BERKELEY -- Installing a ramp or patching a park restroom roof doesn't have a "sexy" appeal to voters, who won't open their wallets and vote to tax themselves for everyday park maintenance.

That was the argument made by the dozen or so people who spoke Tuesday urging the City Council to place a broad $20 million parks facilities bond measure on the November ballot.

The council, however, countered that the bond measure would likely fail to reach the required two-thirds vote and instead approved a more limited $1.7 million parks maintenance tax ballot measure it felt would be easier for voters to accept.

Councilwoman Linda Maio, voting with the six-member council majority block of council members Gordon Wozniak, Darryl Moore, Susan Wengraf, Laurie Capitelli, and Mayor Tom Bates, said she struggled with the issue, having previously worked for the rebuilding of Willard Pool -- filled in with dirt since 2010 -- and donated money to the cause.

"It worries me to go for the higher dollar amount," she said. "Out of my concern for all of the needs of the city, and the resistance to taxes, the general tenor out there in the community has led me to become more conservative about what I put before the voters."

She said the city must deal with maintenance issues before opening new projects that would be supported by a bond measure, such as Willard Pool and creating parks along the Suth Berkeley Santa Fe right of way.


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"We've already closed part of the Rose Garden," she said.

George Beier, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association, noted the community process in which residents worked with the Parks and Waterfront Commission and with council members to come up with projects for the bond measure that would benefit neighborhoods throughout the city.

"We went through the entire process for two years and (a tax) just for an increase of maintenance and for salary replacement wasn't part of the deal at all," Beier said.

"I think that when it comes down to the voters, and what's going to be popular and what's going to sell, if it's a salary-replacement measure, I just don't think we can pass that in November," he said. "We need to give them the Rose Garden, Willard Pool, Aquatic Park, Santa Fe right of way, Grove Park; we need to give them things that they care about."

The community proposal, which also included a $1.5 million annual operations tax in addition to the $20 million bond, would have added around $65 annually to the tax bill of a homeowner with a 1,900-square-foot home.

The parks maintenance tax measure which will appear on the November ballot, would raise about $1.7 million and increase taxes for a person with a 1,900 square-foot home about $39 per year.

At the behest of Mayor Tom Bates, the council discussed and approved placing the tax measure on the ballot, Item 51 on the agenda, before taking up Item 47, the bond measure.

This prompted Councilman Kriss Worthington, who supported the bond, to call the process "abysmal."

Robert Collier, a leader in the community group that worked to formulate the bond measure, addressed the council during the mandatory public hearing on placing the bond on the ballot, which was held after the council approved placing the tax measure on the ballot.

"For anyone to say that there is a factual reason to believe that one has a better chance over the other is simply not factual," Collier said, arguing that the campaign for the bond would "create much more excitement and would have many more foot soldiers than a parks tax campaign."

Visibly angry, Collier added, "All these people here, whichever way we wind up voting on a parks tax in November, I think I can say without almost any exception, none of us will work for a parks tax. It's your campaign. Good luck."

Minimum wage

In other action Tuesday, the council finalized its unanimous vote in favor of hiking the local minimum wage.

People working for minimum wage in Berkeley will be paid $10 per hour beginning in October, after the state increase to $9 per hour kicks in on July 1.

The city increase goes to $11 per hour on Oct. 1, 2015, and then to $12.53 in 2016.

"Although it is certainly not a living wage, it will be among the highest in the nation," said Harry Brill, a leader in the local movement to raise the wage, in a prepared statement.

Brill noted, however, the disappointment that the council didn't enact a stronger measure that had been proposed by the Labor Commission.

"Working people deserve a wage hike to at least $15 an hour, an annual cost-of-living adjustment, paid vacation and paid sick leave. And they deserve it soon," Brill wrote.

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