Todd Andrew, a real estate consultant who has lived in North Berkeley for 20 years, is running for the District 5 spot on the Berkeley City Council this November.
Andrew will challenge incumbent Councilmember Sophie Hahn. The third candidate in the race is Stephen Murphy, who also ran against Hahn in 2016.
One key aspect of Andrew’s platform is helping local businesses succeed.
“Our little commercial centers, mom and pop shops, sole proprietorships and small businesses are one of the key things that I love about Berkeley,” Andrew said.
He added that many such businesses are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and need more support to continue operations.
Although his work background is in the private sector, Andrew cited his current involvement with the Solano Avenue Business Improvement District Advisory Board and Berkeley’s Homeless Commission.
Andrew loves Berkeley for the passion it has for “justice and equity and inclusion,” but said he thinks a misguided emphasis on ideological purity prevents better collaboration and problem-solving.
For example, Andrew said he thinks affordable housing measures that exclude funds from private and for-profit developers miss out on one of the most efficient ways to develop new affordable housing.
“When you’re vilifying for-profit entities, people who are trying to make a living by putting people to work and creating projects and results, that takes out a huge segment of a potential solution for all kinds of problems,” Andrew said.
One city program that he thinks could be improved is the Pathways STAIR Center, which helps homeless people transition to permanent housing. According to Andrew, if the trends from the first six months of the center’s second year of operations continue, the center will have served 30% fewer people than it did in its first year of operations, which he thinks must be improved.
If elected to City Council, Andrew said he would be open to public-private partnerships while trying to address some of the ways he thinks Berkeley is falling behind in its civic responsibilities, such as fulfilling pension obligations, funding homeless services and maintaining safe streets for cyclists.
“We are about $700 million in the hole on our pension obligations,” Andrew said. “We’re about $700 million in the hole on our infrastructure.”
Some of Andrew’s other proposals focus on streamlining costs and reducing internal inefficiencies in the city government, with solid waste management as a particular example.
Berkeley, he added, is one of a small number of cities with its own solid waste management system, and he has seen calculations of how much money could be saved by outsourcing it.
Ultimately, Andrew suggested that even the structure of the city government could be up for review.
“I would like everything to be on the table,” Andrew said. “We’ve got so many boards and commissions, and I think some of those could be consolidated to save time and money, and allow staff to focus more on public service.”