On Monday, ballots started arriving for a special election in Berkeley’s City Council District 4, which encompasses Downtown Berkeley and surrounding areas. The vacancy for this seat is a result of affordable housing champion and former District 4 councilmember Jesse Arreguin being sworn in as mayor. In deciding who to vote for, one of the largest issues on voters’ minds will be addressing the housing crisis. Fortunately, there is a clear choice of who to vote for so as to address this and various other issues: Housing Advisory Commissioner and progressive activist Kate Harrison.
Kate’s City Council platform features a strong, holistic approach to solving the housing crisis. Among other changes, she’ll fight to increase funding for affordable housing, streamline the permitting process for projects that contain at least 50 percent affordable housing, expand student housing near campus and expand the use of cooperative housing to create permanently affordable housing.
Instead of criminalizing our homeless community members, she’ll fight for long-term solutions to the homelessness crisis such as increasing the number of shelter beds. Additionally, she recognizes that we need to raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to a living wage so that everyone can earn enough to pay Berkeley’s rising housing costs.
Perhaps the only thing more impressive than Kate’s platform is her distinguished record. While still a student, Kate worked on the successful campaign for Berkeley’s critical rent control and anti-eviction ordinance.
In addition to serving on the city’s Housing Advisory Commission, she wrote the Berkeley Progressive Alliance’s housing platform, served on the board of Berkeley Food and Housing and fought for increased community benefits — such as affordable housing — from Downtown developers. She also served on the Yes on Measure U1 steering committee, where she successfully secured $4 million per year in new funding for affordable housing. Many of us had the pleasure of personally serving on the steering committee with her, where she helped us to run the student outreach portion of the campaign.
Her numerous endorsements include the Berkeley Tenants Union, every member of the elected Berkeley Rent Board, Mayor Jesse Arreguin, the Sierra Club, the Alameda County Democratic and Green parties, every student organization that has endorsed in this election (all of which were unanimous) and numerous other student and community leaders.
By contrast, her opponent has advocated for building luxury housing that students and the overwhelmingly majority of community members cannot afford, as opposed to increasing below-market-rate housing. His campaign treasurer has even publicly shamed students for asking the City Council to increase funding for affordable housing. And his sole significant organizational endorsement is from an organization that tricked homeless residents into passing out literature in support of criminalizing themselves, an endorsement he nevertheless said he was “proud to have;” many of his few other endorsers have also repeatedly supported criminalising the homeless. He’s rarely if ever spoken at a council meeting, leaving him unequipped with the basic skills and knowledge necessary to be a council member.
Berkeley needs council members who will actually implement progressive policies to solve our city’s pressing issues, not candidates with empty rhetoric. Berkeley needs council members who have a record of experience, not council members who fail to meet the basic qualifications.
Fortunately, the choice in this election is clear: Kate Harrison is the only candidate who can be trusted to address the housing crisis and the other important issues affecting our city. You can check if you live in District 4 at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/CouncilDistrictSearch.aspx and can register/reregister to vote in Berkeley at http://registertovote.ca.gov/. The last day to register to vote is Feb. 20, and ballots must be mailed in by March 7. By casting your vote for Kate Harrison, you can take an important step towards solving our housing crisis.
Matthew Lewis is the Associated Students of University of California housing commission chair, University of California Student Association basic needs officer, and committee member for the Berkeley Tenants Union and Yes on Measure U1. Isabel Song is the Associated Students of University of California housing commission assistant chair. Zach Gamlieli is a committee member for Yes on Measure U1. Taylor Harvey is the Associated Students of University of California external affairs vice president Sustain Our Students (Basic Needs) campaign manager and the president of the Homeless Student Union. ASUC and UCSA titles for identification purposes only; the ASUC and UCSA do not endorse candidates for public office. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter
The tagline accompanying a previous version of this op-ed incorrectly referred to Isabel Song as the Associated Students of California housing commission assistant chair. In fact, Song is the ASUC housing commission assistant chair.
The tagline accompanying a previous version of this op-ed incorrectly referred to Taylor Harvey as the external affairs vice president of the Associated Students of California. In fact, Harvey is the campaign manager for the EAVP Office’s Sustain Our Basic Needs campaign.