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January 17, 2012

In this issue:

A Note from Councilmember Capitelli
City Budget: Frequently Asked Questions
Coffee with the Councilmember
Berkeley Police Safety Reminder
BranchVan North Berkeley Schedule
Spare The Air Alerts
Emergency Preparedness: CERT Classes Available
Saving American Democracy
City Contacts and Resources

A Note From Councilmember Capitelli

Dear District 5 Neighbors,

Happy New Year! My staff and I want to wish you and your families a safe and productive 2012.

I am writing this on a gloriously warm (if unseasonal) January afternoon. The City Council winter break ends shortly. After our collective deep breath we will come back to the challenges ahead with, we hope, a renewed sense of vigor. The coming year is an important one for Berkeley, when difficult decisions will have to be made by all of us in order to create a sound foundation for the future.

Our long-term budget planning is center stage, with the federal and state policies — and cuts — providing an uncertain backdrop. Through a series of workshops this past fall, City staff has comprehensively outlined both short-term budgetary challenges and long-term needs for several of the City's major service areas — including the unfunded liabilities in our retirement program — in order to adequately prepare us for the decisions ahead.

Many of you have contacted me with suggestions — thank you — and to inquire about City policies and comparisons to other jurisdictions. Two of my colleagues and I have put together some Frequently Asked Questions. This is not a comprehensive list (for intrepid soles there is always the complete City's Budget) but an attempt to portray to you our perspective. I intend to add to this as we move forward.

Occupy Berkeley

On Thursday, December 22, 2011, the Occupy Berkeley protest and Civic Center Park occupation came to a close. For almost two months, through Thanksgiving, the campers resided in the park relatively peacefully and cooperatively. During that time the City received virtually no complaints or inquiries about the occupation from the community.

After Thanksgiving, with a precipitous increase in both camper population and in the diversity of protest intention, reports of criminal activity and requests for service began to increase. So did complaints from the community.

Monday, December 19, the campers were notified of the potential enforcement of park hours and of social service and shelter options. Over three days teams of Public Works employees, Police and social service workers quietly assisted the departing campers. The grass area at the park is now fenced off for replanting.

I want to personally thank our Interim City Manager, Christine Daniel, our police department and the City staff who participated. This was a potentially explosive situation that was handled with grace and sensitivity. With so much press about the wrong way to engage with protestors, I was proud that Berkeley modeled a respectful process.

Monterey Hopkins Shopping Area

I hope you all had an opportunity to see the beautiful Christmas lights in the trees across Hopkins this holiday season. They represent another collaboration of the recently formed Monterey/Hopkins business association, started by Monterey Market and the surrounding merchants, in an effort to brand and promote the district and attract more patrons.

Many retail businesses have suffered during the recession, so we are very lucky that this commercial district is doing so well. Attractive, successful business areas improve property values, increase walkability, offer a variety of shopping options, provide tax revenue and reinforce community. Regional draws, in this case Monterey Market, attract customers that stay and patronize the other shops on Hopkins.

I understand that successful commercial areas also mean impacts to the neighborhood: traffic, parking, noise, and employees. Over the last year and a half, I have initiated and organized numerous neighborhood meetings to try to deal with these impacts and to improve communication among the neighbors, the merchants and the Monterey Market. This work continues.

Last month, the East Bay Express published a short article about our neighborhood shopping area and highlighted the conflict among some of the merchants regarding product mix and pricing. It is a serious discussion between a few of the merchants and they have met, separately from the business association, which continues to focus on the common goal of promoting the district as a whole.

My sincere hope is that Berkeley's commercial districts, like the Monterey Hopkins shopping area, experience ever more success. My work is to ensure that all the businesses will be sensitive to the resident's concerns about impacts and will continue to work with my office, the City and adjacent neighbors to mitigate them.

Again — all the best in the New Year. Enjoy the lovely weather but remember it will rain. Keep your umbrellas close by.


Laurie Capitelli
Berkeley City Council, District 5

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City Budget:
Frequently Asked Questions

Councilmembers Wengraf and Wozniak and I have put together responses to some of the most frequently asked questions about the City budget and the City Council's approach to long-term financial obligations. Thank you to the City Auditor, Ann Marie Hogan, and the Interim City Manager, Christine Daniel, for their input and support.

For those who want to dive into the budget in depth, visit the Budget Office Home Page. (Check out the specific links under Popular Topics.)

The schedule for City Council budget review and adoption can be found on the 2012 Budget Calendar.

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Coffee with the Councilmember

What: No Host "Café" and impromptu discussion with Councilmember Capitelli
When: Wednesday, January 25, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Where: Café Roma, 1549 Hopkins Street (across from Monterey Market)

Please join me for a casual discussion. Bring your questions and concerns. Rain will cancel.

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Berkeley Police Safety Reminder

The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is warning the community that periodic criminal trends occur in which thieves use ruses to commit theft, burglary, fraud and other crimes. BPD is reminding community members of the following crime prevention:

  • Be very alert/aware of activity around your home & neighborhood.
  • DO NOT allow anyone in your home whom you do not know, have not hired or screened, regardless of what company or inspection entity they claim to be from. Call BPD.
  • Call BPD to report any suspicious people or activity, in particular if you spot the truck mentioned above.
  • If you have an older neighbor or neighbors, get to know them and please give attention to any unusual activity in or around their home(s).

See the December 15, 2011 press release for accounts of specific incidences.

If you note suspicious individual(s) or activity, please call BPD's non-emergency line at (510) 981-5900. For crimes in progress, dial 911 or (510) 981-5911 from your cell phone.

For more resources, visit the Berkeley Police Department website.

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North Berkeley Schedule

The Berkeley Public Library's BranchVan book mobile hours have changed for the winter season. Visits to Live Oak Community Center (Shattuck Ave. at Berryman) will end at 6:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m., but all other hours will remain the same.

The Thursday evening Live Oak Community Center BranchVan schedule will be as follows:

Mon: 2:30 - 5:30
Tue: 10:00 - 1:00
Wed: 12:00 - 3:00
Thu: 4:30 - 6:30
Fri: 2:30 - 5:30
Sat: 10:00 - 1:00

The BranchVan was purchased with funds from Measure FF, passed by Berkeley voters in November 2008. The BranchVan will deliver holds and pick up returns at designated stops near branches when they are closed for construction. The North Branch library is currently under construction and the work is expected to be complete by the end of March 2012. The library is on schedule to re-open in April / May 2012.

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Spare The Air Alerts

In recent weeks we have experienced several "Spare the Air" days here in the Bay Area. Spare the Air alerts are issued by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) when air quality is deemed to be unhealthy. Because wood smoke is the largest source of harmful soot pollution during the winter season, burning wood through the use of fireplaces, pellet stoves, wood stoves, fireplace inserts and outdoor fire pits is illegal during a winter Spare the Air Alert.

Each day by 2 p.m., the BAAQMD will issue an air quality forecast for the next day. If air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, a Winter Spare the Air Alert will be called. The alert will be in effect the entire next day, for a full 24 hours. On the Spare the Air website, residents can find information about the health effects of wood smoke and detailed information about the Wood Burning Rule and how to comply with it.

If you are concerned about smoke in your neighborhood, you can also file a wood smoke complaint online.

To find out if a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect, residents and business owners who own or use any indoor or outdoor fireplace, fire pit or wood or pellet stove can do the following:

  • Call 1-877-4NO-BURN (1-877-466-2876)
  • Sign up for automatic phone alerts by calling 1-800-430-1515
  • Sign up for email AirAlerts
  • Go to Spare the Air and check the upper left hand corner for alerts.

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Emergency Preparedness:

Classes Available

A message from our Disaster and Fire Safety Commissioner, Lynn Zummo:

The City's Office of Emergency Services has announced the newest class schedule for the CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) program. THESE CLASSES ARE ALL CURRENTLY OPEN so you are encouraged to sign up as soon as you can to secure a spot before they fill up (as they will undoubtedly as the class time approaches).

Additionally, OES has also opened the application period for the 2012 Community Emergency Supply (Cache) Program. Applications, including eligibility requirements and what typically comes in the supplies package, can be found on the OES website. If your group needs to take the CERT classes as part of your eligibility requirements, gather your participants and DO NOT DELAY in registering for classes, especially if you want to take them together. These classes do fill up quickly.

Please address questions to Khin Chin at 510.981.5506 or KChin@ci.berkeley.ca.us.

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Saving American Democracy

Finally, 2012 is an election year. No matter where we are politically, we can all recognize the tremendous influence of big, unrestricted money in politics through "Super PACs:" a phenomena that evolved directly out of the 5-to-4 ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission, granting corporations the same constitutional right to free speech enjoyed by individual Americans. As you probably know, every major presidential candidate is supported by a Super PAC.

Warning that "American democracy in endangered," Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent - Vermont) on January 5, 2012 proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn this Supreme Court ruling that allows unrestricted and secret campaign spending by corporations on U.S. elections.

The Saving American Democracy Amendment states:

  • Corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people.
  • Corporations are subject to regulation by the people.
  • Corporations may not make campaign contributions.
  • Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign finances.

See Congressman Sanders, speech here.

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City Contacts and Resources

Listed below are important city phone numbers to keep close by:

Laurie Capitelli, District 5 Office


Tom Bates, Office of the Mayor


Officer Byron White, BPD Area Coordinator for North Berkeley


Non-emergency (to report a past event or suspicious activity)


Emergency (to report a crime in process or an emergency)
from a landline


From a cell phone 


To report nonfunctioning street lamps, graffiti, missed garbage pick-ups

On Line Service Center
or dial 311

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