While condo conversions and the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance represent the bread and butter issues of municipal politics, Berkeley voters will also get to weigh in on matters of national and global significance when they cast votes on two ballot measures.
One of those is purely symbolic, while the other could end up incurring potentially significant costs—though just how much and when is a matter for conjecture.
Two other measures are more tightly focused and strictly pragmatic—one endorsing a park and the other authorizing an alternative to costly elections to fill unexpected vacancies on the city’s Rent Stabilization Board.
Each of the four measures landed on the ballot after receiving a unanimous vote from the City Council.
Measure H, titled “Impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney,” asks Berkeley voters to decide whether to call for the figurative heads of the nation’s top elected officials on the grounds they “have committed High Crimes and Misdemeanors” meriting impeachment.
Signing the ballot argument in favor were Berkeley’s own First Political Family, Mayor Tom Bates and spouse and Assemblymember Loni Hancock, along with Peace and Justice Commission Chair Steve Friedkin, Constitution Summer President and Co-founder Geoffrey King and Rabbi Jane R. Litman.
The measure also won the endorsements of Berkeley’s two most famous anti-war activists, Cindy Sheehan and Daniel Ellsberg.
The opponents, most of whom identify themselves as victims of or witnesses to crimes, counter that Berkeley officials should abandon symbolic gestures and concentrate on solving the city’s own problems, starting with crime and schools.
Measure G is titled simply “Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” and calls on voters to set a municipal goal of reducing the city’s output of planet-heating gases by 80 percent by 2050 and adopting a plan that spells out the steps to achieving that goal.
As the city attorney’s analysis notes, “Actions to implement the plan will have a cost, which are [sic] unknown at this time and will depend on the nature of the plan developed by the mayor, in concert with the community, and adopted by the council.”
The measure attracted only one foe willing to author opposition arguments, Fred Foldvary, co-director of the Civil Society Institute, a libertarian think tank based at Santa Clara University.
Foldvary says the best solution is to replace income and sales taxes and taxes on improvements with taxes on pollution, congestion and land value and leave the details to the invisible hand of the market.
Measure F, “Gilman Street Playing Fields,” essentially asks voters to rubber stamp a fait accompli, the creation of five sports fields on East Bay Regional Parks land west of Interstate 80 at the foot of Gilman Street.
The measure locks in the new use and carries no costs. No one submitted an opposing argument.
Measure E, “Rent Board Vacancy,” similarly attracted no opposition, and would change the way vacant seats are filled on the city’s Rent Stabilization Board.
Under the current regime, a costly special election would be needed to fill an unexpected vacancy on the board. Measure E allows other board members to elect a replacement who would serve until the next November general election.
In addition to a unanimous council vote, the proposal also won a unanimous endorsement from the rent board.