It was a little past midnight Wednesday morning.
Mayor-elect Tom Bates had already given his victory speech, received by wild cheers from more than 200 campaign workers and allies crowded into his Shattuck Avenue headquarters.
Next it was campaign co-chair Russ Ellis’ turn. The former UC Berkeley vice-chancellor hummed into the microphone, grabbing the attention of the excited crowd, a mix of students, neighborhood activists and old old-guard Berkeley Citizens Action stalwarts. Ellis lifted a glass – actually a plastic cup – of champagne to toast the grinning, weary-looking Bates.
The mayor-elect had been positive in his victory speech, but Ellis didn’t hesitate to take a jab at the losing candidate.
“There was a moment in this campaign when we realized that (Mayor) Shirley Dean was not about song,” he said. “Tom Bates is. We’re gonna make some music. We’re going to make some moral music.”
Activists at the gathering agreed, saying a Bates’ victory – along with the victories of progressive councilmembers Linda Maio, Dona Spring and Kriss Worthington – would bring significant positive change to the city. There will be a run-off in the 8th District race between graduate student Andy Katz, supported by progressives, and retired scientist Gordon Wozniak, supported by moderates. The progressives will have either a 6-3 majority or a 7-2 majority, depending on the runoff results.
Now what does a supermajority mean? Will every council meeting will be an example of perfect harmony? Not necessarily.
“The progressives are not monolithic,” said one attendee at the Bates victory party, who asked that his name not be used. Others around him agreed heartily.
Progressive Councilmember Maudelle Shirek, who was not up for re-election Tuesday and could not be reached Wednesday, did not join her political allies this election season. She endorsed neither Bates nor his wife Loni Hancock, who won the state Assembly seat vacated by term-limited Assemblymember Dion Aroner.
While the five members of the progressive block often vote together, they don’t do so exclusively. Councilmember Margaret Breland, for example, supported an early iteration of a very controversial housing project for San Pablo Avenue, while her council colleagues demanded modifications requested by neighbors before they would support it.
Progressives also fought each other over whether police should be allowed to carry pepper spray.
While citing Dean’s support for a McFrugals at the present Berkeley Bowl site and her support for office space in zones restricted to light industrial uses, Gene Poshman, vice chairperson of the Planning Commission, said he’s glad Dean will be out of the picture. Still, he said he’s not sure, without Dean as a common enemy, that the progressive supermajority will be united around planning issues.
“The devil is in the details,” he said.
One clearly uniting principle among all the councilmembers is that Berkeley’s vision for the future is better than that of the nation as a whole, moderate Councilmember Mim Hawley said, reflecting on the loss of the U.S. Senate to Republicans. “That (uniting vision) could be a start,” she said.
Joe Brulensky, an active Bates’ supporter, has been a teacher in the Berkeley Unified School District for 33 years and looks forward to the new dynamic on council and Bates at the helm.
Brulensky said he was excited about the education summit of teachers and public officials Bates promoted during the campaign.
Berkeley librarian Jane Scantlebury had walked precincts for Bates, dropping literature and talking to neighbors about the race. She said that not only was Bates good for Berkeley as a whole, but that he would be able to bring the libraries and the city into closer collaboration. Under the current administration, the library has been a “separate, removed entity,” she said. “It was considered as an afterthought. Tom Bates is more conscious that it is part of the community.”
Dave Fogarty is another city worker who pounded the pavement for Bates. He works in economic development and says the council bickering “affects the city’s reputation nationally,” which is not good for attracting new businesses. “Businesses just give up. They say nothing can be done in this environment.”
He added that he hopes Bates’ leadership would make a difference, not only in bringing peace to the council, but in streamlining a slow permitting process. “The new mayor could make a difference over time,” he said, adding the caveat: “But there’s no guarantee.”
South Berkeley neighborhood activist Joy Moore worked with Bates on improving Berkeley schools’ food, a project which, she said, was abandoned by the high school before it was given a chance to succeed. “School food is served to people with limited resources, African American and Latino children – our kids are eating that food,” she said, adding that she believed that Bates would have the clout to get additional resources for the project.
Moore took a shot at Dean for ignoring the neighborhoods. She cited the current mayor’s campaign statements touting her role in economic development – for example attracting clothing store Eddie Bauer to the city. “The first thing out of her mouth is downtown. What about Sacramento (Street) and Ashby (Avenue)?” Moore asked.
Among the most joyful at the Bates’ victory was Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who had first dropped his plan to run for the state Assembly, when Assemblymember-elect Hancock put her name into the running, then Worthington put aside plans to run for mayor when Bates put his candidacy forward. Worthington said Hancock and Bates both had better chances to win their respective seats than he did.
In his bid for a third term on the council, Worthington trounced Dean-supported challenger, Micki Weinberg, an 18-year-old student active in the UC Berkeley Israeli Action Committee. In what Bates called an attack of “guilt by association,” Dean targeted Worthington in debates and campaign literature, arguing that it made it difficult for her to work with the university after Worthington joined an overnight student demonstration at the chancellor’s home protesting the lack of student housing.
“For six years I have been abused and attacked (by Dean),” Worthington said. (Dean, in turn, has said she feels attacked by Worthington.)
Councilmember Linda Maio, who won her council race with ease, said, similarly, that Bates would be a problem solver, building bridges between moderates and progressives. “He has the ability to work collectively,” she said.
Moderate Councilmember Betty Olds, who lost both her longtime council ally Councilmember Polly Armstrong, who did not to run for a new term and ally Shirley Dean, said, when reached Wednesday by phone, that she was sick and unable to talk.
Moderate Hawley, on the other hand, was able to react to the defeat with some lightheartedness – she had gone shopping Wednesday morning to relieve some of the stress.
She also expressed the sadness she felt at the loss of her council colleagues. “I’m going to miss Shirley and Polly,” she said. “It means a lot to have people to talk to on the issues, even if there is some disagreement.”
Still Hawley said she thought there were a number of projects on which she could work easily with Bates, such as cooperating with neighboring cities, particularly on the housing-jobs imbalance problem: tens of thousands of people come into Berkeley to work every day, but do not live in the city.
Hawley also remarked that she has allies among the progressive faction. “I’ve worked with Linda (Maio) on various things. I enjoy working with her,” she said. “And (Vice Mayor) Maudelle (Shirek) and I co-sponsored a couple of kid-related things.”
Still, “It sure is going to be different,” Hawley added.