Opinion: Lori Droste provides a much needed pragmatic and rational lens to policymaking in Berkeley

I’m joining the Democratic Party, East Bay Times, East Bay Express, the Sierra Club and many others in supporting Lori Droste because she is an incredible advocate for the issues that matter the most to me.

I want to pass on the importance of voting to re-elect Lori Droste to Berkeley City Council District 8 in November. I’m proud to endorse Lori for re-election because she is an incredible advocate for the issues that matter the most to me: environmental sustainability, parks and infrastructure, fiscal sustainability, and disaster preparedness. With her background and experience teaching public policy, Lori provides a much needed pragmatic and rational lens to policymaking in the City of Berkeley. We really need her re-elected.

Environmental sustainability

We have a moral obligation to conserve our environment–for our kids and grandkids, for our planet, and to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change and environmental injustice on vulnerable communities. I am joining the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and Barack Obama’s climate science envoy Dan Kammen and other nationally renowned climate experts in supporting Lori Droste’s re-election campaign.

In 2016, the entire City Council voted Lori’s Green Affordable Housing legislation as their top priority within Berkeley. Additionally, Lori and City Councilwoman Linda Maio worked to make sure West Berkeley industry address their impacts on air quality which led to changes in their operations. Lori also worked to place solar “big belly” trash cans on Telegraph Avenue, created requirements for rooftop solar, supported more affordable housing near BART, and championed the bike plan in Berkeley. Once we re-elect Lori to City Council, I know that she will continue to be a fierce advocate for the environment.

Parks and infrastructure

Every time I run into my neighbors at the park, it reminds me that parks create community when we gather to create play time for our kids and pets. As the only parent of school-aged children on council, Lori understands firsthand the importance of beautiful parks and healthy infrastructure.

This year Lori wrote Vision Zero legislation to address our transportation infrastructure and eliminate all pedestrian fatalities. Her City Council colleagues again rated her legislation as their top priority for the Berkeley in 2018. She also passed legislation to rewrite our traffic calming standards so more streets are able to qualify for traffic calming. Our children and grandchildren should be able to walk around our city safely.

I’m endorsing Lori for reelection to City Council District 8 because she prioritizes basic infrastructure needs in our neighborhood. In her first term, Lori has already secured over $300,000 in traffic calming for our neighborhood, funding for the city to renovate the Willard Clubhouse, to replace the play equipment, and to install a new surface and fencing for the Willard tennis courts. Soon, the City will install bioswales in Willard Park to responsibly and sustainably drain runoff water. Even further, she passed legislation and is currently coordinating the effort across neighborhoods, the school district and the City to look at potential recreational opportunities for South Berkeley children, including re-opening Willard Pool.

We also need a councilmember who understands that we need to prioritize the beautification of our city. Lori understands and works to make sure our City redoubles its efforts to focus on basic quality of life issues–overgrown weeds, litter, street paving and trash.

Fiscal sustainability

Berkeley City Council passed a general funds reserve policy last year. It was a great accomplishment but Lori made it stronger so Berkeley won’t inadvertently face a fiscal crisis. Lori realized that Council neglected to pass criteria and guidelines in which to guide them should they ever have to access those rainy day funds. This is where Lori’s background as a professor in public policy helps with policymaking. A reserve policy means nothing if there are no guidelines in which to access those funds. Her decision to revisit and encourage her colleagues to implement reserve criteria was critically important to the fiscal health of our city.

The East Bay Times recognized Lori’s work on this issue when they endorsed her by saying, “[Droste] has been a leader and a pragmatist on the council during her first term. And she recognizes the city’s mounting retirement debt for the crisis it is, siphoning off money needed for other services.”

Disaster preparedness

In Berkeley, it’s only a matter of time until we have to deal with the next big earthquake, fire or other natural disasters. My neighbors and I who survived the Loma Prieta earthquake or the 1991 Oakland Hills fire are rightly very concerned about our community’s disaster preparation and resilience measures. My friends and neighbors have told me that during the hills fire, the biggest problem was communication — both with the city’s emergency services and an inability to find out whether their loved ones were safe.

Lori understands that in order to prepare our community for the next natural disaster, we must enroll our neighborhoods in CERT training, we have to establish communication systems that will survive a disaster, and we have to make sure that our emergency responders have the training they need to respond to a disaster. This is why Lori is the only candidate supported by all of Berkeley’s firefighters and police officers. She has led neighborhood meetings to address undergrounding utility wires, improve disaster preparedness coordination, and co-authored legislation to improve Community Emergency Response Training for residents in multi-unit residential buildings.

Finally, Lori also understands that we need to underground our utility wires so that an initial disaster — an earthquake, for example — does not mushroom into a much larger one due to fires from sparking utility lines. Lori has worked closely with Councilmember Susan Wengraf and city staff to develop a plan to underground utility wires in our hills neighborhoods and is lobbying the City for a full-time staffer to focus solely on undergrounding.

Please join me and other former District 8 councilmembers Polly Armstrong and Fred Collignon in supporting Lori Droste for reelection to Berkeley City Council. She has been an ardent advocate on fiscal responsibility, the environment, infrastructure, and disaster preparedness — we need her continued vision, pragmatism, and level-headed decision making on Council.

Gordon Wozniak is a former Berkeley City Councilman, representing District 8. He served three terms and did not seek re-election in 2014.