Student political organizations focus on 2 city measures

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In the weeks leading up to the election, student organizations such as CalPIRG could be seen across campus encouraging students and passersby to register if they hadn't done so already.

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Of the seven measures featured on the Berkeley city ballot, two have garnered the particular attention of student political groups for their potential to affect student life at UC Berkeley.

Students have directed their attention primarily to issues regarding redistricting and taxation for this year’s election.

Measure S proposes the redrawing of district lines in accordance with plans to turn District 7 into a student-majority district. Many students oppose this measure due to the fact that the proposed map excludes students who live on the north side of campus.

“The redistricting plan is the culmination of a couple of years of dirty politics and closed-room meetings and will ultimately result in the disenfranchisement of Northside students,” said Wes Adrianson, field director of Cal Berkeley Democrats.

Spencer Pritchard, chair of the student political party CalSERVE, said he supports a more representative student district that won’t “dilute student voices.”

According to Zury Cendejas, vice president of external affairs for the Berkeley Student Cooperative, the governing board of the cooperative system opposes the proposed redistricting map because it excludes roughly half of the cooperative residents. She said it would “dilute the progressive voice” of the city.

Student Action, a campus political party, and ASUC President Pavan Upadhyayula officially support Measure S on the grounds that the chosen map was drawn by Berkeley citizens and that it protects “communities of interest,” according to the official argument in favor of Measure S.

Student Action chair Ayesha Bhardwaj said Measure S is the result of several years of work within the ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President to create a student supermajority district.

Student groups on both ends of the political spectrum have noted the importance of Measure D, colloquially known as the “soda tax.” This measure proposes a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Cal Berkeley Democrats and CalSERVE both officially endorse Measure D, saying it addresses important issues of public health including childhood obesity and diabetes.

“This is an issue of whether Berkeley can make strides for public health or whether incredible amounts of money can sway the vote in the other direction,” Adrianson said.

Claire Chiara, president of Berkeley College Republicans and former Daily Californian staffer, said that while her club does not take official stances on these issues, she is personally staunchly opposed to Measure D and said it will have a negative effect on businesses in Berkeley.

The Cal Berkeley Democrats and Berkeley College Republicans held a debate Thursday during which BCR panelist Kerida Moates said the tax would likely lead to distributors raising prices, which would disproportionately affect lower-income populations in Berkeley.

Although student political group SQUELCH! does not officially endorse any candidates or measures, party chair Casey Berkovitz said the contentious nature of many ballot measures could make students view local politics with distaste.

“There’s a lot of fighting and tension about things on the ballot, and that situation is the first taste a lot of students are going to have of Berkeley city politics,” Berkovitz said.

Yet Berkovitz said that despite Berkeley’s relatively small size, this year’s election has the potential to serve as a template for the rest of the nation and that it is important for students to vote regardless of political affiliation.

Michelle Pitcher covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @michellepitcher.