Berkeley City Council May Try to Halt Anti-BRT Ballot Initiative

8 Jul

UPDATE: As Eric explains here and here, the council voted to place the initiative on the ballot and not to challenge it legally. However, if the initiative passes, I think they are likely to challenge it.

A few months ago, I explained why the Berkeley anti-BRT initiative is bad news. Well, it looks like the Berkeley City Council and City Attorney may prevent the initiative from making it to the ballot. In fact, they’re discussing this as I type.

From the city’s press release (not posted online yet):

At a special closed-door session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council, on the advice of its attorney, could vote to go to court to stop a proposed ballot measure that would “require voter approval before dedicating Berkeley streets or lanes for transit-only or HOV/bus-only use.”

The executive session begins with public comment in open session in the City Council Chambers…

The city attorney’s report states that the measure could be unlawful, conflicting with the vehicle code that delegates to the transit agency the authority to create HOV lanes on city streets to the City Council.

I’m not well versed on this part of the law, but I’m assuming Berkeley’s city attorney did his research before bringing this before the council. While I ultimately think that we can defeat this ballot initiative and help move the AC Transit BRT project along, it’d be really nice not to have to sink so much energy into this fight when there are so many other important issues on the state ballot this year (like Yes on Prop 1 for high speed rail and No on Prop 8 that would end same-sex marriage).

Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan echoes some of my arguments against this initiative in a report he wrote about it (again from the unlinkable press release):

According to the city attorney, the measure would:

  • place time-sensitive outside funding sources for transit at risk or prevent the city or other agencies from applying for available funding;
  • increase costs to prepare the required plan, place it on the ballot and potentially hold a special election if necessary;
  • increase the uncertainty in the BRT planning process and reduce flexibility in project implementation should the voters approve a designation plan;
  • impede implementing General Plan goals relating to promoting alternatives to automobiles.

I’m not sure what will happen at the meeting tonight, but when I find out, I’ll share the news. No matter what happens, I’m committed to seeing BRT become a reality (and reaping the benefits of it).

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3 Responses to “Berkeley City Council May Try to Halt Anti-BRT Ballot Initiative”

  1. Eric July 8, 2008 at 7:17 pm #

    The Council decided to not take legal action after all, which is not really a surprise.

  2. Becks July 9, 2008 at 8:22 am #

    Eric – I’m not surprised, but one can hope, right? From what I heard about the meeting, the tone of the discussion was that they would rather let the voters express their wishes now and deal with legal issues later. So I still think the city is likely to challenge this if it passes, though I think if we do a good job campaigning – tying this to transit needs, rising gas prices, and global warming – the initiative will not pass. It’s nice to know that the city has a plan B though, if it does pass.

  3. Eric July 9, 2008 at 8:40 am #

    Yeah, with any hope, it won’t come to that. Hopefully the anti-BRT “vocal minority” is just that — a minority, and that BBTOP & Co. will be shut down via the democratic process.

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