Public Comment

Commentary: An Invitation

By Laurence Schechtman
Tuesday September 12, 2006

This is Berkeley’s season for political endorsements. But there is only one group which is actively inviting all progressives to attend, to debate and to vote, and that is the Berkeley Progressive Coalition. All are invited to the candidates convention from 2-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16 at Washington School at MLK and Bancroft. 

We are going to be endorsing candidates for mayor, four for City Council, up to three for School Board, and we are going to make recommendations on Berkeley measures and state initiatives. 

If you agree with our mission statement that “We seek to promote a more equitable economic and social life in our city, and to enhance social justice, ecological sustainability and democratic co-operation on every level,” then you are welcome. 

To start our convention, we will consider one state initiative and two Berkeley Measures. State Proposition 89, public financing for elections, is already part of our “Platform and Principles,” voted on in May and June. (If you want to read the entire 19 pages, go to, or pick up a hard copy at the convention.) We have also frontloaded Berkeley Measure H to impeach Bush and Cheney (that should get the blood moving) and Measure I, which will, “increase annual condominium conversions from 100 to 500 units and increase the ability to evict tenants of converted units,” according to the Voter Handbook. 

Measure I has already been opposed by 120 people at the convention of the Committee to Defend Affordable Housing, which has also nominated our Rent Board candidates. If the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association succeeds in passing Measure I this November, thousands of Berkeley tenants will be priced out of town, and we will lose most of the diversity which has defined our city. Measure I, and related housing issues, therefore, may be one of the questions which you may want to put to candidates. You might also want to ask about Measure A, school parcel tax consolidation; Measure F, greenhouse gas reduction, or Measure J, the landmarks preservation measure. Or you might want to talk about the Downtown Plan agreement with the university. It’s up to you. Except for the recommendations of the Committee to Defend Affordable Housing, our organizing committee has no official preferences. We do hope, however, that our questioning will be economical and disciplined, so that we will have some time at the end to begin to build campaign structures. 

When you come to this convention you will be voting not only for candidates and propositions, but for the future of a progressive community in Berkeley which is both open and united. In keeping with the spirit of the California Constitution, which declares city elections to be non-partisan, we welcome candidates from any and all parties. If, as is now the case, there are endorsement meetings from many organizations, there is always the danger that progressive candidates will defeat each other, although this year there is probably more clarity than there has been in the past. With your help, we hope not only to field a winning slate of candidates this year, but to build ever greater progressive co-ordination and unity. An ongoing project, but worth the effort. 

Hope to see you on Saturday. 


Laurence Schechtman is a member of the Organizing Committee of the Berkeley Progressive Coalition.