Berkeley voters to decide on measures including new beverage tax and district map

Berkeley’s November election will feature several controversial ballot measures and three contested council seats, including a historic soda tax and the first council race to take place in a new student supermajority district.

Ballot measures

Berkeley Student District Campaign map

In fall, Berkeley residents will vote on a set of district lines known as the Berkeley Student District Campaign map lines. Designed to make District 7 into a student supermajority district, the map was passed by the majority of City Council in December. But some — including certain council members — criticized the fact that it excluded Northside student cooperatives and dorms from the student district and launched a successful referendum to suspend its implementation. Thus, voters will make the ultimate decision on whether to finally implement or overturn the BSDC map.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax

Another measure, which would put a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, has been agreed on unanimously by City Council but contested by business owners as well as the American Beverage Association. Earlier this month, several Berkeley residents who oppose the tax filed a writ of mandate asking a judge to amend the ballot language for the tax, alleging it is misleading and politically charged.

Making Downtown Berkeley more environmentally friendly

The ballot language of the Downtown initiative spearheaded by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin may also be subject to court action. The initiative aims to increase sustainability standards, create a historic overlay and lower the maximum height of some buildings, among other changes, for development in Downtown Berkeley. It has been opposed by Berkeley’s mayor and the majority of the council, who say that Arreguin’s initiative will only hamper, not help, development. According Arreguin’s arguments in a writ of mandate he filed this month, the Downtown initiative’s ballot language — which was written by Mayor Tom Bates — shows bias and misinterprets the measure.

Candidates

Although the BSDC map will not be officially implemented or rejected until the November votes are counted, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ordered its temporary implementation in April. Thus, the next District 7 council member will be ushered in by a district consisting of about 86 percent students. Incumbent Kriss Worthington, who has sat on the council since 1996, is facing recent UC Berkeley graduate and former Daily Californian assistant news editor Sean Barry.

In District 8, incumbent Gordon Wozniak is retiring from City Council, leaving the race wide open to newcomers. George Beier, Mike Alvarez-Cohen, Lori Droste and Jacquelyn McCormick are running. In District 1, incumbent Linda Maio, who has sat on the council since 1992, is opposing rent board commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil and community activist Merrilie Mitchell.

Contact Melissa Wen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.