Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Berkeley Recyling Carts Will Boost Participation, But Will They Stop Poachers?

Berkeley was the first city in the nation to introduce curbside residential recycling. And they've just become the last in Alameda County to finally transition to closed-top rolling carts. The new carts are currently being distributed throughout the city and should be fully in place by Thanksgiving. Once that happens, we'll start to get a better idea of how they've been received. Just about everyone expects that they'll result in increased recycling rates; with a split-cart design and a capacity more than four times greater than the previous open-top 14-gallon bins, they're much easier to use. There is, of course, the possibility that more trash and non-recyclable items will end up in the bins, reducing the quality of Berkeley's traditionally high-quality recycling stream. However, the bigger question is how the new carts will affect recycling poaching in Berkeley. Poaching has become a big issue in Berkeley, with the city council recently declaring it a priority violation and issuing instructions to the police force to write more citations. Time will tell how their ramped-up enforcement efforts and the benefits of the new bins play out, but when it comes to poaching it seems there's nowhere to go but up.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Election Coverage: Prop 21

Prop 23 was easy: It's evil, and that's all there is to it. In my article, I told the story of East Bay campaigns organized against the proposition, which would turn back CA's landmark climate-change bill AB 32, and is funded by Texas-based oil companies. Prop 21, however, is a bit more complex. The idea is to save CA's state parks from fiscal mismanagement by our legislature; with our state budget in horrible shape and no strong parks lobby fighting for proper funding, they've been underfunded for decades. The result is a near-catastrophe: $1.3 billion in deferred maintenance, widespread service cuts, temporary closures. Without a solution, things will only get worse. So the California Parks Foundation came up with what they figured was the best way to save the parks. The result, Prop 21, is a timely and well-conceived solution, but it bears some important implications that are worth considering, as I cover in this week's story.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Election Coverage: Prop 23

This is the first of two election stories I'm contributing to the East Bay Express' coverage in October. Proposition 23 would overturn AB 32, California's landmark climate legislation that went into law in 2006. Opponents of AB 32 (i.e., proponents of Prop 23) charge that the state should not be imposing strict environmental regulations upon California's struggling job sectors during the economic downtown. They reason that AB 32 threatens California jobs, and should therefore be put on pause until the state's unemployment rate drops significantly. However, as you'll learn in my story, the study that Prop 23's supporters (including Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro) cite to bolster their claim about jobs vs. environment is widely regarded as faulty, including by a Berkeley-based co-author of the study, who's flummoxed by their inaccurate representation of the facts. Given its diversified and relatively healthy economy, the East Bay is no Prop 23 battleground -- but it is, as I explain in the story, home to multiple facets of the No on 23 campaign. Read all about it ....