Reorganization of Berkeley's Toxics
Management Division TMD

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 mandate.

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 Department.

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 last year.

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 to oblivion.

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 the issue.

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," said Kamlarz.

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