While the country leapt backward last week, Berkeley and California inched forward. Berkeley voters elected the first-ever Latino mayor and the youngest mayor in nearly a century. And voters approved a slew of progressive local and statewide ballot measures that will expand enfranchisement, help the environment and increase education funding.
Moreover, Berkeley voters proved largely immune to false and misleading campaigns, easily selecting measure U1 over DD, increasing landlord taxes for Berkeley’s wealthiest landlords while still protecting both tenants and small landlords.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t intense work left to do. It just means that even though the White House will likely neglect the people of this country who need support the most, Berkeley and California will continue to champion the rights of marginalized people while creating sound economic policy that doesn’t leave anyone behind.
In some ways, the work has already begun. Alameda County voters approved a housing bond measure that will increase the local stock of affordable housing, and California extended a tax that primarily affects the rich for the benefit of everyone else.
So while we remain on sure footing, mayor-elect Jesse Arreguin has a bigger duty than he may have anticipated to ensure the protection of liberties for low-income communities and communities of color.
Despite these progressive policies, even Berkeley is not immune to the uptick in hate crimes that has accompanied Donald Trump’s election. Recent reports of spitting and egg-throwing cast a terrifying shadow on what has been one of the country’s more accepting communities. Berkeley residents can be better, and Berkeley officials ought to condemn these attacks with the strongest rhetoric.
Widespread progressive majorities and policies in Berkeley and throughout California prompt haters to dub this area a bubble or echo chamber, where only a uniform set of ideals merits acceptance. But there’s no denying that strong local and state policies, rooted in liberal ideals, have improved the lives of millions.
In fact, in 2014, Berkeley was the first city in the country to institute an extra tax on sugary beverages. Since then, Philadelphia, Oakland and San Francisco have instituted similar taxes.
It proves beyond doubt that oftentimes the best way to effect wide-reaching change is to start local. Considering the remarkable political upset by a ridiculous orange hat, leaders in the Democratic party should re-emphasize the party’s grassroots appeal. Fighting for change serves as the very hallmark of that ideal, and Berkeley voters prove again and again that every aspect of national politics they hate can be combated first on a local level.