February 2016 Newsletter
2016 is off to a productive start and our office has already achieved several legislative victories on issues important to Berkeley residents. At the January 26th City Council meeting, the Council voted unanimously to move forward with raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 years old. In addition, the City Council finally took up reforms to crowd control policies in response to allegations of excessive police force on December 6, 2014 (more details below).
At our last meeting on February 9th, the Council adopted several proposals our office sponsored including: adoption of a resolution supporting worker cooperatives and urging staff to develop incentives for coops; referring the recommendations of the Berkeley Homeless Task Force to the budget process; and amendments to the city’s Demolition Ordinance to protect tenants and mitigate the loss of affordable housing.
At our February 23rd Council meeting, the Council will take up proposals to increase pedestrian safety at Addison/Oxford; install permanent restrooms in City parks; address increased aircraft noise; and adopt regulations regarding tenant buyout agreements.
My office is hard at work crafting a package of legislative proposals to bring forward in the coming months to address critical challenges: housing affordability, homelessness, sustainability, preventing tenant displacement and supporting small businesses. We welcome your ideas on how we can improve Berkeley - please email them to JArreguin@cityofberkeley.info.
Finally, our office runs not only on the work of my staff, but with the help of dedicated interns from UC Berkeley and even Berkeley High School. Abby Steckel, an intern from Berkeley High, will be publishing op-eds in this monthly newsletter on student perspectives. She will be conducting interviews with student leaders and activists on their views of life in District 4 and Berkeley. You can read the introductory installment below.
IN THE NEWS
Council Takes Action on Police Review Commission Report
Over a year after the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley, the City Council took action on the Police Review Commission report regarding revisions to the police department’s crowd control policies. My office in February 2015 authored proposals to initiate an independent investigation by the Police Commission of the December 6, 2014 police response and to look at changes to our crowd control policies.
Council voted to begin the process of implementing the recommendations of the PRC report, having the Berkeley Police Department and the PRC continue to work towards a consensus. Updates on the implementation plan will be provided to Council every 90 days.
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Opens in Downtown Berkeley
The long-awaited opening of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive took place on Sunday, January 31st. Located at the intersection of Center Street and Oxford Street, the museum is open Wednesday-Sunday from 11am-9pm. This new downtown destination will greatly contribute to the revitalization of downtown by supporting local businesses and enhancing the downtown's role as a center for arts and culture. Visit www.bampfa.org to find out about current exhibitions and film screenings.
Updates on Zika Virus
In response to the rapid spread of the Zika Virus throughout Central and South America, the City of Berkeley has been coordinating with regional, state, and national agencies to address the situation. The Zika Virus, which is spread primarily through Aedes mosquitoes (not usually found in the Bay Area) can cause microcephaly in infants - a condition that causes smaller head size, resulting in underdeveloped brains. There has yet to be any local transmissions of the virus in California. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends people who are pregnant postpone travel to affected areas. For more information, visit the CDC site.
YOUTH PERSPECTIVES: AN OP-ED BY BERKELEY HIGH STUDENT ABBY STECKEL
Berkeley High is a relatively large school. Every day, approximately 3500 teenagers attend classes, spend time with friends, play sports, and participate in clubs and other extracurricular activities. These students make up a vibrant population within the city of Berkeley, and in fact, the BHS campus often seems like a city in itself. Similar to neighborhoods, five different Small Learning Communities foster student learning according to their different values, with individual curricula for each. Moreover, the student governing body, with various presidents, vice presidents, commissioners, and committee members, draws many parallels with the branches and offices of city government.
Unfortunately, BHS also has institutional problems that run deep through the school and surrounding community. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and other types of discrimination and prejudice are in no way limited to the “real world” of voting, tax-paying adults. This is why arguably the most important component of the city of Berkeley High is the groups of student activists and advocates who are committed to improving the school and making it a safer space for everyone. This Op-Ed column will be focused on recognizing and discussing these individuals and groups and the issues they are working on. These short columns will be one more way of acknowledging and raising awareness about the problems that students in the heart of District 4 are facing, and the ideas that they are bringing to the table to address them.
Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
Wednesday - Sunday, 11am-9pm
2155 Center St.
The newly renovated Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is now open. This month, you can browse the “Architecture of Life” gallery exhibition, attend the African Film Festival, listen to an artist lecturer, or simply explore the new facility. $12 general admission, free for 18 and under. Learn more at their website.
Dine out for the Schools!
Berkeley Unified School District Fundraiser
Thursday, February 18th
More than 15 participating dining venues across town will donate a portion of the proceeds from every meal to the BUSD Gardening and Cooking Program, which provides healthy garden education for Berkeley elementary, middle, and high school students. Raffle tickets with food-related prizes will also be sold. This is a great opportunity to sample delicious food while supporting local schools. Please visit here for more information.
Poverty and Homeless Symposium
Saturday, February 20th, 10am-3:30pm
155 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley
“Unseen and Unheard: The Many Faces of Poverty”. This is the theme for the 8th annual Poverty and Homeless symposium, which will aim at dispelling misconceptions on homelessness by providing perspectives that are often ignored or forgotten. I will be making a presentation at this event at 2pm. Breakfast and lunch is provided. I hope to see you at this informative and stimulating event.
Berkeley High School’s “The Vagina Monologues”
February 20, 21, 27, and 28, 7pm Saturdays, 5pm Sundays
Florence Schwimley Little Theater, 1920 Allston Way
Come to Berkeley High School’s 15th annual production of the classic feminist work of theater. This student-performed and directed production is an inspiring representation of talent, and is not to be missed. Tickets are $5 - 8 for students and seniors, and $12 - 15 for general admission, with all proceeds going towards non-profit organizations like BAYWAR and V-Day. Please visit here for more information.
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden
Wednesday, March 2, 9am-5pm
200 Centennial Drive
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden provides free admission every first Wednesday of the month. Stroll along peaceful paths and enjoy the diverse plant-life of different geographical and climate regions. Learn more at their website.
Racial Justice and the Fight for Public Schools
Thursday, March 3rd, 5:30pm
Longfellow Auditorium, 1500 Derby Street
Join School Board Member Ty Alper and educator and activist Brian Jones on a discussion about racism and the struggle for educational justice in the era of corporate education reform. Pizza will be provided at 5:30pm, with the forum starting at 6pm.
Jesse’s Office Hours at Downtown Farmers Market
Saturday, March 5th, 10am-1pm
Center Street between Milvia Street and MLK Jr Way
As your City Councilmember, I want to hear from you about what you care about, and what the City should be doing, and what it can improve. As a way to connect with residents on a regular basis, I will be holding office hours at the Downtown Berkeley Farmers Markets each month. During these open Office Hours, we hope you will share your thoughts, comments, and concerns, or just stop by to say hello. We look forward to learning from you how to make District 4 even better.
Tax Workshop at South Branch Library
Every Friday through April 15th, 10:30am-1:30pm
1901 Russell Street, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch
Volunteers from AARP will offer free tax assistance. Appointments are available every hour; walk-in clients may be served if there is an open time slot.
UPCOMING COUNCIL ITEMS
Tuesday, February 16th, 5:30pm
Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way
- Worksession on Affordable Housing
Tuesday, February 23rd, 7pm
Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way
For more information, and updates on schedules and agendas, visit the City Council Agenda page.
Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin