After 14 years of the same leadership, Berkeley needs a mayor willing to dig in and change the fabric of the city for the better. It’s got to be Jesse Arreguin.
In eight years on Berkeley City Council, Arreguin has consistently fought for affordable housing, honest police reform and compassionate homelessness laws. He is also committed to shrinking Berkeley’s carbon footprint. He’s exactly the mayor we need.
Arreguin’s primary opponent, Laurie Capitelli, likes to point out the number of times Arreguin voted against housing developments. But he twists an anti-housing narrative about Arreguin that doesn’t hold water. Arreguin’s apprehension lies with developers, who he believes should be doing more to give Berkeley affordable housing and community benefits.
We want somebody willing to take on these fights and stand by his principles as mayor — otherwise, Berkeley could be lost to big, market-rate housing projects.
And when it comes to homelessness, Arreguin proves time and time again that he’s willing to work within the homeless community and City Council to craft legislation everyone can accept. Meanwhile, in his interview with the Senior Editorial Board, Capitelli referenced how the city of San Diego has dealt with homelessness. Arreguin’s community-based, homegrown approach is a much better fit for Berkeley — a city that, needless to say, differs from San Diego.
Thankfully, almost all candidates for mayor and City Council expressed interest in forging partnerships with nearby cities to share resources for the homeless population.
But regional collaboration has been difficult to see through in the past and will prove difficult in the future. Arreguin’s experience on City Council proves that he’ll push for effective brokered legislation on a Berkeley level.
Arreguin’s effective leadership extends to how he plans to deal with Berkeley Police Department. While his main opponent advocates expanding the police force, Arreguin emphasized the need for greater police oversight. As Berkeley says goodbye to a mayor who once rationalized the use of tear gas against protesters, it should say hello to one willing to stand up to an imperfect force.
This isn’t to say BPD is filled with evil officers by any means. Arreguin, in his apprehensive but trusting approach, would be the best pick for a candidate ready to rebuild BPD’s relationship with the communities in Berkeley it has most ostracized.
Part of that includes greater funding for the city’s mental health programs. Most candidates who interviewed with the Senior Editorial Board, including Arreguin and Capitelli, recognize that police officers shouldn’t have to act as mental health experts. And when police officers are the city’s biggest personnel expenditure, funding mental health professionals could be a money-saving alternative.
Capitelli also touts the fact that he negotiated the minimum wage compromise in August, but the simple fact is that he repeatedly voted against a minimum wage increase for years on City Council. That he now lauds himself as a minimum wage hero is disingenuous.
While getting it up to $15 an hour is a great step, Arreguin’s commitment to raising it even further — to a living wage — shows the kind of progressive leadership we would get from him.
On the environment, however, there’s no better candidate than UC Berkeley graduate student Ben Gould.
The public policy and environmental engineering dual-master’s student would be a fresh choice for the mayor’s seat and might be able to cut through age-old gridlock and civility issues that have plagued City Council. He has well-thought-out plans to productively address homelessness, housing and police action in Berkeley. Gould is a solid second choice.
At the end of the day, Berkeley needs a new direction and a positive outlook. Jesse Arreguin is the most qualified to give it that.