Last month, the City Council held a special meeting to adopt legislation raising the minimum wage from its current level of $11 an hour to $15 by 2018. Specifically the ordinance would raise the minimum wage to $13.75 by October 1, 2017, and then to $15 by October 1, 2018.
Before this development, the minimum wage was set to increase to $12.53 this October, with no further increases thereafter. This agreement was reached after weeks of negotiations between the business community and labor, and will help prevent a confusing and divisive battle with two competing measures on the November ballot.
I am delighted that the City Council has finally voted to raise the wage to $15. I was the original co-sponsor of Mayor Bates’ proposal to study a municipal minimum wage, and consistently advocated for a pathway to $15 an hour. This compromise will help working families who are struggling to live in Berkeley because of rising housing costs. Raising the wage will help Berkeley close its growing income gap and address the huge disparities in wealth and opportunity that exist in our city.
Of course, this is not the end of this story. I will continue to advocate for a living wage in Berkeley.
While the recently adopted ordinance does include a cost of living increase starting in 2019, we need to make sure that our minimum wage is enough for families to live in our city, with a rising cost of living.
While I am a strong proponent of raising the minimum wage, I also recognize the challenges that local businesses face. Our small businesses like workers also face rising rents, and are struggling to stay afloat. I believe we can raise the minimum wage AND support our local businesses. Recently I introduced a Small Business Package to the City Council, which would create a Small Business Office, modeled after San Francisco’s successful program. The Small Business Office would be a one-stop shop for businesses to get permits, and provide help to navigate the city’s often cumbersome process. In addition, I have also proposed increasing our City’s Buy Local purchasing preference, removing permitting barriers to new businesses and exploring tax incentives. I will continue to fight for our working families and our small local businesses, both of which make Berkeley such an amazing place.
AN OP-ED BY BERKELEY HIGH STUDENT ABBY STECKEL
In my Berkeley High classes, the term “Berkeley Bubble” is used to describe the set of social and political values that people raised in Berkeley inherit. This concept speaks both to pride in the city’s difference from the rest of the U.S. as well as a sameness among the ideologies of residents. But what does it really mean to have Berkeley values, and are they upheld by citizens and city officials? I discussed these questions with a group of high school students involved in local government through the Berkeley Youth Commission. Here are excerpts of their responses.
Anna Goodman, commissioner and poll volunteer:
The events of the 1960s such as the Free Speech Movement helped to define Berkeley values as very liberal. In the city, there’s a real commitment to diversity. Also, there’s a focus on renewable energy and environmentalism.
However, I think the values from the 60s aren’t as prevalent as they were because a lot of people from that era aren’t around anymore and because there’s a lot of new people coming in with the tech boom. The Berkeley political dynamic is shifting. People move here for different reasons now, like for the jobs and not the culture.
Miles Kelekian, commissioner:
Two main values associated with Berkeley are expression and acceptance. In a place with a wealth of unique people and ideas, there is a culture of sharing individual perspectives.
When it comes to analyzing the city’s government, I think the most important point to focus on in regards to representation is whether those who have concerns feel they can express their beliefs. As I said, Berkeley is a culture-infused city well known for the communication of individual opinions. The fact that our government can respect this free expression and use it to bring debates to the table speaks well of the city.
Angelia Rodriguez, commission chair:
A few major Berkeley values are inclusion, freedom of speech, individuality, and respect. There is respect for different cultures, different perspectives, and different backgrounds. Someone with Berkeley values knows how to respect what other people’s opinions are, even if they conflict with their own. They know how to listen, learn, and act on those unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable opinions.
The city has a legacy of free speech and activism. Today, our politics live up to that legacy to a certain extent, but officials can sometimes let their egos get in the way of their political decisions, and sometimes don’t know how to take criticism. I think freedom of expression remains a major value in Berkeley. However, I feel like one voice that hasn’t been heard or valued enough is the perspective of the homeless people.
These commentaries represent the thoughts of just three Berkeley residents, and are much more editorial than empirical. However, the common value which all of the commissioners referenced was freedom of expression. Part of this value is sharing ideas and challenging beliefs that are otherwise taken for granted. Berkeley values are what they are because they come out of constant challenging, and we shouldn’t be content simply to have inherited them and stay comfortably within the “Berkeley Bubble.” We need to keep questioning and reevaluating our city’s values - it’s how we keep moving forward.
IN THE NEWS
Homeless Storage Facility Pilot Program
Last year, City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting items larger than two square feet from being placed on a commercial sidewalk. In order for this ordinance to be enforced, the City must implement a storage facility with at least 50 lockers. Last month, City Staff announced that they will be starting a pilot program at the basement of Old City Hall. To hear the concerns of neighbors, I held a community meeting on August 29th to discuss the pilot program. You can read the complete notes from the meeting here.
I will be introducing an item on September 27th which will ask the Council to take a vote on the location of the facility. After hearing the clear consensus of the neighborhood, I agree that we should pursue another location for the storage program.
Off the Grid Returns to Berkeley
After several spells in recent years, Off the Grid will be returning to Berkeley in its new downtown location. Located on Allston Way between Milvia St and MLK Jr Way (on the south side of Civic Center Park), Off the Grid will provide a rotating range of food trucks for lunch on Sundays from 11am-3pm, starting on September 11th. Off the Grid runs 70 food truck sites, including 14 in the East Bay. Previous Berkeley locations include Gourmet Ghetto, North Berkeley Bart, and Telegraph.
Homelessness in Berkeley: Panel Discussion
Saturday, September 10, 2pm-4pm
Central Library, 3rd Floor Community Meeting Room
This discussion will provide a broad background on homelessness before moving on to a description of current solutions and how they can be applied to homelessness in Berkeley. Moderated by nationally-recognized advocate Dr. Julie Winkelstein, the panel will include scholars, local service providers, case workers, and formerly homeless people. There will be an opportunity for Q&A as well as a panelist reception with tabling by various organizations. For more information, call (510) 981-6150.
Sunday, September 11, 10am-6pm
Solano Ave, Albany/Berkeley
This lively street festival is a Berkeley/Albany tradition and the largest event of its kind in the East Bay. This year’s stroll kicks off with a 75 entry parade, and features mechanical rides, 50 entertainers, 50 food booths, 150 craft vendors, and 150 government and nonprofit agency booths. Whether it’s your first stroll or your 50th, this family event is not to be missed!
Youth Mental Health First Aid Training
Saturday, September 17, 8am-5pm
Berkeley Adult School, 1701 San Pablo Ave, Room 101
This daylong course is intended to teach adults who work regularly with youth ages 12 to 18 to identify mental health symptoms and de-escalate crisis and non-crisis situations using a five-step plan. Participants will receive a certificate upon completion. To RSVP, click here.
Town Hall on Alta Bates Closure
Wednesday, September 21, 4pm-7pm
Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St
Last April, Sutter Health confirmed that they intend on closing Alta Bates Hospital between 2018-2030. Alta Bates is the only acute care hospital and emergency room between Richmond and North Oakland. Its closure would negatively affect hundreds of thousands of people along the I-80 Corridor. The California Nurses Association is hosting a town hall meeting alongside local officials including Councilmember Arreguin, and local organizations to discuss this important issue. All are encouraged to attend this important meeting. RSVP on Facebook.
Berkeley Farmer’s Market String Band Contest
Saturday, September 24, 11am-2:30pm
Civic Center Park
This free to enter and watch contest is part of the five-day Berkeley Old Time Music Convention. It will host 15 competing bands as well as an 11:30 performance by Manning Music Fiddlers and a music jam with Skillet Licorice. Also on Saturday, the convention will offer a concert for kids and parents at the Berkeley Public Library and square dancing at Ashkenaz, a local dance venue. For more information about the events in the convention series, click here.
UPCOMING COUNCIL MEETINGS
Old City Hall Council Chambers, 2134 MLK Jr Way
Old City Hall Council Chambers, 2134 MLK Jr Way
Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 7pm-11pm
Old City Hall Council Chambers, 2134 MLK Jr Way
Berkeley Deep Green Building Initiative
Community Hospital Overlay Zone
- Approval of Homeless Storage Location
For a complete list of Council agendas and minutes, click here.