Tag Archives: Linda Maio

Berkeley’s new soda tax panel begins its work

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A new Berkeley “panel of experts” charged with allocating money collected from the city’s recently implemented soda tax convened for the first time Tuesday night, electing Jennifer Brown and Xavier Morales as chair and vice chair, respectively.

Brown, a parent and soda tax activist, and Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, will lead the nine-person panel, officially titled the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts,” in bi-monthly or monthly meetings that will establish the direction of funding from Berkeley’s new sugar-sweetened beverage tax, which was approved by voters in November.

“This moment right now is probably the biggest moment we’ve ever been in,” panel member and health activist Joy Moore said to her peers.

A small group of community members were present at the meeting, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, including Berkeley City Council members Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio, and Berkeley School Board Member Josh Daniels.

“We’re all in a fishbowl built out of a magnifying glass,” Capitelli told the panel of activists, health professionals and parents, referring to the national attention the soda tax has garnered and the strong community interest in the work about to be done. … 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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Berkeley launches donation boxes for homeless people

(From left to right) Downtown Berkeley Associatoin CEO John Caner, Vice Mayor Linda Maio, Berkeley Food & Housing Project Executive Director Terrie Light, and City Councilman Jesse Arreguin pose before making the first donations to the Positive Change box. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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Members of the Berkeley City Council, the Downtown Berkeley Association, and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project gathered by the downtown BART station Thursday to launch a donation program for the city’s homeless population.

The “Positive Change” program will install up to 10 tamperproof donation boxes around downtown Berkeley in which donors can drop off money to pay for social services geared to help reduce homelessness. Collected by the Downtown Berkeley Association once a week, the donations will go into a bank account from which the Berkeley Food and Housing Project can allocate funds.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

The donations will go toward transportation assistance in the form of bus or BART fares; ID card and housing application fees; supplies, such as socks, underwear and toiletries; and the Homeward Bound Program, which pays for long-distance bus tickets to reunite with family members in another California city, according to a statement released by the Downtown Berkeley Association. … Continue reading »

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Nonprofit accuses city of Berkeley of ‘unethical contracting practices’ for new homeless center

Berkeley's new approach to homeless services. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley says it will change its commission recommendation process after a community agency brought allegations of serious conflicts of interest during a recent bid for municipal funding.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) raised these concerns in an April 16 letter to city officials after bidding to run a new one-stop homelessness services center for which the city plans to issue a contract next month.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

BOSS and one other agency, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP), put in bids in December to run the new center. Both service organizations are based in Berkeley, and have worked in the city since the early 1970s. BOSS requested $450,145 to run the center, and the BFHP requested $996,899 for the job. The city’s Homelessness Commission and city manager have recommended that the contract go to the BFHP, and council is slated to make its decision next month.

The commission report said only that the BOSS application did “not contain all of the necessary functions” required by the city in its request for proposals.

BOSS challenged the commission recommendation in April, saying two Homeless Commission members affiliated with the BFHP and another group, YEAH, should not have taken part in the discussions. BOSS wrote that their “organizations will gain financial resources as a result of their participation in the funding discussions and eventual funding recommendations” made by the commission and the city. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to support state vaccination bill

Opponents of state bill SB277 came out Tuesday night to testify before the Berkeley City Council. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Dozens of people opposing state legislation focused on making it tougher for people to opt out of vaccinations testified Tuesday night before the Berkeley City Council, which ultimately voted 7-1 to support the new bill.

Opponents of SB277, a state bill that would require vaccinations for more Californian schoolchildren, told council they should be allowed to make personal medical decisions with their doctors, and that too many vaccines are recommended on the current schedule. Many said they do not trust the pharmaceutical industry, and that it is unknown how many vaccines might be added to the schedule in the future.

“It is abhorrent for any government to force any medical procedure on children,” Leslie Hewitt, a Danville-based chiropractor, told city officials. Most of the people who testified — many of whom said they live in Berkeley or nearby Albany — agreed with her position, and urged council to do more research before voting to support the new law.

But a small group of medical students from UCSF told council they should support the bill. And one school nurse said the new proposed requirements are critical in the interest of public health: “It has to be done because a lot of our parents are not doing what’s right.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to spend millions to fix up James Kenney Park

James Kenney is set for major improvements. Photo: City of Berkeley
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James Kenney Park in West Berkeley is slated for major repairs in the coming fiscal years, which will likely require closure of parts of its community center for 6-8 months, according to city staff.

Staff provided an update regarding municipal park projects to the Berkeley City Council at a March 24 worksession.

That update included some news about Berkeley’s Tuolumne Camp, which was destroyed by fire in 2013, as well as an overview of park facility plans over the next two fiscal years, from July 2015 through June 2017. (An update on the camp was published separately on Berkeleyside.)

Read more about Berkeley parks.

The city plans to spend most of its capital money for parks through fiscal year 2016-17 on pressing needs at James Kenney Park, at 1720 Eighth St. between Virginia and Delaware streets. The city plans to spend more than $3.7 million to address building repairs and seismic issues at the community center, as well as updates to the picnic and play areas. Staff intends to use $2.3 million from the parks tax and general fund on the repairs, as well as nearly $730,000 from a FEMA grant for seismic improvements, and $750,000 in Measure WW funds to pay for other aspects of the projects. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to curb impacts of homelessness

Shattuck Avenue is one area of Berkeley where the homeless most commonly congregate (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to direct staff to flesh out and clarify laws designed to clean up downtown by addressing problematic behavior linked to the city’s homeless population.

The 6-3 vote to approve a proposal by Councilwoman Linda Maio followed more than an hour of public testimony mostly dominated by detractors who said the new laws will only serve to criminalize the homeless, while failing to address the root causes of the issue.

A handful of local business representatives and members of the real estate community pleaded with council to approve Maio’s proposal, saying the situation downtown has become dire. Real estate reps said businesses do not want to locate downtown due to the sometimes violent and rowdy street scene. Members of the business community said customers and clients have experienced fear and intimidation as a result of homeless groups who congregate on Berkeley streets, particularly on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Many said the situation has declined in recent years and that something needed to be done to make downtown safe and comfortable for everyone.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

Dozens of advocates, homeless individuals and academics who study laws affecting the poor told council that the proposal was misguided, would lead to selective enforcement, and would make it harder for people who are homeless to access needed services and programs that might help them get off the streets. Nearly 80 people addressed council Tuesday night, and most said they were against the recommendation. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to grapple again with homeless on sidewalks

On most days, homeless youths line up on Shattuck Avenue in front of the Shattuck Cinemas. The City Council will consider a new set of laws affecting the homeless on Tuesday night. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A proposal coming before the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday to examine new laws for the homeless is being called Measure S 2.0, and it is shaping up politically to be a repeat of the bruising sit-lie ordinance that was on the 2012 ballot.

Council members Linda Maio and Jesse Arreguín want to ask the city manager to examine a raft of laws that might ameliorate the behavior of the growing groups of homeless youth that frequent Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Only Arreguín has now withdrawn his support for the measure.

Read Berkeleyside’s March 18 update about the outcome of the vote.

“I definitely recognize there are some challenges on our streets in downtown Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue,” said Arreguín. “I originally thought that adopting laws and increasing enforcement was going to be the best approach, but in thinking more about it I really think without talking about [adding] services and the outreach … we are not going to make a meaningful difference.” … Continue reading »

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Neighbors petition to rename Berkeley’s South Branch Library after civil-rights leader

The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library opened in May 2013. Photo: Richard Friedman
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Update, April 23, 2015: The Board of Trustees of the Berkeley Public Library voted against renaming the South Branch after civil-rights leader Tarea Hall Pittman at its April 22 meeting. (See who is on the Board and listen to a recording of the meeting on the Library’s website.) The leader of the campaign in favor of the idea, Charles Austin, told Berkeleyside reporter Natalie Orenstein he was devastated, and that supporters would protest the decision at the next Berkeley City Council meeting. “Racism is alive in Berkeley,” he said.The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library was remodeled two years ago, and soon it might be rechristened too.

Original story: On Feb. 10, the city council passed a proposal to rename the library, at 1901 Russell St., after Tarea Hall Pittman, a civil-rights leader who lived in South Berkeley and died in 1991. The Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) will have the final say on whether the change will be made.

Pittman “was just a pillar in the community,” said councilwoman Linda Maio, who sponsored the item. A community petition in support of the name change garnered over 2,000 signatures. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts new building sustainability law; small properties exempt for now

Berkeley is not moving fast enough toward its Climate Action Plan goals, says city staff. Image: City of Berkeley
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The Berkeley City Council unanimously adopted a new law Tuesday night aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making local buildings more sustainable, but included carve-outs — at least initially — for properties with up to four units.

Many Berkeley homeowners had expressed concern in recent months about the new law, which would have required energy audits by homeowners every 10 years, as well as the payment of new fees to the city.

The city has described the new energy law as a critical part of Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan, which the voters approved in 2006. The plan calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2000 levels by 2050, and set a 33% reduction goal by 2020. … Continue reading »

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Grumpy Cat comes to Berkeley Humane in style, fanfare

Grumpy Cat, held by her owner Tabatha Bundesen, poses with City Councilmember Linda Maio and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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With a police-escorted motorcade fit for a foreign ambassador or an A-list Hollywood star, viral internet star Grumpy Cat rolled into Berkeley in style Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of fans waited outside Berkeley Humane at 2700 9th St. to catch a glimpse of Grumpy Cat, who has a permanent scowl on her face and millions of fans on social media. Tucked in the arms of her owner, Tabatha Bundesen, Grumpy Cat oversaw the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Berkeley Humane’s new mobile adoption center.

Following the ceremony, Grumpy Cat held a private photo session with her fans. Tickets for an up close and personal were reserved long before Saturday. The opportunity to take a photo of Grumpy Cat — or with, for the lucky fans who registered for the photo session in time — drew residents from beyond the Bay Area. … 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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Police Review Commission asks for suspension of tear gas

A line of police officers marched down Telegraph Avenue during the Dec. 6th protests. Photo: Pete Rosos
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After hearing the testimony of about 10 people who said they were treated unnecessarily roughly during a Dec. 6 protest, the Police Review Commission voted Wednesday to ask Berkeley city officials to restrict the use of tear gas, over-the-shoulder baton hits and firing projectiles as a form of crowd control.

The PRC, which put the issue on its agenda as an emergency measure, is hoping the Berkeley City Council will do the same at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Read more coverage of the recent protests in Berkeley.

“Our proposal was for a cooling-off period,” said Alison Bernstein, vice chair of the PRC. “[Using tear gas] is a crowd control technique. We’re not saying it’s right. We’re not saying it’s wrong. But we are hearing serious concerns from the community.” … Continue reading »

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