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Council to Honor Ousted Housing Director, Decide Public Comment Rules

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday September 11, 2007

Stephen Barton, the former housing director who resigned under pressure from the city manager, will be honored tonight (Tuesday) by the City Council. 

While that may seem a contradiction, it is not, said Councilmember Linda Maio who is writing the proclamation. 

“The council is acting on its own perception and initiative” honoring an individual who has been an “extremely valuable resource,” Maio told the Daily Planet on Monday.  

In part, the proclamation Maio will read says: “…acting beyond the role of a staff person in simply carrying out stated policy Stephen Barton has introduced novel and creative programs and has shaped city policy and practice to ensure that Berkeley residents have opportunities for safe, affordable homes in our city….” 

Barton was asked to resign by City Manager Phil Kamlarz in June after City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque wrote reports condemning Berkeley Housing Authority staff, Barton, the city manager, deputy city manager and an interim Housing Authority manager for various problems at the BHA.  

The BHA has since been reorganized to be independent of the City Council, with all of its members now appointed by the mayor.  

Albuquerque is on sick leave until Oct. 1. 

The proclamation will be read at the beginning of the council meeting at 7 p.m. Before that, the council will meet in a workshop format at 5:30 p.m. to discuss new rules for public comment at its meetings. At 6:30 p.m. the council will meet as the Redevelopment Agency and look at creating “quiet zones” for trains—implementing enhanced safety measures while outlawing train whistles. 

At issue at the 5:30 p.m. work session will be questions of when and for how long the public will be allowed to comment at council meetings. Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Mayor Tom Bates have differing opinions, especially on when people should be allowed to comment on items not listed on the agenda. Bates says these items should come at the end of the agenda, at 11 p.m., but Worthington says they should be heard early in the evening.  

Questions on public comment were raised last year when SuperBOLD (Berkeleyans Organized for Library Defense) threatened to sue the city for violating the state’s open meeting laws by allowing only 10 public speakers per meeting chosen by lottery. 

The council will have an opportunity to enact the new public comment rules during its regular meeting later in the evening. 

Among other actions the council may take are: 

• Adopting its meeting calendar, which provides on average for two meetings per month in a total of 8 months, with a one-month winter break, a three-week spring break and a two-month summer break. 

• Implementing new rules on police asset forfeiture accounts, as recommended by the city auditor. 

• Adopting an agreement with the private College Preparatory High School in Oakland, giving the school regular playing time at the Gilman Street Sports Fields for 25 years in exchange for $600,000. 

• Making a decision on whether to allow a new home to be built at 161 Panoramic Way. 

• Writing a letter to thank the governor of Texas for not executing Kenneth Foster and asking him to modify the law under which Foster was condemned to death. 

• Supporting a boycott of the Woodfin Suite Hotels, which has not complied with Emeryville’s living wage law for hotel workers. 

• Approving the appointment of Carolyn Henry Golphin as library trustee. She is a former president of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce who was selected by the current library board of trustees.