Anderson and Belser vie for District 3 council seat

The Lorin District, at the intersection of Ashby and Adeline, is one of the commercial hubs of District 3. Photo: John C. Osborn

There isn’t a big policy divide between two-term incumbent Max Anderson and challenger Dmitri Belser in the race for the District 3 City Council seat.

The South Berkeley district is one of the more diverse in the city, both racially and socioeconomically. Although crime rates are down (as they are throughout Berkeley), crime remains a major issue in the district. Commercially, attention has been focused on developing the Lorin District as a true commercial hub.

Both Belser and Anderson talk about the importance of providing a voice for South Berkeley, reducing crime and supporting local businesses. For voters figuring out which candidate to support, it comes down to judging Anderson’s record against what Belser claims is a fresh approach.

“Politically, I don’t think Max and I are that far apart,” says Belser, whose election slogan is “The Blind Guy with a Vision for Berkeley”. “I think the biggest issue is the amount of time and energy I would give.”

“People recognize the contributions we’ve made over the last eight years to improve the community in various ways,” says Anderson. “I want to continue to make it a more vibrant place, a more conducive place for people to get along and work together.”

Anderson points particularly to the new Derby playing fields, the rebuilding of the South Berkeley library and a number of public health initiatives as signature accomplishments during his tenure.

Dmitri Belser, challenger for the District 3 council seat

Belser looks to his experience as the main mover behind the Ed Roberts Campus to demonstrate his ability to “build collaboration” and work with diverse stakeholders.

But while Belser and Anderson largely agree on priorities, the challenger says that too many people in the community are frustrated with inaction and a lack of responsiveness by Anderson and city official more generally.

“They feel they have never really been heard for a very long time,” Belser says. “I don’t feel anything is happening in this district. Having a council person who would show up when people are thinking of  opening new businesses. Showing up and talking to new tenants, seeing what could be done to help them.”

Belser points to his experience restoring a Victorian house he and his partner Tom White moved to 62nd Street as an example of how the attitude of a neighborhood can be transformed.

“What we saw is that the neighbors, once they saw that the worst problem in the neighborhood is being dealt with, they said, ‘Let’s do something about the whole neighborhood,'” Belser says. “If you don’t respond, a lot of people at some point just give up. They think, ‘I’m just going to go into my house and lock the door and not pay attention.’ If you complain to the council that there’s a crack house in your neighborhood and no one does anything, it’s very discouraging.”

While he says there is frustration, Belser believes the district has a lot of potential.

“I think I’m lucky that I get to live in the best part of town,” he says. “This district has all the pieces to be really successful. We have a BART station, we have parking, we have great housing stock. It’s very walkable. There are a lot of pluses that would bring people here.”

Incumbent Max Anderson. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Anderson admits “there continue to be challenges” for the district, but points to the many changes over eight years.

“Crime statistics have come down considerably,” he says. “We also are dealing more effectively in improving the Adeline Street corridor. We’ve made quite a few accomplishments, improving the physical structure of the city and providing opportunities for the people.”

Anderson says he works closely with the neighborhood associations to reduce crime.  He cites a number of abandoned properties where he has worked with the community on disposal “so something productive can happen there”. “We got rid of the Dollar Store, which was a drug haven,” he says.

But as a retired Registered Nurse, Anderson is audibly most proud of the public health initiatives he has helped start. He cites the drop-in hypertension clinic which has been established at Alcatraz and Sacramento, the Breathmobile for asthma, and a healthy heart program.

Derby Fields, which is under construction after years of debate and planning, is another signal achievement for him.

“That was an eyesore and a pariah on the community for a long, long time,” Anderson says. “Now we’re going to have playing fields there.”

One area where Anderson and Belser disagree is on Measure S, which would prohibit sitting on sidewalks in commercial districts between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Anderson is one of the three council members opposing S, while Belser supports the measure. Anderson, at the launch of the anti-S campaign, described the measure as “snake oil.”

“I’m really worried about about criminalizing homelessness, but I hear from lots of people, particularly women, who feel like the streets are not safe places to be on,” Belser says. “A big part of Measure S will be the implementation of it. I’d like to be involved in that.”

Belser makes a point of stressing his determination to work with others, and not to rely on his own ideas.

“It’s going to need a lot more people than just me,” he says. “I keep telling people I don’t have the answers. I have the energy and enthusiasm to work at it, but we have a lot of great minds in Berkeley. What are the thoughts that people have? Let’s come up with some creative solutions.”

Belser says it “amazes” him that “people that scream the loudest often get heard” in Berkeley. “I would really like Berkeley to move past the squeaky wheel always getting heard,” he says.

On the City Council, Anderson often sides with Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguín in the minority, offering eloquent and often harsh critiques of the majority. When the sitting ban was passed for the ballot he tore into Mayor Tom Bates and what he described as “his cronies” for “anti-democratic positions.” But his votes sometimes defy expectations.

“I’m unabashedly a progressive,” Anderson says. “I support those policies and initiatives that favor working people and their struggles in the community. But when good policies and good initiatives emerge from the left or the center and they make sense for the community, I’ll support them.”

In the 2008 election, Anderson ran unopposed and won re-election with over 96% of the vote.

Visit Berkeleyside’s Voter’s Edge Berkeley for complete coverage and tracking of the city’s 10 ballot measures. Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to Nov. 6.

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  • bgal4

    Anderson  “Crime statistics have come down considerably,” he says. 

    Prove it, it is simply not true.

    The dept will not meet this year goal of a 5% decrease.  This year the crime rates regionally and nationally are back on the rise.

    Most importantly, Max Anderson did not provide ANY of the leadership on crime reduction strategies responsible for the improvements we enjoy today. I can provide a detailed list of the specific actions that we took over the last decade.  Max Anderson was not only negligent,  he has been an obstructionist and dishonest.

    Max Anderson sided with protecting some of the most dangerous violent criminals around here i.e. Emmett Harris. That story alone would have most of you screaming, get rid of Max Anderson.

    In 2004 I ran on a platform of CIP reforms,i.e. hot spots policing, and crime analysis informed problem solving.
    I also ran on an agenda of fiscal responsibility. Our  residents driven campaign won us a place at the table to address barriers to public safety reforms and city neglect and inaction. We continue today, and are deeply engaged in a fight to hold onto the gains on Sacramento St we fought for a decade to realize.

    We need a responsive, engaged, capable representative who understands what needs to be fixed.

    Monday night at the south Berkeley election forum Max Anderson exposed one of the great contradictions at the root of why south Berkeley is burdened with violent crime. He defended the city’s historic inaction on drug houses and failures of code enforcement with an hyperbolic dishonest claim. He then responded to an constituent who confronted him about Max’s refusal to assist him during the city code enforcement action resulting in the city condemning his property and selling it to developer friends for 1/4 of the value. Sure this guy was an easy target because he did have serious electrical code violations. But how can Max defend property owners responsible for bringing to this area VIOLENT crime.

    Max has systemically defended many of the people responsible for violent crime and he has the nerve to suggest he has helped us defend our RIGHT to raise our families without the threat of gunfire in our streets.

    Everyone at city hall and the police dept knows I have been doing the heavy lifting for the entire time Max has been in office.

    I am supporting CHANGE, please support our progress, vote for Dmitri Belser. 

  • bgal4

    I have dozens of verifiable examples of the systemic obstruction by Max Anderson against residents efforts to reduce the negative impacts of violent crime.

    Here’s one to digest:

    Russell, Oregon and California St ROC neighborhood group met for 10 years at the Young Adult Program on a regular basis with city officials. We were so effective that certain politicians  found a way to obstruct us . According to city hall staff it was Max Anderson who initiated a NEW fee schedule to charge residents $62 hr to use our recreation center for neighborhood crime prevention meetings. At the same time that his pal Kriss Worthington claims he passed a resolution to assist low income neighborhoods to organize for neighborhood watch.

    Pull back the curtain, we are being mislead.

  • bgal4

    “Anderson says he works closely with the neighborhood associations to
    reduce crime.  He cites a number of abandoned properties where he has
    worked with the community on disposal “so something productive can
    happen there”. “We got rid of the Dollar Store, which was a drug haven,”
    he says.”


    Max was against shutting down B-Town. His appointee to ZAB Toya Groves was the strongest supporter of  B-Town Dollar Store, with her partner Chris Smith they mounted a racist attack on residents. Only after another shooting involving the dealers hanging out at B-Town did we residents publicly confront Anderson and he was forced to accept the nuisance abatement solution.

    Talk to retired Capt Ahearn about who is responsible for the 5 years of focused effort to get the city to take action on B-Town. It was me, NOT MAX. Again the true story is a tale of enormous waste of financial resources, and the city slogging through years only to be forced to abate the nuisance when the shootings can no longer be ignored.

    All the important lessons the city learned in the B-Town abatement process, have been forgotten. We are back to square 1  in our current fight to get the city to shut down the illegal pot club 3PG. They supply street level drug sales and the return of  turf battles to Sacramento St.

  • guest

     “…vote for Dmitri Belser.”

    Not one word in support of the candidate you endorse?

  • southberkeleyres

    It’s clear we need  change at city hall, including a new mayor and councilmember.  Dmitri Belser will make a great councilmember for District 3, bringing a fresh, positive, inclusive view.  Dmitri has the energy needed to revitalize our neighborhood.  Restoring Victorian homes while working to bring the Ed Roberts Campus to fruition are two large feats which require the determination and stamina we need in a leader. We currently have more grafitti and closed storefronts in our District than ever before.  Yet Ed Roberts Campus, Sweet Adeline’s, and  young people starting businesses such as Flacos, and  Alchemy Cafe give me hope for a rebirth of our business district.
    I don’t feel that Max has respect for homeowners, though we pay the taxes that provide Berkeley’s social services.  Max said that” focusing on Berkeley’s debt is diversionary”.   I don’t want a councilmember who is in denial about our city’s dire financial straits.  As the Oakland Tribune editorial (10/09/2012) stated, “if city officials fail to act, the problem will worsen.”  Look at Measure M, instead of taking care of road repair out of our general fund, Berkeley wants to finance it over 30 years.  Would you  take out a 30 year loan to paint your house?  Instead of maintaining  Willard pool when Berkeley was flush with dough, city  hall let it deteriorate.
    Max was a defender and supporter of the notorious Moore drug house, opposing neighbors who wanted the city to act responsibly to do something about the nexus of crime and misery.    If you weren’t here then, google “Moore house, Berkeley” and read his comments for yourself. 
     Dmitri Belser for councilmembe=er District 3 and Jacquelyn Mcormick for Mayor.  I also support the Sunshine Ordinance, (measure U) and the FACTS initiative, (measure V) for Fiscal Accountability, Clarity,Transparency, Sustainability.

  • Guest

    I would hazard a guess that crimes rates have gone down as a result of the housing bubble of the last decade which saw an influx of young professionals moving into the neighborhood and poorer families driven out by the high prices.  It would be interesting to see an analysis of the census data changes from 2000 to 2010 and compare that with decrease in crime citywide and district by district. 

  • Ralph

    Berkeley schools have used the ball fields at San Pablo park for as long as I know of.  How many millions of dollars are being spent to put in a diamond at Derby.  It just does not make sense.

  • bgal4

    OK easy, Ed Roberts campus.

    Dmitri provided the leadership through what easily could have been a contentious development process, but instead the result is pride and ownership of a great community resource by the residents and non profits alike.

    Why is it that the lead neighborhood organizer, Robert Lauriston, who lead the opposition resulting in concessions and compromises in the Roberts development endorses Dmitri Belser, yet in 2004 worked tirelessly for Max Anderson. B-Side should have interviewed a few people to make this story real and not just rhetoric.

  • bgal4

     Not in District 3, which is 70% rental, and the highest concentration of HUD subsidized housing.

    Crime has gone down nationally because of more effective policing, as budgets cuts affect police dept and court system we will see the trend switch, as San Jose  Mayor Chuck Reed explains is happening right now to that city, one of the safety large city in the nation, despite gang influences.

    Santa Cruz county sheriff is implementing some smart assessment tools to assist with realignment, community corrections, that is what any progressive leader in Berkeley should be looking at for a model to learn from.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    3.7 million at last count.

  • rusure


    you write “In the 2008 election, Anderson ran unopposed and won re-election with over 96% of the vote’

    The context that is omitted in this statement is that only 40% of district 3 voters in 2008 voted in the city council race. The 4% was write-in candidates.

    This poor participation rate represents considerable dissatisfaction with Anderson by district voters.

  • tenjen

    I’ve been inclined to vote against Max Anderson ever since he and Kriss led that ridiculous “protest” against Measure S in council chambers. To me that spectacle exemplified Berkeley at its silliest and most irrelevant. If you don’t agree with a recommendation, cast your vote against it, don’t hold the majority hostage with childish antics.

    Anyway, now that I know Belser supports the measure, that pretty much solidifies my support for him.

  • Anonymous

    If you buy the Freakonomics hypothesis the crime rate has gone down largely due to the legalization of abortion.

  • Nelly

    Pul-lease … max anderson, in this article:

    Derby Fields, which is under construction after years of debate and planning, is another signal achievement for him.
    “That was an eyesore and a pariah on the community for a long, long time,” Anderson says. “Now we’re going to have playing fields there.”

    no sir-ree .. he opposed it … he was an obstructionist. … and he seems to have forgotten his non-role for the derby field project. he does not get any credit for moellering field.

    belser is the person i am voting for. district 3 deserves more attention than anderson is willing to give.

  • southberkeleyres

    A few years ago, Kriss supported Measure Q, which would have decriminalized Prostitution in Berkeley.  Can you imagine how many pimps would have flocked here and how many women. girls and young men would have been exploited?  How liveable would Berkeley be as the only city in California alllowing open prostitution?  This is one reason I won’t vote for Kriss.  His ignorance as described by the Tribune editorial board about the size of Berkeley’s fiscal problems are another reason not to vote for Kriss, or for Bates.  .

  • Cappuccino

    Though I live in District 3, I’m not voting for either candidate.  I assume (and – sigh – hope) that Anderson will win, but I’m not voting for someone who doesn’t respond to e-mails from his constituents.  I believe in the past eight years I’ve sent him five e-mail messages, possibly six, and I received a response to only one, from his assistant Charlotte.  On two of those occasions I sent an e-mail asking a question, both questions being ones to which he probably knew the answer, or could easily find it out.  In both cases I didn’t even receive a “Sorry, I don’t know.”

    I considered supporting Dmitri Belser, but when I learned of his support of Measure S I ruled that out. 

  • Zach Franklin

    I often wonder when a candidate takes credit for something that has happened during their term, whether there is a good way for voters to verify whether they actually had something to do with it or not. There are comments here that suggest that some of the things that Max has taken credit for were things that he actually opposed when they were being discussed. In general my sense is that sometimes officials take credit for things where they actually had no substantive ability to influence the outcome given the powers of the office. Lance & team, I am curious what efforts you all take to verify the facts when a candidate takes credit for an “accomplishment in office.”

  • southberkeleyres

    You sent Max emails five or six times and never got a reply from Max directly, just one reply from his aide?  Why would you support someone who doesn’t respect his constituents enough to respond? 
    You also say that because of Dmitri’s support for Measure S you ruled out voting for him.  Last night I attended a Dmitri fundraiser at the Firehouse Art Hanger on Adeline. Two No  on Measure S people attended and had their literature out and were engaging in a congenial atmosphere with Dmitri supporters.   Dmitri Belser shows  inclusiveness, courtesy and open mind for opposing views.  Maybe you should reconsider!

  • tenjen

    I’m not thrilled at all with Bates, but I fear casting my vote for another candidate might throw the election to Kriss.

  • tenjen

     Capp. says above that s/he’s not going to vote for either Anderson or Belser.

  • southberkeleyres

    Jacquelyn Mccormick has a good shot.  Please take a look at her materials. She has my vote for mayor.

  • Nelly

    also …
    the breath mobile for asthma project is a state-funded project … max anderson is taking credit for it?? realllllllly?

  • Ghlaw

    I have lived in Berkeley since 1992.  I was at first a member of the Housing Advisory Commission[HAC], then Vice-Chair and ultimately Chair for almost 3 years.  When I became the chariperson the HAC was rife with political infighting such that we often did not have a quorum or we made fractured recommendations to the City Council such that they were often ignored.  I changed that and the HAC usually provided unanimous recommendations to the city council.  One of my proudest moments came when Linda Maio asked for the notes and comments from the HAC on a particular subject.  I was very pleased the with the respect the HAC received from developers and public officials.  Funny, it wasn’t hard.  We just did the right thing.  I preceeded Daryl Moore on the HAC and was asked to run for District 2 many times but I didn’t want to subject myself and my family to the rigors of Berkeley politics.  I have heard and seen many times in the comments that Max Anderson and his appointees are racist.  I have not heard that about caucasian candidates and it is troubling.  I disagree with Max on many things and do not count on him or Daryl Moore for anything.  Our street has had to sue and picket for services like nuisance abatement and having our street paved.  The mayor even refused to accept a certified letter from the community after we faxed, emailed and persaonally delivered the letter.  The night I had the letter entered into the minutes and left the council chambers many called the mayor racist for refusing to respond to his constituents.  However, his response is TYPICAL for the city.  Notwithstanding, I have never called and do not call Mayor Bates a racist.  He just does not care.  Vote for someone you think cares.  I can tell you, for all of his quirks Kriss Worthington does care.  He has helped district 2 more than Daryl Moore.  As to Mr. Belser, I never saw him when the project was pitched to theHAC. I was on the HAC when we first approved it and I have seen it grow into something I do not recognize.  That is Berkeley.

  • voter and district 2 res

    Neither candidate nor a single canvasser has come to my door once.  I am staying at home caring for my little kids so there is really no way they could miss me if they actually wanted to talk to me to get my vote.  The only non-political mailer Ive gotten was a flyer to help Max Anderson but no reasons on why or where to meet him. 

    Ive owned my house two years (one of the new professionals no owning after years of renting) and Ive never heard anything from Anderson.  Neither does he comment in this newspaper nor any other. For the average resident, I follow Berkeley developments pretty closely. When Kriss was my council person, I had many interactions with him.  I loved him as a councilman but I cant vote for his as the mayor of this large, complex city.

    Belser could have my vote pretty easily, if he took the time to canvass the neighborhood.  I tried to pay attention for a candidate forum, as did my friend a homeowner since 81 and neither of us saw a posting or invitation. 
    Try harder guys

  • voter and district 3 res

     Typo, Im a district 3 resident

  • Dmitri

    We’re doing a big push on canvassing the neighborhood starting on the 31st.   WE’ll definitely be at your house and will make sure you get literature about my campaign.  Sorry that you missed the candidate’s forum, but I’m happy to talk to you any time.  

  • Dmitri

    Sorry to hear that my support of Measure S has made you rule out voting for me.  I support MEasure S for a number of reasons, which you can read about on my website:  

    But I want to add two comments to that: First, I think that, assuming Measure S passes, implementation is going to be key, and having someone who is paying attention and actually monitoring how it is enacted will be an important component of ensuring that it’s not sured to merely criminalize homelessness.  But also: my older son suffers from bipolar disorder.  He is very compliant on his medications, and doing well, considering all he has to deal with.  My son is adopted, and at least one person from his family of origin was someone with undiagnosed bipolar disorder who ended up disappearing, probably dying on the streets someplace where no one knew him.  My greatest fear is that my son will some day be in similar straits, and if that ever happens, I hope that the City where he ends up would have a compassionate measure that would push him to accept the available services, and hopefully get him back on his feet.