Supporters charge dirty tactics by opponents
Supporters of Measure Y, which seeks to protect disabled and elderly tenants, called a press conference Monday to express outrage at the No on Y Committee for what they claimed were “desperate” and “dishonest” campaign tactics.
The press conference was called by Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board directors and the Commission for the Disabled, contending there were misleading fliers sent out late last week by the No on Y Committee. They said the fliers were a blatant attempt to confuse voters.
“We have to make it known that these fliers are illegal and full of mischaracterizations in addition to being obscene,” said Larry Buchalter a paraplegic who works for the Measure Y campaign.
Measure Y is a pro-tenant measure that would restrict owner-move-in evictions of the elderly, disabled and long-term tenants. The measure would only apply to buildings of four or more rental units.
Max Anderson, a Rent Board director and candidate for reelection, said the No on Y Committee, which is closely connected to the Berkeley Property Owners Association, pulled some dirty tricks late in the campaign in an attempt to fool voters.
“The people who sent out these last-minute cynical mailers are in the most despicable category of this campaign season,” Anderson said. “These people can’t seem to resist maximizing their profit on the most vulnerable people in the community.”
Supporters of Measure Y said at least three different fliers were sent out citywide. Proponents are especially upset that two of the fliers depict people confined to wheelchairs under statements that claim the disabled will be hurt by Measure Y.
Critics of the mailing campaign said they doubt the two handicapped people pictured on the flyers even live in Berkeley. The two are only identified as Phil B. and Sarah J. The short biography of Phil B said he moved to Berkeley and could not find housing close to the Center for Independent Living.
“The handicapped community is very tight knit and no one knows either of them,” said Marissa Shaw, of the Commission on Disability. “They don’t even look handicapped to me.”
On another flyer there is the story of “Mary J.,” a retired teacher and widow who goes on sabbatical and rents her home out to “Fred” who refused to move out when she returns. Mary J. is forced to pay “Fred” $4,500 for moving costs due to Measure Y.
Proponents of Measure Y say the hypothetical story is misleading because the measure only applies to buildings with four units or more and not to single family homes.
Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring, who is both a tenant and disabled, co-authored the measure and said the fliers’ claims are false.
“I think this is the most cynical example of political double talk I’ve ever seen,” Spring said. “I wouldn’t want to be them, their going to have such bad Karma.”
The No on Y Committee raised $54,643 as of Oct. 21. Over 60 percent of the money comes from sources outside Berkeley including $15,000 from an organization called the Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee, or IMPAC. The organization has a Sacramento address but there is no telephone listing. Measure Y supporters said it’s a real estate pack organization.
Jo Ann Price, president of the Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville League of Women Voters, is also upset at the No on Y tactics. Price said that although the League supports the intent of the measure it does not support Measure Y itself. However, Price said the LWV never gave the No on Y Committee permission to use the League’s name. All three fliers state “The League of Women Voters urges a no vote (on Measure Y).”
In an ironic twist, Price said she received a call at her home from someone who falsely claimed to be from the LWV and asked her to vote no on Measure Y.
Price was able to trace the call back to the Tramutola Company, a political consulting firm in Oakland. Price said she discovered the owner of the company, Larry Tramutola, wrote the misleading phone script.
“He called me back and apologized claiming it was a mistake,” Price said.
But then Price said she saw the same misleading statements in an ad placed in the Daily Planet. The ads stated the LWV was against the measure and quoted her as saying “The League of Women Voters opposes Measure Y.”
“If I didn’t have a cause before I do now,” Price said. “It’s not the organization anymore it’s my name and I never said that.”
The ad was placed by Robert Cabrera, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association. Several members of the No on Y Committee referred all questions to Cabrera but neither Cabrera nor Tramutola returned calls.
Peggy Schioler, a member of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, who is running for a seat on the Rent Stabilization Board said she is against Measure Y but she is not a member of the No on Y committee. She said Cabrera is new to politics. “Maybe he chose the wrong tactics but I ascribe that to inexperience, he’s not an evil person,” she said.
The No on Y Committee may also be in violation of state law. According to Berkeley’s Campaign Filing Manual, state law requires return address information including name, address and city on all mailings of 200 pieces or more. Whoever sent the fliers did not list any information about the fliers source other than “Paid for by No on Y.”
Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the No on Y committee must have decided to release the false information at the end of the campaign because “they’re desperate and the organization was hoping there wouldn’t be time to counter their false claims.”
“They know they can’t make a legitimate argument against the measure so they’ve decided their best chance is to try and confuse the voters,” he said.