Updated: The Election Slouches Toward Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Friday March 11, 2016 - 04:09:00 PM

Well, it’s time to face the facts. The election will be held next November, ready or not. And on the one hand, I’ve already started to miss the Obamas, not just because of the President’s politics but because of the family’s unfailingly admirable comportment. It’s been such a welcome relief not to have to be ashamed of the behavior of one or more members of the First Family for eight years. Besides, Barack Obama has gotten a lot done.

In this space we’ve talked about the field of candidates for the presidency, and we probably will again. Last week, for the very first time, I watch complete debates, not just clips, for both the Democrats and the Republicans. Nothing I saw changed my mind.

Between Clinton and Sanders, I could live with either. On the Republican side, OMG.

Just for starters, not a one of the Final Four speaks like an educated person, despite some of them having attended some expensive schools somewhere along the way and all of them claiming to be native born Americans. Evidently this week’s Republican show was tame, even genteel, compared to the earlier ones, from which I saw only the money clips. If any one of them should be elected President, we’re in deep trouble. (No, I will not resort to the kind of vulgarism Donald Trump enjoys.)

On the other hand, here in Berkeley, regime change can’t come too soon. When I look around and see how Berkeley has deteriorated in the 12-year Bates era, it’s sobering. Under Bates, Berkeley is turning into Speculation City, no longer the human-scale home town we used to be proud of.

On every corner, it seems, an ugly box is being constructed, built right out to the sidewalk, for “luxury” apartments, cheaply built but expensively marketed to wealthy San Francisco escapees and international flight capital. One of the speculation buildings constructed in the Bates era has already killed a bunch of Irish kids when it collapsed under them, and more are at risk. Dwellers in older moderate rent buildings are being displaced.

The Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall has been allowed to deteriorate to the point of Demolition by Neglect, and the Berkeley City Council is blithely just moving out with no plans for fixing it. It’s reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, where everyone gets up and moves around the table to a new place when they want a clean cup.

The warm pool at Berkeley High has been demolished, and the Southside public pool at Willard Park has been filled in with dirt. The Berkeley Municipal Pier is falling down. The Rose Garden is collapsing.

The streets are ever more perilous. Residents without homes are sleeping in doorways and parks, at least until they’re rousted by security guards hired by downtown commercial property owners.

Civil rights demonstrators have been assaulted by Berkeley police.

And that’s just a few of our problems.

The local election will be on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, along with the national and state races.

The Berkeley offices to be elected are Mayor, City Council Districts 2, 3, 5, 6; the Berkeley rent stabilization board (4 seats) and the Berkeley school board (2 seats).

So far, here’s the preliminary line-up, with links to the candidate’s web site if I can find one, or to press reports about their candidacy if not. 

For mayor: 

Jesse Arreguin now represents District 4 on the Berkeley City Council, where his constituents are a mixed bag of students, flatlands residents and downtown small businesses. He’s still close to 30, and has been a member of the progressive trio which is in the minority on the current council. If he’s elected Mayor, he’d have to resign his council seat. 

Laurie Capitelli has been the councilmember for District 5, mostly consisting of the west end of the North Berkeley Hills, and has backed current mayor Tom Bates on almost every issue, except when he’s been even more conservative than Bates, if that’s possible. He’s been a developer and a real estate salesperson while he was on the council, and along with Bates is a reliable spokesperson for development interests. 

Mike Lee is a recent arrival in Berkeley whose campaign has been publicizing issues affecting homeless people. He took part in the Liberty City encampment, which was demolished by the Berkeley Police. 

Ben Gould is a U.C. grad student who grew up in Berkeley. He was appointed to the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission by District 2 Councilmember Darryl Moore. 

District 2: 

Darryl Moore, another Bates ally, has been on the council from District 2 for eleven years. As of this writing he has no announced opponent. The district is the center-north part of West Berkeley. 

District 3: 

Ben Bartlett has been endorsed by retiring incumbent progressive councilmember Max Anderson, who appointed him to the city’s Planning Commission. He’s a lawyer, raised in Berkeley, the son of Dale Bartlett, longtime aide to progressive icon Maudelle Shirek. 

Deborah Matthews is another real estate salesperson. She was a steady supporter of developers when she was on the Zoning Adjustment Board.  

Mark Coplan has been the spokesperson for the Berkeley Unified School District for many years.  

District 5: 

Jesse Townley is an elected member of the Berkeley Rent Board. He was a Green Party candidate for District 5 in 2004. 

Sophie Hahn also ran for District 5 four years ago, losing narrowly to incumbent Capitelli who will not seek the seat in November. She is an articulate well-informed member of the Zoning Adjustments Board. 

Steven Murphy was Capitelli’s appointment to the Berkeley Planning Commission and is his endorsed successor. 

District 6:  

Fred Dodsworth announced his intention to run against incumbent Susan Wengraf a couple of days ago, though she has yet to reveal whether she intends to run again in November. He’s been a reporter for a number of local publications, including the Berkeley Daily Planet. 


These are just thumbnail sketches, or even less than that, of preliminary candidates for a race that looks like it might be pretty lively. The last deadline for local candidates to file is August 12.  

One interesting manifestation of the excitement is that a new organization, the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, has been formed with the intent of having an electoral impact in November. (Disambiguation: not to be confused with a 2005 group with the same name, which never got off the ground.) Its first public event was a forum last weekend on housing affordability, as reported in the Daily Californian.  

All too often, even in Berkeley, voters seem to make decisions based on a quick glance at a glossy mailer which arrives a couple of days before the election. As long as I hold out, I’d like to make space in this publication available to all the candidates to express, in writing and in their own words, their views, plans, proposals and endorsers for the offices they seek.  

Candidate statements should be emailed as attached Word .doc or .docx files addressed to “editor (at) berkeleydailyplanet.com” and I’ll post them when I get around to it. They can submit as many as they want between now and November. There’s effectively no deadline until the election takes place, and no limit online to the space available, though I doubt if readers can digest more than about 1000 words at a pop.