Berkeley City Council says goodbye to long-serving members, passes electric scooter pilot

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It was an emotional night for City Council members and constituents, as the community said its goodbyes to long-time Councilmembers Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Tuesday evening marked the last council meeting for Worthington, Maio and city auditor Ann-Marie Hogan as city officials. Together, the three represent more than 70 years of institutional knowledge of City Council operations — Maio having served for 26, Worthington for 22 and Hogan for 24 years.

“We have all grown old together. We had walls in the beginning and we have been able, with both of you, to dissemble those walls and to build bridges,” said Councilmember Susan Wengraf at the meeting. “I am so grateful to both of you for that opportunity.”

Also at the meeting, council members passed a yearlong pilot of modifications to the Zoning Ordinance to support small businesses and voted in favor of a yearlong motorized scooter pilot program. They also elected Wengraf as Vice President of the Council until December 2019 and Councilmember Sophie Hahn to follow suit until December 2020.

Both the scooter program and appointment of council vice presidents proved controversial among council members and Berkeley residents.

As part of the program, no more than three scooter operators will provide a maximum of 1,200 scooters total to the city, according to the item. Each operator would have to be transparent to the public about what data is being collected on its users, how they intend to use it and for how long they will store the information.

Councilmember Ben Bartlett said he was concerned the 200-scooter minimum per company decided upon by city staff would prevent small, local scooter operators from participating in the program. Councilmembers Kate Harrison and Hahn both expressed concern about privacy issues relating to the operators’ data collection and surveillance.

“They know who you are, and they know where you’ve been,” Hahn said at the meeting. “I am very concerned about how they share that data with others — do they share it with law enforcement, do they share it with the government?”

The City Council Vice President election prompted concerns regarding the council’s democracy, as raised by Councilmember Cheryl Davila and public commenter Margy Wilkinson. Davila took issue with the election occurring prior to Councilmembers-elect Rigel Robinson and Rashi Kesarwani taking office, thus depriving them of a vote on the matter.

Previously, the role of vice president allowed each council member to serve in the roll on a three-month rotation cycle. Wilkinson said she preferred this rotating seat for the position instead of yearlong terms.

“All of you are equal here — no one is more special than anyone else,” Wilkinson said to the council members. “It really makes me feel like it’s another sort of picking away at democratic processes in the City of Berkeley.”

Alyssa Bernardino is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alybernardino.