Opinion: Why we’re excited to vote for Rashi as our first choice for District 1

Rashi not only understands the work of government, but she’s also already doing it as a Berkeley commissioner and as a finance manager for a $900M agency in San Francisco.

For the first time in a generation, voters in the northwest corner of Berkeley have an opportunity to choose among four competitive first-time candidates running for City Council. Though they are all thoughtful and experienced–and all seem to be running honorable campaigns–one of the candidates stands out to us as someone with all of the qualities we look for in an elected official:

Rashi Kesarwani.

So what is it about Rashi that makes us excited to vote for her?

Rashi not only understands the work of government, she’s already doing it. After earning a Master’s of Public Policy from the Goldman School at U.C. Berkeley, Rashi worked for the non-partisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) in Sacramento where she advised members of the state Legislature on multibillion-dollar programs. During her tenure in Sacramento, Rashi was able to win major gains for low-income seniors and people with disabilities and their caregivers, leading the LAO to recognize Rashi with a commendation for “Significantly Influencing the Public Policy Debate.” Berkeley needs an influencer like Rashi who knows how to work with members of the Legislature in order to pass state legislation to address our homelessness crisis and our shortage of affordable homes.

Currently, Rashi works for San Francisco’s Human Services Agency where she is the finance manager for a $900 million budget–more than two times larger than the city of Berkeley’s budget. In her role, she ensures that the agency–which provides health care, meals, and other essential support to needy families–maximizes outside sources of revenue and spends dollars wisely. These are skills and experiences she can use to directly tackle the challenge of Berkeley’s growing homeless population.

And here at home, Rashi’s been appointed by our current councilmember, Linda Maio, to serve on both the Housing Advisory Commission and Community Health Commission.

Rashi knows that a city’s budget must reflect its values. If Berkeley is to remain a beacon of progressive values, Rashi knows we must be strategic with our budget in order to ensure that we fund the policies and programs that improve everyone’s quality of life.

She’s already demonstrated that she can do this. Using her budgeting skills in tandem with data and information at the LAO, she helped win the fight for overtime pay for hundreds of thousands of low-wage home care workers statewide. And she advocated for transitioning individuals with developmental disabilities to more humane community-based placements, a process that is now underway. As a Berkeley commissioner, she helped shape a recommendation to the City Council to conduct a health impact assessment of Alta Bates Hospital that will show the cost to residents’ health if it’s closed; a report that is now being finalized for public release.

Rashi is young, energetic and understands 21st-century issues. Rashi understands that serving on the Berkeley City Council is a full-time job, and she will adjust her work schedule if elected. As a working mom, she also understands the day-to-day challenges facing families and how our local actions can have larger consequences. She sees the connection between housing our teachers locally and reducing our collective carbon footprint; between beautifying our urban landscape and promoting clean air and water; between a responsive government and a safer community. She’s optimistic that we can bring stakeholders together to solve our toughest challenges–because she’s done it in Sacramento.

Rashi is an active listener who wants to hear directly from neighbors about their concerns. She’s been lacing up her tennis shoes to knock on doors virtually every evening since June. To date, she’s personally knocked on more than 4,000 doors across the district. She’s now spoken to more than a thousand District 1 voters and knows the issues that are important in each neighborhood. She’s also been attending house parties every week since July, so she can have in-depth conversations with neighbors. If elected, she plans to continue to hold regular community meetings to keep neighbors informed and hear feedback. As a participant in Berkeley’s new Public Campaign Financing program, Rashi has taken a pledge to only accept donations of $50 or less from individuals. Rashi won’t need to return favors to PAC donors; she will only answer to us–the voters of District 1.

We have no doubt that Rashi will be a hard-working, effective, and responsive representative for District 1 and for all of Berkeley. If you haven’t already, we invite you to talk to Rashi when she knocks on your door and to vote for her as your first-choice by Tuesday, November 6.

Beth Gerstein is a former volunteer coordinator at the Women's Daytime Drop-In Center and a District 1 neighbor. Phyllis Orrick is a school and garden volunteer and a District 1 neighbor. Victoria Eisen is a former member of the Transportation Commission and the Planning Commission as well as a District 1 neighbor. Steven Donaldson is a former member of the Zoning Adjustments Board and a District 1 neighbor.