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Mayoral candidates pitch new ideas

Matthew Artz
Thursday October 03, 2002

Both Mayor Shirley Dean and her chief rival in the November election former state Assemblyman Tom Bates declared support for putting cameras on traffic lights to catch speeders and red light runners. 

Their statements, made at a candidates debate Tuesday evening, come a week after city transportation head Peter Hillier announced his intention of bringing the camera idea before City Council next summer.  


Tuesday’s debate, sponsored by the Ecology Center and other environmental advocacy groups, focused primarily on land use and ecology issues.  

The candidates offered similar visions of a more environmentally-friendly Berkeley – liberated from its dependence on cars and with better public transportation, cleaner air, solar powered buildings and safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Bates went on to advocate for tougher measures regulating traffic flow. 

Calling cars “the biggest single [safety and environmental] problem we have in our town,” Bates said the city should build more street diversions to slow traffic. For some roads, Bates said he favored traffic circles and narrower streets as well. 

Dean disagreed with Bates’ diversion idea. She noted that Arlington Avenue has several twists, but many drivers continue to speed, “enjoying the turns and the screech of the wheel.” Dean hopes to fight fast traffic with four new traffic officers, and said they would pay for themselves with fines collected. 

The candidates also clashed about air pollution in west Berkeley. 

Bates said pollution near the Berkeley Transfer Station is so bad that he wonders whether it is safe for children to play at the nearby Harrison Park soccer fields. 

Recent city air monitoring tests have detected high and potentially dangerous levels of particulate matter near the fields. 

While Dean has called the construction of the fields one of her top achievements as mayor, Bates said the city should consider closing down the fields if the air quality worsens, and using new fields scheduled to be built at the Albany Plateau. 

Bates also criticized Mayor Dean for her response to health disparities reported among Berkeley neighborhoods. Noting a study taken several years ago that found west Berkeley residents, on average, die 20 years before residents of other neighborhoods, Bates said Dean has failed to provide the leadership or funds to address the disparity.  

Dean defended her record on dealing with the issue. She said the city has given a community action team $200,000 a year to formulate a plan to identify and solve the problem. The team is looking into a range of possibilities, from pollution to health care access. 

To aid in the improvement of air quality in west Berkeley, both candidates advocated switching the city’s sanitation trucks to cleaner bio-diesel fuel, and promoted environmentally-friendly fuels in other government vehicles. 

UC Berkeley also figured prominently into Tuesday’s debate. 

Bates criticized Dean for letting the university get away without paying its fair share of costs for city services. He said he would use his contacts in the state Legislature, including his wife Loni Hancock who is an Assemblywoman elect, to give the city stronger leverage in dealing with the university. 

Dean said she had not dropped any issues with the university and that the state Legislature would compel the university to pay it’s fair share no matter who is elected mayor. 

On many issues, the candidates laid out similar ideas with minor variations.  

Both Bates and Dean called for improved recycling programs, with Dean wanting the city to focus on reducing food waste, while Bates called for renewed efforts to improve recycling at small businesses. 

Both candidates advocated extending the city’s eco-pass, a free bus pass, to large private employers. Bates also proposed setting up a Web site for UC Berkeley employees to coordinate car pools. 

On parking, Bates said he would study the need for more downtown parking, while Dean called for rebuilding the earthquake-prone Center Street garage with robotic parking to create more parking spaces.