Berkeley was Mayor Tom Bates’ sweetheart this Valentine’s Day when he announced he’ll pursue the city’s chief position for one more term.
“It’s Valentine’s Day, and I love Berkeley,” he said to a few dozen supporters Tuesday, moments after declaring he will seek re-election in November.
Bates, a former state Assemblymember, was elected to four years in office in 2002, beating out incumbent Shirley Dean 55.3 percent to 43 percent. This year, he will compete for a two-year term, in accordance with voter-approved policy aimed at aligning city and national elections for maximum voter turnout.
No other candidates have submitted official statements of intent to run, City Clerk Sara Cox said. However, local resident Zachary Runningwolf announced a month ago that he would vie for the seat. Also, Daily Planet columnist and former Planning Commission Chair Zelda Bronstein has said she is thinking about running.
“I haven’t made a final decision yet,” she said this week.
Bates said he doesn’t know who his adversaries will be, though he isn’t worried about the competition.
“No matter who my opponent is, I’m going to run on my record,” he said.
Bates, 68, made the announcement on the steps of City Hall Tuesday.
Though California code precludes office holders from using public facilities for private gain, a representative from Bates’ office said he’s legally allowed to announce his candidacy on public property. The city attorney could not be reached to confirm that by press time.
Bates told his audience he wants to continue the work he started.
“It’s been an incredible three years. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said. “Things take longer than we could possibly imagine and that’s why I’m running again.”
Bates enumerated several professional accomplishments as mayor, echoing his State of the City address Feb. 7. During his tenure, he said, the city has expanded youth programs, built more than 1,400 homes, heightened environmental awareness and balanced the budget. He also lauded the city’s joint agreement with UC Berkeley to develop the downtown area.
In a press briefing following his announcement, Bates said he wants to use a second term to address Berkeley’s recent spike in property crime, among other issues.
“It’s a lot we want to do,” he said. “The city—we need to get results. We need a clear guideline.”
Councilmembers Max Anderson, Gordon Wozniak and Laurie Capitelli, who attended the event Tuesday, have endorsed the mayor.
Additional early endorsements have come from councilmembers Linda Maio and Darryl Moore. Congressmember Barbara Lee, Bates’ wife Assemblymember Loni Hancock, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and other public figures have also declared their support.
Wozniak, of District 8, commended the mayor’s decision to seek a second mayoral term.
“I think Tom has been a great mayor,” he said. “As he said, a lot of things have started and he wants to complete things. … He has a really great vision.”
Wozniak said he’s confident Bates will “win overwhelmingly.”
However, the mayor is not without his critics. Some have lambasted his stance on city expansion, accusing him of pandering to developers. Last year, Bates and the Berkeley City Council came under fire for settling the lawsuit against UC Berkeley over downtown growth.
Critics said the deal—which will fatten city coffers by $22.3 million over 15 years—did not extract enough money from the university and failed to assert adequate control over development. Though Bates conceded the city did not get everything it wanted, he continues to stand by the settlement.
“For better or worse, this agreement is a landmark,” he said.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington praised Bates for effectively civilizing the oft-quarrelsome City Council, but condemned him for neglecting progressive issues like affordable housing and the city budget.
“Important progressive priorities are not making it on the priority list,” Worthington said.
Worthington was a major proponent of Bates in 2002. “I begged him to run,” Worthington said. But this year, he is one of three councilmembers to not offer an endorsement.
Still, he is hopeful the mayor will build a palatable progressive platform.
“I’m hoping and praying Tom Bates can be encouraged to be as progressive as Loni Hancock was,” he said.
Bates, a graduate of UC Berkeley, was elected to the Alameda County Supervisors in 1972 and State Assembly in 1976. He served in the Assembly until 1996..