Public Comment

Commentary: Inconvenient Truths From Berkeley’s First Native American Mayoral Candidate

By Zachary Running Wolf
Friday August 18, 2006

A nation that loses its cherished freedom and protections will often discover that it has been a victim of spin and counter spin. This is not difficult to understand when we consider that a significant majority of our citizens still believe that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The truth of the matter is that it is difficult for humans to accept that they are continually being brainwashed. 

It is for the explicit purposes of addressing our conditioned state of mind and reclaiming our values and freedom—both environmental and political—that I, Zachary Running Wolf, a Native American leader and elder, is seeking the position of mayor for the city of Berkeley. You may wonder what a mayor can do to influence national and local policy. Simply stated, my native background, which is steeped in fundamental fairness towards all people and my concern for the protection of my land, gives me the courage to take on anyone—dictator or political terrorist to remedy the situation.  

In the 1960s and ’70s Berkeley was the epicenter for the movement to end the Vietnam War. Then in the ’80s, Berkeley residents and students led the march to divestment in South Africa. Out of concern for our planet, we then initiated curbside recycling. Today we are the home base for Cindy Sheehan in her campaign to end an unnecessary war. Now, I see clearly that Berkeley can be the leader in the much needed effort to curtail global warming. I draw my inspiration from the wisdom of my Native American ancestors whose teachings demand that before anyone of us makes a decision we should first consider how it will affect the next seven generations.  

Firstly, I will demand that solar panels be placed on all city-owned buildings. I also plan to initiate a solar bonds measure so that we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Clearly, it is high time for all of us to adopt a more reasonable way of harnessing energy from nature. We cannot afford to have another mayor who cancels programs which reduce greenhouse gases. The truth of the matter is that global warming is a reality and we must remove those who pretend that it is not.  

Another thing we can do about global warming is to protect our trees. When Tom Bates ran for mayor he promised to protect our trees but, contrary to his promise, he opposed an initiative to create a tree ordinance. The failure to protect our trees is exacerbated by the fact that Bates is promoting inappropriate mega-development plans that encroach up on the property line. This is a major problem because it reduces sidewalk space which could otherwise be used for planting trees. As your mayor I will insist that all developments should somehow add to the number of trees in our city.  

Mayor Bates unmistakably stands for the elimination of open spaces. In a city that desperately needs parks and trees, Bates has led an effort to reduce open space by putting condos in the Ashby BART parking area. Clearly, this measure denies hard working merchants an opportunity to make a cultural and spiritual contribution to the area.  

Upon taking office Bates created an Agenda Committee, which was originally so extreme that even the city attorney labeled it as “illegal.” Bates’ explicit intent in creating secretive committees was to keep important items off the City Council agenda. This smacks of the very actions that are being instituted by the Bush administration. I am advocating a strong sunshine ordinance which encourages every resident to participate in open government. 

After curtailing City Council debate, Bates next sought to silence city commissions by creating hand-picked task forces. These task forces were designed to circumvent important city issues. Bates began to impose such a practice when he abolished the budget commission after they rejected his proposed tax increases as unnecessary. Clearly, we can no longer tolerate officials who want this country to be without free speech and balance. 

Furthermore, Bates has made it more difficult for citizens to challenge incumbents by failing to institute that Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) Act and the Clean Elections Amendment which were designed to make each candidate operate on a level playing field. It is merely an excuse to state that implementation was a problem.  

By far, what should be very troubling to the residents of Berkeley is the secret settlement that the Bates had reached with UC Berkeley. The agreement gives control to the university over the downtown development. Consequently, the university now retains power to build downtown even if the facilities have nothing to do with UC Berkeley’s educational mission. One consequence of such a deal is that UCB does not have to pay local property taxes. This loss of tax revenue will have to be subsidized by Berkeley home owners while the UCB Board of Directors receive pay hikes—uup to $300 million in perks alone! 

Additionally, as a Native American leader and elder, I understand the importance of sovereignty. People as well as nations (in this case city) have the right to control their land. That is why the mayor’s Downtown Plan is patently deplorable. Fortunately Anne Wagley and some other brave citizens have filed suit against Mayor Bates to save our city from this nightmare. I will use the opportunity offered by that lawsuit to settle the case. This will involve rescinding the UC agreement signed behind closed doors and without Berkeley’s residents’ voice.  

You should know that in Zachary Running Wolf, you will not find statements are akin to empty promises. Nay, I plan to bring a new way of doing politics in this great city. This will inevitably require public participation in the highest degree. It will also involve honesty and integrity. I realize that it is the people who can make this happen. So I appeal to the residents of Berkeley: Help me get elected and I will help this city to become what you alone want it to be—a decent home for all of us to live peacefully. 


Zachary Running Wolf is a candidate for mayor of Berkeley.