Otherwise empty on a Wednesday afternoon, Old City Hall echoed with student voices as Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s summer interns held a mock meeting of the City Council.
This year’s mock council meeting emulated the procedures of a real City Council meeting, complete with a thick agenda packet and public comments. Summer interns proposed policies such as protection for student sexual assault survivors, solutions to stop bicycle theft and amendments to the Berkeley Student District Campaign redistricting plan, which they have been researching all summer.
“The students’ level of professionalism was pretty impressive,” Worthington said. “They’ve written some pretty powerful and complicated policies.”
Several UC Berkeley students have been working on a student district plan, hoping for more student representation in the city. Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Worthington’s legislative assistant and a UC Berkeley alumnus, said that UC Berkeley students should have the opportunity to fill direct positions in city government.
“They’re smarter than us,” Soto-Vigil said. “We really need to have a pipeline of students from UC Berkeley into the city bureaucracy.”
Wednesday’s meeting first began with laughter as the students tested seats and fiddled with the microphones, but the students soon settled into their roles representing council members from the seven districts as well as the roles of mayor and deputy city clerk.
“At first, we were hesitant,” said Savana Manglona, a UC Berkeley junior and political science major. “But it’s nice to see what Kriss does every day.”
Stefan Elgstrand, a UC Berkeley senior and political science major, spoke at recent City Council meetings about amending the BSDC redistricting plan to include more students living on the north side of campus.
Due to his experience with the official council members, peers joked that he is getting used to power. However, all students agreed that the summer intern experience and the mock council meeting empowered them to make active changes on campus and in the Berkeley community.
“I’ve gleaned a lot,” said Jennifer Welden, a UC Berkeley sophomore double major in political science and public policy. “It feels nice to say, ‘Hey, I wrote that council item,’ and see it in action.”
Under Worthington and Soto-Vigil, interns are assigned tasks such as creating council items, drafting proclamations, researching and planning events like Berkeley Pride, but both want more support from other districts and city departments to bolster student involvement.
“This institution doesn’t really facilitate the next generation,” Soto-Vigil said. “I don’t see enough support from other districts. That’s why I hire 15 to 18 interns.”
Worthington added that UC Berkeley students are a huge benefit and necessary to the to the city government.
“They’re doing the city of Berkeley a great favor,” Worthington said. “I think the city gets a lot more than what we give them.”
Contact J. Hannah Lee at [email protected]