Public Comment

Keystone Kops Redux: Why they want you to vote no on those minimum wage iniatives: an attempt to explain

Friday September 09, 2016 - 02:01:00 PM

Sometimes the difference between incompetence and conspiracy is a timeline and just one last puzzle piece. I can explain why the City Council meeting on 8/11 was aborted, and why Capitelli and Droste were most likely asked to make sure that that meeting didn't happen. It all starts with the fact that the City of Berkeley hates ballot initiatives and will go to any length to keep them from the voters. This is because ballot initiatives actually become law, while a City Council generated Ordinance can be adopted, changed, or eliminated with a simple majority at a hastily called special meeting, even when they are officially "closed for business" (I'm sure that even Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays are not safe from such a special request). Heck, unless a proposed Ordinance held some meaning for John Caner and the DBA, the rest of us would probably never hear about it. 

Anyway, back to the 11th. It's part of election law that anyone can write ballot arguments for or against any ballot item, it doesn't need to be anyone associated with creating the item, any old citizen can do it. If the City Clerk receives multiple argument submittals, they simply choose one and submit it with the ballot. If the City Council had met on the 11th and adopted their new minimum wage Ordinance; and the folks who had already submitted their arguments withdrew them as the City planned, nothing would prevent someone else from submitting new arguments for or against either Measure CC or BB. This would run afoul of the City's desire to make sure that no one vote for either measure, so they had to delay the adoption of the new Ordinance until the final deadline for submitting or changing arguments which was 12:00 noon on August 26th (date sound familiar?). This is why the meeting was rescheduled for 11:30 AM on the 26th. Unfortunately for the City, while the State Election Code gives a 10 day review period after the argument deadline, after which no courts are allowed to make any changes, the County Registrar of Voters requested that be lowered to a week to make sure that they had time to reprogram their machines and reprint any changes. With only a week to create an Ordinance with the required notices and posting; hold a Closed Meeting to discuss litigation; and file a Petition for Writ of Mandate to remove the ballot arguments and replace them with "don't vote for either measure"; time was very tight.  

While it might have been Capitelli's wish to not look like quite the fool that led him to release the August 9th version of the new minimum wage Ordinance to you, it did give a chance to compare it with the final Ordinance to see what further negotiations occurred in between. There is very little difference between the two. The wording of the section dealing with distribution of service charges is a bit clumsier in the earlier version, but since that entire section was deleted from the first reading of the Ordinance on the 26th and no one else noticed, the difference seems miniscule. It doesn't look like all that much negotiating happened between the earlier version and the final Ordinance. 

The City considers Ordinances as fluid things, and even more changes were made on the 29th when the Ordinance underwent its second first reading. The section dealing with distribution was reinstated; the definitions of Hospitality Employer and Worker were deleted; the Service Charge now applies only to "food service, hotels or hospitality focused business" (whatever that is); and Employers are no longer required to let workers know how much they've collected in service charges, among other changes.  

After the Closed Meeting on the 29th, the City Attorney said that there was no need for any announcement since there would be no action by the Council. They had already reached a settlement to remove all ballot arguments, so their part was finished. That same day, a Petition for Writ of Mandate was filed in the County Court in Hayward by the signers of the ballot arguments for both measures, including Mayor Bates, requesting a judge order the City Clerk and County Registrar to remove all arguments for and against both meaures because they were now "false and misleading" and they didn't believe them anymore. To justify the late date, the petitioners stated that "since the deadline" they had been engaged in negotiations which had only just begun to come to fruition. A bit of a stretch, since the compromise Ordinance was included in the Council packet on the 25th, and the first first reading happened prior to the deadline on the 26th. The Writ was granted on the 1st of September, and the new replacement argument against both measures, contained in the judgement, is also a stretch of the truth. But both sides agreed to actively campaign for the defeat of both measures, and the City doesn't have to worry about citizens' ballot initiatives, for this election anyway. If they spent as much energy taking care of the City as they do trying to thwart their citizens, this might be a good place to live. But we know and they know that they won't.