BERKELEY -- Election season is under way with five candidates competing to unseat Mayor Tom Bates, who has held the position since 2002.
The three-time incumbent last won in 2008 with 60.9 percent of the vote and has a formidable record of public service, but some critics are saying it's time to add some fresh blood to the city's highest office.
Running against Bates is Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Jacquelyn McCormick, Zachary RunningWolf, Bernt Wahl, and current city councilmember Kriss Worthington.
Jacobs-Fantauzzi, 36, who ran for mayor in 2008 and received 1.37 percent of the vote, said crime would be his No. 1 priority as mayor. A double homicide near his home on Derby Street in 2008 prompted him to run for public office.
"I made a decision that I need to do something bigger -- I couldn't just be a teacher," said Jacobs-Fantauzzi, who currently teaches at West Oakland Middle School. He has also served on Berkeley's Peace and Justice Commission.
McCormick, an organizer behind Measure U, an initiative on the November ballot that would require the city to prepare certified, biennial reports detailing its financial obligations 20 years in advance, said she would address the financial crisis facing the city and issues of budget transparency.
Although she has never held public office, McCormick cited 30 years of professional experience and¿ said she has attended every City Council meeting for the past two years.
RunningWolf, who was a major participant in the tree sit-in on the UC Berkeley campus that ran from 2006 to 2008, highlighted his experience as an elder in the Native American community.
"I'm not a career politician," RunningWolf said. "I'm a strong leader, which was proved in the tree-sit that went on for 648 days and was the longest urban tree-sit in U.S. history."
Worthington, who has been a city councilmember for District 7 since 1996, was perhaps the most ardent critic of the current mayor. Although he campaigned for Bates in 2002, Worthington said Bates has marginalized progressive voices on the City Council.
Worthington said that on his first day, he would create a policy that would fix the dysfunctional City Council meeting process, and appoint more Asians, Latinos, and African-Americans in one day than Bates had appointed in his whole time in office.
"I would adjust the major policies that the mayor killed this year, such as the watershed plan, the plastic bag ban, campaign finance reform, creating a department of the environment, fixing the permit process," Worthington said.
Despite the criticism leveled against him, Bates, who served as Alameda County Supervisor and a State Assemblyman for 20 years before becoming mayor of Berkeley, maintained that his political record set him in a league apart from the other candidates.
"I've been able to do things, not just talk about them or be against things," Bates said. "I bring a wealth of experience to the job, and I have regional and state contacts."
According to Bates, his goals will remain much the same. He wants to continue closing the achievement gap in schools, implementing a climate change plan and providing a hospitable business environment for local startups.
Wahl, an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley who teaches engineering students how to start companies, said he would increase city resources to help people start businesses in Berkeley, which would bring more jobs.
"Silicon Valley is doing a great job at it and we have a lot of the same talent, but the city bureaucracy gets in the way of startups," Wahl said. "We have some startups that could become big companies, but the city doesn't realize this."
He gave as an example a group of UC Berkeley professors and researchers who wanted a business license to start a big data company, but the city would not issue it until they had a physical address. He also said there are a lot of small food companies in Berkeley hampered by regulations.
He said the answer is a large city office where businesses could "go with their problems and where the city would say 'how can we help you.'"
Worthington, McCormick, and Jacobs-Fantauzzi have endorsed each other in a joint effort called the Berkeley Progressive Alliance to oust Bates. Each is asking voters to select the other two as their second and third choice on the ballot.
"We're all working on our own campaigns separately, and we're all working to see that we have new leadership," McCormick explained.
Occupation: Berkeley Mayor since 2002
Professional: Alameda County Supervisor (1972-1976); California Legislature (1976-1996); Member Bay Area Air Quality Management District (2006-present); Commissioner, Metropolitan Transportation Commission; (2006-present); Chairman, East Bay Green Corridor (2007-present); Member, Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (2004-2006)
Personal: Married to California State Senator Loni Hancock: four children, seven grandchildren
Education: UC Berkeley 1961, bachelor's degree in rhetoric
Party: No affiliation
Occupation: UC Berkeley engineering professor
Professional: Volunteer at U.N. Ecotourism Committee, National Park Service, American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity
Personal: Single, no children
Education: bachelor's degree in mathematics, UC Santa Cruz 1984; bachelor's degree in physics, UC Santa Cruz, 1986; master's degree in business administration UC Davis 1999
Occupation: Berkeley City Councilman since 1996
Professional: Berkeley Housing Authority; Berkeley Redevelopment Agency; Berkeley Civic Improvement Corporation; Alameda County Congestion Management Agency
Personal: partner Marty Spence
Education: Took courses at Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio
Occupation: Native American elder
Professional: Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission 1999-2000; Leader of UC Berkeley tree-sit protest from 2006 to 2008.
Personal: Single, no children
Education: Political science degree from Merritt College, culinary certificate from Laney College
Web Site: www.runingwolfformayor.com
Occupation: Middle school teacher; filmmaker; musician; farmer
Professional: President of Bay Area Boricuas; founder, Students for Hip Hop at UC Berkeley; member of Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project; local advisory board of KPFA; Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission; Berkeley Neighborhood Block Captain; City of Berkeley Youth Commissioner
Education: Bachelor's degree in American Studies, with minor in education, UC Berkeley 1998; master's degree in technology in education from University of San Francisco
Website: www.kahlil4mayor.org and www.facebook.com/kahlil4mayor
Occupation: Interior design and architecture
Professional: Coordinator Berkeley Budget SOS; board member Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association; notes and words, Children's Hospital of Oakland; treasurer Family Support Services; vice chairman United Way Los Angeles
Personal: Married, one daughter
Education: Certificate in environmental and interior design UCLA