October 2016 Newsletter
An alarming increase in shootings, including the second homicide of the year, has left many Berkeley residents shaken in recent weeks. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. No one should ever lose their family member due to a shooting. I am very concerned about this increase in crime and I am committed to doing what is needed to support our Police Department in addressing this increase in shootings. The Berkeley Police Department has been stepping up patrols in hotspots where the recent shootings have occurred, and will prioritize investigations into the recent shootings. We must remain vigilant and work together as a community to stop the violence. To remain up to date on any police activity, sign up for Nixle alerts.
Last month, the Police Department provided its bi-annual crime report to the City Council. During the first six months of this year, crime has decreased by 8.3% compared to last year, and historically, the crime rate is at a fifty year low. However, sexual assaults continue to rise (a trend that is also seen nationally). In many of these cases, the suspect is known to the victim. BPD is working closely with the University of California Police Department to address the spike, and campus and student groups have been raising awareness on this issue. Of course, more work needs to be done to lower the occurrences of these crimes.
During my eight years on Council, I have pushed forward multiple pieces of legislation to reform and improve our police department. In 2014, I proposed that staff should research the possibility of having police have body-worn and dashboard cameras, a proposal that is currently in process. In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, I successfully led efforts to reform police responses to protests. More recently, I have proposed to increase the number of beat officers in the Downtown area to address concerns of increased crime from both residents and businesses. We need to increase our police force to effective address crime and truly implement community policing. Berkeley has strong gun control laws, but we should also look at creating a gun buyback program.
With the recent resignation of Chief Michael Meehan, BPD is now under the leadership of Acting Chief Andrew Greenwood, who is a lifelong resident of Berkeley and has served in BPD for 31 years. I am confident in his ability to lead the department, and I hope this transition provides us with an opportunity to reevaluate the needs and priorities of the department to better serve the community.
AN OP-ED BY BERKELEY HIGH STUDENT ABBY STECKEL
The tax that provides 20 percent of Berkeley Unified School District funding is up for renewal on November 8. On the ballot as Measure E1, the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program was first created by Berkeley voters in 1986, and has been approved, with modifications for expansion and renewal, three times since. It needs a two-thirds vote to pass this fall.
The measure would require owners of all taxable buildings to pay an annual 37 cents per developed square foot of property for the next eight years, with cost-of-living adjustments and an exemption for low income seniors. The owner of a 1200 square foot home would owe 444 dollars annually.
Currently, BSEP is responsible for one third of BUSD teacher salaries. This is because 66 percent of the tax revenue goes towards class size reduction, expanded course offerings, and instructional support. The tax also funds school libraries, visual and performing arts programs for 4th through 8th graders, instructional technology, school counseling, family outreach, and school site programs. These site programs divide funding between schools in order to address specific learning needs on each campus.
Gaurav Ghosal, Berkeley High School sophomore and member of the school’s BSEP site council, emphasized the value of the tax to all of Berkeley, not just teachers and students. According to Ghosal, all citizens have an interest in the special fund because it supports students gaining more skills and being better prepared to enter the workforce and give back to the community.
Endorsed by every elected official in Berkeley and with no rebuttal on the ballot, Measure E1’s prospects look bright. Of course, taxpayer cost may be raised as a concern. Nevertheless, according to Petra Silvey-Karvounis, BHS Student Director on the School Board, this financial concern pales in the face of the magnitude of the programs and services that BSEP supports. “It feels like a pretty necessary bill… If we lost the BSEP money, we’d go into crisis mode,” she said.
Ghosal closed, “Students are the future, and they will be able to contribute much more effectively if they receive a high quality education.” Measure E1 aims to provide it.
IN THE NEWS
Balcony Safety Bill Signed by Governor
15 months after the deadly balcony collapse at a downtown Berkeley apartment complex, a new state law was signed that will increase transparency over construction contractors and their safety record. Specifically, the law requires contractors to disclose previous felonies relating to construction related defects. Segue Construction Inc., which was the primary contractor for the construction of Library Gardens, had previously been involved in multiple lawsuits over faulty construction.
Discounts on Solar Energy
To help support the goals of the Climate Action Plan, the City of Berkeley is participating in Bay Area SunShares, a program that provides discounts for solar photovoltaic systems and electric and zero emission vehicles to homeowners and drivers. Visitwww.bayareasunshares.org to get no-cost solar bids from the three participating solar companies and/or discount codes for zero-emission vehicles. This limited time offer is valid through November 4th. More information will be provided at a workshop at the Tarea Hall Pittman/South Berkeley Library on October 5th at 5pm.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration
Saturday, October 8, 10am-6pm
MLK Jr Civic Center Park (MLK Jr Way/Center St)
In 1992, Berkeley became the first City to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The 24th Annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration will focus on the continued struggles of Indigenous Peoples, specifically at the continuing resistance at Standing Rock against the North Dakota Access Pipeline. The event brings greater understanding to the people of Berkeley regarding Native cultures and the enormous contributions they have made, and continue to make, to world culture.
2nd Annual Celebrando Comunidad en la Placita
Sunday, October 9, 12pm-4pm
MLK Jr Civic Center Park (MLK Jr Way/Center St)
The Cesar Chavez Dolores Huerta Commemorative Committee will be hosting the 2nd annual Celebrando Comunidad en la Placita, celebrating Latino culture during Latino Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15). The event includes an amateur salsa contest, which you can participate in here.
Backyard Chickens @ Central Library
Saturday, October 15, 2-4pm
3rd Floor Community Meeting Room, Central Library
Presented by Carine Elkhoraibi and the UC Davis Department of Poultry Health and Food Safety Epidemiology, this free workshop and Q&A session is for anyone interested in raising backyard chickens or already doing so. Participants will discuss topics such as chicken behavior, coop design, and how to raise poultry humanely, legally, and happily.
Berkeley Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 15, 11am-4pm
Cedar Rose Park, 1300 Rose St
Come out to the first ever Berkeley Harvest Festival to celebrate fall in Berkeley! The family-friendly event will include a Food Exhibition with crop and seed swaps, guided tours of community gardens, food contests, and demonstrations. Also featured will be live music, a Kids Zone, and City of Berkeley resource and information booths. The festival is sure to be a charming reminder of points of Berkeley pride such as urban farming, music, and local community.
UPCOMING COUNCIL MEETINGS
Tuesday, October 18th, 7pm-11pm
City Council Chambers, Old City Hall, 2134 MLK Jr Way
Homeless Winter Shelter
Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin