In his State of the City address Wednesday, Mayor Tom Bates officially announced a new college pathway program for the city’s disadvantaged youth and also outlined several economic and environmental initiatives to better the city.
In his hourlong speech at Berkeley City College, Bates cited numerous statistics showing tangible progress made in the city, including crime in Berkeley being at a 50-year low, waste being cut in half, and a reduction overall water and energy usage as well.
Bates also introduced the Berkeley Pathway to College, which will be implemented in the next fiscal year. The program aims to help bridge the education achievement gap and encourage students of color to attend college.
It involves teaching students about college at an early age and giving them the resources they need to meet education standards. The city has also collaborated with Berkeley City College to open more spaces for students that provide a pathway to transferring to a CSU or UC campus.
“Not everyone will go to college, but we want them to have the opportunity,” Bates said.
Bates additionally discussed the “looming” challenges the city faces in the upcoming fiscal year, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and revitalizing the Downtown and Telegraph areas.
He said Downtown is becoming more lively, with the addition of new restaurants, museums and 1,400 apartment units.
The city has also taken several steps to revitalize the Telegraph area, including “Sundays on Telegraph” — a summer event that was first introduced last year — which Bates hopes will attract families and children to the area during the weekend, with live music, games and food.
“We’re cleaning the place up,” Bates said. “There are people picking up the trash and cleaning the sidewalks, and once we get new lights and flower pots in, it will be much prettier and nicer.”
On Tuesday, the city approved a measure allowing increased building density between Bancroft and Dwight ways, which Bates said he hopes will bring new businesses and professional office spaces to the area.
Bates also stressed environmental reform and discussed strides the city has made in solar-power and electric-car development.
He added that 8,000 street lights will be replaced with LED lights, which he said will use about half the energy the current lights use, reduce the city’s overall greenhouse gas emissions and save the city nearly $400,000.
Additionally, they will provide increased lighting for the Telegraph and Downtown areas.
“The credit shouldn’t go to just the mayor and the council members,” said Anthony Sanchez, chief of staff for Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. “It should also go to the larger community and local business owners who have all done their part.”