The topic of UC Berkeley’s relationship with the city of Berkeley dominated much of the discussion at a mayoral forum held Monday night.
The forum — organized by the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association — was held at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley and had about 75 community members attending. All but one of the six mayoral candidates running in this November’s election were present.
As candidates received questions from a panel of journalists from the Bay Area and a number of community members regarding city ballot measures and issues, each candidate touched on the city’s past and planned future relationships with the campus that takes up so much of Berkeley.
“(The campus) is the elephant in the city,” candidate Zachary RunningWolf said at the forum.
RunningWolf said he plans on working with the campus to get more students engaged in global climate-change efforts and to stop pollution in the city by promoting simple changes in their habits, like riding a bicycle.
Incumbent Mayor Tom Bates maintained that the city currently has a balanced relationship with the campus, citing their collaboration through the city’s 2020 Vision Plan — a component of which involves college students and local schools working together to lessen the achievement gap in younger students.
“We have interns that work in our office as well,” Bates said after the forum. “Throughout the city, they work with our health department.”
However, Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that he has always been the voice of students as a current council member and will continue to foster that relationship as mayor. In an interview, he said he would appoint more students to city commissions on his first day as mayor than Bates has appointed in his entire time in office.
Candidate Jacquelyn McCormick said the campus still has academic resources to share with the city that remain untapped.
“We could use the intellectual wealth for revitalizing and revising (budget) programs,” McCormick said.
Bernt Wahl, another candidate and a campus faculty member in the engineering department, agreed that the city needs to reach out to the university for active and innovative ideas in solving economic issues.
“(The city hasn’t) reached out to the university community at all,” Wahl said in an interview. “The city (officials) want to have it their way. The university is a great resource.”
Wahl said he would facilitate more negotiations with the university to solve issues such as a lack of community parking on the weekends. The community should be allowed to park in the campus’s empty lots, making it a win-win for both the city and the campus, he said.
Overall, the candidates seemed to agree that the city needs to have greater collaboration with the campus and its student body.
“There would be nothing better than to … utilize (these students) for city projects,” Wahl said.
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