Name: Margo Schueler, 64, civil engineer, Water System superintendent (District 1)
What is the main reason you are running? I have had the joy and privilege of growing up in the west and raising our daughters in Berkeley. Our vibrant, diverse, beautiful green Berkeley is under pressure from many angles with immediate housing needs, homeless residents in need of housing and services, impacts from homeless encampments on our neighborhoods and environment, population increase, gentrification and real threats from climate change. I have a lifelong commitment to community, social justice and environmental restoration. This will be a new chapter in my lifelong commitment to public service. I am ready to serve.
Why are you qualified? I began as a welder in San Francisco’s shipyards. I became a civil engineer to ensure projects were developed with the input and knowledge of the people who will build them. I have initiated, developed and worked on projects from the Golden Gate Bridge, ferry and bus terminals, to wastewater sludge composting, to water infrastructure and streets from project development, community collaboration, design, construction and maintenance. I have managed diverse staff and multi-million dollar public budgets. After 30 years of public service managing our water, wastewater & transportation services, I know about the infrastructure that makes the City work and am well prepared to develop policies to ensure we build to adapt to climate and population changes for the 21st century. I served on the West Berkeley Project Area Commission (Redevelopment Commission) and Streets and Open Space Plan Commission and currently serve on the Public Works Commission & Vision 2050 Infrastructure Task Force.
What sets you apart from other candidates? I am a civil engineer who knows how to develop projects with the input and knowledge of the people who build and use them. At EBMUD I led the team that delivers safe potable water to people in the East Bay, responds to emergencies and protects the water and natural environment.
I have many years of service in Berkeley: as a Board Member of the Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement (BAHIA) advocating and developing support for high quality bilingual childcare and early childhood education; as a PTA member fundraising, building school gardens, supporting arts and sports; and as a neighbor organizing my neighborhood association and Community Emergency Response Team.
I have collaborated with and coordinated the efforts of citizens, agencies, and non-profit groups to work together on complex infrastructure solutions. I have been in the trenches and know what it takes to get things done. I am an engineer who understands the challenge of infrastructure maintenance and innovation, resource conservation, climate threats and the importance of a diverse, vibrant healthy ecosystem to ensuring a livable city. I understand the urgency of adapting to climate change and know the infrastructure needed to do so.
How and when did you end up in Berkeley? I came to the Bay Area in the mid-1970s. We moved our family to Berkeley in 1994 to live in a diverse, friendly and active community. We had the opportunity to buy a home in need of work in West Berkeley near where we were both working, reducing our carbon footprint and ensuring our daughters grew up in a diverse community with great childcare, good schools, and access to the natural world and outdoor activities.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? Climate change, disparity in wealth distribution, and population changes are impacting our city. We must restore our aging infrastructure and make it green, resilient and sustainable to become carbon neutral, live within limited water resources, address sea level rise, drought, urban wildfires and biodiversity.
Housing affordability, displacement, and homelessness challenge us to find zoning, finance, new ownership opportunities and tenant and small landlord protections. We are challenged to build community and maintain our commitment to equity and diversity as a changing economy drives residents from their homes and new people working to find a place to call home.
Berkeley’s local food movement demonstrated the value of producing and consuming locally. Within District 1 the industrial, food, beverage, and artisan local business community are working to develop and innovate in an increasing costly environment. The departure of Pacific Steel Casting and realignment of the Gilman Interchange provide opportunities for sustainable development.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? We need to develop a sustainable and resilient city through housing development, greening our streets, addressing transportation needs, and supporting local businesses.
In order to be resilient to climate change and population increases, I will engage our innovative community to find new ways to rebuild our aging common streets, power, water, and communication infrastructure to adapt to rapidly developing threats from flood, drought and wildfire. I will stay focused on the infrastructure that supports housing and business development.
We need to develop an array of housing providing rental and ownership opportunities built by local labor and affordable to the people who work here. Over one-third of Berkeley residents are students and 20% are over 65. Over 1,000 people live on the streets. To move people out of tents and off the streets, we have to build both housing and effective pathways to stability. I will:
· Support Measures O & P on the November ballot to fund housing development and homeless services.
· Partner with nonprofits to lease or buy underutilized buildings to operate as supportive housing.
· Work regionally to secure funding and land for homeless shelter and services and identify state lands that could be secured for shelter use.
· Develop senior and student housing that addresses the needs of our population.
Resilient and sustainable housing solutions and business development need to respond to local conditions under local zoning control. Local small business and non-profit organizations help make Berkeley the unique vibrant community we are. We need diversity in local businesses to thrive and be resilient. I will work with local businesses and nonprofits to include them in development of City policies before initiatives impacting them are finalized.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? We need to rebuild our aging infrastructure to adapt to climate change and ensure a resilient city. We can increase permeable streets to soak up, clean and store stormwater. We can make our streets greener, planting trees to improve air and water quality, reduce energy costs, calm traffic, improve human health, and store carbon. We can organize the community and fund our work together to further green our streets thru the sale of carbon credits.
How will you be accessible to constituents? Constituent service is a Council Member’s job in addition to governance. I will prioritize response to constituents and work with my staff to ensure that constituent contacts are acknowledged the same or next day. I will hold regular public meetings to discuss constituent concerns. I will maintain office hours and time in the community in public sites such as coffee shops. I will maintain a site on the City’s web and communicate regularly.
Are you using public financing? Yes
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $35,000
A final thought? Berkeley is under pressure from all angles. We need to balance the immediate needs of today without compromising the demands of tomorrow. We need to solve for the whole. Housing, energy, water, and transportation each pose enormous challenges. Our decisions regarding each of these must take into account the others and be in just service to all people. I will bring over 30 years of experience working on public infrastructure to decision making on the Council to ensure a resilient city with a sustainable future.