Back at the Berkeley City Council relations between the
Council majority, led by Mayor Tom Bates, usually six or seven votes strong, had completely broken down with the minority of two, Kriss Worthington and his ally Jesse Arreguin. The main issue once again was land use, especially a much disputed Downtown Plan.
The Council majority adopted a Downtown Plan which the minority felt called for excessive density and height, lacking provisions for affordable housing, while really serving developers.
Worthington and Arreguin backed a successful referendum which gathered enough signatures to block the Mayor's Downtown Plan, causing it to be repealed. (A new allegation was harassment of referendum petition circulators by Council majority supporters.)
This was the second successful referendum by Council majority opponents, after repulsing pro-developer amendments to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (Measure LL) in November 2008.
In 2010 the Council majority reacted by attempting to defeat Kriss Worthington in District 7, which covers much of the south campus area, (the main event), and Jesse Arreguin in District 4, downtown and central Berkeley. Kriss and Jesse worked as a team, sharing the same campaign office.
Kriss was first elected in 1996, a 14-year progressive Council veteran, who spent his initial six years battling Mayor Shirley Dean. Kriss was a strong supporter of Tom Bates in 2002, when Tom defeated Dean in a classic progressive vs. conservative showdown. Kriss and Tom worked closely together for a period that failed to last. By 2006, neither endorsed the other for re-election, part of a widening gap over land use issues.
Jesse Arreguin, youngest Councilmember, had been elected in 2008 to fill out the last two years of the late Donna Spring's term. Like Donna, Jesse became part of the 2-vote Council minority. He was now running for re-election to a full 4-year term.
Mayor Bates and five other Councilmembers generally loyal to Tom endorsed Worthington's leading opponent George Beier, who was making his third try at beating Kriss. Beier's main advantage was personal wealth, allowing him to greatly outspend Worthington. Beier was also endorsed by former Mayor Shirley Dean, a long-time enemy of Worthington .
I note that Max Anderson, a City Councilmember who votes with both sides, depending on the issue, supported Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin.
On the night of November 2, it became clear that Kriss Worthington would defeat Beier by a greater margin than four years earlier, over 600 votes.
Ranked choice voting, also known as instant run-offs, was being used for the first time. Voters could cast ballots for their second and third (or more) choices, which would all be counted, the person in last place dropped, until a candidate won with over 50% of the vote.
That might have mattered, as Worthington hovered so near a majority, perhaps eventually reaching it without need for second choice votes from ballots cast for write-ins. Yet it was that second round, 8 more votes for Kriss, which had been wasted upon write-ins as a first choice, officially putting him over the top, sparing Worthington any risk of a run-off against Beier.
It was important that run-off elections were eliminated in Berkeley, real progress, because lower, more conservative turnout in run-offs always made them less democratic.
Jesse Arreguin won an even more convincing victory, a first ballot majority exceeding 1,000 votes, despite also being outspent by his leading opponent.
Mayor Tom Bates lost in both of these district Council races, but passed Downtown Plan Measure R, primarily an advisory measure to the Council. "R" backed the Mayor's ideas for an environmentally friendly pattern of development, but contained provisions which caused Worthington and Arreguin to oppose it.
Measure R won with an overwhelming 64% of the vote, and allies of Mayor Bates were also easily re-elected in
two Council districts, victory for all incumbents. Both
the Council majority and minority could feel vindicated by this mixture of wins and losses.
Sierra Club endorsements seemed pivotal, in a city like Berkeley which is so environmentally friendly. Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin, and Measure R all prominently displayed their Sierra Club backing. This was a bit odd for Yes on "R" mailings funded by developers.
Yet to be determined is whether the two Council factions, which used to be allied, can work together on a mutually acceptable Downtown Plan.
Both sides label themselves as "progressive", although Worthington and Arreguin insist they are the "real progressives". Opponents call them NIMBYs, a pejorative term for people whose view of development is Not In My Back Yard.
Meanwhile little remains of the old conservative coalition that always backed Shirley Dean in her first four races for Mayor, two of those successful. Dean's contradictory, clumsy, and unsuccessful efforts at appealing to the Worthington/Arreguin constituency ended up with Mayor Bates inheriting most of her former supporters by default.