New: ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Berkeley Mayor and City Council

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday September 05, 2012 - 09:14:00 AM

As promised, Labor Day has passed, and we’re following up on our promise to publish endorsements as quickly as possible. Today, the Berkeley City Council candidates, including the Mayor, are before us for consideration.

We’re pleased to learn that the three best candidates for Mayor of Berkeley seem to have created a mutual support pact which responds to the dynamics of ranked choice voting. They’re collectively urging voters to vote for all of them in one-two-three order. The consensus among them and their supporters seems to be that incumbent Mayor Tom Bates has passed his pull date, and it’s time to replace him—not that they agree on everything else, of course.

For Berkeley’s genuine progressives, the tipping point seems to have been Bates’ full-throated promotion of Measure S, the anti-sitting initiative which he ramrodded onto the ballot at the last minute by calling in all his chits with the Faux-Progs who make up his council majority, a couple of whom should actually know better. Everything that annoys anyone about street behavior is already illegal in Berkeley, so this measure represents nothing more than another swift kick aimed at the down-and-out. Those of us with long memories remember that then-Assemblymember Bates backed a similar proposal about 15 years ago, which was thrown out in federal court on constitutional grounds. 

But Bates(whose only non-political employment, way back when, was as a developer) never met a real estate speculator that he didn’t like. Not coincidentally, the Downtown Berkeley Property Owners Business Improvement District (PBID), an association of commercial landlords, is the principal instigator of Measure S. If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many empty storefronts downtown, the rents charged by some PBID members have a lot to do with it. But they prefer to blame Downtown’s problems on the downtrodden, and Bates is happy to aid and abet them.  

Mysteriously, a couple of senior stalwarts of Berkeley’s Older Left, regrouped now under the banner of the Oakland-based Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, have endorsed Bates while simultaneously denouncing Measure S, according to their list-serv posts forwarded to me by annoyed civil libertarians who expected better. Go figure. I guess it’s become politics above principle (or perhaps just cronies above credo) in some quarters these days. 

Environmentalists are especially annoyed by two of the other Bates-backed measures up for vote in November. Measure T rezones West Berkeley, mostly to benefit a few owners of large parcels which they wish to develop, with no guarantees that already threatened Aquatic Park won’t be further impacted. Measure M authorizes issuance of a general obligation bond “for Streets and Related Watershed Improvements” which is dangerously non-specific, essentially a blank check for spending the proceeds any old way. Continued neglect of watershed problems, including pollution at Aquatic Park and flooding in Southwest Berkeley, is anticipated by opponents of this measure.  

More on these later, when we discuss the ballot measures in detail. 

We’re with the critics of Bates’stances on the issues—no supporter of either Measure S or Measure T deserves your vote if you call yourself progressive. We would be more than happy to see either Kriss Worthington or Jacquelyn McCormick as Berkeley’s next mayor. Both have resoundingly denounced Anti-Sit Measure S and also Measure T. McCormick is more conservative than Worthington on some fiscal issues, but she’s equally progressive when it comes to civil liberties and the environment. 

Which one you rank first or second on your ballot is a matter of individual taste—the main difference seems to be that Worthington is more savvy about facts and figures and has had a lot more experience in local government (which might be the good news or the bad news.) He’s already the real policy wonk on the council.  

Third candidate Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi’s heart is in the right place, but it’s not clear that his head follows. He’d make a good Number Three on a ranked choice ballot. 

There are also two excellent challengers for District Two councilmember. Incumbent Darryl Moore has forfeited any claim to being a progressive by his lock-step fawning over the Mayor, including mindless support for both Anti-Sit Measure S and the wholesale sellout of his district which Measure T, the West Berkeley re-zoning proposal, represents.  

Denisha DeLane, who’s lived a long time in West Berkeley though she’s pretty young by Berkeley council standards, has a long history with the NAACP and learned a lot about city government as the late Councilmember Margaret Breland’s aide which she would put to good use as councilmember. Adolfo Cabral has been an active member of the West Berkeley Project Area Committee and many other civic organizations. They each have a long list of impressive supporters.  

We’re glad we don’t live in District 2, because we’d have a terrible time deciding which of these two to rank Number 1 and which Number 2. It’s too bad we can’t have both on the council. Needless to say either would be head and shoulders above Moore—voters aren’t required to specify a Number 3, and he doesn’t deserve even a third place vote. 

There’s really no contest for District 3, where Councilmember Max Anderson has consistently been an eloquent spokesperson, not only for Berkeley’s African-Americans, but for all residents of Berkeley’s lowest-income area, Southwest Berkeley. Opponent Dmitri Belser, Executive Director of Center for Accessible Technology, appears from his ballot statement to have concentrated his civic activities primarily within the disability rights movement.  

But in District 5, there’s a real choice in an old-fashioned two person race. Incumbent Laurie Capitelli’s main claim to fame is that he’s become a loyal cog in the Bates machine—his ballot endorsers are predominantly fellow-cogs. He also sells real estate and has been an executive in a major real estate firm, though you’d never know that from his ballot statement, which coyly says just that he’s a councilmember/businessman.  

Challenger Sophie Hahn, on the other hand, is a smart, energetic woman, raised in Berkeley and active in important community organizations ranging from the PTA to the Zoning Adjustment Board. A graduate of Stanford Law, she’s been putting her legal expertise to good use on the ZAB. By Berkeley City Council standards she’s a youngster, probably in her late 40s or early 50s, and would bring a breath of fresh air into the increasing airless council, which looks more and more like a happy hunting ground for UC Berkeley retirees with time on their hands.. 

As we speak, things are heating up fast. We’re hoping to list as many candidate forums and endorsement meeting as we can. One’s coming right up: the Wellstone Club endorsement meeting this Thursday, September 6.. It’s time to make up your own mind and join in the electoral process.