Name: Rigel Robinson, 22, student government officer (District 7)
What is the main reason you are running? Berkeley needs bold, progressive leadership to tackle our most pressing issues. Whoever is elected to represent District 7 will need to balance the needs of the city and the campus, students and neighbors. I’m running for City Council because I have been doing exactly that. During my four years at the University of California, Berkeley, I’ve been fighting to elevate student narratives at every level of government — and today, I’m running for Berkeley City Council because it’s time for students to have a seat at the table.
Why are you qualified? Last year, I had the privilege of serving as the External Affairs Vice President for the Associated Students of the University of California. In that capacity, I co-convened the Student-Neighbor Relations Advisory Council, galvanized residents around the closure of Alta Bates, mobilized dozens to the Planning Commission to fight for more student housing now, and was a leader in the lobbying efforts that prevented a tuition increase for students in Berkeley and across the state. As an intern in City Hall and an Alternate Commissioner who has sat on the Zoning Adjustments Board and the Police Review Commission, I’ve seen up close how ideas become policies, and recognize the need for new voices and perspectives. I have served as the liaison to City Hall for many of District 7’s residents, and am uniquely positioned to address this district’s needs.
What sets you apart from other candidates? My candidacy has drawn support from a broad coalition across the Democratic political spectrum, because they know me to be an open listener and a committed organizer who they have seen fight for the residents of this district and the future of this city.
I am proud to have the endorsement of every single member of the Berkeley City Council, State Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Kevin de Leon, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Evan Low, the Alameda Labor Council, the Building & Trades Council of Alameda County, SEIU 1021, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, California Young Democrats, Cal Berkeley Democrats, East Bay Young Democrats, the Berkeley Democratic Club, the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, Berkeley Citizens Action, the Berkeley Tenants Union, Evolve, Our Revolution – East Bay, and the Presidents of the Associated Students of the University of California, UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly, and the UC Student Association, among others.
My unique set of experiences representing residents of this district in City Hall, Sacramento, Washington DC, and at the UC Board of Regents has afforded me a valuable perspective on the future of this city that I am excited to manifest into progressive policymaking.
How and when did you end up in Berkeley? Berkeley was a home to my great-grandmother years ago when she enrolled at UC Berkeley, and to my grandmother when she enrolled at UC Berkeley, and it became home to me in 2014 when I enrolled at UC Berkeley.
What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? Housing, Homelessness, & Sustainability. These issues must be our priority, not just for the council, but as a community. While independent from one another, they are deeply interconnected. We need more affordable housing, we need to protect vulnerable tenants, and we need to build ambitiously to respond to the city’s future needs. Today, roughly 1,000 Berkeley residents are homeless — and they deserve assistance, not criminalization. This city talks a strong game on combating climate change, but we need to turn more of that rhetoric into action.
What are your ideas to begin to solve them? Housing: Berkeley is facing an affordable housing crisis, and District 7 is uniquely burdened by the student housing crisis. To make matters worse, increased student enrollment is pushing the gentrifying force of campus farther and farther into the surrounding community. We need to build more housing, for all students, right next to campus, right now. As a City Councilmember, I’ll push for zoning requirements that allow for taller, denser buildings around campus — while fighting for more units that are affordable. And this November, we must pass Measures O & P to generate the funds we badly need to meet our affordable housing and homelessness goals.
Homelessness: How we protect our most vulnerable residents is a direct reflection of our values as a city. Our ultimate goal should be permanent supportive housing, though achieving that for all of our homeless neighbors will take time. Meanwhile, we must provide immediate relief for Berkeley’s homeless. We need a permanent emergency shelter, mobile showers, accessible public bathrooms at all hours, storage space to provide individuals with a safe place to keep their property, and more. Nobody deserves to live in constant fear of their home being uprooted and disrupted.
Sustainability: Berkeley has a long tradition of environmental leadership, but we have a long way to go to be truly environmentally sustainable. My generation will face the impacts of climate change, and we must be ready for it. On City Council, I will work to incentivize renewable energy use in Southside residences and apartments — including requiring the installation of rooftop solar panels on new buildings — ensure that the businesses and residents of Southside are doing their part to move the city toward our Zero Waste goals, and pursue smart growth that makes Berkeley a greener, denser, and more walkable city.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? We need to explore ways to engage more residents of Berkeley in the democratic process, including but not at all limited to making Election Day a city holiday, allowing for noncitizen voting in local elections, and lowering the local voting age to 16.
How will you be accessible to constituents? The residents of District 7 deserve an accessible and accountable Councilmember who will invite them to be a part of the democratic process. I commit to developing a newsletter, hosting regular and open office hours, and attending neighborhood meetings to ensure that every resident of District 7 has the attention of their Councilmember.
Are you using public financing? Yes
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $25,000
A final thought? It is a challenging time for Berkeley and for our country. I want to work to make sure that the people’s voices, and the people’s interests, are our first priority. I would be honored to earn your vote this November.