Election Section

Berkeley City Council Candidate Statements, Norine Smith

District 6
Friday October 08, 2004

Why vote for me? I promise to fight against high property taxes and for the improvement of city services. I oppose all the city tax measures as many of us are living on fixed incomes and we’re already paying one of the highest property tax rates in the state, enough already. However, I do endorse Measure B because this time it will be spent in the classroom. 

I bring to the table 35 years experience as a software consultant, 20-plus years at the headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank, Charles Schwab, Levi-Strauss and BofA and 12 years at the County of Alameda. I am the retired president of Software Consultants Inc. and Berkeley Language School Inc. 

How do I differ from the four-term incumbent? A few examples: 

The incumbent voted for all the exorbitant union benefits and pensions that are sinking our city budget. I did not seek or receive the union endorsements because I am in opposition to this excess. I have never crossed a picket line and am very pro-union, but these benefits are way over the top. Retiring after 30 years with 100 percent of salary is way beyond any normal compensation. Ordinary folks usually receive somewhere between 10 and 25 pct of income in retirement if they are lucky.  

Oversized development: I will appoint neighborhood friendly persons to the boards and commissions that approve or determine building heights, widths and density. Now persons receive a 500-square-foot building addition permit that balloons into 2,000 square feet, stealing sunlight, views and air from their neighbors. When these neighbors petition for reduced expansion they are usually denied by our current boards. Her appointees have voted for massive building density on University and Shattuck avenues that has the same effect on their neighbors. We need to stop issuing more four- and five-story apartment house permits until the current ones are at least half full. We currently have a glut of vacancies. There are 900 more units in the pipeline in addition to the 495 recently constructed. The numerous empty ground floor commercial spaces are a blight on our city. 

Hill one-house lots are bought by speculators and two or three McMansions are built where before one would have been. As in downtown the culture and texture of our city is being changed unalterably. I am opposed to oversized developments whatever the source; university, religious institution, speculators, staff, or developers. I am first and foremost a neighborhood preservationist.  

Berkeley Marina/Bay Trail Extension: The incumbent voted for a plan that will cut down 98 trees and tear up the benign, serene four- to eight-foot shoreline path circumscribing the marina. The trail replacing it will be 16 feet wide—12 feet of concrete with a four-foot border. The experience of quiet, blue sky, birds scurrying in the tide, trees, etc will be lost on a wide aggressive trail. An alternative plan is to proceed straight down University Avenue to the pier from Seabreeze Market thus saving two to three million dollars.  

I, along with the majority of the Waterfront Commission, turned down this destructive plan but staff went to the City Council and garnered approval. Staff makes these presentations so palliative unless the councilperson digs into the documents a ‘yes’ seems the reasonable action. One convincing argument was four replacement trees for every tree cut down. Another, the trees are dying or have a disease. Twenty-two of the 98 are diseased or dying. First the replacement trees will be twigs or saplings and not the 40-foot mature trees lining the shoreline paths now. Second, only 10 of the 22 are dying.The others are not terminal just a disease like us with a cold or the flu. They will still live on for 20 or more years. 

The incumbent also voted for the cellular tower at 1600 Shattuck Ave. These do not belong in residential neighborhoods. 

The incumbent opposes Measure S. I support it. Measure S applies only to public trees. Now the city employs outside contractors to cut down too many healthy vibrant trees.  

The City Councilmembers’ responsibility is to evaluate with a critical eye all city staff recommendations. Preparation material must be conscientiously studied well in advance. Staff recommendations must be evaluated thoroughly not just rubber stamped. We can’t just let them go into effect without considering the cost and the long term benefit to the city. I will apply clear cost-benefit analysis to all fiscal expenditures. 

In addition city council meetings should be held 46 times a year instead of the current 33. Current meetings that run until midnight or 1 a.m. are not conducive to logical thinking and defeat citizen participation and democratic monitoring.  


—Norine Smith  

District 6 City Council candidate