Report Outlines Diversity of City Commission Appointments

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The Berkeley City Council was presented with a report Tuesday, updating the city's progress toward greater diversity in city commissions, a goal it has strived to attain since the topic was introduced in 2002.

This year's report features the latest set of statistics highlighting the diversity of city commissioners in three categories - ethnicity, gender and student status - with only about half of the 284 commissioners responding.

"It's just a matter of really making (diversity) a priority and getting out there in the community and really finding people," said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

Using the three categories of diversity, the council requested a compilation of information and statistics about the commissioners in February 2006 as an effort to see if commission members mirrored the diversity of Berkeley's residents.

The city's commissions are composed of representatives appointed by the mayor and each district's council member. Commissions meet to discuss specific issues - such as transportation, housing or landmarks preservation - and provide policy information to council members when requested.

Of the 127 respondents in the student status category, 37 were students, and many council members said they hope to see that number increase.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he was worried that college students, who make up 20 to 25 percent of the population in the city, are not getting a fair chance to participate in local government.

The report combines the number of high school students - all of whom are on the city's Youth Commission - with the number of college students. With only about 29 percent of commissioners being students, Worthington said the diversity of the city is not being accurately represented.

"The high school students distort the percentage of students in college," Worthington said. "I appointed 14 or 15 and the entire rest of the City Council put together has appointed maybe 10 to 12 college students."

In the category that gauges ethnicity, of the 145 commissioners who responded 85 were white, 27 were black, 12 were Hispanic, 10 were Asian or Pacific Islander and 11 were other or biracial.

"There are only a limited number of Asian Americans and Latinos, even though these populations are increasing in Berkeley," Arreguin said. "We have to be diverse, not just in the people we appoint, but people we hire and people we do business with."

Virginia Aiello, secretary for the Parks and Recreation Commission, said that of the one man and seven women on the commission, one was Asian, one was black and six were white.

According to Arreguin, council members should work harder and be more committed to achieving diversity in their commission appointments.


Contact Jessica Gillotte at [email protected]

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