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Mayor needs to stand up for city, or be replaced

Malcolm Burnstein
Monday November 19, 2001



On Oct. 9 Councilmember Dona Spring tried to place on the council agenda an item asking the council to call for a cessation of the bombing in Afghanistan. She was then misquoted in the Daily Cal to the effect that the bombing of Afghanistan could be considered a terrorist act. Even if she said it, she is only one councilmember. 

Nevertheless, immediately, as if Mayor Dean were just waiting for what she perceived as a wedge issue, the mayor placed on her Web site a message that stated that among other things, she wanted to disavow her “council colleagues (note the plural) who would denounce the United States as a ‘terrorist nation.’” She went on to state that “Spring and her four leftist colleagues ... were advocating for ... a resolution condemning U.S. anti-terrorist activity in Afghanistan . . . .” Regard the mayor’s McCarthyite language (”leftist colleagues”). It was the Mayor’s false and misleading web site language that the press picked up, causing the furor about Berkeley. 

Not only were the mayor’s statements false, but the mayor must have known they were false when she made them. Multiple members of council never called the United States a terrorist nation. And no resolution as described by the mayor was advocated by Spring, let alone any of her “leftist” colleagues. 

And, in fact, the resolution that was placed on the agenda for the Oct. 6 meeting and which was ultimately passed, is a far cry from the wild descriptions of it used to denounce Berkeley from all around the country. And despite her drumbeat attacks on the resolution, Mayor Dean voted for two of its five parts and did not have the moral courage to vote against the other parts; she merely abstained.  

The mayor’s comments, on her Web site and in the press fostered a national perception of Berkeley as unpatriotic and caused the boycott talk. Nor was the false information disseminated by the mayor corrected by her though she had many opportunities to do so; indeed, she kept the first message on her Web site until after the Oct. 6 council meeting, the time when many journalists picked up the story.  

We know that opposition to the city, and talk of boycott lessened, or ceased entirely if people saw the actual text of the resolution. For example, the members of council have been furnished a letter from the conservative Republican from Oregon, a relative of one Berkeley citizen, who criticized Berkeley about the Oct. 6 resolution until he had seen the actual text of it. Then, he wrote, “Well, if that is the resolution, I think your mayor isn’t doing a good job on behalf of the city. Instead of trying to get the City Council to reverse its stand – which appears to be principled, balanced and patriotic – she should be out public defending her council on every television news program and with every publication that has taken issue with Berkeley’s position. Even I could support this resolution. Faced with a boycott it appears your mayor either lacks courage or leadership . . . or both.” 

It is clear we need new leadership in Berkeley, leadership that places the welfare of the city above self-serving petty politics. By that measure, Mayor Dean needs to be replaced, and perhaps that should be done before the next election. 


Malcolm Burnstein