District 6 City Council Candidate Statement: Susan Wengraf

Thursday October 02, 2008 - 10:45:00 AM

I have a long history of community involvement, public service, and accomplishment in Berkeley. I have served as the aide to Council member Betty Olds since 1992. I am also the senior member of the Planning Commission. I was the chair of the University Avenue Strategic Plan Sub-Committee, which made recommendations to the City Council on development standards on University Avenue. In addition, I also chaired the Density Bonus Sub-Committee, which examined the very complex rules governing development in California. I served on committees that evaluated the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, and established a Blight Ordinance that helps neighborhoods deal with abandoned properties in the City of Berkeley. 

Active in Democratic Party politics, I served as President of the Berkeley Democratic Club for eight years. Under my leadership, the BDC became a major force for fundraising for Democratic presidential candidates. I have served on many boards, including those of Prospect School, The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, and The Live Oak Neighborhood Association, which I founded. 

Trained at the Bank Street School in New York with a Masters Degree in Special Education, I was a classroom teacher for many years. I am also an award winning documentary film maker, best known for my film “Love It Like A Fool” about Berkeley songwriter and singer Malvina Reynolds. Currently, I consult as the Visuals Editor at the Emma Goldman Papers at UC Berkeley, which recently published “Emma Goldman, a Documentary History of the American Years.” 

I came to North Berkeley in 1969. With my husband Mark, an Oscar-winning film sound mixer and professor at UC, we raised our family. Our children are now grown and live outside of the Bay Area. 

I take pride in my effectiveness at bringing consensus to differing opinions on controversial issues. I am proud of my endorsements, and I believe they reflect the respect I have earned from a broad political spectrum of organizations, community leaders, and residents in Berkeley. They include the Berkeley Firefighters, Berkeley Police Association, Alameda Labor Council, CAL Dems, both mayoral candidates, Tom Bates and Shirley Dean, 6 out of the 8 current city council members, as well as State Senator elect Loni Hancock and Assemblywoman elect Nancy Skinner. 

District 6 is generally defined as the north Berkeley hills. We live daily with two critical safety issues: our homes interface with Tilden Park and we are very vulnerable to a wildfire, and the Hayward fault bisects our district. The safety of my constituents is a top priority, and my goal is to work with residents, the Fire Department, and the Police Department to develop a pro-active preparedness plan that ensures the best results in the event of a disaster. We need a vegetation management plan to reduce the fuel load in our hills. I will work with the Fire Department to implement a plan that respects our natural environment while ensuring safety. All of our neighborhoods need tools and supplies, but we also need the training required to know how to react, how to help family and neighbors, and how to live for several days without assistance. 

The single most frequent question that I have been asked as I meet voters in District 6 is, "What is my position on the issue of the Marines Recruiting Center?" I believe that the City Council made a mistake when they voted to allow Code Pink to have a parking space in front of the Marine's Office. The City ended up spending upwards of $250,000 on the Marine's debacle. The protests were detrimental to local downtown businesses, and were a national embarrassment for our city. We have serious crime in Berkeley and that money could have been allocated to fight crime rather than babysit Code Pink protestors. My opponent was an active participant in Code Pink demonstrations in front of the Marine's recruiting center. As a Peace and Justice Commissioner, she voted to bring that resolution to the Council. She is not telling the residents of District 6 about her involvement in these actions, but it is a matter of public record. Unlike my opponent, I am not an ideologue. I am open to all points of view for dealing with problems. My actions are based on pragmatism, not ideology. 

I love Berkeley and I love our neighborhoods. My years of experience and participation in trying to make Berkeley a better place for all of us are testaments to my commitment to our community.