November 2015 Newsletter
As the holidays are approaching, our office continues to work on important issues facing the community. Several items are being developed while just as many are coming before the Council this month. This includes raising the minimum wage, providing expanded services for our homeless as recommended by the Berkeley Homeless Taskforce, and revising the Rental Housing Safety Program. On December 1st, several affordable housing items will be heard as well. As always we encourage you to join us and voice your opinion. Details on why these items are important as well as upcoming Council agendas can be found below.
Some events are coming up that our office will be attending, including the Veterans Day Event and the Berkeley Housing Crisis Teach-in. We hope to see some of you then. Also, remember the Berkeley Half Marathon is coming to town, so be sure to read how the route might impact you.
City Councilmember, District 4
IN THE NEWS
Racial Incident at Berkeley High School
Last week, a racist message and threat was found on a computer at the Berkeley High School library. The next day, over 1,000 students, faculty, and supporters marched throughout Berkeley in support of Black Lives Matter. This kind of hate speech is not allowed in our city and will not be tolerated. I was moved by the students who spoke out against this offensive act and to demand accountability and an end to racism in our schools and community. I plan on continuing to push forward policies to address these issues.
Child Abduction Attempts in Berkeley
Over the past month, there have been five reported child abduction attempts. Three were reported in the immediate area of Willard Middle School at Telegraph Ave between Derby St and Stewart St, and an additional two near the intersection of College Ave and Webster St. Based on witness testimony, all five cases are believed to be related. The suspect is described as a Latino male in his late 20s to early 30s, with dark hair. The suspect’s vehicle is described as a black full sized cargo van with no side or rear windows. Please call 911 or 510-981-5900 with any immediate sighting.
Veterans Day Event
Wednesday, November 11th at 11:11am
Veterans Memorial Building, 1931 Center Street
The City of Berkeley, in conjunction with the Berkeley Historical Society, Options Recovery Services, Berkeley Disabled American Veterans, and Country Joe McDonald will be hosting a Veterans Day event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Berkeley Vietnam War Memorial. All are welcome to attend.
Berkeley Half Marathon Street Closures
Sunday, November 22nd 7:30am – 12:30pm
The Third Annual Berkeley Half Marathon will be racing through town shortly and to accommodate their route, multiple street closures and detours have been scheduled. Cars parked on streets closed off for the event are at risk of being ticketed and towed. A complete list of street closures and traffic information can be found here. The final course is subject to change.
Berkeley Housing Crisis Teach-In
Sunday, November 22nd from 2:00-4:30pm
Berkeley Arts Festival Space, 2133 University Avenue
Come learn from expert speakers how we can prevent the displacement of lower income residents, get funding for affordable housing, and what local officials can do to help. This event is sponsored by the Ad Hoc Committee for a Progressive Berkeley, with support from Berkeley Citizens Action, the Berkeley Tenants Union, Berkeley NAACP, and the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition. For more information visit here.
UPCOMING COUNCIL ITEMS
The Berkeley City Council will hold a special meeting tonight (November 10th) on raising the minimum wage. The meeting will take place at 7 pm at Longfellow School Auditorium, 1500 Derby Street. The Council will consider an ordinance proposed by the Labor Commission to make the minimum wage a living wage through a series of increases leading to $19/hr by 2020 after which the minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation each year. The proposal also would include enhanced paid sick leave for workers and would deal with tip theft through service charges.
Last year the Council adopted a local minimum wage of up to $12.53 by October 2016. I advocated however for a minimum wage of $15/hr to provide greater economic security for local workers.
Berkeley is one of the most expensive cities in the Bay Area and has the largest wealth gap. According to a recent study by the city office of Economic Development only 33% of those who work in Berkeley live in our city. Rising housing costs are the main reason for this jobs-housing imbalance. In addition nationally the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation and wages for working and middle class families have stagnated while the profits for the top 1% have increased.
Berkeley has an opportunity through increasing the minimum wage to lift everyone up. I strongly support a minimum wage of at least $15/hr along with paid sick leave and the other improvements the Labor Commission is proposing. Stay tuned for information on the City Council's action tonight.
Revisions to the Rental Housing Safety Program
14 years ago, the City Council established the Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) to provide information to both landlords and tenants on code requirements and safety inspections. Due to limited resources, most inspections are not proactive, which has resulted in an increase in safety hazards that go unnoticed until it is too late.
In light of several apartment fires in recent years and the deadly balcony collapse, it is clear that more proactive and targeted inspections are needed to ensure the safety of tenants. There are eight main points to the overhaul of the RHSP that include prioritizing proactive inspections, increasing fees to hire more inspectors, enforcing safety checklists, exploring the creation of a mandatory inspection program, and making mold and mildew a public nuisance. Visit here for more information.
Homeless Task Force Recommendations
The City Council will be voting on moving forward with the Tier One Recommendations of the Berkeley Homeless Task Force (BHTF). After the defeat of Measure S in 2012, our office convened the first meeting of the BHTF made up of residents, stakeholders, homeless advocates and experts. For over two years they have worked on finding impactful solutions. These recommendations can be immediately implemented and make a difference now, while we work on moving forward long-term solutions:
- Expand City Homeless Outreach and Mobile Crisis Teams
- Increase Funds for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)
- Provide More Public Restrooms and Warming Shelters
- Create Storage Space for Homeless
Two additional council items will be presented to the Council at this meeting that suggest we put more laws on the books that criminalize the homeless and continue the cycle of poverty and trauma, which is not the answer. Attend this important meeting with us and show the Council that the BHTF Tier 1 Recommendations are the right set of solutions for our city. The full report from the Homeless Task Force, submitted June 2015, can be found here.
December 1st (Originally Scheduled for October 27th)
Our City continues to face skyrocketing rents, forcing many residents – some who have lived here for generations – to move out. The housing crisis is further exacerbated by the shrinking funds for construction of new affordable housing. Several items on this agenda involve funding for various affordable housing projects. These proposals are not guaranteed to pass, so we need as much community support as possible. We encourage you to attend the Council meeting and speak in support of funding safe and affordable housing and reforming housing policy. If you cannot make it, please sign this petition.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Longfellow Middle School, 1500 Derby St, 7pm.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, 7pm.
- ZAB Appeal: Demolition of 2631 Durant Ave
- Implementation of Homeless Task Force Recommendations
- Revising the Rental Housing Safety Program
- Preventing Evictions for Minor Offenses
- Homeless Criminalization