The mayor and city manager will propose, at tonight’s (Tuesday) City Council meeting, a shift in tactics for writing Berkeley’s greenhouse gas reduction plan.
The council will also discuss a proposal to eliminate plastic shopping bags and to recycle food scraps. It will hold a public hearing on community service agency funding and will consider purchasing new weapons for police, creating a day to honor conscientious objectors, instituting programs at the Willard Park clubhouse and more. Preceding the council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., the Berkeley Housing Authority will meet at 6 p.m. to discuss the status of its operations.
City to address greenhouse gas reduction
The council decision to write a greenhouse gas reduction plan follows an 81 percent voter approval of Measure G in November 2006, a measure that calls on the mayor to work with the community to develop a local plan to reduce greenhouse gases.
In February, the council voted to have Sustainable Berkeley (SB) hire an individual to write the city’s greenhouse gas reduction plan. SB is an organization of consultants, UC Berkeley representatives, nonprofit administrators and “green” health-related professionals.
However, after criticism from some community members, councilmembers and the press, alleging the strategy lacked transparency, the mayor and city manager are now proposing to place the implementation of Measure G within city government.
“Upon further evaluation of the issue, I think it preferable to use city staff and the existing public input processes for this purpose,” Assistant City Manager Arrietta Chakos wrote in an April 24 staff report.
“The creation of the plan by city staff instead of by an outside agency will be more efficient and will allow more transparency and public access to the plan development process,” Chakos wrote, noting further that in February the council had allocated $100,000 to Sustainable Berkeley, but that the agency “is not a corporate entity with which a contract can be signed.”
The new process to develop a citywide plan will include input from a number of commissions, a community meeting, and an interim report to the council before summer break.
According to a memo written by Mayor Tom Bates, the new process will also include a request for funding above the $100,000 already allocated to the plan. The report does not indicate how much the mayor will ask for and what he wants to spend the funds on.
The city has already advertised for an individual to implement the plan.
Despite a unanimous vote (with Councilmember Laurie Capitelli absent) on March 20 calling for the council to address on April 24 (today) how it plans to move forward in creating a sunshine ordinance—a law that would make Berkeley government more transparent and accessible to the public—the ordinance is not on tonight’s agenda.
According to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, the city manager plans to report orally to the council on the progress of redrafting the ordinance presented on March 20.
At the March 20 meeting Bates had said he would call upon open government experts Terry Francke of CalAware and Mark Schlossberg of the American Civil Liberties Union, both of whom had volunteered to work on the ordinance. As of last week, neither had been contacted.
The council will not be permitted to discuss the city manager’s oral report because it is not on the agenda. Asked who was responsible for leaving Sunshine off the agenda, given that the council voted to discuss the process, City Clerk Pamyla Means said it could have something to do with the city attorney’s vacation.
“This is the mayor’s baby,” she added.
As for the item not being on the agenda, Councilmember Kriss Worthington quipped: “After six years of delay and obfuscation [of the ordinance] two more weeks is almost like the blink of an eye.”
Plastic bag ban proposed
Plastic shopping bags cause the felling of more than 14 million trees, the use of more than 12 million barrels of oil and the death of more than 100,000 marine animals from entanglement, according to San Francisco’s recently passed Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance.
If the mayor has his way, Berkeley will follow in San Francisco’s footsteps and adopt an ordinance that would stop large grocery stores and chain pharmacies from using petroleum-based plastic shopping bags.
If the resolution is approved by the City Council tonight, the city’s Zero Waste Commission will weigh in on the question and advise the council on whether to adopt a similar ordinance.
Dave Heylen, spokesperson for the California Grocers Association, said the association would like the city to wait to see how the implementation of the San Francisco ordinance is going. Implementation of the ordinance begins in six months.
“Give the ordinance a chance. Monitor it and see if it’s an effective program,” Heylen said.
Another factor in delaying a decision is passage of AB2449, Heylen said. The bill requires larger grocery stores across the state to provide recycling bins for plastic bags.
Heylen said his organization encourages the reuse of plastic bags around the house. “We see more and more retailers selling reusable bags,” he said.
Mayor Tom Bates declined to comment except by e-mail for this story.
Chamber of Commerce President Roland Peterson told the Daily Planet his organization has not taken a position on the question.
Food scrap recycling
Another effort to “green” Berkeley is a proposed food scrap recycling program. The city already has a commercial food scrap recycling program, but lags behind other cities in implementing a residential plan. Details on the plan were not available at press time.
New weapons for police
With police service revolvers more than 15 years old, the department is asking council for 225 new weapons at a total cost of about $101,000. “[T]he present police service weapon, the Smith and Wesson 4006, was beginning to fail and … replacement parts were difficult to obtain,” says an April 24 police staff report.
Old service weapons will be crushed or melted. “It is the policy of the department to ensure firearms that are no longer used for law enforcement purposes do not resurface,” the report says.
The weapons will be purchased from Claremont-based All State Police Equipment Company, which was the low bidder and paid for through the Asset Seizure Funds.
According to Berkeley Police Capt. Bobby Miller, Asset Seizure Funds come from the sale of property seized during arrests in drug-related cases. The property could include automobiles, houses or household goods, Miller said.
Hearing on allocation of CDBG and other funds
The council will hold a public hearing on $5.2 million of federal money available for community services from Community Development Block Grants, Emergency Shelter Grants and Community Service Block Grants. This is 3 percent less than the city received last year.
The council will be asked to make recommendations on these grants tonight. During the regular budget session in May or June the council will consider $4.7 million in community service grants from the city’s general fund, which is the same amount as last year.
The proposed funding includes the arts, childcare, community media, disability programs and more. Among the projects that are recommended for increased funding are the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP) Men’s Overnight Shelter Program and the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center. New funding is recommended for the BFHP Russell Street Residence and BFHP’s Section 8 residential support.
At the same time the manager is recommending cuts in the BFHP’s Multi- Service Center Drop-In Center and BOSS’ family and singles shelters, among others.
The council will also address:
• Increasing a grant for artwork for the bike bridge.
• Renewing military leave compensation for city employees deployed overseas.
• Creating a day—May 15—to honor conscientious objectors and war resisters.
• Housing trust fund allocation.
• Supporting youth programs at Willard Park clubhouse.
• Programs at Willard Clubhouse.
• Training police in crisis intervention.