Election 2016: Who is Fred Dodsworth?

Photo: Fred Dodsworth / Courtesy
Photo: Courtesy of Fred Dodsworth

Name: Fred Dodsworth

Age: 65

Job: Retired journalist-businessman-teacher

What office are you are running for? Berkeley City Council, District 6


What is the main reason you are running? The council majority has failed to provide “housing for the rest of us,” while encouraging luxury housing, exacerbating skyrocketing rental rates, changing the ethnic make up of our community.

35% of police calls are for homeless services. Council spends millions criminalizing homelessness failing to resolve homelessness. We need social workers for better outcomes and so we can bill Medi-Cal for services, not taxpayers.

The council majority fails to capitalize on Berkeley’s desirability to demand all new construction be energy neutral and low-carbon, to reduce our energy usage and carbon-footprint. Global warming is a catastrophe which can no longer be ignored.

Why are you qualified for the position? As a 30-year journalist, as a business owner and employer meeting a weekly payroll, I understand the importance of not wasting taxes or resources while fairly treating those who make our community vibrant. We have a moral responsibility to the young, to students, children and grandchildren, to elders and to those less fortunate to make the world equitable and fair, to leave it better than we found it.

As a journalist I’ve covered and exposed corruption and malfeasance in Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, San Francisco, and Martinez. I am familiar with the issues Berkeley faces while I’m not committed to the political groupthink that prevents consideration of innovative responses.


I served on the board of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, the BUSD committee on the Future of Education, Arts Magnet PTA, Berkeley’s Zero Waste Commission and Disaster Preparedness Commission, and I’m serving as chair of the BUSD Measure H Oversight Committee. But we can’t live by politics and business alone, so I also serve on boards of the Beast Crawl Commune, Bay Area Generations, Watershed Ecological Poetry Festival, and I taught under-served children through California Poets in the Schools, and prisoners through Community Works West.

What sets you apart from other candidates? I am not a professional politician; I have no desire to move up the political food chain.

I’m not endorsed nor supported by businesses and organizations with economic interests before the city council.

I haven’t represented District 6 for the past 24 years (the incumbent has — 16 as council aide, eight as councilperson).

I was journalist with a clear understanding of Berkeley’s place within the Bay Area political and economic environment.


I was a businessman with a sensible attitude regarding how best to accomplish our goals while being mindful of the costs taxpayers will have to cover. Too often politicians get addicted to “Other People’s Money” and make foolish statements like, “There’s never been a better time to borrow money,” ignoring that the council has yet to figure out where the money will be spent. Too often politicians make politically expedient decisions to hire employees or give benefits the city can’t afford. For example, the council recently hired four police officers, dedicating $400,000 to that purpose, ignoring that four police officers cost the city more than $1,000,000. Where will the missing $600,000 come from?

How did you end up in Berkeley? I hitchhiked out here from Scottsdale in 1969 with friends. I hitchhiked back a few months later when I was asked to be road-security for two young women whose parents had moved from Palo Alto to Scottsdale. I moved to Berkeley (upper Cedar St) in 1974 with my girlfriend (now wife). We bought our home on Spruce Street in 1984 and raised our children here (in the public schools). Now our grand children are growing up here (two granddaughters in District 6, a grandson in District 4). I’m running for my grandchildren and all the other young people.

What are the three biggest challenges Berkeley faces in the near future? 

We can end chronic homelessness in Berkeley by acknowledging this is a social, not a criminal problem. Utilizing our Mental Health Department and Mobile-Crisis Teams we can help the homeless without bankrupting our city. Sending out mental crisis teams instead of police officers will save millions of dollar each year. By identifying and tracking those who need help, signing them up for Medi-Cal, SSI, drug and alcohol programs, Housing First we’ll get reimbursed by the state instead of paying police officers to handle problems better served by social workers.

Luxury housing exacerbates our housing crisis by stimulating demand while failing to provide affordable “”Housing for the Rest of Us.”” Housing must be created outside the “”whatever the market will bear”” mindset. Greater density doesn’t improve affordability. SF has 50% greater density than Berkeley and higher prices. We need affordable housing. Working with the university to provide adequate student housing would chill demand and lower prices. Working with the school district to build limited equity coops on BUSD-owned (and neglected) land would reduce housing demand and encourage teachers to stay in a profession perpetually underpaid. Working with the city to build limited equity coops on city-owned (and neglected) land would reduce demand and lower prices.

Saving Alta Bates and Herrick Hospitals is critical. We have a Health Department and Mental Health Department; not having a local hospital is insane. Losing our hospitals would put our residents and UC-Berkeley students at risk when the need for timely medical treatment is most critical. We live in an earthquake zone and a major urban fire zone. We can’t drive to Oakland when the roads are obstructed. When there’s the inevitable pandemic every hospital bed will be critical.

What are your ideas to solve them? This is redundant.

We can end chronic homelessness in Berkeley by acknowledging this is a social, not a criminal problem. Utilizing our Mental Health Department and Mobile-Crisis Teams we can help the homeless without bankrupting our city. Sending out mental crisis teams instead of police officers will save millions of dollar each year. By identifying and tracking those who need help, signing them up for Medi-Cal, SSI, drug and alcohol programs, Housing First we’ll get reimbursed by the state instead of paying police officers to handle problems better served by social workers.

Luxury housing exacerbates our housing crisis by stimulating demand while failing to provide affordable “”Housing for the Rest of Us.”” Housing must be created outside the “”whatever the market will bear”” mindset. Greater density doesn’t improve affordability. SF has 50% greater density than Berkeley and higher prices. We need affordable housing. Working with the university to provide adequate student housing would chill demand and lower prices. Working with the school district to build limited equity coops on BUSD-owned (and neglected) land would reduce housing demand and encourage teachers to stay in a profession perpetually underpaid. Working with the city to build limited equity coops on city-owned (and neglected) land would reduce demand and lower prices.

Saving Alta Bates and Herrick Hospitals is critical. We have a Health Department and Mental Health Department; not having a local hospital is insane. Losing our hospitals would put our residents and UC-Berkeley students at risk when the need for timely medical treatment is most critical. We live in an earthquake zone and a major urban fire zone. We can’t drive to Oakland when the roads are obstructed. When there’s the inevitable pandemic every hospital bed will be critical. We must save Alta Bates by all means and any means necessary.

What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? Decriminalizing homelessness and billing Medi-Cal for services. Self-policing Dignity Villages. Limited equity, means tested, cooperatively owned residences. Demanding the University to build adequate, affordable housing for its students. Moving immediately to a zero-energy, LEED Platinum, eco-district, building policy. Moving immediately to a distributed power generation policy. Increased, round-the-clock public transit.

How will you be accessible to constituents? I’m already accessible. I was a journalist! I’m widely known. For the past decade I’ve run two neighborhood newsgroups. I utilize social media extensively, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and NextDoor, plus the hundreds and hundreds of email addresses I’ve collected. I’m working with approximately 100 local residents on regulating cell towers. I’m working with local residents to moderate Pacific School of Religion’s neighborhood-destroying real estate speculation. I’m doing the same with residents around Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. I’ve been active in the progressive community for decades hosting community forums on critical issues.

How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $18,000

A final thought? This is the election of a lifetime. As a city we are either going to immediately address our social challenges and create “A Berkeley We Can All Call Home,” or we are going to surrender to the unchecked-growthers and out-of-town developers who will turn our city into a mini-Manhattan with all the problems of Manhattan and none of the benefits.

Campaign information

Website: http://freddodsworth.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DodsworthForCityCouncil
Twitter: https://twitter.com/fdodsworth

See past Berkeleyside coverage related to Fred Dodsworth. See complete 2016 election coverage on Berkeleyside.