A fledgling political movement that is aiming to shake up Berkeley city politics held its third meeting at the Shattuck Hotel Tuesday night.
There, the Berkeley Party, a coalition of neighborhood activists allied with the Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, made initial plans to run and support candidates in this year’s City Council elections.
Members expressed their hope that the new party would eventually be able to wield the same kind of clout currently enjoyed by Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA), which has supported the “progressive” alliance on the City Council, and the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC), which has supported the “moderates.”
“The Berkeley Party is not about progressives and moderates,” said treasurer Tim Hansen. “It’s about a fair process and respect for neighborhoods.”
The party’s co-founder, Carrie Olson – who ran against Councilmember Miriam Hawley for North Berkeley’s District 5 seat in 2000 – said the party aspired to support candidates who rose above traditional politics.
“I don’t want a third force – I want a non-force,” she said. “I don’t want a City Council that’s constantly bickering.
“We’re supposed to be an educated town. We’re supposed to love our city. But the fact is that most people here tune out of local politics.”
Members of the party – which include a number of members of prominent city commissions as well as neighborhood activists – named transparency in city government and development as their top priorities.
The Berkeley Party platform includes an endorsement of a ballot initiative that would place strict height limits on new buildings in the city.
Olson said the city should discourage population growth, seeing as how it is already very crowded.
“Berkeley is the third-densest city in Northern California,” she said. “We’ve done our growth.”
“I believe that if we never have another building boom from here on out, we’d be doing just fine.”
The party platform also supports a proposal by urban planning gadfly Howie Muir, which would require the city to support consistency between its General Plan and the zoning ordinance, which tells developers what can be built where.
No specific endorsements were made at the meeting. However, several party members said the party should consider running neighborhood-friendly candidates in the upcoming election.
“We hope the Berkeley Party will be interested in encouraging people to run, and supporting them when they do,” said Olson.
Elliot Cohen, a member of the city’s Peace and Justice Commission, said current party politics prevented Berkeley from fulfilling its “historic role” as a trendsetter.
He cited the Free Speech Movement and the campaign against apartheid in South Africa as two social movements that began in Berkeley.
“We haven’t had many ideas lately that have spread across the nation lately,” said Cohen. “Why? Because the Council is too busy bickering.”
Olson said that at its next meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, the party will formalize its procedures for endorsing candidates.
The Berkeley Party’s Web site is www.berkeleyparty.com.