California State Assembly District 15 candidates convened at the League of Women Voters for Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville election forum Feb. 18 to answer questions from a moderator and the public.
The three female candidates — including filmmaker and independent candidate Sara Brink, Democratic incumbent Buffy Wicks and Republican business owner Jeanne Solnordal — explained how they plan to combat issues surrounding climate change, housing and transportation. Housing and transportation policy are how California’s climate change goals will be reached, according to Wicks.
“I believe that cities should be car-free, I believe that public transit should be free and widely available for everyone and I believe we should stop subsidizing oil and gas companies,” Brink said at the forum. “The answer to a lot of the climate change problems is to fundamentally reshape the way our communities look.”
Investing in resilient infrastructure — the BART system, public buses and bus-only lanes — is crucial to limiting the amount people drive, according to Wicks. She added that ensuring safety for cyclists, making electric vehicles more accessible and developing transit-oriented housing options are also important initiatives to meet the state’s climate change goals.
Spending money on carpool and bicycle lanes is expensive, Solnordal said at the forum. She added that more carpool and bicycle lanes could cause more rush hour congestion and consequently more pollution but said she feels it is always a “good idea” to carpool. All three candidates said they believe in free public transportation.
In addition to environmental policy, the group discussed homelessness.
“Having more well-run homeless encampments is not the answer to our problems,” Wicks said at the forum. “We need to put people in homes and ensure that everyone has access to a roof over their head.”
Brink said Assembly District 15 needs to be investing in public subsidized housing — rather than private development — and focusing on providing housing where jobs are located.
Wicks highlighted the need for project labor agreements, which would allow those building the housing to afford to live there as well.
Unlike the two non-Republican candidates, who favored high-density housing, Solnordal said tall buildings are unmanageable and could look “like projects,” which will create policing problems. She added that housing plans should be left to the discretion of local district and city governments.
The candidates were also asked about the income levels of their donors.
While Wicks said she would “happily” accept donations again from billionaires who are “pushing a progressive agenda,” Brink said she will not accept money from billionaires.
At the forum, Brink pointed out that Wicks received donations from billionaires like Reed Hastings and Reid Hoffman in the 2018 election cycle. In response, Wicks added that she is also supported by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and environmental justice groups.
“I think that, when you accept money from billionaires, that you are fundamentally undermining the trust between you and your constituents because they can get you elected,” Brink said at the forum.
The three candidates will be on the March 3 ballot. The two candidates who get the most votes will advance to the general election in November.