Candidates Outraged by Latest Chamber Hit Pieces

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday October 31, 2006

Led by the local Chamber of Commerce, the Berkeley pre-election season has taken a nasty turn. 

Two campaign pieces—one properly identified from the Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee and the other “inadvertently” without identification—are among the glossy missives District 4 and 7 voters found in their mailboxes last week. 

The chamber piece, delivered to Districts 4 and 7 voters, takes the form of a report card and gives Spring and Worthington failing marks on “important Berkeley issues.” The anonymous piece, now claimed by the chamber political action committee, links District 7 challenger George Beier with Mayor Tom Bates, although Bates has not endorsed Beier. 

“The chamber is supposed to be promoting ethics in business—it is so unethical of the chamber to be doing this,” Spring said, noting that the chamber was able to pour $7,000 into the campaign against her. “People should know who is responsible for putting out this hit piece.” 

Spring pointed to last week’s deal hammered out by Oakland mayor-elect Ron Dellums that got the Oakland Chamber PAC to voluntarily stop its infusions of cash aimed at influencing Oakland’s Nov. 7 election. 

“What a difference between the Oakland and Berkeley mayors,” Spring said, noting that Bates spoke at the September Chamber PAC fundraiser when, presumably, the funds for brochures opposing Worthington and Spring and supporting Beier and the No on Measure J postcard were raised. 

A number of elements such as “committed to reducing crime,” “supports the downtown,” and “supports business in Berkeley,” comprise the report-card mailer.  

On reducing crime, the chamber gave both Spring and Worthington a “D.”  

“It’s totally and blatantly false,” Worthington said, pointing to his support for police on Telegraph Avenue. At the Oct. 21, 2003, City Council meeting, soon after the city manager had removed police patrols from Telegraph Avenue, Worthington and Mayor Tom Bates put forward the following resolution:  

“Refer to the City Manager the Clarity, Priority and Responsibility Plan (CPR) for Telegraph Avenue: 1) creating a clear policy brochure to address questions of what laws prohibit and permit; 2) committing sufficient Police Department staffing to the Telegraph area; 3) requesting UC Berkeley restore staffing to the Telegraph area patrol; and 4) restoring Community Health and Safety Team staffing as needed.” (From the City Council Summary Oct. 21 2003.) 

The council majority refused financial support for the resolution, however, Worthington said, noting that he brought the request back to the council in June 2004 and June 2005. In May 2006 restoration of police and social service funding to Telegraph got approved after the uproar over Cody’s closing. 

Spring said she supported Worthington’s efforts to restore police patrols and made sure, when the resolution was approved this year, that it included downtown police patrols and social services. 

Spring notes that the chamber “report card” also implies that she, Worthington, and Councilmember Max Anderson are anti-business because they abstained on the approval of the West Berkeley Bowl. The Daily Planet reviewed the tape of the June 13 meeting, which shows that the three abstained because they wanted assurances written into the resolution that the Bowl management would allow the workers to turn in cards in support of a union—the quicker method establishing a union. 

The three councilmembers voted in favor of the West Berkeley Bowl on the final unanimous vote, the second reading of the ordinance, because, by that time, a separate resolution supporting a card-check vote for the union at the Bowl had been prepared. 

Asked in a phone interview Monday if he thought the chamber piece misrepresented Spring and Worthington’s positions, Chamber President Roland Peterson declined to comment. Peterson said, however, that the chamber supported Beier and District 4 candidate Raudel Wilson because: “Our vision is with Raudel and George in office we can move business-friendly laws to revitalize Telegraph and downtown,” Peterson said. 

The second chamber brochure while upbeat is misleading, Worthington said. “What do Tom and George have in common?” says the piece, answering: “went to [UC] Berkeley, stayed in Berkeley…” 

While the brochure lacks the sender identification required in Berkeley election law 2.12.330, the chamber issued an apology through a press statement: “The Business for Better Government PAC fully intended for recipients of its mailing to know who the sender is,” the statement said. 

Worthington points out that the brochure uses a common electoral gimmick, also used in a Berkeley Democratic Club mailer, that pairs a popular politician with an unknown. Bates has not endorsed Beier, but one might think he has, looking at the brochure. Similarly, in the BDC brochure Rep. Barbara Lee is standing with Beier. Worthington points out, however, that he himself is endorsed by Lee, not Beier.  

Bates was unconcerned about the mailer. “I think that’s pretty commonplace,” he told the Daily Planet. 

It’s not problematic “as long as the person does not say he endorses the other,” Bates said. 

On the question of support for downtown, the chamber brochure evaluates the candidates based on whether they “voted no on more parking in downtown.” 

Spring said she made a number of efforts to increase downtown parking including calling for parking under the new high school cafeteria, under the new library and that she got written into the new General Plan that any parking space that was eliminated would be replaced.