Berkeley native seeks to be youngest council member


Sean Barry is running for the District 7 city council seat, He is looking to succeed Kriss Worthington. Photo courtesy of Sean Barry

Berkeley native Sean Barry has filed to run for the District 7 City Council seat in November, likely challenging 18-year incumbent Kriss Worthington.

At 27, Barry, an alum of UC Berkeley and Berkeley High School, would be the youngest person on the current Council. He is presenting himself as a necessary liaison between the campus and the city at large. In a newly redrawn district that is now about 86% students, that could make the difference in November.

“It’s been nice to see more students in the last few years join commissions,” Barry said. “I can’t pretend I’m as connected to the campus as I was a few years ago, but I think what I can offer as a candidate is an understanding of the perspective of being a student, but also a broader perspective on the city. That’s what I’ve heard a lot of students say they want — to feel like they have a conduit in City Hall, and a pathway to getting involved.”

Barry, a spokesman for the insurance company Blue Shield, was still an undergraduate student himself when he first got involved with city politics. As an editor for the Daily Californian, he covered city meetings and got to know the council members. With Mayor Tom Bates’ blessing, Barry applied to sit on the Waterfront Commission (since merged with Parks), which he later chaired.

Councilman Daryl Moore later appointed Barry to the Planning Commission and to the Community Health Commission, where he was elected vice chair and wrote an item that would raise awareness of Covered California eligibility. It was passed unanimously by the council.

“My orientation on that commission has been finding items that can go to the council, get passed, and have an immediate impact,” Barry said.

Barry’s platform, detailed on his website, emphasizes three priorities in the district, and three in the city. He wants to tackle the growing scarcity of affordable housing near campus, beginning by raising awareness of existing tenant protections in Berkeley. Barry referred to the new housing development downtown as “positive momentum.”

Barry said he would also address public safety in the district that contains the city’s second highest crime area. “It’s an issue of building trust between the campus community and Berkeley police,” he said, explaining that many crimes — especially sexual assault among students — go unreported because of a lack of awareness or confidence in the process.

The third piece of Barry’s district-specific platform is the revitalization of Telegraph Avenue. He wants to loosen restrictions on types of businesses permitted in the commercial district, and pointed to Peet’s Coffee as a project that had overwhelming support yet required exemptions from multiple city ordinance quotas in order to open.

“A filled store front is better than a vacancy,” he said. “There have been some positive developments in terms of allowing for additional density both on the corridor and in the current district. So, adding some housing units and adding office units, building foot traffic so you have a base clientele for these often very small businesses.”

Barry’s triple-pronged citywide plan includes forging partnerships with health nonprofits, working to boost job opportunities in the city by supporting corporations such as Bayer that offer apprenticeships to students, and harnessing student energy to ensure that the city meets the Climate Action Plan goals.

“So many people who live in this district don’t drive, and live close to where they go to school and shop,” Barry said. “Those things can contribute toward these goals, and hopefully we can help to advance that through things like solar financing, and doing a better job at meeting Zero Waste goals.”

Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington

Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington

Currently, the only other candidate vying for the seat is Worthington, who has said in the past that he would drop out of the race if a progressive UC Berkeley student wanted to replace him.

“If none of the progressive students that I think are qualified are going to be a candidate, then I am preparing to jump in,” Worthington said.

The incumbent said both the endorsements Barry has made and those he’s received “indicate that he supports a certain brand,” which Worthington referred to as “the pro-landlord and pro-Chamber of Commerce side of Berkeley politics.”

Barry has the support of Bates and Council Members Moore, Laurie Capitelli, Susan Wengraf, and Gordon Wozniak. Barry has also endorsed Worthington’s former opponent George Beier, who is running in District 8, along with numerous other candidates.

“I don’t have an awful lot to say about him,” Worthington said. “Nobody that I’ve talked to has seen him out there taking a strong stand for major issues.”

Safeena Mecklai, last year’s Associated Students of University of California External Affairs Vice President, begged to differ.

“Sean’s been really proactive about reaching out to student leaders and hearing their thoughts about how he should move forward,” said Mecklai, who served on the Health Commission with Barry last year.

She said his platform addresses students’ major concerns.

“Questions about what students want are often answered by non-students,” Mecklai said. “So I think it’s important for students to get a more vocal representation when it comes to business on telegraph, especially when it comes to what kinds of businesses are brought in, but also lighting, safety and cleanliness.”

Mecklai was involved in the creation of the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) redistricting map, which a judge approved in April after a protracted and bitter battle. The map does not stray significantly from the previous district boundaries, but includes more students. The district now stretches south from Hearst Street, and has an eastern boundary on Piedmont Avenue, encompassing most of the Greek system, Southside student residences, and parts of the Willard and LeConte neighborhoods.

An intern in Worthington’s office created an alternate map that included additional student housing areas, including the International House, and some typically progressive coops and neighborhoods that are excluded from the BSDC map.

“I was supportive of the Berkeley Student District Campaign, and I think it’s a good outcome of that process,” Barry said. “I think it’s important to keep in mind that there are more students than you could possibly fit in one district map.”

Barry said he won’t comment on the major differences between his and Worthington’s politics and platforms until it is clear who the final candidates are.

“It’s probably premature to make any comparative statements,” he said.

But he stressed his connection to Cal students.

“I’m not running because I want to do this for 20 years,” he said. “It’s a young district. At a certain point, I would want to pass it on to somebody else who was younger and ready to take the torch and run with it. I’m doing this now because I think it’s an opportunity in this district at this time.”

If Barry is elected, he would be the youngest member of the current City Council. Jesse Arreguín was 24 when he was elected to the council and Nancy Skinner was 25, and still a student, when she was elected in 1984.

Read Berkeleyside’s coverage to date about the November 2014 elections

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  • guest

    Sean Berry is endorsed by George Beier, real-estate bubble software magnate, which in my book, is the kiss of death. I would vote for Kriss in that contest.

  • Bill N

    “Barry referred to the new housing development downtown as “positive momentum.”” Good luck to him on that but he seems to have a sensible and reasonable platform.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Disclosure: Barry is a friend of Jesse and myself.

    While it is noted that Barry would be the youngest on Council, it gives no further context, such as Councilmember Arreguin being nearly the same age at 29 years old and that Arreguin is the youngest ever elected to Berkeley City Council at age 24 years old in 2008, which is a major accomplishment for Jesse and the student community.

  • Tizzielish

    I was going to post this info about Jesse, first elected at age 24. And he was the first, and still the only, Latino on the Council. In the melting pot that is Berkeley. that is a meaningful point.

    Another white male, endorse by the Bates cabal . . I don’t like this kid already.

    He can brag about Beier’s endorsement and the Bates cabal endorsement because, I suspect, few students in the district where he’s running actually follows politics closely enough to know that these endorsements are not indicative of a progressive candidate.

  • Guest

    LOL. Good luck with that. George is going to be our next District 8 councilmember. Widely respected throughout the city.

  • I wrote the headline and I didn’t say youngest council member “ever” just youngest now. I will add line that Jesse was elected when he was 24

  • guest

    A spokesperson for Blue Shield? That company changed my policy terms in April to exclude my college going son, with nary a peep from Covered California. Blue Shield has no maximum out of pocket expenses for out of network costs and the narrowest network in California. Anyone willing to work for them demonstrates a political slant that does not serve the public good.

  • Guest

    Um, the article says, several times, WEEKEND Sonoma house. Is there some controversy with candidates having a weekend home outside of Berkeley?

  • Chris

    So, how has District 7 fared over the last 18 years…?

  • DisGuested

    Nice to see Berkeleyside moderators giving overt sexism and racism yet another free pass, as long as the dreaded White Male is the target of abuse.

  • Completely_Serious

    If there is, is there some controversy about sitting council members actually living in, is it El Cerrito?

  • Mud Slinger

    It is always a bit sad to read the comments from the peanut gallery – and a reminder that anyone who enters an election, no matter how earnest in their desire to serve, has to have a thick skin. If I was writing the headline for this story, given those commenting, I’d have titled it: “Worthington can’t say anything about opponent / admits he is having problems remembering” Now, in terms of the givens, and based on comments from the peanuts, I guess I’ve learned the following from them: Jessie was the first electable Latino in Berkeley; Nancy S. was young once (32 years ago); Bates is running a Cabal – apparently somewhere in Berkeley; George B re-enacts Moses coming down from the mountain every weekend in Sonoma County; Anothony S. will be your friend, but only if you’ll be a friend of Jessie; Tizzylish won’t support another white male (but doesn’t consider Kriss to be white, or to be male, I can’t quite figure that one out). Let the mud slinging begin – we have a few months until November.

  • William Thecrank

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks

  • Thanks for that summary, Mud Slinger. One of the dilemmas we wrestle with on Berkeleyside is how much coverage of the elections we should be doing pre-September. I suspect only the most politically engaged are paying any attention to the local races now.

  • guest

    “the first electable Latino in Berkeley”

    You mean the first elected Latino.

  • guest

    How would you feel if someone said that they weren’t going to vote for any blacks who were endorsed by the Worthington cabal?

  • George Beier

    I had a small business — hardly a magnate. I worked in the S&L industry, learned the ropes, learned programming out of a book, and worked hard. First I hired one person, then another, until I grew the business to about 35 people. I’ve always been a programmer (TRS 80, Commodore 64 — loved it! –) and felt I could clean up a lot of the mortgage mess if we had some good quality control software, and that’s what I did. The business was in Berkeley and, over the years, I hired over a hundred people. I sold the business to take care of my mother after she got a rough diagnosis. I’ve been pretty much volunteering ever since, trying to use my skills in public service.

    My ex-husband and I own the house together, and trade off weekends.

  • William Thecrank

    Nobody did say that so I’m totally not worried about it.

  • Güest

    If there were any electable latinos running for office before him, why was he the first one elected?

  • student

    brilliant response george, your story is inspiring.

  • Surely

    Actually, the writer said “spokesman”, not “spokesperson”. Let’s hope that no woman would take a job like that.

  • guest

    Why do you believe it is acceptable for someone to say that they won’t vote for a candidate based on their skin color?

  • andrew johnson

    Wait a minute – The Tom Bates Machine has endorsed a challenger to sitting Councilman Worthington? Stop the presses! This is earth-shattering news…

  • Whoa Mule

    Sean’s Accomplishments:
    “…wrote an item that would raise awareness of Covered California eligibility.”

    Wrote a resolution that stated, “Now Therefore, Be it Resolved by the Council of the City of Berkeley that the City supports California’s continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”

    Resolution set back Berkeley’s Zero Waste Goals by wasting paper.

  • yawn

    I’m not terribly impressed by his platform. Sure, loosening restrictions on the Telegraph commercial district sounds fine and is something that a council member could/should take up as an objective. But the transient population is the real reason Telegraph has failed to achieve what you see in the Temescal. What are you going to do about that, Sean?

    His ideas about affordable housing and job creation are silly. Even POTUS doesn’t really create jobs and it’s silly for a council member to spend time thinking that he will either. Sure, give some manager at Bayer a gold star for running an apprenticeship program, but the reason they’re doing that has little to do with the City Council.

    What are the street repair priorities in his district? What’s his plan for funding pension obligations? Does he have any ideas for getting Willard pool re-opened?

  • Tizzielish

    I don’t get to vote on Barry-Worthington-whoever race. I would never vote for someone, of any race or gender, endorsed by the Bates cabal and its supporters like Beier. I think my position is thoughtful. I do not want to see more members on our city council who get there because they are endorsed by the chokehold the Bates cabal has on our city.

    I referred to him as a kid with some thoughtlessness. He’s a well connected kid, given the endorsements he is touting. A local boy with good connects. That unsettles me.

  • Tizzielish

    I’m tired of seeing white males dominate just about everything. My white male comment was not particularly a dig against this Barry man (see, I didn’t call him a kid!). I get to have my opinions. I’m tired of seeing white males dominate most things. I get to think that and express it.

  • Tizzielish

    Who do you think got us into this mess? the two progressives on the council, Arrequin and Worthinfton, or the Bates cabal/majority? It wasn’t Arrequin and Worthington.

    And hell yeah, I distrust any candidate endorsed by Bates supporters. The last thing Berkeley needs is more elected leaders voting under Bates commands.

  • Tizzielish

    You thank Mud Slinger for slinging mud on other posts? Yikes, does editorial objectivity apply at Berkeleyside?

  • Guest

    But the question here is are his ideas sillier/less practical than those of Kriss Worthignton, who in the last 14 years as the council member overseeing the Telegraph area has overseen the largest decline of any commercial district in Berkeley’s history?

    Is Sean Barry perfect? No.
    Does he seem a darn sight better than Worthington? Yes.

  • guest

    When it comes to wasting paper on worthless proclamations Worthington has Barry beat by a long shot.

  • guest

    The one who Barry would be replacing.

  • Politics Behind Platform

    Note that Barry is a Bates ally. Bates supported and Worthington opposed Measure S, which would have prohibited sitting on the sidewalk and would have moved along some of the transients on Telegraph. If Barry replaces Worthington on the council, the council is more likely to do something about the transients on Telegraph – though I have no idea what they would do.

  • guest

    Do white males dominate Berkeley politics? Our US representative is Barbara Lee. Our state senator is Loni Hancock. Our state assemblymember is Nancy Skinner. Our council includes Susan Wengraf, Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Max Anderson, and Jesse Arreguin – five of the nine are not white males.

    You get to have and express your opinions – but you might want to check your opinions against reality.

  • Whoa Mule

    Go ahead, prove it.

  • guest

    It is Arreguin – not Arrequin.

  • Guest

    If four of nine councilmembers are white males, then white males are overrepresented on the council in relation to Berkeley’s population. Black males are also overrepresented.

    It appears that asians, black females, and latino females are the primary groups that are underrepresented on the council.

  • DisGuested

    Everyone gets to have and express unthinkingly racist and sexist opinions at Berkeleyside, as long as they are held and expressed against White Males, who are seemingly devoid of all rights and dignity in the Maoist Utopia still fondly encouraged by the Class of ’68 and its latter-day hirelings.

  • Guest

    Sharkey, if 100% of your concern over racism and sexism is focused on the plight of White Males, then there’s a pretty strong chance that you don’t understand racism and sexism.

  • Guest

    I remember when I had just finished my B.A….

  • guest
  • guest

    That’s hilarious. Honorary proclamations (like the “key to the city” are a time honored tradition of local government). That said, it’s possible to overdo it. I have less of a problem with the local flavor proclamations than I do with the meaningless proclamations regarding national and international issues. Hopefully they will go way down after Kriss is finally voted off the Council.

  • yawn

    A potted plant or a dead cat would be better than Kriss Worthington. I want to set a higher bar than “better than the current idiot.”

  • Whoa Mule

    Ha, Ha, you’re right!
    I especially liked the Proclamation declaring the Topp Twins Honorary Citizens of the City of Berkeley. It squeaked by 6-2-1.

    One of the commentators on Open Town Hall said, “More bread, Less Circus”

  • Guest

    If you think Worthington is so awful why are you criticizing a candidate who would be an improvement and who appears to be the only candidate currently running against him?

  • yawn

    Because I want more than this fellow is offering. Yes, Worthington needs to go. But I”m not satisfied with relief masquerading as enthusiasm. Perhaps he’ll hone his message and give us something to be genuinely enthusiastic about.

  • District

    City council members don’t “oversee” their districts. They have one vote out of nine.

  • Just Asking

    Why don’t you run yourself?

  • Hildah

    Talk about wasting paper, have you ever read the City Council agendas? How many irrelevant items did Mr, Worthington have. At the last Council meeting I believe he had nearly ten and most of them had nothing to do with Berkeley.