Happy Summer. I hope you all are enjoying the summer weather.
I wanted to write because Berkeley has been in the news over the past week because of the June 20th special meeting on policing and subsequent arrests. I also wanted to update you on the Mayor’s proposed budget.
I wrote to you in May about the decisions Council faced regarding police trainings. As expected, it was a controversial City Council meeting and many people attended. There has been a lot of media attention surrounding that meeting (the rushing of the stage after the vote, and subsequent arrests) so I wanted to give you my rationale for my votes.
Accept an Urban Areas Security Initiative grant to fund the purchase of a reinforced police van
The vote was 7-2. I voted yes.
In the rare occasion when there is an armed gunman on the loose, Berkeley police currently borrow a protective vehicle to transport police officers and civilians safely. The vehicle we use currently is a much more “militarized” vehicle than the Ford van we voted for on Tuesday night (pictured, c/o Berkeleyside). I think it is important that we can transport our officers and civilians safely. If the City did not accept this grant, we would have had to take money from the General Fund to purchase a similar vehicle to ensure officer safety.
Approve relationship with Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC)
This vote was 5-4. I voted yes.
As you can see this item was a close vote. If the City severed our relationship with NCRIC, the police would not be able to input partial license plates into a NCRIC database. Many crime victims can only remember part of the plate number after an incident and the NCRIC database allows police to use this database to follow up immediately, regardless of incomplete information. The City of Berkeley does not provide license plate data to NCRIC but is allowed access to that data. BPD has unequivocally and alarmingly said that removing access to this database would dramatically and negatively affect the resolution and prevention of crime.
Many critics expressed concern with information sharing. The City of Berkeley only provides NCRIC with Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), of which there was one of last year. Since I have been a Councilmember, there has been an average of 1.5 suspicious activity reports per year. In the previous year, one of the suspicious activity reports involved a hate crime directed toward a local rabbi. I think this is important information to share. All SARs reports are reviewed by City Council and internally evaluated.
Agreement for the Distribution of UASI grant funds
The vote was 8-1. I voted yes.
This vote allows Berkeley to enter into an agreement with the City and County of San Francisco to receive funding for equipment (not weapons) to support disaster and emergency responses. Some of the trainings provided through UASI include hazardous material training and earthquake preparedness, open water rescue, and mass casualty operational response.
Allow Berkeley Police to participate in Urban Shield this year and establish a subcommittee to report back in 6 months on alternate trainings and concerns.
This vote was 6-2-1. I voted yes. In the process of the voting, protesters rushed the stage and surrounded the Council members.
This is the vote that garnered the most attention. Urban Shield is a free multi-day regional training exercise that jurisdictions across the nation participate in to respond to man-made and natural disasters. This year’s emergency services (OES) event includes a regionally coordinated shelter response in case of a massive earthquake. In Berkeley, Fire, Emergency Services, Police, Public Health and civilian staff use the training. Although some critics have urged the City to participate in other trainings, our first responders have indicated that no other regionally-coordinated free training of this scale currently exists. Even if the City Council decided it did not want to participate with other cities in disaster preparedness coordination, the City of Berkeley could not at this point provide the training on its own because of financial and logistical barriers. Personally, I think a city is more resilient when we work with our neighbors instead of go-it-alone.
Many Urban Shield critics seem to be concerned with the SWAT team scenarios and an expo which displays police wares and weaponry. The City of Berkeley’s fire and police departments do not purchase anything at this expo. It is true that Urban Shield provides opportunities for police to participate in responding to mass shooting and hostage-taking scenarios based on real-life events. I think an important point that is overlooked is that Urban Shield does not set policy. For instance, if there are concerns with the City’s use of force policy or SWAT policy, that does not change through Urban Shield withdrawal.
I understand that this is a sensitive and important issue, especially in light of troubling national developments and conversations on police-community relationships. I remain firmly committed to social justice as well as ensuring the safety and civil rights of my constituents.
Mayor Jesse Arreguin has released his proposed budget this year. Please take a look at it. Of the $2.3 million that is recommended for a vote on Tuesday, here are some of the big ticket items:
Funding for anti-displacement programs (~1 million)
Pathways project (250K)
Center for Independent Living (140k)
Berkeley Civic Arts program (140k)
On the same night, Councilmembers Wengraf, Maio and I have asked Council to follow up on the City Auditor and City Manager’s recommendation to specify when and under what conditions Council would be allowed to draw funds from the General Fund Stability Reserve. Our concerns mirror the Auditor’s concern that the City should not raid its reserves and compromise our City’s fiscal integrity. As our City Auditor Ann Marie Hogan says, “we need to be able to protect our most vulnerable residents and programs from federal funding cuts and other emergencies.”
There are several other important decisions on the agenda that night, including but not limited to changes to the affordable housing mitigation fee, an ongoing feasibility analysis for housing development, Pathways project to address homelessness, and recommendations for Measures T1 and U1.
Berkeley City Councilmember, District 8
Need a street or sidewalk repair? Want to report illegal dumping?
Use Berkeley's online 311 form (either through the General Request form or a specific topic) or call 311 from a landline, or 510-981-2489. Please note that my office routes all the service requests we receive through this customer service center, so your request will be handled most efficiently by directly contacting 311.
Sign Up to Participate in National Night Out 2017
National Night Out is an annual event designed to strengthen our community by encouraging neighborhoods to engage in stronger relationships with each other and with their local Public Safety and City Officials. Learn more and sign up here.
AC Transit Fare Increase
Detailed information about the July 1 fare change is available at www.actransit.org/rider-info/fares-tickets-passes. AC Transit Customer Service can also provide additional assistance in multiple languages at (510) 891-4777.
What Won’t Change
The cost of a Day Pass will not change. The pass gives riders unlimited rides in a day for a flat $5 fare. The cost for youth, seniors and people with disabilities will stay at $2.50.
What Will Change
All Local and Transbay Cash Fares
All Clipper Local and Transbay Fares
All 31-Day and Monthly Passes
New Emergency Alert System Coordinates with County - Berkeley residents and community members should sign up at www.ACAlert.org to receive emergency messages for Berkeley and jurisdictions across Alameda County.
A Message From EBMUD re: Berkeley Water Quality
Recent news stories have carried alarming headlines about your tap water. As your water supplier, EBMUD would like to provide information directly to you about this issue. EBMUD drinking water quality remains in full compliance with all state and federal regulations. To ensure continued compliance, the District has been taking action over the last several months to stem rising levels of disinfection byproducts.
Municipal water agencies like EBMUD are regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California Division of Drinking Water, under the state and federal Safe Drinking Water Acts. We protect public health through a two-step process to filter and disinfect all water we deliver. These processes remove Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Giardia intestinalis, and other water-borne pathogens that can cause illnesses such as diarrhea, cholera and Hepatitis A:
Filtration: Water passes through filters of sand, gravel, and charcoal with various pore sizes, to remove dissolved particles, like dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals.
Disinfection: A disinfectant (chlorine or chloramine) is added to kill any remaining parasites, bacteria, and viruses, and to protect the water from germs when it is piped to homes and businesses. (Disinfectants can be added before filtration and/or after, depending on the water treatment plant).
Over the past few years, in our regular collection and analysis of water samples throughout the distribution system, the District began to see a rise in the concentration of trihalomethanes (THMs) – a disinfection byproduct formed when chlorine reacts with naturally-occurring organic matter in water. THMs are present in all public drinking water systems and are regulated so they don’t approach levels that may present a risk to public health. Those concentrations don’t exceed state and federal standards, but they are above EBMUD’s internal water quality goals. This prompted EBMUD to take action.
The increase in THMs can be attributed to more natural organic matter and sediment in EBMUD’s water supply. To address this challenge, months ago, EBMUD increased water quality sampling, implemented operational changes and, this June, a new flushing program. These immediate steps are in addition to long-term infrastructure upgrades already underway.
EBMUD expects that these immediate steps, plus short and long-term infrastructure upgrades already underway, will bring these disinfection by-products to levels where they have historically been: well below state and federal requirements.
To find out more about this issue, or to review our water quality report and data, visit:
Passport Services No Longer Available
Effective July 1, 2017, the City Clerk Department will no longer serve as an acceptance facility for passport applications. The Berkeley Main Post Office (2000 Allston Way) and the RSF (2301 Bancroft Way) are still open for passport services. Customers may also wish to search passport acceptance facilities on www.travel.state.gov. The elimination of passport services is due to changes in the staff availability for passport acceptance agent duties. All appointments are booked through July 1, 2017.