Council Says No to Chicks in Cages and Yes to Draft Resisters

By Judith Scherr
Friday April 27, 2007

Opposition to chicks in cages, support for draft resistors and getting rid of plastic shopping bags were among the items approved by the Berkeley City Council Tuesday. 

Although the council voted unanimously on March 20 to discuss the process on April 24 for writing a “sunshine” ordinance to make government more transparent and accessible, the issue failed to appear on the agenda. 

In his remarks to the City Council, City Manager Phil Kamlarz took responsibility. “It was a screw up,” he said, promising to bring the question to council May 8.  

In the city attorney’s draft ordinance discussed in March, citizen complaints on violations of a sunshine ordinance would go to the city manager, something a number of citizens, including Mark Schlosberg of the American Civil Liberties Union, objected to at the time. 


Cage-free chicks  

The city drew praise from the United States Humane Society on Wednesday for its unanimous passage Tuesday of a resolution, authored by Councilmember Dona Spring, condemning the confinement of egg-laying hens in tiny cages. The society called the practice “one of the most notorious factory farming practices: the intensive confinement of egg-laying hens in tiny wire battery cages.” 

Lindsay Vurek did more than speak against the confinement during the council’s public comment period Tuesday. He brought along a tiny cage and five stuffed chicks to show the circumstances in which some chickens spend their short lives. 

“Sometimes a dead chicken is in the cage,” Vurek told the council. 

Councilmember Betty Olds called for a resolution with teeth. 

“This is such an important item,” she said. “We would like to do more.” Olds and Spring said they would bring back stronger legislation in the future. 


Getting rid of plastic 

Also passing unanimously was a referral to the Zero Waste Commission and the Community Environment Advisory Commission to look at adopting an ordinance similar to the one passed in San Francisco that would ban large grocery stores and chain drug stores from using non-compostable plastic shopping bags. 

Speaking during the public comment period, Jan Lundberg said the goal was to replace the plastic, not to use less harmful kinds of plastics.  


Resisting War 

The council voted 8-0-1 to support a resolution from the Peace and Justice Commission declaring May 15 of every year Conscientious Objector and War Resister’s Day. Councilmember Gordon Wozniak abstained. 

In other actions, the council unanimously approved: 

• Funding greenhouse gas reduction through the city at $100,000; 

• Crisis intervention training for police officers; 

• Support for State Senate bills advocating universal health care; 

• Accepting a $120,000 grant from Alameda County Waste Management Authority to start a residential food-scrap composting program.