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Who’s Left?

- Stephen Dunifer
Friday May 10, 2002

To the Editor: 

A recent announcement from the office of City Councilmember Dona Spring calls for citizen participation in a convention to select a “progressive” candidate to run against current Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean. (The convention took place Saturday, May 4.) This announcement proudly asserts that the last time such an event  

occurred it resulted in the election of two-term Mayor Loni Hancock. 

Given that Dona Spring, who deserves to be known as the Green Party's brown thumb, is the source for this call, this should make the whole process suspect from the beginning. 

Loni Hancock was an unmitigated disaster for Berkeley. 

Her hand-picked choice for city manger, Michael Brown, militarized the Berkeley Police. He embarked on a campaign against dissent in Berkeley and created the police unit known as “The Crowd Management Team.” During that time, supposed progressive City Council members voted for the use of crowd control munitions (rubber and wooden bullets) by BPD. 

These had been used on crowds protesting construction of volley ball courts on People’s Park. At the City Council meeting where the deciding votes were cast, City Manager Brown stood on the stage of the Berkeley Community Theatre and pointed out community activists to be dragged out and arrested, some notable activists such as Carol Denney were hog-tied like farm animals.  

The progressive City Council and Mayor Hancock did nothing to intervene in this gross violation of civil rights and liberties. Loni Hancock pushed through legislation that allowed the most notorious developer in Berkeley, UCB, to ok its own Environmental Impact Report findings, giving up the city's right to review them. 

The City Council committed a clear violation of the voters’ will when it passed Measure N in the mid ‘80s. This ballot measure commanded city officials to take every possible measure to ensure UCB's compliance with existing zoning laws and the General Plan. So far, not one city official has made any effort to enforce the will of the voters expressed in Measure N. 

Mayor Hancock was totally complicit in the university's construction of volleyball courts on People's Park and lied about her involvement repeatedly. A public records request revealed letters from the mayor to the UC Chancellor that detailed cooperative planning efforts between the city and UCB for the construction of the volleyball courts. 

Ms Spring’s record is total anathema to what the Green platform is supposed to stand for.  

Unfortunately, the local Green Party is nothing more than a reelection vehicle for Dona Spring and will not do anything to hold her accountable to the Green Party platform. Ms. Spring was on the committee that drafted the "poor law" proposals used to further legitimize and codify Berkeley's war against the homeless. Further, Ms. Spring, at the behest of local merchants who complained about homeless folks camping out on a bench on Shattuck Avenue, personally ordered city workers to remove the offending piece of outdoor furniture. She voted for the privatization of the city parking garages, depriving union workers of jobs. To avoid offending downtown merchants she voted against HUD money to be used to create low income housing in downtown Berkeley. 

In many critical votes on progressive issues where it came down to her as the swing vote she waffled by abstaining, thus allowing items to defeated by council “moderates.” 

When it comes down to walking the talk, Berkeley “progressives” remain hobbled at the starting line by their own self-serving tendency to compromise at the first hint of opposition and timorous fear of being portrayed as being too radical rather than standing on principle. Not one supposed “progressive” on the City Council has denounced the illegal labor practices employed by certain city of Berkeley departments. Part-time employees of the city do not receive benefits and are limited to fewer than 30 hours per week, the break point between part-time and full-time.  

If a part-time employee works more than 30 hours, they are ordered to carry the extra time over to next week’s time card so they will not move up to full time status and thus become eligible for benefits. Nor have any “progressive” City Council members called for the firing of City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque who, among her many notable endeavors, has done her best to legally justify city actions against the homeless and the undermining of the Brown Act (open meeting laws) by city departments and commissions. 

Anyone who plans to attend this convention should be aware of the hypocritical history of the “progressive left” in Berkeley and how they have attacked, marginalized, and silenced community activists who were  

working for a truly just social agenda and vision. This whole process may be nothing more than an attempt by Ms. Spring to position herself to be selected as the “progressive” candidate for mayor or create a “mandate” for a late entry candidate such as Tom Bates. Ultimately this campaign may be doomed to failure due to the lack of a truly viable candidate, its late start, and the machine-like efficiency of the Shirley Dean campaign to raise funds and consolidate its base of support. Tom Bates would continue the legacy of the Bates/Dellums  

machine which dominated and controlled Berkeley “progressive” politics for the last 15 years. 


- Stephen Dunifer