Panel series to promote discussion between campus, city

Berkeley residents and students will get a chance to discuss important town-gown issues such as redistricting and sustainability when a city panel series is launched later this month.

The city’s Fall Panel Series is an effort to sustain a consistent partnership between the city and the UC Berkeley campus through talks led by representatives of both communities. The series — planned by Berkeley City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli and sponsored by several city and campus groups, including the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce — has three panels set for the next few months, which will be held on campus and at Berkeley City College.

“The initial motivation was to find ways that the city, community and university could collaborate on various things,” Capitelli said. “The university is an enormous resource in terms of talent, and we wanted to open up lines of communication.”

The series will kick off Sept. 21 with a panel on redistricting — a prominent issue that garnered interest after the ASUC and students earlier this summer requested a postponement of the submission deadline for redistricting proposals.

Bruce Cain, a campus professor of political science and public policy, said the city should find another way to get students involved in city government rather than redrawing districts. He will speak at the redistricting panel along with ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman.

“The city ought to take a more innovative approach about how they elect their City Council,” Cain said. “Students, racial minorities and homeowners should get representation on the City
Council, and it shouldn’t be done via drawing city lines.”

However, not all community members are happy with the organization of the panel series. Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the series should have been planned with more progressive community members in mind.

“It’s such a biased combination — there should be much more opinion and racial diversity,” Worthington said. “That’s the problem when you get business improvement districts, the Chamber of Commerce and nonprogressive groups organizing (the series) — I agreed to participate so there would be at least one token progressive speaker.”

Though Worthington said he is upset with the political and ethnic makeup of the series, he will speak on the panel because he supports putting a charter amendment involving redistricting on the city’s November 2012 ballot that he believes would bring student groups together.

The last two panel series events will deal with issues of citywide sustainability and energy conservation as well as the improvement of arts, food and entertainment areas.

“We are not an island on the campus — we are in the larger community in the city of Berkeley,” said Lisa McNeilly, campus director of sustainability. “All of the various partnerships that we have … are important in order for us to be good neighbors and citizens of the community.”