Berkeley mayoral candidates speak in campus political science class

Ethan Epstein/Staff

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City Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli, who both filed their intent to run for Berkeley mayor, spoke Wednesday during a campus political science class.

During the the first half of the class — Political Science 179, which features different political speakers each week — Arreguin and Capitelli gave background information about themselves as candidates and elucidated their campaign platforms.

There are currently four Berkeley mayoral candidates, but Alan Ross, the professor of the course, said he chose to invite only Arreguin and Capitelli because they are, as of now, the two “major” mayoral candidates.

Both council members majored in political science at UC Berkeley and took Political Science 179 over the course of their undergraduate studies.

Arreguin called himself a “progressive voice” on issues such as affordable housing, police reform, raising minimum wage to a living wage, environmental sustainability, public safety and encouraging new retail. He said he wanted to work with students in a “grassroots campaign” that gains support not from PACs but by going door to door.

On a local level, (the students’) voice can have a profound effect on the direction of the campaign and the direction of the city,” Arreguin said.

Capitelli focused on the necessity of student housing — especially in light of the UC Board of Regents’ decision to increase enrollmentpublic safety, transit and student involvement in local government. He also emphasized his ongoing efforts to include student perspectives in city planning by taking input from students on various campus colleges.

When you make your decisions, consider yourself not a UC student, not a resident of Southside, not a resident of Northside,” Capitelli said. “I want you to consider yourself a member of this community that all of us are a part of.

Ross called on several students to ask questions about issues of homelessness in Berkeley, affordable housing and minimum wage.

Both candidates stated that they supported creating jobs for the homeless but maintained that the need to provide the homeless community with adequate housing was their primary concern.

Arreguin emphasized his focus on affordable housing and raising the minimum wage to $15.

Capitelli said he also supports creating affordable housing and raising minimum wage. He warned, however, of the need to be “be cautious with our small businesses,” advocating a gradual increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

A lot hangs in the balance, especially on important fronts like affordable housing and safety in the neighborhoods around campus,” said Rigel Robinson, a campus sophomore. “I’m really excited to see what role that takes on campus and watch students get involved in the scene of local politics.”

Although the theme of the class this semester is the 2016 election, Ross noted that he chose to focus on local politics during Wednesday’s class because of the important role students can play in local elections.

Many people will be living in Berkeley the next few years — they should have the knowledge at least of who they’re going to vote for mayor,” Ross said.

Jiang Wang, a campus freshman, said he needed to do more research into the candidates’ platforms before voting.

“After hearing both of these speakers, I truly don’t feel like I favor any of these because their policies are not as clear and as straightforward as I wanted them to be, so I will have to analyze this more before I make a decision on this vote,” Wang said.

Contact Emma Soldon at [email protected].