People's Park, Telegraph Avenue Key Issues in District 7 Contest

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Berkeley City Council Debate

Berkeley City Council District 7 candidates George Beier, Cecilia Rosales and Kriss Worthington stepped in front of a small group of community members in a debate at the Berkeley City Club Friday to answer questions from a panel of local journalists.

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With less than a week until this year's Berkeley City Council elections, District 7 incumbent Kriss Worthington maintains he is a "passionate and progressive" leader amid criticism from his challengers - George Beier and Cecilia Rosales - about his management of Telegraph Avenue and People's Park during his 14 years on the council.

Both Rosales and Beier have focused on the economic woes of District 7, emphasizing the empty storefronts on Telegraph, the crime in People's Park and the city's declining revenue. Both agreed that the district needs new leadership that will break up 14 years of "the status quo."

Though Worthington agrees that problems persist on Telegraph - including drinking in public and smoking outside of storefronts - he said the best solution would be a regular patrol, which he said he has already suggested in several council items.

"We're not enforcing these rules," he said, adding that avenue's current sales total roughly $100 million. "We can afford an officer walking the beat."

But Beier said the avenue is in a "crisis situation" - with sales down 40 percent since 1990 - and is one of the most crime-ridden areas in the city.

"What we're doing just doesn't work, and the community is desperate for change," he said.

Rosales added that increased city revenue is essential to maintain "quality" services without placing more of a financial burden on students and homeowners.

District 7, which includes the UC Berkeley campus and the Southside area between College Avenue and Ellsworth Street as well as several blocks on the northeast end of campus, is one of the most student-dense districts in the city.

Worthington's challengers are also critical of the city's lack of involvement in maintaining People's Park, which is currently owned by the campus.

To return the park to the entire community, Beier has proposed drug and alcohol outreach programs, like the city's Options Recovery Services, along with the installment of a museum, cafe or an outdoor movie screen.

"We have to get people in that park using it," said Beier, who is currently president of the Willard Neighborhood Association. "Expanding the meadow, making it look like Willard Park ... It should be returned to the students themselves."

These proposals, however, would "provoke riots," according to Worthington, who said the best way to approach the park's declining state would be to sell it to the city to be managed by the East Bay Regional Park District.

"(The university) should be focused on education, not park management," he said. "(The park district) would not let it be in the state that it's in."

Despite his challengers' criticism, Worthington said he is "incredibly involved" in tackling these issues, referencing the Violence Prevention and Response Plan, which he introduced to the council.

"I've done more on crime than (Beier has) ever dreamed of doing," he said. "I have done more work on crime ... than all the rest of the council put together."

Worthington also said his record of engaging students in city government is incomparable, adding that about 50 percent of his commission appointments are students.

"I'm the only candidate who has fought hard to get students hired, elected, appointed," he said. "I have devoted myself passionately to getting students a seat at the table."

However, Beier - who has been endorsed by several student leaders including ASUC President Noah Stern - said he would also appoint students to city commissions. Beier added that he would support the establishment of a student party, aside from the ASUC, dedicated to providing a student voice in city politics.

And while Worthington describes himself as a leader on all city fronts, Beier said "he had his time in the sun."

"Change has to happen," Rosales said. "Berkeley has the potential for a heck of a lot more."

Stephanie Baer of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Gianna Albaum covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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