Berkeley candidates vying for two open city council seats

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Berkeley often presents itself as a city leading the charge to solve social problems, whether it’s eliminating single-family zoning and parking minimums, or becoming a sanctuary city protecting immigrant rights and fending off repression. federal law against cannabis.

But looking ahead to 2023 – a time when public resources are expected to be tight and a recession looms – the candidates are vying for a chance to help guide housing development for long-time residents. and UC Berkeley students, by strengthening public safety, addressing homelessness and preventing more people from losing their homes in the thriving city of East Bay.

Two incumbents of the council present themselves without opposition; Downtown Berkeley in District 4 will continue to be represented by City Council member Kate Harrison, and Council member Rigel Robinson will be re-elected in District 7, on the south side of the UC Berkeley campus.

Seven candidates are vying for the other two contested seats on the Berkeley City Council.

DISTRICT 1

Outgoing Councilor Rashi Kesarwani hopes to retain his spot at City Hall for a second term, having represented the city’s parks, shopping districts, residential areas of Northwest Berkeley, the North Berkeley BART station and marina since 2018 .

Kesarwani said she was particularly proud of her work in the fight against homelessness in Berkeley, which saw a 5% drop in its homeless population compared to 2019. In addition to noting the shelter Greyson open 24 hours a day and secure RV parking sites in District 1, she pointed to efforts to clean up encampments near highways — primarily near University Avenue — by providing the homeless with spare rooms. motel and navigation services.

Kesarwani has managed billion dollar budgets as a public finance manager for the San Francisco Human Services Agency and as a state legislative analyst. She said these past experiences — in addition to the past four years on city council — illustrate how she will continue to use the city’s public funds wisely, whether it’s investing in repairs at the Berkeley Marina or to support wineries, breweries and art galleries in the Gillman District. and other creative spaces.

As she nears the end of the campaign season, she said she believes she remains the best candidate to take bold action to address housing shortages and public safety on city streets for the pedestrians and cyclists.

Elisa Mikitenthe current chair of the planning commission, said she would bring an invaluable perspective to the city council that prioritizes designing a city that preserves its local diversity through planning, rather than letting the forces of the market dictate this design.

Whether she’s looking at issues like neighborhood zoning or dense development around BART stations, she said she’ll work to make her voice and her constituents’ voices heard early on in any project, rather than waiting to see where public consensus dictates decisions. .

Working as an architect, Mikiten said she intimately understands that there is no “silver bullet” to solving homelessness, especially when considering the impact of different solutions on neighborhoods. and businesses. However, she said her time helping to build permanent housing and transitional housing for homeless families, veterans, adults and youth would provide invaluable insight into developing a range of different solutions for the same city. where she first studied her trade and obtained a master’s degree in the city. planning at UC Berkeley.

While she supports the use of metrics to help shape public policy decisions, Mikiten added that not all uses of public funds will be immediately reflected in data dashboards. For example, she said that while efforts to replace some law enforcement responses with mental health solutions or to invest in homelessness prevention can take years to be reflected in the data, that doesn’t should not curb efforts to push for these changes now.

Tamar Michai Freeman is a holistic health and disability advocate who decided to run for District 1 Headquarters to increase focus, input and access for underrepresented residents, especially those who are often the most impacted by development housing, accessibility and public safety.

Since her time as chair of the city’s Commission on Disabilities, Freeman said she’s seen first-hand how elected officials don’t think deeply enough about how all city projects need to keep people with different abilities – from the elderly to the disabled to young families. – in mind in Berkeley’s plans. For example, it would ensure that the construction of new cycle paths does not create barriers to accessible ramps and sidewalks, while a reduction in mandatory parking spaces does not unintentionally exclude people who need a vehicle transportation to access different areas of Berkeley.

But beyond helping people who are otherwise left in the shadows, she said thinking about urban planning through a lens of universal design would improve the lives of all Berkeley residents, whether from enabling more affordable housing, creating pathways to home ownership, forging community programs to respond to calls related to mental illness and addiction, or removing barriers to accessing health care. health.

WARD 8

After Councilman Lori Droste walks away from the dais during this election cycle, District 8 headquarters will be open. The district represents much of southeast Berkeley, including the Clark Kerr campus of UC Berkeley.

Marc Humbertlawyer and former president of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, won the endorsement of a super majority of the current Berkeley City Council, Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, State Senator Nancy Skinner and mayors of nearby cities of Oakland and Emeryville.

A 20-year resident of the city’s southeast corner, Humbert said he believes public safety means both reallocating funds to resources other than the city’s police department and supporting the current ranks of forces. order to combat violent crime, especially as gun violence is on the rise. But he said safety also includes protecting pedestrians and cyclists – the most climate-friendly form of transport – from collisions with vehicles in Berkeley, as well as mitigating wildfire risks for residents. residents.

He has served on five Berkeley commissions: transportation, public works, fair campaign practices, open government, and parks, recreation, and the waterfront. But Humbert credits his career as a legal arbiter for employee retirement benefits and healthcare cases to his experience in resolving disputes arising from different perspectives on complex issues.

Peter Bruce DuMont is the founder of Star Alliance, a non-profit organization specializing in holistic health in Berkeley. Dumont said her experience teaching Transcendental Meditation would help introduce new solutions to problems that have been going on for years.

DuMont said one of his goals, if elected to local government, would include stress reduction training for law enforcement as a pathway to public safety, rather than cutting lists of strengths; he said he supports non-violent and deadly law enforcement responses when deemed necessary.

Although this is his first role in local government, DuMont said the people of Berkeley would benefit profoundly from his focus on bringing a set of “civic ideals, principles and points of view. Highest Values” at City Hall, where he would work to find common ground, prevent economic discrimination and listen to the needs of the community.

Two candidates for District 8 — Mari Mendoncaa Commissioner of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, and Jay Wuan insurance agent — declined to be interviewed.

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