New: Video Replay: City Council 29 April, 2014 (News Analysis)

By Thomas Lord
Monday May 05, 2014 - 10:45:00 AM

Let's get the most important thing out of the way first. A bit of levity.

Mayor Bates wanted you to know that if we had the redistricting referendum vote in June, it would have cost $300,000. The second point the Mayor wanted to get across is that the students have not failed.

We know the Mayor's talking points because he laid them out live on video and audio broadcast, during a City Council break, while standing unawares next to a live microphone. You can see it in replay on the city's web site.

You see, during that break in the council meeting the Mayor buttonholed Lance Knobel, of the Berkeleyside web site, to make sure Knobel was in possession of the mayoral message. What appears to be meant as a private conversation went out on the air and is forever preserved in the public archives.

For the record, as far as I can tell, Knobel responded simply with pleasantries. Berkeleyside itself gave no noteworthy emphasis to the Mayor's talking points. If this was some great conspiracy about a state-run press being directed by Supreme Leader Bates then it seems the conspiracy has collapsed.

It's just a funny thing that happened. See it yourself on the April 29 video, starting from about 1:36:50:

Actually I hope that Berkeleyans will watch more of the April 29th meeting. There's a lot that can be observed there. Here are time indexes and notes to highlights.

Council Covers its Brown Act Issues Before an Angry, Passionate, and Articulate Public 

Starting just a bit after minute 43 is council item 29. (If you are viewing this on the city web site, below the video there is a pull down menu that will help you skip directly to item 29.) 

At first glance the item appears quite banal: Council will vote on whether or not to "ratify" two actions taken at the March 11, 2014 meeting. The actions in question were: 

(1) To place the the redistricting referendum on the November ballot rather than the June ballot. 

(2) To authorize hire an attorney to file a lawsuit against itself, the county, three council members, and a handful of Berkeley supporters of the redistricting referendum. 

It takes a little bit of insider baseball to understand why Council would need to vote again on those already-taken actions. The issue is that neither action had appeared on the agenda for March 11th. Both actions were taken without public notice. As a result, the city had been advised of alleged Brown Act violations. The ratification votes on April 29th were meant to technically negate any Brown Act violation that may have occurred. 

This was hardly your average procedural vote. The item provided an opportunity for council members Anderson, Arreguin, and Worthington as well as many public speakers to admonish the Bates-led council majority for taking these actions rather than adopting a compromise district map. 

Getting the ball rolling, Arreguin asks "Does that mean that you concede or agree that there were Brown Act violations?" 

It continues this way among various council members until public commentary begins around minute 49. Nearly all of the speakers are articulate and passionate criticizing the redistricting path Bates' majority has chosen and the lawsuit that resulted. 

Referendum supporters charge the council majority faction and staff with collectively committing the two Brown Act and also two City Charter violations in a push for district lines gerrymandered against progressive voters. In a 30 day petition drive over the winter holidays nearly 8,000 signatures were gathered that, according to the City Charter, should have led to a suspension of the controversial district lines and, if the Bates faction would not compromise, a June vote. Instead, the City sued to impose the controversial lines this November and scheduled the vote for November. 

In the midst of the bitter public comments Berkeley photographer Harold Adler (of the Art House Gallery) adds a lighter moment rising to ask what happened to the mural behind council and whether it can be restored. When Bates becomes irritated, Adler concludes "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm out of order." 

Discussion among council members resumes shortly after 1:13 when Arreguin "thanks" the city for suing him and very clearly lays out some of the legal issues. "This is a manufactured crisis," he argues, "and an attempt to circumvent the right of citizens under the California Constitution and the City Charter to pursue a referendum." 

If you had any doubt about Bates' intense dislike for Kriss Worthington, don't miss the back and forth that starts a bit after 1:23. 

Following the bitter exchanges and the unsurprising 5-3 council vote Bates calls a five minute break "to get back on schedule". 

It's as Bates returns from that break that he buttonholes Lance Knobel.