Public Comment

Here We Go! Early Voting Starts October 8th.

Russ Tilleman
Monday October 08, 2018 - 12:42:00 PM

I began my campaign for Berkeley City Council District 8 in April, but my reasons for running go back a lot further than that.

Like many people, I started out not being very active politically. I voted and sometimes I donated a little money. I watched the news and tried to pay attention to what was going on. Then things happened that made me get involved. 


In 2005, I watched a young Berkeley woman die from a gunshot wound a block from my house. When the tarp was thrown over her body, I watched her friend running around screaming like I had never heard anyone scream before. Thirteen years later, I can still hear that when I think about it. 

I'm sure everyone who knew the woman or was there when she died was profoundly affected. I felt strange for several days. I'd never seen anyone die on the sidewalk before. 

It should never have happened. 


In 2011, I started driving through the Warring and Derby intersection on a regular basis. It is four blocks from my house but it was off my usual path before then. I noticed that the stop sign for southbound Warring traffic was located 25 feet before the crosswalk. When drivers pulled up to the limit line, the sign was so far behind them that it couldn't be seen. 

I was shocked that the stop sign was so badly placed, especially because a young pedestrian had been killed in that exact crosswalk by a vehicle going that same direction just two years before. I contacted the City of Berkeley and convinced them to move the sign to a place where drivers could see it. 

That sign should never have been where it was. 


In 2013, a friend told me about police in the city she had just moved from shooting her boyfriend to death right in front or her for no good reason. Officers had stopped the two of them while they were walking his dog, because someone claimed her boyfriend had stolen something which in fact had not been stolen by anyone. An officer told him to hand over the knife he had in his pocket. When he did, another officer shot him twice for having it in his hand. 

The officer who killed him had previously been suspended for tasering an innocent high school student in the head out the window of his patrol car, also for no good reason. 

Neither of those incidents should have happened. 


In addition to these deaths, I saw two bicyclists and a pedestrian taken away in ambulances from the Parker and College intersection next to my house, due to three different collisions with automobiles. And a Berkeley police officer threatened to shoot my dog to death after I called about a minor non-emergency issue. Also my house was broken into on two separate occasions over the years and in both cases I had to confront the intruder myself. And the City of Berkeley wasted significant resources on greenwashed projects, when they could have put the same effort into really helping the environment. 

I tried to work with the incumbent District 8 Council member Lori Droste on issues like these, but she wouldn't help me and didn't even seem interested in them. I think she has a different approach to government than I do. I see government as a way for a community to work collectively to solve problems that aren't effectively addressed by the private sector. 

I also believe that the people of this country still hold the real power, we just aren't exercising it. If everyone who lives in the USA contributed around one dollar a month, we could outspend all the lobbyists and buy back our government. 

Americans have been encouraged to believe that it is not their place in life to actively participate in the political process. I felt that way myself until I was forced by events to reconsider. 

If I can change anyone can! And if enough people exercise the power they have, the world will become a better place. 


Our society is facing plenty of challenges. And I believe there are good, affordable solutions to many of these problems. But these solutions aren't being implemented. 

In many cases, our elected officials have more incentives to preserve the problems we are facing than to solve them. Lori Droste has taken campaign money from the Berkeley police union, and now she has voted against police reform. The City of Berkeley congratulates itself for finally finding a semi-permanent location for a homeless shelter. But that shelter only holds five percent of Berkeley's homeless. 

Why don't we... 

...Hold Berkeley police accountable when they beat up innocent people or suppress evidence that leads to a woman being raped and murdered in her own home? 

...Close off a few unneeded blocks of Berkeley streets, like Bowditch next to People's Park, and build inexpensive hangar-type buildings on this valuable City-owned property to permanently shelter all of Berkeley's homeless, many of whom are disabled? 

...Turn Alta Bates hospital into single-payer so everyone in Berkeley has full health coverage and full access to health care, instead of letting Sutter close it down? 

...Put enough Neighborhood Electric Vehicles at BART stations for inexpensive all-day or overnight rental that everyone who wants to can get out of their cars and in to door-to-door transit? 

If I am elected, these are the kinds of things I will be working on, plus doing everything I can to help the residents of District 8 receive proper support from the City of Berkeley. I think we can and should attempt to make some important changes, because things are not going to get better, locally, nationally or globally, unless something changes.