This race presented an especially difficult choice for the editorial board. Incumbent Councilmember Susan Wengraf and challenger Richard Illgen have many similarities regarding policy ideas and goals. Ultimately, it came down to whether institutional knowledge or a fresh perspective would most benefit the council. We settled on the latter.
Illgen, an attorney and former chair of Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, was motivated to run for the District 6 seat by Wengraf’s slow action in addressing fire danger in the Berkeley Hills. While Wengraf has accomplished many things in her 12 years as a councilmember, including moving utility lines underground to prevent fire danger and securing funding to create a regional wildfire safety board, there are noticeable holes in Berkeley’s wildfire plan Illgen highlighted that swayed the board in his favor.
In his interview with The Daily Californian, Illgen emphasized his plans to clarify evacuation routes in the Berkeley Hills throughout the paths and streets. Though Wengraf is working to enhance those plans, she has had 12 years in office to do so. Now, with an unprecedented fire season and multiple red flag warnings affecting Berkeley over the past few weeks, it feels too little, too late.
Illgen’s ideas for promoting Berkeley’s response to climate change also offered more specifics than Wengraf’s. His include building sustainably with solar panels and increasing infrastructure for electric vehicles.
He also emphasized the need for police reform, particularly the removal of the responsibility of responding to mental health-related issues from police jurisdiction. He offered strong solutions to address Berkeley’s gun violence problem as well, including the implementation of a ceasefire program like Oakland’s and ShotSpotter technology to more quickly detect where gunshots originate.
District 6 constituents really cannot go wrong with either choice, but Illgen will breathe new life into the council with his desire to implement necessary change in Berkeley.
Vote Richard Illgen for District 6.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.