The April 1977 Election
The Buzz Wilms Boomlet
The Campus Community Coalition and Progressive Berkeley Neighbors came out of the convention with the greatest hostility towards CP and the short slate. The leadership of both groups felt they had been unjustifiably deprived of student/neighborhood representation when BCA sacrificed the final slot.
There was spontaneous interest in running an independent candidate such as Buzz Wilms who could appeal to both the center and the BCA constituency. I wanted a Buzz Wilms candidacy to try and deprive the Council majority of pro-BCA, anti-Mark Allen votes that might otherwise be cast for a liberal appearing Berkeley Democratic Club candidate. I didn’t think Buzz would win, but I was certain he could generate an energetic campaign outside of BCA for a slate of himself, Ying, Margot, and Veronika. Associating the BCA candidates with a non-ideological running mate such as Buzz Wilms would be electorally positive and help reduce the extensive damage caused by Mark Allen.
Buzz appeared willing to run at first and actually filed his candidacy papers. But then doubts mounted over (l) whether he could put together a credible campaign; and (2) whether his running would help or hurt the BCA slate. Now electoral people had angry meetings over the pros and cons of a Buzz Wilms candidacy. Finally, it turned out that Buzz really did not want to run under these conditions. Buzz Wilms withdrew, leaving a significant electoral vacuum, in spite of my best efforts to keep him in the race.
Since Mark Allen could never win, we had already surrendered one seat to our opponents. For their fourth vote, BCA supporters would now have a choice between Mark Allen, minor independents, a BDC candidate, and an abstention. I felt certain that one or more BDC candidates would now receive the gift of a few thousand pro-BCA votes. But there was still more potential bad news on other fronts.
Rent Control – How Not to Draft an Initiative
While BCA began its candidate selection process, another group started drafting a rent control initiative for the April l977 ballot. Our master strategy called for rent control and the BCA candidates to run as a team.
As the candidate side of that team almost disintegrated amidst l973 April Coalition style ideological warfare, similar problems were hampering the rent control effort. The Berkeley Tenants Union (BTU) claimed that as the only Berkeley organization exclusively run by and for tenants, it had the right to exercise veto power over all rent control drafting decisions. BTU leaders such as Dan Lambert and Jeff Jordan made it quite clear that they didn’t trust the members of other groups such as BCA to properly uphold the interests of tenants.
Here was another re-play of the conflict between ideologues and pragmatists that paralyzed the Berkeley Tenants Organizing Commmittee’s elected rent board campaign four years earlier. Rent control veterans Rich Illgen, Marty Schiffenbauer, Myron Moskovitz and Denny Keating had no stomach for a civil war with BTU. Nor did other participants such as Kathy Reiley from the National Housing Law Project or the BCA and CCC representatives. Besides, a lot of us were preoccupied with the early stages of our continuous candidates crises.
BTU got what it wanted, operational control of the drafting process in what became known as the Berkeley Housing Coalition (BHC). Having successfully asserted supremacy, BTU put itself in a position to claim most of the credit should rent control pass. But in the event of failure, BTU was guaranteed to receive l00% of the blame.
The actual drafting was extremely unpleasant for pragmatists such as myself because our recommendations were routinely voted down. For example, I wanted an exemption from rent control for “small landlords” so that the initiative would be harder to attack. Only Myron Moskovitz voted with me. The initiative ended up with very limited exemptions.
The finished product was a strict Rent Control Charter Amendment that resembled but improved upon l972’s Measure I, incorporating the Birkenfeld decision’s prescription for legality. The initiative provided for a rent freeze and roll back plus an elected rent board which could support itself by charging landlords an annual registration fee. The registration fee was a new idea to free the board from dependence on City Council funding. The first rent board election was scheduled for November l978, with a City Council-appointed board to act in the interim. We had learned not to schedule another special election.
The new measure protected tenants to the satisfaction of BTU. On legal issues everyone had generally deferred to the attorneys, who felt the initiative stood a reasonable chance of surviving the inevitable court test. Although the measure had not been drafted with electoral concerns in mind, all the participants supported it. We had to. Our strategy called for a rent control initiative and this was the only one in town.
BTU also desired a second initiative, a Tenant Union Ordinance to facilitate landlord/tenant collective bargaining. Denny Keating drafted it for them, using the National Labor Relations Act as a model.
Signature collection began on the two Berkeley Housing Coalition measures, with this diverse collection of people actually working rather well together. Following the original script, BCA endorsed the two initiatives without controversy at the January l6, l977 convention. On February 2, l977, the Rent Control Charter Amendment was filed with l3,000 signatures and the Tenant Union Ordinance with 5,000, more than enough to make the April l977 ballot. Rent control became Measure B, the Tenant Union ordinance Measure F.
The rent control fight would hopefully be a replay of June l972 when the landlords spent a fortune on a shrill, heavy-handed campaign, and we beat them. Under similar circumstances in l977, even if rent control lost because of a lower turnout, it should still help the Council campaign, and probably couldn’t do any harm. Of course, if the landlords were to mount a surprisingly sophisticated effort against Measure B, we might find ourselves on the defensive.
The School Board “Accident”
BCA’s single most bizarre “endorsement” occurred at the January l6, l977 convention. Lee Halterman, our fixture as convention chair, left the stage for a brief moment. Suddenly, Salvador Murillo, a Chicano leader active in the Third World Caucus, appeared at the mike to deliver the BCA Education Committee’s report. He called for the endorsement of two Berkeley School Board candidates – Hector Lopez and Len Holt. School Board endorsements were not specified on the agenda, and neither Lopez nor Holt even spoke to the convention. But Murillo, acting as convention chair, conducted a voice vote on his own motion without any debate and declared the endorsement to have passed. The “Yes” votes did drown out the “No’s”, but that hardly amounted to an authentic 2/3 vote endorsement. Too few people were even paying attention.
Holt and Lopez were the candidates of a third-world oriented group called the Berkeley Schools Coalition in which BCA’s Education Committee participated. The Schools Coalition had interviewed various candidates before picking a slate. However, the School Board race was a complex mess, and the BCA campaign leadership considered the Holt/Lopez “endorsement” to be illegitimate. No BCA literature ever contained the names of Holt and Lopez. Holt and Lopez did advertise themselves as BCA candidates in their own literature and the press used that designation.
This accidental endorsement created additional enemies for BCA among the supporters of other progressive school board candidates who judged BCA to be irresponsible. Who can defend an endorsement when none of the candidates were even invited to speak? And to make things even stranger, John Kelley, Ying’s husband, was a serious candidate for school board.
From my perspective, the school board endorsement fiasco proved how everything tended to be out of control in l977.
The Berkeley Democratic Club
For its second City Council race as the Conservative Coalition’s instrument, the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC) made no fundamental changes from l975. The Republicans remained in the closet, their dominant political role still hidden from press and public alike.
Apparently imitating the BCA Search Committee, BDC used its Executive Committee to recommend candidates for the first time. The resulting nomination process was closed and non-competitive compared to both BCA and BDC’s relatively open contest in l975.
The major BDC adaptation was to be tactical. Freed from campaign spending limitations, they would repeat l973’s Berkeley Four campaign and again run as a tightly unified slate. Bringing in outside professional campaign managers for the first time, BDC’s goal was re-creation of l973’s political atmosphere by making BCA appear repulsive to middle of the road voters. Having run an affirmative campaign in l975 and achieved no better than a tie, BDC chose to fight l977 in the gutter.
BDC’s three incumbents up for re-election in l977 were Sue Hone, 38, Carole Davis, 36, and Henry Ramsey. The Council majority needed to hold at least two of these seats in order to retain control.
Henry Ramsey announced very early in the season that he would not seek re-election. Ramsey always disliked the Council. Besides with Bailey long gone, Mayor Widener had little continuing need for an enforcer. Ramsey left behind an unmatched record for procedural harshness and a major federally funded building project for three new senior citizen centers.
Ramsey remained a Boalt Hall law professor until Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the Alameda County Superior Court. Challenged by a white conservative in the June l982 election, Judge Ramsey actually received BCA’s endorsement.
One of the significant differences between BDC and BCA is the organizational attitude towards reluctant candidates. The right wing is more confident that it can elect newcomers. This optimism produces greater acceptance of a candidate’s decision not to run, even if that candidate is an incumbent. BCA, on the other hand, is traditionally afraid that unknowns will lose. So BCA clings intensely to its veteran candidates, especially incumbents, refusing to let them go.
Thus, while BCA spent months persuading Ying Kelley to run for re-election and Margot Dashiell to run for the second time, BDC did not seem to even care about Ramsey’s departure. Everyone accepted Ramsey’s decision as final and went on with the business of choosing a slate.
Incumbents Hone and Davis were running again, leaving only two slots for BDC to fill with new people. There were numerous prospects.
Gilda Feller, 56, was a very serious contender, having distinguished herself as Vice-Chairman of the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency Board by her passionate support of the West Berkeley Industrial Park. Feller also had experience with the Berkeley League of Women Voters and Jewish organizations such as Hadassah. She was married to Boalt Hall Law Professor David Feller, adding a potential base of support among U.C. faculty. Brash, opinionated, and arrogant, Feller seemed a perfect replacement for Henry Ramsey.
Berkeley commercial/industrial realtor Arnold Cohen, 42, wanted to run. President of the city Planning Commission, Cohen represented business community interests in land use issues. Like Gilda, he was best known as an industrial park advocate and had actually participated in some of the project’s land sales. But it didn’t seem prudent for BDC to actually run a realtor for City Council. Cohen obviously reflected the Council majority’s real agenda. While Arnie Cohen’s nomination might please Republicans, how could he be packaged to win tenant votes?
While right wing interests sought direct representation through Cohen, there was a similar attempt on BDC’s left flank by neighborhood people.
The political center was trying to squeeze out a nomination from both major parties in l977. Progressive Berkeley Neighbors had already been unsuccessful taking Buzz Wilms’ candidacy through the BCA process. Now Pat Devaney, 54, President of the Council of Neighborhoods, and Bob Holtzapple, 50, leader of the Clarement-Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA) were making the attempt in BDC.
Devaney and Holtzapple were to the political right of PBN and to the left of BDC. They epitomized the dismal fate of centrist people. BDC could not nominate either of them without repudiating vital Republican support and reversing the Council majority’s habitual anti-neighborhood voting record. BDC and BCA respectively perceived Devaney-Holtzapple/Wilms as untrustworthy, dangerous independents, not team players. Holtzapple was even quoted in the January l7, l977 Daily Cal speaking anti-BDC heresy: “If I run, I wouldn’t run on any slate. I’d accept any endorsement, but I would run as an independent.”
But from a BDC perspective, Pat Devaney was even worse (more liberal) and independent) than Holtzapple. As Chairman of the Housing Advisory and Appeals Board, Devaney had actively worked against the industrial park. How could he run on a pro-industrial park ticket?
Of the BDC Councilmembers, only Shirley Dean was strongly allied to Devaney and Holtzapple. Dean’s attempt to expand her party’s base of support into the center paralleled Loni’s work with PBN. The results were also identical.
The candidacies of Arnie Cohen, Bob Holtzapple, and Pat Devaney posed a real dilemma for the BDC leadership group that included Widener and Hone. Here were intelligent, strong minded, and issue oriented people who represented rival voting blocks that both had to be minimally placated, even though they stood squarely for conflicting positions on major questions. BDC was committed to Arnie Cohen’s pro-business policies but needed to present Bob Holtzapple’s pro-neighborhood image to the voters.
This intrinsic BDC contradiction could only be solved by rejecting all three of the programmatic white male candidates. Holtzapple, Devaney, and Cohen would have to cancel each other out. Someone with a neutral, non-controversial image had to be found for the final slot, the more unknown the better. If the candidate didn’t have any political record, then both the business community and the centrist voters might be talked into supporting him.
BDC first heard nine candidates speak on January 3l, l977. The endorsement meeting was held on February 7, l977. In the interim, the eleven member Executive Committee interviewed the contenders and then presented the membership with its recommended slate of four: Susan Hone, Carole Davis, Gilda Feller, and William Segesta.
Who was Bill Segesta? He had been on the candidates list, but only insiders could have taken him seriously. Segesta turned out to be a 39 year old attorney working as director of the Bridge Over Troubled Waters drug rehabilitation program. His background in Berkeley politics was absolutely zero. A rent control opponent like all other BDC candidates, he could cite his legal work for tenants in Michigan. And he didn’t even have a position on traffic diverters. Segesta was the perfect choice.
Prior to voting, BDC allowed the candidates who were not recommended by the Executive Committee to say a few words. Devaney angrily denounced the BDC process as undemocratic. Few club members listened.
BDC had 98 eligible voters this time, a three-fold increase over the tiny l975 turnout. 59 votes (60%) were needed to nominate, and it only took a single ballot:
nominated Susan Hone 86
nominated Carole Davis 82
nominated Gilda Feller 69
nominated William Segesta 65
Arnold Cohen 22
Pat Devaney 20
Bob Holtzapple 17
Despite the sheep-like quality of this process, it was a triumph for BDC’s electoral pragmatists. They were able to defeat factionalism and nominate four candidates on a single ballot, while BCA couldn’t even produce a full slate.
Although Devaney and Holtzapple made hostile remarks to the press about BDC and threatened to run an independent candidate, it was mere posturing. No one even filed. The neighborhood oriented centrists had split their forces and lost in both the BCA and BDC forums. The center was up for grabs, as usual.
A relatively unified BDC had a greater chance to capture centrist votes than an ideologically wounded BCA. And the rejection of Deveney and Holtzapple should please the Republicans.
Opponents of Berkeley’s Traffic Management Plan were back with another anti-diverter initiative ordinance. This time Measure E called for the removal of all new diverters, those installed after July l, l975. Leo Bach’s forces, now calling themselves Citizens for Fair Traffic Planning, hoped this broader exemption provision would finally put them over the top.
Berkeleyans for Fair Traffic Management regrouped to fight off this repeat threat to their many years of hard work. This would be the priority campaign for neighborhood people such as the defeated Wilms, Holtzapple, and Devaney. They could count on BCA, its candidates, and Councilmembers to all oppose E and to campaign against it. BDC was hopelessly split, with its candidates generally trying not to offend either side. Council majority strategists felt they needed the votes of both diverter opponents and supporters.
Shirley Dean endorsed against E while Carole Davis came out squarely in support of the initiative. The campaign amounted to a replay of the June l976 Measure O contest, as both sides appeared to be reprinting their old literature with minor changes.
The April l977 Campaign
The Conspiracy Against Campaign Reform, Round l
Periodically during the l970’s, the Widener-Hone majority reached for power with incredible displays of arrogance and contempt for the orderly process of government. l973’s Midnight Special, the demolition attempts on Ocean View houses in l975, and the Council’s lawsuit against itself to invalidate Measure Q in l976 were a few such examples. In l977, the Council majority launched a protracted war against the Berkeley Election Reform Act, Sue Hone’s own measure adopted by the voters in June l974. The opening battle of this war involved the Council majority in a bizarre reversal of position relying upon a legal usurpation by City Attorney Michael Lawson.
Adverse court decisions had already reduced Berkeley’s election reform law to a few surviving restrictions, two of which were in a legal twilight zone after the PG&E vs. the City of Berkeley decision:
Less than secure were the $250 limit on contributions to candidates and ballot measures; similarly the prohibition on corporate and labor union contributions.
On January 25, l977 City Manager Elijah Rogers, City Attorney Michael Lawson, and City Clerk Edythe Campbell proposed that the Council place new amendments to the Election Reform Act on the April ballot. In addition to several non-controversial changes, they proposed the repeal of Section 605, the prohibition on corporate and labor contributions to both candidates and ballot measures. This section had been passed separately by the voters as Measure W in June l974.
Now City Attorney Michael Lawson claimed Section 605 was totally unconstitutional. Under skeptical questioning from Councilmembers, Lawson could not identify any recent court decisions which had even considered the constitutionality of banning corporate and labor contributions to candidates. The Federal ban on corporate contributions to Congressional and Presidential candidates had existed since l907 without an adverse court decision.
At the January 25, l977 meeting, Sue Hone contradicted Lawson more vigorously than anyone else. She asked him: “What leads you to believe this is no longer enforceable?” Lawson responded that based upon the PG&E case and Hardy v. Eu, he believed Section 605 “would be found invalid”. Hone responded that she “believed it would be upheld in litigation” and that, concerning the cases cited by lawson, “neither deal with candidates.” Hone was absolutely correct.
Following this exchange the Council voted, with only Ramsey and Davis supporting Lawson’s position. The City Council, led by Sue Hone, thus refused to place the repeal of Section 605 on the April l977 ballot by a vote of Yes – 2, No – 5. An uncontested amendment to the Election Reform Act, Measure C, was put on the ballot without dissent. The entire matter should have ended there.
However, City Attorney Michael Lawson disregarded the Council’s action and unilaterally declared in a March 2l, l977 memo “that any limitation on contributions is unlawful” because the l976 Appellate Court decision in PG&E vs. the City of Berkeley “must be read to invalidate section 602 as well as section 605 of the Berkeley Election Reform Act … .” Therefore, wrote the City Attorney, limitations on both candidate and ballot measure contributions “shall not be enforced”. With one stroke, Lawson invalidated three of the remaining four limitations in the Berkeley Election Reform Act.
While the Berkeley City Charter requires the City Attorney to enforce Berkeley’s laws, Lawson did the opposite. He violated the Charter and usurped authority that properly belonged to the courts, the City Council, the Fair Campaign Practices Commission, and most importantly, the people of Berkeley, who had adopted these limitations in the first place.
Secondly, Lawson’s conclusions were totally erroneous as to candidate contributions and speculative regarding contributions to measures. PG&E’s initial pleadings from the l974 case expressly stated:
“This case then does not concern: l. Whether corporations can contribute to candidates;”
The entire PG&E litigation was confined to ballot measure limitations. Thus, any claim that the prohibition against corporate and labor contributions to candidates had been found invalid amounted to pure legal fiction. Sue Hone had already demonstrated that she understood this perfectly.
But in the final weeks of a Council campaign, Sue Hone and her running mates took advantage of Lawson’s preposterous action and started accepting both corporate and labor contributions in direct violation of section 605. Although Loni, Ying, and John placed this subject on the April l2, l977 agenda, the Council majority would not let it even be discussed. Thus Sue Hone actively participated in the sabotaging of her own measure, for which she had signed the following ballot argument three years earlier:
“Measure W prevents all corporate and labor union contributions.
Corporate money should not be used for political contributions as individual shareholders may object to the purpose of the contribution and are in effect required to contribute against their will. The same is true of labor unions. The members may be forced to contribute to a cause they are against.
It is for this reason that corporate and labor contributions of money are banned at the federal level. Let’s hope Measure W’s prohibitions can be more effectively enforced than the federal laws.”
I believe this was the greatest single act of hypocrisy in the Council majority’s history. Yet even the Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission, which had legal responsibility to enforce the ordinance, rejected my complaint concerning BDC’s violation of Section 605. The Council majority’s appointees on the commission (plus one BCA appointee) lined up with the City Attorney against adherence to the law. This travesty was not corrected until two years later when the commission reversed itself.
Nor was Lawson’s argument persuasive in terms of ballot measure contributions. PG&E’s original pleadings had stressed the narrowness of their suit, limiting the issues to the particular threat posed by Measure W which called for public ownership of PG&E’s property. PG&E did not seek a broad ruling which would invalidate the general application of sections 602 and 605 to other ballot measure campaigns. Judge Kroninger’s preliminary injunction decision, adopted by Judge Minder, retained PG&E’s original narrow focus. However, Judge Minder created confusion by using imprecise language in his ruling granting a permanent inunction, ambiguities which the l976 Appellate Court decision failed to resolve.
It was simply not clear whether Judge Minder or the Appellate Court intended to invalidate Sections 602 (the $250 contribution limit) and 605 (the corporate/labor contributions ban) for all ballot measure campaigns, or just in special cases such as PG&E’s fight against Measure W. The City Attorney should have resolved this ambiguity in favor of the law passed by Berkeley’s voters. Instead, Lawson exercised his discretion against the ordinance, becoming prosecutor, judge, and executioner of the law.
The demise of the prohibition on corporate/labor contributions to ballot measures was also contested, but campaign reform advocates focused on trying to hold the line at section 602, the $250 limit on contributions to measures. Yet the City Attorney’s office created a situation enveloping section 602 in total chaos.
Unknown to campaign reform supporters, former Acting City Attorney Lois Johnson had declared section 602 invalid back in l976 on the basis of Judge Minder’s decision in the PG&E case. The City Clerk then began distributing a copy of the Election Reform Act with section 602 marked “do not enforce”.
Late in l976, Citizens Against Rent Control (CARC), the landlord group formed to fight the new rent control initiative, requested direction from the City Clerk as to whether they could ignore section 602 and collect contributions greater than $250. The landlords had been complying with the $250 limit, but now they wanted to know if such obedience was really necessary. City Attorney Lawson responded in a January l2, l977 memorandum that section 602 “is valid and enforceable,” a position he totally reversed two months later.
CARC collected $l8,600 in contributions exceeding $250 during the period prior to implementation of the City Attorney’s January l2, l977 opinion validating section 602. When Larry Duga and Myron Moskovitz, attorneys for the pro-rent control forces, challenged the legality of those contributions before the Fair Campaign Practices Commission, CARC claimed to be relying in good faith on Lois Johnson’s earlier interpretation as expressed by the “do not enforce” annotation. In the midst of that dispute, Lawson’s March 2l, l977 reversal of position against section 602 was too outrageous for the Fair Campaign Practices Commission to accept.
The Commission, under Chairwoman Pat DeVito, declared that Lawson had no legal right to invalidate any section of the Election Reform Act, formally voting on March 23 and March 30, l977 to enforce section 602 both prospectively and retroactively. The later ruling required CARC to turn over its $l8,600 in illegal contributions to the city’s general fund under section 604 of the Election Reform Act.
The March 25, l977 Gazette reported Lawson’s initial defiance of the Commission’s action:
“Campaign spending limits are not valid regardless of what the Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission may believe.
That was the pronouncement of city Attorney Michael Lawson yesterday in the wake of a vote by the commission upholding the $250 spending limit on candidates and ballot measures. …”
“The law as far as Berkeley is concerned is clear: there is no limit on contributions or expenditures,” Lawson said yesterday after a conference with city manager Elijah Rogers. The city attorney said he received the full support of Rogers in maintaining his interpretation of the law.
Yet the Election Reform Act provided in Section 307: “The Commission has the primary responsibility for the impartial, effective administration of this ordinance.
Meanwhile, the landlord group promptly sued the city to have section 602 declared unconstitutional. The case of CARC vs. the City of Berkeley was another low point in local legal history. City Attorney Michael Lawson’s office now went through the motions of “defending” a law he had already declared to be unconstitutional in his final statement on the matter. In the face of such token resistance, CARC obtained a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against enforcement of section 602. Freed from all restraints, CARC raised $l34,000 to fight rent control in the April l977 election.
But this case took on a life of its own. After the election, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sparrow’s September 29, l977 summary judgment declared section 602 to be a violation of the First Amendment and permanently enjoined the city from enforcing it. Berkeley appealed, with startling results, as the matter ended up being decided by both the California and United States Supreme Courts.
A year after Judge Sparrow’s decision, San Francisco City Attorney George Agnost’s office demonstrated how such a case should be handled. San Francisco had a law similar to Berkeley’s which limited ballot measure contributions to $500. Facing a rent control initiative, the landlords filed suit to have this law declared unconstitutional. But Deputy City Attorneys Burk Delventhal and Diane Hermann vigorously defended their city’s law and it was upheld. (Committee for the Preservation of Quality Housing vs. City and County of San Francisco).
San Francisco became an intervener in the Berkeley case, arguing that the inadequate defense by Michael Lawson’s office should disqualify the case from setting any precedents that would be adverse to similar laws in other cities. The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office correctly perceived the long range threat posed by CARC vs. the City of Berkeley.
While San Francisco fought to preserve its laws, Berkeley did not. The l977 conspiracy against the Berkeley Election Reform Act was a smashing success. Besides disclosure, only the $250 limit on contributions to candidates was still being honored (Section 600). But this was only the first round in a Council majority/city staff scheme to wipe out every restriction in Sue Hone’s Election Reform Act. The next assault came in November l978.
The BCA Campaign – An Exercise in Politeness
Although deeply wounded by convention discord, Berkeley Citizens Action pulled together a campaign under Mal Warwick’s overall coordination. The Campus Community Coalition (CCC), with the disadvantage of having no student candidate, still met its responsibilities. David Poindexter, Suzanne Campi, Nicole Magnuson, and the other CCC leaders made sure that the jobs of voter registration and precinct work were performed as usual in the campus area. Florence McDonald served as BCA Treasurer and Will Lightborne made a major commitment of time helping BCA and Margot Dashiell’s campaign with everything.
BCA’s press relations were handled by Sean Gordon, making a political reappearance four years after covering the l973 campaign as the Daily Cal’s Editorial Page Editor. Newcomers from Tom Hayden’s Campaign for Economic Democracy also joined up for their first Council campaign.
In addition to expected support from Congressman Dellums, Assemblymen Bates and Miller, Supervisor George, Tom Hayden, and Cesar Chavez, the BCA slate was surprisingly endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee. The Bates, Dellums, and George forces pulled many strings to achieve that endorsement, which was communicated to the voters by mail.
This was the first campaign in which all the BCA candidates, especially Margot, actively campaigned as Democrats, at least part of the time. Use of the Democratic Party label had always been opposed by ideologues in the past. But most of the hard core ideologues were now with Mark Allen, not BCA.
BCA’s l977 literature stressed issues from the platform, such as Community Participation:
* Strengthen the role of city boards and commissions;
* Enforce the letter and spirit of initiative measures passed by the voters;
* Create a commission to provide citizen oversight of the city budget;
* Provide adequate resources for community agencies and organizations.
Those themes were always combined with strong support for the Rent Control and Tenant Union Initiatives (Measures B & F), plus opposition to anti-traffic diverter initiative E. BCA’s campaign pieces were low-key and thoughtful:
Dashiell, Fukson & Kelley believe:
* Berkeley’s environment needs protecting – and that this environment includes a rich diversity of life-styles, as well as our open space, parks, and Bay waterfront.
* Berkeley residents deserve better than the present Council, a group that sues itself and accomplishes little.
* Berkeley citizens should not have to resort to government by initiative to meet their social and economic needs.
* Berkeley can provide better public safety through neighborhood cooperation and a responsive police department.
The bottom line in BCA literature was always the same:
“Berkeley needs a new city council majority.
As a progressive alternative to the present six-person Council majority, Ying Lee Kelley, Loni Hancock and John Denton have been outvoted on the crucial issues. We can turn that “minority” into a majority by electing Margot Dashiell, Veronika Fukson and Ying Lee Kelley April l9.
Every two years, when the present Berkeley Council majority runs for re-election, they do it by:
* pretending that someone else has been controlling the City Council…
* pretending that someone else is responsible for the Council’s failures…
* pretending that someone else’s policies have been rejected by the voters nine times through the passage of citizen initiatives…
Let’s hold the incumbent Council majority accountable for their record.”
Because of limited campaign funds, most BCA literature had to be distributed door to door by precinct workers. The traditional corps of volunteers was depleted because many activists were with Mark Allen’s campaign instead of BCA. As election day approached and some west Berkeley precincts were yet to be covered, BCA sought and received the Allen campaign’s help in getting the literature delivered. The decision to work with Mark Allen divided the BCA campaign leadership.
The bulk of BCA’s limited funds for campaign mailings were spent in the black community on behalf of both Margot Dashiell and the entire slate. There just wasn’t enough money for a full scale, city-wide campaign. The hills were a low priority and CCC precinct workers constituted most of the campus area effort.
A series of committees were established to conduct specialized mini-campaigns. There were Berkeley Women for Dashiell, Fukson, and Kelley, which tried to generate feminist support for the all-female slate. Neighbors for Dashiell, Fukson, and Kelley sent out a “Dear Neighbor” letter to various mailing lists. It was signed by Henry Pancoast of the Flatlands Neighborhood Association and Buzz Wilms from Bateman, among others. Environmentalists for Dashiell, Fukson, and Kelley sent another such letter to the appropriate lists, signed by David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, Ariel Parkinson of the Berkeley Solid Waste Management Commission, Helen Burke, Director of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District, and David Pesonen, former Chairman of the Yes on l5 Campaign (Nuclear Power Plant Safety).
BCA spent a total of $22,000, up $8,500 over the modest l975 effort which was conducted under the Berkeley Election Reform Act’s campaign spending limits.
The Campaign For Rent Control
The Berkeley Housing Coalition spent a little less than $5,000 on behalf of Measures B and F, not enough to even mail one piece of literature to Berkeley’s tenants. Pro-rent control flyers included re-prints of newspaper ads soliciting funds from apartment house owners throughout California to fight Berkeley’s initiatives:
“Apartment Owners Alert”
As an apartment owner or management company you should be aware that Berkeley is again endeavoring to enact rent control in the form of a charter amendment… If Berkeley is successful, other California cities will undoubtedly follow in the same path. On the other hand, because of Berkeley’s unique liberal reputation, if the initiative is defeated soundly, many pro-rent control efforts will be severely discouraged. Therefore, this election in Berkeley is of crucial importance to every property owner in the state.
Funds, to be effective, must be in our hands within the next week.
Act now – it is your future and investment we want to protect.”
Rent control picked up most of the same major endorsements as the BCA candidates, all of which were widely displayed on Berkeley Housing Coalition literature together with a dozen landlord endorsers, including Veronika Fukson, Emma and Lee Coe, and realtor Arlene Slaughter.
Rent control advocates continuously stressed the measure’s reasonableness, as in the official ballot argument:
Yes on B For Fairer Rents
Berkeley rents are so high that large numbers of our neighbors are forced to leave because they can no longer afford to live here.
Many landlords take advantage of Berkeley’s high demand for housing, charging unreasonable rents for poor quality buildings, yet the City Council does nothing about it.
Proposition B offers an effective solution to this problem, a system of controlling spiralling rents that is fair to everyone.
Under Proposition B, an elected Rent Control Board will adjust rent ceilings downward or upward to reflect the fair value of housing provided. …
In over 200 American cities, flexible Rent Control laws similar to Proposition B are helping low and moderate income tenants, senior citizens, students, and racial minorities to find decent, affordable housing. …
Resist the scare campaign. Don’t let Berkeley’s election be bought.
VOTE FOR RENT CONTROL
BTU members tried very diligently to work with BCA veterans on an electorally oriented campaign. The drafting process produced far more friction than the campaign itself. Lack of money was something neither pragmatic nor ideological people could solve.
The BDC/Anti-Rent Control Campaign
The Berkeley Democratic Club hired a professional campaign consultant, Ed Slevin, to head their effort. Part of Slevin’s salary was paid by Citizens Against Rent Control as he also worked to defeat measures B and F. CARC’s chief campaign manager was another professional, Don Solem.
The challenge of fighting rent control was accepted by the Council majority. The BDC candidates and No on rent control functioned as a slate, with the connection given greater emphasis as election day approached.
Citizens Against Rent Control spent over $l42,000, more money than PG&E had used to defeat municipal ownership in l973. BDC spent an additional $44,000, a $26,000 increase over l975. The four BDC candidates spent another $l8,000 individually. Their combined total of $204,000 gave the conservative forces an approximate 7 to l advantage over the BCA/Berkeley Housing Coalition campaigns, matching their l973 financial edge. Now all they needed was an aggressive smear campaign.
Smear, and Smear Again
As in l97l and l973, (but not l975), the Berkeley Daily Gazette spearheaded the right wing’s efforts to generate hostility towards the progressive slate.
The Office Issue
The Gazette’s March l4, l977 front page lead story accused Ying Kelley of misusing city funds because her Council office at l7ll University Avenue was now the BCA Campaign Office. This journalistic hatchet job, headlined “BCA campaign’s public facilities”, downplayed the facts that BCA was paying both the rent and the phone bill and that the office had served this same function in l975. Instead, the Gazette tried to create a scandal out of the continued presence of some city furniture in the office, even though the office was still being used for Council business.
The Gazette’s assault was demoralizing to Ying and the people around her. It upset Ying that anyone would question her integrity. Mayor Widener milked the story further, as the Gazette’s March 22, l977 headline proclaimed “Widener probes BCA office use”. Ying responded by requesting the Alameda County Grand Jury to investigate the use of municipal funds by Berkeley City Councilmembers in general.
The Cities’ Wealth
In l976 the Community Ownership Organizing Project, with offices in Oakland, published an 83 page book entitled The Cities’ Wealth, Programs for Community Economic Control in Berkeley California. The authors were five prominent April Coalition/BCA people: Ed Kirshner, Eve Bach, Lenny Goldberg, Julia Estrella, and Tom Brom. As a group they represented the Coalition’s more ideological economic theorists, one of BCA’s many intellectual factions. Lots of other people, myself included, had provided them with documents and reviewed advance drafts.
The book was published by the Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies, a Washington D.C. based national center for progressives active in government. The authors were primarily advertising Berkeley’s ideas (and their own) to left of center people throughout the country.
The Cities’ Wealth combined Berkeley political history with advocacy of ambitious programs ranging from rent control to municipal ownership of the telephone company. Many (but certainly not all) of the book’s proposals accurately reflected mainstream BCA thought. The book had an ideological tone. It generally characterized BCA’s goal as “the redistribution of city resources from the wealthy who traditionally benefit from city policy to those members of the community who have received little from city government in the past.” (page l).
The Cities’ Wealth had too major electoral problems: l. The authors failed to differentiate their own ideas and opinions from the positions of Berkeley Citizens Action. Thus, the authors’ ideological biases tended to be attributed directly by the book to BCA as a description of what Berkeley would be like if the progressive slate won the April l977 election. 2. The book contained a number of politically damaging statements which made BCA seem extremely threatening to liberals and conservatives alike. For example:
Community ownership of housing and real estate is the ultimate goal of Coalition housing programs. (page l9).
By enacting rent control and thereby restricting increases in future rents, a city may actually reduce the present value of a property. This is essentially community expropriation in favor of tenants. (page 2l).
But together the reforms consolidate both political and economic power to help overturn the profit structure of the housing industry. (page 30).
For the Council majority, the Cities’ Wealth was a political gold mine, as the Gazette’s March l9, l977 front page story demonstrates:
The policies proposed by the “radical slate of city council candidates would result in “class warfare in this city and drive middle income families from Berkeley,” incumbent Sue Hone has charged.
Speaking before about 50 members of the City Commons Club yesterday, Ms. Hone said the choice for voters in the April l9 election is one between “expropriation (of property) or supporting the community; between working hard or bankrupting the city, between working together or pitting one group against another – it is the choice between Berkeley or Berserkeley.”
To back up her accusations, Ms. Hone quoted extensively from a book called “The Cities’ Wealth,”…. “The Cities’ Wealth most accurately reflects the radicals’ economic plans for this city,” Ms. Hone said.
The Berkeley Gazette’s March 2l, l977 front page had a massive expose of the book, headlined: “A blueprint for shifting wealth from private to public sector in Berkeley”. The Gazette story used the book’s own words to shock voters, trying to make it seem that BCA would tax the middle class out of existence, destroy existing businesses, and conduct wild economic experiments:
“Providing a blueprint for what could be expected if Berkeley Citizen’s Action (BCA) comes to power next month, the booklet concedes that “the threat of community restructuring and wealth redistribution may cause some private corporations to make relocation plans.” It then proposes an employee severance tax so that “if businesses leave the community, they must pay for the impact of that loss to the local economy…”
The Gazette article was re-printed by the BDC candidates for broad distribution to the voters. The Cities’ Wealth became identified as the BCA platform, even though BCA had never approved it. No one bothered to read the official adopted BCA platform, which was a non-ideological presentation of a much more modest program.
Neither the book’s authors, the BCA organization, nor the BCA candidates were able to satisfactorily respond to a smear campaign based on The Cities’ Wealth. The authors kept repeating that their book is “not a BCA document”, yet they defended its accuracy. From the authors’ perspective, there was no conflict between their own theoretical agenda and BCA’s. Thus, they defended the book’s (and their own) legitimacy.
The BCA Campaign was essentially traumatized by this problem. Neither the book nor its authors could be attacked because they were well-liked, important people who had a right to freedom of expression. Eve Bach was active in the BCA campaign and Julia Estrella was Ying’s Administrative Assistant. Lenny Goldberg now worked for Assemblyman Tom Bates. Ed Kirshner, coordinator of the Community Ownership Organizing Project, was one of the economists Loni’s office listened to.
How do you disassociate from selected phrases, sentences, and paragraphs in a book, when you agree with large portions of it? Could there ever be a campaign consensus on precisely which parts of the book reflected Ed Kirshner’s or Eve Bach’s ideas, and which were actually BCA policy? The 2/3 rule wasn’t designed to solve this kind of problem.
Decisive action by BCA proved impossible. The candidates were left to cope as best they could, explaining in general terms that they neither wrote the book, nor agreed with everything in it. But the damage had been done. The Cities’ Wealth helped to unite and expand the BDC constituency against BCA in l977.
Assault Through the Mails
The Council majority produced the bulk of its literature under the name of “The Better Berkeley Campaign Committee”. They also used the term “All Berkeley Slate”. These creations allowed Republicans to maintain their partisan principles while still contributing to the BDC campaign.
But you couldn’t expect the all-important Republicans to commit themselves to the Berkeley Democratic Club. BDC was more than willing to change its name if this would make the Republicans happier.
BDC’s major endorsements were limited to the club’s own Councilmembers, the Gazette, Senator Nick Petris, the Berkeley Firefighters Association, and the Berkeley Black Council, (an establishment equivalent of the Berkeley Black Caucus).
BDC once again campaigned as “four totally independent and uncommitted candidates” “committed to a liberal program”. While taking credit for some city projects such as new mini-parks, they still had a tendency not to admit to being the Council majority. One mailer to independent voters urged election of Hone, Feller, Segesta, and Davis to:
“end the fragmentation that has stymied progressive action by the Council on all too many occasions. … They deserve a chance, now that BCA tinkerers have shown us they are not to be trusted with public office.”
Such language totally distorts the reality of BDC’s six vote Council majority which had then been in power for over four years. But BDC often found it advantageous to campaign as the “outs”, election after election. Their message was still contradictory, with one mailer explaining that votes for BDC “will keep a liberal majority on the City Council.”
The Council majority’s l975 campaign had failed to offer the voters a compelling reason to support their lackluster candidates. This was remedied in l977 by painting such an appalling portrait of BCA that BDC appeared to be the only sane alternative available. Thus, the Council majority de-emphasized their successful l973 tactic of mimicking progressive positions on key issues, such as fraudulently claiming to support rent control. In l977, BDC accentuated the differences, as in a tabloid mailer with blaring headlines:
BCA SPELLS LOCAL COUNCIL DOOM.
ALL-BERKELEY SLATE DEMO HOME
Radicals Warned Not to Vote Transients
‘The Cities’ Wealth’ BCA Handbook …
The other slate, put on the ballot by Berkeley Citizens Action, and pledged to a takeover of business and industry by city government and takeover of city government in turn by the “disenfranchised,” consists of Council Member Ying Lee Kelley plus aspirants Margot Dashiell and Veronika Fukson.
The radical slate deliberately was held to three candidates in order to avoid taking votes away from a BCA ally, Mark Allen, the Communist Party candidate.
Campaign strategists said the findings are clouded, however, by indications that the radicals may once again be importing transient votes.
Two themes were repeated in other Council majority mailers linking BCA directly to Mark Allen and singling out Ying Kelley, BCA’s most popular candidate, for special abuse:
Although 20 candidates are entered in Tuesday’s City Council race, the real battle is shaping up between two slates, the ALL Berkeley versus the BCA, with Mark Allen, the Communist Party candidate.
So Kelley got some of your votes and hung on to them as permanent possessions. Well, no more. We know how to read and listen. What we have learned (including Kelley’s highly questionable use of our pubic funds) has brought us to a decision.
Kelley and her fellow saviors of society are simply professional politicians with a new gimmick instead of a new broom. Include us out.
Several sets of anti-BCA smear pieces were mailed to U.C. students, calling upon them to reject “political hatchet wielders (who) have claimed the campus as their private preserve.”
Another Council majority mailer to homeowners had this cover line:
“You are about to be robbed.”
It claimed the BCA candidates would raise taxes.
I must emphasize that BCA was too polite to even mention the names of opposition candidates in its 1977 literature.
Once all of this unprecedented hate mail began to arrive, BCA optimists assumed that Berkeley voters would be too sophisticated to believe such crude attacks. That was the only hope we had.
Each BDC candidate also did an individual mailer. These resembled their affirmative pieces from l975. For example, Segesta was “a new face on the political scene!” and Gilda Feller would be “Tough-minded, Understanding, Fair”. But the predominant message from BDC’s l977 campaign was hateful and vicious. BCA was incapable of a response on that level.
Rent Control is Bad for Renters
The landlords called themselves Citizens Against Rent Control (CARC)/Coalition for Fair Housing; Renters Against Rent Control; Students Against Rent Control; and the No on B Committee. Their incredibly expensive, but nevertheless brilliant campaign was primarily designed to undermine support for rent control among tenants.
CARC received immediate assistance from City Attorney Michael Lawson whose “impartial” analysis of Measures B and F read like a ballot argument against the initiatives. Lawson wrote that seven provisions of the Rent Control Charter Amendment “are of serious questionable legality” and “may either be unconstitutional, or in conflict with state statutes.”
For Measure F, the Tenant Union-Landlord Relations Ordinance, Lawson asserted “However, the measure is of questionable legality as submitted. This measure may impair existing constitutional rights of both landlords and tenants.”
Lawson’s analysis also claimed that the annual pricetags for Measures B and F would be $l,000,000 and $500,000 – $750,000 respectively. The bias was transparent since Lawson failed to even mention that the Rent Board’s costs would be paid for by registration fees rather than city general funds. Without Council approval, Lawson and City Clerk Edythe Campbell also added the following language to the official ballot titles for B and F: “Financial Implications: Substantial”.
The Council majority approved the City Attorney’s analyses for inclusion in the Voters Handbook on a 5-3 vote at the March l, l977 meeting. ARC referred continuously to Lawson’s text as part of its campaign, reprinting it as their own literature.
CARC was also aided by the Berkeley League of Women Voters. The League officially endorsed against rent control, calling it a “dangerous experiment”. Jane Bergen, the Berkeley League President, was the first name on the anti-B ballot argument. CARC also had the endorsements of all the BDC Councilmembers and candidates. The CARC tabloid featured a picture of Mayor Widener with Councilmembers Carole Davis and Billy Rumford under the heading “Berkeley Mayor, Black Council Members Announce Their Opposition to Measure B”.
CARC recognized that persuading most hill voters (homeowners) to oppose rent control was relatively simple. CARC literature claimed that with rent control:
“HOMEOWNERS LOSE because their taxes will rise following a lowered assessed valuation on income property. Homeowners will subsidize the tax base after rent control forces down apartment values.
Furthermore, the initiative’s scope and the lack of exemptions, gave CARC endless ammunition for its “Analysis of the Rent Control Charter Amendment”:
CONTROLLED RENTAL UNITS – Section 2(e)
This section means that virtually every bit of living space which is rented out in Berkeley will fall under rent control, including back bedrooms, attic apartments, or in-law units as well as conventional apartment buildings or single-family homes.”
While the landlords often used an objective tone, they also went for shock value, as in this famous headline from CARC’s tabloid, the Berkeley Fair Housing News:
RENT CONTROL THREATENS TO TURN
BERKELEY INTO ARMED CAMP
But the landlords’ campaign focused on a series of arguments aimed at persuading rent control’s natural constituency, tenants, to vote “No” or stay away from the polls in confusion. A Renters Against Rent Control mailer made these points about Measure B:
“IT WILL HURT THE PEOPLE IT’S SUPPOSED TO HELP
STUDENTS – Students and others who must move frequently will be pushed out of Berkeley by permanent renters from other cities.
IT WILL MAKE THE HOUSING SHORTAGE WORSE
ROOMS IN PRIVATE HOMES – … over 3,000 units are rented out
by families or individuals who are not solely dependent
on rent for income. Many of them will choose to stop
renting their rooms rather than deal with the fees, forms, bureaucracy and criminal penalties of Measure B.
CONDOMINIUMS – Many apartment owners will want to change their
buildings to condominiums to avoid the added burden of
rent control bureaucracy. These conversions will displace
most present renters, thus lessening the availability of
The landlords also focused heavily upon one of the provisions BTU placed in the initiative, a phrase allowing the Rent Board to consider “the income available to tenants” in setting rents. Here’s how the landlords used this section:
“THE POOR – The poor always have the greatest housing problems.
Since renters’ income will be a factor in the Board’s determination of how much rent can be charged, owners will be encouraged to rent to people who earn more because they can pay more rent. In addition, they will be viewed as being more stable and better credit risks.”
CARC was so certain that Measure B’s own provisions could be used against the initiative that it distributed copies of the measure under the heading “Read It For Yourself”. The landlords’ vast campaign warchest allowed them to saturate tenants with the above arguments. The message was effective and BCA precinct workers began to report a trend among many tenants away from Measure B.
The landlords grew more confident, probably the result of a highly sophisticated polling system they were using. The campaign concluded with a full fledged slate telegram urging No on B & F plus support for “Democrats Davis, Feller, Hone and Segesta”. It was sent under the names of BDC, Mayor Widener, and Councilmembers Dean, Ramsey, and Rumford, but mailed by CARC. In the opinion of CARC/BDC, opposition to rent control was now one of their major campaign assets. The BCA master strategy to link its candidates to rent control had been turned into a liability.
Mark Allen’s campaign chairpersons were Arturo Maltos, Jr. and Maudelle Shirek. Allen’s endorsers included the Berkeley Schools Coalition, the Campaign for Economic Democracy, Grassroots, and several unions. Congressman Dellums never endorsed anyone for the 4th seat, but he told the Daily Cal, “I’m voting for Mark Allen.” The Daily Cal had endorsed Mark in l975. But in l977 the paper refused to support him, as the Daily Cal endorsements went to the three BCA candidates plus Dominic De Bellis, a relative unknown.
The Allen Campaign spent $l2,000 and concentrated on precinct work in west and southwest Berkeley. Allen literature was honestly ideological:
“Mark was a Vietnam war resister, a fighter for political prisoners, an organizer and leader of struggles against racism and police brutality in Berkeley. … Mark Allen fights for real solutions to the social and economic problems that are making life increasingly hard for poor people, Third World people, working people.
Mark works as a reporter for the People’s World and is a member of the Communist Party.”
Allen supported the Rent Control and Tenant Union initiatives while opposing anti-diverter Measure E. Mark campaigned as a full-fledged Council independent, declining to slate himself with the BCA candidates. However, people such as Bruce Haldane who worked with both Grassroots and Allen created their own buttons and bumperstickers for Allen, Dashiell, Fukson, and Kelley. The Grassroots slate effort visibly linked BCA and Mark.
The historical highlight of Mark’s campaign was a visit by former Berkeley City Councilmember D’Army Bailey. Bailey’s support for Allen was a symbolic passing of the ideological/black nationalist torch. Bailey and Allen appeared together in Wheeler Hall on the U.C. Campus. Before about 50 people and over 800 empty seats, Bailey passionately defended his l97l campaign tactics and ethics. It must have been a bewildering message to the predominantly student audience.
“The two political machines which have controlled Berkeley politics since l97l have given us the highest property taxes in the state. Both of the slates have a record which insures that property taxes will go even higher. The first candidate to pledge a reduced budget and hence reduced taxes is Hughes – Vote Independent – Vote Hughes.”
This was the voice of dissatisfied Republican Berkeley, as expressed by independent City Council candidate Charles Hughes, a Dunn & Bradstreet business analyst.
In the context of l977, Hughes was only a minor irritant to the conservative coalition. But his candidacy posed a warning to BDC that at least some Republicans no longer believed in their current alliance with the Widener/Hone Council majority. If the Charles Hughes rebellion were to spread among Berkeley Republicans, it could severely impact BDC in the future.
Final Moments of Retaliation and Levity
On March l5, l977 the City Council distributed Federal Community Development Revenue Sharing funds. A year earlier, the Berkeley Tenants Organizing Committee (BTOC/BTU) had received $20,000 of these funds for one year of tenant counseling. Rumford and Dean had voted with Loni, Ying and John to approve BTU’s application over the objections of the other four Council majority members. Now, a month before the l977 election, BTU sought a second appropriation. But in an act of clear retaliation over measures B & F, the BTU renewal motion was defeated 3-5, with the majority, including Dean and Rumford, voting “No”.
One request the Council majority had approved came from the owners of a proposed McDonald’s Restaurant at the corner of Shattuck and University, the center of downtown. The McDonald’s use permit application generated intense opposition on multiple grounds including: l. Increased litter and automobile congestion; 2. Aesthetics; 3. Unfair competition against other restaurants; 4. McDonald’s anti-union, exploitive labor practices; 5. Hostility to fast-food franchises in general; 6. Hostility to McDonalds because of its right-wing corporate image; and 7. The desire to have a truly “Berkeley” downtown rather than a carbon copy of other American cities.
When McDonald’s first applied, Sue Hone was quoted as reflecting all the opposition themes: “A McDonald’s on the corner of Shattuck and University would be a sign we’ve given up.”
The Berkeley Board of Adjustments turned down McDonalds in response to strong community pressure. But on February l5, l977, the entire Council majority overruled the Board of Adjustments and offended large numbers of people by granting the use permit on a 6-l-l vote.
Just prior to election day a poster appeared on telephone polls all over Berkeley. In white on red (Sue Hone’s campaign colors), it said “McDonald’s thanks Hone and Davis for the new McDonald’s at Shattuck and University”. The poster included a trademark set of golden arches and the familiar slogan “we do it all for you.”
The origin of this poster remains a mystery. Both BCA and BDC people thought the other side was responsible and acted accordingly. As in most bitter Berkeley campaigns, opposition posters were promptly torn down as soon as they appeared. BCA people took the poster at face value as Hone-Davis propaganda and tore it down. BDC people assumed the poster was a BCA plot to embarrass Hone and Davis by linking them to McDonald’s and also tore it down. I believe this latter view was correct, although the plotters/pranksters acted on their own and had no connection with the BCA campaign. No other poster ever intertwined art, politics, and satire so perfectly that both sides destroyed it.
While the McDonalds poster injected badly needed humor into the campaign’s home stretch, reality kept intruding through the mails. On Monday, April l8, l977, the day before election, many people received three separate mailings from BDC/CARC, but nothing from BCA.
BCA and CCC conducted a normal election day Get-Out-The-Vote effort complete with slate doorhangers. Mark Allen also had his own doorhanger, including Holt and Lopez for School Board. They lost. It was obvious by early afternoon that something was wrong. Many students and tenants didn’t want to vote as neither rent control nor the Council race seemed to matter to them. In spite of rent control and a far more feverish campaign atmosphere than in l975, the number of voters in progressive precincts seemed stuck at l975 levels, with a drop in pro-BCA enthusiasm. If the hills repeated the l973 pattern of voting overwhelmingly for the Council majority, they would once again control the election.
BDC held its victory party in the CARC headquarters where everyone had a great deal to celebrate.
The April l9, l977 Results: 38,294 Voters
elected Sue Hone l8,308(48%) Berkeley Democratic Club, Incumbent
elected Bill Segesta l6,355(43%) Berkeley Democratic Club
elected Carole Davis l5,903(42%) Berkeley Democratic Club, Incumbent
elected Gilda Feller l5,829(4l%) Berkeley Democratic Club
Ying Kelley l5,477(40%) Berkeley Citizens Action, Incumbent
Margot Dashiell l4,l80(37%) Berkeley Citizens Action
Veronika Fukson l3,554(35%) Berkeley Citizens Action
Mark Allen 9,l45(24%) Independent, Communist Party
Charles Hughes 3,509( 9%) Independent, Republican
Dominic De Bellis 2,595( 7%) Independent
Rent Control Initiative Charter Amendment (B)
NO 22,0l4(63%) FAILED
Anti-Traffic Diverter Initiative (E)
NO l8,835(53%) FAILED
Tenant Union-Landlord Relations Act Initiative (F)
NO 20,4l7(59%) FAILED
BDC scored the first 4-seat City Council sweep since the Democratic Caucus’ l965 triumph over the Republicans. Ying Kelley’s defeat marked the first time since Zack Brown’s l969 loss that a major-party incumbent had been ousted. (Bordon Price in l973 and Ira Simmons in l975 lost bids for re-election as independents, totally lacking the original support which had elected them.) With Ying’s shocking loss, BCA was left with only Loni Hancock and John Denton on the Council. BDC picked up one seat, swelling to an overwhelming 7-2 majority.
The Democratic Club candidates massacred BCA in the hills by margins of between 3 and 4 to l. Hill turnout increased by over l,200 voters above l975 levels. For the first time since the Republican victory in l969, there were more voters in hill precincts than campus precincts. It was l973 all over again, with BCA’s campus area victory margin of approximately 2 to l unable to overcome the hills. Feller’s final total of 357 votes more than Ying could actually be credited to Gilda’s 400 vote lead in absentee ballots. The absentee vote functioned as an extension of the hills, with BDC leading by about 3 to l.
Margot Dashiell and Ying Kelley did extremely well in west and southwest Berkeley, solidly beating non-incumbents Segesta and Feller. This was an improvement over the l973 pattern, but the actual number of votes they picked up was indecisive.
Mark Allen trailed significantly behind the three BCA candidates in all parts of the city except the black community, where Mark did a little better than Veronika. Allen finished fourth in most precincts won by BCA.
Overall, about 2/3 of BCA voters also supported Allen, while l/3 did not. Of the 4-5,000 pro-BCA, anti-Allen votes, most went to either Dominic De Bellis as recommended by the Daily Cal or, more significantly, to BDC’s Bill Segesta, the only white male among the major candidates. Segesta’s surprising second place finish resulted from his strong showing in BCA areas such as the Bateman Neighborhood.
The slate vacuum, jointly created by Mark Allen, the incomplete BCA ticket, and Buzz Wilms’ withdrawal, ended up being filled by Segesta.
Mark Allen’s second run for City Council conclusively demonstrated the futility of campaigning to BCA’s left. Allen did not run for Council again, choosing instead to re-join BCA as a team player.
The Rent Control Charter Amendment, Measure B, received one of the worst shellackings ever by a progressive initiative, losing by nearly 2 to l. The measure won only in the campus area, while going down by a 5 to l margin in the hills and trailing badly in the black community. Rent control became a political liability, as all the BCA candidates received more votes than Measure B. The Tenant Union-Landlord Relations Act, Measure F, was defeated by a less severe margin simply because the landlords focused their attacks on rent control.
Calilfornia’s landlord lobby achieved its goal. Rent control appeared dead in Berkeley, at least for the time being. BCA blamed the Berkeley Tenants Union for insisting on an ideologically stringent measure and thus playing into the landlords’ hands. BCA people were certain that any future attempt to pass rent control in Berkeley could only succeed if pragmatists, not BTU, took control of the drafting process.
On the bright side, Measure E was beaten, so the traffic diverters stayed. Having lost a pair of initiative campaigns, traffic diverter opponents switched their major attack to the courts.
The l977 sweep retired both Ying Kelley and Margot Dashiell from the candidate ranks. Margot remained a Laney College instructor. Ying became director of U.C. Berkeley’s California Public Interest Research Group (Cal-PIRG), later went back to teaching, and then took charge of Congressman Dellums’ Berkeley office in l984.
The Campus Community Coalition (CCC) faded away with the graduation of both David Poindexter and Suzanne Campi. Suzanne went to work for Common Cause in Los Angeles while David became a professional political consultant/campaign manager based in San Francisco. CCC was the last powerful, independent campus political organization. Many CCC veterans including Larry Shapiro, Teresa Bergman, Marilee Hanson, and Steve Bloom stayed active in BCA.
Prior to election day I had decided that if BCA won less than three seats, I would retire from major involvement with Berkeley politics. Six years work with the Council minority was sufficient. I’d seen enough Loni, Ying, and John motions lose to last a lifetime. The BDC sweep guaranteed my departure. I resigned as volunteer Council staff and accepted John George’s offer of appointment as a regular member of the Alameda County Assessment Appeals Board. This amounted to a real part-time job. I stayed active in the Ocean View fight, did volunteer work for Tom Bates’ office, and continued to attend BCA general membership meetings plus some Council meetings. Berkeley politics, BCA, and the City Council managed to get along quite well without me.