Berkeley City Council adopts biennial budget

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Berkeley resident Moni Law speaks about the investigation info unfair city employee hiring and promotion practices, among other agenda items.

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The city of Berkeley adopted the biennial budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 during its regular City Council meeting Tuesday.

After a subcommittee, formed after last week’s meeting, considered the “Better Berkeley Budget” — proposed by Councilmembers Max Anderson, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin to provide alternative funding increases for 34 listed programs and community agencies — the council decided to defer funding for six programs to midyear budget review, including the discussion of $191,000 to run Youth Engagement, Advocacy and Housing, a service for homeless youth, year round.

Housing support stipends for transition-age youth ages 18 to 25 and loans for the Housing Trust Fund — a resource for building affordable housing — were deferred, despite Arreguin calling it a “critical investment” for resolving the homeless and housing crises in Berkeley.

The council also decided to defer funds to enforce recommendations from an independent investigation into city employees’ hiring and promotion practices — made by consultants from Mason Tillman Associates Ltd. — to midyear budget review. These recommendations included implementing department audits, a nepotism policy, communication improvements and whistle-blowing policies. City Council approved in May $100,000 in funding for their implementation.

After Berkeley’s NAACP branch received about 40 complaints from black and other city employees in 2012, the city hired the organization to review city personnel rules. The branch continued to hear complaints from employees, according to branch president Mansour Id-Deen.

Id-Deen said he was extremely disappointed by some council members’ lack of will to understand the issues, such as racism and nepotism, and by the decision to defer the issues for another six months. City employees, many from the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, filled the meeting to protest.

“This is the biggest example of justice delayed is justice denied,” Worthington said at the meeting. Along with Anderson, he emphasized that evaluation by outside organizations is necessary to resolve disparities and discrepancies internal to the city.

Multiple contested items with many public speakers, including an appeal of the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision not to make Campanile Way — the roadway with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge — a city landmark, pushed the meeting late into the night.

A number of community members, including some UC Berkeley students, urged the council to preserve Campanile Way and expressed concerns that Downtown developments, such as the 18-story high-rise at 2211 Harold Way, will block some part of the view.

According to Steve Finacom, board member of Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, 4,000 community members signed petitions supporting the appeal, but five council members abstained, Mayor Tom Bates opposed, and the motion failed.

“This council majority is entirely beholden to big development, and they would do what they ask of them, regardless of the consequences of the community,” Finacom said.

The council attempted to continue discussion on a series of regulations for sidewalks and public spaces, which some have called “anti-homeless” laws, but adjourned the meeting after the public chanted “shame” to the council after 1 a.m.

The council also approved the annual reports for Business Improvement District organizations in the Downtown Berkeley, North Shattuck and Telegraph Avenue areas.

City Council’s next regular meeting will be July 14.

Contact Yuka Koshino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @YukaKoshino.