City Council to discuss ‘Internet for all,’ hate-crime-prevention response at Tuesday meeting

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On Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will deliberate on an “Internet-for-all” proposal, a hate-crime-prevention response plan and a mental wellness center, among other items on the meeting agenda.

The council will deliberate on proposing the Internet-for-all plan to the Federal Communications Commission, which would establish an affordable high-speed Internet service plan for low-income families. The broadband providers in the program would offer faster Internet and wireless modem compatibility with school-issued devices for about $10 a month.

“Children who have access to broadband and learn to use it have a higher chance of getting out of poverty,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who proposed the bill. “It may not be the first thing on the minds of low-income families, but it’s one of the most powerful tools that we can use to help close the digital divide.”

In addition, the council will discuss a recommendation on creating a hate-crime-prevention response plan, which cites an increase in hate crimes in the previous years.

“Whether you’re a Jew or Muslim or whatever your identity or your religion, engage in the debate as you want, but don’t let it degenerate into violence and hate crimes,” Worthington said.

According to Councilmember Linda Maio, the funding of a mental health wellness center would be the most important item on the agenda. If passed, the city manager will set aside $300,000 to fund the creation and operation of a mental health wellness center located either in Berkeley or Albany.

“We’re very hopeful that something might change with a wellness program,” Maio said. “People who are in the streets are so vulnerable, and they need to be housed.”

The council will also further discuss the constitutionality of Downtown Berkeley Association ambassadors’ removal of fliers that appear to comply with city rules. Corey Nicholl, a Berkeley resident, said he and other community members have fliered in the area at issue for for more than 20 years to promote public access to shows and book events. The group has raised concerns as to whether the DBA ambassadors are violating Berkeley municipal code and constitutional rights by removing legal fliers.

“The Berkeley city law says it’s legal to put up noncommercial fliers, and people should have the right to do that, especially if it is written in the law,” Nicholl said. “They should be able to do it freely without being harassed or (having their) fliers torn down by folks who are not actually part of the government but act as if they are.”

Worthington said he hopes the city attorney and the city manager will tell DBA to cease the practice.

Additionally, the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, or CEAC, will present a recommendation that the council adopt a resolution directing the city manager to implement a lead-hazard enforcement program. The CEAC plan would annually remind pediatricians to test lead levels in children’s blood and to report high lead levels in blood or large increases in lead levels.

Noncompliance with the regulations would result in cease and desist orders, cleanup orders or fines. The CEAC also recommends that the city manager evaluate the program and present the council with the findings after a year of implementation.

Contact Amelia Mineiro, Michelle Leung and Emma Soldon at [email protected].