My mother works harder than anyone I know. She is in countless meetings, working long hours, reading thousand-page agenda packets, speaking at rallies, protests and marches, drafting legislation, holding community events, public office hours, helping constituents deal with every issue imaginable and bearing the emotional burden of pushing her colleagues to take principled positions that they are too afraid to do on their own. Look at her website and go through her list of achievements and her current platform. It’s comprehensive and vast.
She is keeping Berkeley’s poorest residents alive by expanding shower programs and extending shelter hours, delivering food, watchdogging the city’s execution of city services, arguing against over-policing and against further criminalization and excessive fines.
She created a legacy event called Caring for the Community in which residents and unhoused people would discuss the current housing crisis, hear stories from people, sharing the history of redlining in Berkeley and confronting racist-classist animosity. She has been the voice of conscience shaming us when people’s rights and needs are violated. When people on the streets died of old age, sickness and despair she held vigils, honoring their lives and holding space for community grief, reminding us that their lives mattered while many of us grow numb to those struggling in our midst. She knows that the city has proportionately overbuilt market-rate housing, and underbuilt affordable housing. When housing issues come up at council meetings, she is the pragmatist, holding developers accountable as they try to wiggle out of affordable housing requirements. Because of her advocacy, Berkeley got a grant to build 64 units of affordable housing at San Pablo and Blake Street.
She succeeded in her campaign promise of promoting mental health professionals to respond to mental health calls in the shadow of Kayla Moore’s death, a black trans-woman who died at the hand of Berkeley police for what was a mental health emergency. In 2016, she stood with activists to get Berkeley Police Department out of Urban Shield, an event where military-grade weapons were showcased and SWAT teams would target cutouts of people of color. It also furthered the trend of the militarization of police. She attended Urban Shield herself as an observer through her work on the ad-hoc subcommittee responsible for reviewing BPD’s participation in the conference and then marched against it outside.
When a shooting occurred in her district, she held two meetings for the community. The first was packed, as fear and concern were high. The second meeting was sparsely attended, more intimate and solution-oriented. The participants were longtime residents of the district and predominantly black. Out of this came Voices Against Violence, a violence prevention program focused on the arts and mentorship for Berkeley youth run by leaders of African-American churches. She pushed for a gun buyback program with the mayor.
As a climate leader, she made regional and global headway when she introduced two very powerful pieces of legislation in June 2018. The Fossil Fuel Free Fast resolution prompted the energy commission to draft a report and set the city’s goal to be fully renewable/carbon neutral by 2030. Her Climate Emergency declaration also in June was the sixth in the world.
In August 2018, her office organized a regional town hall ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) to pitch a regional collaborative response to the climate emergency. She seized the moment and this had a multiplier effect. A combined 25 cities and counties in the Bay Area, 37 statewide, and the entire statewide UC system declared a climate emergency and answered her call for a regional collaborative effort. When Xtinction Rebellion did their historic actions in London winning a climate emergency declaration put forth by the mayor of London, it was Cheryl’s climate emergency declaration that they referenced in the editorial notes. She has since continued that campaign by founding the Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force, organizing a series of climate concerts, and preparing a webinar series where the environmental justice community, elected officials and the public are working together to devise a way forward.
She has submitted two more items which are making their way before council: a ban on the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2025 and an omnibus Just Transition to a Regenerative Economy Resolution which proposes that Berkeley spearhead an international task force to be sustained until the year 2050. The task force would organize the more than 1,700 cities, counties and countries who declared a climate emergency worldwide to share policies, finances and shape the market.
In the next four years, Cheryl will initiate a full-scale transition effort, here in Berkeley and globally. She has her hand on the pulse and is driving this movement. Berkeley residents will have the privilege of making history by sending this signal: WE ARE TRANSITIONING NOW and watching the world respond again. Taking a radical turn to achieve sustainability while implementing a robust and permanent network of mutual aid, and disaster preparedness establishing disaster resilience hubs. Full adaptation.
Cheryl Davila has lived in Berkeley for 39 years and raised two children here. I myself went to Nia House, John Muir, Willard, Berkeley High, and Berkeley City College. She’s gotten all this done from her two-bedroom apartment staying on the frontline of every major issue in the city advocating and putting forth bold and clear standards. She organizes directly with the community and champions what movements demand while tending to the needs of District 2.
She is the exemplar on the council, the boldest champion of the people breaking free of unjust, unsustainable and ultimately unviable modes of living and governing. The rest of the council markets themselves as progressive but alienates the integrity of this notion. She has been the council’s rude awakening, one that they resent even as they are inspired by and follow her example. It is only Cheryl Davila that is sincere and brave enough to lead in this time. She is our hero.