True to its left-of-center image, Berkeley voters chose the more progressive candidates and measures on Tuesday in every local race when they were presented with the choice.
They returned radical Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek and liberal-progressive Margaret Breland; they voted for Green candidate John Selawsky.
They elected Derryl Moore for the Peralta Community College Board, over his moderate-backed opponent, voted in all four pro-rent-control Rent Stabilization Board candidates and approved Measure Y – even though property owners backed the owner move-in eviction restrictions’ measure with more than $55,000 (compared to the yes on Y campaign’s approximate $11,000) and claims of “dirty” campaign tactics that included mailers with misleading claims, telephone solicitors pretending they were members of the League of Women Voters and more.
What do these results mean?
Councilmember Kriss Worthington, member of the Berkeley Citizens Action-backed council faction, called the election “a referendum on the mayor,” but Mayor Shirley Dean shot back that the notion was “silly.”
“I believe (Dean) tried to make the election a referendum on her, but the voters are too sophisticated. They saw through it,” Worthington said.
The choice of a new city manager is among the most important tasks ahead for the progressive majority, Worthington said. Even though the progressives have been in the majority, “we were stymied by (former) City Manager Jim Keene, he said, contending that Keene left affordable housing out of most of his budgets and supported “buildings skyrocketing all over downtown.”
A new city manager would not be someone who would always agree with the majority faction, he said. “Hopefully, we will pick someone who will work with all of us.”
Pointing out, however, that many of the issues and candidates she supported won their races – Miriam Hawley, endorsed by both progressives and moderates and incumbent Betty Olds, for example – Dean argued that losses in the election did not reflect on her.
She explained that her support for candidates was based on their individual merits. She had much praise for District 2 candidate Betty Hicks whom Councilmember Margaret Breland defeated. “(Hicks) just dipped her toes in the water,” Dean said. “I think she has a long way to go in Berkeley politics.”
The result of the elections: “It’s absolutely the status quo. So – huh?” Dean said.
Worse than the outcome on the council, are the results of the school board, the mayor said, hypothesizing that the five-member board would become politicized with Selawsky’s entry on the scene. “I place the blame squarely on Mr. Worthington,” Dean said. “They’ve made (the board) very partisan. It’s a really unfortunate result.”
Dean pointed to votes she said candidate Irma Parker had siphoned away from Morton. Parker, who quit the race, remained on the ballot and got 3,686 votes. Morton needed about 2,000 more votes to beat out Selawsky for a place on the board. Dean intimated that Worthington had something to do with Parker’s candidacy and Morton’s eventual defeat.
(Murray Powers, another school board candidate who quit the race early and was also on the ballot, received over 5,000 votes.)
Dean had hoped that, with her candidates of choice winning and a new moderate majority emerging, that there would be a new cohesion on the council.
“It’s one city,” Dean said, getting her licks in at the winning District 2 candidate. “It’s not the hills versus the flats that Margaret is so happy to talk about.”
The winning District 2 candidate, however, did not want to talk about partisanship. Breland said she has her sights trained on her projects – the moratorium on fast food on San Pablo Avenue, correcting the health disparities between the hills and flatlands communities, supporting small business and jobs.
The election results mean that “we have to keep working together,” Breland said.