The first Berkeley City Council meeting of the season begins tonight, Sept. 15, at 5:30 p.m. with the mid-year crime report. Then, at 7 p.m., the regular meeting kicks off. On the action calendar: proposed revisions to the minimum wage ordinance, to increase it by 2020 to $19; a proposal to limit nicotine sales in Berkeley; an item on public campaign financing; and a letter of support for Berkeley High’s “Stop Harassing” campaign against sexual harassment.
CRIME IS UP IN 2015: MID-YEAR CRIME REPORT Berkeley police are reporting significant increases in serious crimes including robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries during the first half of 2015, compared to statistics from 2014. According to police, robberies increased 53%, home burglaries saw an 86% increase and aggravated, or more serious, assaults were up 44%. Police officials are set to present the annual mid-year crime report to the Berkeley City Council at a special session Tuesday beginning at 5:30 p.m. Read the Berkeleyside preview.
MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is set to consider a new proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage to $19 by 2020. The proposal, from the city’s Labor Commission, would increase and extend the current ordinance, which is set to boost the minimum wage to $12.53 by October 2016. The Labor Commission’s proposal suggests bumping up the 2016 increase to $13, followed by an increase to $14.50 in October 2017, $16 in 2018, $17.50 in 2019 and $19 in 2020. Berkeleyside attended a local business forum Monday about the minimum wage proposal.
TOBACCO AND NICOTINE SALES LIMITS Council is set to vote on new rules to require retailers selling electronic cigarettes and cartridges to be licensed, and create a buffer zone around schools and parks that would limit the sale of nicotine products. Council last voted on the issue in May, but will reconsider the subject Tuesday night, including an alternative approach. Staff has presented two options to council: (1) prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes, e-liquids and flavored tobacco products (including menthol) within 1,000 feet of schools and parks, effective Jan. 1, 2017; or (2) prohibit the sale of all tobacco products (conventional and electronic) within 600 feet, effective immediately for new retailers, and on Jan. 1, 2019 for existing ones. Read the staff report, and past Berkeleyside coverage.
PUBLIC FINANCING OF CANDIDATES Council is set to consider a proposal to create a fund to help pay for election campaigns. The proposal originated from MapLight and the League of Women Voters for Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville, and came to the city from Councilman Kriss Worthington. The proposal would allow the city to collect $4 per year from residents, and that money would go into a fund that would provide public financing for the offices of mayor, council members, city auditor, School Board members, and Rent Board commissioners. The Fair Elections Fund would also pay for administrative and enforcement costs related to the campaign financing program. From the staff report: “Eligible participating candidates would receive payment from the Fair Election Fund equal to six-hundred percent (600%) of the amount of qualified contributions received by the candidate during the election,” though each office has a limit as to how much the candidate could receive. Read more in the staff report.
SUPPORT OF ANTI-SEXUAL HARASSMENT CAMPAIGN AT BHS Council will consider adopting a resolution from the city’s Peace & Justice Commission in support of efforts at Berkeley High School related to ending sexual harassment and sexual violence. In 2014, a student group launched “BHS Stop Harassing” with a goal to educate its peers about inappropriate behavior and where they can seek help — and to improve what it perceives to be the vastly inadequate sexual harassment policy and preventive education at Berkeley High. Earlier this year, the federal Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into whether the Berkeley Unified School District inadequately responded to sexual harassment claims at Berkeley High, creating a “hostile environment on the basis of sex.” If adopted by council, the resolution would express support for the student group and “its efforts to better the climate at Berkeley High School and throughout the school district to proactively prevent sexual harassment through modeling, education, training and availability of relevant resources as well as a comprehensive plan to resolve the types of numerous incidents of sexual harassment within the school district that have taken place if and when they continue to take place.” See the resolution, and catch up on complete Berkeleyside coverage.
Consent calendar and other items
BUILDING SAFETY In July, council voted unanimously to require periodic inspections of all existing weather-exposed exterior building elements, including balconies, stairs and decks. Those elements now need to be inspected every three years. The new policies followed the deadly balcony collapse in June that killed six and injured seven in downtown Berkeley. Tonight, Sept. 15, council will take the second vote, which ratifies the new ordinance, though it went into effect immediately because it was an “urgency ordinance.”
MANDATORY STORMWATER INFRASTRUCTURE Councilman Jesse Arreguín would like the city to create a new law to require large residential developments of at least 100 units, and commercial developments that result in 5,000 square feet of new or replaced impervious surface, to build “green stormwater infrastructure” and water conservation features into new projects. Those features could include permeable pavement, bio swales, green roofs, rain gardens, cisterns and other rain catchment systems. Arreguín said in his report that the proposal is particularly important in light of California’s ongoing drought. Read the report.
BANNING TOBACCO SALES TO THOSE UNDER 21 Councilman Arreguín has a proposal on the consent calendar to ask the city to create new laws that would prohibit the sale of tobacco and related paraphernalia to anyone under 21. Similarly, council members Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore want to raise the minimum age for the purchase of tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21. The items, if passed, would need to go before the city’s Community Health Commission, which would craft the ordinances and send them back to council. According to officials, other cities that have passed similar ordinances have seen declines in youth smoking. Nearly 90% of tobacco users start before the age of 21, according to the CDC. (Editor’s Note: This item was clarified after publication to reflect that Capitelli and Moore authored the second item, not Arreguín.)
MILK OR WATER WITH YOUR HAPPY MEAL? Councilman Kriss Worthington has asked the city to look into requiring restaurants to offer, by default, milk or water with meals intended for children. Worthington would like the city’s Sugar Sweetened Beverage Panel of Experts, created after the community’s successful campaign to establish a soda tax, to assess the issue. According to his brief report, “Cities can promote good health for their youngest residents and support parents in purchasing healthy beverages for their children by adopting a policy that requires restaurants to offer water and low fat milk as a default option for consumers.” Read the proposal.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS MONTH Council is set to approve a proclamation naming October “Emergency Preparedness Month.” On a related note, on Oct. 17, the city is set to hold its annual disaster preparedness exercise. Read more about disaster preparedness in past Berkeleyside coverage.
2016 MEETING SCHEDULE Council is set to adopt its 2016 meeting schedule. See it here.
COUNCIL MOVE TO BONAR? The Berkeley City Council is exploring a potential move to West Berkeley to the Berkeley Unified School District’s meeting room on Bonar Street. In August, the School Board considered the request, and voted to hold a neighborhood meeting to allow community members to give feedback about the proposal. The board agreed to have that meeting Sept. 15, but has rescheduled it to Sept. 24 due to scheduling conflicts, district spokesman Mark Coplan said today. Stay tuned for updates. See Berkeleyside’s story on the School Board’s consideration of the move.
Council meets next Sept. 29. See the full 2015 meeting schedule. Be sure to check the agenda page to find out if a special worksession will precede the regular meeting. Communications related to council meetings can be found through the city’s Records Online portal.
Berkeleyside often covers council meetings live on Twitter. Others sometimes do the same and the discussion can get spirited. See council coverage on Twitter marked with #berkmtg. Follow along in real-time here, and tag your tweets with #berkmtg to join in.The Berkeley City Council meets Tuesday nights at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The special session starts Sept. 15 at 5:30 p.m. and the regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. Council agendas are available online here. Watch the meetings online here.
You do not need a Twitter account to follow along. Just click here.
Council-related Twitter handles:
@LindaMaio (District 1)
Darryl Moore @BerkCouncil (District 2)
@JesseArreguin (District 4)
Laurie Capitelli @berkcap (District 5)
Kriss Worthington @k__worthington (District 7)
Lori Droste @loridroste (District 8)
Learn more about the Berkeley City Council and how to connect with local representatives via the city website.
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If you like the variety of news on Berkeleyside, you will like the variety of voices we present at Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas. Early bird tickets with early bird prices are on sale through Sept. 20 for the festival in downtown Berkeley on Oct. 16-17. Click here to see the list of speakers.