Candidate Launches Salvo in Council Race

Barbara Gilbert is a Berkeley resident and is running for the Berkeley City Council representing District 5. Respond at [email protected]

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As a candidate for Berkeley's District 5 Council race, I certainly appreciated the lively news story and editorial in the July 9 edition of the Berkeley Voice, as well as the extensive recent news story in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

I do want to make it clear that while I do have many personal anecdotes in the "good guys/bad guys" category, and I do enjoy juicy political gossip as much as anyone, my campaign is not about personalities but about the big substantive issues facing our community. These include the following: Homeowners, taxpayers, and long-term committed residents have no one representing their legitimate interests on the council, including and especially their interest in not being unfairly taxed relative to other segments of our population.

We in Berkeley need but do not have on the council strong enough advocates for fiscal responsibility and better city management in a time of shrinking revenues, including advocates for a meaningful reduction in the cost and size of city government.

We have a need to establish proper spending and program priorities, including top priority for safety net services, necessary capital improvements, public safety, and sensible creek regulations. We cannot continue to fritter away public money on frivolities and nonessentials, such as almost $300,000 on YMCA membership for city employees, land giveaways to developers, or staff time devoted to symbolic far away issues such as Instant Runoff Voting, to give just a few examples.

We need leadership that will seriously look at ways to restore and revitalize our quality of life, including, for example, curtailing university and institutional expansion into Downtown and our neighborhoods, expanding middle income home ownership opportunities along our commercial corridors, establishing human-scale standards for development, providing parking and shuttle service to support our merchants, retail uses, and much-needed retail development, and implementing a professional-quality economic development program.

With respect to good government, someone on the council must speak out against the very unfortunate trends that have been occurring, including nonpublic decisionmaking and uninformed decisionmaking due to incomplete and/or untimely production of information. We also need to carefully study and consider ways to improve our democracy, and I would propose that we establish a community task force to do just that rather than our recent practice of rushing headlong and thoughtlessly into expensive innovations. This Task Force should assess such potential improvements as, for example,  instant runoff voting, public financing of campaigns, an expanded city council, higher council salaries, and charter revision.

These are the major issues we face in Berkeley, and I am running for the District 5 Council seat to bring focus to the issues and provide our city with informed and independent leadership.


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