Commentary by Sally Hindman
The City of Berkeley has the choice before it this year, and over the next three years, to either approach community change taking place in South Berkeley with respect and deep concern for its longtime residents, or to let the “market” drive out programs that serve our poorest citizens, allowing the neighborhood’s face to be redrawn by the highest bidder. All of us can play a role in that battle of choices this June!
The City’s two-year Community Agency funding recommendations are currently slated to cut funds by $250,000 for ten South Berkeley nonprofits serving homeless and other underserved people, including youth and people with mental health challenges.
Unless changed, the recommendations zero out funding for Youth Spirit Artworks, significantly cut monies to Berkeley Drop-In Center, and reduce dollars to Life Long Medical Care, East Bay Community Law Center, Through the Looking Glass, A Better Way, Ephesians Children’s Center, Bay Area Outreach and Recreation, McGee Avenue Baptist Church and South Berkeley Community Church.
Despite the direction these recommendations could take us, a clear-sighted coalition has formed, made up of both long-time South Berkeley elders and neighborhood newbies, set on righting the course.
Organizers first coalesced at meetings this spring held as part of the Adeline Corridor Planning Process, which has the goal of creating a blueprint for growth and development in South Berkeley for the next ten years. Realizing at the first meeting that most long-time neighborhood residents did not seem to be in the room, these decent people with a moral compass immediately began to ask questions.
Within days, leadership in the planning process had been sought that included community outreach by young people involved with Youth Spirit Artworks. Other important steps were taken by the citizen group to demand deep neighborhood inclusion.
Much to the chagrin of these “Friends of Adeline,” as the South Berkeley planning process progressed, members learned that simultaneously as they engaged in efforts to plan the neighborhood’s future, some of the very groups making up the fabric of the social services safety net in South Berkeley were being edged toward elimination in the newly proposed City budget. The group again sprung to action!
On May 26, Berkeley’s City Council Public Hearing on the Budget was jammed with more than 75 people concerned about the inequitable direction our community was going, both related to South Berkeley agency funding, as well as with the interconnected issues of proposed new laws criminalizing homeless people, and downtown development favoring the rich.
The month of June will be critical to citizen organizing efforts to right Berkeley’s course. At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 9, at 7 p.m., Berkeley will hold its Public Hearing on youth and homeless services budget items.
At that meeting, and at its following City Council meetings in June, our representatives will need to add these fundamental social services programs BACK into the budget. They will need to vote on a community agency funding package that truly reflects our commitment to equity in providing services to Berkeley’s most underserved citizens.
To make your voice heard on this issue, and be a part of shaping the future of South Berkeley toward honoring and respecting long-time residents and their families — here are three things that you can do to help:
1. Call and leave this message for members of the City Council with your name and indicate that you are a local resident: “I support restoring full funding to South Berkeley community agencies in Berkeley’s new two year Budget!”
Mayor Tom Bates: 981-7100—Most Important!
Darryl Moore: 981-7120 District 2 South/West Berkeley-2nd most important!
Lori Droste: 981-7180 District 8 Campus, Elmwood & Claremont
Linda Maio: 981-7110 District 1 North/West Berkeley
Laurie Capitelli: 981-7150 District 5 Solano/Thousand Oaks/North East Berkeley
You can email this message to all City Council members at: Council@cityofberkeley.info with a copy to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Sign the petition at: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/berkeley-city-council-1?source=c.em.cp&r_by+672297
3. Attend the Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 9, at 7 p.m. Arrive at 6:30 p.m. Text 510-282-0396 to check the location in case its moved from Shirek Old City Hall at 2134 MLK Jr. Way. And if you can, please speak, to make your voice heard.
Help our community to be its best, most compassionate and caring! Take action this June supporting South Berkeley residents through restored community agency funding!
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Proverbs 3: 1-35
“My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on a tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding…”