Name: Ben Gould, 26, sustainability analyst (District 4)
What is the main reason you are running? I’m running for Council because I think we’re heading in the wrong direction. As a Berkeley native and longtime resident, I love this city and care deeply about its future, but rising homelessness, sky-high rents, and more crime isn’t what I want to see for our community. We need a new future for Berkeley. As the next Councilmember for District 4, I’ll be a champion for green and affordable homes, a long-term regional housing-first approach to homelessness, and improved public safety that works with our first responders. Let’s create this future, together.
Why are you qualified? I have deep knowledge and experience of Berkeley as a community and our local government. I was born at Alta Bates, grew up in Berkeley, and went to Berkeley public schools. I earned my Master’s in Public Policy from UC Berkeley, served as Chair of the City’s Environmental Commission, and worked as a legislative aide in Berkeley City Hall. I’ve also served on the City’s Police Review Commission, Housing Advisory Commission, and Zoning Board; and I’ve bridged UC-City issues as an elected representative on the UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly and as a member of the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund. I’ve spent the past year on the board of the Berkeley Democratic Club, and have run for City office twice. Some might say I eat, sleep, and breathe Berkeley, but professionally, I’m a Sustainability Analyst for SF Airport, so I do get out sometimes.
What sets you apart from other candidates? My analytical background leading me to a fact-based approach to policymaking, my commitment to bringing all voices to the table, and my perspective and values distinguish me from the incumbent. I was raised by LBNL-trained scientists and earned master’s degrees from UC Berkeley in environmental engineering and public policy analysis. I combine this background in data-driven analysis with recruiting a wide and diverse range of voices, to create effective, fact-based policies grounded in both research and community needs to achieve tangible and meaningful outcomes. As a young person directly affected by our most pressing crises but also raised in our history, I inject Berkeley values into everything I do. I know and love this city, and I also know how we can create a better future for our community. My vision of a city with green and affordable homes, regional long-term approaches to homelessness, and improved public safety is a vision of Berkeley that achieves the best version of itself, a place where anyone can share in our city, without needing to be born into wealth or to win a lottery. It’s a new future for Berkeley, and I hope you’ll join me in creating it.
How and when did you end up in Berkeley? I was fortunate to be born at Alta Bates, remain in Berkeley, and to attend Berkeley public schools for my entire childhood. I attended UC San Diego for undergrad, and promptly and decisively moved back to Berkeley three days after completing my bachelor’s degree. I’ve been living in Downtown Berkeley ever since.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? Homelessness, housing affordability, and public safety.
Berkeley has a disproportionate number of homeless residents, and with our regional crisis that number continues to grow. Our failure to work regionally has meant that people all over Alameda County turn to us to receive the services they need, rather than having the opportunity to stay within their own community networks to receive support.
Sky-high rents make it impossible for young people, families, and low-income households to find a place to live. Our community has historically thrived on a diversity of ideas and backgrounds, but we lose that diversity as rising prices make our community more exclusive.
Finally, we have a growing population yet dwindling or insufficient staffing at our police and fire departments. Failure to maintain a well-staffed, professional, and well-trained team of first responders will put our community at risk.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? Homelessness: We need to work regionally on a long-term housing-first approach to ending homelessness. I’m proud to be endorsed by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Emeryville Mayor John Bauters for my plans to tackle this issue. Our neighboring cities share our values, but don’t always have the resource to provide the necessary services. My first step will be to create a regional fund and land trust to provide financing and sites for creating affordable housing for the homeless, with wrap-around services, throughout the County.
Housing: We need to find ways to say yes to more green and affordable homes. I’m proud to be endorsed by Professor Karen Chapple, Head of the UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project, because she knows my policies will create more affordable housing and prevent displacement. I’ll support new affordable housing, ranging from backyard cottages to midsize apartment buildings in our commercial areas which provide significant affordable housing. I’ll also advocate for Berkeley at the state level, to ensure fair reforms are passed which ensure the other communities in our region are also required to do their fair share.
Public safety: We need to ensure our first responders have staffing, training, and the correct tools to solve the problems we ask of them and to work in line with our values. Right now, our police and fire departments are short-staffed primarily due to recruiting challenges – despite dozens of budgeted and vacant positions, we have 1/10th the number of recruits we had just ~15 years ago. I will prioritize fixing this recruiting challenge and ensuring that new hires work in line with our community’s values. I’m proud to be endorsed by the Berkeley Firefighters Association for my “informed, thoughtful, and collaborative approach.” The Berkeley Police Association has endorsed “anybody but [the incumbent].”
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? We need a full-service emergency hospital in our community, but that doesn’t mean it has to be Alta Bates – we can create a new future for our community. With that facility dangerously unsafe in an earthquake, we should collaborate with neighboring medical groups (like UCSF and John Muir Health) to explore opportunities for creating a new, modern, seismically sound hospital with state-of-the-art medical care and better transit access and/or service to our communities.
How will you be accessible to constituents? In my first campaign mailing, I distributed my direct email and cellphone number to nearly 7,000 registered voters in the district. I will continue to make it easy to reach me as Councilmember through regular office hours and a responsive Council office, but more importantly, I will continue to proactively reach out to constituents through door knocking, calls, social media, email newsletters, and neighborhood meetings. I believe communication must be two-way to be effective.
Are you using public financing? Yes
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $48,000
A final thought? We’re sadly heading in the wrong direction – it’s time to create a new future for Berkeley. My vision includes green and affordable homes, a regional long-term housing-first approach to homelessness, and improved public safety. I’m proud to have the endorsements of the Berkeley Democratic Club, Berkeley Firefighters Association, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Councilmembers Lori Droste and Susan Wengraf, and dozens of commissioners, community leaders, and District 4 neighborhood residents. As someone born and raised in Berkeley, it’s time for new leadership. I hope you’ll join me, and I look forward to serving you on City Council.