Election Section

We Can’t Afford to Lose Kriss on Council!

By Nancy Carleton (Reader Commentary)
Tuesday October 26, 2010 - 11:51:00 PM

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?” asks the Joni Mitchell song. In my neighborhood we did the song in reverse and unpaved a parking lot to recreate a bit of paradise in the form of Halcyon Commons. I hope my neighbors will heed the song’s message as they cast their ballots. 

I’ve lived in Berkeley since starting UC Berkeley in 1978. As one of the co-founders of Halcyon Neighborhood Association (HNA) in 1992, I attended dozens of meetings to shepherd our new park through a myriad of commissions and the City Council. As Co-Chair of HNA for 18 years and past member of two City commissions, I can testify that there’s never been a harder working or more effective councilmember than Kriss Worthington. 

One of the most cynical attempts to deflect attention from Kriss’s accomplishments has been opponent George Beier’s focus on crime and Telegraph. As someone who’s been working for two decades on crime watch in South Berkeley right on the border with North Oakland, I both take crime very seriously and am realistic enough to know that no one person and no one councilmember can wave a wand and make it all better. Cynical forces, whether campaigns or the conservative Chamber of Commerce, try to play on our fears. Yet the main thing I’ve learned from years working on public safety is that a partnership approach can make a difference, and things can improve. In fact, both property crime and violent crime are down in Berkeley, and occupancy rates are up on Telegraph, but you wouldn’t know it from Kriss’s opponents’ expensive campaign mailers. 

Interesting how these issues are trotted out every election season, and yet somehow no one seems to recognize that trashing South Berkeley and Telegraph to win votes discourages people from coming here to shop! Shirley Dean did it, and once again Beier is joining her. 

Of course, any crime is horrible for its victims and raises fears in the rest of us. What we need from our councilmember, however, isn’t a superhero, but someone willing to be a full partner in our efforts. We already have that in Kriss, who has helped form multiple neighborhood-watch groups and has shown up whenever we’ve asked for help fighting crime. The reality is that Kriss has passed more items on public safety than any other councilmember! Kriss even helped resolve a death threat related to drug dealing that I received in my capacity as co-founder of our night-time safety walks. We couldn’t have a councilmember more committed to public safety! 

It’s also worth noting that Kriss, in a down economy, has helped many small businesses on Telegraph renegotiate leases so they can afford to stay open. In my own neighborhood, Kriss played a pivotal role in saving beloved Ashby Flowers when a big corporation tried to evict them. Four years ago, Pat Cody, Co-Founder of Cody’s Books, pointed out the absurdity of Beier’s attempts to blame Kriss for Cody’s closing; I’m counting on my neighbors seeing through this year’s absurdities about Telegraph and crime. This doesn’t mean we don’t still have work to do — of course we do! — but Kriss has proven he’s the one best suited to lead us forward. 

Kriss’s record in passing City Council items (with a 98% success rate) is so impressive that one of his opponents — Beier again — has sent at least several of my neighbors to Kriss’s City website to look at the list with the suggestion that since Kriss is passing so many items, he’s clearly neglecting neighborhood and constituent concerns! What could Beier do but try to turn Kriss’s accomplishments into negatives? 

This cynical spin couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, in addition to passing groundbreaking progressive legislation — including the Equal Benefits Ordinance, Zero Waste Ordinance, and Living Wage Ordinance, which have served as models for other cities — Kriss’s office has a stellar reputation for constituent services. 

I haven’t even gotten to the dozens of neighbors I know who’ve received direct support from Kriss in resolving issues large and small — from noise to debris to rats to parking. Life in a dense urban area can be messy, and the forces of entropy are great. But even neighbors from other districts call Kriss’s office for help with their problems, because he’s known for getting things done! 

In addition, throughout his time on Council Kriss has made sure that our District 7 neighborhoods, from Northside to Le Conte, Willard, Bateman, and Halcyon, have been getting our fair share of City resources for street repaving, storm drain upgrades, and pothole filling. He’s shown up in the middle of the night to help place sandbags on Deakin back when storm drains were flooding, and then made sure that affected blocks got moved ahead on the City’s schedule so it wouldn’t happen again. 

The real question at the heart of this campaign — why wouldn’t we return to office a councilmember who’s doing such excellent work? — remains unanswered. 

I’m a proud supporter of Kriss’s reelection and volunteer as his treasurer because we can’t afford to lose the most effective and hardest working councilmember I’ve witnessed during my thirty-two years in Berkeley — one who is also a progressive leader who has passed legislation that has been a model for cities nationwide. In Kriss, we have a representative who’s both excellent at the nuts and bolts of constituent services while also passing more items that magnify Berkeley’s positive impact in the world than any other councilmember. 

Don’t wait until he’s gone to realize what we’ve got! Visit KrissWorthington.com to find out what you can do to keep Kriss on City Council! 

Nancy Carleton is Co-Chair of Halcyon Neighborhood Association (which doesn’t make endorsements), former Chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board, former Vice Chair of the Parks & Recreation Commission, and Co-Founder and Past President of Berkeley Partners for Parks. She has been recognized by the Commission on the Status of Women as an Outstanding Woman of Berkeley for her neighborhood activism, and she also volunteers as treasurer for Kriss Worthington for City Council 2010.