Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin delivers his first state of the city address Monday night at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. PHOTOS/Zac Goldstein

By Keegan Tatum and Zac Goldstein

The sense in the room was, finally, someone said it. That mood endured for the entire State of the City address delivered by Berkeley’s new mayor, Jesse Arreguin.

Throughout his nearly 45-minute address at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, several voices on several occasions could be heard uttering a relieved “yes” as their young mayor laid out specific policy. The few hundred in the theatre were most responsive as Arreguin spoke about homelessness, income inequality, and the cost of rent.

Arreguin said President Trump stripping the
city of federal funding because of its
sanctuary city status is akin to “stealing 
from Berkeley’s taxpayers.”

“One thousand people are living on the streets, with 600 without shelter,” Arreguin said from an obviously genuine place. “It’s a failure of our society that the humanitarian crisis of homelessness has been allowed to get so bad. Addressing homelessness is my administration’s top priority. We are creating a pathway out of homelessness. Having a home is a basic human right.”

It was as if the crowd had wanted to hear these words for years, but no politician had done so. It was like the release of a safety valve.

That feeling was especially visceral when Arreguin said: “Depending on where you live in Berkeley there are different rates of obesity, heart disease, and clean air. The same can be said of education and economic opportunity.”

One of the greatest points of applause came when Arreguin spoke about campaign finance. He referenced Measure X1, the Fair Elections Act, that passed with 64 percent support last November and added that it will level the playing field and rid us of influence of big money donors.

Here are other highlights from the speech:

➤Arreguin said he would “encourage worker co-operatives to spur on economic mobility.”

➤In response to the president’s threats to strip away federal funding from sanctuary cities, Arreguin noted that those federal dollars are paid by the taxpayers of Berkeley. If President Donald Trump ripped away that money, the mayor said, he would be stealing from Berkeley’s taxpayers. He then added: “We will not cower in the face of threats from the presidential administration.”

➤Arreguin compared divesting funding away from environmentally harmful projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline to the movement to divest from Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.

➤During the audience questioning, Arreguin said that his administration was exploring a shuttle system to decrease traffic. Such a system would run further away from downtown.