A Note From Councilmember Capitelli
Dear District 5 Neighbors,
The late rains and lingering cold weather of April have provided an amazing explosion of spring beauty. "Glorious" is the only word that comes to mind - plus my favorite declaration about those of us in north Berkeley who already feel like we've died and gone to heaven. Summer will be here soon, and from a Council perspective that means an election in June, the hard slog of finishing the city's budget, and the beginning of the political season both at the state level and here at home.
The only municipal item on the June ballot is the pools renovation bond, Measure C. The result of a lengthy and spirited public process, Measure C would provide resources to renovate the public pools at Willlard Middle School and West Campus, build a new warm water therapeutic pool at West Campus, and replace the pool at King Middle School with a large multi-purpose pool. The measure also includes a small parcel tax to pay for ongoing maintenance and programming. For the ballot language and the pro and con arguments, go to the City Clerk's election information.
Looking forward to November, voters in Districts 1, 4, 7 and 8 will be asked to rank the candidates for City Council. For the first time, a Berkeley election will be decided through Instant Run-off Voting (IRV), or ranked-choice voting (RCV). It offers voters the opportunity to rank their preferences for candidate races on one ballot. The voters' choices for first preferences are counted, and if no candidate reaches 50% +1, the voting system conducts an "instant runoff" by eliminating the candidate with the fewest votes and assigning the second votes from the ballots for the eliminated candidate to the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until one candidate has a majority of the votes. RCV was approved by Berkeley voters in 2004, and the necessary technology is now available to facilitate implementation. The City Clerk will begin a major public outreach campaign this summer and in future newsletters I will provide more information and announce opportunities to learn more.
I've recently learned that a citizens group is distributing a petition to put before the voters in November their version of a "Sunshine Ordinance" that would purport to expand citizen access to City information. I would encourage anyone interested in greater sunshine for Berkeley government to read both the full text of the measure and the City Attorney's analysis of an earlier, similar version on the ordinance. (Staff will do a more up to date analysis after the close of the petition period.)
But without a doubt the most difficult series of decisions in the coming months will be around budget issues. Thanks to many of you who have written about your budget priorities, and serious concerns regarding unfunded liabilities, labor contracts and certain departmental deficits. According to our budget Director Tracy Vesely, Berkeley is still in better shape than most of our large neighbors. But State cuts, particularly in the areas of public health, social services and transit, will devastate much of our programming. The city is considering layoffs for the first time in many years. And, as a service-oriented organization, lay-offs and furlough days mean inevitable reduction in services.
These choices and their impacts will evolve in the coming weeks. Thanks to all of you for your support and suggestions. All budget documents and a schedule of the remaining public hearings can be found at FY 2011 Mid-biennial Budget Update.
In the meantime, enjoy the beautiful weather. Come downtown for the Berkeley Arts Festival. And please remember to keep your sidewalks accessible for your neighbors and maybe a few late census takers who may journey through your neighborhood.
Berkeley City Council, District 5
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