District 3 City Council Candidate Statements, Laura Menard

Tuesday October 12, 2004

South Berkeley needs care and attention. We don’t need grand ideological schemes; we need real problem solving, community building and a responsive City Council. These are the reasons why I have the support of District 3 neighborhood leaders, school advocates, local businesses, and civic arts directors. I have lived in the heart of South Berkeley for 23 years, meeting my husband here, raising two sons, and buying a fixer-upper.  

I recognize this community is at a crossroads. South Berkeley needs vital business districts, effective youth services, well-managed social services, and neighborhood-based crime prevention strategies. Far too often, decisions made in City Hall exacerbate problems that interfere with the health of this community.  

An example: Despite the recommendation of the city manager to transfer underperforming homeless services provided at the Drop-In Center on Adeline Street to the Housing and Mental Health Departments, the City Council caved in to clients’ pressure based solely on anecdotal evidence. There was no discussion of the many complaints from merchants and residents, nor consideration of the impact on a struggling commercial district where there is public drug/alcohol use and violence.  

Why is it that across town in North Berkeley, the standard appears to be different? There, a professionally managed residential recovery program does not create nuisances or complaints. A complete assessment of the cost of the Drop-In program should include lost sales tax and the loss of the residents’ rights to a safe neighborhood. My opponent, Max Anderson, is an uncritical supporter of the Drop-In Center; his wife is a board member. The center has failed to comply with the conditions of their use permit to the detriment of the neighborhood and the clients. Recently, Mayor Bates publicly warned the center they had two strikes against them and they better get their act together.  

South Berkeley has a history of being saddled with every social service unwanted elsewhere in the city. Earlier this year a medical cannabis club looking to relocate chose an office building in a well-known drug hot spot. The activists first used deception to gain their lease, and then disregarded considerable crime statistics, the concerns of residents, and the fact that there is another cannabis dispensary a few blocks away. I coordinated nearby schools, neighborhood groups, and affected business interests to reconsider this location. This was accomplished in an open, transparent process; ultimately, some members of the cannabis collective apologized for the leadership’s lack of understanding toward residents’ concerns about the proposed relocation.  

As chair of the Russell, Oregon and California neighborhood group, I helped create a network of community groups, the South Berkeley Crime Prevention Council, representing more than 1,000 households, working to strengthen community based policing. The city has adopted our initial plan.  

We have also collaborated with the Community Action Team and neighborhood liquor store owners, encouraging the sale of healthy foods and reducing the emphasis on alcohol sales. We are excited about the potential of the Ashby Arts District. As a councilmember I will coordinate resources for the revitalization of the business districts, encouraging a pedestrian friendly and cultural vibrant commercial area.  

The recent murder of yet another young man underscores the importance of effective youth services, so youth are better equipped to avoid the attractions and pitfalls of a prevalent drug culture. I believe it is our responsibility to instill educational values, social responsibility and provide meaningful opportunities. Current expenditures for youth services are already significant, at least 11 million annually; the city has not completed their intended assessment to understand whom we serve and how effective those services are. I am concerned that without evaluation we will continue to fail to serve the most at risk youth.  

I am a passionate and informed advocate for youth. For six years I assisted parents in problem solving as PTA parent advocate. Over a four-year period, my initiatives led to changes to Berkeley High School safety and attendance policies, as well as the adoption of violence and bullying prevention curricula district wide. Kids can’t learn when they are being harassed. Understanding the benefits of arts education and importance of literacy, I served on the school district Music Committee and organized Family Literacy Nights.  

South Berkeley is home to fixed income seniors, low and middle-income families many of whom are facing economic challenges. Families are being squeezed out by ever increasing taxes, fees and assessments, while health care costs climb, and folks have less discretionary spending. The city must practice fiscal discipline, learn to live within its means and not expect homeowners to shoulder the burden. It is simply hard to believe that Berkeley is committed to economic diversity pretending all homeowners can easily pay more.  

I believe that when the neighborhood speaks out, there is a good reason to listen. I will be an energetic, dedicated, practical representative ensuring our voices are understood. 


—Laura Menard 

District 3 City Council candidate