UPDATE: Kate Harrison resigns from Berkeley City Council

“I’ve had it with this place,” Harrison said, once she stepped off the dais. "These processes are broken." Watch video of the resignation here.

UPDATE: Kate Harrison resigns from Berkeley City Council
Kate Harrison after the Berkeley City Council meeting where she resigned Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Emilie Raguso/Aipsasiamedia

Berkeley City Councilwoman Kate Harrison has just resigned from her seat, stepping down in the middle of Tuesday night's council meeting and leaving the room.

The announcement shortly before 9 p.m. sent shockwaves through the council chamber where she shared the news amid a debate over surveillance cameras.

"I'm going to vote no," Harrison said, "but I'm going to read another statement, if I might."

Then she launched into a prepared speech where she suddenly shared her reasons for leaving. Her remarks were initially difficult to hear due to audio problems in the room, where the microphones had been out of service all night.

Kate Harrison said she had decided to resign "because Berkeley’s processes are broken and I cannot in good conscience continue to serve on this body."

Watch Kate Harrison's full remarks in the video or read the statement in writing.

Harrison also spoke of the impact of climate change and inequality on the city and indicated that she believed Berkeley was heading in the wrong direction in too many ways.

"I've thought about this for a very long time," she said. "And I'm sorry to do this to my constituents."

Citing often-contentious topics such as rising UC Berkeley enrollment, access to public transit and policing, she added: "Issues are presented as a morality play with those who disagree cast in the role of villains."

Harrison went on to add that she had not been "harassed in any way to make this decision."

Berkeley officials appeared stunned and said they had no idea the announcement was coming.

Harrison said her resignation would be effective Feb. 15 but then stepped down from the dais within minutes of her announcement.

Her colleagues took a short recess as she walked into the audience and said her goodbyes.

Kate Harrison will still run for Berkeley mayor

Harrison initially told members of the public that she wasn't sure if she would continue her run for Berkeley mayor.

“I’ve had it with this place,” she said to community members who approached her on the floor. "These processes are broken."

Harrison then announced that she needed to find a ride home and left the room.

Harrison was elected to the Berkeley City Council in March 2017 after Jesse Arreguín vacated the downtown seat to become mayor.

After the meeting, she confirmed to The Scanner by email that she would take part in the mayoral race in November.

Shortly after she left, the remaining Berkeley City Council members returned to the dais to finish the meeting.

They took public comment and then voted in support of the new security camera proposal before adjourning for the night. (A story is forthcoming.)

Hahn was the lone abstention on the camera item. Wengraf had an excused absence.

After the meeting, Mayor Arreguín said he had no comment on Harrison's resignation because he was "still processing what happened."

Colleagues shocked after Kate Harrison resignation

Several other Berkeley council members did weigh in.

"I think people have all kinds of ideas about what council members do, or what we can do. But we have a job. Our job is to serve," said Councilman Terry Taplin. "It's unfortunate when people choose to no longer do that service. That's why we're all here."

Councilwoman Sophie Hahn called Harrison's decision "fiscally irresponsible" because it will require Berkeley to hold a special election.

"It's a huge expense for the city," Hahn said. "It's an abandonment of a post and an oath that we take."

Hahn continued: "It's absolutely shocking that somebody would step away from a position that they were elected to, and service that they accepted, for no particular reason other than being frustrated that they don't win all the time."

Hahn said that being able to handle dissent is important for public office.

"None of us wins all the time," Hahn said. "That's the point of democracy."

Hahn and Harrison are expected to be the frontrunners in the upcoming Berkeley mayor's race — if Arreguín is successful in his Senate bid — due to their years of service and name recognition in the community.

Councilman Ben Bartlett said he hoped Harrison might reconsider her decision to resign.

"Her people need a voice," he said. "She's by far the most progressive person on the council and without her they don't have a voice."

He also expressed concern for his longtime colleague.

"The current climate is introducing a level of rigor and new level of stress to the job," Bartlett said. "Clearly she's going through something and I hope she's going to be OK."

2 Berkeley City Council members have now resigned

Harrison is the second Berkeley City Council member to resign this month.

Rigel Robinson also stepped down, citing harassment toward himself and his family. A special election to fill his District 7 seat is set for April 16.

That leaves six council members on the body as well as the Berkeley mayor.

During public comment Tuesday night, some community members said they were sad to see Harrison go.

"This divisiveness is really unhealthy for our community," added Carole Marasovic.

Update, Monday, Feb. 5: Harrison's resignation became official Monday morning. Here's the letter she filed with the City Clerk's office.

This story was updated after publication due to the developing nature of events.

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