This is the season for taking stock of the year that has just passed and making resolutions about the one that has just begun. It is a time of ambitious lists. Under the heading “Civic Affairs,” here is mine.
Top priority: Carry out my campaign goals that were endorsed by 94 percent of Berkeley voters on Nov. 7, 2006.
That’s right—94 percent: The 31 percent who voted for me plus the 63 percent who voted for Tom Bates on the basis of the issues he “borrowed” from my platform at the last minute:
• Seek a fair-share relationship with UC.
• Promote Berkeley’s neighborhood shopping districts and independent businesses.
• Ensure that new development respects neighborhood integrity.
• Pass a strong Sunshine Ordinance.
• Protect West Berkeley’s artists and artisans.
I declared my candidacy for mayor in late March. For the next seven and a half months, Bates treated me the way shrewd incumbents seeking re-election always treat their challengers: He tried to act as if I didn’t exist. During his entire campaign, he might have mentioned my name once.
But two weeks before election day, it became evident that the mayor and his advisers had been paying close attention to what I was saying. On Oct. 26, his campaign mailed out a brochure in the form of a political “To Do List.” Half of the 10 “chores” on the list were new to his platform; they were also goals he had either ignored or actually opposed during his first term as mayor:
#4. Hold Cal accountable.
#6. Strengthen neighborhood shopping districts.
#7. Protect neighborhoods from inappropriate development.
#8. Pass a strong Sunshine Ordinance.
#10. Expand the arts and crafts in West Berkeley.
Adding to the hypocrisy of this last-minute agenda, the passage of a strong Sunshine Ordinance had been a plank in Bates’ first (2002) mayoral platform—and a goal he’d utterly failed to pursue after taking office.
Imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery. Bates had decided that these five issues had enough traction with Berkeley voters for him to claim them as his own, his record to the contrary. “Our” platform was endorsed by the 94 percent of the Berkeley electorate who voted for either one of us.
As a first step in carrying out this mandate, I call on Mayor Bates to keep his campaign promises—not just the five noted above, but all 10 of them. The others on his list were:
#1. Make Berkeley America’s Greenest City.
#2. Revitalize Berkeley’s downtown.
#3. Provide universal quality after school programs.
#5. Reduce homelessness.
#9. Build new sports fields and a warm water pool.
To show that he’s serious about his campaign agenda, the mayor should publish a timetable detailing the specific steps he plans to take toward realizing his re-election platform over the next two years. I ask members of the community to join me in monitoring his progress.
I also pledge to carry out the other mandate I received on Nov. 7, the one I was handed by the 12,652 Berkeley citizens who gave me their vote. That charge included the first five goals listed above and more:
• Protect and upgrade essential services—police, fire, sewers, storm drains.
• Create truly affordable housing by deepening official levels of affordability.
• Help neighbors of problem properties by creating a Neighborhood Law Corps like Oakland’s award-winning program.
• Make city permit processes transparent, efficient and equitable.
• Retain and attract light industry.
• Build a new animal shelter, whose funding was approved by 68 percent of Berkeley voters in 2002.
Since these goals have been ignored (when they weren’t being undermined) by the Bates council, their accomplishment will require an exceptional effort on the part of the public. The last time Berkeley citizens made such an effort was in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Then, as now, the city was ruled by an entrenched political elite whose foremost constituency was big business, and whose foremost concern was staying in power, even in the face of rising discontent at the grass-roots. A revitalized democratic politics replaced that elite with leaders responsive to the community at large. The sad irony is that Tom Bates’ closest advisers include leaders of that long-ago uprising. They have become what they started out fighting.
Last item on my 2007 civic to-do list: Honor Berkeley’s tradition of democratic political renewal by laying the groundwork for the victory of community-based candidates in the November 2008 municipal elections.
Zelda Bronstein is a former chair of the Planning Commission and ran for mayor in 2006.