Climate change, police reform are at the forefront in Berkeley mayor race

Berkeley being Berkeley, it’s probably no surprise that climate change and police reform would top the list of issues that candidates for mayor say they intend to tackle.

Although they share similar priorities, the candidates offer different approaches.

Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who has led the city since 2016 and is seeking another term in the Nov. 3 election, is being challenged by  Wayne Hsiung, an environmental attorney and co-founder of animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere; Aidan Hill, a UC Berkeley student and vice chairman of the city’s Homeless Commission; and Naomi D. Pete, who also ran in 2016.

In recent interviews with this news organization, Arreguin, Hill and Hsiung all agreed climate change is an important issue for them and Berkeley. Pete did not participate in the interviews or respond to emails and calls for comment.

Hill, who identifies by using they and them pronouns and is studying political science and public policy at UC Berkeley, says one way to fight climate change change is to protect all parks in the city, which not only preserves green space but also oxygen.

Hill also notes they were the only candidate who wants to save iconic People’s Park — the scene of police-protester skirmishes over the decades — from development. Hill took part in activist actions in February against a proposal by UC Berkeley to build student housing on the park site, along with residential units for the formerly homeless and very low income residents.

Arreguin says fighting climate change doesn’t preclude housing.  “We need to build more housing,” he said. “Transportation emissions account for 60% of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, according to our climate action plan. We need to expand alternative modes of transportation, invest in micro-mobility, improve transit access, and expand our bike and pedestrian infrastructure.”

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He suggests offering incentives as well as expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure such as charging stations to reduce emissions. If the city wants to reach a carbon neutrality goal, it will need to transition its fleet of vehicles to electric, he says, and to do that it should seek grants to help pay for the associated infrastructure.

Hsiung said that as an environmental attorney, he’s handled multimillion-dollar solar panel financing. The city needs to set a target date of 2025 to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions and do three things to reach that goal: “a solar panel on every roof, an electric heat pump outside every home and electric shuttles on every road.”

Do all that, he says, and the city could reach between 80% to 90% carbon neutrality. He acknowledged that would require $400 to $500 million in additional city revenue to achieve and posits that the money could come from a combination of a gross receipts tax on businesses, an increase in the real estate transfer tax and vacancy tax for homes valued at $2 million or more and a wealth tax on households with incomes exceeding $10 million.

Police reform — defunding in particular — is also a hot campaign topic. In July, the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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