District 4 City Council Candidate Statement: Asa Dodsworth

Thursday October 02, 2008 - 10:41:00 AM

Berkeley needs change. But only by listening to, and increasing the voice and role of our citizens and our neighborhoods can we make Berkeley better. I am committed to increasing the voices of our neighborhoods in the city’s decision-making process. Too many important decisions are being made by professional municipal employees, working hand-in-hand with developers, but without enough input from Berkeley’s taxpayers. Too many of the decisions that negatively affect our lives, our neighborhoods and our businesses are being decided by the ‘Last Man Standing’ at Berkeley’s notorious late-night city council sessions. No one should have to wait for five hours to address the city council, especially about substantial and often negative impacts to their neighborhoods. These problems need to be resolved long before they get to the council. We need to create clear policies that are responsive to the community’s needs and abilities. We need to stick to those policies and not encourage every developer to appeal every aberrant proposal to the city council—where those same developers inevitably get permission to ignore both the rules and the community. 

Economically, we are facing the biggest crisis of our lives, but Berkeley’s professional politicians are again asking businesses and citizens to pony up more in taxes. We don’t need more new taxes to provide better services, we need higher standards for the services we provide. While a healthy commercial community is critical to the success of our city, when I talk to local business owners they tell me the city’s efforts are misdirected. Fewer jobs, lost sales-tax revenues, and vacant storefronts are symptoms of the failed policies of politics-as-usual. We need to rededicate city government and better direct the well-paid municipal employees we have working for us. Most importantly, we need new faces to engage in productive problem-solving for our many and fast growing economic problems. The politicians who got us into this financial disaster aren’t the politicians who are going to get us out. 

Environmentally, we are facing the most dangerous crisis in modern human history, a fight for survival of life as we know it. Yet we are not even making the commitment to success, the sacrifices our great-grandparents made when they were fighting World Wars One & Two. This war is not ‘Us against Them.’ This is a war against our worst, most selfish impulses. This war is against short-sighted, self-destructive behavior. Berkeley must lead the effort to change the way we all live in this new world. 

To win this war Berkeley needs an affordable and reliable public transportation system that works for all of us, all the time. 

To win this war Berkeley need recycling policies that get us to zero waste today, not someday. 

To win this war Berkeley needs ‘Victory Gardens,’ and ‘Food, Not Lawns’. 

For more than a decade we’ve been hearing about Alice Water’s Community Garden project. Why, after more than a decade, aren’t there community gardens on every empty, neglected lot? 

To win this war Berkeley needs energy conservation, solar electric and solar heating panels on every municipal building, on every school building, and on every new project built within our city. 

Most of all, we need new faces to engage in productive problem solving for this fast building ecological crisis, because the leaders who failed to address these problems for the past 30 years can’t be trusted to address these problems today or tomorrow. 

In addition to these global problems, we have local, personal and immediate problems that we can address without spending more money. The failure rate in our schools is unacceptable. For decades we’ve been hearing about America’s education crisis. Yet today even fewer Berkeley kids are graduating from high school and going on to college. Sky-high drop out rates and violent crime are a symptom of the failed policies of politics-as-usual. 

We have the best University in America in the middle of our city, yet our elementary and high school students are failing! Too many of the children I went to school with just a few years ago are floundering or dead. It’s our fault. We need to rededicate ourselves to the educational success of all of our children. We need to volunteer, to organize, to work hard to win the war on ignorance. We’re losing that war today. The potential Nobel Prize winners of 30 years in the future, aren’t reading today. The ecological solutions that will save us in a decade aren’t going to be possible if today’s students don’t become tomorrow’s scientists, politicians and business leaders. To achieve this important goal is going to take hard and personal effort from each of us. We can succeed if we work together, if we’re committed to success, as though our lives depend on it. Our lives DO depend on it. 

Lastly, I believe in the enormous value of city commissions. Like the Ancient Romans, I believe it is every citizen’s responsibility to engage in the process of government. In our knowledge and commitment this city has incredible resources that are just waiting to be unleashed, but so far we have fail to properly utilize these assets. From city staff we hear that commissions are too expensive, that paid city staff are best qualified to address the city’s problems, I disagree. We are the promise and the future and only by working together can we get ourselves out of these troubled times. Once again, the leaders who got us into these situations aren’t the people who are going to lead us out. If we fail in this, we will fail as a city. Worse than that, if we can’t produce the leadership to turn this city and this nation and this world around, we will fail as a culture. 

If you want to work together, building a better tomorrow, vote for me, Asa Dodsworth, for Berkeley City Council, District 4 on November 4th.