Cal Students Pushing for Seat at City Hall

One of the first things people think of when they hear the city Berkeley is the college, so students want a voice in city government

As if homework, exams and a bustling social calendar weren’t enough, some University of California at Berkeley students could soon add city council meetings, groundbreakings and angry constituents to their list of school demands.

As the city of Berkeley looks to redraw its council districts, a group of students is proposing a first-ever student district around the Cal campus, with a spot for a student representative on the Berkeley City Council.

“A student could bring a voice that’s been missing far too long,” said Cal student Joey Freeman. “There are issues like safety, lighting on our street, housing.”

The recent passage of Measure R in Berkeley gave the city the green light to redraw its council districts.

Proposals for the new boundaries were due by this Friday. On Wednesday, a student group submitted its own map, with a purple district representing the campus and the surrounding community.

“We think it’s now time with the redistricting process happening to change that,” said UC Berkeley student Shahryar Abbasi. “We’re a quarter of the population of Berkeley.”

The students’ position has at least one vote of support at City Hall. Councilman Jesse Arreguin, who not long ago was a student at Cal, said a student voice could bring a fresh perspective to council issues.

“As the youngest person currently on the city council,” Arreguin said, “it would be nice to have somebody under 50 and somebody who wasn’t bald or had gray hair.”

The balding and gray-haired Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said he also supported a voice representing students on the city council – he just wasn’t convinced it needed to actually come from a student.

“It’s difficult, you’re elected for four years,” said Bates. “So the question is, is a student going to be here for four years? I don’t know.”

The city is hoping to whittle down the redistricting proposals by the end of the year.

As with any proposal that threatens to shake-up politics, the redrawing of boundaries is expected to become a hot item around city hall. Enough to make a final exam in calculus, seem like a walk in the park.

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