City Council candidate Carlos Estrada doesn’t expect to win. But he does have a larger goal in mind – a new, radical political movement.
“If there was a strong movement for radical reform, I’d have a good chance (to get elected), but that’s not the case,” said Estrada, a Green Party member, pledging to construct a movement and continue running for office in the future.
“I’m building a movement for change in Berkeley,” said Estrada, who has called for heavy taxation on local corporations and a new student- and worker-run governing body for the University of California to replace the Board of Regents.
Estrada, 42, is one of four candidates vying for retiring City Councilmember Polly Armstrong’s 8th District council seat.
Armstrong is one of four “moderates” on the nine-member panel and her protege, Gordon Wozniak, is considered the favorite by some. UC Berkeley graduate student Andy Katz and human rights consultant Anne Wagley are also serious contenders.
Estrada, an air conditioning mechanic and journeyman who hails from Mexico, has focused much of his campaign on boosting local democracy. He wants to extend the vote to non-resident aliens and reduce the voting age from 18 to 16.
The City Council itself could not put in place the change he envisions. Giving non-resident aliens the right to vote would require U.S. and California constitutional amendments and reducing the voting age would require a state constitutional amendment, according to a spokesperson from the California Secretary of State’s office.
But Estrada said he would seek to provide political leadership on issues that would require state and federal action.
Estrada also proposes dismantling Berkeley’s dozens of citizen commissions, currently appointed by City Council and Board of Education members, and replacing them with elected councils in each district that would weigh the issues considered by the current commissions.
“It sounds messy,” said Katz. “But it’s a good point that we need better systems of input from neighbors.”
Katz said he would work to strengthen neighborhood associations in the 8th District and would have open office hours for constituents to facilitate input.
Wagley, one of Estrada’s competitors, said he is bringing an important perspective to the campaign. “He’s raising some good issues of citizen participation,” she said.
But Wagley argued that Estrada, who is focusing his campaign on the UC Berkeley campus, does not have wide support in the district.
Estrada acknowledges that his current level of support is limited, but said he is committed to running a campaign true to his ideals.
After attending the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, Estrada emigrated to the United States in 1986 and landed in southern California, organizing against President Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act, which boosted funding for immigration control and imposed sanctions on businesses hiring illegal aliens.
In 1992, Estrada moved to the Bay Area and took a job with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation as a hotline supervisor, where he took part in the movement to unionize workers.
After four years, Estrada left the AIDS Foundation and began work as an air conditioning mechanic for a private firm in San Leandro. Today, Estrada lives in UC Berkeley student housing with his wife Vera Candiani, a doctoral candidate, and his four year-old son Fabrizio.
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