The Public Eye: Why I’m Not Running for Mayor of Berkeley This Time

By Shirley Dean
Friday August 04, 2006

First, I want to thank the many Berkeley residents who have indicated their support for me to enter the race for mayor this November, particularly Merilee Mitchell who took out papers to gather signatures in-lieu of filing fees (even though I didn't know about it at the time); and to all of you who collected signatures, signed your names, sent me e-mails, called me, wrote me letters and stopped to talk to me in the grocery store, on the street or at various meetings.  

I am amazed and overwhelmed by the amount of your support, which seems to be growing daily. Besides being greatly surprised by your numbers, I am deeply touched by your kind words, willingness to work for my candidacy and most of all by your enthusiastic encouragement. I am also humbled by the faith you have shown in my ability to resolve the many concerns that you have expressed. 

I greatly regret to have to tell you that I have decided not to run. Starting so late makes the process much more difficult. In 2002, Mr. Bates and I raised about the same amount but he was able to contribute an additional amount, around $100,000, of his own funds to his campaign. I do not have the personal resources to compete with that. Some groups have held endorsement interviews and made their decision long before before my name was put  


In my view, this campaign would be on an uneven playing field for a two-year term. The four-year term coming up in 2008 is by far more appealing from the standpoint of putting together an effective campaign. 

I believe that I can better serve the city that I love so much by my active involvement in some of the important issues that we are facing. I am full of hope that my voice, along with yours, will help shape a city government more responsive to the community than what we have experienced over the past four years. Some of the issues that I will be involved in over the next few months include working for: 

• Approval by the voters of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance Initiative on the November ballot. This initiative involves retaining the 30-year old ordinance that has served the community so well, plus a few minor changes suggested by the State Office of Historic Preservation. Berkeley's neighborhoods should not be put at risk just because a few developers want the wheels greased in their favor. 

• Persuading the university to rescind, rewrite and recirculate the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the seven projects included in the proposal to retrofit Memorial Stadium. City planning staff has boldly declared the current DEIR, concerning what is by any definition a massive project that will permanently change the face of the city, as totally inadequate, lacking information, and misleading. Our city must support our neighborhoods regarding this staff analysis by actively following through with the university by every means possible—first, by ensuring that accurate and complete information on impacts is understood and, second, by undertaking any and all appropriate actions. 

• Seeking a greater emphasis on funding for basic city services, police and fire and infrastructure repair. I have been working with BudgetWatch, a group dedicated to informing people about the budget. In addition to greater resident awareness of budget impacts and decisions, and more citizen involvement in those decisions, we seek adequate city funding for police and fire, no closure (brownouts) of fire stations and developing a real plan to address the mounting infrastructure deficit. 

• Completing the work begun by Neighbors on Urban Creeks regarding the Creeks Ordinance and protection of our local creeks and watershed. Neighbors on Urban Creeks successfully achieved several recommendations for revisions to the Creeks Ordinance but much work remains to be done: to find methods which will actually improve the quality of our urban creeks; and to enact a comprehensive watershed management plan that is environmentally sensitive and also prevents the repeated flooding that has caused so many  

problems for Berkeley homes and businesses. 

• Devising mechanisms to protect neighborhoods from the destructive nuisance of drug houses, out-of-control liquor stores, and other nuisances that are the focus of crime. Residents must no longer be put in harm’s way in order to close down drug houses that are destroying their neighborhood while the city sits on the sidelines and takes no action to declare such places as public nuisances. 

• Opening an honest dialogue to find solutions to prevent the damage caused by overdevelopment from too dense, too tall and too big buildings. The essence of what has made Berkeley a wonderful place in which to live is currently being threatened by development which is out-of-scale with its surroundings. The council simply engages in hand wringing when they hear objections from neighborhoods. Solutions must be actively sought. Additionally, the council must stop the management of the planning process and allow the true vision of the community to emerge in areas like the Ashby BART Station. 

• Engage in community discussions on re-structuring the full range of Berkeley governance issues. We must make government function in a more open and democratic way with no more closed- door decisions, or last-minute actions taken without citizen review. We must restore confidence in citizens and boards and commissions that their input means something, and that rules on speaking times are clear. We must explore whether the Council should have at-large members, higher compensation and how to achieve greater accountability. 

I will be busy. The list above is not complete and I am still writing my book on an insider's experience with Berkeley politics. Good luck to us all in uniting to protect and preserve Berkeley. It’s a very special place. 





Shirley Dean is the former mayor of Berkeley and a current political activist.