Berkeley community prepares to vote for various local positions, measures

Josh Kahen/Staff

Among the hassle and chaos of a presidential election, it becomes easy to forget about the many possible local issues that are affected by the primary elections. A series of city, county and state choices must be made March 3, so here’s what’s at stake.

Closest to home are the three city measures, all of which focus on public schooling. The Committee for Berkeley Public Schools has been mobilizing in support of Measures E, G and H.

Measure E is a tax that aims to recruit and retain teachers and other staff for the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, partially through salary improvement. Measure H would continue a separate tax to provide maintenance for Berkeley public schools. Measure G authorizes BUSD to issue and sell bonds to finance school facility projects.

Support for the measures has been “overwhelming,” according to Ty Alper, vice president of the Berkeley School Board.

“We have had hundreds of volunteers knocking thousands of doors and making thousands of phone calls to voters,” Alper said in an email. “Berkeley voters have always supported the public schools, and they continue to do so.”

Alper also said he feels confident that voters will support public schools in the upcoming election. Should the measures fail to pass, however, he noted that the school district will have to make cuts to programs and services to students.

Taking a step back, Berkeley residents will have one county measure on the ballot — Alameda County Measure C, which aims to fund expanded access to child care, improvements in Alameda County child care and preschool programs and increase wages for early childhood educators, according to the First 5 Alameda County website.

A ballot item that all California residents will have to vote on is Proposition 13, which would allow the state to sell $15 billion in bonds to maintain public school facilities. If passed, the proposition would also allow schools and universities to issue more local bonds.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, described by its website as “the legal and political watchdog of (the 1978) Proposition 13,” is opposed to Proposition 13 on the March ballot. David Wolfe, legislative director at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the association was opposed to the proposition in part because the measure could lead to higher property taxes.

“For property owners, as far as they’re concerned, it is gonna lead to property tax increases for most of the state,” Wolfe said. “It begs the question: Can we be funding (bonds) from the general fund … how many bonds are too many?”

In a separate ballot section is the Assembly District 15 election, between independent candidate Sara Brink, Republican candidate Jeanne Solnordal and Democratic incumbent Buffy Wicks.

“I felt compelled to run because in a very broad sense we’re facing a lot of crisis in the country, and our political system is not coming up with the answers we need to correct them,” Brink said. “If we’re going to solve these big societal problems, we also need people who think out of the box.”

Brink added that she was excited to see the results of the election, but noted her worry about low voter engagement, particularly about a lack of public engagement with the political system. When asked what she would be doing the night of the election, Brink said she was going to try and keep her mind off the results until Wednesday morning.

“My husband is going to use his guest pass at his yoga studio and I’m going to go do yoga,” Brink said. “Then I’m going to come home and I’ll probably watch Netflix to keep my mind off (the elections).”

Wicks’ website states that she is “proud” to be District 15’s representative, and emphasizes her hope to continue her policy platform of fighting gun violence, solving the housing and homelessness crises, increasing funding for food and health care programs for working class families and ensuring high-quality education for children.

Solnordal’s platform includes the provision of wellness centers for Americans struggling with addiction, expansion of access to homeless shelters, raising teacher salaries by 10% and the imposition of a moratorium on all new tax increases for two years, according to her campaign website.

On the national plane, Democratic incumbent Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Republican candidate Nikka Piterman are both running for the 13th Congressional District. Lee, who is currently serving her 12th term in the position, has had a history of advocating against wars, including supporting current efforts against President Donald Trump’s escalation of war with Iran.

Piterman, Lee’s opponent and a UC Berkeley alumnus, said he felt “great” about the upcoming election, noting that he had gotten the chance to meet hundreds of voters because of his decision to run. The most interesting thing Piterman said he learned as a candidate was how small the political scene was compared to popular perception.

Piterman added that he felt the coming election would have a significant effect on other races.

“All races have intangible effects and ripple effects on nearby ones,” Piterman said. “Everyone will be looking very closely at the results of every district because it’s still a very crowded field on the Democratic side.”

Contact Sebastian Cahill at [email protected] .