Councilmember Susan Wengraf   
Councilmember Susan Wengraf

Newsletter #54


November, 2016

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

    I think the past few months have been very difficult for many of us. The national election has us feeling good one day and anxious the next. Many friends have told me that they cannot watch the news or read the newspaper any longer. And local elections are not any better. I can't remember any election season ever being as negative as this one. Personally, I look forward to the campaign season ending. Regardless of who you choose, I urge you to exercise your right to vote.

    Despite the fact that most of us have been consumed by the way the election has dominated everything, there are other issues that continue to be important.

    Based on your calls and emails to my office, I have included information on the following other topics I think are relevant to our community.

    My best regards,

Susan Wengraf

    If you would like to vote before Tuesday and do not have an absentee ballot, you can go to 1225 Fallon to cast your vote. They will give you your ballot and you can fill it out and vote. Hours are: Saturday, Nov. 5 and Sunday, Nov. 6 - 9a.m. to 3p.m. and Monday, Nov.7- 8:30 - 5p.m.  
Ballot drop box
    Those who vote by mail can use a secure drop-off box in downtown Berkeley to deliver their ballot anytime until 8pm on election night.

The ballot box in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Building,  2180 Milvia Street, is just a block from BART, is available 24-hours a day and will be in service for every election.

    The  Alameda County Registrar of Voters will retrieve Vote-by-Mail ballots daily, ending with 8:00 pm on Election Night. No postage is necessary for ballots returned to the drop box.


        Voters can -- but aren't required to -- indicate their first, second and third choice for an office. Voters can choose only one top choice, and leave the other rows blank. If a candidate receives a majority of first choice votes, they are the winner.

    If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first place votes, then the ranked choice process is used:
  • First, the candidate with the fewest first place votes is eliminated.
  • Second, voters who selected the eliminated last place candidate have their votes transferred to their second choice. If they didn't choose a second choice, they do not have a vote in the second round.
  • Third, votes are re-counted to see if there is a candidate with more than 50 percent of the vote.
    If no candidate receives more than 50 percent, the process of eliminating the last place candidate and transferring votes is repeated until a majority winner is declared.

USPS Delivery
    There are some things that we expect to happen almost every day. Mail delivery is one of them. So when my mail started to arrive at 11pm and I learned that some constituents were not getting a mail delivery for several days, I became very concerned.

    Many of us count on the mail to deliver payments, checks, or medications in a timely manner.

    I tried phoning the Berkeley Postmaster several times, but the phone just rang and rang. Not even a voice message responded. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to communicate with an agency that never picks up the phone!

    Then I called Congresswoman Barbara Lee's office and spoke to a staffer who said he had received about 45 complaints from Berkeley about mail delivery and that they would be looking into the matter.

    I alerted Berkeleyside to the problem and Emilie Ragusso did an excellent job reporting on the issue.

    Since that time, I have learned that the Post Office has contracted with Amazon to deliver their packages. This has put a new burden on the postal carriers. I also heard that the USPS will be hiring 600 more workers in the coming weeks in order to deal with holiday demands.

    If you continue to have problems with your delivery, you can file an online complaint here. You can also write to me and let me know what your experience has been. Hopefully, whatever the problems, they will be corrected in the near future.

Alta Bates 
    Alta Bates Summit announced that it plans to close the Alta Bates acute care hospital for two reasons -- seismic safety and financial savings. Alta Bates Summit CEO Chuck Prosper stated that the hospital does not meet seismic requirements that take effect in 2030 and that it's not possible to rebuild on the site. He also said, "Operating two full service hospitals less than three miles apart is inefficient and inhibits our ability to be most affordable to patients."
    The prospect of losing Berkeley's only remaining full-service hospital has raised concerns about the impact on access to emergency and other acute-care services, not just for Berkeley residents, but also for those in several other cities to the north in western Contra Costa County. Last year's closure of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo has left Kaiser Richmond and Alta Bates as the only two full-service hospitals along the entire Interstate 80 corridor from Pinole to Berkeley. If Alta Bates campus closes, there will be a huge geographic area without an acute care hospital and ER.
    Responding to concerns, the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the closure of Alta Bates in July.
    The Council resolution also cited "a significant danger" to Berkeley residents if Berkeley Fire Department paramedic units have to spend more time out of the city to take patients to the emergency room at Summit.
    The Mayor is forming a task force that will include elected officials and top health officials from the region, as well as representatives of Summit Alta Bates, Kaiser, Children's Hospital and LifeLong Medical Care to explore possible solutions.
    I am fully committed to keeping an acute care hospital and ER in Berkeley. A positive outcome will require skilled negotiation and coordinated community support. I will keep you all informed about any new information as it develops.
Current situation

    Alta Bates is currently open and operating as an acute care hospital with an Emergency Room. The seismic requirement doesn't take effect until 2030. However, some critical facilities have slowly been moved over to the Oakland campus in Oakland. For example, for the past several years, all cardiac patients have been transported to the Summit Campus where the Cath Lab is now located. All patients suspected of suffering a stroke are also transported to the Summit Campus where the Stroke Center was established two years ago.
    If you need medical help, call 911. We have highly trained EMTs on all of our ambulances who know how to care for you before you get to the hospital.
    I am working with the Firefighters and City Manager to secure funding for a fourth City of Berkeley ambulance with full staffing. I should have news about this in a few weeks.
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Rodent entry paths

    Based on number of calls to my office and posts on NEXTDOOR, I think it safe to say that north Berkeley has a rat infestation problem. For information on why we have this problem and how to deal with it, please click here.

    The City website has a lot of very useful information about their habitat, diet, and health risks.
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Homeless man
    At our last City Council meeting we received a report on the services provided in Berkeley to the homeless. It is the most comprehensive report I have seen in terms of breaking down costs, services, needs, etc. If you are interested, please take a look here.

A Fundraiser for the Rose Garden and Handrails on Steep Paths

Codornices park sign

Sunday, Nov. 13, 10 a.m.* to 1:30 p.m. 
Codornices Park

    JOIN US for the Parks and Paths Challenge, a creative combination of path adventure, mapping session, and scavenger hunt that begins and ends at Codornices Park. You'll get a list of questions and a map marked with the locations of the answers. Then, on your own - or with friends or family - you will have to plot the fastest route to all the locations and return with the right answers. You can choose from three different levels and lengths of challenges, but everyone should finish by 1 p.m. for the awards party and free refreshments.

    Proceeds from this event will go toward improving the paths in the Berkeley Rose Garden and adding handrails to steep paths in the hills.

    Adult tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the event. Children, six and older, are always $5.

    * The most difficult challenge starts at 10; the moderate one at 11; and the easiest at noon.

    Arrive 15 minutes early to get your map and instructions.

    For a complete description of this fun-filled activity, see Parks and Paths Challenge.

    Get advance tickets or make a donation on Eventbrite.

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Susan Wengraf
Berkeley City Council District 6
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