Berkeley City Council considers community survey, disaster preparedness at special meeting

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Berkeley City Council outlined ideas for potential ballot measures for the November 2018 elections, as well as proposals for a community survey on such measures, at its special meeting Tuesday.

While City Council did not vote or decide on any item, they discussed a variety of initiatives and new city revenue streams. The potential implementation of a storefront vacancy tax sparked a discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of disincentivizing vacancies. City Council also discussed funding for affordable housing development and initiatives related to community safety.

At the meeting, Mayor Jesse Arreguín pointed to community safety, affordable housing and homelessness as “three areas that are critical priorities,” but he expressed concern about a lack of resources needed to tackle these areas.

“We do a very good job of trying to leverage the limited resources that we have to fund critical services and projects,” Arreguín said at the meeting. “I think this is really our opportunity to put out our vision of how we can address a number of critical issues at the ballot box.”

The council also considered developing a 20-minute survey that would be sent out to about 500 voters in Berkeley in an effort to determine the issues that voters are most passionate about. Arreguín said research firm Lake Research Partners has worked with the city to conduct such surveys for recent elections.

Disaster preparedness

Tuesday’s meeting also consisted of a City Council disaster training presentation, conducted by Berkeley Fire Department Chief David Brannigan, along with other fire department officials. The presentation detailed City Council’s responsibilities in the event of a citywide natural disaster, such as a catastrophic earthquake or a devastating fire in the Berkeley Hills.

Council responsibilities detailed in the presentation included coordinating interviews with the press to ensure distribution of accurate information and gathering information about community needs.

Brannigan said at the meeting that there is currently no first-aid and CPR training program specifically for council members — a fact that Councilmember Susan Wengraf responded to with concern.

“We should all have that training,” Wengraf said at the meeting. “I think personally that that’s really critical.”

Danielle Kaye is the lead city government reporter.. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.