Election Section

Berkeley Daily Planet Endorsements for the Berkeley City Races

Becky O'Malley
Saturday October 08, 2016 - 11:48:00 AM

Okay, I know, it’s kind of cheating. But anyone who reads what I write knows that I’m not an armchair commentator, but someone who’s been a political activist all my life. I’m a quasi-founding (joined but did no work) member of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, started by stalwart community members who had decades of experience in the muddy trenches of the Left, who wanted to give the Democratic Party one more chance. They’ve done a good job—a notable success was their winning endorsement of outsider Tony Thurmond for the state legislature as a counter to the stodgier Democratic Party establishment (also called The Machine, though that’s an insult to the first Chicago Mayor Daley).

So, without further ado, I’ve simply posted a file of the whole glossy and handsome Wellstone endorsement flier with my personal blessing on its recommendations. If you have that kind of printer, you can even print it out at home and distribute it to your neighbors, or hand it out downtown, or whatever. A one-page cheat sheet with all the Wellstone choices to take to the polls can be found here.

Here are the Wellstone Democrats' choices for the Berkeley City Council, followed by my own version of the options:  


Mayor: Jesse Arreguín  

Council District 2: Nanci Armstrong Temple  

Council District 3: Ben Bartlett  

Council District 5: Sophie Hahn  

Council District 6: Fred Dodsworth  

School Board (vote for two): Judy Appel, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler  

Rent Board (vote for four): Christina Murphy, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Igor Tregub  

The only caveat I have is that the Wellstones haven’t yet gotten with the program as far as ranked choice voting is concerned. I think it’s very important that Berkeley voters choose not only their #1 candidate for each office, but also #2 and even #3 if there’s a good choice. This year we have a wealth of good progressive candidates who would do a fine job if elected. With that in mind, here are my additional choices for each Berkeley office: 

Mayor: I think Councilmember Jesse Arreguin would make a great mayor. But so would Kriss Worthington. Personally, I still haven’t decided between them. The interesting wrinkle here is that Kriss has been enthusiastically endorsed by the East Bay (formerly Contra Costa) Times, the first progressive that I can remember who’s gotten this endorsement—with Arreguin their second choice. 

This is the important point the paper made in its endorsements: 

“We passed over Councilman Laurie Capitelli from District 5 despite his more moderate political perspective. Capitelli’s declaration that the city shouldn’t aim to fully pay off its retirement debt and his past ethical transgressions eliminated him from our list.”  

Exactly my opinion—and I don’t often agree with the Media News empire. 

For number three, you might want to check off Mike Lee, a true eccentric in the best Berkeley tradition who’s been articulate and persistent in raising important points in the election forums. 

District Two: Nanci Armstrong-Temple is an excellent option—but so is Cheryl Davila. It’s hard to choose, but either would be better than the incumbent, who’s strayed many times from the progressive agenda he supported when he first ran for office. He’s been an eager part of the ineffectual Moderate Majority, and he should be replaced. 

District Three: Ben Bartlett is a good choice for #1, except that he makes me feel old, since I’ve been friends with his father, Dale Bartlett, progressive icon Maudelle Shirek’s longtime aide, for many years. I also, however, like Mark Coplan for #2—a good man with good politics. I dealt with him often in the many years he did press relations for the Berkeley Unified School District. The unacceptable candidate is Deborah Matthews, a real estate industry spokesperson who never met a developer she didn’t like in her time on the zoning board. 

District Five: Sophie Hahn is outstanding, superbly qualified for the job, a proud product of the Berkeley public schools and Stanford Law. She was the choice of the EB Times as well, but oddly enough they forgot to link to the ethical transgressions of her opponent, which were also revealed in their paper. 

District Six: Here’s the place I’d really like to vote for two. An ideal candidate would combine Isabelle Gaston’s financial acumen with Fred Dodsworth’s articulateness and imagination—luckily I don’t live there, so I don’t have to choose between them. You can’t go wrong with either of them in the one-two slots. Avoid the incumbent in any slot—she’s been for too long a part of the do-nothing faction on the Berkeley City Council. 

I’ve seen most of these candidates in person at various forums, but last week I got an especially good look at them at the forum sponsored by the newly-minted Berkeley Democratic Caucus. This group is being spearheaded by residents of South and West Berkeley who are concerned with displacement of long-term residents, especially low-income renters. Their nucleus is participants in Friends of Adeline, people who are concerned about how development proposals will affect their area.  

Candidates for the Berkeley Rent Board were given plenty of time to make their points, and they were all impressive. The CALI slate (Christina Murphy, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Igor Tregub) the choice of the Berkeley Tenants Union and the Wellstone Club, looked smart and lively, though Judy Hunt seemed alert and thoughtful too. I’m not sure how ranked choice works in this race, but I could see adding her as an alternative to the first four if that’s possible. 

At this point I must confess that I don’t know enough about the school board race to endorse, but I’d gladly accept Public Comments from those who do, particularly current parents of students in BUSD.