Berkeley mayoral candidates discuss student issues at campus forum

Dapree Doyle/Senior Staff

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Six of Berkeley’s eight mayoral candidates appeared at a forum hosted by The Daily Californian, ASUC, Graduate Assembly and Berkeley Forum on Monday night, answering a series of questions from moderators and the public primarily targeted toward student issues.

Berkeley mayoral candidates Jesse Arreguin, Laurie Capitelli, Ben Gould, Kriss Worthington, Guy “Mike” Lee and Zachary Runningwolf spoke at the event about student housing and the recent uptick in crime near campus. Candidates also discussed issues impacting the city as a whole, such as policing, the environment and homelessness.  

“Students make up 30 percent of our city’s population, you deserve to be represented,” Arreguin said at the forum. “I am the best person to lead Berkeley into a new generation.”

Candidates described how they planned to address Berkeley’s housing crisis, with consideration of the fact that many graduate students commute to campus. Worthington spoke about developing private-public partnerships as a way to encourage campus to build more student housing, and Arreguin, Gould and Capitelli all suggested finding ways to make the city’s affordable housing accessible to students in need.

Gould emphasized the need to build for all income levels, not just low-income residents, and encouraged the campus to develop student housing through the Berkeley Housing Trust Fund. During the forum, Arreguin said his experience on the Housing Advisory Commission and Rent Stabilization Board makes him qualified to represent students concerned about housing and homelessness.

“Too long we’ve been focusing only on building,” Lee said during the forum, adding that the city should also use its power of eminent domain to develop underutilized spaces.

To address the city’s homeless population, all candidates supported efforts to build housing specifically for homeless Berkeley residents. Capitelli and Gould emphasized the necessity of a regional approach to the issue of homelessness, and Arreguin and Worthington advocated for additional mental health services as well.

In terms of student safety, Capitelli suggested better lighting in the city and improved communication between campus and city police. Worthington noted that his efforts to address inappropriate police behavior have been repeatedly tabled by City Council.

“The history of police is no longer meeting the current needs that we are asking police to fulfill,” Gould said at the meeting. He recommended increased staffing for BPD patrols, expanded BearWALK services and improved oversight by the Police Review Commission.

Runningwolf and Lee, however, focused instead on training and disciplining the Berkeley Police Department officers.

“The horrendous, out-of-control behavior that happened on Dec. 6 should have resulted in the dismissal of Meehan,” Runningwolf said, in reference to the 2014 Black Lives Matter protests.

Candidates also fielded a question about improving student involvement, as well as an ordinance that increased regulations on “mini-dorms” and group living accommodations. All the candidates agreed on the ordinance’s inefficiency, citing its potentially discriminatory nature against students and possible effect of discouraging incident reporting.

“I said the GLA ordinance wouldn’t work, and it didn’t. … The law was a bad law,” Capitelli said during the meeting.

Worthington was the only council member who voted against the law in January.

Toward the end of the forum, Worthington brought up the recently passed city minimum wage hike to $15 by 2018 and said Capitelli was the deciding dissenting vote on a more aggressive effort to raise the minimum wage in the past.

Capitelli rebutted, however, that it was his work with the city unions over the summer that helped the minimum wage ordinance that was eventually adopted to pass.

“I will not yield on the fact that if it hadn’t been for my 40 hours, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Capitelli said of the minimum wage at the meeting.

The general elections will take place Nov. 8.

Contact Jessica Lynn and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected].