The ASUC Vote Coalition and ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President hosted a debate Tuesday between District 5 Berkeley City Council candidates Sophie Hahn, vice mayor and City Council member, and Todd Andrew, a real estate consultant.
The candidates answered questions on a myriad of topics, including climate change, public transit and allocation of resources.
In her plans to reduce car carbon emissions in Berkeley, Hahn expressed a need to improve city streets, parks and other infrastructure. Hahn said making streets more pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically pleasing will incentivize people to walk and bike instead of using their cars.
Hahn also discussed goals to expand the public transportation system. She is interested in adopting a kind of shuttling program that combines fixed routes and real-time navigation.
“Public transit really needs to move into the 21st century,” Hahn said during the event.
Andrew agreed that the public transit system needs to be supported. He plans to “redouble” efforts to get people back onto public transit when it becomes safer to do so and hopes for a federal relief package that can support these efforts.
The two candidates had differing viewpoints on Berkeley’s health department. Andrew would like to reconsider its cost and effectiveness in the community and possibly transfer its responsibilities to the county. Hahn believes it has made contributions in the city’s response to the pandemic and will play a role in catering to the mental health needs of the city.
Later, the candidates also had the chance to address questions on policing in the city and the expansion of mental health resources, as well as affordable housing.
Hahn called for a “deep dive” into how the police department allocates its resources. According to Hahn, the police are the city’s most expensive resource and addressing mental health issues is not their “core competency.”
Hahn added that she wants to diversify mental health resources available to the public and make them more accessible.
Improving the ways in which mental health and substance abuse are dealt with is also something Andrew believes needs to be done.
While discussing the need for more affordable housing in the city, Andrew emphasized his stance as pro-housing and in support of rent control. He added that the City Council has been too opposed to private development.
Although he understands the ideological preferences for protected housing, Andrew said the city needs to “be real” about housing solutions.
“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” Andrew said during the event. “Stop opposing investment and housing no matter where it comes from.”
Hahn, however, spoke against private development and expressed support for more protected affordable housing. Hahn added that she would like to improve rent control policies by finding a “third pathway” between no rent control and full rent control in the city.
The next Berkeley City Council debate to be hosted by the ASUC Vote Coalition and ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President is scheduled for Oct. 23 between candidates running for City Council in District 6.