Name: Jesse Arreguín
Job: Berkeley City Councilmember
What office are you are running for? Berkeley Mayor
What is the main reason you are running? I am running for Mayor to make Berkeley work for everyone and restore Berkeley to the forefront of progressive leadership on the environment and social justice. This election comes at a critical time for the future of Berkeley and the Bay Area. While our region is experiencing greater economic prosperity, the benefits are not being shared by all, and we are seeing greater disparities and displacement of residents. Berkeley is at a crossroads. Will our city move forward on the path of equity and inclusiveness, or will we see more of our neighbors pushed out due to rising housing costs?
Why are you qualified for the position? I am uniquely qualified for the position of Mayor. For the past 14 years I have served the Berkeley community. As a UC Berkeley student, I led efforts to increase UC’s student housing construction. I served on the Housing Advisory Commission where I helped secure funding for hundreds of units of new affordable housing units. I was elected to the Rent Stabilization Board in 2004 and served as Chair of the Board for two years, where I worked to strengthen tenant protections and prevent evictions. I also served on the Zoning Adjustments Board and Planning Commission. On the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee, I helped write our Downtown Area Plan. I also served on the Board of the local Sierra Club and worked in City Hall for almost two years as a Legislative Aide to a Berkeley City Councilmember. On the City Council, I have one of the most effective track records, authoring over 300 different policies on issues including affordable housing, tenants rights, supporting small businesses, environmental policy, police accountability, and homelessness. I have worked successfully with every member of the City Council and built coalitions to get things done.
What sets you apart from other candidates? What differentiates me from other candidates includes my extensive record of delivering on affordable housing, raising the minimum wage, and championing environmental policies.
What distinguishes me from my main opponent Laurie Capitelli are our Values, Priorities and Ethics.
Values: I have been an effective advocate for the values we all share: equity, diversity, inclusion and leadership on the environment and social justice. I have authored over 300 different proposals on progressive issues like: environmental protection, affordable housing, tenants’ rights, police accountability, immigrant rights, supporting small businesses and addressing income inequality. I will always stand up for progressive values and working families, not when it is convenient.
Priorities: My main priority is to preserve the diversity of our city, and to make our city work for everyone. I want to address the divisions that existing in our city, and give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. That means addressing the housing, health, and income disparities.
Ethics: I have stood up to powerful, moneyed interests on behalf of working families, affordable housing, students, seniors, the homeless and other vulnerable populations. I have opposed efforts to reduce affordable housing and tenant protections, criminalize the homeless, and undermine raising the minimum wage.
How did you end up in Berkeley? Growing up, I was inspired by social movements around the world, such as the fight against apartheid in South Africa. When I was 9, I successfully led efforts to rename a street in San Francisco for my hero, Cesar Chavez. I am a lifelong advocate for social justice. Berkeley is a city with a rich history of political activism, and I fell in love with its diversity, culture, and progressive history. I always wanted to attend the best public university in the world, UC Berkeley, and became the first in my family to graduate from college.
What are the three biggest challenges Berkeley faces in the near future?
1: Affordable Housing
I am deeply concerned about the housing affordability crisis which threatens the diversity and character of our city. Skyrocketing rents have created gentrification and the displacement of many African Americans and working class families. When we’re in a situation where people who grew up here and worked in this community for years cannot afford to live here, something’s wrong. We need to change the direction so Berkeley remains an inclusive and equitable city where everyone can call home. The people of Berkeley agree: affordable housing is the biggest issue that we face, and something must be done to address it.
Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis and a failure of our society. We are seeing more homeless in our parks and streets. It is estimated there are over 1,000 homeless in our city, and we don’t have the services needed to adequately serve this community. This is unacceptable. Our most vulnerable people are disproportionately homeless: those suffering from mental health, seniors, LGBT youth. We need to invest more in these communities to raise them out of homelessness. Mental health especially, most be approached differently. 35% of police calls are for mental related issues, and it should not be the job of the police to deal with these situations.
3: Alta Bates
Alta Bates has served our community for generations. But now Sutter Health has confirmed its intentions to close down the hospital as early as 2018. This will place hundreds of thousands of residents along the I-80 Corridor from Richmond to North Oakland at risk. When minutes could make the difference between life and death in a medical emergency such as a heart attack, the lack of a hospital in such a large area will have disastrous consequences. Sutter must be held accountable to its agreements.
What are your ideas to solve them?
1: Affordable Housing
We need more market rate housing, but just building housing will not solve the immediate affordability crisis. We also need strong affordability requirements to leverage private investment to create more affordable units. We also need a reliable source of local funding for affordable housing. That is why I have led efforts to place Measure U1 on the November 2016 ballot, which if adopted could generate $5 million annually for affordable housing and homelessness prevention. As Mayor I will advocate for state and federal funding to expand affordable housing.
There is a lot we can do to find thoughtful, humanitarian solutions to homelessness. We need to work with other cities, state and federal officials to create regional solutions. We need to invest in transitional and permanent housing to get people off the streets. As proven in other cities, a Housing First approach works. If you can house someone, they will stay housed. As the founder of the Berkeley Homeless Task Force, we have pushed forward multiple policies and ideas, including many that have been implemented.
3: Alta Bates
We must stop the closure of Alta Bates. I have teamed up with the California Nurses Association, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and other stakeholders in looking into possible solutions. Last month, I co-sponsored a Town Hall regarding this matter, with hundreds in attendance. It is clear we need a regional coalition to stop the closure, and we have been successful in stopping hospital closures in the past. With $14 billion in assets and opportunities to apply for state financing, Sutter’s claim that they can’t afford needed seismic upgrades is not true. We need to get Sutter to the table to find out what can be done to retrofit the Ashby hospital. Another option is filing an injunction to stop the closure.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? To increase our supply of affordable housing, I want to develop a Small Sites Acquisition program. It would fund the purchase of properties for use by the City or non-profits for affordable housing, particularly properties where tenants are at risk of displacement. We should explore ways to capture vacant properties.
How will you be accessible to constituents? I will be a full-time Mayor and my door will always be open. As a Councilmember, I have helped hundreds resolve city issues. I am committed to promoting innovation in city government, using technology to better deliver city services, to engage residents in our City Council process through online civic engagement, and reform our council meetings to improve efficiency and civility. I will conduct Town Hall meetings throughout Berkeley to receive input from residents about priorities and ideas. I will continue my practice of monthly office hours at the Farmers Markets and at businesses throughout the city.
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $100,000
A final thought? I love Berkeley and I am excited about our future. As Mayor I will bring new dynamic leadership and advance an equitable future. It has been an honor to serve the community on the City Council, and with your support I hope to represent you as your new Mayor. Please join Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party, Sierra Club, California Nurses Association, Alameda Labor Council, civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, former Berkeley Mayors Shirley Dean and Gus Newport, and hundreds of elected officials and community leaders in supporting me. Together, we can create a Berkeley that works for everyone.