El Cerrito residents protest in huge numbers calling for justice and an end to police violence

Hundreds of protesters lined San Pablo Ave. on both sides of the street between Schmidt Lane and Portrero Ave, while a caravan of over 50 cars circled, chanted and honked their horns.
Over 50 cars joined the route down San Pablo Ave.
Chief Paul Keith, holding a sign that read “End White Silence” and fellow officers kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds- the amount of time that George Floyd suffered under the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin. Also in attendance was Mayor Greg Lyman and Mayor Pro Tem Paul Fadelli. Councilmember Pardue-Okimoto was working her hospital shift. City Councilmembers Abelson or Quinto. were not present.

#EndWhiteSilence

 As we watched the horror of George Floyd take his last breath – we must speak out against police violence.  And we know this is not a single incident but a systemic issue. We know this because Amy Cooper, a white woman using white privilege threatened to call the police on a black man, knowing full well that such a call could lead to the tragic outcome of death, because it has happened so many times before. 

 Now we see our society in chaos, and as our Governor stated in recent days, we have failed black people and we have failed people of color.  Our system of justice does not work for all, only for some.  It is time for us to interrupt racism and the silence that makes us complicit when we don’t speak out. We shall not be complicit in a system that places value in white lives over people of color.  

We invite you to stand in solidarity with those who are seeking justice for the George Floyds that have passed through our world prematurely- who leave behind families and friends- who might have been your brother or sister or cousin. Who might be here today if they were white.  

El Cerrito Progressives invite you to End White Silence by joining community members on Thursday, June 4th at 5:30p.m. in front of City Hall and the Police Department along San Pablo Ave. The action will be following the health guidelines under our City regulations.  Standing areas will be marked 6 feet apart and all attendees are required to wear a mask.  We will also have a caravan for those who prefer to be in a car.  Cars will be meeting at the DMV and circling the immediate area. We encourage people to bring a sign that reads END WHITE SILENCE. 

For a pdf copy of this graphic for you car etc please click here.

Another local resource to support and learn more about the issue of police violence: https://www.antipoliceterrorproject.org/

Library Hours Slated for Cuts While City Braces for Bankruptcy

The City of El Cerrito currently contracts with Contra Costa County Library for an additional 15 hours of library service, resulting in adequate hours for full-time staff to increase programs and accessibility to the community.    For detailed information on the benefits of this budget decision, please see a report from the Library Commission on page 78.  https://elcerritoca.civicclerk.com/Web/UserControls/DocPreview.aspx?p=1&aoid=291

The discussion of the  library is in the forefront as the city grapples with a larger issue – bankruptcy.  For a brief but thorough history of our city’s financial mess, please follow the blog posts https://elcerritocommitteeforresponsiblegovernment.com/blog-2/  or a previous posting on the State Report by El Cerrito Progressives https://elcerritoprogressives.com/2018/12/08/auditor-findings-to-el-cerrito-city-council-raises-red-flags/.

The City Manager continues to target the library while management salaries and overtime costs for public safety are off limits. When the City Manager produced a budget scenario for a 5% reduction in expenditures on April 7th, a proposal now irrelevant due to a further collapse of revenues with a pandemic and state-wide closure, the library hours were on the list and highly recommended to be cut by the City Manager. The City Manager reasoned that the employees to be cut were not City of El Cerrito employees, and that if these hours were not cut, we would have to find $129,000 elsewhere. 

So what do the non-El Cerrito employees do for the library? According to the Library Commission report, the staff increased library programs from 89 per quarter to 137 per quarter- an increase of 54%.  Attendance rose from 1,880 per quarter to 4,141 per quarter, an increase of 120% or an increase of over 9,000 visits per year. Valuable programs such as Storytimes, Read to a Dog, Computer Tutoring and Teen Book Clubs and ESL tutoring make the library a vibrant community center, offering access regardless of income.  

Mayor gives directive for priority of cuts

By the end of the April 7th City Council meeting the City Council did not have a clear consensus on action for library hours. The Mayor instructed the City Manager to provide the City Council with budget scenarios to include a reduction of library hours at different levels such as elimination of Sunday or other times that might be frequented less by the community.  

Although the City Council are unanimous about the positive value of offering adequate library hours, the dismal financial picture overshadows the discussion. The City is now faced with the need to balance  close to a 4 million dollar deficit or a 10% reduction of the original proposed budget for 2020/21. To address the deficit the Mayor suggested some actions including voluntary reduction of pay by staff, reduction in benefits, suggesting that everyone should share in the reductions together.  He suggested that there could be personnel changes at the senior level, and that all departments should be considered. The priorities he laid out are as follows: reduce personnel costs (salary cuts), reduce personnel that don’t reduce services (lay-off), and finally, reduce services. The City Manager retorted that she would  be looking at a scorched earth budget….eliminating positions and library hours.  

What to expect for Tuesday’s Council meeting?

It is worthy to note that for the April 21st meeting, the Staff Report to the City Council does not include a “scorched earth budget”.  However, the City Manager once again recommends full elimination of the City’s contract for the 15 hours of library service. You can see the packet here, starting on page 281 (7.d) Agenda Packet April 21st  The City Manager proposes  to monitor revenue and expenditures for the next two quarters and adopt a new budget for 2020/21 come October.  

Editorial:  The City is in a dire financial condition.  The City is trying to get a short term loan to cover payroll expenses for 60 days in order to remain solvent. It is still not clear if the City fully repaid a previous 9 million dollar loan taken out last fiscal year.  When the landscape looks like this, it is easy to cut services first. However, we believe that before we cut a essential services to our most vulnerable in our community, we focus on areas of historical overspending – management compensation and overtime.  What do you think?

Here are ways to connect with your City officials. 

Please make a public comment for the meeting. 

You can submit testimony by emailing the city clerk, at cityclerk@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us. Your email must contain have a subject line which either states

public comments –not on the agenda

or public comments –agenda item #. So for the library, it would be 7D for the general budget it is 7A. You can make comments on both items!

Comments sent up until noon on the day of the meeting will be given to the council before the meeting. Comments sent in during the meeting and up until the public comment period on the relevant agenda item is closed, will be read into the record and will be limited to a maximum of 3 minutes. It is important that comments become part of the public record of the meeting. This creates a record of community concern.

You can also comment via voicemail at (510) 306-2558. The caller must start the message by stating public comments –not on the agenda or public comments –agenda item #followed by their name and place of residence, followed by their comments.

N-95 Masks in Short Supply-Can You Help?

Reports from the health field, from Facebook, from television news and Twitter, all substantiate the need for N-95 filter masks for our health care professionals. Locally, we have learned that Kaiser Richmond is facing a N-95 mask shortage. Can you help? Consider looking through your Emergency Kit for fires and earthquakes and donate some of your masks. We will be collecting them at several local homes. Please email us and we will send you the address for drop-off. elcerritoprogressives@gmail.com

Suppotr our first responders! N-95 Filter Masks needed.

Budget Woes in El Cerrito Amidst A World Pandemic

City Council to consider $2,000,000 cuts for 2020 budget.

It’s difficult to write or think about “business as usual” while the messaging sweeping across the nation leads with the Corona Virus – and rightfully so. Today, our city officials, cancelled public functions and closed programs throughout the city in an effort to responsibly respond to the health crisis facing our community and communities throughout the world.

El Cerritans, we do have another crisis and it will not simply go away. Our city is desperately underfunded, with limited reserves for any type of emergency, and as much as City staff has minimized the threat in the last two years, the time to act is now. Next week the City Council will be meeting on March 17th to begin discussion on making a 2 million dollar reduction to the 2021 budget. For more details on the history of this crisis, please follow the blog post from the El Cerrito Committee for Responsible Government.https://elcerritocommitteeforresponsiblegovernment.com/blog-2/

Due to the Corona Virus, the Council meeting will be limited to no more than 40 community members in attendance and individuals over the age of 50 or with underlying health conditions will be prohibited from the meeting. We urge all residents to watch on line at home. Please open the following document for complete information and access to online broadcasting of the meeting.

This is a time to come together to support our elected officials in making some difficult decisions. As progressives, we believe that cuts need to be made with consideration of our families and the most vulnerable in our community. Please join the conversation, watch the meeting and send your feedback to the City Council and the City Manager. Below is a flyer with more information as to how you can move forward.