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Re: SF Gate: Teen hits on a plan for Berkeley districts/16-year-old's is 1 of 5 under consideration


I think we better write Berkeley right now and tell them to give that kid a
Standardized test. If he doesn't pass it, they should immediately ignore
his great plan because he isn't smart and no one should listen to him.

(Offered, in case you didn't notice, with dripping sarcasm).


From: Karen Canty <kscanty@PACBELL.NET>
Subject: SF Gate: Teen hits on a plan for Berkeley districts/16-year-old's
is 1 of 5 under consideration

Speaking of imagination and rigor, thought you would enjoy..Karen
This article was sent to you by someone who found it on SF Gate.
The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:
Wednesday, February 13, 2002 (SF Chronicle)
Teen hits on a plan for Berkeley districts/16-year-old's is 1 of 5 under
Charles Burress, Chronicle Staff Writer

The grown-ups were stymied, so 16-year-old Berkeley High School junior
Nick Rizzo got out his calculator and carefully crafted a plan to solve
the city's protracted tug-of-war over where to draw the boundaries for
City Council districts.
"I said, 'Wow!' " recalled council member Kriss Worthington. "That's a
pretty gargantuan task. Many people have tried and failed."
Nick, whose favorite reading ranges from the congressional newspaper Roll
Call to the Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol, wrote in his proposal:
"The Ancient Greeks believed a person's primary duty was civic
participation," he wrote, "and I couldn't agree with them more. . . . I
would be privileged to believe that even though I can't vote, because of
me, the thousands of Berkeley citizens who can will have a fair
Berkeley could use some help. City officials have been struggling for
months to come up with an acceptable redistricting plan.
The city is required to redraw the lines every 10 years to adjust for
population shifts recorded by the census. After long wrangling, the left-
leaning majority on the council in October approved a plan that was later
tossed out after a successful petition drive branded it "another blatant
power grab by the far left."
The city had to go back to the drawing boards. This time, one of the five
plans submitted by the public came from Nick.
Nick said his plan, unlike the others, is nonpartisan, reflecting his own
"in-the-middle" politics.
He's currently working on the state Assembly campaign of Loni Hancock, a
former Berkeley mayor allied with the city's leftist faction. But he
previously worked for the election campaign of Mim Hawley, who's allied
with the rival centrist party. He now serves as Hawley's appointee to the
city's Youth Commission.
"It is unbelievable," said Molly O'Shaughnessy, Hancock's campaign
coordinator. "He's like this 38-year-old trapped in a 16-year-old's body."
His articulate answers to questions pour forth with enthusiasm. Why would
he concentrate students in a certain district? "The Federal Voting Rights
Act specifically tells us, where possible, to look out for communities of
interest, " he replies.
Public review of his plan and the others will begin today, with the
expected release of the proposals by the city clerk's office. His
proposal, which he estimates took only about 12 to 15 hours, seems to meet
the requirements and comes closer than some others to the goal of
preserving existing boundaries as much as possible.
His plan was as much a surprise to his family as it was to City Hall.
Redistricting wasn't a topic at home with his parents, author and critic
Wendy Lesser and Sonoma State University Professor Richard Rizzo.
But he did show an early interest in civics when, at age 8 or 9 as a
student at Bentley School, he would pick a city at random from the atlas,
check the population and draw up a city plan, Lesser recalled.
Civics isn't his only interest. He helped make a short film last year,
based on the one-paragraph Kafka story "The Top," and he played one of the
leads last fall in the school play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
And he also manages to serve as a reporter for Berkeley High's award-
winning paper, The Jacket.
But he insists he's "just a normal teenager."
"I'm not some kind of child prodigy or savant," he said. "I'm a regular
I worry about my Spanish grades. I wonder if I'm going to get the car on

E-mail Charles Burress at cburress@sfchronicle.com.
Copyright 2002 SF Chronicle

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