Sophie Hahn, who grew up in Berkeley and sits on the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, has announced she is running for City Council District Five, which is currently the post held by Laurie Capitelli.
Hahn says she will provide a different brand of leadership, one that is community-oriented and transparent. “Berkeley is a fantastic place, but people don’t see progress here in basic areas like upkeep and services. We need to make decisions based on facts and data changes, not because of political ties and favoritism,” she says.
Hahn says she believes Berkeley residents are frustrated because they have not been properly informed about the city’s financial predicament. “We have $1 billion of unfunded infrastructure needs that we are committed to paying for and we have to make some hard choices,” she says. “But we have to show trust and transparency in our communication with people. We haven’t even shared a plan with the community for the city’s economic future.”
Hahn cites the decision to raise the compensation of former Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz shortly before he retired as an example of the way the current City Council displays a “disconnect with the realities people are facing.” “That money was ‘our money’,” she says. “One of the great things about Berkeley is that we have very generous taxpayers, who give to schools and libraries, but they expect the money will be responsibly spent.” The new economic realities, Hahn says, call for a “very different style of leadership.”
Hahn ran against Capitelli in 2008 and lost by 402 votes. Capitelli received 4,299 votes and Hahn got 3,897 votes.
Hahn’s stated priorities include an expansion of the city’s economic base, the revitalization of downtown, improvements in public transit and cycling amenities, support of local youth, smart development, and a focus on maintaining Berkeley’s open spaces and recreation, including the city’s pools. Hahn mentions a photo Berkeleyside ran in January 2011 of Willard Pool filled with dirt. “It was so sad,” she says. “It was a sign of defeat. We’re robbing people of health, safety and joy. A city should be a joyful place. Kids of color swim at much lower rates than average. Swimming is a life skill, we live on the coast — what are we doing if we’re not keeping our young people happy?”
Issues that she says are particular to District 5 include the need for a revitalized Solano Avenue, disaster preparedness, and public safety.
Hahn, who is President of the PTA at King Middle School, and former Chair of the City of Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women, three years ago launched the Berkeley Edible Gardens Initiative to change the permitting requirements for the sale of home grown food in Berkeley. The legislation is up for approval at the Planning Commission on May 16.
Hahn is married and has three children, aged 13, 15 and 17, all of whom attend Berkeley public schools, as did she. She grew up on Santa Barbara Road and attended Cragmont, Columbus (now Rosa Parks), King, West Campus and Berkeley High. She graduated UC Berkeley in 1983, then attended Stanford Law School. She has lived in Paris and New York City and in Berkeley since 1995, soon after having her first child. She is on the Board of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation and Chair of the North Berkeley Committee of the Branch Libraries Capital Campaign. She is also on the Council of the Friends of the Bancroft Library and on the board of nonprofit ArtUP! Berkeley.
Along with District 5, the November general election includes races for council districts 2 (Darryl Moore), 3 (Max Anderson), and 6 (Susan Wengraf). Four rent board seats and two school board seats are also up for grabs. So far, apart from Hahn, no other candidates have emerged to challenge council incumbents or the mayor. Mayor Tom Bates announced his re-election bid on April 26. The official nomination period for candidates is July 16 to August 10.
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