the ranked-choice voting system to install a progressive as mayor.

Worthington said he decided to run after long discussions with City Councilman Jesse Arreguín, one of the council’s three progressive members (along with Worthington and Max Anderson) who declared his candidacy for mayor in October. Worthington and Arreguín intend to ask their supporters to vote for both of them – which they hope will deny City Councilman Laurie Capitelli a majority of the votes.

“Numerous people have been asking me to run for many, many months,” said Worthington. “I have wanted to defer to Councilman Arreguín, who has been actively campaigning. He recognized that my being a candidate would be a positive thing.”

Ranked choice voting has an immediate run-off system to ensure that a candidate will be selected in that electoral cycle. If no-one gets a 50% + 1 majority, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. The #2 and #3 votes from that candidate are re-tabulated. The process continues until a winner emerges. … Continue reading »

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Would a homeless mayor in Berkeley make a difference for the homeless?

Mike Lee, who is running for mayor, at his "office" at Au Coquelet on June 22, 2016. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Guy “Mike” Lee sat at a wooden table in the back of Au Coquelet restaurant on University Avenue. His laptop computer was open in front of him, its cord stretching behind to an electrical outlet on the wall. Lee’s cell phone was also charging.

This spot serves as an office of sorts for Lee, 60, who is running for mayor of Berkeley. Lee is homeless, so every morning he travels from where he sleeps (which he won’t reveal – for safety reasons, he says) to coffee shops and quick-serve restaurants in the downtown, meeting people along the way.

“People come looking for me,” said Lee, who has a broad forehead, deep brown eyes and a long, wiry salt and pepper beard. “They check in at Starbucks depending what time it is. Generally Monday through Friday it’s Starbucks or McDonald’s. If they don’t see me, they’ll come down here.”

Lee only arrived in Berkeley on this go-around about a year ago, but in that short time he has emerged as a voice for the homeless, as well as a leader. He was part of the “Post Office Defenders,” the group that occupied a space next to the Main Post Office on Allston Way until it was shut down in April. He participated in Liberty City, the encampment outside Old City Hall last winter. Lee is active on Facebook and keeps up a steady stream of posts on his page, The Bum As Mayor?  He is also in regular communication with city officials and politicians. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley mayoral hopefuls weigh in on homelessness

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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With longtime Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates completing what he says will be his last term, six people have expressed interest in running for his seat come November 2016. Berkeleyside asked each of them to share their views, in 200 words, about what they see as potential solutions to ending homelessness. Read their ideas below.

See full coverage on Berkeleyside of the Berkeley Homeless Project.

Click the candidate’s name or photograph to reach the campaign website to learn more. Berkeleyside will provide in-depth coverage about the election later in the year. Responses appear below in the order they were received. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Council approves alternative minimum wage measure for ballot

Many Berkeley business owners say they are still concerned about whether they would be able to survive a new minimum wage plan under consideration by the city. Photo: Postcard PR
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After a heated debate, the Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday night to place a measure on the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2019. A citizens’ ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage to $15 next year will also be on the ballot.

“What we’re proposing is a progressive and aggressive approach to getting to $15,” said Councilman Laurie Capitelli. “It gets us to $15 four years ahead of the SEIU state proposal.”

Councilman Jesse Arreguín scoffed at Capitelli’s description of the measure as “progressive,” saying that Berkeley had lagged behind neighboring cities on the minimum wage. That’s what had driven citizen groups to launch their initiative, he said.

“They didn’t have faith in this council majority to do the right thing,” Arreguín said. “The fact that we’ve got to the point of two competing measures on the ballot is a real failure of leadership by this council.”

The citizen initiative raises the minimum wage to $15 next year, and then increases it annually by CPI plus 3% until it reaches $16.37 in 2016 dollars (after that, increases are by CPI). It also mandates a minimum 72 hours of paid sick leave each year. It was organized by a coalition of unions, politicians and community activists, under the banner Berkeley for Working Families. The council measure is more gradual in its increases and mandates 48 hours of paid sick leave.  … Continue reading »

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24/7 ballot drop box now available in downtown Berkeley

ballot box
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A new ballot drop-off box has been installed in downtown for the first time. The initiative was spearheaded by the Alameda County registrar of voters, which has put similar boxes in other cities.

The secure box is for “those who want to save a stamp on their absentee ballot, hand it in themselves, or wait until election day to finish it,” according to the city of Berkeley.

All Alameda County voters can use the box to deliver their votes. No postage is necessary for ballots placed in the drop box.

The ballot box in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Building at 2180 Milvia St., a block away from BART, and is available 24 hours a day. The city said it will be in service for every election, including the June 7 presidential primary.

The Alameda County registrar of voters will retrieve vote-by-mail ballots daily, ending with a final collection at 8 p.m. on election night Nov. 8.

The vote by mail period opened May 9 and closes at 8 p.m. June 7. The registrar has an online map of other drop-off boxes elsewhere in the county.

Previously, the only way to hand in a ballot in Berkeley was during office hours. Berkeley City Clerk Mark Numainville said voting by mail is steadily increasing locally, which would explain why the registrar is rolling out more drop boxes. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to put minimum wage on ballot

The turnout was sparse for Tuesday night's council meeting, which included a vote on the minimum wage. Photo: Mark Coplan
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A Berkeley City Council majority voted Tuesday night to put an alternative minimum wage proposal on the November 2016 ballot they say will be more moderate than a community measure announced last week.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli — mayoral hopeful — put forward the alternative proposal and asked city staff to come back with a resolution city officials could put on the ballot. Council had been slated to vote to revise the city’s minimum wage ordinance Tuesday night, but instead voted in favor of the substitute motion from Capitelli.

Read more on the minimum wage from Berkeleyside.

The Capitelli proposal would take the minimum wage for all businesses in Berkeley to $15 an hour by October 2019. It is already slated to increase to $12.53 in October of this year. Under the proposed resolution put forward Tuesday night, this would be followed by annual increases each October to $13.25 in 2017 and $14.05 in 2018.

The initiative put forward last week would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by October 2017.

Unlike many prior Berkeley council meetings focused on the minimum wage, the turnout Tuesday night was sparse. A handful of speakers asked council to move faster to help workers, while others asked for more time for small businesses to weigh in and adjust. … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyans to be asked to accelerate $15 minimum wage

Steve Gilbert (holding the mic) announces at a press conference on Monday that the coalition, Berkeley for Workign Families, has collected enough signatures to place a measure on the Nov. ballot raising the minimum wage to $15 by Oct. 2017. Photo: SEIU 1021
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A coalition of unions, politicians and community activists, fed up with what they perceive to be the slow pace of change coming from the City Council, appears to have collected enough signatures to place a measure on the November ballot raising the minimum wage to $15.

The group, which calls itself “Berkeley for Working Families,” turned in around 4,400 signatures to the City Clerk’s office on Monday, well above the 2,638 required.

If adopted by voters, the measure would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by Oct. 2017. Then the wage would be raised each year by 3% + inflation until it hits $16.37, which is considered Berkeley’s official “livable” wage. The measure would also require employers to provide sick leave – up to nine days a year for large employers, and six days a year for companies with fewer than 10 employees.

“People are working and working and working but they can’t keep their heads above water because the cost of living is higher than in the rest of the state,” said Steve Gilbert, a retired mechanic with SEIU Local 1021. … Continue reading »

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And the survey says: Berkeley is on the right track

Berkeley has a critical housing shortage and needs new developments, writes Mayor Tom Bates in an op-ed published on Berkeleyside. Seen here: a proposed building on San Pablo Avenue. Image: HKIT Architects
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Affordable housing and homelessness topped the list on a survey of concerns voiced by Berkeley voters polled last week.

Most respondents, 64%, said the city is heading in the right direction, with 62% describing city services as good or excellent, and another 30% as “fair.”

The polling firm was hired by the city to survey 500 voters by phone to test the waters for possible November 2016 ballot measures. The city posted a quick summary of those results this week, and plans to look more closely at them during the April 5 Berkeley City Council meeting.

The Berkeley-based firm Lake Research Partners called registered voters from March 13-17 and questioned those who said they were likely to vote in November.

Top priorities of respondents included affordable housing (22%), homelessness (17%), improving education and schools (14%), and reducing crime (11%). … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Too cute to fail? A critical look at tiny houses

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Berkeley mayoral candidate Mike Lee is part of a local effort to explore tiny houses as part of a solution to homelessness. Misconceptions about tiny houses seem to surround such efforts and are difficult to swat. And I think I know why.

I know what tiny houses do: they hit you square in the cute. In the nebulous background of tiny house presentations is something which seems to make even the most intelligent go weak in the knees because they … Continue reading »

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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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