I love Berkeley. I love the diverse neighborhoods, the community spirit, the passion and convictions of its residents.
Born in Berkeley, I am the first son of Annette and George Capitelli. My father was an Italian immigrant who struggled to find his place in this country. I learned from my father the values of hard work, respect and community.
I attended John Muir Elementary School as a young child, moved away, and returned to Berkeley in the 1960’s to attend Cal, majoring in political science. I married my college sweetheart Marilyn in 1968. We bought a house on Sonoma Ave, had two children - Sarah and Matthew - both of whom attended Berkeley public schools. I am now the proud grandfather of four grandchildren, one of whom attends Jefferson Elementary, the other to attend next fall.
As a teacher in an east bay high school - my first career - I learned how critically important equitable educational opportunities are for all kids. My eight years in the classroom transformed me into a lifelong advocate for public schools and our hardworking teachers, and years later inspired me to join the Berkeley Public Schools Fund board. I am proud to say that for over 25 years my board colleagues and I have raised millions of dollars for public school projects and direct classroom assistance.
Most of my adult working life has been spent as a realtor helping people buy their homes in Berkeley. I am honored to have had the opportunity to help facilitate what is for many the most important purchase they ever make, providing security for their families and an investment in their community.
For many years Marilyn co-owned Avenue Books in the Elmwood. In 1991 when we learned that the Elmwood Theater might close and be demolished, I rallied several neighbors and theater supporters to establish a nonprofit in order to buy and save the theater. We did it! It is still showing films and continues to be the iconic anchor establishment of the neighborhood.
In the late 1990’s I started my life in public service by accepting an appointment to the Planning Commission. I served there for four years, then served four years on the Zoning Adjustments Board. As a commissioner I learned how careful and thoughtful city planning can improve people’s lives, stimulate our local economy, and enable us all to move towards more sustainable lifestyles.
In 2004 I ran for City Council and have since represented District 5, the north Berkeley district that includes North Shattuck and Solano Avenue. These, like all Berkeley’s neighborhood shopping areas, are an important part of our economy, but also critical to our sense of neighborhood and community identity. I’m proud to say that during my tenure I spearheaded traffic safety efforts, bulb-outs to use for community spaces, dozens of new trees and landscaping, and carefully negotiated with Safeway so that the impacts to the neighborhood of their Shattuck remodel would be minimal. I also developed Berkeley’s pilot parklet program. You can see examples in front of Saul's, the Cheeseboard and coming soon: Pegasus Books on Solano Ave.
In 2008, as my Council responsibilities became the central focus of my life, I stepped away from my active work as a realtor and business manager. The next year I had an opportunity to collaborate with the neighborhood group “Friends of King Park” to complete major park improvements including a new climbing structure. I also participated in Vision 2020 focusing on kids aged 0 to 5 years. The research was clear: the achievement gap evident in our schools starts when children are young – before they even begin kindergarten. I am committed to ensuring every child has the opportunity to succeed, which is why I support universal preschool and a healthy start for all children.
In 2014, I gathered together a broad coalition of community members and elected officials to take on BIG Soda. Measure D passed with over 75% of the vote, making Berkeley the first city in the nation to pass a sugar-sweetened beverage tax! In its first year the tax brought in over $1.5 million for children’s nutrition programs and the schools’ gardening programs. With the success of the Berkeley Measure, many cities across the nation are looking to us to achieve similar results. I have consulted with Philadelphia, Oakland, Albany, and Boulder, Colorado.
But I worry about Berkeley: The rich diversity of our community is eroding because increasing housing costs and stagnating wages force many of our citizens to live elsewhere. So this past year I initiated the “Stop Wage Theft” legislation to protect Berkeley workers from unscrupulous employers. I co-authored and passed pioneering legislation to allow our workers to earn $15 dollars an hour. I worked closely with my colleagues to place a measure on the ballot to increase the business license tax to provided needed resources for affordable housing.
And finally, in addition to our efforts to create deeply affordable housing, I proposed that the City explore strategies to create affordable housing for Berkeley’s middle-income workers. We want our teachers and our health care workers to live locally, to be members of our community – it’s better for families and our environment.
I am proud of my accomplishments made through my service to our community, our kids, and Berkeley’s future. I am honored to run for Mayor - to continue this important work, but more importantly, to find new and innovative ways to create a vibrant and successful city we all call home.
Thank you for your support.