Berkeley City Council met Tuesday to discuss two competing ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage, one by City Council — which was motioned to be made into an ordinance instead of a ballot measure — and one by citizens of Berkeley — both of which were approved for the November ballot.
The proposal to place both initiatives on the November ballot was a source of contention for the residents of Berkeley sitting in on the meeting. ASUC Housing Commission chair Matthew Lewis claimed that the move was a deliberate effort to split the vote on minimum wage, ensuring that neither gets passed.
“This issue is one of fairness, of economic equity,” said Steve Gilbert, member of the Berkeley for Working Families Coalition and a leader in the effort to get the Berkeley ballot initiative to City Council. “I think the citizens of Berkeley will vote for that.”
The two measures differ in several instances: The measure introduced by the Berkeley for Working Families Coalition proposes to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2017 and includes protections against service charges, which are sometimes used in place of tips.
The other council measure increases pay over a longer period of time, reaching $15 by 2019, and includes a health care credit, which allows employers to pay $1.50 less than minimum wage should they provide health care.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington moved to make this measure into an ordinance rather than a ballot, a proposal that was struck down by the council.
Both measures provide for paid sick leave. The city proposal, once it reaches $15, will increase each year to keep up with inflation, while the Berkeley citizen’s ballot initiative would increase minimum wage by three percent every year as well as adjusting for inflation.
Another contentious discussion held concerned the designation of The Village, a commercial property on Telegraph Avenue, as a Berkeley historical landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission originally denied the landmark application, but an appeal made by the citizens of Berkeley brought it to the attention of City Council.
After impassioned public comment advocating both for and against the landmark designation, City Council decided to dismiss the appeal and affirm the LPC’s decision. Councilmember Linda Maio expressed her conflict over the subject, saying that while she is a housing advocate and supports plans to build a housing complex on the site, she is also sympathetic to the efforts to preserve the building.
The City Council also approved plans for a new parking structure on Center Street intended to hold 700 cars. During public comment, several community members expressed concern over the suggested parking fees as well as parking availability during construction.
At the beginning of the meeting, the council members also read off the names of those killed in the Orlando shooting. Several expressed their disappointment that the attack occurred in a gay bar, considered to be sanctuaries by many people in the gay community.
“I met my partner in a gay bar,” said Councilmember Worthington. “It is very disturbing to me that we are attacked in the very place we find love and family.”
City Council will reconvene on June 28.