Tag Archives: City of Berkeley

Police

City seeks rejection of wrongful death lawsuit against police; celebrity pathologist disputes cause of death

Kayla Moore protest 9/20/16. Photo: Daniel McPartlan
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Attorneys for the city of Berkeley have asked a U.S. District Court judge to reject a wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2014 by the father of a transgender woman who died in police custody in 2013.

Representatives for both parties are expected to appear in court Friday morning at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco. If the case moves ahead, the trial itself has been scheduled to begin Oct. 17, according to materials from lawsuit supporters.

Kayla Moore, a 41-year-old Berkeley resident, was in her Allston Way apartment Feb. 12, 2013, when police responded to a disturbance call there, authorities have said. She stopped breathing during a struggle as officers tried to detain her. The Alameda County coroner’s office said Moore — whose given name was Xavier — died due to “acute combined drug intoxication” and pre-existing medical conditions, and ruled her death an accident.

The city filed a motion for summary judgment in June essentially arguing that the family has neither the evidence nor the facts to back up the wrongful death suit. The city says officers used “minimal force” and have “qualified immunity” under the law as to the force they did use.

Oakland attorney John Burris, whose firm is representing Kayla’s father, Arthur Moore, has argued police had no cause to arrest Moore and “used unreasonable force” during the arrest.

To bolster the case, Burris has filed a declaration by Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist who has worked on a variety of high-profile cases in recent decades. Spitz said restraint by the officers made it difficult for Moore to breathe and contributed to her death. … Continue reading »

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Police

Berkeley Police Department to focus on staffing, will ‘take a collective deep breath’ under new chief

Capt. Andrew Greenwood, many other members of the department, and retirees and family, attended the ceremony Thursday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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In the wake of the abrupt departure Tuesday of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, Acting Chief Andrew Greenwood says his short-term goals are to hire more officers and keep the department focused on the future.

“Calm, steady, forward movement is the way to go,” Greenwood told the city’s Police Review Commission on Wednesday night. “That’s kind of where I’m at.”

Greenwood was at the PRC meeting to give the regularly scheduled chief’s report and discuss the mid-year crime report, but the first topic that came up when the meeting began was Meehan’s sudden departure, announced Wednesday, and what will happen next.

Commission Chair George Perezvelez called Meehan’s resignation the elephant in the room, and noted that the leadership change — which put Berkeley native Greenwood at the helm — is “effective immediately.” … Continue reading »

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Police

Berkeley police chief resigns; no reason provided

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said the public still has ample time to offer feedback. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan has resigned following reports surfaced by Berkeleyside last month of turmoil within the department and extensive criticism by officers of the chief.

Meehan resigned after nearly seven years, and Capt. Andrew Greenwood will now take the helm of the department as acting chief, according to a memo from the city manager to the Berkeley City Council dated Wednesday, Sept. 21. Greenwood, a Berkeley native, has been at BPD for 31 years. (Scroll down to see the memo.)

No explanation has been provided as to the reason for Meehan’s departure. He lives in Berkeley with his family and has a son in Berkeley schools. Many thought he would continue in his role as chief until retirement, despite the recent criticism.

Greenwood said Wednesday the resignation “came as a complete surprise” to him, and that it had been a “whirlwind five hours of figuring out” all of the logistics of the transfer of command.

“I’m sure it was a really difficult decision for him and his family,” he said. “I was asked yesterday afternoon if I would be acting chief and I agreed to.”

It is unclear exactly when Meehan put in his resignation, but he was not present for the six-month crime report to the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday evening, and no city officials asked where he was. It’s a significant meeting that he has rarely, if ever, missed in the past.

Just after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Meehan posted his resignation letter on Twitter.

“While there is no good time to leave an organization you have such respect and admiration for, there is a right time and I believe, after discussing with my family, the time is now,” he wrote. See the full letter below.

On Twitter, Meehan wrote, “Thank you Berkeley! It has been an honor. My family and I are grateful.” … Continue reading »

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Police

Officers question leadership of Berkeley police chief

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said the public still has ample time to offer feedback. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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More than six years after taking the helm of the Berkeley Police Department, Chief Michael Meehan is facing serious criticism from within his own ranks, according to two internal emails he sent to employees earlier this month and numerous interviews with BPD staffers.

The criticisms focus on weak leadership, low morale, insufficient staffing and inconsistent communication. They were spelled out in surveys from 134 people, just over half the department, that included nearly 80 pages of written comments. Much of that focused on the chief.

“That direct feedback tells me that I am failing some members of this organization,” Meehan wrote in an Aug. 11 email to BPD employees. “That is unacceptable.”

The comments are “a strong wake-up call” about what many characterized as a “lack of leadership and clear vision for our agency,” the chief wrote. He sent the email, entitled “Priorities and Commitment,” at about 10:10 p.m. after two long days of involved discussions with his leadership team.

The survey responses reportedly included scathing critiques of Meehan’s leadership style, along with other frustrations faced by the rank and file. The results have not been made public — and Meehan says they won’t be — but the chief’s email messages about those responses offer a rare glimpse into the department’s inner workings.

Morale inside the department has sunk to what may be an all-time low, some officers have told Berkeleyside, and that stems largely from what many have said is the failure of the chief to advocate effectively for what his officers want. Berkeleyside has granted those officers anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the department.

The chief’s emails were also shared with Berkeleyside by a BPD staffer on condition of anonymity. Meehan provided additional context regarding the messages, as well as staff concerns, during a lengthy conversation with Berkeleyside on Monday night.

In his remarks to Berkeleyside, the chief described the survey feedback as “a motivator” he says will drive him to improve. He offered insights on his view of department staffing, and described a range of efforts undertaken under his watch that he believes have made BPD a leader across a number of important areas, from training to recognize implicit biases to efforts to equip all officers with crisis intervention and de-escalation skills.

“Any leader, if they’re always listening and paying attention and trying to do better, it’s a pretty good start,” he said. … Continue reading »

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Government

New deputy city manager has been hired for Berkeley

Jovan D. Grogan
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Come September, the city of Berkeley will finally be getting a new deputy city manager, officials announced Wednesday.

The position has been filled on an interim basis for more than a year, ever since the person who used to hold the role — Dee Williams-Ridley — took over for prior City Manager Christine Daniel when she left for Oakland in July 2015. It’s the second highest position in the city’s municipal leadership.

Jovan Grogan has now been appointed to the role. He is currently the deputy city manager of Concord, “where he has earned the respect of the City Council and staff for his work to improve city services and address budgetary challenges, as the City recovered from the recent recession,” according to a memo to the Berkeley City Council that Williams-Ridley sent out Tuesday.

Concord, which has a population of about 126,000 people, is the largest city in Contra Costa County.

Grogan is set to begin working for the city of Berkeley on Sept. 12. His annual salary will be $200,000.

Grogan has a background in municipal financial planning, along with “skills in labor relations, infrastructure management, performance measurement, and economic development,” wrote Williams-Ridley.

“Jovan is a gifted leader and we are eager to bring him to Berkeley. His strong background in finance and commitment to serving the community make him the perfect fit,” she said in a prepared statement.

Grogan said Wednesday he is excited about his new role.

“Berkeley is an amazing city,” he said. “As a native of the Bay Area, I cherish the opportunity to serve the citizens of Berkeley, and the partnership that I’ll have with the city manager and the council.”Continue reading »

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Photo gallery: Berkeley celebrates National Night Out

National Night Out, Aug. 2, 2016. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Community members all over Berkeley came together Tuesday to celebrate the annual National Night Out event. They danced, held potlucks, and had a chance to connect with police and firefighters as well as city staff and local officials across about 80 different block parties. The event is designed to help neighbors connect with each other in the interest of safety and build stronger ties with a range of city services, too. The photo gallery below captures some of the highlights from this year’s event.

Have more photos? Share them in the comments. Scroll down for a map of all the block parties registered this year, and learn how to sign up next year. … Continue reading »

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Government

Grand jury dings city of Berkeley on email transparency

Rene C. Davidson Courthouse. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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An Alameda County grand jury has criticized the city of Berkeley’s approach to municipal emails, which are automatically purged after 90 days unless employees manually take steps to save them.

The grand jury report, released Tuesday, noted that Berkeley is one of just four cities in Alameda County that does not automatically archive emails and keep them for the two years required by the state for most public records.

The report urged the retention of all city emails for at least two years.

According to the report, city of Berkeley employees “must examine all email they receive with the complicated rules of the PRA [Public Records Act] in mind. They must then take the time to individually save or print each public record prior to its being automatically purged from the email server after 90 days.”Continue reading »

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Berkeley launches first ‘Resilience Strategy’ in Bay Area

Berkeley CERT training, May 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Never one to shirk a challenge, the city of Berkeley has come up with an ambitious plan designed to take on everything from racial and social inequity to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

And, no, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke.

Friday, the city released its “Resilience Strategy,” a 56-page document that attempts to look at “some of Berkeley’s most pressing physical, social and economic challenges, including earthquakes, wildfire, the impacts of climate change and racial inequity.”

The effort is the culmination to date of work Berkeley is doing as part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities network,” or 100RC for short. The city was among the first 33 places in the world — along with San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda — chosen to participate in the network back in 2013. (Alameda later lost the grant.) More than 1,000 cities have applied to take part.

Leading the charge in Berkeley is Chief Resilience Officer Timothy Burroughs, who was already working for the city with its Climate Action Plan efforts when he was selected for the gig.

A community event led by Mayor Tom Bates, along with Burroughs, is scheduled to take place Friday from 3-5 p.m. to celebrate the launch. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley planning chief to leave for Contra Costa County

Photo: Eric Angstadt
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Update, Feb. 26, 10:11 a.m. The city manager’s office sent the following notice to city officials at 10:05 a.m.

“It is with sadness that I inform you that Eric Angstadt has submitted his resignation as Planning Director effective March 25, 2016 to become the Chief Assistant County Administrator for Contra Costa County. Eric came to Berkeley in April 2012 as the Planning Director. Among the achievements during his tenure, he managed the expansion of Permit Service Center responsibilities and staff to address increasing demands for land use and building permit approvals for 2,500 units of housing, implemented a balcony inspection program, and adopted revisions to improve zoning and land use appeals. We will miss Eric and I wish him the best in his future role.

“I have asked Carol Johnson, the Land Use Planning Manager, to serve as Acting Planning Department Director effective March 25, 2016. Carol has over 25 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. She has been the Land Use Planning Manager for the City of Berkeley since May 2014. Prior to that she has served as the Planning Manager for the cities of Concord, CA and Phoenix, AZ. Accomplishments in those positions resulted in the Concord Downtown Plan, the Concord Safe Routes to Transit Plan, launching the Phoenix General Plan Update, and creating the Downtown Phoenix Code. Carol has also worked as a planner in various capacities for cities in the states of Connecticut and Washington, and as a consultant in the private sector. Please join me with congratulating Carol on her new assignment.”

Added Williams-Ridley in a statement to Berkeleyside: “The City of Berkeley is losing an exceptional leader and an exemplary professional. We wish him the best as he moves on.”

Original story, Feb. 25, 6:51 p.m. Berkeley planning director Eric Angstadt is leaving the city of Berkeley for a new job as a chief assistant county administrator with Contra Costa County. … Continue reading »

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How the California-wide drought is affecting Berkeley

High School students helped the Friends of Five Creeks remove invasive fennel from the mouth of Schoolhouse Creek in Berkeley in August. Photo: Friends of Five Creeks.
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The brown lawns are the least of it. The effects of the current California-wide drought go deeper than the roots of the grass and will continue several years after lawns turn green again.

Many of the impacts are very evident in Berkeley and the surrounding area. Trees are dying at a higher rate. The creeks are low and might be dry if it weren’t for leaky pipes. And if this winter brings heavy rains, damage to the stressed trees and creek banks could be significant.

One of the most obvious signs of the drought is the early fall color on many trees around town. Tony Wolcott, a master arborist, recently retired as Albany’s Urban Forester, said that the early leaf drop in the fall is a normal reaction to drought.

“It doesn’t mean the tree is dying,” Wolcott said. “It’s not a great thing, but it is a way of surviving,” he said.

But not all the trees will rebound. Wolcott said he’s noticed flowering cherries and flowering plums showing a lot of stress. So are the camphors, which line many streets in Berkeley.

“A lot of the camphors in town are old, but are dying more quickly because of the drought,” he said.  Even redwoods are looking stressed, dropping a lot of needles, he said. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Is the city of Berkeley getting more efficient?

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Maybe the headline should be “man bites dog” but there’s a bit of good news on council’s Tuesday agenda: a vast improvement in timely approval of contracts. Our performance audit “Most Contracts Executed Timely but Contract Project Managers Could Use Better Tools and Guidance” tells the story.

The bigger story here, to me, is the many more substantial improvements I’ve seen in nearly 21 years of auditing city programs and performance. Whether I look at our 2004 audit of contracts, … Continue reading »

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Tilden Park exceeds goals in cutting its water usage

Irrigation was shut down to just part of the Meadows Lawn in Tilden Park, just south of the old pony rides site.
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Berkeley’s Tilden Park reports that it reduced water usage in May — the most recent bill available — by 40% compared to the same period in 2013.  The regional park in the Berkeley Hills has been watering its lawns less and less over the past several years, said Park Supervisor Sergio Huerta.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do, thanks to the creativity of staff,” said Huerta. Huerta was speaking for all of the park grounds except the golf course, which is on a separate water meter. The golf course reports that it has taken one-fifth of the greenways off irrigation — and it’s showing all along the edges.

Throughout the rest of Tilden Park, Huerta said, the lawns have been divided into four categories for watering: reduced, minimal, sporadic and zero. Lawns getting no water this year include the large picnic area called Padre on South Park Drive and the group campsites, Gillespie near the south end of the park, and Wildcat View near the north end. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley unveils new open data portal

This municipal water map is one of 40 data sets now available in the city of Berkeley's new open data portal. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley has officially launched a new website featuring 17 data sets related to everything from municipal water usage and employee salaries to crime heat maps, energy consumption, restaurant inspections, registered business licenses and much more.

The city unveiled the website, which began on a pilot basis in December, on Thursday. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the most exciting thing about the project is what the public might do with the information now that it’s available.

“What can be done with open data is limited only by the imagination,” said Dee Ridley-Williams, the city’s new interim city manager, in a prepared statement. “We’re excited to see how the Berkeley community will utilize this new tool.” … Continue reading »

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