Berkeley Today: Wednesday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday May 19, 2010 - 04:16:00 PM

In the news today: The Berkeley City Council agrees to Arizona sanctions and decides not to fine large family day care centers for retroactive penalties; Berkeley sets a limit for CO2 emissions; police warn of robberies; UC Berkeley freshmen get DNA swabs as welcome presents and Berkeley High School reopens the search for a new principal. 

Berkeley restricts travel to Arizona 

The Berkeley City Council Tuesday unanimously voted to denounce Arizona’s illegal immigration bill and called for a boycott of the state of Arizona and Arizona-based businesses. The agenda item included a resolution written by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Max Anderson and Darryl Moore. Worthington said that the four councilmembers agreed to work together to oppose SB1070 at an immigration rally organized by Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action. The council also banned travel to Arizona by city employees and officials as part of the same resolution. The council also adopted language from an agenda item sponsored by Councilmembers Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli, which opposed the discriminatory Arizona bill and urged lawmakers to adopt legislation against it. City officials said that since it was inevitable that California cities would do business with an adjoining state, the City Manager would review who applied and got new contracts with Berkeley. 

City Council drops retroactive fees for large in-home day care centers 

The council voted not to charge retroactive fees and penalties for large in-home day care centers which didn’t apply for the proper city permits. Instead, starting Jan. 1, 2010, these daycares will have to pay $150 in business license fees. New large in-home daycares will have to pay a $500 permit fee as well as the business license fee. Owners of large in-home daycares spoke at the council meeting against the retroactive fees and fines. One woman pointed out that she had asked the city’s permit center whether she needed a special permit to open a large in-home daycare and was told no. 

The council also decided that the Berkeley Planning Commission will determine what regulations should be required for large family in-home daycares. The commission will come back to council by September with the proposed zoning regulations. 

Berkeley sets a limit for CO2 emissions 

Berkeley became the second city in the U.S. after Richmond, Calif. to recognize 350 PPM as the recommended carbon dioxide level based on scientific research. City Officials said that the resolution would help Berkeley reach its climate action goals. At first Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said he had some concerns about the resolution mainly because it might cost the city a lot of money, but then the council moved the agenda item and it was approved unanimously. So far, about 112 countries have adopted the same CO2 goal. For more information: www.350.org

Citizens’ sunshine ordinance 

A discussion about the cost of funding a sunshine ordinance proposed by a group of Berkeley citizens was listed on the Council’s Tuesday agenda as “Summary of Costs Related to the Initiative Ordinance Enacting New Requirements for the City Council and Rent Stabilization Board and Boards and Commissions Relating to Agendas and Meetings, Requiring Additional Disclosure of Public Records, and Creating a New Commission”.It did not result in any votes being taken by the council. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz said that he thought the citizens’ version of the sunshine ordinance would be extremely expensive. Several councilmembers suggested holding a workshop to discuss the ordinance, but Mayor Bates opposed holding a workshop unless the initiative is withdrawn, and no vote was taken. The citizens’ group is currently trying to get signatures to put their proposed ordinance on the Nov. 2010 ballot. The city clerk informed the council that if the group fails to get the required number of signatures by next week then they will not be able to put it before the voters in November. They can continue until September to collect signatures to put it on the June 2012 ballot. 

Berkeley police warn of robberies 

Berkeley police are asking the public to remain vigilant about a group of robbers who sneak up on people from behind, hit them in the head and take off with their belongings. According to a press release from Berkeley police, the group—comprised of four men and women—has hit pedestrians three times in April and May. They robbed a person at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street in downtown Berkeley at midnight on April 28. On May 6, they struck people once in the 2500 block of Benvenue Avenue and again at Parker and Fulton streets. Police said that victims have described the group as two black men and two Latino women in their late teens or early 20s. 

Anyone with any information should call the Berkeley Police robbery department at 510-981-5742.  

UC Berkeley Freshmen get DNA swabs 

Even as it struggles with budget cuts, fee hikes and layoffs, UC Berkeley is getting creative about ways to welcome its incoming freshmen. The latest idea involves taking DNA swabs from inside students’ cheeks which would be analyzed to help them find ways to make their lives healthier. Some students in the class of 2014 will even get the chance to have their DNA mapped by the private DNA profiling company 23andMe. Although the university hasn’t yet named a company who will carry out the DNA testing for the freshmen, the cost per 1,000 samples, according to the New York Times is a whopping $35,000 to $40,000. 

Berkeley High to start principal selection process from scratch 

With Principal Jim Slemp retiring in June and no suitable candidate in sight to replace him, Berkeley High School will be hiring a consultant to find the right person to lead Berkeley’s only public high school. Slemp announced his retirement in March and since then the district has received more than 40 applications. The district, however, only picked a handful for interviews, of which only three showed up. 

The Berkeley Unified School District hopes to have someone in place by July 1.