Local Elections: City Council Candidate Looking to Shake Things Up

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A member of the Left Party and the Green Party, District 8 Berkeley City Council candidate Carlos Estrada is focusing his campaign on increasing "grass-roots" movements across the city.

He says he supports creating district committees to examine issues facing individual neighborhoods-including development, zoning and sewage concerns. The committees would then present their recommendations to the City Council.

Carlos Estrada

He adds he wants to eliminate many of the city's commissions, such as the Planning Commission, and incorporate their duties into the proposed neighborhood committees.

"It's basic democracy," Estrada says. "(The new committees) will take the main needs of neighborhoods on themselves and include neighborhood participation. They will allow more people to be recognized."

Estrada says he would also create an organization to defend city tenants' rights by "investigating and following up and getting legal support to the complaints on the part of tenants."

Estrada says he also wants to turn much of his attention to pressuring UC Berkeley to effect policy changes.

If elected, Estrada says he will use his council vote to support affirmative action, student divestment campaigns and lecturers' and clerical workers' complaints against UC.

"I see my election as one more watchdog in the City Council that will be a bridge (with campus activists), giving them voice," he says.

Estrada says he wants to pressure UC Berkeley to instate an affirmative action policy that accepts minority students from local high schools on the condition they "give support back" to the local school districts through services such as tutoring.

Estrada has not served on any city boards or organizations. In fact, he has turned down offers to sit on city commissions, saying he opposes them because commissioners are appointed by council members.

But Estrada needs more experience in city politics before he is ready to become a council member, says Councilmember Dona Spring.

"He's got a lot of potential for the future, but he needs to do more groundwork," she says.

Spring adds he should serve on a city commission before running for council and "try to get to know more of the Berkeley leaders."

Estrada supports changing city law to allow non-citizens-both legal and illegal-to vote in city elections and adds he wants to lower the minimum voting age for city elections to 16.

According to the 2000 U.S Census data, more than 12,000 Berkeley residents are not U.S. citizens, making up nearly 12 percent of the city's population.

"That brings us back to the civil rights era where people could not vote for race reasons," he says. "(And) if a young guy's old enough to drive a car he should be old enough to share his views in the political arena."

But other city officials oppose Estrada's plan to change city voting laws.

Spring says lowering the voting age will be "very expensive and very difficult to do" because the city would have to run a campaign to register minors to vote.

"To be allowed to vote in a country, I think you should make some demonstration in that country, and you should be a citizen," says Gordon Wozniak, a City Council candidate for District 8.


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