Opinion: Terry Taplin is the best choice for Berkeley City Council District 2

With his lifelong commitment to racial equity, economic, environmental, and gender equality, he is the kind of homegrown leader West Berkeley needs

West Berkeley is the historic home of Berkeley’s working-class, Black, Latinx, and Asian and Pacific Islander American communities, who built a complex industrial, commercial and residential ecology of makers, merchants, artists, bakers, industrial and cultural workers working and living alongside the city’s waterfront and the bayshore.

Our District 2 community should embrace these roots by creating a thriving, multicultural, economically-diverse, and climate-resilient community with robust access to transit, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, and affordable housing near jobs.

But the fallout from redlining, downzoning, the diminishing of good union jobs, and increasing housing costs, have displaced many of our households of color. The majority of the city’s high-injury street network falls in West and South Berkeley, disproportionately impacting low-income pedestrians and cyclists of color, and making routes to parks and schools dangerous for children and families. District 2’s roads and sidewalks are some of the most poorly maintained in the city, making cane and wheelchair use unsafe. The creek and waterfront are vulnerable to contamination, soil toxicity impedes housing and green space, and its storm-water and hydraulic infrastructure need upgrades in order to mitigate climate-driven flood risk. Homelessness has mounted to a major public health crisis that demands bold, policy-driven solutions.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has seen an uptick in gunfire and assault. With multiple people left wounded and one young District 2 resident, Seth Smith, killed, we need a leader that will take gun violence seriously. We need a leader that will work with and learn from regional neighbors in the East Bay to address the socio-economic determinants of community violence and jointly invest in gun violence intervention programs. We need a leader who will implement intentional changes to make us feel safe in our own homes.

Our community is strong and resilient, with many of our residents leading mutual aid efforts to combat the impacts of the pandemic. However, in order to better confront these issues, District 2 needs a proactive, dynamic, and collaborative leader with deep ties and strong coalitions to support our community.

Terry Taplin is the kind of homegrown leader West Berkeley needs. For him, progressivism isn’t an empty promise, but a lifelong commitment to racial equity, economic, environmental, and gender equality, working-class solidarity, LGBTQ inclusivity, and disability justice.

As Vice-Chair of the Transportation Commission, he has advocated for and advanced policies to address road safety  — such as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, electric-microbility, and transit improvements — ensuring safe and accessible mobility options for all Berkeley residents. As a former Children, Youth and Recreation Commissioner, he’s fought to fund educational and recreational programs for low-income youth of color. He understands the socio-economic determinants of community violence and, as a product of the Berkeley public schools, knows the power of community investment, mentorship, restorative justice, and academic and professional development to form positive relationships with the community and encourage young people to construct a sense of self-worth for their ideas.

He is committed to combating systemic racism and advancing the city’s progressive police reforms. He is the best choice to work with neighborhoods to rebuild the bridges between the community and public safety officials, who will help steer the community safety reimagining process. As a housing justice activist, Terry had advocated for tenant protections and affordable housing, and he built relationships with regional and state officials to address homelessness. As a poet, editor, spoken word, and former Civic Arts Commissioner, he understands the precarity of West Berkeley’s working artists and cultural workers and will be an effective champion to stem the exodus of arts and innovation from the city of Berkeley. A climate leader and labor ally, Terry will work to bring together the constituencies that created the West Berkeley Plan to forge a Green New Deal for our community that will lay the cornerstone for a just economy recovery and a regenerative Berkeley for generations to come.

Terry’s track record of public service and his ability to build consensus are evident in his broad coalition of supporters. With the endorsement of every member of the Berkeley School Board and a supermajority of the Berkeley City Council, Terry brings together a wide range of elected officials who are so often divided on the issues facing our city, but not on the issue of who can best represent this district. Terry’s campaign coalition also contains a growing list of elected officials from all levels of government, labor unions, environmental organizations, and community groups. He also boasts the sole endorsement from the California Democratic Party and the stamp of approval from hundreds of District 2 residents, including those of us signing on here.

Most importantly, Terry understands the concerns and experiences of District 2’s neighborhoods. Not only was he born and raised in Southwest Berkeley, but he continues to engage with and is deeply committed to his community. He knows what it means to actively listen, and his door will be open to the families, workers, students, merchants, artists and residents he will represent on the Berkeley City Council.

Terry is the leader we’ve chosen to guide us forward and build a Berkeley where we no longer have to fear for our lives when we cross San Pablo, Dwight, or Ashby; a Berkeley where we no longer fear our children going out to play but never to return home; a Berkeley that can withstand the threats of climate change. When the seas rise, we must rise to meet them. We choose Terry.

Jesse Arreguín is the mayor of Berkeley. Karen Hemphill is a District 2 resident and a former Berkeley School Board member. Stephanie Anne Johnson is a District 2 resident and the co-curator of “African Americans in Berkeley” at the Berkeley Historical Society. Sharon Coleman is a District 2 resident, poet, and Berkeley City College instructor. Michael O’Heaney is a District 2 resident, the executive director of a Berkeley-based nonprofit organization, and the father of a freshman at Berkeley High. Ben Gardella is a District 2 resident and parent of two children in Berkeley public schools. Zac Goldstein is a District 2 resident and works in a content creation capacity for grassroots movements.  Jay Hirschton is a District 2 resident, CEO of Full Circle Fund, and parent of two.  Sharla Sullivan is a District 2 resident, EBMUD community affairs representative, and is raising a family in West Berkeley. Cristine Peterson is a District 2 resident and is pursuing an MS in counseling,. Ashley McClure is a District 2 resident, environmental activist, and a primary care doctor. Felipe Fernandez is a District 2 resident and a medicolegal death investigator, F-ABMDI.