Op-ed: The long and short of Cheryl Davila, candidate for City Council

Cheryl Davila is running to represent her neighbors in District 2 and to defeat Darryl Moore on the Berkeley City Council in November. Cheryl happens to be really short — standing barely at 4’ 11” even wearing her cowgirl boots (she and I see eye to eye, politically and literally since I am 4’ 9”). Don’t be fooled by Cheryl’s stature because she is a giant on the issues we care about, locally and globally.

Briefly, before addressing the issues, Cheryl has won my support because of her personal qualities: honesty, modesty, her sense of responsibility to the community, and her reverence for culture—her own and the cultures of people around her. At all of her campaign events, she makes a place for music, dance, and poetry. The richness of cultural diversity in West Berkeley (District 2) surely will be upheld and protected if Cheryl is elected.

Cheryl is the height of clear thinking about the current housing crisis. She supports the bold idea of organizing in the Bay Area to repeal the state law, Costa Hawkins. (The law that now ties the hands of local authorities and activists from controlling spiraling rent prices). Cheryl’s most ardent supporters are discussing with her a plan to convene a regional conference of affordable housing advocates and grassroots organizers to initiate a formal regional (eventually statewide) movement leading to the repeal of Costa Hawkins. Many of the people I know support this idea.

The paradigm around affordable housing is changing with Cheryl’s campaign. She clarifies for us the meaning of “affordable.” It means that city-designated affordable housing units should cost no more than 30% of one’s income. This is a standard developed by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is a federal standard. In a better world, imagine rent or mortgage payments linked to one’s income, rather than to a rental or housing market!

Cheryl stands tall on genuine, grassroots democracy. I am impressed by her endorsement of establishing neighborhood assemblies (as recently put forth by a group called West Berkeley Neighbors and as already practiced in neighboring Richmond). A neighborhood assembly is an informal policy-making body composed of real people in a neighborhood who come together around local problems, who generate new ideas and resolutions to problems, and who then make demands on their elected representative.

In our present system, we elect representatives, and they talk politics among themselves. The structure of this traditional system doesn’t work because it separates us from the decision-making process and the decisions are often made against you and me. Cheryl supports changing this structure so that the act of electing a representative would have real meaning.

Cheryl takes a long view and deep analysis when addressing issues of social justice. I’ve reviewed Cheryl’s track record of taking courageous positions while serving for 9 years on Berkeley’s Human Rights and Community Action Commission. In this respect, her thinking and advocacy aligns with the new platform of the Movement for Black Lives, which makes six primary demands: end the war on black people, reparations, invest-divest, economic justice, community control and political power.

Part of Cheryl’s own platform points to the need to demilitarize Berkeley’s police force (including cutting ties with Urban Shield) and to transform police culture. Such a transformation might take the form of assisting officers to interact with the poor, homeless people and people of color with respect and assistance. Cheryl argues for more money to be spent on mental health crisis services and care and housing for people who are homeless. Ironically, the military-grade weapons and training associated with Urban Shield result in the repression of these same people—the poor, disabled, homeless, and of course, protesters.

Everything Cheryl does privately and publicly recognizes the humanity and dignity of all people. Cornel West has said that “love becomes justice in the public sphere.”  Cheryl pursues her vision for West Berkeley and the wider city and region by expressing love and fighting for justice.

Cheryl is short, but she towers over the incumbent on critical issues of housing, gentrification, policing, the practice of democracy, and paths to social justice. We need Cheryl Davila on Berkeley’s City Council!

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Kathryn Horsley, Doctor of Public Health, is retired from community health assessment work in California and Washington states as well as in East Africa and the Arabian Gulf. She has lived in Berkeley for 10 years, volunteers with KPFA Radio, and serves as treasurer on Cheryl Davila's campaign.