BERKELEY -- City Councilman Max Anderson is hoping to win his third term Nov. 6 when he goes up against Dmitri Belser, a disability advocate whose campaign slogan is "blind guy with a new vision for Berkeley."
The two differ on two hot issues facing city voters in November: a proposed law banning sitting on sidewalks in commercial areas from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., (Anderson against, Belser for) and a question over increased development on the west side, which would allow 75-foot buildings (Anderson against, Belser noncommittal but for green development in general).
Belser is executive director of the Center for Accessible Technology and president of the board of the Ed Roberts Campus, a $47 million building at the Ashby BART station housing nonprofits that serve the disabled community.
Anderson, in addition to being a councilman, is the chair of the Alameda County Lead Poisoning and Prevention Program and a retired nurse.
Anderson calls Measure S, the no sidewalk sitting law on the ballot proposed by Mayor Tom Bates, a "snake oil" solution that "criminalizes common human behavior" while ignoring the underlying problem of not having a decent shopping district in the city.
Anderson also is against Measure T, which would allow bigger buildings in West Berkeley, because it "creates a windfall for developers and puts pressure on artists and small business people." He said the measure left out help for workers in the area and did not address environmental problems that will come with the development.
Belser said he supports Mayor Bates' no sidewalk sitting law because "people need to feel safe on the streets."
"Where I see places that have these laws, like Santa Monica, Santa Cruz and Seattle, it has been successful," said Belser, who was diagnosed with macular degeneration when he was 23. "It has been successful because the people on the sidewalks are being directed into services, and we have those services in Berkeley."
While declining to take a stance on Measure T, Belser said development "is not a bad thing, and I don't think you can stop it. It either happens with you or to you."
Anderson points to his work in helping get Derby Field developed for the Berkeley High baseball team; the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library torn down and rebuilt; a blood pressure clinic at the Over 60 Health Center; and more recently in bringing an asthma screening and treatment program called the Breathmobile to Malcolm X Elementary School.
Belser points to his work in developing the Ed Roberts Campus as a major accomplishment that showcased his ability to bring a variety of groups together to complete a multimillion dollar project that brought jobs and impacted the local economy.
"What I realized from the Ed Roberts Campus is I have the skills to negotiate this and bring people together to accomplish something that not all of us could do alone," Belser said. "It was incredible."
Anderson said he is most excited about his work in bringing the Breathmobile to town through his work on the lead prevention program.
"It was my idea," Anderson said. "When they come into a school with the Breathmobile, there is a sea change in attendance, a reduction in visits to the emergency room and hardly any hospital stays at all for asthma at the end of the program."
He said the Breathmobile is a good example of his emphasis as a councilman on problem solving "where we identify the problem, gather the resources and personnel and try to solve it."
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.
Occupation: Councilman since 2004; chairman of the Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program; retired registered nurse
Professional background: Berkeley Planning commissioner, 1989-1997; Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, 1996-2004
Education: Bachelor's degree in nursing from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia; associate degree in applied science from Community College of Philadelphia
Personal: Married, one daughter
Occupation: Executive director, Center for Accessible Technology
Professional Background: President of the board of Ed Roberts Campus; former treasurer, Building Education Center; former secretary, Arrowsmith Academy; former secretary, Computer Technologies Program
Education: Bachelor's degree in lesbian and gay studies from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.
Personal: Partner Tom White, two sons