While many of the sharply dressed partygoers gathered Thursday at Jupiter can expect a generous Christmas bonus, their guest of honor, Mayor Tom Bates, is facing about a $60,000 loss.
That looks to be the final cost of the mayor’s 2002 campaign to unseat former Mayor Shirley Dean. Sparing no expense, the mayor and his wife Assemblymember Loni Hancock loaned his campaign $90,000 that Berkeley’s rigid campaign rules make all but impossible to repay in full.
Now with the Dec. 31 deadline to retire his campaign debt looming, Mayor Bates is getting a little help from friends he didn’t know he had.
Thursday’s event, the second fundraising bash held in the mayor’s honor this year, was organized by PG&E Government Relations Manager Tom Guarino, and Clear Channel Outdoor Vice President for Governmental Affairs Michael Colbruno. The event raised $1,400.
Although the fundraiser included several familiar faces, including developer Patrick Kennedy, land use attorney Rena Rickles, Councilmember Linda Maio and City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan, most of the nearly two dozen people in attendance were less familiar. When one long time city political player was asked who many of the guests were, he replied, “I don’t know.”
Neither did Bates. The party was organized mostly by friends, he said, but many of the invitees were strangers.
Bates, who receives a pension from his 20 years in the state Legislature and declines to accept the mayor’s $34,000 salary, said he was resigned to losing about $60,000.
“Loni and I knew that when we advanced the money it would be very difficult to repay it,” he said.
Berkeley only allows contributions from individuals, not businesses or organizations and limits contributions to $250 per person. With a candidate’s natural base of support exhausted by election day, they have few potential contributors available to repay any lingering debt.
The stringent rules have ensnared a second city politician. Councilmember Kriss Worthington hosted a fundraiser earlier this month to retire a $6,000 campaign debt from his 2002 race. Worthington’s event raised $3,800, leaving him $2,200 in the hole with the Dec. 31 deadline fast approaching.
“Now I just have to call people and beg them to send me a check,” he said.
Bates’ effort to repay some of his campaign debt has raised the ire of many of the progressives who backed him in 2002. While progressives flocked to Bates as their best chance to defeat the more moderate Shirley Dean and raised no objections when Bates spent some of his own money in his record-setting $236,000 campaign, they have winced at Bates turning to many of Dean’s natural allies, especially developers, to help him retire his debt.
“It’s sad to me but I’m not surprised,” said Barbara Lubin, a longtime Berkeley activist. “Berkeley has moved to the middle and when you look at development stuff, Tom is close to Shirley.”
Since 2003, Bates has received contributions from several Dean supporters, including John DeClerq, senior vice president of TransAction Companies; Robert Ellsworth and David Ruegg of the development firm Ruegg & Ellsworth; Thomas Cone, a Realtor; Rauly Butler, an executive at Mechanics Bank; Councilmember Gordon Wozniak; former Councilmember Fred Collignon; John Drew, a West Berkeley-based developer; and Kennedy, head of Panoramic Interests.
Bates, who listed contributions from 64 people this year, attributed his wide range of support to his performance as mayor, where he has preached consensus and positioned himself towards the middle of the city’s left-center divide.
“I think a lot of people are happy that the bickering, fighting and endless meetings are over,” he said. Bates added that contributions wouldn’t affect his priorities for the city.
“I’ve always made decisions on what is the right thing to do, not on who gives me money,” he said.
In a five minute speech at Thursday’s fundraiser, Bates told attendees that he was committed to streamlining the city’s process for issuing building permits, but also said that public input into new projects resulted in better developments.
If the mayor didn’t know all of those assembled, he showed keen instincts by addressing land use issues.
Michael McClure, an Oakland Planning Commissioner and executive for Oakland-based construction company Alarcon Bohm, was one of many people in the development business on hand Thursday. Other guests included a former football teammate and friends from Bates’ days in the State Assembly.
McClure said he had met Bates on occasion and was asked by a friend to come to the party.
He in turn invited Nicholas Jellins, a Menlo Park City Councilmember and land use attorney, who met Bates for the first time Thursday. Joining them was Clinton Killian, a real estate attorney who currently serves as chair of the Oakland Planning Commission.
“Mayor Bates remembered my name. I was kind of touched by that,” said Killian, who said he had met Bates in passing several times and would soon write him a check.
Other guests were already big fans of the mayor. Scott Donahue, a Berkeley-based public artist, said that Bates intervened with Caltrans on his behalf when the state agency objected to Donahue’s design for art that will soon adorn Berkeley’s pedestrian bridge over I-80.
“When everyone else was afraid to take on Caltrans, he came through for me,” said Donahue, who proposed a piece that included a tribute to Berkeley’s history of protest, which he said Caltrans found objectionable.
“Mayor Bates is a practical person,” he said. “I wish I had money to give him.”