Following a Sunday afternoon town hall meeting at Redwood Gardens that attracted 61 Berkeley residents in search of a “progressive” candidate to take on District 8 incumbent Gordon Wozniak in November, a vote of attendees supported Jason Overman, a city rent board commissioner and UC Berkeley student.
“We need a more open process,” said Overman, following the vote. “I am so glad that all of you have participated here today.”
The meeting was co-sponsored by Eleanor Walden, Jesse Arreguin, Chris Kavanagh, Anne Wagley, and Overman. The moderators of the discussion were Nicholas Smith and Walden. Attendees were invited to introduce themselves and say one thing that they dislike about Wozniak or one thing they’d like to see their councilmember do.
Overman said, “One of the most outrageous things that Gordon did was saying in response to the question of why he didn’t appoint students to commission posts is that ‘students aren’t qualified.’ I think it’s important that students not be left out of the process. We need to bring positive communication to the groups.”
“Gordon did one progressive thing,” said Wagley, who is the calendar and arts editor of the Planet. “He appointed me to the Housing Advisory Commission. And then he fired me after I sued him.” (Wagley filed suit against Wozniak and Mayor Tom Bates over the council’s settlement with UC over the university’s Long Range Development Plan.)
Many people brought up issues that they wanted their candidate to fight for in District 8. Examples included the implementation of instant runoff voting, affordable housing, diversity on city commissions, services for the disabled, traffic issues, and the injustice of the “backroom UC Berkeley settlement agreement with the city.”
“I recently moved into District 8,” Arreguin said. “Gordon is not representative of our issues. The worst thing he has done was on the UC Berkeley secret agreement.”
Attendees nominated four people to challenge Wozniak: Arreguin, Kavanagh, Overman, and Wagley. Overman quickly emerged as the only candidate who wanted to run against the incumbent.
Out of 39 people voting, 22 of the votes went to Overman, nine went to Wagley, and eight went to Arreguin. Kavanagh, prior to the vote, had asked for his name to be removed from the ballot.
Wagley said, “I am really pleased to see that Jason’s statement was articulate ... and that we have a great start for a progressive coalition in District 8.”
“It was a pretty good turnout for a beautiful Sunday afternoon,” School Board Director John Selawsky said. “There were some good discussions and the issues were laid out. I think that there should’ve been more discussion of what a successful campaign might be like ... and who a serious candidate might be. The important thing is that there was a consensus and a candidate who wanted to run. I’m glad somebody is running ... and I do believe that Gordon is vulnerable.”
“Sunday was a historic day—where students, homeowners, environmentalists, and all different groups came together,” Overman said in an interview following the event. “That is something that hasn’t happened for a long time in this city. I know that if we had had that four years ago, we wouldn’t have given Wozniak the opportunity to be the worst member of the City Council. We have a lot of momentum and overwhelming community-based support.”