Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down, the campaign organized against Berkeley's proposed sitting prohibition, Measure S, has finally declared victory in the November election. As of the close of the day on Thursday, Measure S was behind by close to 2,500 votes—4.6% of the vote. Members of the campaign do not expect any more ballots to be counted, and believe that the Alameda County Registrar of Voters is now engage solely in verifying its count.
"This is a major victory for Berkeley,” said Campaign Chair Osha Neumann. “We were up against the best-funded campaign that Berkeley has ever seen—nearly $120,000, but we won with a dedicated ground campaign, and clever outreach actions that spoke directly to voters about the absurdity of sitting laws, and about the realities of homelessness.” The largest campaign budgets in recent years have been approximately $60,000—only half of the expenditures for the Yes on S campaign.
Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down says that while the election is over, the campaign’s work is not. Pattie Wall, Treasurer of the campaign, said, “Berkeleyans have clearly said, ‘Yes, there’s a problem, and we want solutions. But we don’t think that the same, tired, mean-spirited approach that has failed in other cities is a real solution for Berkeley.’ Mayor Bates has spoken about an interest in working with ‘creative minds’ on solutions to homelessness. Homeless people and service providers have been pushing for real solutions for quite some time. Now that the Berkeley electorate has clearly rejected criminalizing efforts like Measure S, we look forward to collaborative, less divisive work with the community at large, homeless people, small businesses, service providers, and politicians who are sincere about the hard work of consensus-building.”
Bob Offer-Westort, Campaign Coordinator, says that while he looks forward to the work ahead, he hopes that the campaign is also an ending for a certain kind of politics. “On Election Day, it appears that members of the Downtown Berkeley Association paid homeless people recruited by Options Recovery Services to distribute Berkeley Democratic Club slatecards that deliberately misrepresented the endorsements of the Democratic Party, including claiming that the Democrats endorsed Measure S. When a campaign that was double the budget of any campaign in recent history found that it couldn’t buy the election, it tried to steal it. This is a tactic that is not only deceitful, but, by using homeless people to unwittingly promote an anti-homeless law, also cruel. I don’t think that speaks to how people in Berkeley try to solve problems, and I don’t think it speaks to the values of the small, local businesses of the Downtown Berkeley Association: I think that the leadership of the DBA, the BDC, and Options became so desperate to win, that they went with the advice of their $72,000 San Francisco political consultant, instead of their own values, those of their members, or those of this town. I hope that the results of the election prove that these tactics just don’t work in Berkeley. We’re happy that we won. We hope that future elections will involve a return to honesty and civility.”