City Council Sells Out to UC Berkeley-In Secret

Barbara Gilbert is a former city council candidate. Reply to [email protected]

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The Berkeley City Council, strong-armed by Mayor Tom Bates and the City Attorney, has held a series of secret meetings and secret votes about a secret document, culminating on May 24 when the Council secretly met and finally voted on a secret final document.

This is the so-called "Settlement Agreement" between the city and UC Berkeley wherein the city has signed away our right to control vast university expansion and our right to bill it for a substantial part of the $13 million-plus annually in free services now being provided to UC Berkeley by the City.

The dispute is NOT about the value of UC Berkeley, an institution widely respected, cherished, and appreciated. It IS about land, money, and power.

There is nothing new or unusual about town-gown friction in our country or history. It erupts periodically, is usually based on real issues and has been written about extensively. There is nothing new about land wars-farmer-rancher disputes, water grabbing and railroad encroachment, throughout history. Now, in a dense, crowded city, we are truly engaged in a town-gown land war. There is nothing new about monetary and tax disputes. Now, in our financially hard-pressed city, we are in a big bucks town-gown dispute over who is stuck with a $13 million tab each year.

The city absolutely should not have signed any agreement enabling the university to expand its land uses and damage our neighborhoods without full disclosure, compliances, mitigations and changes. Nor should the city have signed any agreement that accepts pennies on the dollar as compensation for city services. Despite legal precedent for UC getting a free ride on public services, circumstances have changed so drastically that the entire question needs to be revisited. When it comes to money, all public entities always claim to be hurting. In fact, unlike the city, UC Berkeley does have access to deep pockets and other resources. UC regularly raises millions of dollars from millionaires and billionaires for trophy projects, it has profitable joint partnerships with corporations, money from patents and royalties, and vast special purpose endowments. I suggest that the university seriously consider undertaking a City Trophy Project and raise a $100 million endowment to mitigate UC's impacts on the city and its neighborhoods, pay a fair share amount for services, and fund a variety of urban enhancements to benefit both town and gown. This would be a tremendous public service or public good undertaking and donors could receive all the usual accolades and honors that accrue to charitable giving, good works and helping the university and larger community.

Right now, it is likely that concerned citizens will be suing the city or university over the numerous crimes and misdemeanors in the Settlement Agreement process and product. It is also likely there will be serious political repercussions for the politicians who supported the secret city sellout, particularly Bates, whose credibility and competence as our leader has been most seriously damaged.


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