‘Very activist-adjacent’: Poet Terry Taplin runs for Berkeley City Council

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A self-described justice advocate and Berkeley native, Terry Taplin is running to be the next District 2 City Council member.

Inspired to run by his feeling that the district is in danger of losing its economic and cultural diversity, Taplin wants to prevent the pandemic recovery and ongoing climate crisis from increasing social inequality.

For his campaign platform, Taplin’s focuses are public safety and disaster resilience, climate action and resilience, mobility justice, housing equity and COVID-19 economic recovery.

Raised in West Berkeley by his single mother, Taplin identifies as an openly gay, working-class Black man and is an alumnus of the Berkeley Unified School District, Berkeley City College and Saint Mary’s College of California, according to his website.

Taplin’s background is mainly in creative writing and spoken word — which he calls a “very activist-adjacent” practice — and he has a history of community organizing.

After serving on both the Children, Youth and Recreation Commission and the Civic Arts Commission, Taplin is now on the Peace and Justice Commission and is vice chair of the Transportation Commission.

Taplin was also a yearlong intern for former councilmember Kriss Worthington. Currently, Taplin is a state Assembly District 15 associate member of the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee.

“My experiences … have given me the ability to synthesize complicated information for public consumption, mediate complicated contrasting needs and the ability to empathize with, understand and work alongside those from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences,” Taplin said.

Sharla Sullivan, one of Taplin’s volunteer leaders and the community affairs representative at East Bay Municipal Utility District, remarked that upon meeting Taplin, she was immediately impressed with his ability to listen, as it is an essential skill in politics.

Taplin acknowledged that a lot of his plans have changed in light of the fiscal impacts to the city’s budget from COVID-19.

In the midst of a national debate about defunding the police, Taplin said he wants to repurpose some police funding for the creation and expansion of restorative justice programs and of mental health and crisis intervention programs.

“The combination of strong progressive values with a focus on the nuts-and-bolts of improving infrastructure and building housing are common among our new generation of candidates,” said Alfred Twu, one of Taplin’s housing policy advisers, in an email. “This type of big change is how Berkeley and other cities can solve many of its long-time challenges.”

The city of Berkeley’s general election will take place Nov. 3. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 19, according to the city website.

Contact Claire Daly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @DalyClaire13.