New: Kriss Worthington's Press Conference Announcing That He's Running to be Mayor of Berkeley--A Complete Transcription
Planet reader and occasional contributor Thomas Lord attended and recorded this press conference at noon today and offered his transcription to us for publication. This is unconventional journalism, of course, but we think that some of our readers will appreciate the opportunity to read the whole thing. Tom asked us to emphasize that this is a rush job and probably contains errors--corrections welcome.
Recent council meetings have been surprising in that there have been multiple issues in one night where what would traditionally have been a sure thing in Berkeley has lost, like at the very last city council meeting where we had numerous environmental groups advocating for the watershed issue.
Normally, at Berkeley City Council meetings.... the Sierra Club, the Citizens for the East Shore State Park, [Aquatic Park] EGRET .... so all these environmental groups are advocating "we need to prioritize watershed improvements and do what's right for the environment" and the City Council said "No, we're not going to do what's right for the environment.
Instead, we're going to take 30 million dollars [$30M] of taxpayers’ money and put most of it into repaving streets —which is not a bad thing but the significant environmental issue is getting neglected.
Also numerous residents of south and west Berkeley advocated that they want to stop the water flow and flooding problems in their districts. I think Max Anderson was eloquent about pointing out — in his simple eloquence — pointing out: "there are more red blobs in my district than anywhere else in Berkeley". Technically, there is this map of Berkeley from the watershed plan which ... nobody else called them red blobs but his simplicity.... if these kinds of flooding were happening in most districts people would be protesting ferociously and they would be fixed. But it's happening in south and west Berkeley and somehow the status quo is OK and we're not going to prioritize fixing south and west Berkeley's water and flooding issues. And these affect businesses as well as residences in West Berkeley. So in one night we sort of rejected the residents of south and west Berkeley's demands to stop the flooding and the environmentalists' requests that we address Aquatic Park and the pollutants that are going in to Aquatic Park and the Bay.
We're under a federal order that we are supposed to fix Aquatic Park. This could have been the ballot measure that gave us the tools necessary to fix it and, instead, the city council said we're going to create a pool of money that we can decide later what we're going to do. We're not going to tell the voters how we're going to spend the money — we're just going to get 30 million dollars [$30M] and we're not going to tell you what we'll use it for.
I think given the urgency of the environmental issues in Aquatic Park and the urgency of the flooding issues in south and west Berkeley the voters deserve to know that those issues are going to be fixed.
Now their defense — the city council members that took the money for other stuff — are that "We might fix some of that with some of this money, maybe." So they're saying that while it's not absolute that it's going to be done. We’re saying that there's no assurance that any of that will gone done at all. We're saying that there's no assurance that one penny will be spent on those issues.
So, to lose votes like this which historically environmental groups ... and social equity issues ... that historically the city council has been very sympathetic too ... and to lose them because the mayor is insisting that he has to do his pothole measure ....
. Part of the complexity of doing a pothole measure is that there's already a measure on the ballot county-wide to pay for improved transportation that would double the City's budget for potholes. So having TWO ballot measures for potholes at the same time is very counterproductive because people who want potholes fixed may vote for the city one or they may vote for the county one and they're not likely to vote for both at the same time.
So, just from the last city council meeting, multiple votes being lost from the progressive side of the issues ... or, I would say, from the common sense... because it's not just progressive issues.
I would say that multiple things I listed on my”Practical People's Platform" are things that don't really have to do with politics. They don't have to do with “are you progressive or are you conservative or are you moderate?” — they simply have to do with "should we treat people decently?" Should we make hundreds of people come and wait outside or in the hallway, waiting to get into a council meeting, when, one block away, we have a room that is big enough to fit all of them in the room so that they could all be treated equally and have their chance to listen as well as to speak.
In addition to the procedural issues there are lots of issues of fairness.
In 10 years of being a mayor I can not find a single day when the Asian community of Berkeley, the Latino community of Berkeley, or the African American community of Berkeley ... have had their fair share of power and positions on commissions as appointed by the mayor.
How can you go 10 years in a row, never having any of the major ethnic groups have a fair share of seats? Now, to be fair to him at least he has, you know, one Latino and one African American which is more than some others. You know we have some City Council members who have no Asian Americans, no Latino Americans, and no African Americans at all. To be fair to him he does have one Latino and one African American but that's not good enough in the 21st century.
It's not that hard to find a diverse mix of people.
Over 40% of Berkeley is people of color and to not have any from various ethnic groups or to only have one ... to me, that's like institutionalized tokenism. Like "OK, we'll make sure you get one from your ethnic group but all the other hundreds of talented people — we won't give them a chance to have a significant say and participate in city government.
So, that's a whole other issue.
The issue of how the city government is run...
The #1 job of the city council is to supervise the City Manager. That's our job.
The City Manager supervises, like, 1400 employees. We supervise one employee.
In 10 years, the mayor has opposed — repeatedly — doing evaluations of the city manager's job performance. And, I believe there has only been 2 evaluations done in all those years.
That's unfair to the City Manager and it’s unfair to the public . They don't get to weigh in and give their opinion of "how good a job is this person doing"?
We've had multiple city managers who did not get evaluated. If they did a good job they deserve to get praised. They deserve a great evaluation. If they're doing a lousy job, they deserve to be criticized. And if they're doing good on some things and bad on others they should know what they're doing good and what they're doing bad.
Related to the city manager supervision —
We now have a .... The Mayor initiated and pushed the council to give a quarter of a million dollars severance if the City Manager gets fired for getting a horrible evaluation.
The City Manager could have a list of 20 things and do nothing on any of them and they will get a quarter of a million dollars if they get fired for not doing their job.
What kind of a message does that send to the other city employees who are being told "You're going to have to give up some of your pension benefits, you're not going to get raises, and at the same time as they're doing — you know — voluntary time off, giving up salary — the chief executive officer, the City Manager, is getting an extra 225 thousand dollars [$225,000] in severance if they mess up their job!
It's not good government to have a severance package if you get fired for doing a lousy job.
So, Berkeley used to be a trail-blazing city.
We were first in the nation to do hundreds and hundreds of policies and, in recent years, it's a battle to get Berkeley to be one of the first hundred cities to do something, sometimes.
Such as: the plastic bag ban, paper bag fee — you know, that policy we've been trying to get Berkeley to adopt. Environment California sent the city thousands of postcards, Calpirg sent the city thousands of signatures on petitions, and over 100 cities and counties across the country have adopted this great environmental policy that protects our water and protects our bay.
And Berkeley has delayed and delayed year after year — and next year we're going to have a very small program that only covers the largest stores and doesn't cover the hundreds of retail stores throughout the City of Berkeley.
It's rarer and rarer that we are initiating the policy. You know, some people say Richmond and San Pablo have a more progressive city council than Berkeley. You know they have introduced lots of progressive policies in the last few years.
So part of why I'm running has to do with policy: the failure to address progressive issues or watering them down, weakening them, delaying them.
Part of it has to do with fiscal irresponsibility.
We have a climate action plan. We've got hundreds of things in the climate action plan that are things we might do "some day"...
But as it was being discussed I repeatedly brought up — you can go back and look on the video tape because somebody said "Oh, I don't think we really said that" but you can actually go back and look at the video tapes.... I said "it's great to have a climate action plan with 100s of nice ideas but we need to know which of these ideas is going to have the greatest impact. We need to know which ones have the greatest impact and the least cost." And we haven't done that.
And now when we have our report back on the climate action plan it doesn't surprise me that we're told that city government hasn't made much of an impact at all of reducing greenhouse gasses. And, so, we have all this big publicity that we did a climate action plan, but, we're not reducing greenhouse gasses.
The people of Berkeley are doing all kinds of things on their own with very little help from us, paving the way on environmental issues and reducing greenhouse gasses individually .... but our policies ... those hundreds of things in the plan ... very few of them are being implemented AND we're not actually accomplishing any reduction in greenhouse gasses.
If you take it seriously that greenhouse gas reduction is an important priority you need to prioritize those policies that actually reduce greenhouse gasses.
Instead, we're now being asked to adopt plans like the Downtown Plan and the West Berkeley project, ..... these new plans will actually accomplish a net increase on greenhouse gasses in the city of Berkeley.
So we're being told "vote for this plan ... for the West Berkeley Project" that will increase greenhouse gasses in Berkeley and we can't even get a greenhouse gas neutral plan.
I mean, I want a greenhouse gas reduction plan and we can't even get a greenhouse gas neutral plan. We get one that increases greenhouse gasses.
That's not good enough.
The people of Berkeley are a bastion of liberal/progressive ideas. They have so many wonderful ideas. There's graduate students, undergraduate students, the average person that just has a regular old job .... we have lots of great ideas of how we could actually accomplish our goals and our policies
and, those policies are being squelched, primarily by the mayor.
Berkeley City Council Members? Some of them initiate really good ideas. You know, Max and Jesse are really stellar at proposing and fighting for really good ideas.... but all too often people just cave in to the mayor, either out of fear in some cases or out of friendship and loyalty that .. you know, 30 years ago he used to be an assembly member and he was a liberal assembly member and therefore things should be ok and we should go along.
It's not enough to just go along. We have to think . We have to use our brains and stand up for the people of Berkeley.
Having a mayor who is constantly advocating for the Chamber of Commerce against the small businesses of Berkeley — let alone against the people of Berkeley — against the interests of the small businesses of Berkeley....
I think the #1 reason why I decided to run is most people in Berkeley don't really know what goes on in city council meetings.
If you didn't have to come to a city council meeting because of some issue you're dealing with, you just think "All 9 council members are great and Berkeley is a progressive city so they all must be progressive."
But you don't know... You know, Max Anderson is passionately fighting to get funding for his district for the residents of District 3, for the low income neighborhoods, and he's getting stymied.
Jesse Arreguin is passionately working on environmental issues and immigrants rights issues and mutual aid policies — and getting stymied.
And, activist groups, you know, in the last few weeks alone ... like the Sierra Club, CESP, all the homeless service groups ... so many of our leading activist groups ideas are being squelched primarily because the Mayor pressures the City Council not to go along with the values and the principles of the people of Berkeley.
[Q from press — not sure who that was]: You said the West Berkeley Project is not environmentally sound and produces more greenhouse gasses. Can you be more specific about that?
[Worthington]: Sure. The overwhelming sentiment of the small businesses and the residences of south, you know, south and west Berkeley — they have come in great numbers from the community and the neighborhood community raising concerns about the West Berkeley Project.
If you actually look at the Environment Impact Report, in addition to their concerns about specific impacts on their businesses and the economic impact of having office space, which brings a much higher rent, driving out the arts and crafts in the area and driving out some of the small businesses and the manufacturing businesses .... if you read the fine print, and I pointed this out to the planning directory and he has never disputed me .... it appears that this project will have a net increase in greenhouse gasses for the City of Berkeley.
The same thing happened with the downtown plan. It says that there is going to be all this good stuff. The voters voted for the Downtown Plan. And we still have not gotten the fees of community benefit.
You know, it's a year and half since that plan was adopted. We still have gotten nothing for the fees for the community benefits. We're being asked again and I think Denisha [DeLane] really said it most eloquently that... you know she's been on the board of the NAACP ... fighting against segregation all her life since she was a little kid ... and here we have a new sophisticated form of segregation where the community benefits and the environmental protections are being segregated by the West Berkeley Plan ....
What, if anything is going to be done for the poor people the small businesses .... "that is something we'll tell you later after we figure it out".... [but] in the meantime the developers, who want to make their corporate profits and want to do their office space ... they will be allowed to know that they'll get their corporate office space... the community will not know what is going to protect the environment or what will be done to protect their small business or the residents.
[Lance Knobel] You mentioned Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson a lot in your earlier remarks. Are they supporting your bid for mayor?
[Kriss] I have not asked a single soul for an endorsement yet. The only person that I really got support from is my boyfriend. I didn't want to tackle such a gargantuan task without his permission and his support. I do have family values, contrary to right wing stereotype of the gay community and... so.. he's the only person who I consulted as to "should I do this?" and he has expressed strong support and serious concerns about the way that people of Berkeley are being treated and the issues are being treated so .... he's the only one that I've asked so far and now that I've made up my mind to do it...
You know I have been listening to hundreds of people and I think the first couple of hundred people who said "you should run for mayor" I sort of told "that's a silly idea, why would I run against the person who I fought so hard to get him elected?"
I didn't campaign for myself at all, I campaigned to get him elected as Mayor and... but.. sadly, over the last few months that they've been saying "why doesn't somebody run, somebody's got to run" and I keep saying "no, no, no" .... every single council meeting it seems the mayor is drifting more to the right and more to the Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber of Commerce is attacking the West Berkeley businesses and the Mayor is leading the charge !
I feel like, if he doesn't have a serious challenge, from a liberal or progressive point of view, every indication is that he's going to keep dragging the City Council into doing more and more moderate-to-conservative things.
Maybe if we have a voice that offers a choice... perhaps he will try to return to the values that we had with former progressive mayors. I don't know what he's going to do. Maybe he'll turn even further to the right.
It's hard to imagine a Mayor of Berkeley being more conservative than he's been in the last few months.
23:00 [Lance Knobel] Are you suggesting that perhaps your primary goal is to drag Mayor Bates to a more progressive position as opposed to your trying to win the race?
[Worthington] If Mayor Bates adopts my platform and advocates all of the things that I'm advocating, the people of Berkeley will be in a much better position and so will he .
But in the meantime, somebody has to stand up and say "what you are doing is unacceptable, unreasonable, unaffordable, and damaging to the people of Berkeley."
Berkeley's image as a liberal bastion is being harmed by the very un-liberal and uncivil behavior on the part of the mayor.
So, you know, he's allowing people like Councilmember Capitelli to attack Max Anderson during a council meeting
How unprofessional, inappropriate, totally unacceptable....
In a council meeting he's attacking another council member sitting next to him accusing him of ... playing to the crowd, and grandstanding ... he's done it multiple times.
This is totally unacceptable for a politician to be attacking another councilmember in a council meeting.
It's the mayor's job, when Laurie Capitelli says these false things, to say "Excuse me, but this is not the place for that." I don't know what the place for that is but it certainly is not at a City Council meeting.
And Tom Bates doesn't have the courage or the strength or the intelligence to tell Laurie Capitelli "Stop your attacks on other council members."
We need somebody who will stand up for civility amongst the council members as well as throughout the whole council meeting process.
Tom Bates creates ... the biggest council meeting problems are because he creates them. He refuses to move council meetings to a larger room where everyone can fit ... and then they'll be less frustrated and stressed out.
He refuses to have a separate council meeting for major controversial because, oh my god, the council members will have to come to an extra meeting.
Council members used to come to 10 more meetings per year than they do now! So what's wrong with adding 2 or 3 extra meetings, you know, when there's a big controversial issue?
Council members get paid! They don't get paid a lot but to come to the same number of council meetings that they used to come to every year is not a great sacrifice.
Especially as our non-profits are suffering by all the cuts they made on them, our employees are sacrificing....
Our employees have initiated pension reform! They've proposed pension reform before the city council did .
Berkeley is a unique, incredible place and instead of partnering with the non-profit groups and the unions, we have a mayor who is driving the conversation further and further to the center-right.
[reporter I didn't recognize] Can you speak to your differences with the mayor around [no-sit/lie] ballot issue.
[Worthington] That is simply one instance in a long list of the drifting to the center-right. To some people it's one of the most outrageous because it appears to be unconstitutional ... you know the ACLU has expressed serious concerns ... many homeless service providers have indicated that this will, by criminalizing the poor and the homeless, it will make it harder for them to get into services and harder for them to get jobs.... so it's actually a barrier to the care they need and a giant barrier to getting a job. Getting arrested is not going to help a poor person get a job.
So, it's a counter-productive diversion from the real issues...
Berkeley is suffering from a lack of jobs, a lack of affordable housing, a lack of services ... I mean we've lost our pool services .... and, you know, to pull a Frank Jordan or a Gavin Newsome on the people of Berkeley and attack the homeless to divert them from our serious problems is outrageous.
Where is the decline of sales tax in the City of Berkeley? Where do you think the biggest decline in sales has been?
Solano Avenue, and North Shattuck.
How many homeless people do you see blocking doorways on Solano Avenue and North Shattuck?
Very, very few.
The biggest decline in sales from the latest figures we've been given are 5% on Solano and 4.5% on North Shattuck.
Is arresting homeless people going to fix the dramatic decline in sales up there? Not really, because that's generally not where people are really sitting.
So, it's a diversion and it's an unfortunate diversion.
You know, I think Tom Bates probably thinks that attacking the homeless is going to get him elected like it worked for Frank Jordan and Gavin Newsom. It got Jordan and Gavin Newsom [elected] to attack the homeless. And maybe that's what he thinks ... he wants to be like them but I think there's a lot of other things that Gavin Newsom did that were far more positive. I think he's picking the wrong strand of Gavin Newsome 's activities to model himself on.
But that's just one of many many issues.
[T. Lord]: Hey, Kriss, can we talk about finances a little bit? I think there's a lot of people who are worried about a heavy property tax burden and who are looking at pension obligations, who are looking at things like the street repairs being in disrepair and needing a bond measure rather than the general fund covering that.... what's your story on that?
[Worthington] When Councilmember Capitelli said there was no problem with a 100 million dollar [$100M] bond I was the first council member and only council member to speak up and say "These are difficult times." You know supposedly we're out of the recession but people are still struggling. Unemployment is high. Now is not the time for such mega increases in bonds or taxes. We need to be prudent.
The people who are supposedly from the moderates, like Capitelli, are the ones proposing drastic numbers for the increase to the taxpayer burden!
And I , who am supposedly like the progressive super-activist ... I'm the one saying "Wait a minute, don't do that to the taxpayers!"
We succeeded at stopping them from doing those mega-amounts. Unfortunately, the way that they did their 30-million dollar [$30M] bond measure makes it a direct challenge to the county measure for fixing the streets, and increases the likelihood that it will lose.
Simultaneously putting the West Berkeley Project and arresting the homeless people on the ballot is going to create a lot of negative "We're coming out to vote no" and that's also going to contribute a lot to having bond measures lose.
Even if just 1% who are angry about something else vote "no" on that, that can be the difference between 66% and 67% .... and you can't win with 50%, you need 2/3s.
So: the entire way the Mayor has poisoned the ballot in November by putting the West Berkeley project there, making people angry about the bad environmental policies and the lack of affordable housing and open space ... and community benefits sort of channeled off to the future...
...you know all of that negativity is going to hurt the City of Berkeley.
It's not going to hurt Tom Bates!
It's going to hurt the people of Berkeley.
[no-sit reporter again] Was the July 10th meeting, where that sidewalk vote took place, was that really one of the main determining factors?
[Worthington] After the July 10th meeting people said "you should run" and I still said "no". The last council meeting where — not only has he attacked the homeless and small businesses and residences of West Berkeley — but now , the last meeting, he's turning down the pleas from West Berkeley for a fair share for stopping flooding in their community...
And, he's turning down the Sierra Club and Citizens for the East Shore State Park and EGRET and all these environmental groups trying to fix the pollution in Aquatic Park and the Bay.
The Sierra Club has supported him again, and again, and again and he turns his back on the major environmental issue and ...
We could have had the money to fix the pollution of Aquatic Park. We could have guaranteed the people of south and west Berkeley they wouldn't have these water and flooding issues.
And he just said "No way."
And he ... Councilmember Maio and Councilmember Moore both publicly stated they wanted a watershed bond with some money for street paving. They publicly said that, at the council meeting, on TV. And the Mayor talked them out of doing the right thing for the environment and for West Berkeley.
So, he's not only advocating bad policy ... he's dragging other councilmembers into doing things that are against the interests of the people of Berkeley.
If he were just saying things and everybody ignored him, you know, I wouldn't be running.
If he were just saying things and we were still winning the votes? You know, I don't really need to spend three months of my life in a campaign ... every day, going out there talking, spending hundreds of hours ... but the problem is he drags the other council members into doing the wrong thing!
I mean: I know that the anti-homeless attacks have actually gotten a lot more publicity but to me the rejection of the environmental groups and the rejection of south and west Berkeley residents' demand for fairness? That really, really made me sooo irate and so upset.
How can we be turning our backs on these people with these flooding issues? How can we turn our backs on the biggest environmental park issues in our city? And we're just saying "Oh, well, maybe we can get some grants from somewhere else."
If we had the money from the watershed bond I actually think that would be the secret that would actually attract matching funds that would allow us to do it.
But to say "We're not going to commit anything to Aquatic Park; we're not going to commit to fixing this social inequity" .... I mean, that actually offended me so deeply, I mean, I was offended by "arresting the homeless" but then slapping around the people of south and west Berkeley, slapping around the environmental groups...and the practical reality is he runs the risk of making all the bonds lose. I mean, he won the battle but is he going to lose the war because getting 2/3 vote for a bond is going to be so much harder when he has rejected the most important things that could have been funded by it.
And competing with a county measure.
T.Lord ][unidentified woman] Kriss, how are you going to deal with ... uh... Bates last time raised 85-thousand dollars [$85,000] for his campaign. Can you raise that much money?
[Worthington] I have beaten opponents who spent far more than I did. The Chamber of Commerce PAC spent a lot of money attacking me with false information previously. And I still won.
So, I, you know, I don't expect that I can match the corporate developers contributions and the mega money that will probably be funneled into the campaign against me and on the ballot measures but, you know ... I think the voters of Berkeley deserve to have a choice.
They deserve to have the facts about what ....
The Mayor is not doing the things that most people think he is doing. People think he is the Tom Bates of 20 years ago so they're like "Oh! My friend! He was my friend for 20 years!" And they think that that's who he still is. But if you look at the council meetings, the policies that ...
You know, he's leading the fight against environmentalists, against labor policies, against affordable housing, against the social equity issues of south and west Berkeley....
That's not the Tom Bates that these people think that they know.
That's a new Tom Bates. And it's not a new and improved Tom Bates.
[end of transcript]