The Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers’ monthly meeting filled the North Berkeley Senior Center large meeting room with reporters, photographers, and senior citizens-elders-boomers on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 afternoon. Maggie Kuhn —she who contended that “Power should not be concentrated in the hands of so few, and powerlessness in the hands of so many”— would have been pleased with the turn-out and how the Meet the Candidates for Berkeley Mayor forum was conducted.
The event had been noted in the Panthers September Newsletter and the Planet’s Election Section and Senior Power column. It began almost on time. Panthers Co-Convenor Margot Smith greeted the goodly crowd, and Moderator George Lippman of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission checked that the sound amplification was working well (much appreciated by everyone, including this 86-year old, hearing-impaired reporter) and then clarified the procedure.
Opening statements, questions provided on cards by audience members, and concluding questions were addressed by mayoral candidates Jacqueline McCormick, Kriss Worthington, Tom Bates, Zachary Running Wolf, and Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi (left-to-right on stage) as they presented their positions and discussed their visions for Berkeley.
Four areas of questioning provided the framework of concerns of senior citizens and disabled persons: housing, transportation, city Council meetings, and positions on Measures S and T. (Seniors’ health was not specified, but their transportation and housing undergird their health.) There were too many “you guys,” but what can you do.
Tom Bates pushed his having been Berkeley Mayor for ten years, dropped names several times, and pointed to school system successes. Kriss Worthington pushed his sixteen years on Council. Zachary Running Wolf refreshingly named names of two developers who should be penalized—Ali Kashani and Patrick Kennedy. Jacqueline McCormick noted developers must contribute to the Housing Trust Fund. In the budget discussion. She was first to point out that social services for seniors have been cut back by 57%. Service center and parking citations management were identified several times as problems.
A question card from the audience confounded Section 8, the Berkeley Housing Authority (i.e., Authorities I and II) and so-called affordable housing, to which an entire forum could be devoted. The possibility of CVS opening in the old, now vacant, Andronico’s Market location on Telegraph Avenue was mentioned; likewise, construction of a student dormitory next to Stuart Pratt Manor on Durant Avenue (senior/disabled housing now being rehabilitated).
Beginning in June 2012, an invitation has been included in each Senior Power column: All candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders. Individual invitations were also sent to candidates for Berkeley Mayor and City Council.
I have received one statement, from Sophie Hahn, candidate for City Council, District 5. None of the other mayoral and councilor candidates has provided a statement. What might be concluded from this? Several things, possibly… depending on one’s reading interests, politics, income, and demographics. And of course, depending on any regard you may or may not have for a Senior Power column. Or, is it possible that thirteen candidates consider that they have no accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens?
Of fourteen candidates for Mayor and Council memberships, apparently there is one who is concerned with seniors’ health, housing, transportation. She is not running for the office of Berkeley mayor. Three are: Kriss Worthington,Tom Bates and Jacquelyn McCormick.
Helen Rippier Wheeler is the Planet's "Senior Power" columnist.