Name: Ben Bartlett, 41, council member
What office/district are you are running for? Berkeley City Council, District 3
What is the main reason you are running? In 2016, I ran for City Council after my Mother was displaced, so people like my Mother would be protected. Once elected, I hit the ground running. In my first term, my office passed 100+ policy items centered on protecting our most vulnerable populations. But my work is not done, and I need to see through the plans we have put in motion. Major legislation generally takes around three-and-a-half years to reach the implementation phase. So my second term will be devoted to implementing my progressive initiatives. My experiences as the incumbent provide me with the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to streamline future legislation and constituent concerns and ensure that the work I have done with the community comes to fruition.
Why are you qualified? Not only am I a multi-generational Berkeley native and respected community leader, but also I am the incumbent who represents South Berkeley values. Since being elected, I used leadership and innovation to deliver affordable housing, re-imagine public safety, and ensure opportunities for all. For example, I initiated the following: 1) strengthened tenants rights and streamlined affordable housing, 2) reallocated Berkeley police funding to an unarmed Specialized Care Unit, 3) passed Paid Family Leave, and 4) funded the creation of an African American Holistic Resource Center to help reduce health inequities. See my website, benforberkeley.com, for more of my legislative accomplishments that demonstrate my qualifications to serve South Berkeley for another four years.
What sets you apart from other candidates? As your Councilmember and former neighborhood activist, I know what legislative advancements need to be prioritized because I have built strong relationships with constituents to address South Berkeley’s needs. Legislation often takes three + years to be implemented, and I am the best candidate to lead the implementation phases for the items we have successfully passed in Council. My track record is exhaustive and supports my platform.
I have deep roots in Berkeley as a multi-generational native. I’ve served on numerous boards and commissions, participated in charity work, and volunteered at non-profit and community-based organizations as a way to give back to my community. My relationships with thought leaders, the business community, local neighborhood activists, and the elected officials of Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, and the state make me a trusted partner and coalition builder on regional issues impacting not just the City of Berkeley, but the entire region.
What brought you to Berkeley and when did you come? Generations ago, my family escaped the South in search of a better life. They found Freedom in Berkeley, a place they call home. As mentioned previously, I’m a Berkeley native and have lived here off and on for the majority of my life. My family’s story inspires me to help make Berkeley a beacon of acceptance, equity, and process.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? The three largest challenges facing Berkeley today are income inequality, lack of affordable housing, and public safety.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? To address income inequality: I will ensure all workers are entitled to a minimum wage and I will create job opportunities for the youth, as well as programs to develop crucial skills to create opportunities for upward mobility. I also fully support a local Green New Deal to strengthen our local businesses and empower our workers.
To address the lack of low-income housing, I will leverage market-rate development to acquire apartment buildings and create subsidized housing. I plan on continuing to unite state and local resources to fund affordable housing in Berkeley. In the last year, my office wrote the $300,000+ grant that allowed RCD to create plans that allowed them to successfully secure $40M in affordable housing for South Berkeley. We intend to continue working with non-profit housing developers to create an affordable housing boom.
To address and transform public safety, I will institute police reform that tackles immediate issues such as excessive use of force and barriers to accountability, as well as long-term solutions such as mandatory de-escalation and racial bias training. This summer, I authored and passed the George Floyd Community Safety Act, a police reform plan that will reinvest police funding into a Specialized Care Unit (SCU) of unarmed crisis workers who will handle noncriminal cases, including situations regarding mental health crises and homelessness. In my next term, I will focus on the implementation phase of this initiative.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? In response to the increase in homelessness, we designed Step Up Housing–prefabricated supportive housing with a federally qualified healthcare center and services provider. This process greatly lowers the cost and speed of development. Jurisdictions are studying our initiative as a potential solution to California’s growing homeless crisis and healthcare deserts. Inspired by our work, a local developer has teamed up with a major labor union to mass-produce housing.
How will you be accessible to constituents? If re-elected, I will continue to have community office hours and an open doors policy to allow for meaningful engagement. Not only will I set up events for people to chat with me, but also constituents can contact me directly to set up a time to meet, discuss issues, and figure out how my office could best support their needs. I strive to listen to those most impacted, so I can better understand the community’s first-hand experiences and gain an accurate perception of their experience.
What year were you elected and what have been your biggest accomplishments? I was elected in 2016. My biggest accomplishment is the passage of my “Step Up Housing” Initiative – Supportive Housing for Homeless and Very Low-Income People. Slated to be built on 1367 University Avenue, the process was streamlined through SB 35 and will be implemented once funding has been approved. This initiative has the potential to solve homelessness by housing the homeless community in prefabricated modular micro-units with six floors and a service provider and medical facility on the first floor. The process of passing this item took innovation and bringing together groups who were in opposition to pass it. I was and still am a strong supporter of this item because housing is a human right, and it is critical that housing is both affordable and accessible to our communities.
Are you using public financing? No
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $35,000
Share a personal interest or passion people might be surprised to learn about. My passion is writing, directing, and producing theater, screenplays, short films, short stories and studying symbolic analysis.