While local elections won’t happen for another half year, candidates are already rolling up their sleeves for a fight in District 4, the central Berkeley council district that includes the downtown business area, held by incumbent Dona Spring since 1992.
Raudel Wilson, 30, a Vallejo native, is challenging Spring, arguing that she lacks responsiveness to her district and is not visible in the community.
“I’m not sure what she has done,” Wilson said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I don’t see her [in the community] . . . It’s really important in city government to communicate with residents. It’s important to see elected officials in the community.”
Spring said she is proud of her record on the council. She said she has always been accessible to members of her district and has worked hard for them.
Wilson promised to hold town meetings and get the community up-to-date information on the crimes occurring in District 4. For example, he said, recently, there has been a rash of car break-ins in the residential area about which the public has not been well-informed.
Married with two children and preparing to send his 4-year-old to public school in September, Wilson has worked at the downtown Mechanics Bank for nine years, where he is office manager. Wilson says his wife is a stay-at-home mom. “She has a tougher job than me,” he said.
Before going to Mechanics Bank, he attended Contra Costa College for three years. The family moved to Berkeley three years ago to be closer to Wilson’s job and to be “part of the community,” he said.
Wilson touts his non-profit work, having served on the boards of the Downtown Berkeley Association, where he was president for two years, and on the YMCA board.
Wilson presently serves as Councilmember Darryl Moore’s appointee to the Zoning Adjustments Board and as Councilmember Laurie Capitelli’s appointee to the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee.
“I’m passionate about what happens in the city,” he said.
Talking about issues he has helped resolve on the ZAB, Wilson points to nuisance hearings on two different liquor stores: Dwight Way Liquor, which ZAB shut down, and Black and White Liquor, which stayed open with restrictions.
And he played a role in the approvals for the David Brower Center, a project of which Spring has been one of the leading proponents.
“The David Brower Center has given the downtown affordable housing—true family units with three bedrooms,” Wilson said.
Wilson said, if elected, he plans to keep his full-time job at the bank. (Councilmembers earn $25,872 annually.) He also explained that, although he sent out an e-mail announcing his candidacy using his Mechanics Bank e-mail address and offering his work phone number, in the future he “won’t be working (the campaign) out of Mechanics Bank. We’ll be setting up a website.”
Spring, 53, came to Berkeley from Colorado as a 19-year-old university student, with a double major in anthropology and psychology. In the six years before she was elected to the Berkeley City Council, Spring was involved in a variety of community activities, including serving on a Cable TV task force.
Among her accomplishments over the years on the council, Spring cites her role working with colleagues to fund round-the-clock services at the homeless shelter at the Veteran’s Memorial Center. Closure of the center during part of the day was hard on the homeless and generated complaints from the business community, Spring said.
The councilmember also points to her work on the council, advocating health services to combat the health disparities between African Americans and whites as cited by city Health Department studies.
The councilmember has been a longtime supporter of government reform measures.
“In 1993 I pushed Instant Runoff Voting—it took 11 years,” she said. “I was the first one (on the council) to push for public financing of campaigns. We still haven’t gotten that.”
Spring said she has supported bond measures to increase library funding and advocated building the pedestrian/bike overpass over Interstate 80. “I know, as a person in a wheelchair, the difficulty of getting over to the waterfront,” she said.
“I am particularly proud of my environmental record,” Spring said, pointing to her work on creek and tree protection, as well as her advocacy for biodiesel fuel usage.
Councilmember Spring bristled at Wilson’s accusation that she is not responsive to her constituency.
“I’ve held district meetings this fall on two different occasions,” she said. “I get to neighborhood organizations, attend street fairs. I’ve never seen (Wilson) at the October Festival. Where has he been?”
Spring said that “everyone who calls the office, unless they are abusive, gets a return call from me—I’m very accessible. I am receptive to what my constituents want, which is not a knee-jerk rubber stamper of development projects that don’t have appropriate setbacks and mitigations for impacts.”
On the other hand, Spring said her rival for the council seat has a history on the Zoning Adjustments Board of being unresponsive to neighborhood concerns. Specifically, she gave the example of 1532 Martin Luther King Way, where a single-family home was expanded to three units.
“It was lot line to lot line with parking in the front yard,” Spring said, adding that the project was opposed by all the surrounding neighbors within a block of the project. “He never tried to address any of their concerns.””