Name: Stephen Murphy
Job: Associate director, Alameda County Family Justice Center
What office are you are running for? Berkeley City Council, District 5
What is the main reason you are running? I have spent my career dedicated to public service and social justice and I want to build upon my experience and relationships to help my community. As a father of three children under the age of 7, I care a great deal about the quality of life in our neighborhood. I fell in love with Berkeley when I moved here 26 years ago and I want to ensure that Berkeley continues to be a place where everyone has choices for a good life. We must enact new initiatives to ensure that Berkeley is safe, prosperous, and accessible for all.
Why are you qualified for the position? In my professional life, I serve as the Associate Director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center. I deal firsthand with serious problems affecting marginalized communities. I have dedicated my life to pursuing social justice and my desire for justice and equity has resonated with voters.
I have been serving the Berkeley community for five years as an appointee on numerous commissions and boards addressing housing affordability, economic development, public safety, equity, and homelessness. I have a long track record of accomplishing goals and building bridges between divergent perspectives. As the unanimously-elected Chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission, I understand the importance of consensus building for addressing the needs of District 5 residents. Each day, I hear about your desire for a safe, prosperous, and vibrant city. I can offer a fresh, independent perspective in addressing these challenges. Solutions are at hand, but existing resources are not always effectively aligned. To realign resources or launch new solutions, conditions of trust and common purpose must prevail. I bring a mindset that is geared towards pragmatic and collaborative solutions, and I have gained the trust of the majority of Council Members needed to make these solutions a reality.
What sets you apart from other candidates? Berkeley wants its representatives to build consensus and implement sound, reasonable, and progressive policies. I am the best candidate to implement this vision. My opponent co-authored Measure R in 2014 which would have upended our Downtown Plan. This award-winning plan was created after hundreds of public meetings over the course of 10 years. My opponent was one of the principal authors of this measure to overturn the community-based process.I led the effort to reject the measure my opponent wrote and luckily, 80% of District 5 voters agreed with me. I believe we should pursue progressive, cooperative approaches in tackling our community’s problems.
While my opponent has supported ballot measures that have been repeatedly voted down by the voters, I simply believe that my policies align more with District 5 voters. I also believe in bringing positivity and collaboration to City Council. I think many residents are exhausted by unending mudslinging in politics and really just want someone to implement thoughtful policies. I believe that we can tackle our pressing problems in a collaborative and constructive manner.
(My fellow parents at Washington Elementary School think it would be great to have their voice represented at Council too!)
How did you end up in Berkeley? I came to Cal in 1990 on a baseball scholarship and met my wife Monalisa soon after. I knew a number of Cal students who had attended Berkeley High School and was so impressed by their high emotional intelligence. I decided during my first year at Cal that eventually I wanted to raise my children in Berkeley and send them to Berkeley public schools. I am not disappointed. The city and university form a socially and intellectually engaging community. The serene parks, grand vistas and fabulous people offer an environment for reflection and connection. We are never leaving.
What are the three biggest challenges Berkeley faces in the near future?
Homelessness: As the Associate Director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center, I work every week with families who are suffering from homelessness. Homelessness has a ripple effect not only on the individuals and families experiencing homelessness but on the community at large. It is inhumane to allow people to live on our streets.
I also understand there is a difference between homelessness and dangerous and unhealthy street behavior. For this reason, I am in favor of the Community Sidewalk Ordinance. Unlike my opponent, I believe it is reasonable to disallow public urination and defecation and limit the amount of space where one can spread their belongings on the sidewalk only if we also provide free storage and public bathrooms. I think this is compassionate and fair.
Public Safety: I walk down Cedar Street every day with my three young children. I want them to be just as safe as every resident and visitor to Berkeley. Not only do we need to reduce crime in our community, we need to make pedestrian safety a high priority in District 5 by promoting walkable, safe communities. I am honored to have earned the support of the police and firefighters.
Affordability: Housing affordability is an enormous challenge in our community. We need to make sure people can afford to live and retire here. As the Chair of the Planning Commission, I have worked on this issue extensively. I was instrumental in making it easier to legalize and create accessory dwelling units or granny flats in Berkeley. Accessory dwelling units are one source of low-cost housing because they are much less expensive to build than a traditional infill unit. This is just one of many examples of how my work on the Planning Commission will help families throughout District 5.
What are your ideas to solve them?
Homelessness: Through my work at the Family Justice Center, I know firsthand the importance of implementing a Housing First policy and providing wraparound services and permanent supportive housing. I also am realistic about what one city can do when this is a regional crisis. The City needs to collaborate with other municipalities to address homelessness. The most critical need is funding and making sure we are spending that money wisely. We need more mental health services, shelter beds, and supportive housing. At the same time, we need to take a hard look at how our current services are functioning using performance metrics. We cannot afford to waste one dime in supporting ineffective services because in the end, that just hurts more homeless individuals.
Public Safety: Presently we have only one officer patrolling both District 5 and District 6. I will work to increase those numbers. Many District 5 residents also complain of an increase in property damage crimes. I will work with Berkeley Police to better understand the nature of these crimes and how to combat and help our residents feel safe. In addition, we must prepare for a potential natural disaster. I will work with the Berkeley Fire Department to implement a comprehensive District 5 wide plan to identify escape arterials, well organized blocks and temporary shelters.
Affordable Housing: We need to take a hard look at our permitting processes in Berkeley. Our community needs affordable housing now and not in five years. We need to streamline the cumbersome permitting process in order to create housing for our workers, families, and retirees. We also need to pursue workforce and teacher housing in our community by creating affordable housing on city or BUSD land so our teachers and city employees can live in our city (and reduce their carbon footprint).
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? We will reopen the Oaks Theater. As a boardmember of From Little Acorns Grow, I am currently working to save the theater. We will screen movies on the weekend and host music and arts events during the week. This is just one of my ideas to improve Solano Avenue.
How will you be accessible to constituents? First and foremost, I will be vigilant about responding to constituent inquiries. Councilmembers must be responsive and available. I will continue Laurie Capitelli’s popular monthly “coffee with the councilmember.” I will rotate these coffees throughout the various business districts in District 5. I will sponsor numerous informational sessions between District 5 residents and the Berkeley Fire Department and the Berkeley Police Department to discuss public safety and disaster preparedness. I will regularly attend neighborhood gatherings such as block parties and CERT group meetings.
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $45,000
A final thought? I hope I can earn your vote to represent you in District 5. I promise to offer a positive, independent and fresh perspective. Please join Loni Hancock, Nancy Skinner, the mayor and majority of City Council, every endorsing school board member, Berkeley Firefighters, Berkeley Police, Berkeley Democratic Club, League of Conservation Voters, Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus, Alameda Labor Council and many trade unions, and hundreds of District 5 residents in supporting my candidacy. I would like to represent your ideas, your voices, and your vision. If you would like more information about my campaign, please visit www.stephenmurphy2016.com.