Councilmember Susan Wengraf
Newsletter #80

July 20, 2020
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

== The pandemic has turned our lives upside down and inside out. It is the single most important issue in our lives right now. As the confirmed cases in Berkeley surge, I am appalled at the number of people who continue to walk around not wearing a face covering, threatening all of us. I am at the point where I am so concerned about our community that I am ready to advocate for citations with fines.

== Although I think that the messaging on wearing face coverings has been inconsistent and confusing from the very beginning, we now have ample evidence that wearing a mask helps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, which led Governor Newsom to make the wearing of face masks mandatory throughout the state. But people continue to defy the order...even here in Berkeley.

== How do you feel about it? Should we start to enforce and give citations? Other cities have programs in place with fines ranging from $100 - $350. I welcome your feedback. You can email me at swengraf@cityofberkeley.info .

== If you have other ideas for achieving compliance, I am listening.

Please take care,
Free COVID-19 Testing
== There are three primary ways to get a free COVID-19 test in Berkeley at this time:

  1. Anyone can get tested for free, regardless of whether they have symptoms, at the State of California COVID-19 testing site in Berkeley. Testing is offered by appointment available Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm. Learn more and sign up at cityofberkeley.info/get-tested.
  2. The City of Berkeley also has an alternate drive-thru and walk-up test site at 1900 6th St that provides testing in the mornings from 8:30 AM – 11:30AM. Please use this link to make appointments.
  3. For businesses who would like to get a larger group (65+) of employees tested with a mobile testing unit run by the City of Berkeley, email oedmailbox@cityofberkeley.info with "group testing" in the subject line to arrange an appointment block. Please include the approximate number of employees to be tested in your message.
Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resources
About the Vote on the Police Issue
==There is a lot of discussion in the media and in the community about the vote that was taken at the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, July 14 th (actually the 15 th because we went until 3:00 a.m.) regarding efforts to reform the way policing is done in Berkeley. I read many news articles and received several emails that demonstrated a misunderstanding of what we actually voted to do. So let me explain and try to clear up the confusion by giving you an accurate summary of our actions.

==The City Council voted to support:

  •  A robust community engagement process to listen, learn, and gather anecdotal information from stakeholders, in order to figure out how to improve racial disparities in policing and improve public safety in general. I introduced this item and I am committed to improving communication and transparency and having honest discussions. Taking the time to reflect on our past and current practices and how we might change them is an essential first step towards reform.

  • An audit and an analysis of data regarding police calls to begin a process to figure out how we can allow specialized units to respond to non-violent and non-emergency events in our city. (We know that currently 40% of police calls are for homeless-related incidents and may be better responded to by mental health professionals).

  • Pursue the creation of a Berkeley Department of Transportation (BerkDOT) to eliminate racial profiling in traffic enforcement and the development of transportation policy, programs, and infrastructure.(There may be legal issues that make this difficult to achieve.)

  • Identify and implement approaches to reduce and/or eliminate the practice of stops based on minor traffic violations or equipment problems. Our current data indicates that there are racial disparities in car stops and that Black and Latinx drivers are pulled over more frequently than Caucasian drivers.

COUNCIL DID NOT VOTE TO MOVE TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT OUT OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT.

==We voted to explore the idea. There may be legal, safety, technical, and financial reasons why this idea will not work.

COUNCIL DID NOT VOTE TO DEFUND THE POLICE BY 50%.

==That motion was put forward by Council member Davila and failed.

COUNCIL DID NOT VOTE TO BAN OFFICERS FROM ENFORCING LAWS OR ARRESTING CRIMINALS IN VEHICLES

==I view Council's action on July 14 as an experiment to begin learning about new ways to provide policing in our community. I assure you that moving forward, my decisions will be data driven. I will not support any action that is illegal or that poses a threat to your safety or the safety of our workers. All residents deserve to feel safe in their homes, in their cars, and in their city. Parents need to feel that their children are safe in schools and on neighborhood streets. All people need to feel that they are being treated equally.

==I personally feel that we have a very fine Police Chief and a well educated, well trained Police department. There may be new models for policing that will better serve our community. Investigating and exploring new ideas and committing ourselves to fair and impartial practices are positive and necessary steps that need to start now. Berkeley is not immune to the bias and prejudice that is systemic in our country.
Chipper Making 2nd Pass
== It is not too late to take action and weed your yards, clean gutters, and trim up your tree limbs.

== The Debris Bin and Chipper Program will make a second pass starting the week of July 27th. The chipper schedule and instructions are below (pdf available here ).

== Please schedule your gardening and landscaping activities so that you can take advantage of this program 
Wear A Mask!
Berkeley Relief Fund
== The City Council unanimously voted to create a Berkeley Relief Fund with $3 million in City funds to support low-income residents, small businesses, and non-profit arts organizations impacted by COVID-19.

== The council is encouraging residents to contribute to this fund. I urge you to join me in making a donation of any amount to this important cause. To date, we have raised over $680,000 from the community. More than 1,000 small businesses applied for relief funds. The need is very great. I thank you for your generosity.
Emergency Notifications
== AC Alert  will be Berkeley's primary emergency alerting system for the public. It is one of the tools the City of Berkeley uses to communicate emergency information and instructions to the community. AC Alert can send:
  • Voice alerts to phones
  • SMS text messages
  • Email
  • TTY/TDD messages
   Listed AT&T "land lines" are automatically included to receive voice messages from AC Alert for emergency warnings. Community members must  sign up  to receive voice or text alerts on cell phones, VoIP phones, unlisted phones, TTY/TDDs or through email.

   If you want to receive emergency alerts and updates,  sign up  for AC Alert.
311
  • Need a new refuse can?
  • Have a favorite pothole you want filled?
  • Want to report illegal dumping?

CALL 311
Susan Wengraf
Berkeley City Council District 6
(510) 981-7160