Opinion: If Berkeley residents want a real leader, they should re-elect City Councilmember Cheryl Davila

She has worked with Black residents to develop anti-violence programs and has called for true restructuring and defunding of the Berkeley Police Department.

In the 20 years my family has lived in District 2, this is the first time we want to ring doorbells for a city council candidate. As advocates for meaningful police reform and for hastening a too-long-deferred political reckoning with racism, anti-Black hatred, and mainstream hypocrisy, our family enthusiastically supports Cheryl Davila’s re-election for Berkeley City Council District 2.

I know many are wondering if we are witnessing a historical movement or just a “moment” with regard to confronting racism. The question is: will we seize this moment, or will technocratic “liberal” incrementalism rule the day while Black lives continue to hang in the balance?

What does all this have to do with Berkeley’s District 2 2020 council election, you ask?

At the July 2020 city council meeting, legions of Berkeley residents testified until past 2:00 a.m., urgently pleading the mayor and council to take meaningful action on police reform.

This was more than an any-ol’ extra-innings council meeting. It was a defining opportunity for real change at the local level defined by some of the largest nation-wide civil rights protests in US history.

Little surprise… the moment was not seized.

Cheryl Davila alone had the will to vote to redirect significant funds from police to other solutions. The mayor and other council members rebuffed Davila, the citizens, the BLM movement, and the national call for real change—opting to defer action until some undefined future. Ironically, many pieces of the omnibus measure that did pass still owed much to Davila’s authorship.

Police Reform & Public Safety

District 2 candidate Alex Sharenko says on his website “Berkeley ranks as one of the least safe cities in the state. We must have the courage to reimagine our public safety institutions…”


I agree Mr. Sharenko, and that’s why I’m voting to re-elect Cheryl Davila, who alone called for re-funding our communities by re-ordering our police expenditures.

Mr. Sharenko calls for “strong community oversight of our police department.” That’s about as practical as waiting for an end to racism. Oversight has been the great idea that the status quo refuses to commit to. Instead of sabotaging calls for defunding the police, the status quo should take responsibility for decades of lost reform opportunities.

History and Ms. Davila are clear on police reform: you need to change the money trail.

Still not sure who to vote for in District 2?

Let’s ask veteran Berkeley cop watchers Andrea Prichett and Osha Neumann who they support.

Alex Sharenko? Wrong.

Is it Terry Taplin, whose website calls for “reallocate[ing] resources away from police” to “invest in community health, housing, and education programs?” Wrong again.

Prichett and Newman both endorse Cheryl Davila.

Maya Hamon (Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy) also endorses Davila for a commitment “to significantly improve public safety by moving away from traditional policing…truly listening to and [being] responsive to…her community.”

Some might argue defunding the police is a bad policy when “[Berkeley] regularly ranks No. 1…compared to other cities in California, for injury collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists. In 2017…126 pedestrians and 142 cyclists were injured or killed in Berkeley crashes.”

However, at the July 2020 city council meeting, our city also learned that Berkeley police are so prone to racial profiling that no one wants the police in the business of enforcing traffic safety. Berkeley residents also recently discovered that well-funded BPD won’t enforce pedestrian safety without state grant money.

If BPD officers, who earn between $100K and $250K in wages, can’t enforce crosswalk safety without a grant, how will they prevent gun violence in District 2?

If you want real public safety, support Cheryl Davila.

Cheryl knows that fear of gun violence prompts alarmist slogans, but Cheryl plays the long game. Working with District 2 Black residents, Davila helped spawn Voices Against Violence, an inter-faith violence prevention program that mentors disenfranchised youth instead of criminalizing them. She also submitted legislation for a gun buyback program.

For District 2 neighbors seeking to really re-imagine public safety initiatives (and fund them), Ms. Davila is the real deal.

The Unhoused

Sharenko makes vague promises about finding “compassionate solutions to our…homelessness crisis” and Taplin to helping keep families in their homes.

If you really want a District 2 leader who enacts practical solutions for the unhoused and honors their lives, not just the “cause”, be an ally for Ms. Davila.

Davila tapped existing resources to expand shower programs, fought to extend shelter hours, and advocated for tiny-home alternatives. Davila worked to create Caring for the Community to help the neediest find agency and dignity and wrangled with developers to win the inclusion of 64 affordable housing units at San Pablo Avenue and Blake.

Climate Change

Every progressive is a climate defender as are Taplin and Sharenko. But if you want to know Davila’s record on combating climate change, skip the Issues section of her website and jump straight to Accomplishments…

Cheryl Davila

  • founded the Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force (a coalition leading a regional just transition to a regenerative economy)
  • authored the Fossil Fuel Free Resolution
  • authored the sixth Climate Emergency Declaration in the world

Now Davila is collaborating with Jovanka Beckles, who is running for the AC Transit board, and Councilmember Kate Harrison to fight for fare-free, emission-free AC transit, a no-brainer strategy that aids low-wage workers, incentivizes carbon-free public transit, and improves air quality in District 2’s heavy transit corridors all at the same time.

Wondering which District 2 candidate is endorsed by The Sierra Club, 350 BayArea Action, and the Alameda Green Party?…

Ms. Davila is endorsed by all three.

If Mr. Sharenko, Mr. Taplin, and other District 2 neighbors want to support a real climate change leader, the choice again is clear: re-elect Cheryl Davila.

Keith Nickolaus is a former K-12 educator, UC Berkeley graduate, and longtime District 2 resident and homeowner with two children attending public schools in Berkeley.