Public Comment

Why I’m the Only Viable Candidate for Mayor

By Zachary Running Wolf
Friday April 28, 2006

I am a Native American leader, not a sold-out career politician. Berkeley citizens need me as mayor at this very important time in world history. A career politician sells his or her souls to the highest bidder, climbs the political ladder by making “compromises” with fellow politicians, and leaves behind and ignores the best interests of their constituencies. A perfect example of a career politician and his dirty dealing is Mayor Bates and his closed-door sweetheart deal to sell out downtown Berkeley to his alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley. In contrast, a Native American leader looks to the future and out for the well being of the community (or tribe), which comes first before personal security and economic gain. This means looking out for the well-being of the children for seven generations. 

The residents of Berkeley need this kind of leadership. Buying and selling our future cannot be handed over to yet another career politician. The city and it’s residents (including the student population) need someone who will put their needs ahead of the big players (UCB, developers, etc.) in Berkeley politics. This is especially true now that Mayor Bates has given the downtown away to UCB for a song. I believe the only way to get the downtown back from the clutches of UCB is to hunger-strike them back to the negotiation table in front of all the parties concerned. Berkeley residents at the negotiation table would give strength and power to the mayor (the city), strength and power Tom Bates sold behind closed doors. Hunger-striking is not an outlandish idea: this same technique has been used many times in the past and against this same university in victorious fashion. For example, in 1999 I was involved in the victorious Ethnic Studies strike. As mayor I will hunger-strike UCB back to the negotiation table. I believe this is the only viable route rather than trying to go into court facing their vast economic wealth and capable legal team. I’m not ruling out the courtroom method, but the downtown problem has to be dealt with immediately with all our efforts. I also support a strong sunshine ordinance.  

The University of California at Berkeley is involved with genetically altered foods and is growing these crops within the city limits. This is careless and disrespectful to the surrounding communities and their gardens, which are vulnerable to pollination from these untested crops. I plan to spearhead a ban on genetically altered foods focused on these dangerous crops. The ban on genetically altered foods would mirror the Berkeley Nuclear-Free ban, which has been done by other counties in Northern California. Berkeley has the opportunity to be the first mid-sized city to induce a ban on GMO (genetically modified organisms). As they say, “if it can’t pass in Berkeley it can’t work anywhere”: we can prove that Berkeley is indeed a world leader! 

Being a traditional Native American leader requires that I take care of our mother (Earth). With that in mind I maintain that we need to get Berkeley’s diesel fleet back to 100 percent (B100) bio-diesel with the possibility of eventually going to straight vegetable oil (SVO). This would extend my work in the field of bio-diesel as I spearheaded the movement to get AC Transit to begin a bio-diesel pilot program. Along with an emphasis on green energy, my platform includes designating part of downtown Berkeley and/or Telegraph Avenue as a pedestrian bicycle and service vehicle-only zone.  

As a 43-year-old resident of Berkeley who attended Berkeley schools and graduated from Berkeley High in 1981, I have seen clearly the areas of society who need the most help. As mayor I pledge to donate the entire mayor’s salary evenly to the three most unrecognized groups in our community: to our elders with their wisdom and experience who help us throughout our lives by steering us away from danger; to our children who are our future generations and must be cultivated and trusted with their own decisions; to our homeless or less fortunate who do not take more than they need but must be given the resources to help them get where they want to go. Society has failed these groups economically and spiritually. How will I survive without getting paid? The truth is that I have already been surviving without getting paid (economically) for the past 11 years. In the Native American way our chiefs are looked after (paid if you will) by the Creator Great Spirit. It is considered the highest honor to represent your people. I have never been more proud to say I am a Native American leader and I consider the citizens of Berkeley to be my people. Helping my people is enough payment for me.  

Education will be emphasized in my administration: supporting our teachers (heroes) by ensuring that they have enough resources to provide a world-class education for our future generations. The current hurdles will be addressed head on, such as the “No Child Left Behind” act which I call “Every Child Left Behind” or “What Children?” My experience in this field includes helping start the American Indian Public Charter School. I also helped save Ethnic Studies at UCB where I was a guest lecturer (in Native American studies). I have also spoken at many schools in the East Bay. Strengthening Ethnic Studies in the schools of Berkeley is a priority. This is not just for our youth of color and women, but for our dominant culture to learn about the important contributions from these groups to our country. Strengthening ethnic studies will help reduce the student dropout rate in communities of color. 

This brings us to my views on future development in the City of Berkeley. First, I’m strongly against the West Ashby BART (transit village) development brought forward by our current Mayor Bates and other city Councilmembers without the proper notice or input by the neighborhood affected. This project has a number of problems including the mis-measurement of the lot at six acres instead of the actual four. The proposed transit village would be a 300-unit condo project, which would be at least five stories in monstrous height. It would also push out the Berkeley Flea Market, which provides a much-needed cultural and meeting place in south Berkeley. We cannot just build structures in every available space in this city; I’m for playing fields and parks for our children. I also see the need for communities to have space available for community gardens. Being a carpenter by trade I will support architecture that would rival the historical treasures this city is known for instead of this current trend of penitentiary building. Residents of areas affected by redevelopment need to be given enough notice and input to have their voices heard, a right that has been lost in Berkeley.  

Finally, educational resources such as our libraries are under assault. I reject the use of RFID in the Berkeley public libraries, as this is a bad idea for numerous reasons. We do not need a big brother system, especially in one of the most progressive cities in the world.  

My experience in city politics goes back 11 years: dealing with schools, land acquisition (Oak Knoll Naval Hospital—3.75 acres), sitting on the board of directors of the Inter-Tribal Friendship House and helping bring them out of $385,000 of debt, and defending Native American rights on a national level. My experience in the city of Berkeley includes spearheading the name change of Columbus Elementary School to Rosa Parks, serving on the Peace and Justice Commission, helping save Ethnic Studies at UCB, and finally spearheading AC Transit to start a bio-diesel pilot program.  

In closing, the City of Berkeley needs a strong leader who will make the right decisions that will benefit the community first and not just another career politician looking out for their own self interest. It is time for the first indigenous mayor of Berkeley: Ah-ho Zachary RunningWolf! 


Zachary RunningWolf is a graduate of Berkeley High School and a candidate for mayor of Berkeley.