As a fourth year student at Cal I have never voted in a local Berkeley election. I never cared too much for the local style of sandbox politics and seemingly little action. From my perspective, and other students I’ve spoken to, Berkeley politicians don’t really do all that much. But then again, why should I care? I’m here four years and then I’ll never live in Berkeley again. However, recently a chance encounter with City Council candidate George Beier has changed my mind.
Two weeks ago, someone broke into my apartment in the middle of the day and cleaned out all of my valuables. When the police arrived at my apartment—which is two blocks south of campus—they shrugged and I have not heard from them since. They said that there was really nothing they could do because this kind of crime happens all the time.
It was that moment that I realized how dire the situation in Berkeley really is. All you have to do is observe the streets as you walk to class in the morning. Drug deals take place every day on my corner. Women have been raped on my block, students are mugged, property is stolen. It’s no secret that more crimes occur in the neighborhoods surrounding Telegraph Avenue than anywhere else in Berkeley. All this makes me think, does the City of Berkeley even care about us? I feel like a second class citizen.
Walk down the once-famed Telegraph Avenue. Just going down the street, I have to hold my breath, stepping over gutter punks drinking 40s, dodging drug induced transients, and systematically avoiding other shady characters lazing on the sidewalk like it’s Miami Beach. Businesses are closing left and right and the situation looks bleak. Business revenue on Telegraph has declined 22 percent in the last 10 years. That also happens to be the same amount of time Kriss Worthington has sat on the City Council. Ironically, his campaign office sits in one of those vacant storefronts!
The City of Berkeley needs an activist who will push for tangible goals and not simply give lip service to pressing issues that affect all of us.
George Beier has tangible plans to transform People’s Park, creating a safe environment for students. He is calling for action. His opponent recently claimed that the Park is a safe place, but I literally walk 3 blocks out of my way to avoid the Park because several of my friends have been harassed, mugged, or violated near the Park. Mr. Worthington puts the blame on the University for telling students to stay away. It seems ridiculous, but the last time I walked through the park I saw someone with a needle shooting up, a fist fight, and men cat-calling a female student on her way to class.
Students, it’s time for change.
It’s about time that the City of Berkeley start cleaning up its act and realizing the importance and value of the University of California and its students.
It’s about time students didn’t have to worry about finding the safest route home from the library, a friend’s house, or a bite to eat.
On Tuesday, Nov. 7 we have the opportunity to start making Berkeley a safer place for students. Safety starts with a vote for George Beier.
Evan Bloom is a UC Berkeley student and former ASUC senator.