District 4 City Council Candidate Statement: L A Wood

Thursday October 02, 2008 - 10:42:00 AM

As voters, we are once again being inundated with campaign banners, catchy phrases and promises from every candidate. This is especially true in our District 4 election. At each endorsement forum, the candidates seem to repeat the same mantra about being the champion for our seniors, disabled and youth, insuring our district receives its fair share of city services and, of course, creating more affordable housing while revitalizing our downtown. Few would disagree with these goals. 

Yet with all the political rhetoric, it’s difficult to understand what actually distinguishes each candidate or how each might serve our community and city. Whether older or younger than myself, their range of experience is quite varied. Some have little or none. Others have served on city commissions and task forces, as have I. Such service is admirable and important. However, it is my extensive and broad community activism that distinguishes me from all my opponents in District 4. 

Recently, Sarah Palin derided and dismissed Obama’s years of community service. I believe this is some of the most important work anyone can do. Obama certainly understands this message. This is why I continue to remind voters that I am a longtime neighborhood organizer and environmental leader throughout Berkeley. My record of participation is unparalleled by any of my opponents. And yes, it can be examined on my website  

With this kind of record that is particularly strong in environmental activism, it is astounding that the Sierra Club failed to endorse my candidacy. The club’s endorsements are directed by a handful of residents who purport to speak for the entire membership. It is slate politics at its worst, being little more than an attempt to manage and manipulate your vote. 

In fact, the Sierra Club held a private endorsement process for two of the District 4 candidates that purposely excluded me. Neither of the two candidates invited to the club has any environmental record to speak of. Yet, I have been endorsed by the directors of three prominent regional/national environmental groups: Greenaction, Global Community Monitor and Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters.  

Over the years, many endorsers like the Sierra club have apparently forgotten something about democracy and have made the electoral process somewhat exclusionary. As a result, the club’s membership was also unable to hear of my social activism, union involvement and my support for local education.  

Yes, I regularly volunteered as a tutor in our public elementary and middle school classrooms. Last year I worked for several months with Cal students examining environmental justice issues in west Berkeley.  

The bottom line is: I have shown over the last two decades that one person, acting locally, can make a difference. 

For the record, I am the only candidate in District 4 who has: 

• Worked as a Public Works advocate and actually understands its workforce, budget and activity needs. The Public Works Department has publicly acknowledged my commitment and dedication. 

• Written a Berkeley landmark application. I have authored two landmarks. Some of my opponents speak about the importance of preservation, but have taken no direct action. 

• Safeguarded our environment locally, regionally and statewide in areas that include waste management, toxic site cleanups, groundwater protection, creek preservation, and air quality. 

• Advocated for the humane treatment of animals. I worked with the late Dona Spring in her first attempts to obtain funding for a new, much-needed animal shelter. 

• Daylighted health disparities within our city by helping to develop a survey of neighborhoods in close proximity to our manufacturing district.  

• Challenged zoning inequities at the Harrison skate park, the “Tom Bates” playing fields, Pacific Steel Casting, the Harrison soccer fields, and the Ursula Sherman transitional housing, in each case, revealing the dangers of exposing our children to that area’s extremely poor air quality. Some of my opponents have talked about zoning inequities, but I actually stood up, and continue to stand up, for Berkeley neighborhoods affected by these injustices. 

• Organized and carried out a seven-month community air monitoring project to measure the high levels of airborne metals in Berkeley’s Oceanview district. I then lobbied for body burden testing of children at the childcare facilities in the area.  

• Spent more than a decade calling for a constructive town-and-gown liaison with UCB and LBNL. It’s time to begin a process that will allow us to meet in the boardroom instead of the courtroom. Berkeley’s relations with UC have never been more challenged than they are today. I am the only candidate who repeatedly worked with Dona Spring to achieve a more equitable, productive partnership with this world-renowned university and national laboratory.  

I will help Berkeley to prepare for the great challenges of the coming decade. I am the only candidate who will be an ardent watchdog for desperately needed budgetary and management reforms within our city government.  

If elected, I will lobby for a warm water pool, use of the BHS track for residents and will help mediate the many neighborhood issues relating to our district’s future growth. I will give all my constituents a fair opportunity to voice their concerns.  

Community activism was a hallmark of our former representative Dona Spring. She risked arrest many times to protest the decimation of the Memorial Oak Grove and the danger of placing athletes in a gym so close to the Hayward Fault. I stood on the frontline beside her there for two years. 

Indeed, I had the privilege of working on numerous issues with Dona. She publicly said of me, “We really don’t disagree on much. I think he’s (L A) is a bit more of a perfectionist than I am. But he’s certainly done good work.” I know she shared a similar vision of the city and of her understanding of the role of district representative. Perhaps this is why I have been endorsed by many of her friends and former commissioners. (See Vote for L A Wood, Democrat in District 4.