Whether you're a fan or a critic, there's no denying District 1 Councilman Tom Berg goes to bat for his constituents on Oahu's Leeward Coast since winning a special election in December of 2010.
"I always trust the voter," Berg told KITV4. "I believe the voter knows best."
The 47-year-old, born in Chicago but raised in Minnesota, never backs down from a match of verbal sparring with administration officials or those he disagrees with. Whether it's speaking out about the city's controversial $5.3 billion rail project, or fighting to save animals from euthanasia, Berg stands his ground.
"If I get boisterous and loud so-to-speak, it's normal for me," said Berg. "If I find that you're duping the taxpayer and the media won't cover it and it's not being exposed, I have to make myself animated to the degree that it scares people. "And if it scares you, don't focus on me, focus on what I'm trying to disclose for the people."
Berg credits his passion and rabble-rousing nature on the City Council to his Italian ancestry and birthplace of Chicago. However, the same passion he brings to political undertakings has also provided ammunition to his faultfinders.
Last year, Berg's confrontation with members of the U.S. Secret Service was captured on police video after he left his cellphone inside the Hale Koa Hotel, where President Barack Obama was hosting a dinner for APEC leaders.
More recently in August, Berg was stripped of his duties on the Transportation Committee after a contentious exchange with Chairman Breene Harimoto got so heated, Councilman Stanley Chang called police.
Berg said his animated exchanges with colleagues, members of the mayor's cabinet and even the Secret Service, are often misunderstood. He blames his confrontation with the president's security detail on the fact his cellphone contained dozens of contacts with sensitive information. He denies being inebriated during the incident.
"Everyone who's watched the video on this knows I wasn't intoxicated," Berg says of the confrontation. "Rather than focusing on Berg's behavior, I wish the media would focus on the message (and) what made me snap."
Through all of his ups and downs on the council, Berg has maintained a high level of support in his district, which stretches from Ewa Beach to Makua. Berg finished second in the Aug. 11 primary with 27.2 percent of the vote. Former Republican State Rep. Kymberly Pine, Berg's challenger in next month's general election, finished 6.5 points ahead of the councilman.
Whether he wins re-election or loses to Pine, Berg is satisfied his time on the council has born useful fruit. Berg has authored and passed 19 resolutions, forced the transit authority to cut its public relations budget, and fought for the protection of iwi kupuna – a result of his background in anthropology at the University of South Dakota.
"Just like a six-pack drinker at a picnic table, what would make you get mad at government," Berg asks rhetorically. "That's me… when government doesn't disclose, is not transparent (and) has no accountability."
It's also fair to say that no single lawmaker on Oahu has zeroed in on the city's rail project like Berg, a constant thorn in the side of the transit authority and supporters of the mass transit system.
"Is it going to raise your property taxes? Will it suck up all the other core services of government and eat us up alive from within? It's like a flesh-eating disease," said Berg.
Candidate Profile: Councilman Tom BergPublished 6:18 PM HST Oct 25, 2012
Whether you're a fan or a critic, there's no denying District 1 Councilman Tom Berg goes to bat for his constituents on Oahu's Leeward Coast since winning a special election in December of 2010.Recommended