City Council meets to discuss new prioritization system

Francesca Ledsema/File

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At a special meeting Tuesday evening, Berkeley City Council discussed results of a new voting system that re-prioritized referrals from city departments through consensus voting.

The Re-Weighted Range Voting was adopted by City Council on March 8. Under the system, each council member votes on every referral ranging on a scale from zero to five, and the referrals with the highest overall scores become the top priorities for each department.

The scores are also weighed using a formula that gives each council member an equal number of “influence,” where rating a project with a higher score uses up more influence. According to City Clerk Mark Numainville, this guarantees that every council member will have an equal say on prioritizing referrals over the long run.

“I could not be happier,” said city Councilmember Lori Droste at the meeting. “We’ve created a system that not only provides a consensus but also allows for an individual council member’s favorite or highest rated item be viewed one out of nine times.”

Under the Re-Weighted Range Voting system, the highest rated referral is the Green Affordable Housing Package, submitted by Droste. The referral aims to “designate units and funding for affordable housing by prioritizing housing over parking spaces in new developments.”

There are currently 79 outstanding referrals, dating as far back as January 2012, that have not yet been completed by staff.

Councilmember Linda Maio said she was happy that there would be a clear and transparent system in place to organize an agenda calendar. Maio added that the previous system was slowed down by other council members who submitted referrals “for the sake of it.”

At the beginning of the meeting, several council members expressed concern that of the 79 referrals, 23 were for the Planning Commission and 20 were for the Public Works Commission. Interim city manager Dee Williams-Ridley added that the majority of the referrals put forth by different commissions is done by the staff, who are feeling “truly overloaded right now.”

“I want to make sure we’re not having unintended consequences,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “This is a cruel and unusual punishment to those two departments.”

Several departments, such as the Parks and Recreation Commission, only have one referral, however. Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said that if any council member wanted to see faster results, it would be best for them to submit referrals that would fall under the responsibility of departments with few current projects.

Staff will start working on the referrals on the top of the list for their department, according to Numainville. Any referral that has not been completed by the April 2017 City Council meeting will be reranked with the new round of referrals.

Haruka Senju is an assistant news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @haruka_senju