Kriss Worthington, wearing a Gryffindor tie, stood on the steps of the municipal building to announce his mayoral race. Photo: Lance Knobel

City councilmember Kriss Worthington today announced his entry into Berkeley’s mayoral contest. Worthington has been a councilmember since 1996, representing District 7 in south Berkeley.

“Someone has to stand up and say to the mayor that what you’re doing is unaffordable, unreasonable and damaging to the people of Berkeley,” Worthington said, standing on the steps of the city’s municipal building on Milvia. “Every single council meeting it seems the mayor is drifting more to the right.”

He joins incumbent Mayor Tom Bates, Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Mary Rose Kaczorowski, Jacquelyn McCormick, Zachary RunningWolf, and Mark Schwartz in the mayoral contest. Worthington’s own District 7 council seat is not up for election this year, so he would retain his council seat if his mayoral bid does not succeed. 

Worthington released this morning a ten-point “practical people’s platform”, outlining “things a Berkeley mayor could accomplish”. It includes family-friendly council meetings, a call for greater diversity on city commissions, fiscal responsibility and “cost-effective progressive policy”, among other points.

At his public announcement, Worthington tore into Bates, criticizing him for “institutionalized tokenism”, “squelching” progressive policies, and “not only advocating bad policies… but dragging other council members with him”.

Worthington suggested that he only decided to run for mayor following last week’s City Council meeting, and the decision to place a $30 million streets and watershed bond on the ballot in November. He wanted to concentrate on watershed which was the greater environmental issue, he said.

“The City Council said, ‘No, we’re not going to do what’s right for the environment,’” he said. “To me, the rejection of the environmental groups and the rejection of south and west Berkeley’s demands for fairness really got me upset.”

Worthington said the watershed bond was typical of progressive issues that he believed would once have passed through the City Council easily.

“These policies are being squelched primarily by the mayor,” he said. “All too often people just cave into the mayor, either through fear, or sometimes friendship or sentiment.”

“Berkeley used to be a trailblazing city,” Worthington said. “In recent years it has been a battle to get Berkeley in the first 100 cities to do something.” He cited Berkeley’s tardiness in implementing a plastic bag ban as typical. “Some people say Richmond and San Pablo have more progressive city councils than Berkeley.”

Worthington said he could provide “a serious challenge from a liberal or progressive point of view” against Mayor Bates.

“We have to have a mayor that stands up against the Chamber of Commerce and for the small businesses of Berkeley,” Worthington said. “Instead of partnering with the unions and non-profits, we have a mayor who is drifting to the center right.”

While Worthington had plenty of criticisms for Bates, he singled out fellow councilmembers Max Anderson and Jesse Arreguín for praise on a number of issues. But he said he had not yet sought any endorsements.

“The only person I’ve consulted so far is my boyfriend,” Worthington said. “I have not asked a single soul for an endorsement yet.”

Beat poet joins crowded field for mayoral race [07.19.12]
Max Anderson kicks off council re-election campaign
Jacquelyn McCormick vows to be a more inclusive mayor [06.18.12]
Sophie Hahn announces candidacy for City Council [05.09.12]
Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates announces his re-election bid [04.26.12]

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...