Campus graduate student to run on platforms of affordable housing, combatting homelessness for Berkeley mayoral seat

Ben_Gould
Ben Gould/Courtesy

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Ben Gould, a campus graduate student in the departments of public policy and environmental engineering, filed his intent to run for Berkeley city mayor Friday.

Currently the chair of the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission and a delegate for the campus’s Graduate Assembly, Gould will run on platforms such as improving housing affordability, creating a city-campus partnership to address student homelessness and restoring city leadership on social justice and environmental issues, among others.

Aaron Smyth, internal vice president of the Graduate Assembly, who has worked with Gould since he first became a delegate, said Gould has “always (been) very engaged in the general operations” of the assembly.

Smyth recalled an instance when the assembly discussed the renewal of the UC Student Health Insurance Plan — he said Gould was “very involved,” often working in tandem with delegates in committees outside his own.

“He cares enough to fully understand the policy decisions,” Smyth said. “That level of willingness to dive into all the pieces — someone who is willing to do the homework — is really important.”

Sara Abarbanel, Graduate Assembly chief of staff, echoed Smyth’s sentiments, adding that Gould often went beyond the duties expected of his committees’ immediate jurisdiction and had on more than one occasion “stepped up” and given presentations on topics outside his purview when committee chairs could not attend a meeting.

Gould, who was born and raised in Berkeley and attended Berkeley High School, completed his undergraduate education at UC San Diego in 2013, graduating with a degree in general biology.

If elected, Gould hopes to address issues he “grew up around” that have been “building for decades,” such as affordable housing for students and restoring public infrastructure, including parks and historic buildings.

“We have more opportunities for civic engagement than almost any other comparable city,” Gould said in an email. “At the same time, however, we’re facing challenges to keeping that access open. I think we can do more to preserve Berkeley as an accessible place of opportunity for all, but we need to acknowledge and face these challenges directly to do so.”

He cited other politicians who began their careers at a young age — including former Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, who was elected to Berkeley City Council in 1984 while studying at UC Berkeley — as inspirations to run for office.

But for Gould, his primary motivation lies in serving the greater Berkeley community through his perspective as both a city resident and campus student, with the hopes of lending a “firsthand understanding of the issues faced by longtime residents, newcomers and students alike.”

In November, Gould will be running against current Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguin, as well as Guy “Mike” Lee and Naomi Pete.

Adrienne Shih is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adrienneshih.