Public Comment

The Truth Behind the Deceptions of Campaign Platforms

By Robert Archibald
Thursday October 30, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

It’s hard to understand why the mayor and certain council members don’t run on a pro-development platform. They should just come out and say, ‘I want growth, including big buildings, higher density, less parking and more noise.” They could also say, “I’ll take all the money developers can bundle for my campaign.” And of course the most important thing, “I’ll vote for every big development project put forward, even if it goes against the will of our neighborhoods.”  

Development is the elephant in the campaign that stays quietly in the background. Development and growth don’t appear openly on any of the mailers we get. Instead, you get what Councilmember Capitelli of District 5 has put out in his five mailers in this campaign: “Our Neighborhood Voice” and “Neighborhood Results.” Four years ago Capitelli’s campaign contributors were mostly developers. And again, in this election, he has listed developers as the main source of funds. During his tenure on the council he and his appointees have voted consistently in favor of development projects, often in defiance of neighborhood concerns.  

The effort to elect developer-friendly candidates has surfaced in a rather un-seemly way in the past week. Ali Kashani, a major developer, e-mailed his fellow developers, asking them to contribute to a certain candidate’s campaign for council. In its online edition, The Daily Planet quoted Kashani’s email: “We have an opportunity to elect Terry Doran who will solidify the very shaky majority that we currently have on the council.” Kashani’s email also makes the point that it will be hard to make a fuss over the contributions this late in the campaign. Sounds a lot like the developers have a plan to make sure a majority of the council is in their pocket. It’s brazen!  

It would be less worrisome if elected officials served their neighborhoods with the same energy and loyalty they give to the people who fund their campaigns. Right? 

Unfortunately, there are ample examples where neighborhood voices have been shut down and ignored, while a stream of special dispensations have been granted to Kashani and his development allies.  

A recent example was the proposed North Shattuck Plaza. When the Shattuck Plaza development was announced, neighborhood groups, local merchants and other affected parties expressed numerous concerns. In response, Capitelli promised to take the plaza idea “off the table.” To make the neighborhood’s view clear, he was presented with a Live Oak Codornices Creek Neighborhood Association (LOCCNA) petition with 1140 signatures opposing the North Shattuck Plaza project. It is not Nimbyism when so many in the community say no to a major community change.  

So what did Capitelli do? He put the project back on the table by slipping it into the City’s Pedestrian Master Plan, subverting community process and will, paving the way for the North Shattuck Plaza to go forward without focused local community input. Serving and listening to neighborhoods? Hardly.  

We need to elect independent council members like Sophie Hahn, the neighborhoods’ favorite, running against Capitelli, the developers’ favorite, in District 5. She is beholden to no one but the voters.  

The elephant is so big. When are we going to acknowledge that development, smart growth, transit hubs and the decline of neighborhoods are the real issues? Soon, I hope.  


Rober Arnold is a Berkeley resident.