Last week, voters reelected Jesse Arreguín as Berkeley Mayor and selected Ana Vasudeo and Laura Babbitt as School Board Directors.
Mira Liao, a Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) parent of two, expected that Jesse Arreguín would be reelected and believes that he is the best candidate for the position, adding that it is hard to unseat an incumbent. Referring to a Berkeleyside article about mayoral candidate Wayne Hsiung, Liao said, “The article revealed a lot of information that made him a less attractive candidate to me, and possibly other people, too.”
Hsiung, who is well known for his passionate animal rights activism, faces up to sixty years in prison for repeated offenses of entering animal factory farms without permission. The controversy that arose about his worthiness of election and ability to hold office deterred many voters. Liao thinks the biggest challenge Arreguín will face in office is the affordable housing crisis and the rising rate of homelessness in Berkeley. Liao hopes that permanent housing will become more accessible under Mayor Arreguín.
Berkeley resident Bert Collins also believes that Arreguín’s reelection was inevitable. He said that it must be a challenge to please everyone in Berkeley, especially given the University of California (UC) Berkeley student population. Collins hopes that Arreguín will implement a more cooperative approach with neighboring cities throughout the Bay Area to share combined services.
Board Directors Judy Appel and Beatriz Leyva-Cutler will be replaced by Babbitt and Vasudeo. Babbitt has been a local advocate for the past decade, and has experience serving on several boards and initiatives throughout her time in Berkeley. She feels that this experience is what led to her running for School Board Director, and has given her a feel for Berkeley’s system. Babbitt said that her position involves putting words into action to initiate change for the better. As a School Board Director, she aims to reach families and teachers to make sure everyone is properly served by BUSD. According to her campaign slogan, she hopes to provide “leadership for changing times.” She stated, “Together, if I can take the best of what you’re bringing to this table, and you take the best of what I’m bringing to this table for the common purpose of students’ success, we can nail this thing!”
Berkeley’s Vote16 president and senior in Academic Choice (AC), Sylvie Love, feels that both Babbitt and Vasudeo ran strong campaigns and were destined to be elected due to their passion for and commitment to equal education and student success in Berkeley schools. Love noted that Mike Chang also would’ve made a great BUSD School Board Director, given his legal expertise. She added that Babbitt and Vasudeo connected with various student groups during their campaigns, which shows that they are both committed to making decisions in the interest of the students and families they are representing. In regards to the new School Board Directors, Love said, “Having new perspectives on the school board is a really positive thing, and that’s one reason why democracy is so important.”
Both Babbitt and Vasudeo are highly qualified for the School Board Director position, said Miles Miller, the BUSD school board student representative. He believes that having new leadership on the board will help to address previously unresolved issues, specifically regarding implicit racial biases in Berkeley and remote learning difficulties. Miller thought both Babbitt and Vasudeo would win because of their experience and collaborative qualities. He said, “These qualities will definitely help us close the achievement gap being enlarged by distance learning and navigate us to a better educational experience for all. I think the public agrees with me, and that’s why Babbitt and Vasudeo were elected.”