The measures on the Berkeley ballot for the general election range in actions from Measure FF bolstering the city’s emergency services to Measure MM restructuring rental property registration fees, with many other important issues for Berkeley residents to think on in between.
Here are The Daily Californian Editorial Board’s takes on each of the measures and how residents should vote this November.
Measure FF – YES
In the past few years, wildfires of horrific magnitude have ravaged California, sweeping across millions of acres of land and destroying tens of thousands of structures. Coupled with the omnipresent earthquake risk, these fires have exposed the volatility of California’s environment. One only has to look back to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1991 Berkeley Hills fire to be reminded of how much natural disasters can affect not only the Bay Area, but also Berkeley.
Measure FF would go toward supporting local firefighter and emergency responses, wildfire prevention activities, vegetation management and revamping the 911 dispatch system.
Measure FF would enact a $0.1047 parcel tax per square foot on real property improvements, raising about $8.5 million annually. The tax would not apply to property owners who qualify as very low-income.
We must better equip Berkeley’s emergency response capabilities.
Vote “yes” on Measure FF.
Measure GG – YES
As college students, we know just how often people use the services of transportation network companies. It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to claim that many Berkeley residents use Uber or Lyft more often than public transportation.
Given the prevalence of these companies in Berkeley, the tax introduced by Measure GG is the logical step forward. These companies use city infrastructure just as much as, if not more than, public transit without paying for the right to do so. The measure would create a $0.50 tax on private rideshare rides and a $0.25 tax on pooled rides until 2041. The money from this tax, which is estimated to generate $910,000 each year, would help improve our streets and sidewalks.
Passing this measure would also encourage more people to take public transportation, or at least take pooled rides, ultimately helping to improve congestion and decrease carbon emissions.
Vote “yes” on Measure GG.
Measure HH – YES
In the last two decades, the city of Berkeley has established itself as a leader in environmental policy. Measure HH would continue this legacy by allowing the city to achieve its climate mitigation goals.
The measure would increase taxes on electricity and gas from 7.5% to 10% and eliminate the Utility Users Aax for low-income residents. It would also create the Climate Equity Action Fund and a commission of experts to help the city implement its Climate Action Plan. Estimated to generate $2.4 million annually, the money from this tax would be placed in the Climate Equity Action Fund or Berkeley’s general fund to support other public services.
While opponents fear that revenue from this tax will not go to climate action programs, the city has a history of staying true to its word with its usage of funds generated from past taxes. Passing this measure ensures a cleaner, safer future for Berkeley residents.
Vote “yes” on Measure HH.
Measure II – YES
After years of activism, Berkeley voters finally have an opportunity through Measure II to hold Berkeley Police Department accountable.
The last few months have been a societal reckoning over the racial injustice that permeates every institution in our country, especially police departments. BPD is no exception to the trend of police perpetrating unjust racial bias; Black and Hispanic individuals continue to face higher rates of traffic stop and search incidents from BPD.
There is very little oversight or power built into Berkeley’s institutions over the police department to end discriminatory and racist practices. Measure II would give us these much-needed accountability measures.
Measure II would replace the current Police Review Commission with a stronger and more effective Police Accountability board that has more explicit responsibility, oversight and power over BPD. It would also create a new position, the director of Police Accountability, to further increase oversight.
Black Lives Matter everywhere and in Berkeley, and if passed, Measure II will create a safer, more just city for all.
Vote “yes” on Measure II.
Measure JJ – YES
The pandemic has brought increased challenges to the city, making the commitment of city officials integral to the survival and safety of Berkeley residents. With the major and the City Council’s current pay rates, however, we’re asking them to essentially be martyrs — a standard that is both unrealistic and dangerous.
Currently, despite the job of City Council and mayor being functionally full time, these public officials’ pay is exorbitantly low, requiring many city council members to hold second jobs to be able to afford to serve their constituents. Measure JJ would increase their pay to significantly more reasonable rates, which will also allow people from low-income backgrounds and marginalized communities to hold the positions more easily in the long run.
The city is in a hole financially, but we can’t expect our leaders to commit to digging us out without compensating them. The need for strong and committed public officials is greater than ever.
Vote “yes” on Measure JJ.
Measure KK – YES
Measure KK is a common-sense package of minor reforms to help the city of Berkeley comply with its bureaucracy.
The biggest change measure KK could bring is the reversal of a Berkeley Fire Department requirement that firefighters live within 40 miles of the city. It is time to give up the residency requirement, which is no longer needed functionally, and allow BFD members to live where they please — not to mention where their paychecks will go the farthest, which isn’t near Berkeley due to high housing rates.
Measure KK would also adjust local redistricting requirements to match state law and remove gender-specific pronouns from the charter, all of which are small, mostly language changes without substance to worry over. It would also clarify the terms and duties of the city attorney, who would be elected by the City Council instead of the city manager, a change that would make our city more democratic.
For the sake of the city government, vote “yes” on Measure KK.
Measure LL – YES
Measure LL is routine but important. If it sounds familiar, that’s because a similar measure must be passed every four years in every Californian city that wishes to collect taxes above a limit determined by state law. The measure and its previous incarnations — which have repeatedly passed with at least two-thirds of the vote — would allow the city to spend tax dollars that have already been approved and collected. The money would then be spent on essential city services such as libraries, parks and emergency medical services.
If this measure does not pass, these services will be drastically cut as the money must be returned to taxpayers, even though residents have already voted and paid to keep these services funded.
Let the city carry out its taxpayers’ wishes. Vote “yes” on Measure LL.
Measure MM – YES
Measure MM cleans up the Rent Stabilization Board Ordinance and ensures that all applicable rental properties are justly paying registration fees, among other important items.
The rent board does more than oversee rent control — it also provides tenants with eviction protections and settles disputes between tenants and landlords. It’s unfair that property owners of older, rent-controlled units shoulder the costs for the board’s services when many rental properties, old and new, receive its benefits.
The measure would also give the board jurisdiction over properties with more than one accessory dwelling unit, or ADU. If passed, these ADU owners would have to pay registration fees, obey the board’s tenant eviction policies and, if applicable, abide by rent control restrictions.
Any property owner with the space and money for more than one ADU should be treated as any owner of a multi-unit housing complex, and their tenants deserve to be protected as any other tenants.
The measure also reaffirms that emergency legislation can prevent landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment, offering tenants more protection.
To ensure fairness for tenants and landlords, vote “yes” on Measure MM.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.