Tensions mounted during Berkeley City Council’s first regular meeting Tuesday following the Nov. 3 elections as Councilmember Cheryl Davila made allegations about a coordinated effort to hurt her chances of reelection.
While votes are still being counted, Davila is currently behind challenger Terry Taplin in the District 2 City Council race by about 10 percentage points, as of press time. During council comment on the consent calendar, Davila alleged that her City Council colleagues had conspired to undermine her reelection efforts.
“It was the entire council that also teamed up with Berkeleyside and East Bay Times, with lies, deception, collusion, corruption, stealing and all kinds of shenanigans,” Davila alleged during the meeting. “In 2016, I was an unexpected victory, and I was treated that way the entire time, so they had four years to come up with this plan. Looks like they did a good job.”
This was not the first time Davila has made such claims. In a post-election interview, Davila alleged that “sabotage” had taken place and that her campaign signs had been stolen or damaged, among other claims.
Tensions briefly escalated when Mayor Jesse Arreguín made an attempt to redirect the discussion back to the consent calendar.
“I will finish speaking,” Davila said, speaking over Arreguín. “You’re not silencing me anymore. … I’m free now to say whatever the hell I want, when I want.”
Later in the meeting, a lengthy discussion took place over an item proposed by Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani that would install additional lighting and security cameras along major streets serving as entry and exit points to the city in order to assist police investigators in identifying fleeing suspects.
In light of budgetary concerns, Kesarwani submitted amendments to the item that would instead refer the cameras to a community input process for the reimagining public safety omnibus package, which passed in July. Funds for additional street lighting in “high crime areas” would be referred to the upcoming November budget process.
Despite the amendments, members of the City Council and the public voiced concerns over whether limited budget dollars should be spent on cameras without further research and the impact that added surveillance would have on civil liberties.
“I don’t think we want to become a surveillance fortress and be filming everybody that comes into and out of Berkeley,” said Councilmember Sophie Hahn during the meeting. “I’m just really concerned about the cost in civil liberties and the intrusiveness of government surveillance.”
Before a vote could take place on the item, Arreguín abruptly adjourned the meeting at its regular end time of 11 p.m., as no motion to extend the meeting had been made. The remaining action items will be referred to the Agenda and Rules Committee as unfinished business, Arreguín said.
Among the remaining items was a resolution to take a vote of no confidence in Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood, which Davila introduced after a comment Greenwood made during a June City Council meeting when he suggested that firearms are the alternative to tear gas as a means of crowd control.
The item has since appeared on the City Council’s action calendar multiple times and has yet to be taken up for discussion, which members of the public have taken issue with during City Council meetings.
“I ask the council to take some courage. Take the moral courage to take a vote,” said public commenter James McFadden during the meeting. “Stop making the public wait until 11 p.m. and then postponing when it’s a controversial vote.”