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Upgrades to campus buildings including Campbell (left) and Durant halls would be funded by the passage of Proposition 1D on the November ballot. (Steve McConnell photos)
 

Prop 1D: Targeting 'essential needs,' or not?
$10 billion bond issue on November ballot includes money for improvements to three Berkeley buildings

| 18 October 2006

If approved by California voters on Nov. 7, Proposition 1D would provide UC Berkeley with $28.6 million for improvements to campus facilities, including infrastructure improvements to Birge Hall, renovations to Durant Hall, and initial efforts to address seismic and program deficiencies in Campbell Hall.

Called the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2006, Proposition 1D authorizes the state to sell $10.4 billion in general-obligation bonds to relieve overcrowding, accommodate new enrollments, make overdue safety repairs, and upgrade California's public schools, community colleges and universities; it will also expand medical-education programs to train new doctors and nurses for underserved areas.

Funds from the bond would support infrastructure improvements to Birge Hall, which was built in the early 1970s and is home to many of the Department of Physics' research laboratories. The building's basic utility systems - electrical, mechanical, and plumbing - are failing and can no longer support the delicate research experiments and sensitive scientific measurements being done there.

A portion of the funding would also be used to improve the nearly century-old Durant Hall, built in 1911. The building is currently inaccessible to the disabled, has an antiquated electrical system, no ventilation system, and limited data-communications systems. The upgraded building would become the new home of the College of Letters and Science, which serves approximately 70 percent of undergraduate students on campus.

The bond would also support the first phase of work on a 54,000- square-foot replacement building for seismically unsafe Campbell Hall, current home of Letters and Science, the astronomy department, and its allied research units. A 1997 report on campus seismic safety, the Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal, identified the building's seismic rating as poor and predicted it would sustain "significant structural and nonstructural damage and/or result in falling hazards in a major seismic disturbance, representing appreciable life hazards." In addition to protecting the lives of students, faculty, staff, and visitors, the replacement building would address the need for modern laboratories, offices, and instructional facilities for highly ranked programs in astronomy and physics.

Proposition 1D proponents include a variety of individuals, organizations, and associations including the California Taxpayers' Association, UC Board of Regents, California Alumni Association, California Teachers Association, California State PTA, California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nez, State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, Democratic candidate for governor Phil Angelides, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.

Its opponents include the California Taxpayer Protection Committee and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The former argues that "Proposition 1D is too big. Rather than limiting this bond measure to the essential needs of building new schools and rehabilitating older ones, this bond funds a variety of new, untested programs such as Career and Technical Education facilities, Overcrowding Relief Grants, seismic-safety upgrades, energy-efficiency incentives, small learning communities, and a medical-education expansion with some new 'telemedicine' program. We need to stick to the essentials and drop the fluff." Supporters counter that an investment in education is an investment in the future of our children and the state of California.

The full text of the proposition, as well as the arguments in favor and against, can be found online at: www.voterguide.ss.ca.gov/props/prop1d/prop1d.html. To register to vote, visit www.ss.ca.gov/elections/votereg_notice.html.