Election 2018: Who is Russ Tilleman?

Name: Russ Tilleman, 59, green transportation designer (District 8)

What is the main reason you are running? I tried to work with the incumbent Lori Droste on several important issues affecting District 8. Pedestrian safety, climate change and animal rights, she refused to help with any of them. I spoke with other people in the community and heard similar stories of her unwillingness to help some constituents. Ms. Droste was quoted in the Daily Cal newspaper as defending the theft of my campaign signs. Being a council member is a very important job and we need someone trustworthy we can all depend on to represent everyone in our district.

Why are you qualified? I have the technical and business experience to tackle the important and complex issues we are facing. My engineering degree from Cal and my decades of experience finding solutions rather than making excuses are excellent preparation for dealing with climate change. Starting and running my own successful business taught me a lot about managing an organization and doing what needs to be done. And I have a lifetime of experience being an honest and trustworthy person who tries to treat everyone with respect and take their concerns seriously.

What sets you apart from other candidates? I have a wide-ranging platform of good things Berkeley can strive for in the future. Healthcare for everyone, door-to-door transit, affordable housing without raising taxes or fees. And I have concrete plans for achieving these things, not just empty promises made at election time and forgotten for the next four years.


How and when did you end up in Berkeley? I moved to Berkeley in 1977 when I was 18 to attend Cal. From the first day I was here, I knew this was my home. When I graduated, my career took me to the south bay for many years but I moved back in 2002. I have been here on Parker Street ever since and have no plans to leave.

What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? Affordable housing for renters, first time home buyers and the homeless and disabled. Getting people out of their cars and onto fast, convenient, affordable public transit. Single-payer healthcare for everyone, so no one dies in Berkeley because they couldn’t afford to go to the hospital. We have a good chance of achieving these goals if we put in the effort to lead the way, as Berkeley has historically done. Machine politicians build their careers around the problems we are facing, but I prefer solving them.

What are your ideas to begin to solve them? When I moved back to Berkeley, it was clear that the city was full and that we needed more housing space. My house needed a new foundation so I decided to experiment by adding another story to the house as part of the project.

I learned that this can be a cost-effective and green way to add more living space, and I believe this approach can be used to convert existing single-family homes to duplexes. Berkeley could purchase the rights to build the new units from interested homeowners, and the new units could be sold at cost. So this approach is self-financing and doesn’t require raising taxes or fees to pay for it.

BART has agreed to work with me to place large numbers of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles at stations. Berkeley commuters can take these home overnight and drive them to BART in the morning. People commuting into Berkeley can use them during the day.

The unsubsidized daily rental cost can be just a little more than the heavily-subsidized fare for a round-trip bus ride. This new form of door-to-door public transit can finally get people out of their cars because it is as convenient as driving.

Summit is planning to close Alta Bates hospital and force Berkeley residents to go to Oakland. We can use eminent domain to take Alta Bates and run it as a single-payer solution for Berkeley residents. Everyone who lives in Berkeley can be insured and can afford to get the healthcare they need.


What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? Door-to-door transit can do what Smart Growth – simply building apartments near BART stations – cannot. It can cut Berkeley’s carbon footprint by getting existing commuters out of their fossil-fuel-powered cars and onto electric cars and BART.

How will you be accessible to constituents? I am already accessible, my personal cellphone number 510-485-6044 is in the Voter Guide. Call anytime, if I’m not available I will call back.

Are you using public financing? No

How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $3,000 of my own money. I am not accepting donations.

A final thought? Berkeley is a wealthy and idealistic city with the resources and the will to bring about positive change. We have done wonderful things in the past and we can do wonderful things in the future if we make the effort. The world can be a better place than it is, and we can lead the way!

Find Russ online: Website


Read more about Russ Tilleman on Berkeleyside. See complete 2018 election coverage on Berkeleyside.