Four Berkeley Residents Vie for City Council Seat

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With incumbent Councilmember Diane Woolley out of the race, competition for her District 5 seat is fierce between four Berkeley residents who submitted their files for candidacy Wednesday.

Woolley, who represented District 5 for six years, said she is ready to move on and out of City Council.

"There is a life out there," Woolley said this week. "There are other things to do and (council) takes up a lot of time."

Woolley said the district needs vast sewer improvements to stop drainage into the bay and damage to peoples' backyards. Her advice to those seeking her seat is to "Keep an open mind and keep a sense of humor."

One day into the race, three of the candidates said they are optimistic about the elections but anxious to make changes.

"I have been dissatisfied with the ways the city government has been working, particularly with the two-party system," said candidate Carrie Olson, who grew up in Berkeley and served on the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Olson said the two-party system negatively affects lawmakers and trickles down to all the boards and commissions.

"The commissions are split like the council," Olson said, adding that she usually votes down the middle. "It is a logistics game over which party is in power, and I find it disappointing. The issues are not addressed upfront - there is lots of game-playing, and that doesn't have a place in Berkeley."

In addition to changes to the council, Olson said she would like to bring more technology to the table, having worked for an online political organization that conducts petitions and fund-raising.

"People are busy, busy, busy and they don't have time to get involved in the public process," she added. "But it isn't that they don't care. There are other ways to reach out to them. District 5 is the perfect district to make those connections and have them become part of the greater Berkeley community."

Although she did not emphasize technology, Miriam Hawley, who was a member of the AC Transit Board of Directors for four years, said she is concerned with the infrastructure of District 5.

"I want to work with the residents on making the streets safe," she said. "There are ways to manage traffic that we haven't tried yet. Some of the neighbors already have plans on slowing traffic."

Hawley said that even the basic nuts and bolts of the district need repair.

"The sewers are crumbling and when (the sewage) backs into your basement or backyard, it is an environmental hazard," she said.

A Berkeley resident since 1957, Hawley said she feels Woolley was an adequate representative and is glad she won't face off against her in the November elections.

"(Woolley) has emphasized infrastructure and has made some excellent appointments to the boards of commissions," she said. "She has been a good councilmember."

Hawley added, however, that she feels she could personally contribute to the council as well.

"I want to help the council in the sense that I want to add another voice of rationality and practical sense," Hawley said. "I think I have a very good chance of winning."

The only male in the contest is Ben Rodefer, a 37-year-old art dealer and jazz musician. A Berkeley High School graduate, Rodefer has worked for former U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums. He said he thinks government should be more effective and responsible to local concerns, something the council has come under fire for in recent years.


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