Keep an Eye on the Berkeley City Council Tonight

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday February 15, 2011 - 10:54:00 AM

You can’t tell the players without a scorecard—and you can’t understand what the Berkeley City Council is doing without an agenda. Even with one it might be hard, but in any case, you can find it here 

Items to keep an eye on: 

First and foremost, the City of Berkeley's budget woes are multiplying. The City Manager and his budget director will present a report on what is now a $1.8 million expected shortfall. And it could easily get worse. 

Then there are competing proposals from the city manager and the Housing Advisory Commission for how much developers should contribute to the city’s affordable housing fund when they get permits to build new market rate housing, in lieu of including affordable units in their project. Berkeley currently has a glut of expensive housing and a shortage of affordable housing, 

There’s a good example of what I like to call the Shady Acres theory of nomenclature on today’s agenda., e.g. a builder clear-cuts a forest and names the resulting subdivision “Shady Acres”. An item combining the so-called “Open Government” ordinance and an accompanying sneaky change the Mayor’s proposing for the operation of the agenda committee, which controls what the Council gets to consider at its increasingly infrequent meetings, are the reverse of what you might think they are. The O.G. is harmless but toothless, positioned as an alternative to the Citizens’ Sunshine Ordinance. The Mayor’s rules change is designed to make Berkeley more like Sacramento, stripping councilmembers and commissions of the power to put items on the council’s agenda,. The late Dona Spring stopped this one the first time Mayor Bates proposed it, but like a vampire it’s Undead again. 

Another pair of dueling proposals: the Peace and Justice Commission wants the city to offer to resettle innocents being released from Guantanamo, but the deputy City Manager objects

Then there’s the “support Private Bradley Manning” resolution, narrowed in scope so that no one has any reason to object—but don’t count on it. 

And finally, if they’re still awake by then, the council will consider recommending an alternative budget which counters Governor Jerry Brown’s draconian proposals with some more humane alternatives. 

You can see the whole performance online in real time, or watch it later at your convenience. If you're truly dedicated, you could even attend in person: starting at 7 pm. in the council chambers at the Maudelle Shirek Building (old city hall).