Public Comment

Shirley Dean and the Health of Berkeley

By Yvonne “Voni” Knebel Dwyer
Thursday October 30, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

I am endorsing Shirley Dean for Mayor of Berkeley; I firmly believe that her program of 50 solutions to the current crisis and problems of the City of Berkeley will benefit the entire population of the city, especially those of us who are disabled and with special needs. I lived in Berkeley during Mrs. Dean’s first term as Mayor and know that disability services were much better funded and more extensive then. 

Disabled with multiple sclerosis for 20 years and with fibromyalgia for a year, I am low-income, collecting Social Security Disability in order to live. I believe Dean’s election is crucial for my health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of Berkeley as a whole. 

Unlike current incumbent Mayor Bates, I find Shirley Dean open, honest, and caring. She has lived in Berkeley and worked tirelessly for this city all her life including her two terms as mayor from 1994-2002. 

I have never done more than vote in elections before. Now I find myself forced in good conscience, while seriously ill with my two chronic, auto-immune illnesses, to campaign for Shirley Dean and Barack Obama. I also had never attended a City Council Meeting before this last year either. Four times, seriously ill, in my electric wheelchair, I have felt compelled to go to the meetings to speak on behalf of the environment of both my Berkeley neighborhood and the 100-year-old Veteran’s Memorial Oak Grove which was located on the UC Berkeley campus, a supposedly public institution over which we, the public, should have some rights and control. 

The atmosphere at the City Council meeting was distressing and almost horrifying to me. I found Mayor Bates dismissive of the “average” citizen of Berkeley or any Councilmembers who disagreed with him. I saw him looking bored or swaying in his chair, obviously looking everywhere but at the person speaking. It is clear to me—I have a master’s degree in Ecological Psychology (the relationship between people and nature) and have studied body language—that he does not care how anyone who he feels disagrees with his agenda. Tom Bates is incompetent at leading a community and needs to be voted out of office, in my opinion and experience. 

My Elmwood neighborhood was spared the attentions of the developer that Mayor Bates wanted to have convert a garage on Ashby Ave. into a nightclub with no parking, but we lost the battle for the oak grove. It was clear to me from his actions at the meetings that Mayor Bates supported the university’s agenda over that of the citizens of Berkeley. I did not know that the City Council had voted in private session to allow UC to cut down the oak grove by not appealing the court’s decision, but the symptoms of my illnesses worsened the day the oaks died and have not yet improved. 

Candidate and former mayor Dean differs immensely from Bates. She wants UC Berkeley to pay for the 14 million dollars in city services that they currently use for free. She plans to set budget priorities so that basic core services, such as street and sidewalk repair, police and fire services, and services to the disabled in compliance with the ADA, are adequately funded. She would like to start a “Buy Local” campaign so that 60 cents of every dollar spent locally benefits the citizens of Berkeley. 

Many of her 50 points are very environmental and green. Shirley Dean, who is a mature woman, actually climbed up into one of trees of the oak grove that was being protected by tree-sitters in the one of the longest urban tree-sits on record. I saw her speak eloquently for the grove at a City Council meeting. Do not let these precious lives die in vain. Vote out of power all those who through their actions or inactions allowed this destruction to happen! 

I was dumbfounded by the amount and quality of endorsements that Mayor Bates has. Have any of these people actually seen him in his role at a City Council meeting? The endorsement by Loni Hancock is a bit more understandable—they are married! I am told that Loni Hancock was a good mayor of Berkeley. I voted for her at the state level, but will never do so again while she continues to be married to this man. 

I used to trust the Sierra Club recommendations for candidates, but I do not see how a man who supported the University destroying a 100-year-old oak grove to build an athletic training facility in front of a worn-out stadium on an earthquake fault or who champions gross over-development in Berkeley can be considered environmental and green. Josh Kornbluth I respect as an artist/actor but not his political sense in endorsing Bates. Finally, Barbara Lee is a hero of mine; she was the only congressperson with enough integrity to oppose the President’s war in Iraq, but she obviously does not know Tom Bates. 

Both Berkeley and the U.S. of A. need a drastic change. Please vote your conscience, and if you do, I believe it will be these two candidates: Shirley Dean locally and Barack Obama nationally. Please give me and other disabled people the Berkeley and the nation that cares about our needs, and not just money and greed. 


Yvonne “Voni” Knebel Dwyer is a resident of Berkeley and has an Ecological Psychology.