City Council District 5
City Council District 5

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March 12, 2012

In this issue:

A Note from Councilmember Capitelli
North Branch Library is Reopening
Help Restore the Balustrades At the Fountain and Walk at The Circle
Coffee with the Councilmember
Unwanted Medication Disposal
Berkeley Meets Waste Diversion Goal
City Contacts and Resources

A Note From Councilmember Capitelli

Dear District 5 Neighbors,

Most of you are already aware of the tragic murder in the Berkeley Hills on February 18. Our hearts and our sympathies go out to the family of Peter Cukor. Ours is a small community and most of us have friends and colleagues who knew him or knew of him. We are all touched and deeply saddened.

There was a terrible confluence of circumstances that led to Mr. Cukor's death. Many of us are left asking questions about what we can change to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again. Many issues are raised in this questioning. First, there are the global issues of our mental health system and the laws around it. (I suggest reading the Berkeley Daily Planet editorial by Becky O'Malley.) And then, there are the local issues of reporting suspicious behavior to the police and their response. (Check out the comments from Police Chief Michael Meehan.)

Many constituents have called my office to talk about these issues and ask questions of me directly. On Thursday evening, March 8, Councilmember Wengraf and I hosted a community meeting to respond to questions. Attending were Police Chief Meehan, Acting City Manager Christine Daniel, Area Coordinator Officer Byron White, and Supervising Dispatcher from the Police Department, Alan Lauborough.

Questions included:

  • Did the police follow standard procedures that evening? Would they do anything differently today given the same set of circumstances?
  • Why weren't there any fire personnel at the #7 Fire Station at Shasta Road that night?
  • When does a suspicious person on your property become an emergency?
  • What should citizens do if the police dispatcher doesn't take their call seriously?
  • What can residents do to keep their neighborhoods safe?

(For notes from the meeting, including answers to these questions, go to March 8, 2012 Community Meeting.)

Many people had questions about the process of reporting crimes and suspicious activities to the police. Important reminders:

  • If you are unsure whether or not your request for service is an emergency, assume it is and call 911. Both calls go to the same dispatchers.
  • If you know it is not an emergency, call the non-emergency number, 981-5900.
  • Be prepared to answer very detailed questions from the dispatcher, including description of suspects, specific activities, weapons, and in what direction they were last seen going.
  • If the dispatcher determines the call requires emergency response, the police may be dispatched before the call is complete. Stay on the phone and finish answering questions.
  • If you believe the dispatcher is not taking your report seriously, finish the call but don't disconnect. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • Stay in a location of safety until the police arrive.

Most attendees at the meeting wanted to be assured that the police would respond appropriately and swiftly if they called for help. This is a citizen's basic expectation of the police. I think it is fair to say that many folks went home with a clearer picture of the sequence of events that led to that tragic event two weeks ago in Park Hills.

Note: Since I finalized this newsletter and the notes from the March 8 meeting, many questions and concerns have surfaced regarding Chief Meehan’s attempts to contact a reporter after midnight Thursday to correct a perceived error in his reporting of the evening’s meeting. I think Jim Chanin, former chair of Berkeley’s Police Review Commission, summarized it best: “I think obviously he showed a serious lapse in judgment, and he admitted it, and the reporter in question accepted his apology.”

Personally I’m sad and frustrated that these actions overshadow the good work of our police force and of Chief Meehan himself.


Laurie Capitelli
Berkeley City Council, District 5

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North Branch Library is Reopening

What: Grand Opening of the newly remodeled North Branch Library
When: Saturday, April 7, 2012. 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2:00 p.m.
Where: North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins

The Berkeley Public Library will celebrate the reopening of the newly renovated and expanded North Branch Library, a much loved and well-used community landmark. Everyone is welcome. The 75-year-old library, designed by James Plachek, has just undergone a sensitive renovation and expansion to improve infrastructure, ADA accessibility and safety features.

The grand reopening celebration will begin at 1:00 p.m. Library services will begin at 2 p.m. A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned with local and state officials, music and refreshments will be provided. Everyone is invited.

For more information about the remodel and the event see the press release for the grand opening or contact Donna Corbeil, Library Director, at 510-981-6195.

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Help Restore the Balustrades
At the Fountain and Walk at The Circle

Sara Holmes, District 5 resident and leader in the efforts to restore and maintain the Fountain at The Circle at Marin Avenue, is appealing to Berkeley citizens for professional assistance in the efforts to repair the Circle and Walk's balustrade. Please read her note:

We were very successful in October 2011 at the 100th anniversary celebration of the original fountain, raising $10,000 toward repairing the broken balustrades. Since the event, we have raised an additional $6,000. A big thank you to all those who donated, and it is not too late if you still want to contribute. Please visit our web site for details:

My goal is to spend all of this money on the actual repairs, rather than on the proposal for design services. I am working with the City of Berkeley to come up with additional funding possibilities.

Now that we have enough money to actually consider doing something, we could use expertise from the community. This could be pro bono, or at a reduced rate. The first step requires surveying, scoping and cost estimating for the repairs of the most badly broken balustrades. An architect from the community who could help us prepare such a document would be greatly appreciated. This would help us plan the phases of our work.

If you or your firm could help, please e-mail Sara Holmes or call at 510 526-5347.

On another topic, the sculptor who produced the magnificent replicas of the original bears, and other artistic features of the fountain, has pointed out that within the next 100 years (or sooner), we will likely be faced with a similar need to replace one or more pieces of the fountain artwork. Since the installed pieces slowly deteriorate as a function of weather and other environmental impacts, we are seeking a way to preserve the artwork in its original form. We have investigated: (1) making a mould of each original plaster piece and storing the moulds, (2) storing each of the original pieces, and (3) going hi-tech, using a 3-D digital scanner to measure the artwork for later reconstruction.

What we have learned so far is that option (1) is very expensive and the resulting moulds are subject to deterioration anyway. Option (2) seems feasible, but will cost a fair amount to protect the pieces from deterioration. Option (3) is appealing, but would require someone with expertise (from the community) to guide us.

If you have expertise in any of these areas, please e-mail Sara Holmes or call at 510 526-5347.

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Coffee with the Councilmember

What: Coffee and impromptu discussion with the Councilmember
When: Saturday, March 31, 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Where: Thousand Oaks School Park at the Tot Lot

Please join me for a casual discussion. Bring your questions and concerns. I will bring coffee and snacks. Rain will cancel.

Note: My staff and I are happy to take suggestions for other times and venues. Just send an email to me if you have an idea.

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Unwanted Medication Disposal

What: Appropriate disposing of unwanted and/or expired medication
When: Berkeley Transfer Station at 1201 2nd St. (just north of the recycling center)
Where: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday Through Saturday

Emptying medications down household drains or toilets (flushing them into the sanitary sewer system) and throwing them into the trash are no longer acceptable methods of disposal. Trace amounts of medications have been detected in wastewater treatment plant effluent, which has raised concerns about potential impacts to ecosystems and human health.

Customers will be instructed to place all pills in a plastic zipper bag and dispose of empty pill bottles at home in their residential recycling bin. Liquid medications will be accepted in original containers and should be secured in a leak-proof plastic bag. All bagged medications will be deposited into the secure disposal bin by the individual.

Items accepted: prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, medication samples, medications for pets, medicated ointments/lotions, inhalers, liquid medication in glass or leak-proof containers.

Items that are not accepted: controlled substances (narcotics), needles (sharps), vitamins, thermometers, IV bags, bloody or infectious waste, medication from business or clinics, hydrogen peroxide.

For more information see the staff report on Berkeley's disposal program.

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Berkeley Meets Waste Diversion Goal

Berkeley residents are some of the best recyclers in Alameda County, according to a new report by The report covers the years 1995-2010 and shows that Berkeley diverts 76 percent of its waste away from landfills towards recycling, composting and re-use.

Some of Berkeley's new programs credited with the increase in waste diversion include:

  • The increased recycling of organics, like yard debris and food waste, made easier by weekly green-waste collection;
  • More customer education, which supports residents' interest in recycling; and
  • The introduction and use of larger, split-cart recycling containers.

See the full text of the City's press release regarding diversion rates. Go to the City's Recycling Page for strategies to increase personal waste diversion.

For a printable guide to local recycling resources, go to:

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City Contacts and Resources

Listed below are important city phone numbers to keep close by:

Laurie Capitelli, District 5 Office


Tom Bates, Office of the Mayor


Officer Byron White, BPD Area Coordinator for North Berkeley


Non-emergency (to report a past event or suspicious activity)


Emergency (to report a crime in process or an emergency)
from a landline


From a cell phone


To report nonfunctioning street lamps, graffiti, missed garbage pick-ups

On Line Service Center
or dial 311

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