Left to right: Peter Bruce DuMont, Mark Humbert, Mari Mendonca and Jay Wu are running for the City Council District 8 seat being vacated by Councilmember Lori Droste. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Berkeleyside wants to help you get to know your 2022 candidates for Berkeley City Council, School Board, Rent Stabilization Board and more. That’s why we’re publishing questionnaires with local candidates.

Q&As with District 8 City Council candidates follow. We asked candidates why they were running and what they’ve accomplished, and to spell out their views on housing, public safety, and the $650 million bond measure on the ballot this year.

With councilmember Lori Droste deciding not to run for reelection, attorney Mark Humbert and Rent Board Commissioner Mari Mendonca are the leading candidates in a race that also includes nonprofit founder Peter Bruce DuMont and insurance agent Jay Wu. (Mary-Lee Smith will also appear on the ballot — but she has dropped out of the race and thrown her support behind Mendonca.)

See all of Berkeleyside’s 2022 election coverage. We’ll continue to publish more stories on the key Berkeley races and ballot initiatives to help readers make informed decisions about the potential leaders and policies that could help shape Berkeley’s future.

Click the questions below to see candidates’ answers. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Why are you running?

Peter Bruce DuMont: To establish “Highest Civic Ideals” here as a model for the nation and world. To start an Office of the Citizen Advocate. To implement programs in the science-validated “T.M.” meditation technique for police, crime prevention, homeless and mental health. To build a “Ring of All Nations” floating amphitheater(!)

Mark Humbert: I had the opportunity to raise my children in Berkeley and to send them through our public schools, but now our city risks becoming exclusive and losing what makes it so special. I’m running to ensure that Berkeley is a place where all of our children and their families can afford to live and feel safe.

Mari Mendonca: We need representation that is inclusive of the diverse population of neighbors who live here. Outside influences and special interest groups have divided and silenced the powerful input of our brilliant community. I will be the leader who supports the voice and participation of all of us.

Jay Wu: I love Berkeley and the best way to show my love is to make it better for everyone. I have the passion and capabilities to contribute to the cause of Berkeley betterment in many ways, including Asian safety, student election participation, affordable housing, infrastructures and public financing.

What are your biggest accomplishments?

DuMont: In my youth in the 1970s, I trained personally with Maharishi of the worldwide T.M. program. I taught & promoted T.M. in the Bay Area & briefly in Florence, Italy. In 1978-79 I proposed pilot crime prevention and treatment programs for Alameda County. The historic vote fell short when the only two top county leaders who would NOT meet with me before (the DA & Sheriff) then “shot it down.” In 1984-90, I co-founded STAR ALLIANCE to help counter the terror of the Cold War. I developed a pioneering peace philosophy and public Peace Declarations wer signed by many VIPs. We did weekly TV shows, instituted the STAR OF PEACE Award and wrote leaders Reagan and Gorbachev repeatedly. From 1992-94 I attended Cal and did an “A” final paper on values to change the world. I voluntarily and cooperatively fed (six days/week for three years!) thousands of downtown homeless meals and assisted scores of needy people.

Humbert: After I moved to the Elmwood, a woman was tragically killed by a driver at a nearby intersection. I successfully lobbied CalTrans to improve safety along Ashby by leading efforts for the lighted crosswalk at Piedmont, and have continued to advocate for our community ever since.

As transportation commissioner for councilmembers Gordon Wozniak and Lori Droste, I worked on the Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plans to make Berkeley’s streets and public spaces safe and enjoyable.

As a Public Works commissioner, I helped draft the equity paving policy, ensuring fair allocation of repaving funds.

As our neighborhood association president, I mediated between UC and neighbors to help address concerns and arrive at win-wins.

As an FCPC commissioner, I held elected officials accountable.

As a current Parks & Waterfront commissioner, I am working to ensure that all stakeholders are heard during our Marina visioning process.

Mendonca: I worked with Mr. Powell, an African American retired postal worker, veteran and Berkeley homeowner of 40-plus years whose home was taken under control by a predatory receivership threatening permanent displacement. He is back in his home and full justice is pending. I am working with Harriet Tubman Terrace Tenant Counsel fighting for dignity and justice against serious ADA violations, exposure to toxic construction and substandard, inhumane relocation plans. On the Housing Advisory Commission I ensured that timelines for funding affordable housing projects were supportive of achieving project goals. As a Rent Board Commissioner, I supported strong eviction protections throughout the COVID pandemic and supported federal rent relief for landlords and tenants. I continue to work toward the development of 100% affordable housing at both the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations.

Wu: (1) I will raise the awareness of democracy using my experiences from China, with a goal to boost voting rate to 65%-70% among Clark Kerr Campus freshman residents this year; (2) I will propose a united front against hate crimes against black, Latino and Asian people; (3) I will recruit student (paid) volunteers into an Asian language services and emergency network to help cops and Asians with language and emergency needs for the entire East Bay area; (4) I will propose special housing for homeless that allows pets and has on-site counseling; (5) I will propose a mini-museum for People’s Park to honor the history; (6) I will propose Elmwood-College Avenue student fairs at least twice a year; (7) I will promote a cause of listening, doing regular surveys and local polls to find out what people want from the City Council and to make myself a fiduciary agent, always putting residents interests and opinions before mine.

Berkeley’s median home sale price is now over $1.6 million, while rising rent prices are leading everyone from students to longtime residents wondering if they can afford a future here. What are the most important steps the City Council should take to address Berkeley’s severe shortage of affordable housing? How should your district balance the needs of current and future residents as the city grows?

DuMont: Like the “free” fingers of our hands: To be sustainable, each “free agent” (like a landlord when rentals turn over) must observe proper limits and be responsible to the whole.

Let’s acknowledge the influence of the huge Berkeley student population, continually “churning” the market. This disables effective rent control as long as there are insufficient limits on rate hikes.

We should convene an ongoing series of “Town & Gown” meetings utilizing UC Berkeley, Berkeley Community Media, UC-TV, KQED and Zoom to bring stakeholders and experts together — mediated by good will and integrity values. By continuing this series, we can find a deeper, more comprehensive and lasting mix of answers to this complex vexing crisis. Everything is related to everything else and we can’t control everything locally, but by having more people contribute to better understanding, we will all end up doing better together.

Humbert: We deserve a Berkeley where our children, their teachers, first responders and our workers can all afford to live. It’s also crucial that we protect residents from displacement and preserve existing affordable housing. I believe we can do both and that creating more homes helps both future and current residents afford to live here.

All types of housing construction should occur throughout Berkeley in accordance with fair housing principles and state law. Currently, new buildings above a certain size must either include affordable units or pay fees to the city for dedicated low-income housing. In order to create more affordable housing, we need to remove bureaucratic obstacles to permitting, and provide zoning certainty and predictability. We should focus the majority of our housing development in transit-rich areas, outside of very high fire prone areas.

Mendonca: Housing is a human right. The bottom line is that if we uphold this core value and civil liberty, then the means by which we accomplish and honor this right will manifest in new methodologies and policies. These new policies cannot perpetuate the existing, extractive model which results in “residents wondering if they can afford a future here.” We need to mobilize for housing justice in the form of policy changes that do not give benefit to developers over community needs, extend rent control to new units and put a cap on the manipulated inflation of the market. A first step is to make sure that we all support the developments at the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations to be 100% affordable. Since the BART projects are a “once in a lifetime opportunity” it is imperative that the leaders of both BART and the City Council maximize the full asset and use of this public land for public good.

Wu: The first thing is to increase housing supply. I will vote for the vacancy tax that is on the ballot this year to discourage housing speculations and make better use of the existing houses for rent. The second is to approve the ballot measure on general obligation bonds to build more affordable housing. The third to introduce price competition from neighboring cities and to examine bus routes connecting Berkeley with Albany, Emeryville, El Cerito and even Oakland so that Berkeley landlords will understand renters have choices to bigger supply of rental market. Even inside Clark Kerr Campus, there is an abandoned old gym that can be rebuilt into a student house. We can also raise the utility of existing rental houses for the summer when students went home, and landlords can rent the units out for short-term needs.

What should the council do to improve public safety and policing in Berkeley? What changes, if any, should be made to the city’s approach to policing?

DuMont: Constantly trying to suppress problems is very inefficient and expensive. At root are poverty, ill will and other bad values, mental health issues and chronically unresolved conflicts. By providing education and training for positive values — “Our Highest Civic Ideals” —and by supplementing this intervention with facilitation and teaching of the cost-effective proven TM program for stress-reduction, mental and emotional balance and healing, our whole community atmosphere will start to lift up and “all boats will rise.”

We can start an exemplary experimental-model program called “STAR ALLIANCE ACADEMY” to provide training to safety officers and other civil servants — and for needy clients of different kinds — featuring a creative combination of these two, complementary interventions. We will measure results and see our net safety increase and our net costs decrease in just a few short years. Let’s go!

Humbert: I am committed to improving public safety and also to enhancing reform efforts. Crime and gun violence are very real problems throughout Berkeley, particularly in South and West Berkeley. Property crime is also high in all parts of Berkeley. We need to improve BPD retention and recruitment so we can recover from historically low staffing. Low staffing means our officers are overworked, at risk of making mistakes and can’t respond quickly to emergencies. It also increases overtime costs to the city. At the same time, I support having non-sworn responders to mental health crises and investments into preventative, community-led measures like Ceasefire to address gun violence. Lastly, I want to invest in officer training for de-escalation and to prevent excessive use of force. We also need to make sure our police have the tools they need to keep themselves and our community safe.

Mendonca: The city council should support the original intent of the Police Accountability Board (PAB) as stated in the measure. The city must hire a qualified community-oriented director of the PAB. The city must implement the Specialized Care Unit (SCU) in order to serve community members with mental health challenges and non-criminal issues. The city and the police must recognize the impact that their current racially biased and discriminatory behaviors have on the community. New hiring, policies and training must reflect these concerns. The council must demand that the police follow the leadership of the community in their budgeting and operations.

Wu: Berkeley has a high diversity in its residents, and the city police department should reflect that by recruiting officers who can speak different languages. The city should develop a downloadable smartphone app (in iOS and Android) to make crime statistics openly accessible to every resident. One example is a 24-hour map of crimes and risk based on past crime occurrence by hour when the crime occurred, with a letter “P” for property crime and “V” for violent crime. The same app can allow one-button push to report a location-sensitive crime and trigger automatic recording of the crime scene without alerting the criminal. We can also examine the availability of video surveillance cameras especially in frequent crime areas, and support neighborhood watch programs.

Should Berkeley voters support the proposed $650 million infrastructure and affordable housing bond? If the measure passes, what will be your priorities for how that money is spent?

DuMont: Yes, let’s go for it: housing-for-all, with tiny houses and one or more interim (or even permanent?) supervised campgrounds, is feasible. News Flash! Parks & Rec and the waterfront command a small portion of Berkeley’s overall budget. Rather than “build over” Cesar Chavez park, I propose planning and home-porting a bold “Ring of All Nations” project — a floating, mobile amphitheater — that would generate visitors and revenue, enhance our quality of life & democracy. A city block in diameter, it will provide space for performing arts, sports, theater, democratic assemblies, museums, shops and retreats.

Humbert: Yes. We need these funds to address our deteriorating streets and infrastructure, build more affordable housing for low-income families and prepare for wildfires and climate change. Berkeley has $328 million in paving needs by 2023. We also need to make other infrastructure investments to underground power lines on evacuation routes and improve stormwater management to prevent flooding, which should be done in combination with street repaving to save money and minimize disruption. If we don’t fix our infrastructure now, the costs will rise exponentially in the future.

Mendonca: Measure L is a lofty wish list of vague goals with no specific plan, no accountability and no oversight. It did not go through a proper public process of which any Measure should go, especially one of this magnitude. The one thing that IS clearly stated in the measure is that:  “These dollar amounts are estimates and are not a commitment or guarantee that any specific amounts will be spent on particular projects or categories of projects.” In addition, the $650 million of funding to be repaid over 48 years will incur a $1.1 billion expense, and most likely more given rising interest rates. No on Measure L.

Wu: I would vote for the general obligation bonds on the ballot for 2022 to address the urgent needs for affordable housing and infrastructure. Once passed, I would make the houses not only affordable but sustainable and innovative. The way to do it is to allocate a part of the funds to solicit innovative ideas for new ways of building houses and infrastructure quickly and efficiently, leveraging the talents from the UC Berkeley school of engineering.

Could you share an interesting story or fact about yourself that voters might be surprised to learn about?

DuMont: I invented the name STAR ALLIANCE for our .org’s global good educational purposes in 1986! Civic Peace Ethics documents I have written are signed by three Nobel laureates and Leonard Bernstein, Tony Bennett, John Denver, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Wilson, Pavarotti, Springsteen, Alice Waters and scores more.

Humbert: My wife, Karin, and I are strong supporters of One Sky for All Children, a nonprofit that partners with local communities in under-resourced Asian countries to train caregivers and teachers to provide responsive care and create safe and nurturing learning environments that help children thrive.

Mendonca: When my youngest son was born it didn’t seem right to work all day and put him in child care, especially during this most important mommy and baby bonding time. I was blessed that a family member could spend the night with my kids so that I could work overnight and be a “working stay-at-home mom.”

Wu: On August 23 (at 16:57) I received a phone call from Chinese Immigration and Border Control informing me that I have been forbidden to enter China, apparently because of my blog posts on China’s shaky ground on claiming Taiwan being an inseparable part of China and China’s bullying of the island.

For fun: What’s your favorite Berkeley grocery store and why?

DuMont: For me, it’s a toss-up between Berkeley Bowl and Trader Joe’s. Berkeley Bowl can’t be beat for fresh produce, hot soups, etc. But TJ’s wins for sheer convenience and lots of fun “innovative” products, packaging and service.

Humbert: Star Grocery, of course! Not only does Star Grocery have the best choice of produce, cheeses and chocolate, Star Meats has the best sandwiches. Unsurprisingly, along with many neighbors, I celebrated Star Grocery’s 100th year in business this year. I hope it is around for another 100 at least!

Mendonca: Berkeley Bowl has always been the staple of Berkeley. The best produce and bulk food selection! My family and I have been shopping there for as long as I can remember. Growing up you would always run into everyone you knew from every neighborhood in Berkeley and beyond. And it’s still that way today.

Wu: 99 Cents Only store and Safeway.

Watch forums with the District 8 candidates

The League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville hosted a Zoom forum for District 8 candidates. Watch a recording.

Berkeley Neighbors for Housing & Climate Action, CalDems, Telegraph for People and Walk Bike Berkeley co-hosted a Zoom forum for candidates running in District 8. Watch a recording.

See a full list of candidate forums in Berkeley.

The deadline to register to vote online or by mail in Alameda County is Oct. 24, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. We put together a guide to the essentials of how to register and vote, what’s on the ballot, voters’ rights and more.

Here are some other helpful election resources:

See complete 2022 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

Berkeleyside staff

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