Twittering Bates: He Wants to Be Berkeley's Mayor—Again.

By Becky O'Malley
Friday April 27, 2012 - 09:47:00 AM

Twit of the Week: “Announcing today that I'm running for Mayor of Berkeley to continue the progress we've made over the last 10 years.”—From Mayor Tom Bates, to his 363 followers on Twitter yesterday.

Campaign Slogan: “A Lifetime of Public Service!”

Age at the end of his fourth term: 78

Probably most annoyed: District 5 Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, who had legitimate hopes that it might be his turn. 

You read it here first, in this article which appeared way back on January 30: 

Flash: Berkeley Mayor Bates is Running--Again 

And here’s where we tracked the scorecard on his promises from the last campaign, based on an old mailer I found in a drawer: 

Would a Fourth Term for Mayor Bates Make Berkeley "The Best It Can Be?" 

Why not another four years for Bates? For that matter, how about another ten years? Let's see, he'd only be 84, right? 

As a grandmother myself, I'm entitled to play the age card, and in truth some of us might be just as competent and smart as we ever were when we hit our late 70s and early 80s. But actually, that might be the problem with more of Mayor Bates. 

He's the product of an efficient nepotistic machine going all the way back to his wife, now-Senator Loni Hancock, once mayor of Berkeley, who was on the city council when they got together. 

He was a Cal (never call it U.C. Berkeley) football player way back when, and in his heart of hearts he's still an Old Blue. 

During his regime he's done his level best to smooth the way for UC's corporate-fueled expansion into downtown Berkeley, which takes a lot of property off the tax rolls. That might not be so bad if the institution were required to pay its fair share of city costs, basic stuff like sewer and street repair, but they don't even come close. And West Berkeley will be next to go if the amendments to the West Berkeley Plan pass on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, the city infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate in shocking ways. I'm not usually a person who puts pavement ahead of people, but even I have lately noticed that street surfaces in Berkeley have gotten amazingly pockmarked. Our swimming pools are fast disappearing, and other parks are at risk. Now services are also suffering, 

This is partly the economy of course, but even more the result of poorly supervised city management. The city council is largely populated by retirees from bureaucratic jobs who have a laissez-faire attitude toward their brothers and sisters in staff positions who feather their own nests first. The Sacramento-schooled mayor appears to believe that the best deals are made in back rooms. 

In an interview on a local news site, Bates avowed that he really really would take a look at employee pension excesses, but why hasn't he done this before? Here's his Tweet (Twit? I'm not up on the lingo) promoting the piece, which he seems to have loved. 


"Good conversation with this morning- great source for local, independent journalism! Here's the article: ".  


Is there no one who cares enough about what happens in Berkeley to run against him? Is the mayor's job just a permanent retirement sinecure? Berkeley deserves—no, Berkeley needs—better choices. 


Here are just a few suggestions of people who might be draftable: 

First and foremost, there are two former city council candidates who lost in the last election because they were too progressive for their Alta Berkeley districts, but would have crossover appeal in the city-wide mayor’s race where Baja Berkeley people can also vote: 

Sophie Hahn has just announced that she’s running against Capitelli in District 5 for the second time. Chances are that her somewhat conservative neighbors will once again go for the incumbent in the council race, but as a youthful Berkeley-raised attorney (now serving as the brains of the Zoning Adjustment Board) she’d be a winner in the at-large mayoral contest. 

Jacqueline McCormick lost to another incumbent in District 8, but would find a similar constituency and display similar attractions when the whole city votes for mayor. 

Among sitting councilmembers, Jesse Arreguin could run without losing his position, and he’s made a good impression because of his serious demeanor and attention to detail, even among the less-progressive activists from outside his progressive district. And he’s even younger than Hahn and McCormick, if that counts. 

Kriss Worthington is another possiibility. running for council again this year, so he'd have to choose to give up his seat if he ran for mayor, but For years he's been the only elected person in Berkeley who really knows what's going on. Maybe it's time for a move. 

Then there’s a mixed bag of people who have taken a good deal of responsibility for what goes on here, any of whom would make a better mayor than Bates. 

Zelda Bronstein, who sometimes contributes think pieces to this publication, ran for Mayor before and swears she’d never do it again. Many who voted for Bates now say they made a mistake—maybe they could change her mind. 

Dean Metzger is a reliable, responsible civic activist, the main force behind the campaign for a much-needed sunshine ordinance. 

Carrie Olson is one of the original founders of the national MoveOn.org, but still finds time to be involved in the Berkeley scene, where she grew up and went to Berkeley High. 

Lesley Emmington, also Berkeley-bred, put in many years with Berkeley Architectural Heritage and is now working hard to Save Strawberry Canyon. 

Gene Poschman, a widely-respected person who's spent many years trying to keep the Planning Commission honest, with mixed results, would surely agree to only one term, and he's no older than Bates. 

That’s just a small sample of the possibilities. None of these people seems to be eager to jump into the Mayor’s race, which is probably to their credit, but any one of them could do better than the incumbent if they could be talked into it. Readers are encouraged to make their own additional suggestions.