District 6 City Council Candidate Statement: Phoebe Anne Sorgen

Thursday October 02, 2008 - 10:46:00 AM

I am Phoebe Anne Sorgen, running for retiring Berkeley City Councilmember Betty Olds’ District 6 seat. My slogan is “Sorgen for Safety and Sustainability." My sunflower logo symbolizes my determination to shine light on government, and to increase solar power as well as other economically and environmentally sustainable innovations to make Berkeley a model for the nation and a delight for those who live here. 

For 19 years I have been a parent and homeowner here. As mom and stepmom of Berkeley High grads, I became increasingly involved in local efforts to improve the world and Berkeley. I will take care of District 6 senior citizens, students, and all of you, as family. I listen well and am already responding to your concerns, which include the broader context in which Berkeley has played a legendary role. 

Safety is my top priority. I will keep us safe from crime and disaster with prevention, preparation, and response. I will spearhead block by block CPR and other disaster preparedness training and rehearsal, and ensure that each home’s gas shut-off and evacuation needs are known. I plan incentives to entice those who can to stock emergency supplies for those who can’t. City land can be used for attractive caches. 

Berkeley police are excellent at rapid emergency response and helping neighborhoods organize. This year, they often outnumbered peaceful, quiet protestors, while patrolling for crime and dangerous driving was perhaps more in order. I successfully addressed that at City Hall. The BPD maintains crime updates online so residents can ascertain risk. For those who are more comfortable on the phone than on the internet, I plan a Hotline. I will also spearhead wild parties which expand the Neighborhood Crime Watch program, block by block. Wild? Just kidding, but I will help make the process fun. 

We cherish wildlife and open spaces. Dead wood and underbrush that are fire hazards will be removed, while maintaining as much habitat as is safely possible. Invasive flammables such as eucalyptus should have been replaced by native species long ago. Public paths should have been opened long ago. During evacuation, they may save lives. The City will save funds and prepare for post peak oil by allowing community gardens on unused city land that is currently mowed, such as the field below Cragmont Park. 

City assistance in financing solar panels, and other improvements such as undergrounding power lines, will be expanded. Community choice aggregation will save the City money and increase our use of renewable energy. 

Parking policies have jeopardized Berkeley’s commercial sustainability, and empty storefronts are contagious. Why do huge busses carry four passengers? Reserve them for rush hours. We need eco-passes and frequent mini eco-shuttles that loop throughout the neighborhoods and business districts. Pedestrian walkways and bike lanes will be enhanced. As the price of gas rises and public transit improves, we will forego driving. In the meantime, for those who cannot carry groceries far nor bike, electric neighborhood vehicles like mine are relatively low cost and require less of a lifestyle change than biking. Three can fit in one parking place. 

Please join the “Buy Berkeley” campaign. For years, many of us have shopped Berkeley first because we love this town. How often have you had to leave town to shop? We need to be able to buy towels and everything else in a pleasant Berkeley. Local businesses need City support. 

Instead of contracting with Alko Office Supply on Shattuck, our city buys products made in China from a big box chain, delivered by double-parking, stinking trucks. Why? Alko could deliver by zero emission hand truck, and buying locally increases our tax base. This brings up the larger context. Ideas that start here often ripple out. Opposition to the Multilateral Agreement on Investments, a draconian precursor to NAFTA, began here with a City Council Resolution that was copied nationwide, then worldwide, whereupon the corpocracy’s trade reps gave up. Berkeley takes stands that matter. Because teams of competent volunteers do the legwork, these symbolic stands rarely cost the City time or money. I researched and wrote many diplomatically worded Resolutions adopted by the City Council, including one to Oppose CAFTA and Preserve Our Local Sovereignty. Undemocratic trade agreements are negotiated by nonelected multinational trade reps. They forbid cities from considering environment, labor, or any factors other than the bottom line, even if the local independent business’s bid is only negligibly higher, hence the Alko snub.  

There are corporations in Berkeley that unfairly profit from Prop 13, paying 1970’s tax rates when they can afford to pay a fair share. Let’s shift the unfair tax burden of struggling single family homeowners to those corporate interests. 

A Tel Aviv band recently wrote a song titled “Berkeley Resolution” based on my efforts to limit the “rights” that powerful transnational corporations claim against the public interest. My opponent said Berkeley should stick to potholes and fire stations. I say, potholes and fire stations do come first, and we can sometimes act globally as well as locally. Ignore the broader context at our peril.  

These are complex issues. Berkeley needs me for sophisticated, creative, and courageous leadership to take care of the quotidian practicalities first, while also appropriately championing our right to decide for ourselves how we will live in a crisis-ridden world. 

When elected, I will address your practical needs first and foremost, from speed limits and pavement repair to resolving neighborhood disputes. Years as a Berkeley Peace and Justice Commissioner and on KPFA’s Local Station Board honed my skills in parliamentary procedure and negotiation. I build bridges, reaching across aisles for creative solutions and consensus. We get to “yes” when all parties communicate effectively and feel heard. 

Help elect Phoebe Anne Sorgen, a responsive Councilmember and champion of effective measures for safety from crime and disaster. Call anytime: 595-5575. Website: Elect Phoebe if you like her plans. Berkeley can set the standard for both commercial and environmental sustainability, with open government that is accountable to the people. Phoebe’s door is always open.