On the night of Sept. 18, rain poured down on Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn’s residence as community members and election candidates alike gathered to discuss their visions for the future of Berkeley.
The “patio party,” which was hosted by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and various city council members, invited residents to mingle with candidates for Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, the school board and the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board to learn more about ballot measures L and M. Accompanied by Berkeley High School’s jazz band, candidates gave speeches and met voters in preparation for the November election.
According to Arreguín, both measures M and L will improve campus students’ ability to find housing. Measure M, a tax on vacant rental units, could put more than 1,000 units back on the market, Arreguín said, while Measure L will also build more affordable housing.
Of the candidates in attendance, current Berkeley School Board President Ka’Dijah Brown is running for reelection to the board. Brown, a Berkeley local who grew up going to school in BUSD and is a teacher, said she is hoping to continue the work she has done so far. Brown said she is focused on ensuring the well-being of the students and teachers within BUSD while bringing a voice to underrepresented groups.
“Education really makes a difference in a child’s life and so it’s important to me first to come back and recycle the success that I had because I was a product of our schools and bring it back to our school district,” Brown said at the event.
Jennifer Shanoski, a school board candidate and teacher, hopes to address the opportunity gaps in BUSD for Black and brown students and English language learners. Shanoski said she will assess the effectiveness of the programs currently in place and if elected would work with staff and administration to see what support they need.
The third school board candidate, Mike Chang, said he would use his experience working as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to help navigate the complexities around emerging from the pandemic and improve current antidiscriminiation initiatives.
As a UC Berkeley ethnic studies lecturer, Chang added that he wants to work with campus to bring “developmentally appropriate” K-12 ethnic studies curriculum. This includes working with the U.S. Department of Education to certify BUSD teachers to instruct ethnic studies, he said.
Rent board candidate Stefan Elgstrand, current legislative aide to Arreguín, said he has worked on all the major pieces of tenant legislation in recent years and is prepared to start working on day one. Elgstrand added that he wants to provide affordable housing for Berkeley residents — including students — and supports campus’s planned development of People’s Park.
“We definitely need to build more student housing and I know the university has a plan around that,” Elgstrand said at the event. “One thing that I do want to work on is to improve education and outreach. Sixty percent of the Berkeley population are renters — a lot are first-time renters because they are students – and they just don’t know what the rules are. It can be quite complicated.”