I’d like to share with Berkeley Daily Planet readers information regarding George Perezvelez’s candidacy for the City of Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board (including why I encourage them to support George).
George was born in 1964 in Puerto Rico. He served in the U.S. Navy and is a veteran of the first Gulf War. Following his military service, he lived in South Carolina and then Atlanta, where he met his partner (me) approximately 18 years ago. They have lived in Berkeley since the early 2000s. George earns his living as a restaurant general manager.
George spends much of his free time on community matters and civil rights issues, and further finds such commitments extremely gratifying. For the past three years he has served the City as an appointed member of the Police Review Commission (he is the current chair), and as a member of the Commission on Labor. He is on several subcommittees of said commissions as well. Further, he has served on community panels. For example, this year he was part of the panel entrusted with interviewing and giving recommendations to the City Manager in regards to the selection of the City’s new Chief of Police.
Since his college days, he has been involved in issues dealing with civil, minority, disability rights and outreach (participating as a member in Act Up, The Civil Rights Project and Project Open Hand (Dining Out for Life in Atlanta, GA and in San Francisco, CA), and several other political and non-profit organizations). Further, he maintains memberships in various organizations / groups (e.g., the ACLU, Sierra Club, The Stonewall Democrats, Latino Justice Pride, Human Rights Campaign, Alliance for Justice, Out4immigration.org and The National Council of La Raza).
George P’s Plans and Priorities Should he be Elected
Community Outreach and Education:
As a Hispanic and LGBT activist, George recognizes that there is a need for the Rent Board to develop an outreach program that speaks to the needs and interests of our City’s minority community. His plan is to work to identify how best to reach those groups, and once best methods are identified, will commit to holding regular meetings with said groups (one idea he’s discussed is to develop/organize a Minority Community Liaison Group (MCLG) which would meet on a regular basis and discuss minority tenant needs and interests.
George will ask key Rent Board staff to help on the outreach effort, requesting that they be present during events (prepared to respond to technical / staff assistance requests, provide follow-up contact information, etc.). For example, George envisions the Rent Board in partnership with the MCLG could hold seminars on earthquake preparedness for apartment dwellers/tenants. They could conduct educational seminars for new residents regarding what associated services (and commissions) are available within the City.
George views more can be done to craft easy to read / follow brochures regarding our housing (and rental) rules and regulations. He will work to encourage that any documents prepared be translated into multiple languages (Spanish, Chinese, etc.). More personally, as someone who speaks fluent Spanish, he can assist in translations as needed.
Our rental inventory is comprised of many buildings that would be seriously damaged if not totally destroyed when (not if) in an earthquake. George will work to encourage the expansion of programs and incentives for apartment owners to address retrofit needs. Further, he’ll partner with our Council to develop new programs and incentives. First we need a clear understanding of which units present the most threat (and hence we must work with our City inspectors to review the inventory to help make that assessment).
George believes that we as a community must recognize that some landlords, particularly those that own 2-4 units, may not be able to afford the cost to retrofit without assistance. The financial hardship of retrofitting could be diminished by possible tax breaks, no-fee permitting under special circumstances, grants and low-interest loans.
Viable and affordable low income housing initiatives:
Our economy is hurting, and some of our renters are either directly impacted (by loss of their jobs / income) or caught in the middle (when, for example, the owner of an apartment building and/or unit is foreclosed upon). Within the Rent Board’s power, George wants to make sure that there are services available to help renters, particularly minority and low-income tenants (i.e., to provide relocation assistance, to establish guidance documents / procedures for Board staff to provide to tenants as well as landlords – giving listings of who to contact / what services are available / what financial assistance may be possible / etc.). A community reference guide for those facing difficulties (tenants as well as landlords), in his view, would be a useful source of information.
Coordination with the City Council:
Although there is a mechanism by which the Rent Board and our City Council have to work together (the 4 x 4 Committee), in recent years they rarely have met (no meetings in 2010, two in 2009, and then one needs to search back to 2006). George understands that it would benefit our community to have our key electeds get together and more importantly work together – not just a couple times a year but instead on a regular basis. He is committed to re-invigorating the 4 x 4.
Other key considerations regarding Mr. Perezvelez’s candidacy (including his Pledge):
In order to set a personal example, should he be elected, George is committing (pledging) to donate his entire City salary each year, as would be received for his service on the Rent Board, to programs that benefit one or more of the following: Support of low-income housing initiatives; Programs that benefit the homeless; Programs that support victims of domestic violence / offer shelters; and/or Non-Profit housing advocacy organizations. He’d work with the community (perhaps via the MCLG, should it be formed) to help address those contribution decisions.
I much appreciate this opportunity to share with the Berkeley Daily Planet readers details surrounding Mr. Perezvelez’s candidacy.
Thomas B. Francis