More Sleazy Stuff
Mars Berkeley Campaigns

Becky O'Malley
Thursday October 30, 2014 - 10:11:00 PM

Another day, another mailbox full of campaign junk. It just gets ranker and ranker (or should I spell it rancor?)

I have to disagree with reader Mal Warwick , who wrote in the last issue that he disagreed with reader Joanna Graham’s complaints about negativity in the 15th Assembly district race run by Elizabeth Echols against Tony Thurmond. He said:

“Ms. Graham states that she has never seen such a negative campaign as the one waged by Elizabeth Echols for the 15th A.D. seat. This is laughable. What planet does Ms. Graham live on? The negative campaigns I’ve personally witnessed over the years involve vicious ad hominem attacks, statements quoted out of context, and outright lies.”

You don’t have to go all the way back to past campaigns which longtime political operative Warwick witnessed or participated in (many of which I also remember and participated in) to find “vicious ad hominem attacks, statements quoted out of context, and outright lies.”

Just check your mailbox from the last week.

Let’s start in reverse order with an outright lie. 

That would be the mailer labelled “Paid for by Committee to Save the Downtown Plan, No on Measure R, with Support from the California Association of Realtors, major funding provided by California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee, Los Angeles, $50,000; Panoramic Interests, Berkeley, $20,000; District Council of Iron Workers of the State of California and Vicinity, Pinole, $7,500; HSR Berkeley Investments, LLC, Los Angeles, $7,500.” 

A mouthful, isn’t it? The two names here which are not self-evident are corporations which are seeking high rise building permits in Berkeley's downtown.  

And the lie? Inside there’s a photo-shopped picture of what looks like a charming typical Berkeley brown shingle house, with its exploding roof pierced by a big arrow with a very big $ on it. Overall, in large caps with red emphasis; “Measure R would send Berkeley’s housing costs through the roof.” 

Well, no. There’s nothing about Measure R which would raise the cost of buying houses like the one pictured. That’s not true. 

Measure R might, however, adversely impact financial backers of downtown projects like the one proposed by mailer patron HSR Berkeley Investments, LLC. According to Frances Dinkelspiel on Berkeleyside.com, the L.A. real estate corporation “wants to spend as much as $200 million to construct a 180-foot tall tower with 355 residences next to the property that now houses the Shattuck Cinemas and various offices. The new apartments… are designed to appeal to empty nesters and high-income professionals, such as those who work at booming San Francisco technology companies like Twitter and Salesforce.com, but who are having difficulty landing an apartment in the city.” 

Then we have some “statements quoted out of context”. Here Exhibit A is a large glossy brochure paid for by the Berkeley Police Association. Yes, you read that right. Did you know that the Berkeley Police Association PAC is doing its damnedest to defeat District 7a Councilmember Kriss Worthington and elect a candidate anointed by the Bates machine in his stead? 

In giant type on the outside: “CRIME IN PEOPLE’S PARK AND ON TELEGRAPH AVENUE IS OUT OF CONTROL. Want to know Incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s ‘SOLUTION’ to crime in People’s Park AND on Telegraph Avenue?” 

So open it up. This just in: on September 16 Worthington seems to have suggested that something like a “vibe monitor” at the Park and on Telly might be informative. Oh, the horror! 

Big headline, white on red background: VIBE MONITOR. Do you believe it?!? Shocked, shocked! 

This mild metaphorical idea, floated by Worthington in almost a tongue-in-cheek mode in the hip vernacular, was but one of many,many proposals he has made to improve conditions in his beleaguered south of campus area. Most of them have been rejected by a council which is dominated by well-off homeowners who hate to spend money on a district which is now 84% students. 

Which highlights another bald-faced lie on another piece, this one paid for by Sean Barry, the Bates candidate: “Kriss Worthington has consistently opposed nearly every effort to revitalize downtown, reinvigorate Telegraph Ave. and improve the affordability and availability of housing in Berkeley.” 

Simply not true. Period. I’ve watched the great majority of council meetings in the last couple of decades, and that’s just a lie. Kriss claims 37 separate ordinances introduced, and I think he’s underestimating. Quite a few, though not all, have passed, and he's gotten perks for his district on others. 

And also, same piece, a “vicious ad hominem attack”: “Kriss Worthington: 18 Years of Obstruction Has Led to Sky High Rents and Neighborhoods Decline.” 

A third flyer, a letter from Sergeant Chris Stines, President, Berkeley Police Officers’ Association, claims that “Berkeley needs fresh young minds”—but also says that Kriss’s opponent is “the ONLY candidate endorsed by” fresh young minds like Tom Bates (76), Loni Hancock (74) and Nancy Skinner (60). Ageism, any one? 

The police group’s letter claims that “This is the first time our organization has gotten involved in a City Council race.” I don’t think that’s true either. Those with long memories seem to remember that Berkeley police came out against—Nancy Skinner, when she ran for City Council herself long ago. 

Of course, we in Berkeley can’t claim the sleaze championship if we compare ourselves to Richmond. There Chevron has contributed millions of dollars to the candidates it supports, with the aim of defeating Councilman Tom Butt, now running for Mayor. In one hit piece of cloudy provenance but obvious funding he was labelled “the Arkansas Rattlesnake” (he came from that state) and was accused of a great variety of crimes. 

But never one to take an insult lying down, Tom turned this intended insult into a witty campaign trademark, a song which you can hear by clicking here. 

But we’re no slouches here in Berkeley when it comes to clever campaigning with a positive message. The members of the Berkeley Rent Board, running unopposed, are using the election as a way of educating the electorate about the way “A Berkeley We Can All Call Home” is made possible by our rent and eviction control ordinances. 

Take a look at this: 


It’s too bad the Echols organization and some of the other campaigns didn’t measure up to this standard. I'll be glad when the election is over and my mailbox fills up with unsolicited catalogues again.