Council Meeting Attendee Runs For Office After Years on Sidelines

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Improved infrastructure, cooperation and environmental advocacy are three things on District 4 candidate L. A. Wood's agenda.

Wood, a regular sight at the Berkeley City Council meetings for more than 10 years, is running for public office for the first time.

L A Wood

Running as an independent, Wood says he hopes to bring new cooperation to a divided City Council. He points to his ability to work with opposing factions on the current council as well as his past record of community involvement.

Wood serves on the Community Environmental Advisory Commission and has served on the Telecommunications Task Force, which evaluates the city's telephone, internet and video services.

Especially vocal on environmental matters, Wood uses his job as a video producer to push for social changes in the city.

His 1996 video production "On Berkeley Soil" highlighted the dangers of drinking water near leaky underground gasoline tanks.

"The first time I picked up a video camera, I realized that it was such a powerful tool for communication," Wood said. "I've shown seven videos at City Council meetings. I don't think they really wanted to see them because nobody wants to just sit and watch, but it really helped to raise awareness of problems."

The state of the Berkeley Public Works Department is one of Wood's greatest concerns.

"Berkeley desperately needs an investment of $900 million in its infrastructure," Wood states in his campaign literature. "Neglect is seen everywhere, from our crumbling streets and numerous potholes, to the huge problem of collapsed lateral sewer lines. Current spending can barely keep up with our day-to-day needs."

While some council members say Wood is well-versed in city matters, others say the solutions he proposes may not be easy to implement.

"Wood is a very smart fellow," says Councilmember Betty Olds. "He has a good working knowledge of the city, and he's been very critical. It may be different when the shoe's on the other foot, since it's easy to criticize and hard to actually fix things."

Wood criticized incumbent Dona Spring's environmental record, pointing to her vote in favor of the purchase of Harrison Field in West Berkeley to create a children's park. Wood says the field, which is near Interstate 80, was too polluted to be safely converted into a park.

"You can't find a better example of poorer planning than Harrison Park," Wood says.

Spring characterized Wood as a "loner" with few endorsements. Wood, however, says he purposely decided to forego endorsements because they could help contribute to the divisions in the council.

"It's difficult for people to relate to him," Spring says. "He's criticized my environmental record, but the only thing he has is the Harrison park incident."

Wood also criticized the City Council as inefficient and ruled by self-interest.

"Many people have been around too long," Wood says. "We'll come up with a dynamite idea, but two people on the council will start to wonder how does that impact me? Then they end up doing what's popular instead of what's right."

As a member of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, Wood voted in favor of prohibiting the construction of wood-burning fireplaces and stoves in new homes, appealed the city's decision to build a skate park and called for the shutdown of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory tritium labeling facility.


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