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Running Wolf Announces Drive to Recall Mayor Bates

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 09, 2007

Unable to defeat Tom Bates in a challenge at the polls last year, Berkeley tree-sitter Zachary Running Wolf launched a second campaign Monday, this one aimed at a recall election to unseat the mayor. 

But if the results of last year’s mayoral race are any indication, he has a formidable challenge ahead. 

In the contest held last November for a two-year mayoral term, incumbent Bates locked up 25,680 votes to Running Wolf’s 1,880. Challengers Zelda Bronstein won 12,652 votes and last-place finisher Christian Pecaut collected 517. 

But Running Wolf said that while he considers the vote totals suspect, given that a court has ordered a new election on the medical marijuana measure, a more important consideration is a shift in public opinion.  

“Things have gotten a lot worse, and he’s been opening up the city to UC and the big developers,” said the once and future candidate.  

“I don’t think it has a snowball’s chance in Hades,” said City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, a frequent ally of the mayor in council votes. “It’s a terrible waste of energies on some people’s parts that could be better used in working toward something positive.” 

Running Wolf has garnered a higher profile in the last year after taking up residence in the branches of a redwood just west of California Memorial Stadium. 

The Native American activist climbed the branches Dec. 2, before sunrise on the day of the annual football Big Game with Stanford. 

He has said his protest is both to protect trees and to save the Native American remains he suspects are buried in the soil beneath the grove. 

Though he has been frequently grounded by a series of arrests by university police, fellow tree-sitters have occupied arboreal perches in their campaign to stop UC from building a high tech gym and office complex at the site of a grove dominated by venerable specimens of Coastal Live Oak. 

The 44-year-old Blackfoot said he formally launched the 75-day recall period Friday when he posted a registered letter to the mayor, who has 10 days to respond. 

With the mayor out of the country, Running Wolf said he believes he’ll be left with 61 to 62 days to get the 10,000-plus signatures he needs to account for a quarter of Berkeley’s registered voters. 

“He has to be stopped from giving away the city. With the downtown plan the university wants, we’ll be giving up our tax base so UC can build its tax-exempt buildings in the city,” he said. “It’s like the Oklahoma land rush, where the Sooners raced their covered wagons into Indian Territory to grab up all the land—except in this case, there’s only one wagon, and it’s called UC Berkeley.”