Op-ed: Why I support Isabelle Gaston for City Council

A few months ago, I joined the North East Berkeley Association (NEBA) Board of Directors at the request of President Isabelle Gaston. My limited time with the board has made me simultaneously distraught, and cautiously optimistic, about the future of Berkeley.

It has made me distraught because this group of folks has an incredible grasp of the economic dysfunction of our city, and what they know and share with the group about both the present and historical state of our finances is literally terrifying.

If you aren’t aware of our problems, you must not get out much (LOL). Simply put, because of the city’s fiscal mismanagement, Berkeley could experience a major financial crisis. This group knows the back story – the hows and the whys – for how we got into this position in the first place, and are eager to stand up in the public square to call it out.

So, you are probably asking yourself, why would anyone keep going to these monthly meetings if they are upsetting? The answer is really pretty simple, and that is because this group loves Berkeley so much that they are willing to expose themselves to personal attack, and are drawing attention to these problems.

From op-eds that range from the lack of earthquake shelters in Berkeley, to exposing the deplorable conditions at our public landmarks, to hosting a Q&A session with our new city manager to get her take on the city budget, NEBA, more than any other group or individual in this city, serves as the night watchman of our city’s economic condition. They are doing everything in their power to reverse the course we are on. Simply knowing that not everyone is sleepwalking their way to financial calamity, and being a small part of that group, is a great reason to be optimistic. That is what keeps me coming back month after month.

This week I was delighted to learn that our Board President, Isabelle Gaston, is running for City Council in District 6. As the leader of the NEBA board, she is, in my opinion, the best possible person to serve the interests of District 6, and the city as a whole. She has an unbelievable grasp of the city budget, and, as evidenced in the recent Q&A with new city manager Dee Williams-Ridley, has the chops to go toe-to-toe with her on the details about everything from employee compensation to deferred maintenance at our city landmarks.

I follow city politics closely, and have been to many city council meetings, and I honestly can’t think of an article, or opinion piece or anything from my experience at council meetings that leads me to believe there is anyone there that has a similar understanding of the city’s financial condition.

There simply must be someone on the council that understands the need for fiscal sanity at this critical juncture, and, while it may be painful at times, someone needs to be the adult in the room if we have any hope of correcting course.

I can think of no better person to be that adult than Isabelle Gaston, and that is why I would like to encourage you to join me in supporting her in the upcoming election.

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Dan McDunn is a resident of District 6, member of the NEBA Board of Directors, married to a third-generation Berkeley citizen, and father of three boys in BUSD schools.