As the singing chorus of protesters drowned out the final vote after midnight early Wednesday morning, Berkeley City Council moved to place the contentious civil sidewalks measure on the November ballot.
The vote on the civil sidewalks measure — which bans sitting on commercial sidewalks — is being challenged by Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson, who claim the due process and rules of the council were not followed when the motion was put forward without any debate among the council.
The disputed vote — ruled a 6-3 decision with Arreguin and Worthington refusing to vote and Anderson voting no — came after more than five hours of heated debate on almost all council action items on the agenda at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“I did not believe it was in order for us to vote on the motion, so I did not vote,” Arreguin said. “Our rules require debate of a motion, and a motion to call the question suspends debate. There was no motion to call the question. (Mayor Tom Bates) tried to stop there from being debate. That’s out of order, it’s improper. The vote was improper.”
City Clerk Mark Numainville, however, said the vote on the measure was a valid action. Numainville also said there may not be any time for further discussion of the measure at later council meetings, as the motion was resolved and not moved over by the council.
“We believe that the people in the city of Berkeley should decide what’s good for the city of Berkeley,” said John DeClercq, co-CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. “Commercial districts are the concern of all of Berkeley, not just those few of us who are able to be here tonight to attend council meetings.”
Arreguin’s alternative to the civil sidewalks measure, the Compassionate Sidewalks Plan, was not considered by the council at Tuesday’s meeting. Arreguin’s proposal calls for many actions from the council, including a recommendation that City Manager Christine Daniel convene a group of representatives of council members, homeless people, business owners, police and others to evaluate the current homeless situation in the city.
Many protesters of the measure — who sang, chanted and sat in protest and spoke to the council for an hour and a half before the meeting was quickly adjourned — voiced support for the Compassionate Sidewalks Plan, calling for a postponed vote on the civil sidewalks measure while the council consider Arreguin’s plan.
“I was hopeful that (Arreguin’s) compromise would have been considered widely by the council because I think it (would have moved) the city in the right direction with the holistic approach,” said West Berkeley resident Denisha DeLane, who is running for City Council in District Two. “I don’t think that people at heart will support this measure, regardless of where they are in Berkeley. I would have been more willing to support something like Arreguin’s compromise.”
The measure will cost an estimated $26,000 to be placed on the November ballot, according to the item.
If the measure is approved by the voters in the November election, it will go into effect on July 1, 2013.