Action Highlights 2014-2015

by Carol Stone, Action Coordinator

Carol Stone photo

Carol Stone

We had an active year working on issues aligned with our core values.  We attend meetings, write letters and speak to relevant organizations and government bodies.

Significant Community Benefits beyond those already required for very tall buildings in downtown Berkeley: LWVBAE drafted a letter to City Council, with a copy to Zoning Adjustments Board, urging benefits be legally enforceable, proportional to monetary value of the project, with long term oversight and penalties for non-compliance. Copies will be sent to news organizations and read to ZAB and Council.

Citizen’s Redistricting Commission in Berkeley  Because of the political confusion and court challenges of the redistricting proposals in the last election, Council members Jessie Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli recently invited Nancy Bickel, Carol Stone, and Dean Metzger to meet to review and modify an independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission proposal that LWVBAE supported before the 2014 election. This measure is now moving along in the Open Government Commission.  We plan to lobby to put it on the ballot in 2016. If passed, it would be implemented for the 2020 Census.

Public funding of elections in Berkeley, proposed by Maplight and supported by LWVBAE, is now before the Fair Campaign Practices Commission. Commissioners will discuss whether to include funding of ballot measures and which elected officials should be included.

Local Ballot Measures: Members advised the Board on positions LWVBAE should take on the November 2014 local ballot measures, after pro-con presentations on the measures. We tried to invite speakers who truly favored or opposed each measure to give their best arguments. The board then voted on each ballot measure whether to endorse, oppose, or take no position. “Vote with the League” flyers were distributed at Sunday Streets, Solano Stroll, BART stations, outside markets, etc. All the local measures we supported passed.  These included: Alameda County BB to raise the Transportation Sales Tax by ½ cent; Berkeley Measures D, Tax on Sugar Sweetened Beverages; F, to increase the Parks Tax; and O, to clean up provisions for recall of elected officials; Albany Measure LL to renew and modify the parcel tax for the schools; and Emeryville Measure K, to renew the schools parcel tax; and Measures U and V to make the city a charter city for the purpose of adopting a local real property tax with a rate large enough to support city government.

Raising the Minimum Wage in Emeryville Thanks to changes  in  the   national   League’s  interpretation  of  its policies and the work of Barb Singleton, we were able to lobby to support Emeryville’s successful effort to raise their minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

Community Choice Energy [Aggregation] for Alameda County got a big boost this year. First by the award of a grant from the City of Berkeley to the Ecology Center and the CCE subgroup of the Climate Action Coalition for an informational forum and by the County of Alameda funding a feasibility study for CCE in the county. A steering committee has been chosen and will meet in June.

Following Local Issues

Measure D (2014) tax on sugary beverages: the advisory committee of experts has promised to spend about 50% of its revenue this year on funding the school garden program. The members are committed to spending all the money generated by this new tax on health-related issues.

Measure M (2012) streets and watershed bond: We are watching the spending of the $30 million bond and implementation of the plans we helped the City formulate.

Berkeley Neighborhood Council, a coalition of neighborhood groups led by Dean Metzger, Shirley Dean and others, has been holding public meetings in varying locations on neighborhood issues of concern—many of interest to the League.

State and National Action

The Climate Change Team was incredibly active this year; in particular, successfully lobbying LWVC to support SB 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act) and SB 350 (Golden State Standards for Energy), now in the state legislature. The Team is now urging local leagues to lobby their legislators. See Climate Change Team Report , page 5.

Crude Oil By Rail:  As more and more 100-car trains carrying crude oil – including a more flammable and explosive type of oil– roll through California, Leagues and other Californians are concerned. We’ve been learning more and looking for ways to take effective action.  Although railroads are governed by national legislation, LWVC policies on hazardous materials may cover some situations and local planning bodies can control expansion of some facilities.  We are working informally with other leagues on the issue to find ways to take action.

Healthcare Thanks to Li-hsia Wang, our point person on this issue, we have been following healthcare in California. Beyond the Affordable Care Act, the Healthcare Team have focused on building a statewide network of organizations supporting single payer for California. At a caucus at the LWVC convention, Li-hsia and others discussed extending healthcare to all immigrants in California, documented or not.  See  Healthcare Team report page 2.

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