UPDATE, 05.15.14: George Beier has announced he will be running for the District 8 council seat following the April 30 confirmation of which redistricting map the city will be using.
ORIGINAL STORY: Three candidates — with a fourth waiting in the wings — have taken out papers to run for Berkeley City Council’s District 8 seat that has been held by Councilman Gordon Wozniak for three terms.
Mike Alvarez Cohen, Lori Droste, and Jacquelyn McCormick have all filed to run in November for the seat. George Beier, who three times ran in District 7 against Councilman Kriss Worthington, may join the race depending on the final outcome of new City Council district boundaries. A court is expected to rule on those boundaries on April 30. (Update: A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of the council-majority-approved redistricting map, which would allow Beier to enter the District 8 race. Learn more about the ruling here.)
Wozniak announced last year he would not seek re-election.
“I think it’s time for the next generation to step forward and take over the reigns of the council,” Wozniak said. “People shouldn’t stay on the council forever. I’m a senior citizen now, and I’d like to spend more time with my family and supporting my grandchildren.”
Wozniak’s endorsement goes to Mike Alvarez Cohen, a first-time candidate and the chair of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board. Cohen’s campaign emphasizes his entrepreneurship, technological savvy, and experience as a Berkeley parent. The co-founder of the Berkeley Startup Cluster and Berkeley Skydeck, and the creator of the online civic engagement site Peak Democracy, Cohen said he will advocate for public-private partnerships and a heavier integration of technology in city services if he wins.
Alvarez-Cohen: “Technology can help us”
“I think we should pursue conventional approaches,” Cohen said. “However, I also think that over the next decade we’re going to see a lot of new technology. Some of that technology could help us for the first time either solve or mitigate some challenges in District 8 and Berkeley.”
In this vein, Cohen lists on his website a variety of “moonshot” solutions to the problems that plague his district. He suggests installing a system of sensors on parking spaces that will inform residents when spaces are open, and proposes allowing residents and businesses to rent out their empty spaces. He supports the use of video-monitoring systems and noise sensors in residential neighborhoods, but acknowledges that the city would have to consider the privacy risks.
Cohen also has ambitious plans to change the “culture” of the council to one of “friendliness, fairness, and productivity.” He credits his level-headed leadership with his two-time unanimous election to ZAB chair.
Cohen and his wife have lived in District 8 for nearly 20 years, and their two kids are in BUSD schools. In 2012 he won the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Award for his work at the Office of Technology Licensing. Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who represents District 5, has endorsed him.
Droste: “My policy background will really serve me well”
Also running for council for the first time is Lori Droste, the chair of Berkeley’s Commission on the Status of Women, and a member of the city’s Housing Advisory Commission. Droste has a background in public policy and education and is a graduate of Emerge California, a training program for Democratic women. Her triple-pronged campaign platform focuses on achieving economic vitality and investment via strengthening Berkeley’s affordable housing offerings; creating “safe streets” by reducing both crime and traffic congestion; and advocating for “our children and future” by investing in parks and partnering with schools.
As chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, Droste is leading the effort to release the commission’s first “status of women in Berkeley” comprehensive report. Through this position she has also worked with graduate students at Mill’s College, where she co-teaches a course on women in politics, to research sexual trafficking and sexual assault prevention and response, and to provide the council with policy recommendations.
“I was focused on deliverables,” said Droste. “I think my policy background will really serve me well. I think people are really excited to have a fresh face and someone who is pragmatic. I’ve received great encouragement from parents and women’s communities to run, because there’s underrepresentation on the council.”
Droste, whose mother was the mayor of the small Ohio town where she grew up, is a 16-year resident of District 8, where she lives with her wife and two young children. Droste has been endorsed by Vice Mayor Linda Maio, council members Darryl Moore and Laurie Capitelli (who has endorsed Alvarez-Cohen as well saying “either would be a great addition to the council”), and Berkeley School Board director Judy Appel.
McCormick: Running on a “neighborhoods-first platform”
The third candidate, Jacquelyn McCormick, said she is running on a “neighborhoods-first” platform. The president of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA) — of which the two other candidates are members — said she would prioritize district-specific public safety issues, working to reduce traffic and home break-ins. She pointed to several existing city initiatives she would like to enhance, including the Climate Action Plan and the 2020 Vision plan to eliminate the achievement gap.
McCormick has run for office in Berkeley twice before, for council in 2010 and for mayor in 2012.
Previously she worked for years in corporate real estate management and she owns an interior design company. Her goals and ideas have not changed since her last campaign, but her involvement in Berkeley politics has increased, she said.
“I go to every single council meeting, so I really know what’s going on in the city and the decisions that are being made,” McCormick said. “I have been really involved with neighborhood issues — hands on, up to my elbows — for the last four years. No one can come close to the involvement that I have and the knowledge that I have for what’s going on.”
McCormick is a leader in the protest of the plan to sell the downtown Berkeley post office. She is the executive director of the National Post Office Collaborative, a group that works to preserve historic post offices across the country
As president of CENA for the past year, McCormick said she’s ramped up communication and public engagement. She organizes straw polls when there are controversial neighborhood issues, and is currently pushing the Transportation Commission to put up signage during big events at UC venues that cause major traffic issues.
The three candidates may have even more company on the ballot. A ruling this week is expected to determine which district lines will be used in November, ending confusion about candidacies and endorsements.
Beier: Proposing a compromise redistricting map
Council candidate George Beier, the president of the Willard Neighborhood Association, lives in one of the areas that is in limbo. Under the new district map adopted in December, Beier is in District 8, but the old lines as well as one proposed by a group of Berkeley voters have him in District 7, where he’s run unsuccessfully against incumbent Kriss Worthington three times.
Beier has also proposed a “compromise map” that has him in District 8, where he wants to run. He said he will not run again in District 7, if that’s where he ends up.
“It’s time for somebody else to pick up the torch and do it,” he said.
“The other thing, aside from my personal ambitions, is there are other candidates in District 7 who may want to run who are also holding off because they don’t know where the lines are,” Beier said. “Whole neighborhoods — Willard, Halcyon, LeConte — have no idea which district they’re going to be in, and all of us are going to be voting for a council member in November.”
District 8 extends north and east from the Elmwood, encompassing a chunk of UC Berkeley student housing, as well some of Berkeley’s most wealthy residential areas near the Claremont Hotel.
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