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City Council District 6
City Council District 6

 Councilmember Susan Wengraf

Councilmember Susan Wengraf

District 6 horizontal line

Newsletter #5

July, 2009



Included in this newsletter is information about:

Dear Friends and District 6 Constituents,

     I’ve been in office now as representative of District 6 for a little over six months. I probably came into office at the worst possible time. With limited financial resources, it is very difficult to get anything accomplished and although our City is in better shape than neighboring cities, our situation is still not great!

     Still, I get my inspiration from all of you who have dedicated much of your time to making Berkeley a better place for all of us. The Berkeley Path Wanderers, The Friends of Five Creeks, The Friends of the Berkeley Rose Garden, The Hillside School Neighbors, The Friends of Terrace View Park…are just examples of groups working together to make improvements to our neglected infrastructure. My hat goes off to all of you for your commitment and dedication to our City.


     After many community meetings and public hearings, the Berkeley City Council adopted its budget for the fiscal year 2010 – 2011. This budget lays out the City’s program and budgeting priorities for the next two years, and is the result of months of meetings, and a lot of dedicated staff work from all departments.

     Unfortunately, budget adoption does not mean our budget worries are over. Because of the State’s continuing inability to pass a budget and their ongoing financial problems, council may still face many difficult decisions.

     The State is still wrestling with its budget and is facing a huge deficit of more than 25 billion dollars. We know there will be cuts to cities, and our current estimates are that the State cuts could mean a loss to Berkeley of $8.2 million for the next year. Some of those cuts are one-time, and some are permanent. For example, about $5.6 million is a “loan” to the State, which must be paid back to the City within three years. Should this occur, we will consider ways to bridge this loan to the State with other funding and/or reduce one-time costs such as capital so we don’t have to make immediate, recurring budget cuts.

     However, there may be permanent cuts that will result in the elimination of some programs. A one-time loss of $1.7 million and a permanent loss of about $1.2 million in transportation Gas Tax funding will require a reduction in street maintenance and repair work. We don’t know what will happen in the long term, but we do know there will be an increase in PERS rates, more economic uncertainty, and possibly more state cuts.

     The situation is extremely frustrating. I will continue to keep you updated as we learn how the chaos and budget deficit at the State level will impact our city.

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     Effective, June 1, 2009, Cal Fire officially declared the start of Fire Season for Alameda County. You can immediately improve your property's fire safety by taking the following steps:

  • Clearing flammable vegetation and trees away from your house
  • Removing tree limbs within 10 feet of any chimneys or stovepipes
  • Removing pine needles and leaves from roofs, eaves, roof valleys, and rain gutters
  • Removing dead tree limbs overhanging structures
  • Removing flammable material like firewood from under decks
  • Placing your woodpile far away from your house
  • Ensuring you place spark arrestors on all internal combustion engines used around flammable vegetation (mowers, chainsaws, weed eaters, motorcycle, etc.)
  • Remembering to cut your grass regularly and always before noon. Dry grass has the highest amount of moisture in the morning.

     If you see smoke or a fire, report it immediately by calling 911 from a land line phone, or 510-981-5911 from your cell phone. Be prepared to provide information on the fire's location.

     For more information on protecting your home from wildfire, please visit www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/getready or call 510-981-5506.

     Take advantage of the Fire Fuel Chipper Program provided by the City and put out vegetation on the side of your street. City crews will make two passes through each neighborhood during the Fire Season. For the schedule and further information, click here.

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     All fireworks including “Safe and Sane” are prohibited in the City of Berkeley. Between 2003 and 2005, there were 5 structure and outdoor fires caused by fireworks. Pre-teens and teenagers face the highest risk of injury from fireworks. If you suspect that fireworks are being used in your neighborhood, please call the police department at 981-5900.

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     It is now illegal to throw fluorescent bulbs into your trash can. But recycling them has become easier and more convenient because more locations are now taking spent fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and high-intensity discharge lamps. 

     Fluorescent lights are popular because they last longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs and use 75 percent less energy. However, they contain a small amount of toxic mercury vapor, a heavy metal, that can be harmful to humans and the environment if improperly disposed. To keep mercury out of the environment, residents can bring their spent lamps to any of the collection centers listed below where the lamps will be properly recycled at no cost to the consumer. 

     Drop off your CFLs, metal halide lamps, sodium lamps, mercury vapor lamps and neon lamps at any of the following locations in Berkeley during regular business hours:

  • Berkeley Ace Hardware, 2145 University Avenue, 845-0410
  • Ensler Lighting, 1793 Solano Avenue, 526-4385
  • Omega Too, 2204 San Pablo Avenue, 843-3636
  • Orchard Supply Hardware, 1025 Ashby Avenue, 540-6638
  • Whole Foods, 3000 Telegraph Avenue, 649-1333
  • Berkeley Recycling Center, 669 Gilman Street @ Second Street, 524-0113 (also accepts fluorescent tubes)

     Take care when handling and transporting these fluorescent lights and do not break them. If one does break, please refer to the cleanup guidelines found on the website for the Department of Toxic Substances Control
Please keep the following tips in mind for safely transporting fluorescent lights:

  • Keep them in their original box, where possible
  • Avoid taping them together
  • Cushion them to prevent breakage and
  • Carry them in the trunk of the car; make sure there are no heavy items in the trunk that can shift or roll around and break or crush the lamps. 

     For disposal of other household hazardous wastes, such as batteries, paints, solvents, etc., visit the Alameda County Household Hazardous Waste website at www.stopwaste.org.

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Fellow Community Members,

     Since most of our previous updates had a single topic or theme, I thought it would be interesting to cover a variety of topics that have been the subjects in community member e-mails I have received recently.

     Many of you have contacted me with concerns about theft of recyclables and the presence of recycling “poachers” in your neighborhoods. I understand your concerns about the criminal aspects of the poaching problem, not to mention the noise disturbances and messy situations some of the poachers create. Currently, with the difficulties and challenges that many city departments are facing, the Police Department does not have the resources to put together a special program to deal with the recycling theft problem. Even if we were able to initiate an enforcement program, it is questionable if the District Attorney’s Office would be willing to prosecute recycling thieves when the amount of more serious cases awaiting prosecution is nearly overwhelming. This sounds very discouraging, but there are several things we can do to have a positive impact on the problem. 

     The first thing I suggest is to not place your recyclables on the curb until the morning of your scheduled pick-up day. This will prevent late night or early morning poachers from targeting your block and waking you with the unwanted sound of clanging bottles or breaking glass. You can also report poachers to the Ecology Center at (510) 527-5555; they keep records on the active poachers and share that information with our Department. More information on the Ecology Center and reporting poachers is available at this address: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=5644. You always have the option to report poachers to the Police Department via our non-emergency line (510) 981-5900, but please understand that recycling theft calls get a very low priority when other more pressing matters exist in the city. Some community members have taken photos of the poachers, including the license plate numbers of their vehicles, and forwarded the images to me. When time allows, I have contacted the registered owners of the vehicles, explained the criminality of their actions, and discussed why it would be in their best interest to stop committing theft in our community. If you can obtain a description and license plate number of a vehicle you see involved in recycling theft without compromising your safety in any way, please feel free to forward the information or image to me. If you’d like, after I contact the registered owner, I can call you and let you know how the conversation went. The conversations tend to be very interesting, with some of the excuses and explanations the poachers use, bordering on ridiculous. 

     Another issue that many of you have concerns about is auto theft. Consistently, beats in Northeast and North Central Berkeley rank among the busiest with regard to auto theft activity. Like we have discussed before, many forms of property crime are preventable if you take the proper precautions, and auto theft is one of the most preventable. The one technique that will most protect your car from theft is securing it with a steering wheel locking device, commonly known as a “Club.” I have recently discovered that the Berkeley Police Department has taken only one report of a successful auto theft of a vehicle secured with a club. With time and the right technique, a club can be disabled by an auto thief, but why would that thief bother with a car secured with a club when there are so many easier targets. Consistently using a club to secure your car appears to be the best insurance to prevent yourself from being the victim of auto theft. With this in mind, our Department has made a supply of free steering wheel locking devices available to our community members. If you would like one of the locking devices, please visit the front counter of the Public Safety Building (2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way) during normal business hours and request one from the front counter staff. Please keep in mind that this offer is “first come, first served,” and the supply is limited. You might also be interested to know that if you are the victim of auto theft in our city, we have a 90+ % recovery rate of vehicles that are stolen in Berkeley. 

     I have recently received a number of e-mails with complaints about aggressive doorknockers and solicitors. Several of our community members have had very negative experiences with individuals soliciting for magazine descriptions or claiming to be contractors or window sales people. Many of these individuals are legitimate, but may lack the sales or communication skills to have a positive contact, while others may be using door-to-door solicitation as a ruse to “case” or prowl for burglary. Like I have mentioned in a previous update, I solve the doorknocker and solicitor problem by simply not opening the door to anyone I do not know, or that I am not expecting. I will acknowledge that I’m home, but I will say, “No thank you, I’m not interested” through my closed door. Some may call me rude, but I call myself prudent and safe. If anyone that comes to your door behaves in a manner that makes you suspect criminal activity may be occurring, do not hesitate to call B.P.D. and report the incident.

     While we are on the subject of suspicious people and prowling, I want to remind everyone (yes…I’m saying it again) to lock your doors and windows. With the warmer weather we are experiencing, many of us may be tempted to leave windows and doors open to cool our homes, but keep in mind that 25% to 50% of all residential burglaries in Berkeley occur through open or unlocked doors and windows. It’s also important to remember that last summer we had a sexual assault suspect that was entering women’s homes through open or unlocked windows. The most important thing we can all do to protect ourselves and our belongings is lock or secure our doors and windows.

     In previous updates we had discussed the resources that were available to you to obtain crime related data and information. I’d like to leave you with information about a resource I think you will find interesting. Crimemapping.com (like Community Crime View on the B.P.D. website) allows you to view crime information for an area and timeframe you choose, but adds the ability for you to receive e-mail updates when crimes occur in your designated area. Crimemapping.com is another resource you can use to keep yourself better informed, and being better informed can keep you safer.

     As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions.


Officer Casimiro Pierantoni #96
Area Coordinator-Area 1
Community Services Bureau
Berkeley Police Department
Phn: (510) 981-5773
Fax: (510) 981-5819

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     Berkeley is sponsoring many free events this summer for your enjoyment. One, in particular, that I want to tell you about is the performance of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” in John Hinkel Park.
Under the musical direction of Jonathan Khuner, this promises to be a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon. July 25th and 26th at 3:00 pm. Click here for more information.

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     The Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District has issued a local warning about tree hole mosquitoes- the primary carrier of heartworm disease in dogs. The mosquitoes usually bite at night or in shady areas during the day and appear as white specks.
The District advises Berkeley residents to take the following steps to abate the tree hole mosquitoes:

    Check your property for any standing water, including toys, buckets, drain pipes, etc.

     For those who collect water for the garden or other purposes, drop doughnut-shaped Mosquito Dunks into the water, which are repellents designed to kill mosquitoes before they hatch ($11.95 for six in hardware stores and nurseries).

     If you see mosquitoes, please contact the district by phone (510) 783-7744 or email at acmad@mosquitoes.org, and leave a service request.

     For further information on the pests, the report can be viewed at http://www.mosquitoes.org/treehole.html.

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We are building our list. If you know of anyone who might be interested in receiving this newsletter, please have them send me an email: swengraf@ci.berkeley.ca.us

If you are interested in reading the previous editions of my newsletter, you may view them at my website: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=22558

Have a wonderful summer! I’ll be back in touch in September.

Susan Wengraf
City Council. District 6


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