"Following a public hearing in which was shown an apparent division of public opinion as to whether the future expenses of city government shall be increased or held to a minimum," the Berkeley City Council approved, 75 years ago, a budget for 1939-40 that increased the annual tax rate from $1.42 per $100 of assessed valuation to $1.45.

This would increase the 1939-40 municipal budget by about $63,000 over the budget of the previous year.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported some public disagreement at the July 25, 1939 council meeting attended by about 100 people. (Council meetings in those days were held on Tuesday mornings.)

On the one hand, speakers such as Walter Noble, described only as a "civic leader," said "anyone who has studied the budget for only a few hours cannot tear the budget to pieces or give any constructive criticism ... we need things done in Berkeley that cannot be done under this budget." He noted many Berkeley police officers were paid only $180 or less a month, equivalent to about $37,000 in today's dollars.

On the other hand, "Maurice B. Read, president of the Berkeley Realty Board, said the people of Berkeley do not want increased services and expressed hope that the council would keep a 'stiff upper lip when anyone came to demand more services and higher taxes.'"


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One speaker said that "the people are being milked," apparently because city departments were paying increased charges to third parties for equipment and maintenance of vehicles. "We object to being called criminals!" replied Councilman Richard French. "Well, you are not exactly criminals" the speaker said.

In the end, the council passed the first reading of the budget with only one dissenting vote, that of Councilman Edward Martin, who "declined to make any public comment on his decision."

Science conference

The sixth annual Pacific Science Congress mentioned in last week's column opened at the UC Berkeley campus on July 25, 1939 with some 500 delegates. Keynote speakers included Dr. Ray Lyman Wilber, president of Stanford University, and Dr. Ross G. Harrison, chairman of the National Research Council.

Harrison told the attendees, "There is no sense in ignoring that we are living in a period of anxiety. With all the progress that has been made as regards the material scale of living and with all the promise that invention holds out for the future, civilization is now confronted with great and dangerous difficulties."

Miller dies

Mrs. Abbie Leland Miller, age 89, died in her Oakland home on July 25, 1939. She was the widow of the famed poet, Joaquin Miller. "She married the 'Poet of the Sierras' in 1877 and came with him to live in the Oakland Hills," the Gazette reported the same day.

"Miller died in 1913, but to the widow he was still alive to the moment of her death. She often told interviewers she fancied his presence close to her side as she walked through the park-like grounds of their residence."

She was survived by daughter, Juanita who "makes her home at 'The Hights' which is to be made into a memorial park honoring Joaquin." And so it was. Miller's house with its intentionally misspelled name still stands in his eponymous park, now owned by the City of Oakland, in the hills.

50th anniversary

Mr. and Mrs. B.M. Brown of 1531 Blake St. celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with their family, including eight children, on Sunday, July 30, 1939. They were both 71, and only a day apart in age. Mr. Brown had retired as a building contractor, but then opened a market on Shattuck, near Haste.