Public Comment

You Don’t Get What You pay For—You Get What You Settle For

by Carol Denney
Friday September 27, 2013 - 02:36:00 PM

In a letter dated September 19, 2013, Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) Director John Caner acknowledged to Berkeley’s Campaign Fair Practices Commission that on election day, November 6, 2012, he handed out more than $5,000 in $100 cash payments to more than 50 clients of Options Recovery Services to distribute misleading slate cards near polling places. 

Many of the “poll workers”, according to witnesses, had no idea that they were in fact assisting the effort to make sitting down a crime. 

He did so as the campaign manager for “Yes on Measure S”, the effort to criminalize sitting on the sidewalk in Berkeley, a proposal which failed to get enough votes. 

Most of us aren’t surprised when merchant associations lobby for anti-poor laws. They can be pretty predicable politically. They want storefronts and public spaces to look like theme parks. They favor buckets of flowers and nobody looking poor or hungry, so that shoppers are never forced to prioritize their spending between personal indulgences and community needs. 

But we ought to object when the Director of the DBA doubles as the campaign manager for an anti-poor campaign, neglects to report campaign income, is willing to help distribute misleading campaign materials, and snookers vulnerable people he describes in his letter as people who “do not have bank accounts” to assist him. 

Call for John Caner’s resignation from the DBA. The business community is being forced, through the Business Improvement District’s mandatory fees, to pay the salary of someone who committed serious campaign violations, violations which ran the risk of subverting the community’s collective electoral will. 

There is currently no oversight whatsoever for the DBA, an entirely unelected group dominated by out of town business interests. It will be interesting to see if the DBA’s board of directors, in the light of John Caner’s admission, takes any steps to find more appropriate leadership.