Fifteen community members attended a town hall Monday night to discuss their questions and concerns regarding redistricting proposals submitted to the city of Berkeley thus far.
Community members who were in attendance voiced concerns over the breaking apart of neighborhoods as well as the viability of a student district as representative of a cohesive group of interests.
The meeting, hosted by the LeConte Neighborhood Association at LeConte Elementary School, was the second of two town halls scheduled this week, though neither had very high turnout, according to Alejandro Soto-Vigil, legislative aide for Councilmember Kriss Worthington.
Members from each of the three groups who have already submitted redistricting proposals to the city clerk’s office were at the town hall to present their drawings as Worthington encouraged members of the community to provide feedback and criticism.
“I think all of these are very reasonable,” said Patti Dacey, a member of the city’s Planning Commission and Berkeley resident of over 37 years. “But it’s a good idea to try to keep neighborhoods together — I identify most as somebody from LeConte — some of us have real allegiance to the neighborhoods.”
Others agreed with Dacey that the proposals submitted did too much in the way of splitting various neighborhoods — including LeConte, Willard and Bateman — along district lines.
Those who spoke on behalf of their proposals included Alfred Twu, a UC Berkeley graduate and Berkeley resident who submitted his own proposal, Andrew Johnson who spoke on behalf of the Bateman Neighborhood Association’s proposal and John Nguyen, a current UC Berkeley student who spoke on behalf of the proposal submitted by the Maximum Participation Minimum Deviation Coalition — a team of students who came together to create and submit a proposal over the summer.
Worthington said he extended an invite to UC Berkeley’s student government leaders to come speak on behalf of their plans to submit a proposal creating a student super-majority district, but they did not attend to present their proposals.
Attendees discussed the prospect of creating a student super-majority district with trepidation.
“I definitely want students to have a voice,” said Edna Hilliard, a UC Berkeley graduate and 59-year resident of Berkeley. “But — not all four districts — if the students vote on certain things and they leave, I’ll still be living here, me and my family.”
Meeting attendees laughed when Worthington explained that students have been claiming that a student super-majority district would in fact be representing an Asian-majority district.
“I don’t think that the Asians would make up a community of interest,” Dacey said. “A Laotian immigrant would not have the mutual interests of a fourth-generation Japanese-American.”
Johnson described that the primary benefit of his association’s plan is that it would broaden some areas, for example, by giving two council districts the change to go up against the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, which he called a “bad neighbor.”
The deadline for submitting proposals to the city clerk’s office is Friday.
Worthigton encouraged community members to provide input and consider drafting and submitting their own proposals in the next few days and offered his staff’s time and expertise.
“We spent three weekends poring over this,” said Johnson. “It’s like squishing mud.”
Sarah Mohamed covers city government.