Three candidates are running for the District 7 seat on the City Council. They are, from left: Rigel Robinson, Aidan Hill and Ces Rosales. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Election Day is four weeks away, but early voting has already begun in Alameda County.

In recent weeks, the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville got all the Berkeley City Council candidates onstage to answer questions in a speedy round-robin. For District 7, that meant Ces Rosales, Rigel Robinson and Aidan Hill were on the mic. Notably missing from the stage was sitting District 7 Councilman Kriss Worthington, who is stepping down from the job after more than two decades, leaving an open seat.

Candidates each had one minute to answer questions on a range of topics, from housing and crime to homelessness and racial equity. The event took place at Berkeley City College on Sept. 19.

The first question for the group focused on public safety, and what the candidates might do to address rising crime in Berkeley.

Hill pledged, first and foremost, to “make sure that everyone in our city has adequate nutrition,” including plant-based diets and access to water. Hill said Berkeley needs to ensure that the city isn’t simply criminalizing the poorest and most at-risk. Hill said tiny houses and other pathways to housing would be potential solutions to the question of rising crime. The city’s approach to policing — and institutions “that profit off of its criminalization” — must also be rethought, Hill added.

Rosales brought up the frequent laptop grabs near campus, and said she’d like to see more community policing and partnerships between police and local residents. She said better coordination between UC Berkeley and city police would also be beneficial.

Robinson said expanding late-night transit options and improving lighting would help people in the neighborhood. He said he’d like to push PG&E to do more with lighting, and called it “unacceptable” that students are feeling increasingly unsafe — and unwilling — to walk between home and campus.

On how to address the housing crisis in Berkeley, Rosales said the answer is to “build, build, build.” She said getting more housing at all income levels would be important, as would urging UC Berkeley to “step up” with more student housing.

Robinson said measures O and P, on the ballot this fall, will provide important revenue. He said the city should protect the homeless and defend vulnerable tenants, but also build more densely around campus and along key transit corridors.

Hill said the answer would be “to build smarter and not larger,” noting that “highrises encroaching” on UC Berkeley could be dangerous in the case of a natural disaster. Hill said People’s Park should remain a green space, and that tiny houses could be one key regional solution. Hill also said “thousands of beds” are already available in homes in Berkeley, and that people should come together to invite in those in need.

The candidates also were asked whether Berkeley should remain in the Urban Shield tactical exercise run by the Alameda County sheriff’s office.

Robinson said he supported the vote, by council members Kate Harrison and Cheryl Davila, to pull police from the Urban Shield tactical drills. Hill expressed being “100% against” Urban Shield, and pledged to work to create “a full and completely independent Police Review Commision if elected.” Rosales said she’s against police militarization, but sees the exercise as one that offers important training.

Robinson noted, in response to a question about addressing racial and gender inequities in Berkeley, that he was excited to see that all three candidates in District 7 are “incredible activist people of color.” He said UC Berkeley, as the biggest employer in the area, needs to address wage gaps across genders and races. Robinson said being “more intentional” about commission appointments could also increase diversity in an important way.

Hill described having been displaced as a result of the protests in Berkeley last year, which began with Milo Yiannopoulos’ failed attempt to speak on campus.

“If you’re black, you’re always in an abusive relationship with the police, the overseeing force, those who tell us what to do, when to do it, where to go, when to not stay. And same with gender in the sense that you’re not given the voice or the right to speak as yourself, that your body’s not your own. And I think there’s good lessons to learn from both of these,” Hill said.

Rosales said, despite Berkeley’s history as a leading proponent of equity and racial justice, “It’s not enough, we know that.” She said the city is losing its diversity as, for example, black people leave South Berkeley for a number of reasons, and that the city must do more to address the issue and continue to be a leader: “I want us to be conscientious around the issue that there is this rising community that wants help, attention and respect.”

Berkeleyside candidate Q&As (in ballot order)

Learn more about all three candidates, and where to find them online, in the Q&As below.

Video of the forum appears below

YouTube video

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...