Three UC Berkeley students were sworn in Thursday morning as the newest members of three city commissions, further integrating students’ voices into city government.
Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington appointed students Brazile Clark, Brianna Rogers and Trisha Agrawal to the Zoning Adjustments Board, the Planning Commission and the Peace and Justice Commission, respectively.
“I don’t think you have to be old in order to have good ideas,” Worthington said, adding that some of the city’s most innovative legislation — such as the Zero Waste Ordinance and the Open Data Policy — were proposed by students.
Each year, council members can appoint up to 39 commissioners, and the city currently has 69 vacant commission seats. Worthington said he hopes appointing student commissioners will inspire more students to participate in local government.
Rogers, a Berkeley native, began her local political career as a commissioner on the Berkeley Children, Youth, and Recreation Commission. After serving six months on the commission, Rogers said she felt the need to take on more responsibility and make an effort to diversify Berkeley’s local government.
“Everyone’s opinions and how they vote and the rhetoric they use, it all comes down to their experiences,” Rogers said. “If we have more diverse people sitting on these boards, there will be more diverse actions.”
Likewise, Clark said she applied for her seat on ZAB out of her sense of civic obligation. As a commissioner, Clark said, officials gain a lot of knowledge about the city, which is in a major state of flux due to the tech boom and changing economy.
Agrawal also developed a keen sense of social activism during high school and her time with the ASUC. As a member of the Peace and Justice Commission, Agrawal said she hopes to use her unique perspective as the child of immigrants to advocate for the rights of immigrants in Berkeley.
Police Review Comissioner and UC Berkeley student Jerry L. Javier said he thinks having student opinions in Berkeley city government is vital, as the decisions that are made by the city directly affect them.
“Having students on commissions give officials a face to look at before they make decisions that affect a diverse population that they are distant from,” Javier said in an email.
In order to fully understand the issues and politics of a city, according to UC Berkeley professor of public policy Dan Lindheim, residents need to be actively involved.
“If you just study the theoretical political concepts, you aren’t learning about what’s really happening,” Lindheim said. “A lot of people don’t know what goes on at city hall because they aren’t that involved or interested, but there are real lessons to be learned there.”
Senior staff writer Alexander Barreira contributed to this report.