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Council Approves IRV Voting, Pools Ballot Measure

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 11, 2010 - 09:25:00 AM
Eric Stangl (left) spoke in support of a larger pool for the Barracudas program, of which his two children, Nolan and Yumi, are members.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Eric Stangl (left) spoke in support of a larger pool for the Barracudas program, of which his two children, Nolan and Yumi, are members.

Correction: The City Council voted unanimously to approve the pools ballot measure. The Feb. 11 story incorrectly reported the 5-4 straw vote as the final vote. 


Berkeley joined Oakland and San Leandro in approving ranked-choice voting when the City Council signed off on it Tuesday, Feb. 9. 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak—who maintains that ranked-choice voting, or instant runoff voting as it is sometimes called, is unconstitutional—was the only dissenting vote. 

The council’s approval paved the way for the city and the Alameda County registrar of voters to begin informing citizens about the new voting method, which will be used in the November 2010 local elections. 

All three cities will share the tab for outreach efforts, with Oakland picking up the biggest piece and Berkeley paying only a quarter of the costs. 

Calling IRV “Delayed Run-off Voting,” Wozniak said he was worried whether election-night results would be released in time. 

But Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave McDonald assured the council that the county planned to release the first-choice vote rankings on the night of the elections. 

IRV gives voters the option to rank their first, second, and third choice candidates, eliminating the need for runoffs. 

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen approved the use of IRV, which is estimated to save the city tens of thousands of dollars, in December. 

The council’s decision was greeted with enthusiasm by supporters of IRV who showed up at the council meeting to lobby for their cause. 

“IRV conserves resources and furthers democracy,” said Judy Cox, one of seven people who campaigned to put IRV on the ballot in Oakland.  

Nancy Bickle and Rose Williams of the League of Women Voters promised the council that they would have an extra person at every booth to guide voters through the new process. 

McDonald said the county has already launched a strong outreach campaign, which includes sending out special mailers to every voter in the three cities, developing flyers in English, Spanish and Chinese—“We wouldn’t say we are plagiarizing from San Francisco, but we are borrowing heavily from it”—and collaborating with the AC Transit Hip Hop Voter Bus. 

IRV ads may also pop up before movie theater commercials, McDonald added. 

Councilmember Daryl Moore expres-sed concern about the opposition IRV is facing in Oakland. Some anti-IRV groups are even threatening to sue the city if it moves ahead with it. 

Wozniak said he was against IRV because it “does not treat everybody the same. It works fine if you have two or three candidates,” but not when you have more than that, he said. 

“It’s not very transparent,” Wozniak said. “You are using a computer program and an algorithm that most of the council doesn’t understand. And that’s dangerous.” 


Council approves pools ballot measure for June 2010 

Berkeley is getting ready to place a pools measure on the June ballot. 

The council voted 9-0 Tuesday to approve a measure to renovate the city’s three existing public pools—King, Willard and West Campus—and build a new warm water pool at West Campus. 

The Berkeley Unified School District is scheduled to tear down the seismically unsafe Old Gym at Berkeley High School next year to add more classrooms, making the passage of this ballot measure even more important. 

Although warm pool supporters greeted the news with applause, swimming enthusiasts and children from the Berkeley Barracudas team who showed up to persuade the council to build a new competition pool at King Middle School returned home disappointed. 

In a 5-4 straw vote, four councilmembers were in support of an alternative proposal which would add a new competition pool on top of the renovations and the new warm water pool, but the majority of the council decided that the cost—$22.6 million—was too expensive. 

A voter survey conducted in January showed that the public was wary of funding any projects that involved expansions. 

“I would love to see an indoor pool, but I don’t think it’s feasible,” said Councilmember Linda Maio, who agreed with Mayor Bates that renovating the existing facilities and building a new warm pool was the safest option. “We have the renovations we need—in an off-year election, in an era when we don’t have support for funds, I am concerned anything else will not pass.” 

Two other options involved getting rid of Willard Pool completely, something Telegraph neighbors said would be detrimental to the area. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that closing down Willard would alienate an entire segment of voters in South Berkeley. 

The option selected by the council comes with a $19.3 million price tag and would cost every household in Berkeley $58 per year. The money will go toward expanded pool hours as well as to construction costs.