Even though he did not intend to have a career in politics until 2016, Ben Bartlett has made numerous legislative changes serving on Berkeley City Council and hopes to continue doing just that for the next four years.
The theme of his reelection campaign for 2020 is “The Story of We,” in which he hopes to “create a better future” by listening to the stories of others to inform policymaking. Bartlett is prioritizing affordable housing, COVID-19 preparedness and criminal justice reform.
After witnessing the displacement of his mother and many other senior citizens, Bartlett noticed the shortage of affordable senior housing that the city provided.
“There was a lack of respect for these African senior citizens who have done their part to build up Berkeley,” Bartlett said. “I was very much angered by the situation and decided to serve to venture off and do something about it.”
Once he was elected as the council member for District 3, Bartlett said, he got to work, altering and proposing legislation that created prefabricated homeless housing and a new community finance tool to manage developer costs.
He also advocated for the nation’s first anti-displacement public legal advocate, who fights for people who have been displaced, according to his website.
“We passed the Tenant Protection Ordinance to protect tenants from harassment and to ensure that people like my mother never have to go through what they went through before,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett’s other focuses are COVID-19 readiness, which includes allocating resources for community health as the number of cases continues to rise, and the transformation of public safety, namely in criminal justice reform.
Early in his term, Bartlett promoted racial equity in city contracting through the passage of the Berkeley Inclusion In Opportunity Index. Recently, he obtained funding for police body cameras and helped pass the George Floyd Community Safety Act to reallocate resources away from policing and toward the community.
Though the last four years on the City Council have allowed Bartlett to influence his hometown, even before then, he was concerned with helping others overseas.
According to Annie Goeke, co-founder and co-executive director of Earth Rights Institute, Bartlett worked with her on a concept paper to bring awareness to conflict minerals in Africa. This included work to change the nature of the market and better serve the people being hurt by the trade.
“He really sees the importance of collaboration in the collective and how to move forward in a way that’s very positive,” Goeke said.
Bartlett said he decided to run for reelection because the measures that he has passed will take years to manifest. In his words, he has planted many seeds, and now he must continue serving on the council to ensure they grow.
His other motive lies in the institution that originally propelled him into the political limelight: family.
“My family has been here for five generations, and every generation has fought hard for human values, and it’s what makes South Berkeley special,” Bartlett said. “We’re the place that takes a stand, and now we’re going to continue to stand for it.”