Questions Remain on TMD
L A Wood, Berkeley Voice, March 29, 1997
The reorganization of Berkeley's Toxic Management Division
(TMD) was the point of a heated debate several months ago when it was
placed within the Health and human Services Department. The community
outcry which followed has once again provoked a second
reorganization of the TMD (Berkeley Voice, Feb. 20). This time, the
division has been placed adjacent to the Planning Department. Until
the completion of this year's city budget and five-year projection,
the questions will remain concerning the future of Berkeley's TMD.
Part of the TMD's mandate is to oversee the cleanup of
toxic properties as well as to regulate the activities of about five
hundred businesses. The fees paid by Berkeley businesses for these services
nearly meet the division's annual budget of $400,000. However, over
the last year this budget has been reduced, resulting in the loss of
one full-time inspector and a half time assigned clerical. This loss
of personnel has meant a loss of services to the community. These cuts
and those proposed for this budget period raise serious questions of
whether the business community is receiving appropriate benefits from
their fees, and the ability our toxics program to meet its new state
As the '97 budget process nears completion, there has
been talk of both a redistribution of available funds and some departmental
reorganization. One scheme which has been suggested calls for the consolidation
of all city environmental operations. It implies that these operations
have like functions, yet a closer investigation reveals another picture.
Take for example the Solid Waste Recycling Program, a certain candidate
if a new environmental department is created.
The Solid Waste Recycling Program, a large revenue generator
with an administration to match, has little to do directly with the
TMD. Such changes as this would fail to respond to community assertions
that the toxics program is being buried under and unrelated administrative
hierarchy. This same claim could be made for other parts of Public Works,
too. However, there has been a long-time need to reorganize the TMD
to include our city's Clean Water Program.
In 1991, the federal Clean Water Program officially came
to Berkeley. Shortly thereafter, a storm drain property assessment was
established. Before most could react to this new program, the city's
largest department, Public Works, quickly scooped it up, and, of course,
most of its staffing funds (1 FTE). This has resulted in the Clean Water
Program remaining little more than revenue relief for the Public Works
Public criticism (and a video) pressured Berkeley to formally
hire a designated clean water coordinator. For the last three years,
this FTE has reported to Engineering, despite the fact that most of
the FTE's designated activities are an integral part of the TMD function.
The TMD, which manages both groundwater and surface water, has been
encumbered by this illogical arrangement. Simply, we spend extra money
in the education of the clean water coordinator, while slighting the
TMD for what is rightly another FTE to complete its program requirements.
Certainly the key to the TMD's final organization
lies in the recognition of the varied functions that the toxics program
plays, and, of course, its direct funding level. There can be no denial
that the TMD's activities are aligned with the planning process and
have little to do with vector control, restaurants, or recycling. Moreover,
the TMD has everything to do with clean water. These changes could ensure
a more effective toxics program.
Changes Are More Than Red Tape
L A Wood, Berkeley Voice, March 13, 1997
Thank you for your coverage of the downgrading of Berkeley's Toxics
Management Division ("Toxics group fears red
tape," Feb. 20). However, there is more to this story than just
administrative red tape. Mr. Kamlarz, who has been with the city for
22 years surely knows this fact. Yet, he begs the question, "Why
would the city want to fail at this (toxics management)?"
There are many both inside and outside Berkeley who have
expressed the desire for less rigorous enforcement of our city's environmental
standards. The list includes the federal and California EPA, the regional
and state water resource boards, the Department of Energy, the City
of Emeryville, all the oil companies, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory,
most developers and many others. Even Berkeley's Chamber of Commerce
publicly expressed this idea at the city council's groundwater debates
The council defied all of the above parties by passing
a unanimous vote against "contamination zone" designation.
At the council's behest, the Toxics Management Division (TMD) sent correspondences
to nearly everyone from President Clinton to the City of Emeryville
expressing the City of Berkeley's dismay over the current efforts to
deregulate groundwater and other environmental protections.
Most of the responses received by the city have asked,
"why can't Berkeley just go along?" It's not surprising that
our pro-environment stance and its messenger, the TMD, have stirred
the wrath of both industry and regulators. Now these outside influences
have put a lock on both the TMD and our city government.
The idea for a city-managed toxics program came in the
mid 1980s. This was the beginning of the environmental cleanup called
for by Congress because of the numerous "love canals" across
the country. In Berkeley, our toxics awareness came as a response to
the community outcry over mixed use residential developments in the
west and south industrial sectors of the city. The discussions, the
planning process, and the hearings that followed gave birth to the city's
environmental commission, a state-certified TMD, and the West Berkeley
Area Plan which calls for more environmental cleanup, not less.
In the past, when most other cities were being regulated
through a county toxics program, Berkeley undertook its own management.
In fact, the TMD has come to be regarded as a program model within the
state. Some other cities in the state have now been offered the responsibility
for their own toxics management. However, with the current wave of environmental
deregulation, few will do more than collect permit fees.
Last month, Berkeley received authorization to continue
its toxics management, but under a new state designation as a Certified
Uniform Program Agency, or CUPA. The CUPA designation in California
forces municipalities to adopt new state standards, which in Berkeley's
case are far lower than either our city council, or community wants.
The changes in Berkeley's TMD are much more than
red tape and revenue enhancement. It is about the billions of dollars
in environmental cleanup costs and the accountability of polluters which
are being held in the balance. Tragically, they are being balanced against
our community's health and environmental sustainability
Toxics Group Fears Red Tape
Tiller Russell, Berkeley Voice, February 20, 1997
Public outcry over a seemingly innocuous shift in city
management structure has prompted Mayor Shirley Dean to
call a March 6 meeting between city staff and environmentalists, who
fear the Toxics Management Division is in danger of being relocated
City Manager Jim Keene recently dissolved the Office of
Special Community services in a wave of reorganization. Among the many
programs affected, toxics is arguably the most controversial.
Assistant City Manager Peggy Kirihara said the departmental
changes are designed to increase the efficiency of the effected programs.
Critics fear the precise opposite to be the case.
Dean's assistant Tamlyn Bright said that member of the
Citizens Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC) and local activists
will meet with Dean, Keene, and other city staff members to discuss
Toxics is being moved from the disbanded Office of Special
Services to the Department of Health and Human Services, where it will
be placed under the Environmental Health subdivision.
Critics fear that reassignment will entangle the issue
of toxics in a web of health and human services red tape. As CEAC Chair
Jami Caseber put it, "We're concerned that it won't be able to
protect the health and safety of people and the environment if it has
to go through five layers of bureaucracy to do its job."
CEAC recommended that toxics be placed in the planning
department instead. Caseber said the commission's recommendation was
"taken and ignored."
"We are being shut out of the decision-making process,"
Caseber said. "As members of the commission, we are representatives
of the community, and I don't feel that the community's interests and
desires are being served by the city manager's decision."
Environmental activist and video maker L A Wood echoes
Caseber's criticism. "The extent of the concern about the environment
is unique to Berkeley. This issue is simply too important to the community
to be made by the city manager alone," he said.
Wood's demand for a public hearing prompted Dean to include
him in the March 6 meeting.
Assistant City Manager Phil Kamlarz maintains that Keene
did take CEAC's recommendations into consideration. He also said Keene
discussed the matter with toxics staff.
Kamlarz insisted on the city manager's right to make the
decision without a public hearing. "I've been with the city for
22 years," he said. "Interdepartmental changes like this are
always done by our office. That's our job."
A recent memo from the city manager's office stated that
the reorganization aims to "enhance coordination and consolidate
services." Kirihara expanded on that. "[Community Services]
was composed of many disparate programs," Kirihara said. "It
functioned as a kind of holding tank until the different programs could
be re-assigned to more appropriate departments. Now those assignments
are being made."
Other programs affected by the dissolution of the Office
of Special Services include animal services, emergency services, garages,
and a number of others.
CEAC's unsuccessful recommendation to the city cited the
Advance Planning department as the most logical choice for toxics because
the two offices are often in contact with one another. Furthermore,
CEAC said, the toxics office "does not interact in any significant
manner with Environmental Health."
Both the Planning Director and toxics supervisor agreed
CEAC, Caseber told the Voice. Toxics Director Nabil Al-Hadithy withheld
comment. Director of Planning and Development Gil Kelly could not be
reached for this story.
When asked why Keene vetoed assigning toxics to planning,
Kamlarz responded with questions of his own. "Why is planning better?
And more importantly, why should the city want to fail at this?"
To curb the program's independence and proactive stance,
answer critics like Laurie Bright, Steering Committee Chair of the Citizens
Opposed to a Polluted Environment (COPE). Touching on the recent tritium
controversy at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Bright, who
will also attend the meeting with Mayor, said, "The city manager's
office doesn't want to make waves with the university and LBL."
City staff urge calm. Placing toxics under health
and human services is an interim step, they say. "You can think
of it as a trial basis. A transition. It's by no means irreversible,"