Page One

DBA says it won’t sponsor election forum

By William Inman Daily Planet Staff
Saturday October 14, 2000

The Downtown Berkeley Association dropped its sponsorship of Monday night’s candidates forum, after protests from several City Council hopefuls who called foul, claiming that an organization that gets city funding should not be sponsoring an election forum.  

Caleb Dardick, Interim Executive Director of the DBA, said that the forum, slated for Monday, 6-8 p.m. at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza, will instead be hosted by the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville. 

District 6 incumbent Betty Olds said she understood the concerns. Because the DBA receives city money, it could be perceived that the incumbents would have the advantage, Olds said. 

“We’re the ones that have given them the money,” she said. “If I were a challenger, I would feel that way, too.” 

Olds said, however, that she was surprised that the DBA didn’t realize that holding the forum would cause questions to be raised. 

But District 2 incumbent Margaret Breland said that at first she wasn’t planning on attending the forum. DBA endorsements are a done deal, she said, and her campaign would better spend its time by “knocking on doors” than attending a forum where she would not be endorsed. 

Breland said that the mayor and the others of the moderate council bloc hold the key to downtown. 

However, since she learned that the League of Women Voters is moderating the event, she has changed her mind and decided to participate. 

District 5 challenger Carrie Olson said that she plans to attend, as well. Olson, however, said she isn’t sure that the League of Women Voters is an unbiased organization either. 

“The League has taken a stance on land-use issues,” she said. “I don’t feel like they should take a stance on issues (and moderate the forum).” 

Olson said that the questions will still be the same, but the moderator will be different. 

“It’s (the DBA’s) forum, they have the right to ask their own questions,” she said. “Everyone has their own interests in these issues.” 

Olson said that she hadn’t raised the issue about the DBA receiving money from the city, but took the same stance as Breland. 

“If I were doing this to look for their endorsement, it would be different,” she said. “I take it as a foregone conclusion that they already have their candidates.” 

Olson joked that she’s still learning the ropes in campaigning for City Council. 

District 2 challenger Betty Hicks, whom Breland said the DBA will endorse, said that she plans to “be as forthright as I can.” 

“When you go to all these forums, all you can do is just state what you’re about.” 

Dardick said that it’s more important to the DBA to make the candidates comfortable than to be the sponsor. 

“When we heard that council candidates were critical of this, we immediately decided to withdraw sponsorship,” he said. “In Berkeley, sometimes it pays not to fight.”