Who is governing Berkeley?

As someone who does not normally pay attention to politics, I am appalled by the political nature of the Measure E contract award process (see Measue E posting). If we, citizens of Berkeley, can not count on our elected & appointed officials to do the right thing, what options do we have other than directly participating in the governing process? We need to hold our Councilmembers, Mayor, and the City Manager accountablr–it’s time for Berkeley residents, home owners, and business owners to speak up and speak out!!

As I talk with people in public and private, a much larger issue concerning the powers and duties of the Mayor and the City Manager becomes apparent.  Not only the citizens of Berkeley, through their Council Members, have given the City Manager the power to make contract and other decisions at his sole discretion, it appears that the City Manager may actually base his judgement on the Mayor’s political agenda.

Let’s paint a scenario–Mayor Tom Bates, who has been a long time supporter of CIL, tells the City Manager Phil Kamlarz that the City should help CIL with their funding needs… Phil and his staff, without understanding what it means to run an emergency services program for severely disabled residents, invite CIL to apply for Measure E funding… The contract manager convenes a panel and puts forth a recommendation ignoring vendor qualifications, and tries to railroad the decision through the City Council, the governing body, without making the recommendation letter available before hand… When told by the community that CIL is not equipped to provide emergency services, the City Manager still wants the qualified vendor to split the contract with CIL, and the “pre-contract” negotiation continues.

It’s disconcerting to learn that most Council members would not have taken the time to understand the contract and raise questions about the qualifications of the recommended vendor in voting, as one councilmember stated “it’s the City Manager’s job to make recommendations”. What if the recommmendation is politically motivated, or, completely uninformed? Who will be responsible for bad decisions made by the City Manager, and in turn the Council, and who is tracking the cost of those bad decisions?

What is wrong with this picture?

  • The “City” makes a decision based on a few persons’ biases
  • The Staff, who is paid by the taxpayers, carries out the boss’ will
  • The Councilmembers mostly go along with the City Manager
  • The Mayor is practically governing Berkeley with the strong-mayor form of mayor-council, vs. council-manager, government
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