Berkeley City Council gets a last chance to finalize language for three election law ballot measures at tonight’s regular Council meeting (7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 25). The proposed changes would add filing fee and/or signature requirements to run for office in Berkeley, lower the percentage needed for a candidate to win, lengthen the time between elections and runoffs, and authorize Council to adopt Instant Runoff Voting in the city once it becomes legally and economically feasible.
Council will consider fixing the city’s paratransit services problem and authorizing permits for wheelchair accessible taxis during tonight’s 5 p.m. working session.
Last June, the Daily Planet reported that Berkeley’s paratransit services—which provide several transportation programs for seniors and residents with disabilities—was in “disarray,” with seniors in particular complaining of “limited service, rude taxi drivers and cabbies who refuse to pick up patrons.”
The city’s Commission on Disability and Commission on Aging has asked the city to issue 10 permits specifically for taxis capable of carrying wheelchair-riding passengers. No such taxis-on-call currently operate in Berkeley, and residents in wheelchairs must reserve rides 24 hours in advance.
In an information report to be discussed by Council at tonight’s working meeting, City Manager Phil Kamlarz agrees that Berkeley’s paratransit program has “never had sufficient resources to meet the need.”
Kamlarz’ memo suggests several alternative fixes. The most controversial proposal to be discussed will be a proposal limiting Berkeley’s paratransit services either to “only those people with extremely low incomes” or providing service only to persons certified by East Bay Paratransit, a joint project co-operated by AC Transit and the Bay Area Rapid Transit District.
Council will also consider, on first reading, an ordinance establishing five permits for wheelchair-accessible taxis in the city, halving the number sought by the Commission on Disability and the Commission on Aging.
At the 7 p.m. session, Council is also scheduled to re-open its discussion of complaints from neighborhood residents concerning the controversial industrial-strength communications tower currently sitting atop the city’s downtown Public Safety Building.
Neighbors complain that the communications tower, constructed in 2000, was put up without proper notice and is out of character for their neighborhood and they want it replaced with a smaller structure. While the city manager’s office has conceded that the current configuration of the communications tower “was not included as part of the original design” of the Public Safety Building, Berkeley public safety officials have argued that the tower should stay because it eliminates “dead spots” in communication with mobile police units in certain areas of Berkeley.