November 8, 2016
(The Times They Are a-Changin')
By now it had become obvious to many Berkeley voters that there was little difference between the Council majority, Council majority appointees, city staff, and developers. The number of large, market rate new buildings had spread in commercial zones all over the city. In the wake of these approvals, an ever growing number of neighborhood opponents and landmark preservationists felt their views were totally ignored by the Council majority.
Parking lots continued to disappear, choice building sites which made them an endangered species. Lack of parking downtown would have created a negative impression in the hills. Rental housing, tenants gone, could be seen boarded up; to be replaced by more market rate massive buildings. This threat to rent control was a worry for tenants
Otherwise the Council majority was still in complete control, with 6 out of 9 votes. Newly elected Councilmember Lori Droste from District 8 became a loyal Council majority vote, little different from her predecessor, Gordon Wozniak.
The Council minority remained at 3 votes, Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin, and Max Anderson; far from the 5 votes they needed for control.
That Tom Bates was retiring in 2016 after serving as Mayor since 2002, a longevity record, was the only certainty. Loni Hancock, also retiring from the State Senate, meant the end of an era during which this couple had been elected to multiple offices, beginning in the 1970s.
It was never a secret that Laurie Capitelli, a realtor and District 5 Councilmember, would be the Council majority's candidate for Mayor. He had been extremely loyal to Mayor Bates, and could count upon support from the entire Council majority and its allies, including State Senator Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner, running for State Senate.
Whether Berkeley would elect a realtor as Mayor was unknown. But District 5 now became an open seat, Capitelli vacating it to run for Mayor.
After 8 years on the City Council representing District 4, part of the Council minority, Jesse Arreguin believed 2016 was his time to step forward, defeat Capitelli, and (hopefully) create enough progressive momentum in other districts so there would be a new Council majority.
Jesse Arreguin made it clear that if elected he would not represent developers, in contrast to the current Council majority. He also supported building more affordable housing. Youth might be against him, Arreguin being only 32. If elected there would be a vacancy in District 4, requiring a special election to fill it.
Kriss Worthington was the senior member and leader of the Council minority. First elected in 1996 from District 7, he had 20 years of Council experience. Worthington fought then Mayor Shirley Dean over her deference to developers and other issues; supported Tom Bates who defeated Dean in 2002; only to end up in the minority again over land use issues that became a chasm separating him from Mayor Bates and his pro-development Council majority.
Worthington survived multiple attempts by Mayor Bates to defeat him. Worthington had also lost for both Mayor and the Assembly. He did have name recognition.
Jesse Arreguin was Kriss Worthington's protege. But now Arreguin was out on his own running for Mayor, a race Worthington doubted Jesse could win by himself.
Kriss Worthington decided early-on that he should also run for Mayor, intending to take votes away from Capitelli that would then go to Arreguin under ranked choice voting. (Or it might work the reverse way.)
Jesse Arreguin never wanted a Worthington candidacy, preferring a one-on-one showdown with Capitelli. Making the best of it, Arreguin was the first name listed in the Voter's Handbook as endorsing Worthington. And Kriss Worthington was similarly high up in the Voter's Handbook as an endorser of Arreguin.
There had not been a viable Berkeley progressive electoral campaign group since passage of district elections in 1986. Three small organizations, Berkeley Citizens Action, the Berkeley Tenants Union, and the Berkeley Progressive Alliance joined forces on April 30, 2016 to make endorsements that granted legitimacy to candidates representing the Council minority.
About 100 ballots were cast, and Kriss Worthington got nowhere suggesting a double endorsement for Mayor.
Support went solely to Jesse Arreguin, an early indication that only he would be running a serious campaign to win. Jesse Arreguin opened an office, had many volunteers, a Campaign Manager (Jacquelyn McCormick), yard signs, a website, literature, mailers, and all the tools of a real candidate. Kriss Worthington had few if any of these, but did appear at candidate forums.
With the help of former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport, Jesse Arreguin received the endorsement of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Bernie's campaign for President had made him extremely popular among progressives, so this was the best possible endorsement for Arreguin.
Capitelli countered with support from Robert Reich, probably the most popular professor at Cal, very progressive, President Clinton's Secretary of Labor.
Arreguin had the benefit of endorsements from the Sierra Club, the Democratic Party, and several unions.
The greatest irony of this campaign was former Mayor Shirley Dean's endorsement of Jesse Arreguin. It was Mayor Dean, as leader of the moderate-conservative coalition, whose ouster only seemed possible by drafting Tom Bates to defeat her back in 2002. (Gus Newport also beat her for Mayor in 1982, but now they were on the same side.)
Shirley Dean wrote for the October 14, 2016 Berkeley Daily Planet a most thoughtful column attacking Capitelli and the Council majority for their goal of endlessly "constructing faceless buildings ... until there is no community left".
She also credited Arreguin with bringing herself and former Mayor Gus Newport together. They made the ultimate odd couple.
Capitelli's literature seemed to stick on the question of whether Berkeley ought to elect a "Realtor" as its next mayor. Capitelli admitted to the charge of being a realtor. Hard fact to avoid when the National Association of Realtors sent out mailers for Capitelli. These probably hurt him among tenants and generally failed to help.
I believe there was also an enthusiasm gap. Berkeley people wanted to change the Council majority, and that meant electing Jesse Arreguin, rather than more of the same (or worse) with Capitelli.
With so many absentee voters compared to decades ago, early returns tend to reflect Berkeley as a whole.
Jesse Arreguin was quickly way ahead of Capitelli, but just short of the absolute majority needed to win.
Under "Ranked Choice Voting", also known as "Instant Run-Off", the lowest candidate is eliminated in every round, and each voter's second choice candidate (or 3rd choice, etc.) receives those added votes, until someone goes over 50%.
Three minor candidates for Mayor went out, leading to Jesse Arreguin's election at Round 5:
Jesse Arreguin 29,499 (50.39%) Laurie Capitelli 19,401 (33%)
Kriss Worthington 5,299 (9%)
(two other minor candidates omitted)
First observation is that Laurie Capitelli proved to be a very weak candidate. He needed to carry the hills by large majorities (the way Shirley Dean used to), but instead won hill precincts by too few votes. And Capitelli was clobbered by Arreguin nearly everywhere else. Arreguin emerged as a powerful candidate.
Kriss Worthington's "insurance policy" for Jesse, over 5,000 votes, turned out to be unnecessary; those votes never counted as to their second choices. But assuming most would have gone to Arreguin, his landslide victory over Capitelli becomes even greater.
To learn whether this was a city wide pattern we go to the districts. Takes 5 votes for a City Council majority.
The Council majority was defending three seats, the Council minority only one. And there would be a special election in March to fill the District 4 seat vacated by Arreguin's election as Mayor.
District 2 - Southwest Berkeley
Darryl Moore the Council Majority Incumbent
Darryl Moore had once been an aide to Kriss Worthington, leader of the Council minority. But after election to the City Council in 2004 Moore was among the most loyal members of the Council Majority under Mayor Tom Bates.
With his 12 years of experience Moore seemed to take little notice of his two lesser known opponents, Nanci Armstrong-Temple and Cheryl Davila. Both were campaigning as progressives against Moore and against the Council majority.
The coalition of progressive groups had endorsed Armstrong-Temple, but this was the only district contest where ranked choice voting meant everything.
So it was clearly communicated by Jesse Arreguin supporters that a vote for either woman as first choice required a vote for the other as second choice. And that's exactly how it worked to elect Cheryl Davila.
Darryl Moore was ahead at the start with nearly 40% of the vote, well short of the majority he needed to win. When Armstrong-Temple went out, she transferred 1,236 votes to Davila, but only 446 to Moore. Final results were:
Cheryl Davila3,451 (51.25%)
Darryl Moore 3,283 (48.75%)
Very close, which is often normal for districts, but the Council majority had lost an incumbent, which is rare, and other results would show this to be part of a decisive trend.
District 3 - South Berkeley
Max Anderson (Council Minority) Retiring
The progressive candidate to replace Max Anderson was Ben Bartlett, endorsed at the coalition meeting on April 30, 2016. His Council majority opponent, endorsed by the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC), was Deborah Matthews. BDC was the traditional moderate-conservative opponent of Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA), in the days before districts. BDC was also Shirley Dean's historic political home, before she changed sides.
District 3 was among the three most progressive
districts in Berkeley. So it was no contest. Ben Bartlett easily held this seat by winning with 57% out of the gate. Another win for the Council minority that was starting to look like it might be the new Council Majority.
District 5 - Northwest Berkeley
Laurie Capitelli (Council Majority) Running for Mayor
In Laurie Capitelli's home district, the progressive candidate, who almost beat Capitelli before, was Sophie Hahn. The Council majority/Berkeley Democratic Club/Capitelli candidate was Stephen Murphy. If the Council majority could not hold this seat, then with all the other results against them, that side would subsequently turn into the new Council minority.
District 5 was not known as any kind of progressive bastion, based upon its history. But it did manage in November 2016 to put an exclamation point on what turned out to be a nearly citywide repudiation of the former Council majority and its candidates.
Sophie Hahn defeated Stephen Murphy by a landslide, as she received 62% of the vote, winning 5,821 to 3,502.
With the gain of this seat, newly-elected Mayor Jesse Arreguin would have a Council majority of at least five votes, likely to become six, after the March 2017 Special Election needed to fill Arreguin's unexpired District 4 term.
District 6 - Northwest Berkeley
Susan Wengraf the Council Majority Incumbent
In arguably Berkeley's least progressive, most moderate-conservative district, incumbent Susan Wengraf easily defeated Fred Dodsworth in the first round, with 58% of the vote to his 29%, the rest going to a minor candidate.
This was the former Council majority's only City Council victory on November 8, 2016.
President of the United States .
Just as a reference point to show that Berkeley is not typical, and that political terms I use are relevant to Berkeley, but not the rest of the country, here is the Berkeley vote for President:
Hillary Clinton (Democrat)57,750 (88%) Jill Stein (Green) 2,947 ( 4.5%)
Donald Trump (Republican) 2,031 ( 3%)
After this brief interruption I will return to Berkeley politics and other matters not yet covered.
There is a history of intentionally confusing Berkeley ballot measures, although the voters usually are able to distinguish between ones that are progressive, vs. their more conservative imitators.
Raising the Minimum Wage
Measures BB & CC
A nation-wide movement has been trying to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, one city at a time. The Berkeley City Council's first stab at this was divisive along normal lines.
Pro-labor forces, led by unions, qualified a more generous initiative for the ballot, Measure BB.
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and other employer forces countered with a less generous rival initiative, Measure CC.
Differences were primarily about the timing and amount of minimum wage increases.
It took a real Berkeley legislator to try and bring all parties together. Fortunately, Nancy Skinner, a City Council/State Assembly veteran running for State Senate, decided to create order out of chaos.
Nancy, in a demonstration of why she should be elected State Senator, mediated among the various sides until there was a minimum wage ordinance which the Berkeley City Council could adopt as an acceptable substitute for both measures BB and CC. (She needed to bring Laurie Capitelli on board, since he could deliver both the Council majority and the Chamber of Commerce in these negotiations.)
Thanks primarily to Nancy Skinner, the following occurred: Berkeley City Council unanimous passage of the agreed upon compromise ordinance to raise the minimum wage; and, (since it was too late for ballot removal), ballot arguments and literature by both sides against Measures BB and CC. (Really was unusual that the two major candidates for Mayor, Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguin, signed the ballot arguments opposing this pair of abandoned initiatives.
Hardly a surprise that BB and CC went down by large margins.
Rental Business License Tax,
Measures U1 and DD
Here was a division between the City Council and landlords, an indication of how Mayor Tom Bates and his Council majority were often pro-tenant and anti-landlord. The Council unanimously adopted a business license tax increase on landlords with more than five units, the money to go for affordable housing. By placing this on the ballot, as Measure U1, it was a challenge to landlords.
The landlords responded with their own initiative, Measure DD, which greatly reduced the tax, and led to a landlord campaign for "No on U1" and "Yes on DD".
The task for tenants and progressive voters was to cast ballots against large landlords, which meant "Yes on U1" and "No on DD". (The Capitelli campaign offered some help, urging "Yes on U1", while ignoring Measure DD.
Berkeley voters have often proven they are difficult to fool on ballot measures. As election day approached landlords placed "No on U1, Yes on DD" yardsigns in front of their apartment buildings, and did comparable mailings. Among door hangers I liked in November 2016 was an official one from the California Democratic Party, used by Jesse Arreguin's campaign, despite some major disagreements on City Council endorsements. It said, in Berkeley language:
"U1: Unanimous Council measure funds affordable housing: YES
DD: Phony landlord ploy to kill U1: NO"
U1 easily passed while DD went down to defeat, as the landlords lost on both measures, despite a huge spending advantage for the landlords.
Measure U1 (City Council) YES 43,014 (75%)
Measure DD (Landlords) YES 16,328 (29%)
The Capitelli for Mayor campaign imitated this door hanger, falsely claiming that it contained official Democratic Party endorsements. This was an ancient abuse by the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC).
The California Democratic Party had officially endorsed Jesse Arreguin for Mayor, while Capitelli's fake doorhanger purported that he was the Democratic candidate for Berkeley Mayor and used the Democratic Party symbol without permission. All these deceptions failed to help Capitelli, and might have led to a complaint against him with the Democratic Party.
Nancy Skinner vs. Sandre Swanson
State Senate: Final Round
Nancy Skinner continued to have all the advantages over Sandre Swanson earlier discussed for the June Primary, which you can go to at Page 13 .
Nancy's mailers featured endorsements from her work on legislation in the State Assembly, such as Planned Parenthood, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, plus the Sierra Club and National Organization for Women, among many others. She piled up support from elected officials/organizations in both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, seeming to cover all parts of huge State Senate District 9.
Sandre Swanson lacked the money to compete with her, essentially he had less of everything. Sandre did receive Jesse Arreguin's endorsement, but the Arreguin campaign put little or no effort into helping Sandre. Similarly the other way, Capitelli's endorsement of Skinner added a name to her list, but that was all.
I got the impression that Nancy Skinner's campaign wished to float above all the divisions caused by Berkeley Council Majority vs. the Council Minority.
Predictable landslide district results:
Nancy Skinner236,133 (62%)
Sandre Swanson 143,573 (38%)
Nancy Skinner carried both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. She won Contra Costa by over
2 to 1; Sandre Swanson doing better in Alameda County, since he came from and had represented Oakland. But Swanson was generally crushed, even losing Oakland.
Nancy Skinner won Berkeley impressively:
Nancy Skinner39,365 (69%) Sandre Swanson 17,696 (31%)
With nearly 10,000 more votes than Mayor Arreguin received, and 20,000 more than Capitelli, Nancy Skinner had overcome the limitations of being connected to the former Council majority. She won while they lost.
What benefits Berkeley in my opinion would be political fence mending between State Senator Skinner and Mayor Arreguin. Nancy needs to work closely with Jesse and his Council majority to insure that Berkeley is properly represented in Sacramento. It's no time for holding on to old grudges from an era that has passed away.
There was one more election left to complete this season, since the new Berkeley City Council convened with only 8 members and a vacant seat.
March 7, 2017 Special Election By Mail
District 4 - Central Berkeley
Open Seat to Complete the Term of Jesse Arreguin, Elected Mayor
This was the first special election ever under a 40 year old City Charter provision I had worked on as a member of the Charter Review Committee.
Fortunately with districts and "Vote By Mail" the cost was greatly reduced, unlike it being city-wide with normal precincts on election day.
Mayor Arreguin had already picked his candidate:
Kate Harrison. She was extremely well qualified, and if elected, would increase Mayor Arreguin's City Council majority from 5 to 6. She was also the favorite, District 4 being very progressive.
One could have hoped to avoid a replay of the two factions going at one another yet again. Instead Ben Gould ran with the Berkeley Democratic Club endorsement, also support from Councilmembers Droste and Weingraf, plus State Senator Nancy Skinner. Gould was a U.C. Berkeley graduate student and a minor candidate for mayor in the prior election. Now he represented the former Council majority, seeking to continue the old fight.
It was not very close, Kate Harrison winning with 1,607 votes (62%) to Ben Gould's 992 (38%).
The Council was back to full strength with the addition of Kate Harrison.
City policies will change, especially on land use, in accordance with the new Council majority's support for more affordable housing and a great deal less deference to developers.
There will be some growing pains, going from minority to majority with four brand new Councilmembers and a leadership change. As Mayor, Jesse Arreguin will be expected to lead. For Kriss Worthington his seniority makes him a partner with Jesse Arreguin but not the leader.
Viability of the former Council majority is unclear. Their policies were clearly repudiated by the voters. And being in the majority was the glue holding that group of six together. Doesn't work when at best only three remain.
Both sides had identical origins in the politics of Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA), Berkeley's progressive electoral organization from 1975 until it slowly melted away after district elections in 1986. There was no recovery when Shirley Dean defeated the late Don Jelinek for Mayor in 1994 and 1998. (In those days she was sometimes called "Shirley Mean".
Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Kriss Worthington were on the same side for about two years after Bates defeated incumbent Mayor Shirley Dean in 2002, with Worthington's support.
Then developed what I still call a civil war among my friends. I wish it were over now, with all 9 Councilmembers working together cooperatively; no Council majority and no Council minority. Wishful thinking, of course, but no one knows how this new City Council will evolve over the next two years.