The fight to keep in tact the fragile liberal-progressive council faction majority is being played out in southwest Berkeley’s District 2, and, to a lesser degree, in South Berkeley’s District 3.
The five liberal-progressive councilmembers are Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek and Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Linda Maio, Dona Spring and Margaret Breland. The more moderate faction consists of Mayor Shirley Dean and Councilmembers Betty Olds, Polly Armstrong and Diane Woolley.
In District 2, the fight is being waged between Dean-backed Betty Hicks and progressive-backed incumbent Breland.
Breland has come away with the lion’s share of weighty endorsers that include the four other progressive councilmembers, Congressmember Barbara Lee, Assemblymember Dion Aroner, former Assemblymember Tom Bates and former mayor Loni Hancock. Breland is endorsed by the Alameda County Central Labor Council, the Service Employees International Union 535 and 790, the Sierra Club, the East Bay League of Conservation Voters, the Green Party, Berkeley Citizen’s Action and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Hicks has grabbed the endorsement of Mayor Shirley Dean, the police and fire fighters associations and the Berkeley Democratic Club.
The endorsements may be sparse, but they represent powerful foes for Breland. Hicks has raised about $20,500 for her campaign, while Breland has raised somewhat less, about $17,500.
Signs representing both candidates dot telephone poles and glossy literature has been sent through the mail and dropped off by volunteers working diligently for one side or the other.
Foes point to Hick’s support from Fourth Street interests that include $250 checks from Fourth Street property manager Mike Drew and separate $250 donations from a number of members of the Drew family, $250 contributions from Fourth-Street developers Denny and Elliot Abrams, $250 contributions each from Fourth Street’s Builders Booksource and Bette’s Oceanview Diner. (Hicks told the Daily Planet that she realized she wasn’t supposed to take funds from businesses, but that the business owners would be replacing the business checks with personal checks.)
Hicks also has received $250 checks – the maximum one can give under the city’s finance campaign law – from three different Trasaction Co. officials, developer Avi Nevo and housing developer John Koenigshoter.
In the same vein, Hicks supporters point to Breland’s $250 contributions from developer Patrick Kennedy and from his wife. Hicks is opposing the proposed four to five story building Kennedy wants to build at San Pablo Avenue and Carleton Street.
Breland says she is prohibited from giving her opinion about the building, because the council may be called on to approve it. Foes of the building are supporting Hicks.
Breland also received $250 from people closely associated with Berkeley Citizens Action such as former mayoral candidate Don Jelinek, Councilmembers Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington and former city Councilmember Nancy Skinner.
Breland received $250 contributions from three unions: the Service Employees International Union No. 2 COPE-PAC fund, $250 from SEIU Local 790 and $250 from The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
In the District 3 race, should Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek be defeated by low-income housing credits consultant James Peterson, the balance would also shift to the moderates. Shirek, who has been undefeated since 1984, is backed by the same group of progressives that Breland is, while Peterson is endorsed by the Berkeley Democratic Club. Peterson’s candidacy has been marred by his accepting a campaign contribution from an applicant to the Zoning Adjustments Board of which he is a member. He has since returned the contribution and recused himself from the vote.