BUSD administrators will hold budget hearing on March 29 in city council chambers
Will a student ever sit on Berkeley City Council again?

In the 15 years since Berkeley adopted City Council districts, no student has been elected to the post even though they make up a quarter of the population.

Now a coalition of UC Berkeley student leaders is aiming to change that.

The group hopes to put forward a plan that will reconfigure two City Council districts to make one with a super-majority of students. If that doesn’t work, the leaders may try and put a referendum before Berkeley voters to create a student-dominated district.

“Is this fair to the community?” said Joey Freeman, who as vice-president of external affairs for the Associated Students of the University of California is leading the redistricting effort. “You can make a very good argument there should be someone on the council representing the student interests.”

The catalyst to reconsider this question is the 2010 census. Law requires that the boundaries of all political seats be updated every ten years to reflect population changes. Berkeley’s population increased 9% between 2000 and 2010, going from 102,744 residents to 112,580.

The Berkeley city charter requires there be an equal distribution of residents in each of the city’s eight City Council districts. So the boundaries must be redrawn to put 14,703 residents in each district, up from 12,843. The city has set a September 16th deadline to receive new plans, but Councilmember Gordon Wozniak has an item on the July 19th agenda to extend this deadline to November 1. The City Council had already extended the deadline about a month. (Click here to see materials on how to present a new redistricting plan.)

Freeman and others want to use this opportunity to create a student-dominated district, but they are facing significant obstacles. Berkeley’s charter requires all new redistricting plans to comply with three criteria: no change in boundaries can lead to the ousting of a sitting council member; districts shall be equal in size; and new districts shall adhere as closely as possible to the original districts drawn up in 1986.

So the students are faced with a conundrum: if they submit a plan that creates a district with a supermajority of students, it won’t adhere closely to the original 1986 boundaries and will most likely be rejected. (This is what happened in 2002; the Berkeley City Attorney said an ASUC plan was not compliant with the law.) But if they decide to first push for a city charter referendum to allow for a new district, it won’t go on the ballot until the November 2012 election. And the City Council has established a timetable that calls for Berkeley to adopt new council districts by April 2012.

“Students make up one-quarter of Berkeley’s population,” said Kristin Hunziker, a 2009 Cal graduate who was active in Cal Democrats. She is now a political consultant and managed Wozniak’s 2010 re-election campaign. “Berkeley is a university town. We have a lot of university students. They should have representation on city government. There has only been one student who has served on the Berkeley City Council [Nancy Skinner, who was elected in 1984 before there were districts]. There should be more.”

While students live in large numbers in four city council districts, those represented by Wozniak (District 8) and Kriss Worthington (District 7) would be most affected by the students’ plan. But the two councilmen have different approaches about how to solve the situation.

Gordon Wozniak

Wozniak wants to slow the process down to give the students more time to come up with a redistricting plan. Since most Cal students won’t return from vacation until late August, the city’s current September 16th deadline to submit a new plan won’t give them a chance to confer. That’s why he is proposing the deadline be moved to November 1, even though city staff has said that will not give the city enough time to create new districts in time for the November 2012 election. Wozniak thinks that is fine; the new districts can be in place for the 2014 election.

“You have a district plan that makes it almost impossible to elect a student because they are spread over four districts,” said Wozniak. “I think it would be good if there was an active student on the council.”

Many of the students at Cal are of Asian heritage, and a student-dominated district might also bring that diversity to the council, he pointed out.

Worthington is opposed to deciding the matter through the city charter first, and then adjusting the city council district boundaries. If it is done in that order, then some voters who would have been moved into new districts because of population changes in time for the November 2012 elections, won’t get to vote for those running for council in Districts 2, 3, 5, and 6.

Kriss Worthington

“If a delay means we are not going to do redistricting in 2012, I think that’s gravely undemocratic,” said Worthington.

He said he would support a city charter referendum to create a student-dominated district since it would give voters a chance to decide the issue. He just thinks the referendum should be done after redistricting is completed.

Worthington said Wozniak might benefit politically if there was a student-dominated district. Any major redrawing of district lines would probably shift the students out of District 8 and into District 7. That would make Wozniak’s district more politically moderate, which might help him in future elections.

“It would allow Gordon to dump all the young people out of his district,” said Worthington.  “The students tend to vote more liberally than his district.”

Conversely, Worthington would be the city council member most likely to face a challenge from a student.

In the meantime, the Cal coalition is soliciting support for its plans. Skinner, the only UC student to be elected to the council, is behind them, said Freeman.

“Nancy is supportive of extending the deadline and creating a district with a supermajority of students,” said Freeman.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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67 Comments

  1. Thanks for contemplating the “deeper meaning” of this candidacy.  For the record, I found information suggesting that Pecualt was NOT a current UCB student when he ran for mayor but was a 25 year old recent Stanford (!) graduate.  Evidently, he had only moved to Berkeley shortly before he filed his candidacy.
     
     
    http://www.cameliastreet.org/2006/05/26/announcing-christian-pecautberkeleys-newest-mayoral-candidate/
     
     
    I do find it somewhat disturbing that he found 517 voters to support him.   I don’t know the exact tipping point for “mass insanity” in a community of 100,000, but based on many years of residency here, I would say that Berkeley’s mental health is definitely “at risk”, especially when you combine Running Wolf voters with Pecault’s.
     
     
    City of Berkeley, Mayor (100) 100/100 100.00%
     
    NP – ZELDA BRONSTEIN 12,652 30.92%
     
    NP – TOM BATES 25,680 62.77%
     
    NP – ZACHARY RUNNING WOLF 1,880 4.60%
     
    NP – CHRISTIAN PECAUT 517 1.26%
     
    Write-In 185 0.45%
     
    Total … 40,914 100.00%

  2. Balkanizing Berkeley further is a natural step in maintaining our city’s patronage system. Council seats are lifetime appointments made by financial interests (you choose, from developers to unions) who’ve perfected rounding up the meager numbers needed to win a district election. 

    Which explains why the tepid public debate of our elected officials produces politically safe compromises made within a narrow band of options. Vibrant politics will reappear when people align according to their fundamental interests; Something we’ve been able to avoid during a long period of relative prosperity. As the economy worsens, council spats over which festivals to fund will be replaced by title fights featuring: 

    Property tax bills versus public employee benefit packages. 

    Cost of social services versus demonstrable benefit 

    Quality of city services versus salaries and staffing levels

    more…

    And at the school board:

    Basic skill proficiency versus feel good programs and social promotion

    Parental expectations and  accountability versus school resources

    political correctness versus reality

    more…

    We need new hats in the ring.

  3. Parcel taxes are not solely for schools. The recently-defeated Pools Measure is an example of a non-school parcel tax.

    As a relative newcomer to Berkeley I am not intimately familiar with all the different ways in which Councilmembers can squander funds, but as we saw recently even the simple allocation of funding in the City Budget can easily be manipulated from being a simple decision on how to best maintain infrastructure into a politically charged nightmare fraught with waste.

    We should also keep in mind how easy it is to convince unemployed Cal students to protest against practically anything, and how much that can affect decisions by weak-willed Councilmembers. A gerrymandered student district would only serve to amplify that problem, and give even more power to a group of individuals who have no vested interest in the long-term health and success of the City of Berkeley.

  4. I understand your concern. However, (and correct me if I’m wrong), doesn’t the general population have to vote to approve a new parcel tax? Which means that registered student voters are already able to vote for/against that now? I don’t understand how having a student city council rep would affect that, aside from him/her being in a better position to mobilize students to vote one way or another.

    And another thought… my understanding of parcel taxes is that they’re generally used for schools (…and not UC schools). So perhaps you should be less concerned about students voting in favor of parcel taxes and more concerned about people with kids! 

  5. By no means do I mean to impugn the bulk of the student body which I personally hold in high regard, but does anyone recall this nutbar who ran for Mayor of Berkeley in 2006 — Christian Pecaut, aptly described in one internet commentary as a “real pant-load”?  I thought he had (or claimed to have) some relationship with UCB, but I dont’ recall if he was actually enrolled there at the time he ran for mayor.

    His candidacy statement:

     http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2006-10-20/article/25363?headline=Berkeley-Mayoral-Candidate-Statements-Christian-Pecaut&status=301

    Sample from Pecaut’s official Candidate Statement linked to above in the Planet:

    Landlords: Remorseless, lying, blood-sucking parasites. More property, more vicious. Give back every dollar stolen from the tenants, immediately, in cash. Rent is Theft. 

    Bates: That ghoulish “smile” betrays your duplicity. Giggles like an idiotic school boy when he can’t lie his way out of responsibility. City Manager Phil Kamlarz does the same when caught ripping off the public and lying about it. Real estate profiteering is payoff to Tom and his BCA cohorts for 34 years of fucking Berkeley over.

    […]

    UC Berkeley: 90% of the students are conniving cruel imbeciles. Spoor of a big ascendant nazi-bourgeiosie. Extermination disease programs called “cancer research” and “synthetic biology”. Save Darfur campaign is fake bred there: China’s oil supplies are the real target. 

    […]

    Police: A blunt spoon gouge of cruelty, incompetence, arrogance, and systemic theft-punishment, with growing slush funds from the drug trade and nouveau Gestapo. Stacked wih torturers and murderers trained in Iraq. 5%+ pay increase every year for 5 years = $80,000 starting salary. 

    […]

    Which brings me to UC Berkeley. There will be no principled protest coming from the students there. That “university” turned Nazi-Republican once Schwarzenegger was made President of the UC Regents by Stanford’s Hoover Institution three years ago. Just sit in a student café around Berkeley and hear for yourself: “biology” and “public health” means pharmaceutical and biological warfare research, “environmental design” means high-profit development scams, and “history” means getting forced to lie about how current society is the only way people ever have or ever will live. 

    etc.

  6. Good point.  They need to either file their candidacy papers as freshmen right after their dorm orientations end or get on the extended 5/6 + year graduation plan.

  7. students have absolutely shown that they’ll vote for positive change –
    AND pay for it – as students even if they won’t be around for the
    results.

    Personally speaking, I would be more concerned with how a very temporary Berkeley student resident would vote for parcel taxes which they would not pay, and which would most likely continue long after they graduated and moved out of town.

    It’s easy to vote for improvements & special allocations when you’re spending someone else’s money.

  8. Quick question, is there a residency requirement to run for city council?  For example, when I went to school I kept my Berkeley residency and voter registration since i knew I was coming back.  Would a student have to be a full time resident or at least transfer their “permanent” address to Berkeley?

  9. If a student wants to run they can run now.  Right now as is.  If they can win, good for them.  Gerrymandering is illegal and immoral.  If some other short term resident can run and win, good for them.  There is no restriction to anyone running now so why try to game it to get a student in?

  10. Wowza. Listen, I’m not actually for or against a student district. I’m still mulling over the ramifications of the idea. You’ll notice that I don’t state that I support it. What I don’t appreciate is posters that denigrate students. 

    If you oppose a student district for legal reasons, fine. If you’re against students because they’re students, and that’s what you communicate in your post, that’s not fine.

  11. Eric,

    Do you have institutional knowledge about the process and result of the multi- year effort to resolve southside neighborhood issues within the Chancellor’s task force. If not, you might want to meet with the long time southside neighborhood activists to learn specifically want was accomplished and what remains problematic.

    BAPAC collaborated closely  with Students for a Safer Southside and the various Southside neighborhood groups for several years, so we had direct engagement on quality of life issues.

    On a personal note I rented a studio directly across from People’s Park for my disabled brother, it was common for me to recognize south Berkeley players dealing in the park.

    This is a small city in fact.

  12. I do appreciate your thoughtful response, Jarad. To be fair to both of us, I think we are talking about rather different problems–both of which are real and important. What I was referring to was the neighborhood immediately South of the campus; I now realize that what you, Laura, and some others are most likely referring to are the southern-most neighborhoods of Berkeley–areas closer to the Oakland and Emeryville borders. While I still disagree with the dismissive and at times insulting attitude towards the student population, I both understand and agree with the idea that the problems of South Berkeley, rather than Southside, run deep and are not easily corrected on a local level.
    I maintain that for the campus-adjacent neighborhood and areas of Telegraph, there are local-level steps we have not taken, but which could be effective in improving the area. The crime, drug, and gang related problems of South Berkeley, however, I think will require a coherent policy response at much higher levels of government.

    I am truly not trying to sow dissension between students and long-term residents. I myself was once the former and am now on my way to becoming the latter. But I do feel the need to defend the student population from some of the insults I’ve read–some of which have been characterized by far greater hostility than anything I’ve ever written here. I don’t think students are uncaring or unwilling to get involved, but neither do I think student involvement is a magic bullet. Most generally, what I think Berkeley needs is a change from a political process that disproportionately rewards squeaky wheels and makes most people feel out-shouted and unwelcome. If having a student voice could help on this and other issues, then I am all for it.

  13. I do appreciate your thoughtful response, Jarad. To be fair to both of us, I think we are talking about rather different problems–both of which are real and important. What I was referring to was the neighborhood immediately South of the campus; I now realize that what you, Laura, and some others are most likely referring to are the southern-most neighborhoods of Berkeley–areas closer to the Oakland and Emeryville borders. While I still disagree with the dismissive and at times insulting attitude towards the student population, I both understand and agree with the idea that the problems of South Berkeley, rather than Southside, run deep and are not easily corrected on a local level.
    I maintain that for the campus-adjacent neighborhood and areas of Telegraph, there are local-level steps we have not taken, but which could be effective in improving the area. The crime, drug, and gang related problems of South Berkeley, however, I think will require a coherent policy response at much higher levels of government.

    I am truly not trying to sow dissension between students and long-term residents. I myself was once the former and am now on my way to becoming the latter. But I do feel the need to defend the student population from some of the insults I’ve read–some of which have been characterized by far greater hostility than anything I’ve ever written here. I don’t think students are uncaring or unwilling to get involved, but neither do I think student involvement is a magic bullet. Most generally, what I think Berkeley needs is a change from a political process that disproportionately rewards squeaky wheels and makes most people feel out-shouted and unwelcome. If having a student voice could help on this and other issues, then I am all for it.

  14. Berkeley students are some of the brightest in the country, and commenters do the university and this town a disservice by bashing students. To claim that many undergraduates can’t “wipe their own rear ends”… well I’m sure many adults would make the same compliant about their adult coworkers, who have time and experience on their side. 

    Students are just as reasonable (or not reasonable), and just as able to grasp long term effects of policy decisions (or not) as the general Berkeley resident population. I think the real reason most commenters are against a student resident district is a fear response, a fear that you’ll disagree with what you think they’ll support. Why are so many people afraid of what students will do if they had representation on city council? Are they so radically different from you that they’ll ruin this town?

    Furthermore – in response to some comments I’ve read – students have absolutely shown that they’ll vote for positive change – AND pay for it – as students even if they won’t be around for the results. Take student recreation centers. Students will assess themselves a fee and forgo normal gym access in order to construct better recreation facilities that oftentimes won’t even benefit them due to the duration of construction projects. Another example is sustainability referendums. Students will vote to assess themselves a fee that in part is used to fund energy efficiency projects. Those students don’t get any direct savings paid back to them from energy efficiency or renewable energy measures they fund. But they do it anyway with the understanding of the long term benefits.

    Finally, what about not all non-student Berkeley residents that move here for a few years, and then leave? Should we rescind representation for them? Not everyone in Berkeley is a lifer.

  15. One point no one has mentioned. 

    Council terms are four years, so if you are an undergraduate student when you are elected, you probably will have graduated and will no longer be a student before your term ends. 

    Then what?  Do you refuse to run again because you are no longer a student?

  16. There could be interesting unintended consequences; Well heeled students weary of chasing too few vacant apartments might repeal rent control. Thereby dumping our lifetime social activist subsidy program and millions in rent board expenses. 

  17. “Many of the students at Cal are of Asian heritage, and a
    student-dominated district might also bring that diversity to the
    council, he pointed out.”

    Yup those Asian college students are known for heavy drinking and partying all night. We’d better reign in their kind.

    This comment reeks of snobbery and NIMBY’ism.

  18. Yes. This is the point that first came to mind for me.  If they can win on merit as citizens like anyone else then great!  Kudos!  But redrawing things to cater to people who aren’t going to be here for the long haul is just silly.

  19. No one is saying don’t run.  But if you want to do grown up things then do it the grown up way.  Run and win. No one’s stopping a student from doing that.  Gerrymandering to cater to transient citizens is a terrible idea.

  20. I thought gerrymandering for a specific group was illegal.  Beyond that students are transients, why should they be handed a council seat?  Do we really want some kid with short term concerns guiding our city and making decisions that will affect the rest of us long term?  I don’t. If a student can run and win on their own merits like any other citizen then good for them, but trying to set up favorable conditions for them through artificial pin pointed means feels dirty.  I’d be willing to fight this.

  21. I thought gerrymandering for a specific group was illegal.  Beyond that students are transients, why should they be handed a council seat?  Do we really want some kid with short term concerns guiding our city and making decisions that will affect the rest of us long term?  I don’t. If a student can run and win on their own merits like any other citizen then good for them, but trying to set up favorable conditions for them through artificial pin pointed means feels dirty.  I’d be willing to fight this.

  22. Beware tokenism in all its insidious manifestations.  Think of the hard fought “student regent” position among the UC Regents.  What major objectives has s/he ever been able to accomplish for student interests?  Blocked any tuition increases?  Don’t think so?  Shifted funding priorities away from overpaid management to student needs?  Don’t think so.  Reformulated the educational direction and priorities of the UC system to better reflect student interests?  Don’t think so.  The most recent student regent was forced to resign over a date rape allegation.
     
    Likewise tokenism fails many African American residents in South Berkeley.  Yes, there’s a “safe seat” for an African American council member, but how well does he represent his constituents?  Has the quality of life improved greatly in South Berkeley thanks to anything Max Anderson accomplished?  UCB students are a very diverse bunch with a wide range of interests, goals and priorities.  It’s foolish to suppose that the “class president” type who would moonlight as a city council member while attending a demanding university would really be doing this as a public service for student interests and not as a bullet point on his resume en route to the political stepping stones of higher office.
     
    Accordingly, the best city council representative for areas of Berkeley with the largest concentration of students is the most able and well informed administrator or the most adept and experience local politico available in that district.  Yes, that could, in theory be a twenty something current student, but, more likely it’s someone else with a lot longer experience dealing in local issues.

  23. Eric,

     a student district is a good idea. depending on who is elected  determines the leadership, not their age.

  24. Eric,

     a student district is a good idea. depending on who is elected  determines the leadership, not their age.

  25. Your “update for Bruce” is full of distortions:

    Call it a conspiracy or call it, shall we say, “ulterior motives.” Tomayto, tomahto.

    “Ulterior motives” and “conspiracy” are not in any way two names for the same thing.  I can’t imagine any sensible reason you would want to conflate them.

    Whether redistricting is delayed until 2014 or potentially forced to
    happen again mid-decade by a charter amendment, the outcomes seem
    pretty much the same.

    No, not at all.  There is an election in 2012 which will be effected by redistricting or by the failure to redistrict.   The significance of many thousands of votes are on the line.  That is why the timing of redistricting is now at issue.

    Either
    way, this is something the students have pushed before and are clearly
    pushing again–they don’t need prompting from anyone on the council.

    Who said that anyone on council was prompting the students?  

  26. Actually a closer translation is “slut.”  In either case, I find it pretty offensive and think it detracts from respectful discourse.  Please reconsider your choice.

  27. Yeah, why would students want to be involved and participate in their community, how absurd. Children should be seen, not heard right?

    People who are bemoaning this idea are either Worthington supporters or out of touch. If local students had more access to city hall, I bet Telegraph avenue and People’s park would be cleaned up and made safer a lot quicker.

  28. Did you listen to the organized student response to social host ordinance several years ago, their logic put them in the running for a Darwin Award.

  29. We can all agree that more student-aged voters would see the results of city council measures if they remained in Berkeley after graduating. Have you considered why so many students flee Berkeley the moment they secure a diploma? Because there’s nothing compelling to keep them around. Maybe if students had a bigger say in shaping areas like the Southside over the years, Berkeley might become a more welcoming place for students, young professionals, and long term residents alike.

  30. re:

    [where] they can go for a 4AM coffee, burger, and/or stack of pancakes.

    Providing access to such  for those who pulled all nighters or had a night on the town is considered best practice, proved by many decades (perhaps centuries) of positive results in university settings.

  31. I thought my point, that students aren’t looking for complete deregulation, was pretty clear. I think it’s also important to point out that students are just as, if not much more interested in a place they can go for a 4AM coffee, burger, and/or stack of pancakes.

  32. Eric, not really sure what you are saying here. The set of ordinances promoted by BAPAC for alcohol regulations do not fit either of those descriptions and are considered best practice, recent research proves the positive results in university settings.

     

  33. I agree with you most of the time, and I value your input a great deal, but this hostile sarcasm seems uncalled for, particularly because I see little evidence of Cal students taking an active role in trying to generate some long-term solutions for the problems of South Berkeley.

  34. Have you ever actually been to Las Vegas?  I have, many times.  It’s a sprawling suburbia outside of The Strip, and I imagine the public transportation is probably terrible, like most suburban areas.

    I live in Berkeley and I don’t own a car.  I don’t think waiting 20 minutes (maximum) for a bus is bad at all.  That’s not to say that AC Transit is perfect.  But that’s not a Berkeley-only entity.

  35. Yeah, you’re so right. It’s silly to think that a new generation can improve upon the efforts of the past one. Berkeley has no history whatsoever of students and young people correcting the mistakes of older generations.

  36. “Safer and more welcoming Southside..” Something the actual long-term residents of Southside have desired for decades. Pretty sure if people like Laura Menard cannot make more headway in that area, the students voices/votes surely won’t matter.

  37. So let me get this straight: because things are worse elsewhere, we shouldn’t try to make them better here? In that case, you better go build yourself a mud-hut near the Berkeley Marina because somewhere else in the world, that’s all they’ve got.

    If you’re completely transit reliant, like me, you come to realize very quickly that waiting 20 min for a bus, having three show up, and then bumping along at 2mph because you’re sitting at lights and stuck behind double parked vehicles, is not a good transit experience. If you want a good transit experience, go to Europe–or for that matter, Los Vegas.

    Yes, Berkeley has much better transit than most comparably sized cities. But to argue that it can’t and shouldn’t be radically improved is so bogus.

  38. I’m in favor of a “student district,” but:

    “Wozniak wants to slow the process down to give the students more time to
    come up with a redistricting plan. Since most Cal students won’t return
    from vacation until late August, the city’s current September 16th deadline to submit a new plan won’t give them a chance to confer.”

    is, unfortunately, a great argument against it. The census and the need for redrawing district lines is not a surprise, and saying “we’re not in town” does not bode well for student participation on the Council.

    That said, I’m still in favor of redrawing district lines to create a more student-centric district, but if it can’t be done this time, maybe these students who want it need to work on the appropriate processes to make sure one gets implemented in 2022.

  39. Better transit?  Berkeley has pretty excellent transit, in my opinion.  Plus students get to ride it for free, often treating the AC Transit bus like a shuttle, for example using the 51 just to go a few blocks up Durant.

    They should try studying and living at UC Irvine without a car, for example, before they complain about the public transit here.

  40. “Nancy Skinner didn’t even have to run in District 7; she won a city-wide election.”

    Nancy Skinner won during the era of strong slate politics in Berkeley, as a member of the Berkeley Citizens Action. BCA felt it was important to have a student voice on the Council, and she was swept in as part of a BCA victory. District elections took away the power of slates (maybe good, maybe bad), so to say she won during those times is comparing apples and oranges.

  41. I’m not talking about the students — I’m mostly talking about Wozniak and the majority.  No “conspiracy” is needed here — you must be new to politics 😉

    I agree with you that Wozniak appears to have an incredibly safe seat.  Not only that, but he’s not even up in 2012.    I’m looking at, for example, district 5 as interesting (vis a vis redistricting) in 2012.

    I agree with you that Worthington and Arreguin have the most to lose in the event of a massive redistricting to create a student district — but I also think that that has a snowball’s chance….     Under ordinary redistricting with no charter changes, both will lose population from their districts but neither is in trouble.  If anything, by restoring the district 7 / district 8 border to something closer to 1986,  Worthington might gain strength.   So, again, what kind of conspiracy does it take for the council majority to want to postpone that on the flimsiest of excuses?

    The council majority has 0 upside in redistricting — the minority either breaks even or gets some dilution of the base that supports the majority.   It does not take much collusion for the majority to notice this and get behind delaying redistricting past 2012.

  42. From your definition: ” …while concentrating the voting strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible”

    One can easily say that the non-student majority in Berkeley gerrymandered the districts when they created them in order to weaken the student population’s voting strength.

  43. There’s a saying I like to go by: Never assume malice when incompetence will do.

    And in this case, we don’t even need incompetence–just students’ own rational self-interest and the desire of certain council members to include them in the process. Worthington and perhaps Arreguin arguably have the most to lose due to the creation of a student district, but it is Wozniak who has proposed the delay. Wozniak would seem to have the least to lose as only an extremely radical and unlikely redistricting would be likely to result in the loss of his seat.

    I don’t see a vast conspiracy here. To the extent Berkeley does vast conspiracies it does them in a way obvious to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention, because nothing stays a secret around here anyway. Call it participatory democratic conspiracy. I look forward to the day Berkeley politics have the coherency and wherewithal to successfully execute an actual conspiracy–maybe some of the associated energy and competency will spill over into addressing real issues.

  44. Isn’t this exactly the point, though? 

    A student district has, at the very least, a steep and difficult process to go through — it is hard to see how they can draw the maps that way without a charter amendment.   A charter amendment will be very, very hard if not impossible to pass.  Why get so excited about it?

    Rightly or wrongly, the proposal makes it is very easy for influential people to excite popular sentiment by:  (a) slandering the entire demographic of students;  (b) suggesting that enfranchisement should be denied or diminished to those who hold “incorrect” opinions.  (Thus, we are to believe both that students would use their voting power in such ridiculous ways and that how they would presumably vote is reason enough to dilute and diminish their franchise.)   Of course, others can argue that that’s unfair.   So we have instant Controversy, manufactured out of thin air.

    And yet, I’ll say again, the odds are slim of a student district arising so why,  we must ask, are some parts of council so eager to inflame these passions and delay redistricting up until the deadline?  It’s not as if there’s an election that would happen during the delay…. oh, wait, there is.

    A wiley politician need only help distract attention from the redistricting delay by focusing on the lost cause of a student district.

    And what risk is there? Should, indeed, a student district accidentally arise why, perhaps it would hurt the current council minority  by cutting its size in half.

  45. Based on my experience and the conversations I have with current and former students, student interests include: more and better housing; a cleaner, safer and more welcoming Southside; more economic opportunity and jobs; better transit and a generally more sustainable city; more nightlife; and less time spent on irrelevant or petty distractions.

    Like it or not, the student body is no longer characterized by quixotic radicalism and–to the degree it cares at all–has instead largely opted for progressive pragmatism. As to whether the students’ current representation embodies these concerns and a pragmatic approach, I think most people could probably guess my position.

  46. Colloquially, it simply means “bitch”, ala “ta mere et une salope”, or something like that.

  47. Why is it that everything in Berkeley ends up framed as a choice between Soviet-style control and pseudo-libertarian anarchy?

    Isn’t it instead possible that students could lobby for, say, 24-hour operations by Administrative Use Permit?

  48. Heather:

    You new moniker is amusing (at least to me):

    It is the general french word for a promiscuous woman. It also carries a meaning of being egoistical and disrespectful of others. Like the english word “nasty”, “salope” has two meanings : sexual promiscuity and egoistical behavior.

  49. By history, Berkeley’s few chances at 24/7 entertainment are always ruined by several things: unruly college students, party-crashing high-schoolers, difficulty in getting/maintaining liquor license close to campus. But they certainly would try — Heather W. (writing as Salope).

  50. Yes but this non-starter of an idea for a student district provides some council members a fine excuse for delaying ordinary redistricting for a year so that it doesn’t impact the 2012 election.

    Talk about burying the lede.

  51. Yep, couldn’t have really said it any better myself.

    I’d also like to add that I deal with undergrads on a daily basis via my workplace.  A good chunk of them can barely even wipe their own rear ends, due to our society’s creation of such prolonged adolescence.  I can’t imaging why you’d want one of them sitting on the city council.

    Plus being a student is supposed to be a full-time job.  A city council member shouldn’t be splitting their attention to another full-time position.

    Just a terrible idea all around.

  52. It seems to me that the majority of UCB students are impermanent residents, and as said, will not live with the consequences of their votes. Redistricting for a majority of students who spend 4 – 6 years here makes no sense. On the other hand, if any of them was to run for City Council, spending the $$ and time on their effort, I welcome their contribution.

  53. Also, I’m not sure I agree with Worthington that Wozniak is looking to dump students out of his district.  He’s not up again until 2014 and, if the 2010 results are any indication, he’s got a quite secure seat.  

    Notice that the last time district 8 was redistricted it had to grow, not shrink.  It took one block from district 6 but 4 from district 7 …. that district doesn’t want to shed students, it wants to skim them off district 7 and dilute their vote.

    I don’t think that Wozniak is playing to shed students.  I think he’s playing to delay and overly politicize the redistricting rules because, otherwise, some other council majority districts start to get less secure.

  54. Notice that it is the council majority, not the faction that most usually represents student interests, who are seeking to delay redistricting and give some consideration to the idea.

  55. Hmm.   Wozniak’s district 8 must shrink by about 1200 people during redistricting.   It borders only Wengraf’s district 6, which must gain about 1200 people, and Worthington’s 7, which must shed about 2500.

    At first glance it would be simply “shrink district 8 from the north and correspondingly grow district 6 to the south until the populations of 8 and 6 are balanced — but there are non-political reasons to not be that simple minded.   In particular, even though district 7 needs to shrink, it might come closer to restoring the 1986 lines by taking back 5 square blocks previously ceded to district 8 — thus reducing the amount that district 8 must give up to district 6.   Seven can also shed 5 blocks previously  taken from district 6, shed  6 blocks earlier taken from district 3, and shed 1 that was taken from district 4. 

    So a natural outcome to redistricting, if we don’t delay or change the charter, is that Wozniak’s district 8 will look more like it did in 1986 — perhaps extending a bit less far north.  It won’t look much different than it does now.  For similar reasons,  district 6 will naturally come out looking more like the 1986 borders, but not too different from now.   It’s hard to imagine Wozniak’s dog in this fight.   Except….

    As a ripple effect, students will grow stronger in districts 3, 4, and 7 — and district 3 and 5 will pick up voters currently downtown in district 4.

    Not creating a student district doesn’t exactly dilute student power — it dilutes some of the dominant voting blocks that support the council majority.

    Perhaps that is the reason why some want to delay redistricting.

  56. A good choice to represent the voice of a new generation in Berkeley would be Eric Panzer, a fairly recent UCB grad who is also a real local resident with a vested, longer term stake in the community.  He’s also fantastically well informed on local issues and otherwise a much brighter bulb than most of the rubes and machine politico hacks now infesting the council for years on end.

    As a regular contributor to this forum, Berkeleyside should interview Eric about this and related questions.

  57. Welcome back!  Your absence in the comments section was sorely felt.  I hope the comments forum will return to being a lively (as well as civil) forum as it once was and continue to inform and complement well the news and culture reporting.  There’s a symbiosis there.

    GPO

  58. This seems like a really good way for a handful of politically active Cal students to have an overwhelmingly disproportionate influence on local politics. I would want to see some really specific numbers on voter turnout among Cal undergrads before we even begin to consider this. I would suspect that turnout is extremely low, which would mean that those voters that do turn out in a student-dominated district have a louder voice on the council than residents living in a district with relatively higher voter turnout.

    Sharkey and Bezerkeley are right; there’s nothing stopping Cal students who want to be active in local politics from doing so now. Nancy Skinner didn’t even have to run in District 7; she won a city-wide election. What, precisely, are the student interests that are currently unrepresented? 

  59. Students may account for 25% of Berkeley’s residents, but how many of them actively vote or pay attention to local politics? It’s hard enough getting young people to vote for a new President.

    If a student wanted to run for City Council there is nothing stopping them from doing so now. Trying to find ways to jury-rig the redistricting to create a new district designed solely to get a Cal student onto the City Council just feels wrong. Let’s not forget that most students are only in Berkeley on a very temporary basis – the vast majority of them won’t be around to feel the effects of the measures they vote on.