Name: Lori Droste, 45, Berkeley City Council member/professor (District 8)
What is the main reason you are running? I am running for re-election to Berkeley City Council to continue to advocate for you and ensure that city services are provided to all. As the District 8 councilmember, I’ll continue to fight to make Berkeley affordable; address Berkeley’s homeless crisis; prioritize safety in our community; and support small businesses in our neighborhood. I value the relationships we’ve built and want to continue to work on behalf of neighbors. I’m honored to have hundreds of residents supporting my re-election because of the work we have accomplished together. This isn’t about me, it’s about helping each other.
Why are you qualified? I’m the most qualified candidate because of my experience, accomplishments, and coalition building skills. In the past four years of collaborating with every councilmember, I’ve delivered tangible results for our community. My legislation has regularly been rated the #1 priority for the City by my Council colleagues and I’ve passed every piece of legislation I’ve authored. I’ve pushed to make it easier to build backyard cottages, co-sponsored the $15 minimum wage, authored workforce housing legislation, supported over $10 million dollars in affordable housing, passed legislation to help re-open Willard Pool, opened Emerson playground on the weekends, mandated reports on homeless services performance metrics, helped prevent the deportation of an employee for Berkeley’s Ecology Center, established a rainy day fund, improved access to diaper changing stations and lactation rooms, helped businesses open on College Avenue, spearheaded pedestrian safety initiatives, and secured over $300,000 for traffic calming for our neighborhood.
What sets you apart from other candidates? I have an actual record of neighborhood improvements and meaningful legislative accomplishments. I’ve also been involved in Berkeley for years, and I’ve cultivated important relationships that benefit our community. My endorser State Senator Nancy Skinner will work alongside me to represent our neighborhood when she introduces legislation to save community hospitals. My long-standing relationships with regional leaders who support my re-election– County Supervisor Keith Carson, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and the mayors of all Berkeley-adjacent cities–are critical. Political collaboration is incredibly important, especially because we need to produce regional solutions to important issues like housing, homelessness, climate change, and transportation.
I also teach policy at Mills College so I know how to craft meaningful policy and understand the importance of identifying problems, relying on evidence, measuring outcomes, and engaging multiple stakeholders.
Finally, as the only parent of school-aged children on Council, I offer an important perspective. As such, I have consistently been a pragmatic voice on Council with special emphasis on children. My supporters also consist of people who embrace progressive change and support making our Downtown and city more vibrant, affordable and safe, but who may not have the time to show up to Council meetings.
How and when did you end up in Berkeley? I grew up in a conservative, small town in Ohio and longed for a place that embraced diversity and tolerance. I was in the process of coming out and needed a place where I felt welcome. When my brother’s friend offered me a place to live on Benvenue in 1997, I jumped at the chance, even though I never had visited Berkeley. Once I arrived, I knew I would raise my family here.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years?
–Our workers and children can’t afford to live in Berkeley.
–Longtime residents are being displaced.
–It’s too challenging for residents to undergo home renovations or consider adding a backyard cottage.
–There are too many homeless individuals suffering on our streets.
–Many residents and visitors are impacted by dangerous street behavior or sprawling, unsanitary encampments.
–Too many police officers are leaving Berkeley which impacts crime prevention and traffic enforcement.
–Sutter is threatening to remove acute care services at Alta Bates.
–The impact of climate change is increasing the risk of fires and disasters in the Bay Area.
–Too many pedestrians and bicyclists are getting injured on our streets.
–Commercial districts and small businesses face high costs, vacancies, and burdensome planning, inspections, and licensing processes.
–Too few families, visitors, and young professionals spend time in downtown.
–Unfunded liabilities threaten the city’s financial solvency.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? Housing/Homelessness: I will continue to reduce barriers for affordable housing and home renovations, and author additional legislation to streamline the permitting process for workforce housing. Berkeley also needs more supportive housing for the homeless. I will push for cost-saving prefabricated modular housing for the homeless. Multiple nationally-renowned policy experts in housing affordability are supporting my re-election campaign because of the work I have done to address these issues.
Safety: I will work with our police department to develop recruitment and retention practices, along with de-escalation and community engagement training to build trust with all residents. I also will continue my educational forums and work on disaster and fire preparedness. I’ve also been active in addressing the potential closure of Alta Bates. As a member of the Mayor’s Task Force, I have organized educational community forums and co-authored the resolution opposing the closure of Alta Bates. I recently met with Sutter’s senior leadership to lobby them and advocate for our residents’ needs. Additionally, I have been collaborating with Senator Skinner about potential legislation to help save community hospitals.
My leadership on public health, crime prevention, disaster preparedness, and pedestrian safety are why all of our first responders support my candidacy.
Economic Vitality: This year I set up a city working group with local merchants to address their concerns, particularly around vacancies. I also simplified retail requirements in the Elmwood to make it easier for business to locate in the commercial district. I will continue to advocate for small businesses by simplifying the planning and permitting process and encouraging “Shop Local” events. I’m honored to have overwhelming support from numerous local merchants, as I have worked collaboratively with them over the past four years.
Visit www.loridroste2018.com for more details because of space constraints.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? My most inspired idea is my Vision Zero legislation, which my Council colleagues rated as their #1 priority for this year. Too many pedestrians are injured or killed on our streets. I worked on this initiative with Frank Cruz, whose son Zachary was killed after he was struck by an automobile in our district nine years ago. I’m eager to work with transportation staff to complete this ambitious plan so we can save lives.
How will you be accessible to constituents? Over the past four years, I’ve spent my time listening to and working with neighbors and making sure the city provides needed services to all. I purposefully arrange half my meetings in our neighborhood to see constituents’ problems firsthand. I also hold monthly office hours and consistently meet with constituents who contact my office. I regularly communicate to residents via my newsletter that serves as a resource for Council updates and important neighborhood information.
Are you using public financing? Yes
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? Because I’m using public financing and cannot take corporate, business, or union money, I anticipated raising only $50,000 with the $40,0000 in city matching funds. However, I’ve been greatly honored by the outpouring of support of $25-$50 individual contributions and have exceeded my goal. Consequently, I think I will raise $58,000.
A final thought? Most people in Berkeley have a generous and compassionate spirit. It’s a tremendous privilege to serve in our community, a progressive beacon of hope that has inspired so many. I deeply value kindness, humility, empathy, open-mindedness, and honesty. I have worked hard to embody these important ideals, as I think it’s important to reflect the values we hold dear. I’m honored to have the support of the Democratic Party, Berkeley Democratic Club, the Sierra Club, former city department heads, and numerous state and local elected officials throughout the region. I’d be honored to earn your vote.