Berkeley city officials and students will come together Wednesday for the first meeting of a working group that aims to increase collaboration between the city and students.
The working group, which was put together by Berkeley city Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin, Gordon Wozniak and Kriss Worthington at the request of Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, will be made up of students from UC Berkeley and Berkeley City College and will address issues such as economic development and redistricting.
There are no current plans to include Berkeley High School students in the group, who currently serve on the city’s youth advisory commission that meets once every two months.
The group’s introductory meeting will take place in Eshleman Library at UC Berkeley Wednesday evening and aims to formalize logistics of the group, including how many students should be on the group and how often the group should meet, according to Worthington.
Bates, who said he plans to attend all the groups’ meetings, requested the collaboration to establish a more direct relationship between students and the city following multiple council meetings over the past year at which students voiced concerns about city politics, according to Bates’ senior aid Sbeydeh Viveros-Banderas.
“My hope is that this working group will define itself and come up with issues to work on together — it will be an opportunity for us to exchange information,” Bates said.
Arreguin said the city has had informal youth advisory committees when Shirley Dean was the city’s mayor in the 1990s but has not had any formal working groups to represent the city’s students.
“Having been a student who was active in city politics working with the ASUC and lobbying for city government, I think this kind of ongoing dialogue between city officials and students … will ensure that issues of students are at the forefront of what city council is doing,” Arreguin said.
Bates also said that though potential redistricting to create a student super majority district has been a prominent issue over the past year, city officials would like to discourage working group members from strictly focusing on redistricting.
“The (redistricting) issue is such that City Council will allow people to redraw lines,” Bates said. “In the mean time, this is not a group to try and draw lines.”
Students will be recruited based on interest and past involvement in different students groups on the various campuses, according to Arreguin. He said he expects at least 30 students at Wednesday’s meeting, though any number are welcome to attend.
Though there are still no formal agendas or topics planned to be addressed at this week’s meeting, Worthington said he hopes that an advisory committee forms out of the working group in order to better provide solutions for student issues in the city.
“The purpose of (Wednesday’s) meeting is to consider proposals and ideas for what would be the ongoing structure of the (working group),” Worthington said.
Anjuli Sastry covers city government.