A coalition of faith groups has re-launched its Civic Engagement Campaign, urging elected officials to support education, housing, immigration reform and violence prevention in the face of deep cuts.
Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), encompassing more than 10,000 Berkeley families and 18 religious organizations, pressed council and school board members to commit to its social justice platform at a gathering Thursday night at the McGee Avenue Baptist Church.
"Will you commit to ensuring that there is money allocated for job trade and the community benefits agreement for the West Berkeley locality?" Bill Turner of The Way Christian Center asked Councilman Darryl Moore, speaking about the rising rate of homelessness and the shortage of affordable housing.
"I'm here to testify today that I'm doing exactly that," Moore said. He has reintroduced a bill to extend funding for the coming fiscal year, he said.
"That's what I'm about," he said.
A congregant asked Mayor Tom Bates to increase mitigation and impact fees for new development to feed the housing trust fund.
After 10 years that saw no private development in the city, Bates said his administration created 400 new affordable housing units.
"By affordable I'm talking about workforce -- teachers, police offers, clerks, people who work in the stores," he said. "We've also built 300 new units that are low income. We have an opportunity here on Adeline to do another one and we're in the process of making that happen."
Speakers who grew up in Berkeley said they have seen little change in the way underprivileged youth are treated on the streets and in the classroom.
BOCA is a member of the People Improving Communities through Organizing, or PICO, a national network of faith-based community organizations, representing more than one million families in 150 cities and 16 states, and PICO CALIFORNIA, 19 community based federations representing over 350 congregations and 400,000 families.
BOCA invites the community to its first "Grill and Thrill BBQ" from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 21 at the Mineral Springs picnic site in Tilden Park. For information, the Rev. Michael Smith can be reached at 510-843-1774.