Berkeley mayoral candidates attended a forum Wednesday at North Berkeley Senior Center in which they discussed local topics of affordable housing, police reform and environmental issues.
Hosted by the East Bay Gray Panthers — a social advocacy group focused on ageism — each of the candidates responded to questions as well as gave a brief opening and closing statement. Seven out of the eight candidates attended.
“The gray panthers are our elders, and they have been fighting for social justice all their lives,” said chair of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission and forum moderator George Lippman. “They shed light on critical social justice issues facing Berkeley today.”
During opening remarks, Berkeley homeless community member and mayoral candidate Mike “Guy” Lee stood, fist raised, in solidarity with the panthers. Throughout the forum, Lee often related his responses to the Panthers’ focus on social movement.
Mayoral candidate Naomi D. Pete, who previously ran for mayor and City Council in the ’70s and ’80s, said she felt the city was “falling apart.”
“I’m a senior myself, and I want all the seniors to be safe and respected,” Pete said.
UC Berkeley public policy and environmental engineering graduate student Ben Gould was also in attendance. Gould primarily spoke on affordable housing and Berkeley’s environmental challenges, referencing the need to revise the city’s 10-year-old climate action with natural gas.
Candidate Berndt Wahl, who also has a background in education, emphasized his experience in engineering and with teaching. Wahl repeatedly mentioned how he would leverage these skills as future mayor.
“I run things like an engineer,” Wahl said. “I’m not very political; I just want to solve problems.”
City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli — who has raised the most campaign funds — said his “strong public service record” and success with Berkeley’s soda tax, among other things, strengthens his candidacy.
Other candidates on Berkeley City Council, Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington, similarly cited their accomplishments in local politics. When addressing questions, Arreguin and Worthington continuously advocated for one another referencing the coalition they formed with each other through the ranked-choice voting system.
Likewise, both Capitelli and Arreguin referenced their high-profile endorsements — from Robert Reich and Bernie Sanders, respectively — during the event.
During the event, candidates offered numerous solutions to challenges Berkeley is currently facing, including affordable housing. A common sentiment among candidates was the want to build more affordable housing to maintain Berkeley’s diversity.
“I think most of us would agree living in Berkeley is a wonderful experience,” said Capitelli. “I want everyone to have the opportunity to live and work in this community.”
The general elections will take place Nov. 8.