Categorized | Your Community, Politics

City Council Debuts Technological Advancements at Regular Meeting

The front entrance of the new El Cerrito City Hall on San Pablo Avenue.

BY FERNANDO GALLO//

The El Cerrito City Council discussed technological advancements the city has made to better serve and educate its residents, as well as a new recycling system, at its bimonthly meeting on Oct. 20.

The council session, which also served as the Public Financing Authority meeting, marked only the second time the council has met in the new state-of-the-art city hall.

Sergeant Robert De La Campa and Corporal Susan Garman of the El Cerrito Police Department gave a presentation to the council explaining the department’s use of CrimeReports.com. The website works in conjunction with police departments to organize crime statistics and uses Google maps to show where certain crimes have been committed in the city.

De La Campa said the website makes it easier for the department to present crime data.

“We think it’s not only easier, but it’s more beneficial for the viewer,” De La Campa said. “Most people like to see things more than to read it and hear it in dry text.”

De La Campa also said the department has been working for the last few months on getting El Cerrito’s data onto the website and it was expected to be accessible to the public Oct. 21. Interested residents need to sign up for a free account in order to access the information.

The council also discussed another way the city is using the Internet to inform its residents: webcasting. City Clerk Cheryl Morse explained how new streaming video of council meetings is available on the city’s website. Residents can watch council meetings live on the Internet, or pick a topic from the council’s agenda and watch that portion of the meeting at their convenience.

Councilmember Abelson praised the new feature and said it would be a great benefit to residents.

“People don’t have to come here at all, they don’t have to go down and see the city clerk – they can do this in the middle of the night, if that’s what they want. They can do it from the other side of the world,” she said. “I think it’s important to be transparent… to the community, and this is a way of making it a lot easier to do that.”

The city began its new streaming feature with the Oct. 6 council meeting.

Another major topic of discussion was the revision being made to the city’s current recycling process. Two members of the city hall staff presented the plan, which would significantly alter how residents dispose of their recyclables. Currently, residents use two bins for their recyclable materials, which they must sort themselves. The new plan would give each resident a single recycling cart where all recyclable materials would be deposited, and the new recycling center, currently under construction, would not process the recyclables on-site as originally planned.

Mayor Bill Jones spoke glowingly of the plan during the meeting.

“This is a huge project in this sense: We’re changing service for the better,” he said. “But we are also designing a new facility for half the price and I think the two of these put together… this will take us well into the future.”

Environmental analyst Garth Schultz, who helped present the plan, said this change in the recycling process would reduce a forthcoming increase in residents’ waste management bill from 25 percent to 10 percent. Although the plan was brought to the council in order to get direction from the council members, Schultz said it is already well underway.

“Parts of it are already done now,” Schultz said.

The city council also agreed to consider new additions to the City Council Wall of Fame on a regular basis. The Wall of Fame was created to honor distinguished citizens of El Cerrito, and Abelson said there have not been many new additions in recent years. The council voted at Monday’s meeting to place Miriam Wilkins on the Wall of Fame.

“It’s a way to honor people who have really given to the community and to the greater world,” Abelson said. “I’m really supportive of it because I think that that’s the least we can do for people, to encourage people to give to the community.”

The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday at 7:30 p.m.

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