Berkeleyside recently sent all the candidates for the City Council a set of questions, partly based on the suggestions our readers provided. Candidates are running in Districts 1, 4, 7 and 8.
Of the 13 active candidates in the four districts, we received responses from six: Linda Maio in District 1, Jim Novosel in District 4, Kriss Worthington and George Beier in District 7, and Gordon Wozniak and Jacquelyn McCormick in District 8. A seventh candidate, Merrilie Mitchell in District 1, replied to our email saying she did not like the questions. If we hear from the remaining candidates before the election, we’ll add their responses.
The East Bay Express recently ran a good summary article on all the candidates and their stances on some major issues.
These were our questions to the candidates:
- What are your ideas for fixing “Berkeley process” to make it more efficient, genuinely more representative and less intimidating?
- In some ways Berkeley is two towns — the flatlands and the hills. What are your ideas to better integrate our two communities?
- While many efforts are concentrating on reviving the downtown as a desirable destination, Telegraph Avenue’s decline continues seemingly unabated. What would you recommend to get Telegraph on a positive track?
- Are current salary and benefits for city employees sustainable? If not, what do you suggest we do about future employee contracts?
- What do you think needs to be done to achieve Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan?
- What is the single most important issue today in your district?
We didn’t give candidates a word count, but for those who asked, the answer was that space on the Internet isn’t limited, but readers’ attention spans are. We haven’t edited the responses in any way. We’ve listed the answers by district and, within districts, in alphabetical order. Read the candidates’ answers below the fold.
Question 1: What are your ideas for fixing “Berkeley process”?
Linda Maio (District 1): Two processes come to mind. Land use/Permits processes receive the most complaints. Both are difficult to navigate if you don’t have experience. I am advocating for an independent systems analysis so we can uncover redundancy, circular and frustrating pathways, and customer unfriendly elements in general. On City issues, we need to encourage people to dive in by welcoming them into the fray and making ourselves, as Councilmembers, available to learn, guide, and ensure all voices are heard. People needn’t have to sit in Council chambers until all hours to get their voices heard. We can’t prevent people from being uncivil at times, but we can insist that they behave themselves at our meetings.
Jim Novosel (District 4): I will assume that by process, you mean the public review of projects? Or the public vetting of planning issues before any one of a number of public commissions; Transportation, Planning, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, etc.?
In either case, Berkeley is the most democratic place that I have ever been involved. The strong commitment to public review that occurs in Berkeley should be appreciated.
However, what also accompanies this democracy sometimes is very slow resolutions, endless discussions and nothing happens. Witness the difficult and tortuous work going on and on to create a Downtown Plan. The same is the case in West Berkeley wherein the Planning Commission is trying to accommodate more research and development users. Or remember how the West Berkeley Bowl project was met with such opposition.
With any project or issue in Berkeley, there is a segment of the population that has objections. We must continually ask these people who have objections to present ideas to consider so that their objections are accompanied by their alternate solutions.
There will always be objections and much “endless” debate because Berkeley is what it is. There will always be different and new ways to think of the way things can be. And Berkeley will always be inhabited by people who think like that. We need people in leadership roles who acknowledge this, are humbled by it, yet still work to make decisions that will improve our City.
George Beier (District 7): I would ensure that all non-Berkeley items – whether they are on the Consent Calendar or not – are put at the end of the Council’s agenda. For example, on July 13th, neighbors had to wait until midnight to be heard in our efforts to keep Willard Pool open after numerous non-Berkeley items. This discourages participation from ordinary citizens who have limited time (and patience). Let’s take care of neighbors’ business first.
We can do much more with the creative use of technology. Interactive voting, messaging, instant messaging/alerts – all of this can serve to attract younger voters to council and commission proceedings. With 30,000 students at UC, this is a relatively young town. This is where the new ideas and the energy are coming from. We need to speak to young people with modern, high-tech tools.
Kriss Worthington (District 7): Public hearings should have a set start time.
No public hearing should begin after 9 pm.
City Council meetings should be re-located to a room that has greater capacity, better seating and more room for wheelchair accessibility.
Make technology available so people participating in public meetings can share their information more speedily, more effectively and visible to the television audience.
Establishment of a more widespread Neighborhood Notification Network where you can sign up to receive all or none of the City communications related to many subject areas.
Assistance with start up costs for low income neighbors to do Neighborhood Watch organizing on crime prevention and /or earthquake preparedness.
Stewart Jones (District 8): As I understand it, Berkeley’s planning process has been uneven and arbitrary for many years. Often citizens are confused, wait forever for an individual permit to be processed, and pay large fees for small improvements. Citizens are also confused by new development projects: they are not informed, the processes for comment (required by California Environmental Quality Act — CEQA) and approval are not clear, and guess what? Often the Planning Department will waive some fees for a large developer, just to keep the development project going. Permits always pass through the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) and in some cases the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). ZAB is composed of 9 members appointed by the City Council — so those on City Council makes a difference vis-a-vis how development is approved/altered/or not approved. The staff is expected to take direction from ZAB and LPC.
Process exists from: Zoning Ordinance, CEQA, Area Plans and the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. Citizen involvement is critical from the beginning, but often citizens don’t understand the process and the staff is often not on the side of the citizen/neighborhood issues. It is super important that all parties understand and respect how these ordinances might apply in each instance and it is super important that the staff is open to public concerns. There are two problems that tend to work against the interests of citizens, quality of neighborhoods, and the Downtown: the Planning Department is funded by its own permit fees and ZAB reflects the City Council priorities.
Therefore we need council members that are sensitive to their districts’ quality of life issues, and we need to reform the Planning Department’s money stream. The financing of the Planning Department should go to through the general fund. The point is to seek a clean process that encourages the involvement of citizens.
Jacquelyn McCormick (District 8): First and foremost, a Councilmember should represent their constituents — and this means proactively engaging with them on a comprehensive and regular basis. When elected, I intend to have at least quarterly town hall meetings where issues can be openly aired, council activities discussed, and I can be held accountable. Individually it can be overwhelming to come to a council meeting and have to endure the long wait to speak, only to be cut off or completely ignored and I will not allow such disrespect to continue. If we organize our priorities in neighborhood meetings, and can come forward as a neighborhood and not just individuals, we are likely to have more traction (and ideally respect) on the council. I am very disgruntled by the way the city council has closed itself off from constituents in recent years and that is the very reason I am running. We need to continually demand that meetings be transparent, which is why I support a sunshine ordinance that will put an end to back-room deals.
Gordon Wozniak (District 8): The City of Berkeley wants to hear from all of its citizens on issues before the Council and goes to great lengths to gather citizen input. When an issue is before the Council, residents can send emails, write letters, call, and/or attend the meeting and speak at the Public Comment Period on the Agenda. On controversial Council items, Council often receives over one hundred emails, dozens of phone calls, and a half-dozen letters. In addition 20-40 people address the Council in person. Because Berkeley residents are not shy about expressing their opinions, public meetings can be contentious, and residents with minority viewpoints may feel intimidated.
Since many residents, particularly those with young children, can not attend Council meetings, it is important that we seek their opinions via web-based platforms such as Open Town Hall or email. To seek the input of students and younger residents, I believe that the Council should allow residents to vote on Council issues via text messages which would be tabulated as an advisory vote.
Question 2: What are your ideas to better integrate Berkeley’s “two towns”?
Maio: There seems to me to be more a divide between people who are entrenched in their position and suspicious of any effort to even discuss change, and others who see opportunities to improve our community for everyone, especially those who for whatever reason cannot advocate on behalf of themselves. Pushing one’s agenda, for the sake of one side winning, rather than proceeding for the benefit of the City and those that truly need our attention, is what needs to be recognized and addressed. It is obvious in Measure R, where there is a clear and true opportunity to gain needed Housing Trust Funds so we can build more affordable housing. Yet, those who proclaim they are the most passionate about affordable housing refuse to see that creating a substantial amount of housing downtown (which has significant environmental benefits) will result in those very fees we must have to be able to create homes for those in need. The need to win, no matter what is sacrificed, seems to trump all. I will continue to try to negotiate and by pointing out the entrenchment, and what is lost because of it, I hope we can, together, make better decisions for all concerned and for our city.
As to the hills/flats, the demographic in my district has changed. It is still diverse, but many older families have left and the new families are young, professional, many with young kids, who are very environmentally conscious and progressive — and they want to be part of a forward looking Berkeley. Much of the hill population involve themselves less in flatland neighborhood issues (such as safety and traffic impacts) but that doesn’t mean hill residents are not sympathetic or dispassionate about the environmental imperative.
Novosel: I do not see it as simplified as the lowlands and the hills. There are many friendships, schools, businesses and associations where people interconnect and thereby transcend these two geographical areas. I believe that there are more differences between lowland neighborhoods than between the two you note. For instance, look at south Berkeley around Alcatraz, Sacramento and Ashby, and compare it to the area around Monterey Market.
Better integration or interconnection of people from all these different neighborhoods can best occur in Farmers Markets, city wide fairs, school events, etc. I especially believe that we need to create a public square in the heart of the Downtown that would serve the same purpose: to bring all our people together once in a while to enjoy life and activities.
Beier: Berkeley is many towns – hills and flats, students and neighbors, renters and homeowners, gay and straight, north and south, east and west. As a neighborhood leader, I’ve worked hard to integrate the student and permanent resident communities. Integration works best when common interests can be cultivated and made manifest through service. For example, we’ve had students and non-students participate in Rebuilding Together (renovating homes for the elderly), the Berkeley Project (UC Berkeley-sponsored student service), and in neighborhood clean-up days, National Night Out, community bake sales, etc. By finding points of common interest and then by doing something towards the furthering of those interests – that’s how we build community. A city-wide idea might build around a community charity, road-race or a Berkeley “Earthquake Day”. But it’s the doing of these things – the physical, nitty-gritty doing of service projects — this is what integrates communities. All the rest, as the song goes, is talk.
Worthington: The segregation patterns are not so simple as hills and flats. Differences between East and West can be as significant as North and South. Racism, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Ageism and Homophobia all play their role to divide us in Berkeley as in the rest of the country. Some people talk as if we are past all that, but we still have more to learn. The giant gap between the rich and the poor is a chasm in Berkeley.
I am passionately committed to bringing people together and bridging communities. Part of bringing us together involves including the folks who have been historically left out. I have more Asians, Latinos and Native Americans, Women and students appointed than any other City Council member. It has been beautiful to watch the interactions over the years as these folks who are very different from each other learn to work together.
Jones: Since the very beginning in 1879, Berkeley has struggled to integrate the flatlands and the hills, but everyone has always come together in the Downtown. All the main civic functions are in Downtown, including City Hall, Berkeley High School, main bank branches, the theater district, BART, and the central Farmers Market. Integrating the different neighborhoods can be helped by revitalizing the downtown and by being appreciative of each area having its own character, pride and interesting features that contribute to the whole.
Elect me to end an ongoing frivolous downtown planning process that has cost Berkeley tax payers $1.2 million. It shows no real tangible results and is still years away. New development is happening all the time under the current plan: Gaia, Brower Center, Trader Joe’s, Freight and Salvage, and the Arpeggio to name a few; yet much of the new commercial space remains vacant. We need to end insidious speculation over commercial rent (a result of skyscrapers, Measure R), release the hostages now so we can move forward with revitalization. It is 2010 not 2006 — the housing bubble already popped, lets build responsibly!!!
I have many friends that only come out of the hills to go to Saturday’s farmers market. Berkeley deserves a full time market hall that celebrates local and sustainable businesses similar to the Ferry building in SF, a plaza, more mixed use and better parking, but not skyscrapers that destroy an important sense of place. Let’s enhance the inherent qualities that make Berkeley a special place and encourage small businesses to grow and flourish. Measure R is inappropriate, it is a gift to corporate interests from a largely weak city council that disregards public input and lacks an understanding of Berkeley’s potential and the energy to create a downtown that is truly vibrant and a model for the future.
McCormick: I would argue that the schisms in Berkeley have formed even more than just two groups of “hills” and “flatlands”, and that in my own district we have clear divided interests among homeowners, UC Berkeley students, and members of the UC staff (especially those at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). Each district elects a council member with the sole task of representing the diverse needs of their constituents. If council members fail to do so, these divisions permeate the communities, creating the rivalries felt between the flats and the hills, as one example. At the government level, we cannot allow council to make decisions as a separate body without consideration of the needs of each neighborhood. This relates to traffic regulations and industry as well as school resources and maintenance of recreational facilities.
More needs to be done on a city-wide basis to provide events that will draw people together from throughout the community. Street fairs, concerts, sports games, and high school plays are all platforms where we see a diverse crowd coming together. With more talk about improved public transportation, it is conceivable that the city could provide shuttles to these events from all areas of the city. It goes without saying that downtown, in its current dilapidated state, is doing nothing to provide a meeting-ground for these divided neighborhoods and that finding a way to revitalize it should be one of our top priorities.
Wozniak: In District 8, which runs north to south from the Oakland border to across campus, the two towns are the Homeowners south of Derby Street and the Student Community to the north of Dwight Way. As one travels from the Oakland border north toward the campus, the average age decreases from 55 to 20. Each community has different and sometimes conflicting life styles. In particular, the Campus Student Community is characterized by high population densities, mostly renters, high turnover, short time horizons, low incomes, and a lack of institutional memory. The Homeowner community is characterized by lower population densities, longevity, high incomes, and strong neighborhood ties. Whereas the typical student lives 4-5 years in Berkeley, many homeowners have been residents for over 30 years.
For many years Berkeley residents have formed neighborhood disaster-preparedness and crime-watch groups. These groups have meetings (at least annually),emergency supplies, and disaster caches. In contrast, student neighborhoods did not have disaster supplies until recently when my Office worked with both the University, the Red Cross, and Berkeley’s Fire Department to implement a disaster-cache and training program in the area where the Greek houses and coops are located — adjacent to the Hayward fault. There are now a half-dozen disaster caches located in this area, and hundreds of students have taken disaster-training courses.
Another significant difference is the turnover rate of residents. The Homeowner communities have a few-percent turnover a year that is randomly distributed over the entire year. In contrast, more than half of the Student Community moves out of apartments, dorms, coops, or Greek house every May, and a comparable number move back in August. Because of this high turnover-rate and because students do not have access to trucks, the Student Community needs additional services to minimize dumping of old furniture and trash on the sidewalks. To address this problem, the City and the University instituted a Move-Out program that places 30 dumpsters in student neighborhoods to collect and recycle unwanted items during the last couple of weeks in May.
To improve relations between neighbors and students living south of campus, my Council Office facilitated the creation of a joint UC-City intern position. In 2009, the Student Assistant for Neighbor Relations was tasked to create a neighborhood-watch system and to foster better relations and communication among housed chapters and long-term residents. In 2010, my Council Office and UC CalGreeks at Cal worked together to secure funding for a Southside Community Relations, Safety, and Livability Liaison in order to continue this work in the upcoming school year.
During the last four years, Berkeley Project has brought thousands of UC students to work on hundreds of community-improvement projects in Berkeley neighborhoods. Due to the recent budget cutbacks at both the City and the University, the support for this great community service project has been reduced dramatically. I have committed to work with the student leaders of Berkeley Project to ensure that this great neighborhood-building project continues to thrive for the next four years and beyond.
Question 3: What would you recommend to get Telegraph Avenue on a positive track?
Maio: Telegraph can be a place people will once again want to visit if we can get the right mix of business to replace the retail that has gone to Amazon, create a pleasant and attractive street life where people want to be, and address the safety issue. In these times it is more imperative than ever to build on our partnership with the University, get some of the best minds involved, to begin to transform this gateway to UC.
Novosel: I am going to leave this one to George, Ces or Kriss to answer. I am concentrating on the continued revitalization of the Downtown which is the heart of my District 4.
Beier: 1. Establish a Telegraph Roundtable of all players – students, merchants, etc. – and put our heads together and try to solve this problem as a community. We’ve made a first step in this direction with our Telegraph Town Hall, which drew over 100 people to a standing-room-only crowd in the basement of Moes’. We need grass-roots based community leadership from the bottom up.
2. Improve Public Safety. District 7 continues to have the highest crime rates in the City. We need our leadership to admit that there is a problem before we can do something about it.
3. Ensure permanent funding for the new Joint UCPD and Berkeley PD Southside safety patrols. These new patrols are a first-ever effort of cooperation between the UCPD and BPD. Currently funded by a grant, we need to secure a permanent source of funding for this operation.
4. Transform People’s Park. People’s Park is not succeeding as a community park. We need to improve usage and expand safety improvements. A museum or café would bring people in the park, for example. Temporary soccer goals would encourage pick-up games by Cal students. Cameras, better lighting, expanding the meadow and emergency phones would improve safety. Telegraph will not improve until the park improves.
5. Reform the quota system. An out-dated quota system makes it harder to put in businesses. A coffee shop (such as Peet’s) needs a variance. A tattoo parlor doesn’t. A store that sells electric motor scooters is prohibited. The closures of Cody’s, Gorman’s Furniture, etc. tells us that this system, designed to protect businesses, hasn’t worked.
6. Expand drug/alcohol outreach. We need to do more to help the addicts on the street.
7. Review existing ordinances. We need to ensure that our ordinances affecting sitting, lying, urinating/defecating, dog cleanup, etc. are adequate. And, if they aren’t, we need to change them.
8. More permanent housing. We need long-term residents on the avenue who learn how to pull the levers of government to bring needed change to the area in which they live.
Worthington: In recent years I have focused much of my work on Telegraph Avenue on Public Safety issues. I sponsored Council items on Community Involved Policing, better BPD and UCPD coordination, City response to Campus Area Assaults, expanding Neighborhood Watch, and the Violence Prevention and Response Plan. (Multiple pages of these documents can be viewed at www.krissworthington.com.)
In the beginning of the decade I focused on property crime and did educational brochures and newsletters imploring residents to lock their doors and windows and cars. In the last half of the decade, as violent crime (assaults and robberies) was increasing, I focused proposals on that.
Through the efforts of many people, our crime statistics for Berkeley have gone down for the past eight years.
I also supported the construction of 1,000 beds of student housing in the Telegraph area and worked with students to pressure the University administration to build them. Currently new student housing is in progress at the Ana Head parking lot site.
I helped persuade the City Council to negotiate an agreement for a new clean public toilet as part of the upcoming project at Haste and Telegraph.
We succeeded at changing the permit process to make it easier for small businesses to move in to the Telegraph area. We can still do more.
Telegraph Avenue is an internationally renowned destination. Telegraph suffers when the City neglects and ignores its ecosystem as well as when there is hysterical overreaction. Pushing the problems off the commercial street into the residential area is not a good solution. Massive police presence that intimidates everyday customers is counterproductive. We need a sustained level of attention consistent with CIP and providing officers walking the beat and/or on bikes. When seasonal crowds arrive we need to be prepared to welcome them to town with a clear understanding of what is and is not acceptable, and we must get the personnel there to direct them without waiting for weeks until they cause serious problems.
We are overjoyed that Everybody Home counted a sizeable decline in our homeless population. While we celebrate the success of our wonderful non-profit services we must still do more. There is nothing charitable or generous about letting people get sick or die suffering on the streets and sidewalks.
We need to support the BFHP efforts for a comprehensive consolidated service center. We need a detox in Berkeley.
Physically, we need total repaving of Telegraph’s sidewalks (which don’t look clean now even when they were just cleaned), installation of pedestrian lighting, and re-striping of street vendor spaces.
We need the University Administration offering to sell the park to the City or Park District or non-profit group. They could invest the income in much needed funds for education.
If they are unwilling to sell, then we should seek to negotiate a management agreement with someone who knows how to run a park. The City Parks Department or the East Bay Regional Park District are both well run and could do an excellent job running this park. If the City Parks Director let any City park be neglected like People’s Park they would lose their job. Some people think the University is mismanaging the Park to create pressure for letting them build offices on the park.
While we celebrate eight years of City crime going down, we must keep pushing more. I am committed to working towards a zero-violence City.
Jones: Telegraph has a great asset — it is famous already, known and appreciated world-wide. It is full of beautiful classic architecture. I would like to work with the property owners to update the quota system and talk about ways to bring new small businesses into the area. I agree with the Telegraph merchants that BRT would be disastrous.
It is also important to note that Telegraph has improved from when I was young. Gone are the days of Chateau, the Mediteraneum of old where drugs were bought and sold inside, complete with an ATM, the Berlin Wall Cafe, Barrington Hall, and the Berkeley Inn. Now we have many successful clothing stores at the North end and a burgeoning vintage and designer clothing scene around Dwight including a popular Peet’s coffee.
Certain economic realities have hurt not only Telegraph but the whole country. People shop for books and music online now, people are spending less money in general, and the reality is that Telegraph attracts a certain crowd because it has a lot of smoke shops and tattoo parlors.
Peoples Park needs to be addressed in a joint fashion between the University (they are the landlord!!!) and the city. The mob mentality over these issues distresses me because there is no easy fix. Let’s work as a community with the University to find the right solutions.
I support a plaque at People Park, a city landmark, that spells out the historical context for students and tourists. I also support emphasizing the amazing historic buildings, built by some of greatest architects known to California, surrounding the park. These include Bernard Maybeck’s First Church of Christ Science, a National Landmark, the early Julia Morgan Baptist School, some of the nicest Victorians in town, including the the Woolley House an early farm house built in 1874 and the Anna-Head school, on the National Register, one of the first brown shingles in Berkeley with additions by Walter Ratcliff, and the Vedanta Center.
Additionally, let’s work to make People’s Park an expanded and comprehensive community garden space; perhaps in conjunction with surrounding Churches. This will reiterate Berkeley’s and the University’s commitment to sustainability in a way that strengthens the town-gown legacy and welcomes the community and neighbors.
McCormick: There needs to be a concentrated, separate and focused effort to work on this area of our city. It can only be assumed that the current council, for its lack of visible solutions, has given up on Telegraph Avenue and is waiting to write it off as a blighted area. I believe that this is not fair to the businesses there, that are struggling to stay open and have been a big part of the city’s character before the decline of Telegraph. Therefore, council needs to unanimously and proactively support improvement efforts for Telegraph Avenue immediately. And I would fully support such efforts.
Wozniak: To get Telegraph on a positive track, the City has to keep street people from taking over the sidewalks and intimidating customers, eliminate the quotas, and attract a mix of business which will draw more customers to the area. The City has to effectively deal with inappropriate street behavior and turn Peoples Park into a park where all Berkeley residents feel welcome. Cal has one of the most renowned business schools in the country. The City and the Telegraph merchants should engage Haas professors and students to develop a revitalization plan for Telegraph Avenue.
Question 4: Are current salary and benefits for city employees sustainable?
Maio: The City Council must deeply understand and address this in partnership with our labor force. Waiting until contracts come up is too late. We need to enter into this dialog now.
Novosel: As I understand, it is not the salaries that are the problem but the pension entitlements. This problem exists all across America and must be corrected so that these costs do not cripple us from providing and maintaining essential services to our population. I do not have a solution as of yet to Berkeley’s budget, except to say that entitlement costs must be more equitably shared between employer and employees.
Beier: Salary and benefits are currently not sustainable. Revenues (sales tax, transfer tax) are down. Salaries and benefits continue to rise. There’s no easy fix here. We need to improve our retail base, streamline government through technology, eliminate redundancies with the County, streamline the commission structure – do all the things we can before we make the harder choices regarding city contracts. A high salary and good benefits may be an unsustainable package. In general, I’d favor holding the line at salaries or reducing them before adjusting the pension benefit. Sacrificing now for longer term security – that should be the message to our employees (and to all Berkeleyans).
Worthington: My proven results in fiscal responsibility are evidenced in prior accomplishments as well as in my proposals for the future. I proposed and helped persuade the City Council to create a rainy day fund to capture departmental salary and benefit and program savings and thus set aside millions of dollars when the economy was booming, to save it for a rainy day. This helped us avoid layoffs and severe program cuts during the down years.
When there were questions about corporate overcharges of the City by over a quarter of a million dollars, I actively investigated. Berkeley received a refund of $289,000.
I opposed the illegal proposal to divert funding from employee YMCA health benefits, so I believe I have credibility with the unions. In fact I am endorsed by the Alameda County Central Labor Council, SEIU, Berkeley Firefighters Local #1227 and many more.
So far this election, I am the only candidate to put forward a realistic scenario to begin to address the long term cost of city pensions. Because I have succeeded at achieving fiscal responsibility in the above examples I think we can do it again.
Jones: The current riots in France are because the government is trying to cut back on its workers first. Current salaries and benefits may also be sustainable. I support top down pension reform starting with the hiring of a new City Manager with a restructured salary and pension plan. Such actions will send a strong message to the all City staff and unions about our intentions for comprehensive salary and pension reform from the top to the bottom.
McCormick: Current salary and benefits for city employees are taking up about 72% of the current general fund. This is clearly not sustainable, and to remedy it, there needs to be immediate action taken or our city will face bankruptcy in two years. First, we need to understand how current city salaries and benefits compare to other cities and jobs outside the public sector. Then we will need to modify compensation packages to come in line with those findings from this point forward.
Wozniak: I do not believe that the current salary and benefits packages for city employees are sustainable. In the last ten years, pension costs have risen from a few million per year to $27 million and are slated to increase to $40 million in another eighteen months. Due to the economic recession, revenue growth has stalled, while City personnel costs continue to increase, due to Berkeley’s very generous compensation packages. To get Berkeley on a sustainable financial path, City Employees need to pay a fair share of their retirement costs. In addition, a less generous retirement system needs to be considered for new employees, or the current system needs to be reformed for all employees. Reforms to be considered are: raise the retirement age, reduce the annual service credit; and base the retirement salary on an average of the three-year rather than the highest annual salary. If the current pension system is not reformed, Berkeley could go bankrupt like San Diego and Vallejo.
Berkeley needs to invest in efficiency so that services can be maintained with a smaller work force. We need to learn to do more with less. I have co-sponsored a resolution asking for a report from the City Manager asking for a savings analysis if we increase efficiency, make work environments safer, and decrease worker’s comp costs.
Finally, Berkeley needs to increase business revenues by simplifying zoning regulations to create a healthier business climate, where businesses can thrive.
Question 5: What do think needs to be done to achieve Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan?
Maio: Reducing the carbon footprint happens, largely, at the individual and home level but we need the infrastructure to support the effort. The City continues to work on our “corporate” front, as we have for many years, to reduce consumption through the physical plant. Our job is to continue to push regional, state and federal policy, help residents understand the imperative, give them the tools, help them to take advantage of them, and pursue the land use strategies such as those offered in Measure R, to get people out of their cars and into a more sustainable lifestyle. The effort has many fronts and we want to be working on the cutting edge of all of them.
Novosel: Continued building of decent and gracious housing along the Avenues and in the Downtown for both families and seniors. If we can encourage people to live closer together, use public transportation and use immediately available commercial and social services, we will go a long way toward reducing greenhouse gases and obtaining the goals of the Climate Action Plan.
Beier: We need a system to weatherize all the apartments in Berkeley. I’ve proposed a “Green Landlord” initiative which let’s residents know which landlords recycle, which have weatherized their units, which have solarized their roofs, etc. If we had a “green” certification system, landlords would be incentivized and renters would vote with their feet and select sustainable units.
Worthington: First and foremost we need to produce an estimate of environmental effectiveness and cost effectiveness for some of the hundreds of items in the plan. Not all 300 plus steps will have the same significance, and we need to focus resources on steps that offer practical results.
One of the reasons the Sierra Club gave for why I am “a stalwart environmental champion”, is my experience at winning Transit Operating Funds through my work at CMA and ACTA/ACTIA.
Indeed, nearly half of the greenhouse gas impacts identified in the Climate Action Plan come from transportation. It is therefore essential to move forward with things like my proposal for expanding Eco-Passes to all employees in the Telegraph and Downtown corridor, and to link the Telegraph Rapid Bus Corridor to the San Pablo Rapid and the Amtrak and possibly the new Berkeley Ferry.
Many of the 51 elected officials (including 4 County Supervisors and 8 Mayors) endorsing my re-election worked with me on creating Transportation and Land Use connections through regional agencies, or other environmental advocacy projects.
Jones: It is great how Berkeley has worked to give bikes equal standing on the roads and we still have work to do. Let’s get more Police on bikes. We need to value embodied energy of already built structures, ultimate recycling, and use it as a tool for real green action. I do not understand why the Berkeley City Council and BUSD want to tear down the Berkeley High Gym. The warm water pool area is already retrofitted and the other area could also be retrofitted to accommodate much needed class rooms and sports programs (such plans exist). I believe that if you live within a half mile of a school you should not be bused or driven to another school on the other side of town. I support UC management and other large employers issuing a comprehensive eco-pass for all employees to take public transportation. Finally I would like commissions to develop plans for a greywater ordinance.
McCormick: It would be good to know what progress has been made and what plans have been developed since Berkeley voted for the Climate Action Plan. This is another example where Berkeleyans vote for positive change and yet do not see results from their action — the website does not provide any tangible information on progress although it is “promised”. We need to mandate LEED compliance in all new development projects, reduce traffic and provide true alternative transportation options throughout the city, promote energy efficiency and provide real incentives for energy reduction, reuse and recycle.
Wozniak: Berkeley is making progress on implementing its Climate Action Plan (CAP). From 2000 – 2008, residential electricity and natural gas usages were down 8% and 15%, respectively. However, the City has a long way to go to meet its goal of reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) by 33% by 2020.
In the last two years, the City has received $6.5 million in grant funding to implement the CAP. Berkeley has the potential to be the model green city in the United States. I have strongly supported the city’s Climate Action Plan by helping the Berkeley Student Cooperatives (BSC) secure matching funds to perform comprehensive energy audits on twenty coop residences and federal grant funds to implement the audit recommendations of two coops, and by implementing recycling and composting programs at 13 Cal fraternities and all 12 sororities.
To reduce GHGs in the transportation section, Berkeley should give incentives to residents to purchase high-efficiency hybrid vehicles and electric cars. A simple incentive would be to give such vehicles a discounted parking rate in City parking garages. In addition, the City should facilitate the installation of charging centers and curbside recharging in front of residences.
Studies have shown that workers commuting to and from work can use more energy than the energy required to operate the building. To minimize environmental impacts, residential growth should be located near job centers and transportation infrastructure to reduce the energy spent on commuting from home to work. Since the Downtown area has a net job surplus, additional residents living downtown would enhance its economical vitality and help our local retail establishments and restaurants thrive.
Question 6: What is the single most important issue today in your district?
Maio: Aside from safety, which is a big one, the subset of that being traffic impacts, is the issue I hear most about in my district. The recent spate of armed robberies in North Berkeley has people on edge and the police are doing all they can to penetrate these cases and locate the perpetrators. Break-ins to cars, garages, homes, car thefts (crimes of property) are what we experience in general, and the police have developed some strategies to address these working with local neighborhood groups. Fortunately, District 1 has not had a great deal of violent crime. This new trend of armed robberies is worrisome and unfortunately, not unexpected, given the economic downturn. Traffic: Because District 1 (Gilman, Hopkins, Cedar, Rose) is the commute corridor from bedroom communities in points north, we get heavy commute traffic in both volume and speed throughout our local streets, which is of great concern to our neighborhoods. Families are reluctant to permit their children to play outside, their pets get run over, and their quality of life in general is diminished. Since we cannot use speed humps and traffic circles are both expensive and not the best solution, we are pursuing a modified speed table to help slow traffic. Of course, the more housing we can create near our major employers (UC and the Lab) the less these cars will be using our local streets.
Novosel: Our District’s residential neighborhoods are in great shape as a place to live and enjoy city life. As I canvass these neighborhoods and ask people what they think, I generally hear that they love living where they are, and that the scale of homes and amount of greenery and open space is appreciated.
So I think that the most important issue for the District becomes the role of the Downtown in their lives. That issue is how do we make the Downtown really become a full service commercial and social center serve their surrounding neighborhood residents. Commercially, it lacks clothing and shoe stores, a great bakery and a supermarket (although TJ’s serves it on its edge).
Socially, it is strong in its YMCA, Central Library, many educational institutions, entertainments, theaters, many “well being” centers and, soon, it will have a museum. I believe that it needs a public square for outdoor, public events in the center of its life. This space would serve for political, art, music, sports or food events and enliven our lives. I will champion turning Center Street into that place.
Please see my video which explains this idea and how we can accomplish it. I have the videos on my web site and also on YouTube and Facebook.
Beier: The decline of Telegraph Avenue and deteriorating neighborhood quality of life. About the first issue, many residents have given up and stopped shopping on Telegraph. We need to turn this around. This is why I’m running for office.
Worthington: Bringing a progressive perspective to every issue that comes up, and ensuring that we consider the real world impacts of proposals; such as addressing constituent services issues to help individual people and neighborhood groups with their City related problems; helping small businesses survive the poor economy (including encouraging landlords to be more reasonable); continuing my own efforts to diversify Council appointments and hiring of women, people of color and students, as well as lobbying others to do better; actively supporting our network of non-profit service providers; supporting the small arts groups and individual artists; allowing Veterans services and groups to use the Berkeley Veterans Memorial Building; and moving forward on the multitudinous projects on our work plan.
My top policy areas include: Environment, Labor, Racial Diversity, Affordable Housing, Public Safety, Women’s Issues, Seniors, Disabled, Education, Health and Social Services, and Transportation. While these policy areas interest me the most, I can and do put in lots of time on hundreds of other policy areas when we need to address them.
The election is about maintaining a progressive activist voice on the council who will rapidly research and initiate important policy issues and shepherd them through the City Management as well as the City Council.
Jones: The most important issue in District 8 is land use. It does not matter where you are in the District the quality of life is under attack. District 8 does not have a neighborhood advocate in City Hall. District 8 is threatened by:
-Further contamination of our watershed with a million sq ft of proposed development in Blackberry and Strawberry Canyon, on geotechnically unstable soils adjacent to the Hayward fault. There is ongoing litigation without City Hall’s support.
-A Sports Entertainment Complex with garage, directly on top of the Hayward fault; a fiscally irresponsible project that can only be paid for through additional extra capacity events such as rock concerts and major league soccer games. There continues to be ongoing litigation without City Hall’s support.
-A 45% traffic increase on Ashby due to 4th bore/Caldecott tunnel expansion.
-A proposed 62,000 sq ft Safeway expansion (nearly tripling the size of the current store, more appropriate alternatives exist) that may jeopardize many neighborhood businesses and bring even more traffic to our already congested thoroughfares.
For the last 8 years the public has been left to fend for themselves. Neighbors and citizens, myself included, have had organize and form coalitions to work for the best solutions to these issues. We continue to do so without help from our elected officials. I am running to be a neighborhood advocate and to work on behalf of the whole City. I am for development, but in a way that celebrates the context of Berkeley and that acknowledges the dangers posed by the Hayward fault that cuts our district in half.
McCormick: Indifference to neighborhood issues. This includes the city’s fiscal irresponsibility and the subsequent effect it has had on taxpayers in my district.
Wozniak: The most important issue is improving disaster preparedness. The Hayward fault runs through District 8, and wildfires periodically sweep down from the hills. This is why I helped institute a moratorium on new development on Panoramic Hill, helped fund a study of an emergency secondary access route, and helped locate a half-dozen new disaster caches in the south side of campus.