IN THE DARK
Editors, Daily Planet:
I was sad when you disappeared but am overjoyed at your return. We need an honest voice in a city whose leadership is failing.
An example is the abuse and controversy over the lot at 2517 Sacramento St. Even while the city is being sued in part due to their failure to act in good faith by notifying the surrounding neighborhood of meetings regarding the property, members of Neighbors for Sensible Development were kept in the dark about a meeting of the Design Review Commission.
The meeting took place March 20. The only two signs posted to announce the meeting were posted March 21, one day after the meeting took place. We should have been notified 10 days in advance. Why weren’t we?
Please investigate and let the citizens of Berkeley in on the secret of contractors and developers taking our berserk little village away from us.
Editors, Daily Planet:
We look forward to the revived non-daily Berkeley Planet. I really miss news about the city, in particular about the schools, which are in so much need of support.
You had done a great service previously covering them, which is crucial for the citizenry. Also, getting full exposure to the nutty – and hopefully in the future less nutty – Berkeley politics was valuable and ultimately serves the purpose of helping the politicians stay in line a bit, because more attention is drawn not only to their good deeds but also to their shenanigans.
One more thing about the schools: Because of an article I read in the Planet, I volunteered for the Berkeley High School Writer’s Room Program, which provides a terrific service to Berkeley’s students (one-on-one writing coaching for entire classrooms by eager cadres of community volunteer writing coaches). Without your periodic attention to activities such as this, people simply don’t know about them, and they and the kids miss out.
You have been sorely missed. My heart skipped a beat when I saw your notice on the boxes: “We will be back.” Good luck.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Last spring, as an emergency move to quell proposals allowing very tall or dense structures in many parts of Berkeley, people from various communities put together an initiative for the ballot to establish maximum building heights.
At that time, members of the group set up a booth at the Earth Day Festival and got dozens of signatures from citizens willing to circulate petitions. Of the more than 50 visitors talked with that day, only three were in favor of high-rise development, indicating high support in the ecology community.
When the text of the final initiative was completed and legally formatted, the document was submitted to city officials as the last step before being circulated for voters’ signatures. The city attorney issued an opinion declaring the proposed measure was beyond the powers of voters to enact as an initiative.
Furthermore, to do so would require a charter amendment. To our disadvantage, the collection of enough signatures to amend the charter would require three times the number needed for an initiative. By the time this legal judgment was delivered April 3, it was not feasible to collect the over 6,000 signatures in one month before the presidential election deadline. As a consequence the project was shelved.
Maximum height advocates might go for a charter amendment with more than a year in which to do the petitions. First, a clarification of the city attorney’s judgment needs to be made in view of the fact that the City Charter itself gives direct legislative powers to voters in the initiative section, Article XIII:
“The qualified voters of the city shall have power through the initiative and otherwise, as provided by this charter and general laws of the state, to enact appropriate legislation to carry out and enforce any of the powers of the city or any of the powers of the council.”
Since a questionable city attorney opinion, of interfering with a city commission, has been headlined in local newspapers, yet another complaint should be aired involving the initiative process.
What are our rights as voters under charter Article XIII? Why is the initiative process being limited? Would a City Council workshop on the issue be appropriate?
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