Tag Archives: Matthai Chakko
Berkeley councilman says city mishandled legal fees in Measure S redistricting lawsuit; city disagrees
Less than a week before Berkeley voters will decide whether to adopt new council district boundaries, a local official has criticized the city for how it handled legal fees for a lawsuit over the proposed council lines that are on the Nov. 4 ballot with Measure S.
It’s the latest rebuke in a prolonged public battle over district lines that began in earnest last year. City officials and staff have countered that proper procedure was, in fact, followed, and that nothing inappropriate occurred.
At Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting, local resident Stefan Elgstrand told officials he had been dismayed to learn about the payment by staff of $140,000 — which he said council did not approve — to lawyers who represented the city in a lawsuit related to redistricting earlier this year. Elgstrand, who was previously an intern for Councilman Kriss Worthington, authored a map last year that was rejected by council and has been among those leading the charge to have the adopted map thrown out. He’s also a lead organizer in the opposition campaign against Measure S. Since Elgstrand’s public comment Tuesday, Councilman Jesse Arreguín and his aide Anthony Sanchez have added their voices to the criticism, and publicly excoriated the city for how it handled the payment of the legal fees.
City officials have been working to adopt new district lines for several years, but the process has been contentious. Council adopted a new map in December, and said the boundaries had garnered widespread community approval and complied with all legal requirements. Critics of that map — including Elgstrand, Arreguín, Worthington, Phoebe Sorgen and Council 1 challenger Alejandro Soto-Vigil — then led a referendum drive to force council to rescind that map in favor of a compromise, or put the issue to the voters.
The referendum drive was successful, which suspended the use of the map council had adopted. The city then took to the courts to determine which lines should be used leading up to the November election. A judge ultimately ruled that the map council adopted should determine the districts up through Nov. 4. … Continue reading »
Last Thursday afternoon, 40-some kids sprinted around Willard Park, capturing flags and thwacking tether balls. That’s the typical scene at the park most summer afternoons, where the campers at Berkeley Day Camp’s extended care program keep busy until their parents come pick them up.
Recreation services like the popular day camp claimed a good chunk of the $12.2 million that the city spent on children last year, according to a brand new report that details — for the first time ever, according to the city — the funding spent on children’s programs and services in 2013. … Continue reading »
The city of Berkeley’s project to convert thousands of old streetlights to LED bulbs is well underway, and the changes have not gone unnoticed by community members.
Last fall, the Berkeley City Council voted to allow the city manager to seek a $3.5 million loan from the state to swap out its old high pressure sodium and metal halide lamps with light emitting diode (LED) fixtures. Better light quality, improved energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions were among the project’s main goals.
The city began its investigation into the possibility of LED streetlights in 2012 with a council referral to the Public Works and Energy commissions. In 2012 and 2013, more than 100 streetlights were replaced with LED lights at the Berkeley Marina and along Telegraph Avenue. This year, the city plans to finish the job, and is slated to replace all 8,000 of its old streetlights with LEDs.
So far, roughly 25% of the lights have been replaced, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko. The new bulbs use 65% to 85% less energy than the old high pressure sodium lights and should last 15-17 years, Chakko said. The old lights required replacement every few years. … Continue reading »
Community supporters of Berkeley’s municipal animal shelter have been raising alarm bells about the shelter’s budget for the coming fiscal year — and their concerns about the city’s lack of budgeting transparency are broadly shared.
The proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts in July is $1.69 million, which is comparable to what the shelter ultimately got in the fiscal year that ends this month, City Manager Christine Daniel told city officials by email May 27.
But shelter supporters say that amount has not been enough to cover operating costs, and fear the shelter may be forced to close one day a week or more as a result. They say the shelter has struggled to cover increased utility costs in its new, larger space, which has a sophisticated air filtration system to cut down on the spread of diseases. Supporters say, too, that services the city used to pay for, including a spay-and-neuter program for low-income residents as well as training for pit bull owners, now must be funded through community donations.
The budget has come before council and the public several times since May 20, and is expected to be approved next week.
According to city spokesman Matthai Chakko, a detailed budget that would show utility costs for the Dona Spring Municipal Animal Shelter is not available: “The budget doesn’t have line items to that degree,” he said via email. Chakko said animal shelter director Kate O’Connor was not available last week for an interview. He said the shelter is “fully funded,” but did not respond to questions about whether the shelter might have to reduce its hours. (The facility is currently open seven days a week.)
Berkeley city staff are reviewing a report by Oakland-based firm Mason Tillman Associates that recommends changes in city policies in response to allegations of racism in employment practices.
The Berkeley NAACP report cited “many” complaints, dating from the 1980s through 2013, by Berkeley city employees of color alleging “unfair hiring and promotional practices, favoritism, cronyism and unfair treatment of African Americans.” The NAACP recommended 21 policy changes to fight the problem, including the institution of a city oversight body to monitor discrimination and 16 hours per year of mandatory cultural competency training for all city employees. … Continue reading »
Responding to complaints that the homeless people who camped under the Gilman/I-80 underpass were engaged in criminal activity, Caltrans has fenced off the area — pushing the encampment onto a narrow strip nearby.
Caltrans installed the fencing between Feb. 10 and March 6 at the request of the Berkeley Police Department, “in order to help curtail criminal activity in the area,” said Caltrans spokesman Robert Haus via email.
“We have had complaints regarding criminal activity associated with the encampment down there,” said police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats via email. “We have reached out to those camping in the area through members of our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), Area Coordinators, and Mobile Crisis workers.” … Continue reading »
The city of Berkeley has filed a lawsuit against the Alameda County registrar of voters and the Berkeley city clerk to determine which district lines to use in the November 2014 election.
City officials say the lawsuit is necessary to determine district lines after a successful referendum drive by some Berkeley voters earlier this year halted the use of a new district map adopted by a 6-3 vote by the Berkeley City Council in December.
The city is required to redraw district lines every decade to rebalance the population across Berkeley’s eight council districts.
Three members of the council — Kriss Worthington (District 7), Jesse Arreguín (District 4) and Max Anderson (District 3) — have taken issue with the adopted map, primarily due to the boundaries of District 7. The district, as adopted, features a majority of student-aged voters, but detractors say it cuts out some of the most progressive members of the Cal community by failing to incorporate several blocks north and east of campus, which include co-op housing and other group living accommodations such as dorms and International House. … Continue reading »
Coming up later this year, the city of Berkeley has pledged to focus some of its resources on the Adeline Street corridor in South Berkeley to address chronic problems and try to capitalize on the momentum of improvements already underway.
Last weekend, city staff and officials held a public meeting at the South Berkeley Senior Center to begin to brainstorm with local residents and merchants what some of the local priorities are.
Mayor Tom Bates, Councilman Max Anderson and city manager Christine Daniel were in attendance, along with nearly 10 other city staffers, and more than 30 members of the public, said Charles Burress from the mayor’s office. … Continue reading »
Drivers will be asked to slow down near 13 Berkeley schools after the adoption by the City Council of a 15 mph speed zone around them, despite a police officer’s analysis of injury collisions near schools that showed speed was not a factor in those accidents, and another officer’s assertion that enforcement would be “difficult, at best.”
According to an analysis completed by a city traffic analyst of 327 documented injury collisions in Berkeley from August 2010 to July 2013, 23 took place near school zones. None of those accidents were caused by unsafe speeds, he said.
Most of the accidents — 73% — resulted from drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Another 23% were due to pedestrians who failed to yield to drivers in the roadway, police wrote.
Thirteen of the collisions near schools took place during the school day, and four involved juvenile pedestrians. The juveniles were found to be at fault in all four of the cases. … Continue reading »
In Berkeley, squirrels are in the cross fire.
In an attempt to make sure no toxins leak out of the old landfill under Cesar Chavez Park and leach into San Francisco Bay, Berkeley is hiring a pest control company to trap and kill hundreds of squirrels and gophers that make their home there.
It seems that when the squirrels and gophers do what comes naturally—digging holes or tunneling in the ground—they are getting perilously close to the clay cap that covers the landfill. If the rodents penetrate that barrier, dangerous toxins like gasoline, lead, iron, herbicides and pesticides, could leach into the bay. So the city needs to reduce the animal population to lessen the risk, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko. … Continue reading »