Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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Presentado por
League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
March 7, 2017 — Local Elections

Ciudad de BerkeleyCandidato para Consejo Municipal, Distrito 4Special election to fill City Council vacancy

Photo de Kate Harrison

Kate Harrison

International Justice Adviser
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Mis 3 prioridades principales

  • Expanding affordable and transit-friendly housing and preventing displacement through use of Measure U1 funding ($4 million/year); other funding sources and policies.
  • Preserving our environment through sustainable infrastructure, Community Green Energy, and transit alternatives.
  • Creating a vibrant and livable downtown with arts/culture and supporting the development/retention of small, local businesses



Profesión:International Justice Advisor
Owner/Principal, Kate Harrison Consulting -- Providing innovative solutions to governments in 14 countries, 8 states, and throughout California (2001–current)
Commissioner, Berkeley Parks and Recreation Commission — Cargo designado (2014–current)
Commissioner, Berkeley’s Housing Advisory Commission (Sets housing policy on affordable housing/use of available funds) — Cargo designado (2016–current)
Member, Board of Directors, Berkeley Food and Housing Project (operates homeless shelters, food/support services and transitional housing) — Cargo designado (2010–2016)
Commissioner, Berkeley Streets and Open Spacie Improvement Project Committee for Downtown — Cargo designado (2009–2010)
Director, Trial Court Programs, CA Administrative Office of the Courts -- overseeing California's $1.7 billion/year court system and overseeing a staff of 60 people (1997–2000)
Assistant Executive Officer/Assistant to the Mayor V, Dir. of Finance/Admin, City and County of San Francisco (1988–1997)


Goldman School, University of California Berkeley Masters In Public Policy, with Master's Thesis on Low-Income Affordable Housing (1984)
University of California, Berkeley B.A. , Political Science (1981)

Actividades comunitarias

Co-Founder, Berkeley Progressive Alliance -- organizing to promote progressive policies and elect progressive candidates (2013–current)
State and National Politics Chair; co-author of its Economic Justice agenda, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club (2010–current)



I have managed and analyzed public sector operations for over thirty years. My first job entailed examining differences in treatment of minority communities by the criminal justice system in Alameda County. After receiving my Masters of Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley, I began my career as a member of a consulting practice evaluating local government operations throughout California. I served in government positons in San Francisco and throughout California to improve public services and balance budgets while protecting the most vulnerable. I worked as Assistant to Mayor Art Agnos of San Francisco, Assistant Executive Officer for the San Francisco Trial Courts and Finance Manager for the rebuilding of the Embarcadero Waterfront after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  As Assistant Director and Director of the California Administrative Office of the Courts Trial Court Programs Division, I directed 65 staff in a variety of analytical and outreach programs affecting the operations of California’s $1.7 billion court system.   I then started my own small business focusing on improving access to justice, from outcomes for Native American foster youth in North Dakota to providing legal resources to the under-represented in Serbia, as well as extensive work in California and eight other states. 


My political and community work is a critical part of who I am. I come from three generations of women activists fighting for justice and equity.  As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley I was on the Student Senate and worked to pass Berkeley’s original rent control ordinance. As a member of Berkeley’s Housing Advisory and Parks and Waterfront Commissions and on the Streets and Open Space Advisory Commission, I have worked to improve Parks, ensure the Downtown area is a vibrant and enjoyable place, and ensure that the advantages of living in Berkeley are available to present and future residents of all income levels.   I helped form the Berkeley Progressive Alliance (BPA), which works to promote progressive policies (including Fight for $15 minimum wage, affordable housing policies, and voting rights) and elect progressive candidates, such as the current Mayor, Jesse Arreguin. I co-wrote the BPA’s affordable housing and general platforms. For the past three years, I have been the State/National Chair of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club (WDRC), working in coalition building on progressive movements, bringing policies to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (e.g., stopping coal trains in the East Bay), and endorsing progressive candidates.  I also served on the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Food and Housing Program, bringing housing, food and services to our unhoused fellow residents, and as a Director of the San Francisco Mime Troupe.


I have been endorsed by Assembly Tony Thurmond, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, the Sierra Club, Alameda County Labor Council, former Berkeley Mayors Gus Newport and Shirley Dean, former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Berkeley City Councilmembers Sophie Hahn and Ben Bartlett, a super-majority of the members of the Berkeley Rent Board, the Berkeley Tenants Union among numerous other endorsers.

I proudly look forward to serving Berkeley’s District 4 as its Councilmember.  

For further information please go to;


¿Quién apoya a este candidato?

Featured Endorsements

  • Alameda County Labor Council
  • Sierra Club
  • Jesse Arreguin - Mayor of Berkeley

Organizaciónes (9)

  • Alameda County Demorcratic Central Committee
  • Berkeley Firefighters
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
  • Berkeley Progressive Alliance
  • Berkeley Citizens Action
  • Progressive Students Association
  • Berkeley Tenants Union
  • Green Party of Alameda County

Funcionarios electos (13)

  • Tony Thurmond, Assemblymember
  • A super-majority of the Berkeley Rent Board
  • Sandre Swanson, former Assemblymember
  • Shirley Dean, former Mayor of Berkeley
  • Gus Newport, former Mayor of Berkeley
  • Ben Bartlett, Berkeley City Council
  • Sophie Hahn, Berkeley City Council
  • Karen Weinstein, Trusttee -- Peralta Community College Board
  • Nikki Gonzalez-Yuen, Trustee - Peralta Community College District
  • Dan Kalb, Oakland City Council
  • Abel Guillen, Oakland City Council
  • Dianne Martinez, Mayor - City of Emeryville
  • Lateefah Simon, BART Board

Individuos (1)

  • Danny Glover, Actor

Preguntas y Respuestas

Preguntas de LWV Berkeley/Albany/Emeryville (4)

If you are elected, what would you like to achieve during your term in office?
Respuesta de Kate Harrison:

In office, I will:

1. Fight for an equitable future by:

• Building affordable housing where it’s most needed, near transit

• Protecting tenants

• Targeting city resources to closing the economic, health and educational divide

• Creating a path to a living wage

• Supporting local legacy businesses

• Saving Alta Bates hospital

2. Enhance our green and vibrant infrastructure by;

• Leveraging the $100 million in new bond funding from T-1 make our city sustainable and carbon free

• Embracing the environmental and health benefits of our Parks and Waterfront • Empowering residents to chart their own energy futures through community energy’ and

3. Protect our vibrant local business environment by:

• Recognize, protect and provide grants to legacy businesses

• Charging fees for long-time vacancies

• Creating dynamic streetscapes that attract residents and visitors

What do you consider the most important issue facing the city?
Respuesta de Kate Harrison:

Housing affordability (and the related issue of homelessness) is one of the major issues affecting Berkeley.   Affordability is the key to maintaining the ethnic, economic and cultural diversity and intellectual vibrancy that make Berkeley what it is. Rents have risen over 50% since 2000.  Our greatest need is to increase the amount of low and moderate income housing, where we are far below regional standards.  Just continuing to build market rate housing alone (even with their payment of affordable housing fees) is insufficient to solve our affordable housing crisis.

As a member of the Measure U1 campaign committee, I am proud that Berkeley voters approved $4 million/year for affordable housing.  I plan to use these funds, and supplement them with other funding sources such as a tax on short-term rentals (such as AirBnB), regular adjustments to the affordable housing fee for new development, and some use of transfer tax funds to significantly expand affordable housing opportunities.  I also support enhanced measures to prevent displacement. In order to build this housing we must be nimble in identifying/approving affordable housing, particularly along transit corridors. On the Housing Advisory Commission and on the Council, I will work to streamline permitting and provide seed money for affordable housing projects, purchase existing rental housing and develop ownership opportunities, evaluate publicly owned sites for housing and build more student housing close to campus.

The crisis in affordable housing is only exacerbating the issue of homelessness.  As a board member of the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, which provides housing, food, and services to Berkeley’s  homeless citizens, I have worked towards solving this problem.   The most important step is to provide housing opportunities to the homeless, the critical first step to transitioning these people back to a decent and humane lifestyle along with addressing mental health issues.    

How do you plan to balance the regional Planned Bay Area (ABAG/MTC) goals of Priority Development Areas (PDAs) with local needs of property owners, traffic/parking/congestion problems, and other local concerns?
Respuesta de Kate Harrison:

Berkeley has done a good job of meeting its regional housing (RHNA) standards for market rate housing but has fallen far short in the areas of very low and particularly in low and moderate income housing. I served on the U1 campaign committee and believe that by spreading the burden, the business license tax represents a fair and ongoing revenue source for affordable housing. I am anxious to see the short term rental tax be approved as a housing revenue source. It is critical that we work with State representatives such as Tony Thurmond to create new revenue streams for housing such as a fee on refinancing to replace the loss of redevelopment funding.


Over the past three years, I have been actively engaged in and testified before the City Council in efforts to; 1) eliminate the “temporary” discounting of the affordable housing impact fee from $34,000 to $20,000 per unit;  2) urge the Council to update and complete its next Nexus study; 3) develop the City’s policy for “significant community benefits” for tall buildings being built in Downtown; and 4) determining the level of community benefits for the Harold Way project.  




In a study I completed for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors In my capacity as a public sector consultant, I recommended that affordable housing impact fees be paid at the time of project approval, rather than when occupancy occurred, as this policy delayed the collection and use of these funds by several years and changing it would not deter construction.  San Francisco adopted this policy without any discounting.  When I proposed a similar change to Berkeley’s policies through the Housing Advisory Commission, Berkeley moved the collection date forward but then provided a discount that was neither needed or justifiable. This policy should be revisited by the Council.




Given the effect of new development on public transportation, Berkeley should also adopt a Transportation Impact Fee, and conduct the necessary nexus studies to formally adopt one.   An alternative, as was adopted for the Harold Way Project and proposed by the City to be standard practice for new development, might be to require GreenTrip certification for all new projects which promotes trip reduction measures such as limiting parking and providing transit passes to residents.  Funding from any Transportation Impact Fee could be used to fund transit passes, shuttle bus service, or other Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs.




A vibrant downtown is critical to the City’s ability to meet housing goals, mitigate climate impacts and promote economic development and continued cultural vitality. Downtown development should be encouraged but with sensitivity to maintaining a vibrant streetscape with adequate light and open space, setbacks for surrounding residential neighborhoods and architecture that is unique and aesthetically compatible with surrounding buildings.  


Critical to achieving these goals is the active involvement of Berkeley’s citizens.  Berkeley needs to develop a planning process that is more clearer, more transparent, and community driven rather than just responding piece-meal to individual project requests.  


Considering the disintegration of local infrastructure, how can the city upgrade to meet the current regulatory requirements for clean air and for clean water discharge into the Bay?
Respuesta de Kate Harrison:


As a member of the Parks and Waterfront Commission, I helped secure placement of Measure T1 on the ballot and its passage to provide $100 million in long-term bonding authority for meeting Berkeley’s infrastructure needs. I am fully committed to insuring that the public process explicitly considers sustainability as a key criteria for inclusion of projects.  The bond needs to move us into the future, not simply replace the unsustainable facilities we currently have.


I support control of stormwater run-off into Aquatic Park, along the lines of storm drain projects identified by the Sierra Club, Citizens for Eastshore State Parks, and the Audubon Society.  It is shameful that the City of Berkeley has continued to allow the dumping of storm water into Aquatic Park counter to the Regional Water Board’s 1970s-era order. I would support efforts to fully implement the Aquatic Park Improvement Program (APIP)


On air quality, both Berkeley and California’s climate action plans call for a 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2050, for which vehicles and electric generation are the largest components.  The Downtown area, the heart of District 4, needs to be transit-friendly for all forms of travel including biking, walking and public transit.  Parking meter and garage fees that reflect times of heaviest use should be expanded along with improved signage and ensuring our garages feel, and are, safe.  We need to work with ACTransit and BART to improve service, some of which will come about with increased funding from Alameda County’s Measure BB (2014) and Measure RR for BART. 


On the City level, there will be a continuing need to build out and develop alternative fuel options such as electric vehicle charging stations.  California just approved a major expansion of PG&E’s electric vehicle (EV) recharging program and Volkswagen’s settlement with California over its disabling emission controls for its diesel engines will also provide funds.  Berkeley should ensure it receives its share of these funds, and identify all opportunities to add more public charging stations on major corridors. There should also be more available car sharing and bike sharing stations as well as point to point car sharing.


To reduce emissions from the electric sector, Berkeley has joined with other Alameda County cities to establish a  Community Choice energy program so that Berkeley can directly purchase its own electric energy.   Paired with an increased electric vehicle fleet, elimination over time on reliance on natural gas., and development of deep green standards for new buildings, GHG emissions from the electric sector can be significantly reduced.


To reduce solid waste, we need to focus on not generating it in the first place.  The Transfer Station needs to be rebuilt to modern standards. I would support a bond measure to do so. In the interim, I would encourage the City to discuss with El Cerrito and other jurisdictions who recycle more types of materials (e.g., concrete pieces) about whether we could cooperate with their programs for a fee.




Creencias poliza

Documentos sobre determinadas posturas

Affordable Housing Platform - Berkeley Progressive Alliance


The Affordable Housing Platform provides solultions for more affordable housing including specific ideas for funding and siting affordable housing, stopping displacement and insuring our housing is as green as possible. It provides background references. I coauthored the platform with Rob Wrenn, fellow co-founder of BPA.

Affordable Housing Platform

Berkeley Progressive Alliance

February, 2016




Since 2011, rents for vacant rent controlled apartments have soared by an average of 47% and are unaffordable to many of the people who live and work here. Housing costs impact our city’s vitality and diversity by contributing to the decline of the African American population and fewer lower-income residents and creative people. Berkeley has fallen short of building the new housing called for under regional housing goals and falls woefully short of housing affordable by moderate and low income households. This problem is not unique to Berkeley: Oakland, San Francisco and most of the Bay Area face a housing affordability crisis. We need a comprehensive approach in Berkeley.


Build More Affordable Housing


More housing is needed for people at all income levels with the greatest need for housing affordable to low and moderate income households:


  1. Prioritize affordable housing by streamlining permitting process for projects with at least 50% affordable units.
  2. Increase pre-development funding and provide on request rather than waiting for the city to issue a request for proposal.
  3. Use some Housing Trust Fund money to purchase existing rental housing to keep it affordable and develop ownership opportunities through limited equity coops.
  4. Evaluate publicly owned sites for suitability for housing. Develop the Berkeley Way parking lot and North Berkeley BART air rights for affordable housing.
  5. Build more housing for students at locations close to the UC campus as called for in the Southside Plan. Work with the Berkeley Student Cooperative to expand relatively affordable co-op housing.


Increase Funding


Every dollar in the Trust Fund can leverage about $3 in federal or other public funds to build affordable housing. There are four actions the City Council should take to generate more funds for the City’s Housing Trust Fund to pay for additional affordable housing:


  1. Ask voters to increase the business license tax on large landlords in Berkeley; each 1% increase in the tax would bring in $2 to $3 million annually, a small proportion of the estimated $66 million that rents have increased in Berkeley since 2011.
  2. Increase Housing Impact fees to at least $34,000 as recommended by a City-commissioned study and make funds available earlier by requiring developers to pay the fee when the first construction document is issued.  If a developer chooses to build housing on site instead of paying the fee, require it to provide 20% affordable units (5 affordable units for every 20 market rate units).
  3. Tax short term rentals like AirBnB and place the money in the Housing Trust Fund.
  4. Allocate 25% of excess Property Transfer Tax Funds to the Housing Trust Fund.


Together, these actions could generate $10 million or more and fund creation of around 100 or more affordable units each year through both new construction and acquisition of existing housing. Some of these funds could also be used to create affordable home ownership via limited equity coops and other resident-controlled cooperative housing.


Maintain the Supply of Existing Rental Housing


We also need to insure that currently affordable housing is not taken off market. Ask the Council to:


  1. Strengthen our Demolition Ordinance. Require that each rent controlled unit be replaced one for one with housing permanently affordable to low wage people.
  2. Prohibit conversion of rent controlled units to short term rentals.
  3. Create a City-maintained waiting list for affordable housing units and work to give priority for these units to those who currently live or work in Berkeley.
  4. Continue to limit conversion of rental units to condominiums and increase the conversion fee.
  5. Continue Support for Rent and Eviction Controls.
  6. Lobby for changes to state law to allow rent control for new housing beginning ten years after it’s built.
  7. Monitor Ellis Act evictions after they happen to insure evictions were legal and increase relocation fees for owner move-in evictions.
  8. Regularly monitor habitability of affordable and rent controlled units to insure they are retained in the housing stock, with inspections paid for by the owners.


Build Green, Sustainable Buildings


Reduce the generation of greenhouse gases and water use by residential buildings in Berkeley:


  1. Require new multi-family housing in Berkeley to meet a Zero Net Energy standard by 2020. Solar electric and solar thermal systems should become commonplace.
  2. Require best-practice water conservation measures in new buildings.
  3. Require all developers including in the downtown to pay open space impact fees to create and maintain parks, plazas, community gardens, etc.
  4. Require developers to pay transportation service fees to support pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements and incentives.
  5. Encourage developers to seek GreenTRIP certification from Transform through car-sharing, transit passes for residents, and ample bicycle parking and storage.
  6. Give incentives to homeowners and owners of existing multi-family housing to make energy efficiency and water conservation improvements.



In 2010, Berkeley had about 27,183 rental housing units, an increase from 24,512 units in 1990.  Of these, about 19,000 are rent-controlled housing units.  State law in 1995 replaced Berkeley’s system of strong rent control with vacancy decontrol, which means that landlords can raise their rent to market rate whenever a unit becomes vacant.


Rents are soaring


In the last few years, rents for new tenancies in rent controlled units have risen sharply:


New tenancies                       2011                     2015 Jan-Sept                    change

Studio                                     $  970                         $1,450                                    + 49.5%

One bedroom                                    $1,250                                    $1,800                                    + 44.0%

Two-bedroom                       $1,700                                    $2,600                                    + 52.9%


Source: Data in Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, December 14, 2015 Memorandum, Market Medians: January 1999 through September 2015 http:// Rent_Stabilization_Board/Level_3_-_General/3q2015_Market_Medians.pdf


Average rents in new apartment are now much higher than rents in older rent controlled housing. Average rents in new apartment buildings in Berkeley as of 2014 were:

            One-bedroom:     $2,537

            Two-bedrooms:  $3,434


Source: bae urban economics, City of Berkeley Affordable Housing Nexus Study, March 25, 2015, p. 4.


What is affordable?


Federal guidelines set 30% of household income spent on housing as the limit for determining whether housing is affordable. If more than 30% goes for housing and utilities, then it’s not affordable.


Many tenant households in Berkeley have modest incomes. 82% of renter households have income below $100,000 a year, making area rents for even a studio unaffordable:


Median household income, renters:           $  38,539        Affordable monthly  rent: $963


Median income of renters is even lower in South and West Berkeley. In South Berkeley, median tenant household incomes are under $38,000 a year.


Source: 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, S2503, Financial Characteristics, data by Census tracts and for the city as a whole. South Berkeley defined as Census tracts 4233, 4234, and 4240.


What kind of housing is currently being built in Berkeley?


Berkeley’s General Plan calls for the City to create 6,400 permanently affordable units for low- and very-low-income households. Between 2007 and 2014, only 22 units were produced for people with moderate incomes, achieving only 4% of Regional Fair Share Goal. Only 87 low income units and 76 very low income units were built in Berkeley, achieving only 21% and 23% respectively of Berkeley’s regional fair share goal.


More than 1,000, or 84%, of housing units produced in Berkeley were affordable only to people with above moderate incomes (income greater than 120% of the area median income, or income in excess of $112,200 in 2015 in Alameda County).


Source:  City of Berkeley 2015-2023 Housing Element. For area median income: California Department of Housing and Community Development Division of Housing Policy Development, “State Income Limits for 2015”, April 15, 2015.


Many families pay more rent than they can afford


Only a fraction of low income families in Berkeley receive Section 8 housing vouchers or live in permanently affordable housing.  Of Berkeley’s nearly 50,000 housing units, only about 2,000 are subsidized or inclusionary units. Up to 2,000 people in Berkeley have Section 8 or Shelter Plus Care vouchers.


Now, 53.5% of Berkeley’s renters are currently paying 30% or more or their income in rent.  A City’s Rent Board survey of tenants in rent-controlled housing in 2009 found that 26% of non-student tenants were paying more than 50% of their income in rent, up from 20% in 1998. About 3,400 Berkeley households are considered “extremely rent burdened”. Rents have soared since 2009; those paying over 50% of income in rent have also increased.


Students, who make up about one-third of the City’s tenant population also face a difficult situation. Even with a big jump in UC fees, many students’ housing costs are still higher than their fees. This contributes to their debt when they leave school. Even though many students double up, they still pay high rent even when they share rooms.


Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates; Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Rent Stabilization and the Berkeley Rental Housing Market 15 Years after Vacancy Decontrol, January 28,2013; Stephen Barton, Ph.D., and former City of Berkeley Housing director, “Berkeley’s Affordable Housing Crisis and What We Can Do About It”, PowerPoint presentation for November 22 teach-in].


What is the City Council doing to address the housing affordability crisis?


At the moment, not much.


The Council Rejected a Modest Budget Request


In April, 2015, the City Council rejected a proposal from Councilmembers Anderson, Arreguin and Worthington to add $1 million to the Housing Trust Fund as part of the current budget. Funds are available: the City collected close to $164 million in discretionary revenue in 2015, up from $140 million five years earlier.


… and Discounted the Housing  Fee to Benefit a Big Developer

In April 2015, the City Council continued discounting the housing impact fee to $20,000, down from the $28,000 approved in 2012. They took this action just as the largest housing project ever proposed in Berkeley was being considered and despite clear evidence that rents, and developer revenues, are soaring. Councilmembers Anderson, Arreguin and Worthington dissented. The City Council still has not acted to update the fee based on a March 2015 study recommending a $34,000 per unit fee and noting that construction of 100 market rate units creates demand for 25 additional low and moderate income units.


Source (revenue) City of Berkeley Adopted Biennial Budget, Fiscal Years 2016 & 2017, p. 40; for HTF budget referral: April 7 City Council Agenda, item 33, “Budget Referral: Housing Trust Fund”; for Council vote on impact fees: http:// Clerk/City_Council/2015/04_Apr/City_Council__04-07-2015_-_Regular_Meeting_Annotated_Agenda.aspx; sources: [site under construction];  bae urban economics, City of Berkeley Affordable Housing Nexus Study, March 25, 2015


Housing Trust Fund: Running Near Empty


The amount needed to complete projects already identified by affordable housing developers by 2018 is as much as $ 36.8 million.  As a result of the Council’s failure to act, the City has relatively little money available in the Housing Trust Fund.  As of November 5, 2015, the Trust Fund had a balance of only $3,067,578.


Source: “Below Market Rate Housing and Housing Trust Fund Program Status” prepared by city staff for City Council Work Session, December 1, 2015 (item 03). Funding Strategies:


Building it Green


The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted the California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, calling for all new residential construction in California to be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020. A ZNE building produces as much energy as it consumes during a year through energy efficiency and clean, on-site renewable power generation, typically solar photovoltaics.


The CPUC and at the California Energy Commission staff’s New Residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan 2015-2020 makes the state’s 2020 ZNE goal possible. Berkeley requires new buildings downtown to be LEED gold, but this can be achieved without any on-site energy generation and does not necessarily lead to much reduction in the building’s carbon footprint. Very few new Berkeley buildings have any significant solar energy component (Oxford Plaza downtown and Helios Corner on University are notable exceptions).


New development can also help achieve the City’s Climate Action Plan goals if buildings are located near transit and residents received encouragement and incentives to take transit, walk and bike; Transform’s Green Trip certification can help with that.




Drafted for the BPA by Rob Wrenn and Kate Harrison


Berkeley Progressive Alliance           Join us on Facebook

Address: PO Box  2961, Berkeley, CA 94702                 Email:

Economic Justice Platform - Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club


I cochaired the Wellstone Club's economic justice committee and co-authored our economic justice platform, which provides a specific plan for supporting the most vulnerable first, revising our taxing and spending priorities, rebuilding a high-employment/high-wage economy, building sustainable infrastructure to create jobs and invest in the future, reregulating and stabilizing the financial and mortgage markets and giving greater economic power over common resources to the people.

Towards Economic Equality: A Seven Point Program to Ensure a Better Future for Us All

The growth of economic inequality in the United States and most of the developed world since the early 1980’s is not an anomaly or a reversible blip,  but the result of the imposition of policies guided by the ideology of unregulated free markets, lower taxes, particularly for the rich, and trickle-down economics.  This world view, held by the economic and political elites, has dominated United States economic policy over the last three decades. It focuses on dismantling the legacy of the New Deal, which helped lead us out of the Great Depression of the 1930s and into the sustained growth periods of the 1950s and 1960s.

The roll- back of the New Deal legacy has dismantled  most of the social safety net, weakened labor protections, imposed trade policies impeding American workers from protecting their standard of living, deregulated financial markets (leading to the economic collapse of 2008-2010), and skewed the tax structure to benefit the rich at the expense of the rest of us. This agenda continues to increase the gap between the rich and everyone else. Left unchecked, growing inequality is not only economically unsustainable, but also socially dysfunctional. It leads to deteriorating health and educational outcomes, less family stability, more drug and alcohol abuse, higher stress levels and increasing tensions along class, gender and racial lines, putting particular pressure on those already close to or in poverty who are disproportionately people of color.  

This trajectory can only be reversed through focused and bold government action and new or revitalized organizations of workers and consumers to expand the economic and political power of average citizens relative to the power of economic elites.  

Towards a new New Deal We need an economic program that relies on the principles of the New Deal, updated for the modern reality of a highly interconnected global economy and instant communication technologies. Seven basic principles guide this approach. They are:

1. Support the most vulnerable people first:

  • Raise the federal, state, and local minimum wages to a living wage level (with automatic inflation adjustments) to lift low-wage workers out of poverty.
  • Continue to fully fund the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare programs, and work for a universal, means-adjusted single payer health insurance system.
  • Fully fund food stamps and other safety net programs for poor children, families, seniors and the disabled, and work to ensure that all those eligible are enrolled.
  • Develop programs to provide adequate housing to all. Require banks to re-negotiate loans to homeowners vulnerable to foreclosure, protect tenants facing evictions in gentrifying areas, and encourage more construction of and preservation of affordable housing.
  • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families and individuals.
  • Pass comprehensive immigration reform bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows, in turn raising wages at the lower end of the pay scale while growing the economy.

2. Revise our taxing and spending priorities:

  • Significantly reduce the $680 Billion military budget by staying out of unwinnable and pointless foreign wars, and by eliminating redundant and unnecessary weapons systems.
  • Substantially reduce the enormous domestic spying system that violates Constitutional protections and is mostly ineffective.
  • Reduce spending on prisons by implementing sentencing reform for non-violent offenders and ending federally subsidized militarization of police forces.
  • Reorient the tax system to raise additional needed revenue by having the wealthy pay their fair share while discouraging speculation and the outsourcing of American jobs:

Ø  Tax short term stock market speculation (the Robin Hood Tax) dramatically increasing federal revenue while discouraging destructive and risky high frequency trading and speculation.

Ø  Close huge federal loopholes for the rich by eliminating preferential tax treatment for capital gains and eliminate the carried interest tax break for hedge fund managers. 

Ø  Increase the income cap on Social Security taxes so all pay their fair share to sustain and expand this vital program.

Ø  Discourage the outsourcing of American jobs and the hiding of profits in foreign tax havens by reforming the way foreign profits by U.S. corporations are taxed.

Ø  Return the federal (and state) estate taxes to Clinton Administration levels , affecting only the top 1% of Americans but resulting in at least $100 Billion in increased revenue to government over 10 years.

Ø  Reform Proposition 13’s property tax breaks for non- residential property to help generate the funds needed for California’s cities, counties , school districts and public colleges and universities.

Ø  Enact a California Oil Severance tax as is done in other oil producing states.

Ø  Make permanent California’s Proposition 30 income tax increases for the rich.

3. Re-build a high-employment/high-wage economy:

  • Protect workers’ right to organize by passing the Employee Free Choice Act, which insures fair treatment of workers attempting to form unions.
  • Re-negotiate trade agreements in the interests of U.S. workers and our trading partners’ workers and farmers; ensure that corporate interests do not trump environmental and labor standards. Repeal or reject any trade agreement, such as the TPP, which does not guarantee net job and wage increases in the U.S. and for our trading partners.
  • As a condition of doing business in the U.S., require corporations and non-profit organizations to maintain a reasonable ratio of the pay of its top executives to the pay of its average workers, far below the current average ratio of about 300 to 1.
  • Use government tools to encourage investment in high-wage, sustainable, productive domestic industries, such as alternative energy.

4. Build sustainable infrastructure to create jobs and invest in the future:

  • Inject more federal funds into state and local governments to sustain quality public education, public transportation, and public health and public safety services.
  • Increase incentives for building solar and wind energy systems, including for new grids to get this energy from where it is produced to where it will be used.
  • Rebuild aging water and sewer systems, bridges, schools, libraries, parks, roads, public transit, and other public facilities.
  • Invest in production and conservation technologies to ensure sufficient water supplies in the near and far future. .

5. Re-regulate and stabilize the financial and mortgage markets:

  • Strengthen provisions in the 2010 Dodd- Frank financial re regulation law to limit the size of federally insured financial institutions so that none are “too big to fail”.
  • Separate commercial and investment banking so taxpayer money (FDIC insurance) is not used to bail out speculative investments, by reinstating the Glass- Steagall Act, repealed in 1999.
  • Strengthen financial regulatory agencies, such as the Consumer Protection Agency, to protect average citizens from scams and manipulations of powerful financial institutions.

6. Give greater economic power over our common resources to the people:

·         Promote effective environmental stewardship through community choice aggregation for energy procurement, and shared ownership of other natural resources such as petroleum.

·         Create legal and financial incentives for shared financial institutions -- community banks, land trusts, limited/shared equity housing, economic cooperatives and co-ownership, and workers’ councils.

·         Insist that local and state communities are adequately compensated for granting special planning permissions to developers.

7. Bring true democracy to the political process:

·        Reverse voter suppression laws aimed at people of color, students and others.

  • Encourage voting by facilitating registration, early voting and voting by mail.
  • Provide public financing for elections at all levels of government.
  • Reverse the Citizens United decision (allowing unlimited spending by wealthy individuals and big business interests on political campaigns) through a Constitutional Amendment or other means. Require full disclosure of major campaign contributors to candidates and initiatives.
  • Place strict limits on the revolving door between lobbyists and government jobs.
  • Limit the contributions/ gifts lobbyists can give to legislators.

Videos (1)

See Kate Harrison's speech announcing her candidacy for Berkeley's Distric 4 City Council seat as she describes her experience, goals, and policies she plans to bring to Berkeley

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