Council discusses charter amendment for November election

Berkeley City Council sent recommendations to city staff at its meeting Tuesday concerning the language for a November ballot measure that could allow for the creation of a student supermajority district.

The council decided to allow voters to consider a charter amendment in this November’s election that would lessen restrictions on redistricting the city’s voting boundaries — a process that takes place every 10 years to maintain equal population among council districts.

The ballot language discussed at the meeting Tuesday would eliminate the 1986 district boundary lines, instead seeking to use major traffic boundaries and natural geography as boundaries between districts. The ballot language will also try to avoid splitting up communities of interest, meaning areas with shared economic or ethnic traits and similar interests.

Students who support the creation of a student supermajority district have long been thwarted by the 1986 boundaries, which many believe were created to disenfranchise the student vote.

At the meeting, ASUC Senator Sydney Fang told the council that while she was relieved to see the charter being reformed to create more equitable district boundaries, the lack of language designating students as a community of interest troubled her.

“If students are to be given a fair chance at having a voice in and on City Council, it’s absolutely imperative that they be defined as a community of interest,” Fang said at the meeting.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington attempted to designate students as a community of interest in the ballot language but was blocked by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, who did not want to designate specific communities at this point.

Fang also presented a study that found that 11 percent of commission positions are filled by students and encouraged the council to consider students when filling the 58 vacancies that currently exist on city commissions.

City staff will take the council’s recommendations into consideration when they draft the ballot language for the charter amendment. Since the council has to vote on the charter amendment in July, the ballot language is expected to return to it in May or June.

“I will try to add it in again, but it won’t be in staff recommendation,” Worthington said in reference to the student community of interest. “We will list multiple communities of interest, and perhaps they will like that better.”

Adelyn Baxter is the lead city government reporter.

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