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Council Bids Adieu to Weldon Rucker

Friday October 24, 2003

Last Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting began with a love fest and ended with a bloody fistfight...literally. 

Council’s evening session began with a farewell reception and an extended tribute to City Manager Weldon Rucker, who is retiring from his position Nov. 1 after 32 years at City Hall. 

The night ended on a surreal note when Berkeley Police Chief Roy Meisner had to call off his testimony on local law enforcement block grants to rush downstairs to help break up a fistfight between two homeless men on the steps of City Hall. The noise of the fight was so loud that several Councilmembers and staff rushed to the windows to see the cause of the commotion. 

One of the fight participants was so badly hurt that he later had to receive EMT assistance. 

At its 5 p.m. working session, Council gave direction to the City Manager’s office to prepare reports on three proposed March, 2004 ballot measures. As formulated in the reports, the proposed $10 million special tax measure will include a cost of living adjustment, a low-income exemption and a sunset clause of seven years. 

The report on the proposed election runoff charter amendment calls for changing the date of runoffs in city elections from December to February, and would lower the percentage of votes needed to win an initial election in the city from 45 percent to 40 percent. The staff report on the proposed candidate nomination charter amendment adds filing fees to the requirements for running for office in the city. 

Council reserved the right to make changes in the proposed ballot language, which it will discuss again at its Tuesday, Nov. 4 meeting. 

Council also decided to postpone putting an Instant Runoff Voting ballot measures before the voters until at least the November, 2004 election. 

In other action at its regular 7 p.m. meeting, Council decided to postpone until Nov. 4 making a recommendation on the appeal of City Center neighborhood citizens to replace the current Berkeley Public Safety Building antennae tower with two smaller towers. 

At its tribute to Rucker, Council members were lavish in their praise of the City Manager and wished him well in his retirement years. Councilmember Maude Shirek cautioned Rucker that “there’s one thing I want you to remember—watch your diet!” Councilmember Dona Spring told him she “hopes you’ll come back and run for mayor some day.” That brought a chuckle from current Mayor Tom Bates, who said, “I’d be glad to resign and let him have it if that will bring him back.” 

In his remarks, Rucker said that “Somebody asked me one time when I was going to retire, and I said I’d do it the day after Ms. Shirek.” Smiling at the 92-year-old councilmember, who shows no sign of plans to step down from her position, Rucker added, “I just couldn’t last.” Rucker said before meeting that his immediate plans after he leaves his city position next week are to take off time and travel. “But after I get bored, I’ll get back into some things. I’m not leaving Berkeley. I’ll be here.”