Phone calls were temporarily blocked
February 2, 2024
To: Berkeley City Manager, Dee Williams-Ridley
From: Shirley Dean
Subject: Your 1/30/24 Response to my 1/27/24 email regarding Blocking Residents from
Telephone Communication with City Staff and Elected Representatives
City Manager Williams-Ridley:
Thank you for your quick response regarding the blocking of my home telephone from being used when I want/need to speak with city staff and elected officials. I am pleased in more ways than can be expressed for eliminating the blocking and for advising me that you intend to “refine” the city’s policies and procedures around such an action so that it doesn’t occur again to any community member whether a former Mayor or not.
I plan to inform the community that the city of Berkeley has the power to ban calls to their government and used that power to block telephone calls to both city staff and elected officials. While you say it “typically” only occurs regarding SPAM numbers, it did in fact occur on January25 to my home telephone number (clearly not SPAM) following my invitation to a staff member to make a presentation on the Ohlone Greenway project at an open community zoom meeting hosted by the Berkeley Neighborhoods Council. No cause regarding why this happened was ever provided. I spent several days calling your office, the City Clerk, all seven City Council Members and various numbers regarding such everyday services such as trash pickup and numbers related to my work as a member of the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission. All of these calls responded with the message that the person being called was “not accepting calls.“ This confirmed to me that my telephone number was blocked throughout the city. (I did not call numbers such as 911 as I understand they are not city controlled.) I contacted Council Members Hahn and Harrison through another method, and they were both helpful by reaching out to you. Thankfully on January 30, you responded and lifted the block explaining that the procedures involving blocking would be “redefined.”
With this brief history and your response in mind, I am requesting that a written explanation will be provided regarding why and how this decision to block my calls was applied to my home telephone number following my January 25 contact with Public Works staff. I am not interested in learning about disciplinary action. I an interesting in specifically learning how this could happen, referencing the specific current causes and procedures being used to block phone numbers and what is proposed to redefine the current process. This is important because it concerns fundamental democracy and community members need to know how their right to speak with their government is protected.
Again, I thank you for unblocking the banning of my home telephone number and for providing me with a contact number for a staff member in your office.
cc: Deputy City Manager Anne Carwell
Berkeley Neighborhoods Council Steering Committee