The Editor's Back Fence

Berkeley Heats Up For the Fall Election Season

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday August 29, 2012 - 06:10:00 PM

As summer slowly cools down, local politics is starting to heat up. We’ve made an earnest effort to take some time off, but our indefatigable contributors have continued to crank out excellent copy, so today’s new issue makes room for their latest output.

I’ve been whiling away the idle hours by attending a variety of campaign kickoff events for a miscellany of candidates as I’ve been waiting for the ballot information to be completed and posted by the Berkeley City Clerk’s office. As of this week, it’s all in, so it’s time to start reporting on local election activities in earnest.

This issue reprises all the information available from the Berkeley City Clerk’s office—and there’s a lot. Take a good look at what’s here, and when I get back to work after Labor Day I’ll get right to the question of endorsements. 

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I’ve always been agnostic or perhaps even atheistic about the quasi-religious belief in journalistic objectivity. Every sentient human adult brings a collection of experiences and a store of knowledge to observation of the passing parade, making “unbiased” reporting just about impossible. 

Socrates taught that the unexamined life is not worth living, and I think unexamined, uncritical reporting is mostly not worth reading. He’s also one of the many credited with asking “what is truth”, and when it comes to reporting on politics the question is certainly relevant. 

It’s customary for conventional commercial publications to refrain from endorsing candidates and ballot measures, at least until the very end of the campaign period and sometimes forever. Local commercial news sources have indicated that they will observe this convention for this election. 

But this is an unconventional and non-commercial publication, and it would be deeply hypocritical to pretend that I have no opinion about what’s going to be on the November ballot. I can’t assume a false naïveté and persuade readers that I’m waiting to learn more about the people and ideas in Berkeley’s November race, because longtime readers know that I’ve been around the block more than once. 

With that in mind, I’ll just list the decisions I’ve already made about how to vote right up front in this space before the campaigns really get off the ground. I reserve the right to change my mind if anything happens to suggest that I should. Where ranked choice voting is concerned,when there’s more than one good candidate I might contemplate the right one-two order right up until election day, but by and large there’s not much more to learn. 

I have no idea how much my opinions will influence voters, but at least I hope to spur those who agree with me (and even those who don’t) to get involved in the campaigns early, because electoral activity amplifies individual votes. And as far as financial contributions are concerned, “early money is like yeast”. Our family usually contributes to candidates and causes we support, as you can learn from the city clerk’s records, and we encourage individuals who can to do likewise. You can be sure that the corporate contributions will flow without my prompting—and there’s no limit on how much corporations can spend to promote their pet ballot measures, and no requirement that the names of the contributors to PACs be disclosed.. 

As usual, our corps of pro bono reporters will be encouraged to keep on submitting their reports on what’s happening, which will be variously billed as “news”, “news analysis” and “opinion” depending on the ratio between facts and subjectivity in a given article. We’ll also make an effort to call attention to worthwhile news reports in the several outlets which now watch Berkeley—they provide pieces of a mosaic which add up to the big picture from time to time. 

Our “Election Section” will be revived for local elections, with announcements of public forums and campaign events, including where available press releases from candidates and position statements from advocates about candidates and ballot measures. We especially solicit opinion pieces from Berkeleyans who are knowledgeable about the 10 Berkeley measures, which are complicated and often couched in language intended to deceive unwary voters. 

As usual, our Public Comment sections will be open to anyone who’s willing to sign his or her real name and will provide a phone number so we can verify authorship. If we like you, we might even fix your grammar, punctuation and spelling if needed. 

We’ll leave publishing anonymous rants to others. 

Endorsement editorials will start after Labor Day, and will appear as fast as I can crank them out.