Berkeley Neighborhoods Council
Dedicated to improving the quality of life for all
BNC invites letters from eNEWS readers. Letters and photos should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and should be about issues of neighborhood interest. Letters should be no longer than 500 words. All letters should state the name(s) of the author and at least the general area where the author lives or the neighborhood group he/she is affiliated with. That information will be published with the letter. Letters should also include a phone number and e-mail address where the author can be contacted. That information will NOT be published. We ask for it just in case we have any questions, and, of course, we need to verify who it was that sent the letter.
Letter from a North Berkeley Resident
Today's letter asks very important questions that we thought our readers would like to hear about. It was sent by Mary Lou Breiman who lives in North Berkeley. Ms. Breiman writes:
Before the early 1980's Berkeley had two political slates, each of which presented an entire list of candidates whom they supported for local office. Voters could choose between progressive and super progressive. Neighborhoods of Homeowners were generally neither because the bills for progressive improvements were paid for with property taxes. Since 1986, Berkeley has been divided into districts of people who have common interests.
Thus, when I read your statement - “REDISTRICTING: To establish the principal that neighborhoods are a “Community of Interest” that should be kept together in a Council District to increase their influence and have one Council Member representative that could be held accountable to residents” - I can only think that this sentence was written with complete ignorance of the present system or that it assumes that the readers are ignorant, or, that it is a “mime,” the meaning of which you are trying to skew into something you don't want to be clear about.
Second, my neighborhood has an active Earthquake Preparedness group; and an e-mail group that connects us with no limitation on comments or queries so far. Then, there is NEBA. Why do we need another group - BNC? It really does seem like a very special interest group.
By the way, are any of our City Council District representatives members?
BNC wants to thank Ms. Breiman for asking these questions because we think they might be on the minds of a lot of people and this gives us a chance to respond. BNC wants to be very clear about our belief that neighborhoods are a Community of Interest and, as such, are intended by law to be kept together in electoral districts. Many of us worked to establish District Elections in two elections that were held in 1986. It is interesting to note that some of the leaders who opposed District Elections in 1986 are the ones who worked to give the Council the power to establish Council Boundaries in 2012.
The City must engage in redistricting every ten years when the census shows that current districts have a significant difference in population. That's the case now. The article, What We're Thinking About in our August 2013 eNEWS archives gives the details about how we went from our former Council Districts to the ones that are being debated now. We urge our readers to review that information, and we cannot say strongly enough that by any definition or just, plain, sweet logic, a student district is a Community of Interest AND a neighborhood is EQUALLY a Community of Interest. To date, Council Members have ignored this concept. An update on redistricting is in What We're Thinking About in this eNEWS issue.
The unanswered question in all of this is why the Council is so reluctant to think of neighborhoods as Communities of Interest. To put it mildly, BNC has noticed that there appears to be a trend for neighborhoods to be ignored especially regarding development issues, and that when we unite and our numbers are big enough, we have a chance of being heard. That's why BNC is needed. We indeed are a special interest group -- one that exists to bring neighborhood groups together to communicate with each other and resolve our problems.
As to the last question: No City Council District representatives are members of BNC.
Update: What Happened to the Giant Thistles of Cesar Chavez Park?
We also want to update you on a letter from our August 2013 eNEWS that asked the question, What Happened to the Giant Thistles of Cesar Chavez Park? The letter was sent by Curtis Manning, Sisterna Neighborhood Association (5th and Addison Streets).
It turns out that ground squirrels have indeed burrowed into the clay cap that covers the garbage that lies beneath Cesar Chavez Park. Evidently the population of these little animals grew because a person was feeding them. This is being discouraged by talking to the person involved in feeding the ground squirrels. However, there is no evidence that their burrowing caused a runoff that is polluting San Francisco Bay.
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board monitors Bay landfills by pumping up water from monitoring wells and looking particularly for petroleum products in the “garbage juice.” The technical term is “leachate” but BNC just can't resist commenting that “garbage juice” is far more fun to say. The City has discontinued watering the Park but this was done because of cost considerations. To water or not to water is fine with the Water Quality Control Board (that's a local decision), they just don't want “excessive watering” or “ponding” that might affect water quality. Monitoring is done once per year and the Water Quality Control Board staff thinks that Berkeley is doing a good job.
What do you thinking about the question of watering? When there is no drought, or potential drought, should the City of Berkeley water Cesar Chavez Park? Can the giant thistles be saved? We still don't have a full answer on how much the burrowing of the ground squirrels contributed to the demise of the thistles, whether or not the Park is watered by the City. Readers might want to weigh in on these question in the upcoming Parks and Waterfront Commission meetings about improvements to our parks. See the Neighborhood Watch Calendar in this issue.
BNC would also like to receive your comments. We'll do a follow-up in our next issue.
There is one remaining issue - that of the methane that is being off-gassed by the garbage under the Park. Is it, or isn't it being counted in Berkeley's Climate Action Plan? Some say it isn't, and if that is true, why not? We're checking and will get back to you.