Mayor Tom Bates discusses police action, education in State of the City address

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Michelle Kim/Staff

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates gave the annual State of the City address Thursday night, discussing police relations within the community and announcing several new policy initiatives.

In his hour-long speech at Shotgun Players, a theater in South Berkeley, Bates referred to a report that cites key achievements within the community, placing strong emphasis on the success of city education and housing programs.

Bates referred to an ongoing investigation conducted by the city’s Police Review Commission, a civilian police oversight committee, as well as the Berkeley Police Department’s own investigation.

“People subconsciously have this racism, and we’re acculturated to a certain degree that we have these stereotypes, and they play out,” Bates said in the address. “Our officers did something inappropriate, and we want to make sure they are held responsible for their actions.”

The 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children & Youth, a program launched in 2008 with the goal of eliminating the achievement gap between students, has “been a success” so far, according to Bates.

The program’s initiatives include the Berkeley High School Bridge Program, an academic support group for at-risk students, as well as college and career days for students and visits from Berkeley City College ambassadors.

“We’ve made great strides,” Bates said in the address. “We’ve seen kids learn. We’ve seen kids stay in school. It’s been a wonderful thing.”

The program applies to students from kindergarten to high school, aiming to improve student performance by tracking several indicators of success, such as kindergarten readiness and student attendance.

In last year’s State of the City address, Bates introduced the Berkeley Pathway to College initiative, a program that would guarantee city high school students with a certain academic standard admission to Berkeley City College. The initiative would also give students the opportunity to take courses that could qualify them to transfer to a California State University or UC campus.

Additionally, Bates discussed new plans to increase the availability of lower-cost housing units, especially for students and middle-to-low-income families.

Bates said he hopes to put more money into the city’s Housing Trust Fund, using methods such as a proposed city density bonus for developers, which would allow them to increase project sizes by paying into the trust fund.

Bates also said the city’s nonprofit groups should  “examine the prospect” of buying rent-controlled units in order to keep rents low.

In addition, Bates mentioned a potential new initiative, which would be a collaboration between the City Council and city Civic Arts Commission, to raise funds to support the arts.

“I think our city is fabulous,” Bates said in the address. “We have education, we have fabulous food, and we have culture.”

Adrienne Shih is the lead city reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.