Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley’s first Latino mayor, recently announced his plan to run for re-election in 2020. Since being elected in 2016, he has fought for many issues, including affordable housing and homelessness. Arreguín is a progressive democrat with some of Berkeley’s biggest problems at the heart of his campaign. Inspired by some of the problems his family faced growing up, Arreguín wants to “be a voice for the marginalized.”
Arreguín is also the youngest mayor elected in over a century in Berkeley. As such a young member of the government in a system overwhelmingly run by older white men, Arreguín said, “representation matters, and when you see a room full of legislators, we need to make sure they reflect the population that they serve.” He has confidence that as newer generations age and become more active in voting “we will have more diverse representation.”
Arreguín has always been an activist, motivated in part by his heritage as a Latino. At a young age, he was already becoming a leader in the fight for equal representation in the Bay Area.
Arreguín is a committed fighter for education and equality. His identity as a Latino, coupled with his inspiration from role models like Cesar Chavez and the ongoing struggles that the Latinx community faces, have prompted him to put forward new ideas for Berkeley’s future. Arreguín recognizes the problems in the government involving representation of minorities. “Being a Latino in a leadership position bears great responsibility, especially when we are underrepresented. Latinx people make up 18 percent of our country’s population, but only 8 percent of Congress,” he said.
Since he has attended college in and worked in Berkeley for so long, Arreguín has had a substantial impact on the local community. As a student, Arreguín acted as a leader and was passionate about many of the same issues he is tackling today. As a part of the Housing Advisory Commision at UC Berkeley, he raised funds for student housing. After his time at UC Berkeley, he acted as Chair of the Rent Stabilization Board in Berkeley and the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee. In those positions, he worked to improve Berkeley’s housing conditions. Prior to being elected mayor, he was a member of the Berkeley City Council.
As a member of the Latinx community, Arreguín values equality and diversity for all races and communities. Affordable housing needs are especially high in immigrant communities, a reality Arreguín recognizes.
Noting the seriousness of gentrification in Berkeley and possible solutions, he says, “With minorities often being over-represented in low income groups, we want to make sure we can have a Berkeley that we can all call home.”
Arreguín would like to start supporting the Adeline Corridor Plan, which focuses on counteracting gentrification through affordable housing. He strives to create equal opportunity and promote diversity in Berkeley, especially in terms of housing. “When making a decision, I want to make sure that it lifts up our most vulnerable communities,” he explained, talking about the impact of his heritage on his decision making.
During his time as mayor, he has taken many actions to fix the problems he sees in Berkeley such as investing in plans to help the environment, funding education projects, and planning for new ways to bridge the economic gaps in Berkeley neighborhoods.
Arreguín is planning on running for re-election in 2020. “I plan on building off the strong foundation we have built over the past three years,” said Arrreguín, highlighting his goals to implement new measures to help the Berkeley infrastructure. Similar to his previous campaign, he will focus on affordable housing and a stable plan for Berkeley’s future in housing and equality. He will also work on keeping Alta Bates Hospital open and continue to work on the growing problem of homelessness.
Arreguín believes Berkeley plays an important role in the world since he believes it is very a progressive and welcoming place. When Arreguín was elected, one of his priorities was establishing Berkeley as a sanctuary city. With regards to the Latinx community at Berkeley High, he said, “What people must know is that it is our diversity that gives us strength. It is what makes Berkeley an amazing city. Don’t be afraid to stand out or be different, because when we combine our unique talents and backgrounds, we collectively become unstoppable.” Berkeley is the home of activists for many issues and it will continue to be as a younger and more diverse generation takes the place of the past.
As he prepares for the upcoming election, Arreguín hopes to build on the support he generated when he ran in 2016 and continue his work leading future Berkeley generations towards equality and stability.