A Note From Councilmember Capitelli
Dear District 5 Neighbors,
It has been over a week since our community budget meeting with the City Manager, and I want to thank all of you who took the time to come out to share your opinions and ask questions of City staff. Despite the City's currently balanced budget and staff's "cautious optimism" for the future, residents related their personal experiences that the immediate economic situation is bleak. And at this time of financial constraint it is imperative for Council to have an honest public discussion about priorities so that precious resources are not wasted.
These are uncertain times. Like all cities we are suffering from slumping home sales and a reduction in sales tax revenue. To compound matters, the state will be reaching down into both our general fund and our property tax receipts to borrow over 8 million dollars, only a portion of which can be bonded to meet current expenses. State services, including health, education and recreation programs are being cut and we have already been contacted by service providers and constituents hoping the City can backfill their budgets to prevent service and program reductions.
We can take heart that despite slumping home sales our property values have held fast and are expected to remain constant. The Council will approve a balanced two-year budget this month and will continue to review the budget every six months as situations change. The City is taking advantage of federal stimulus money (we are repaving University Avenue) and is in the process of applying for further grants. Funding for Public Safety, Police and Fire, undoubtedly the highest priority services for District 5 residents, will not be cut in the coming year. We will do everything on our part to maintain services at the current level as we move forward.
So what can we do as a community? One thing is to keep our retail dollars close to home.
How many of us shop on line? Books, videos, clothing, home furnishings? The convenience and savings may sometimes be significant, but so is the impact on our local economy. Dollars spent locally, especially those received by independent businesses, in large percentage stay local and benefit the local economy.
I am heartsick to say good-bye to Black Oak Books. Despite the dedicated patronage of the neighborhood and the negotiating efforts of my office and our Office of Economic Development to insure their continued iconic presence on Shattuck Ave., the storeowner closed the doors. He decided the only way to sustain the business was to vacate the too-large space and to establish a more internet-based business model.
The only way to keep healthy our local businesses and the larger commercial districts in which they reside is to patronize them. Buy Local. Encourage your friends and colleagues from out of town to patronize them. In that spirit, I will be presenting a proclamation at the June 23 City Council meeting announcing "Independents Week," July 1 through July 7, part of a national effort to honor local, independent businesses and to challenge residents, for that week at least, to meet all of their needs exclusively by shopping at locally owned, independent Berkeley businesses. Part of the "Buy Local Berkeley" consortium of businesses, the challenge reminds us that:
- 85% of businesses in Berkeley are independently owned
- Local independents give to local charities at three times the rate per employee than their chain store counterparts
- Local businesses provide local jobs, needed products and services and local tax revenue
I'll be taking the challenge, hoping to join you in and around the neighborhood with our shopping bags.
Berkeley City Council, District 5
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