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Berkeley mayor hears citizen concerns at community event

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Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín answers questions during a public event at Westbrae Biergarten in northwest Berkeley on Saturday, April 21, 2018.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín joined constituents at an event at Westbrae Biergarten in northwest Berkeley Saturday afternoon in an effort to connect with community members outside the walls of City Hall.

Dozens of residents clustered around the mayor, each waiting for their chance to speak to him about a variety of issues in the sun-drenched beer garden.

Arreguín noticed some consistent themes:

“We had, I think, two common things: one was ‘How are we addressing the homeless crisis as a city?’ As well as ‘How are we going to make housing more affordable?’ And not surprisingly, those are two issues that the people of Berkeley have overwhelmingly said that they want to see action addressed. We’re working very, very aggressively to try to implement a variety of programs to address homelessness and to try to make more affordable housing.” 

Remi Amodele, a member of Berkeley’s Human Welfare Community Action Committee, attended Saturday’s meet-and-greet to talk to Arreguín about her concerns for Berkeley’s homelessness crisis on her own behalf. She told SFBay:

“My question is about the homeless and I just want to know what he plans to do to fix it. I know that he’s doing a lot of  good work and I would like to know what the goal is. … I know he’s very committed so I’d like to hear directly from him.”

Amodele added that she really appreciated the mayor’s commitment to Berkeley:

“I love the idea that he thinks of events like this to bring people together. And it’s just wonderful, you know he could be spending his weekend resting [instead].”

Amodele came to the event with her friend Anna Avellar, a former aide to City Councilwoman Susan Wengraf.

Avellar said:

“I haven’t seen [Arreguín] for a while so thats why I came out.”

Constituents of all ages came out to give the mayor feedback including Angus, 7, who attends first grade at Washington Elementary and has grave concerns about the environment.

Angus said: 

“I want talk to the mayor about limiting single-use plastic in restaurants and I’m going to talk about the law.” 

Arreguín said he was grateful to have the opportunity to interact with a more diverse crowd of Berkeley residents:

“We had lots of people who I’ve never met before. Oftentimes when we have public events or public meetings you can see some of the same sort of community leaders and community activists come, and there were a lot of new people that came and it was great to meet a lot of people.” 

One woman who had a lot to say to the mayor was Amber Gwen Cummings, who attempted to start an ‘No To Marxism in America’ rally in August of last year.

According to the Mercury News, the Antioch woman called Arreguín a liar after he and other local politicians referred to her planned Civic Center Park rally as forum for white supremacist hate speech. In the end, the Office of the City Manager denied the permit application saying the submission was both tardy and incomplete.

Cummings said she attended Saturday’s event to talk to Arreguín about the need for unification and her concern about Marxists taking over Berkeley:

“I wanted to tell him that I was vindicated on my August 27 event about [how] I said there was violent Marxists taking over this town. They were running around roughshod beating up people that were pro-America. I proved my point, now I want to sit down with the mayor and discuss how do we rectify this and how do we unify both sides to make an America that works for us all. That was my goal here today.”

But her conversation with Arreguín got heated and she said it was ultimately curtailed:

“I was cut short by the mayor. … He walked away from me — he lets [others] talk as long as they want but I got five minutes worth of time, if that. He didn’t want to talk about real issues, he doesn’t want to talk about unification, he just wants to sit there and keep hamming for his [2020] campaign. He’s not a real leader.” 

Saba Deyhim also came by Westbrae Biergarten to see the mayor and said she was excited by Arreguín’s proactive work toward getting input from the public.:

“I got the email [that said] he’s having a meet up that I could actually attend, so I was  excited. I’ve been really impressed with his outreach and I wanted to see what it was like to come. I had the time, I was here and I was like, ‘Yes! Awesome!’”

Deyhim also hoped to take the opportunity to make a professional connection: 

“I’m a consultant, I’d love to get our consultancy working closer with the committees. I feel like he does a lot of committee things and I just wanted to kind of figure out how to plug into that.” 

Arreguín counted the afternoon a success and said he hopes to put together more events like the one Saturday:

“This is the first one we’ve done like this, but we want to do events like this at different breweries and cafes in [other] locations in the city of Berkeley. I have done office hours almost every month and we’re going to continue to do that, too.”

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