Op-ed: Why I’m supporting Cheryl Davila for City Council, District 2

Walking around District two, I can’t help but notice the purple Cheryl Davila signs displayed in windows and poking out of front gardens all over the neighborhoods of West Berkeley. I’m thrilled that Cheryl has answered the call from the district for new leadership, and I’m proud to support her campaign.

In 2013 I was elected chair of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission. Our plate was full — we were holding public hearings to regulate drone use by police, participating in the city’s inquiry into child sex-trafficking, fielding requests from dozens of community groups on issues ranging from Tibetan independence to environmental degradation at Naval bases. Like most city commissions, ours was staffed by a dedicated group of skilled volunteers who took the work seriously and regularly met with their appointers on the City Council to establish and maintain communication.

Noticeably, though, each week one chair was empty. District 2’s councilman didn’t appoint anyone to our commission. I served as chair of the the Commission for two terms, and during that time every other council member met with me, conveying their priorities and ideas about the city’s social justice agenda. Unfortunately, District 2’s councilman never responded to repeated requests to meet, never made time to review any commission work, and left his commission seat vacant despite numerous applications from skilled volunteers eager to serve.

My experience of District 2’s council office is by no means unique. The councilman [Eds: author is referring to Darryl Moore] has racked up countless complaints from constituents who can’t get a response from his office, he has shown disdain for a variety of progressive causes that local folks have brought to council (for instance, he recently refused to vote for a resolution calling for clemency for Leonard Peltier), and he is adored by out-of-town real-estate developers because he’s been their champion, even when their interests directly conflicted with those of his constituents.  

While rents and housing prices have skyrocketed, leaving longtime residents struggling to remain in the city and precluding most young families from considering building lives in Berkeley, the California Real Estate Independent Expenditures Committee spent more than $18,000 to reelect the current councilman in 2012, and at least $9,000 so far this year supporting his campaign. He’s earned that support by allowing developers to circumvent the city’s mandates for affordable units to be built in new apartment buildings — for instance, one new building on University Avenue in District 2 is advertising city-mandated “below market rate” apartments starting at $1,900/mo for a 340-square-foot studio. Clearly, District 2 deserves new leadership.  

Enter Cheryl Davila.

Cheryl is a breath of fresh air. She’s a well-respected community leader and 35-year resident of West Berkeley. She has served as a commissioner on Berkeley’s Human Welfare and Community Action Commission since 2009, carefully and skillfully navigating issues like socially responsible banking, promoting financial literacy among high school students, assessing police use of tasers, and curtailing local participation in weapons expos and gun shows.

When her son Armando, and daughter Spencetta, were attending John Muir Elementary, Willard Middle School and Berkeley High School, Cheryl served as treasurer of the PTA while earning a degree in business economics with honors from Mills. As a community activist, she has the political instincts and experience to fight for the needs of Berkeley’s residents, and as a full-charge bookkeeper, she has the wherewithal to understand and assess the city’s bloated budget, and to find funding for programs that make real differences in residents’ lives.

Of particular note are Cheryl’s ideas on community involvement in governance. Unlike the incumbent, Cheryl believes that our city government is at its best when local folks are involved in government decision-making.  Berkeley has an extraordinary wealth of expertise and experience on a variety of issues, and Cheryl has proposed tapping into this brain trust by hosting neighborhood assemblies so that community members will be able to easily express concerns and strategize together to find solutions. Along with the commission structure and an open, responsive council office, these neighborhood gatherings will assure that all of the voices in District 2 can be heard.

An incumbent council member hasn’t been replaced in Berkeley since 1997. Cheryl knew that this wouldn’t be an easy fight, but she has her ear to the ground and she knows that her neighborhood deserves better than the status quo.

I had the pleasure of collaborating with Cheryl on a variety of commission work, and I know her to be a deeply thoughtful and principled leader with a remarkable commitment to Berkeley and to the values that we share as a community. Cheryl has outlined positions on various issues that we’re facing, carefully polling experts and neighbors to create smart, timely proposals. She’ll fully fund mental-health response teams that will respond to mental health crises with trained healthcare workers. She proposes city supported loans for local small and minority owned businesses and artisans. She calls for affordable housing units with rent tied to family income levels. Cheryl has the curiosity and patience to respond to problems in the community, the sensibility and creativity to find solutions that work, and the experience and tenacity to get things done.

Please join Mayor Gus Newport, Councilman Max Anderson, the Alameda County Green Party, Friends of Adeline, and many of your friends and neighbors as we elect Cheryl Davila to Berkeley City Council on Nov. 8, and then work with her to cultivate the vibrant neighborhoods of West Berkeley.

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Noah Sochet was raised in Berkeley and served as chairman of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission from 2013 to 2015.