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.
A Q&A with Jenny Wong, who’s running unopposed for reelection as Berkeley’s city auditor, follows. We asked her about why she’s running and what she’s accomplished, and to share how she ensures her recommendations are followed and responds to pushback.
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 Wong’s answers.
Why are you running?
I will continue to make Berkeley government and services more transparent and accountable. I will audit areas of concern to Berkeley residents, including homelessness, the Rent Board, and staff retention. I will engage the community and through my audits continue to promote equity and efficiency.
What are your biggest accomplishments?
When I ran for office four years ago, I surveyed residents about their greatest concerns and as auditor, I have taken on those issues. Our office has completed audits of street paving, fleet maintenance and electrification, police call center, calls for service, and overtime among others. When COVID hit, we issued a report sounding the alarm on potential fiscal impacts and we recently completed a financial condition analysis of Berkeley. Our reports have not only had an impact on city services, they have been nationally recognized by the Association of Local Government Auditors as the best in the country for an office our size twice in the last four years.
As an elected official, I have also used my position and experience to elevate important issues in our community including combating violence and hate in the AAPI community, supporting Black lives, and defending immigrant rights.
How do you ensure audits influence the actions taken by policymakers and city staff? What tools have you developed to transparently track your recommendations?
In addition to providing audit presentations at City Council and other community meetings, I have made published audits easy to digest and accessible, which result in the public using them to call for improvements in city government. I have also tracked recommendations and their implementation. My team communicates with staff regularly on the status of audit recommendations. Last month, my office launched a data dashboard of audit recommendations so the community can follow updates to audits online. This type of transparency will better inform the Berkeley community on the progress of audit recommendations.
What pushback have you received from your reports and how have you responded?
Our process entails plenty of communication so audit findings and recommendations should not surprise the City Manager and staff when the audit is released. We did encounter data access challenges on the calls for service audit. When I called attention to this issue at a City Council meeting, we received the data. City Council and the city manager know that our office has charter authority to directly access data, personnel, and other information relevant to complete our audits. This authority helps to ensure we can conduct our work independently and without interference.
What audits do you have planned next? How do you prioritize your work?
This year, I will be auditing the city’s expenditures on homelessness, the Rent Board, and staff retention. We will also conduct fiscal condition audits. When I ran for office the first time, I wanted to make sure that I was focusing on critical issues in the community. I surveyed voters to ask what issues were of most importance to them. I will continue to engage the Berkeley community to get input for future audit topics. In addition, I receive input from City Council and city staff on audit topics. My office determines audits based on this collective input and weighing risks.
Could you share an interesting story or fact about yourself that voters might be surprised to learn about?
I majored in economics at Cal, but things could have turned out very differently. I was also accepted to USC to major in piano performance but the finances didn’t work out. I’m glad I’m on the path I’m on, but I still have a passion for music.
For fun: What’s your favorite Berkeley grocery store and why?
Berkeley Bowl for general shopping and Monterey Market when I just need fresh fruits and veggies. Both have a robust selection of delicious mushrooms.
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:
- The city of Berkeley’s election portal and candidate statements
- Don’t know your Berkeley City Council district? The city website has a handy tool for that.
- Voter’s Edge: View a personalized ballot by entering your address.
- Voter guides from the Daily Cal, CalMatters, KQED, the Bay Area News Group and The League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany and Emeryville
- Check your voter registration status (and sign up to get election materials online).
- Find your voter profile (Alameda County registrar of voters).
See complete 2022 election coverage on Berkeleyside.