The New City Council, l97l-l973
The 4-4 Split Era
The New Council took office on May 4, l97l in a festive atmosphere for all April Coalition participants. To Berkeley’s progressives, still giddy from the thrill of April’s victory, the Council looked and felt so different from its Republican plurality predecessor, that great things were expected, even without five votes. The left’s stunning ability to elect four representatives put the Council’s moderates and conservatives on the defensive and kept them there. The momentum of new proposals, ideas, attitudes, motions, resolutions, ordinances, and charter amendments was to come almost entirely from the left, like an ideological barrage which the Council’s right wing would have to endure.
As in World War I trench warfare, the right wing was well dug in to withstand the barrage, sustaining only limited casualties, while mowing down most progressive proposals by simply voting “NO”. With one exception, it would take the right wing well over a year before they launched any political offensives of their own, and these would involve initiative and recall, rather than Council voting. For now, the left would come out firing at the initial May 4, l97l Council meeting with the intention of never letting up.
As a protest against United States foreign and domestic policy, Bailey, Hancock and Simmons remained seated and refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag that routinely began all Council meetings. Bailey spoke for the three. The other five Councilmembers pledged, and the picture of five pledging, three sitting, was flashed around Berkeley and the nation as symbolizing the new left in office. At the next meeting, Widener voted with Hancock, Bailey and Simmons to abolish the pledge with Kallgren joining them as the decisive fifth vote to eliminate what he felt would be an unnecessary, divisive scene if the six standing/three sitting became a weekly occurrence.
A prompt attempt was made by the April Coalition to fill the vacant seat with Rick Brown the fifth place finisher. Bailey, Simmons, and Widener promised their support to Brown and a rancorous public hearing was held leading to the inevitable 4-4 vote on May l7, l97l. (Hancock, Bailey, Simmons, and Widener YES; Kallgren, Sweeney, McLaren and Price – NO). There were other identical 4-4 votes on controversial issues, such as adoption of a Peoples’ Peace Treaty with the People of Vietnam, originally an initiative which the old Council majority had refused to place on the April l97l ballot.
The national press had been descending on Berkeley ever since the election. We were big news and even 60 Minutes did a City Council story, focusing on political diversity. It was fun having lunch with Mike Wallace, but the 60 Minutes interview with students Jeff Gordon, Peter Birdsall, and me ended up on the cutting room floor.
While the 4-4 votes defeating progressive motions dominated the Council’s public image, the reality was much more complicated and fragmented. Loni had been able to work with Bailey and Simmons in the Council’s very early days on matters such as the pledge. The relationship deteriorated after Bailey proposed that the three caucus before each Council meeting and decide upon positions by majority vote. Outnumbered 2-l, Loni would never agree to let Bailey control her vote the way he dominated Ira Simmons. Beginning in June l97l with her proposal that $44,000 be added to the budget for a Women’s Health Center, and then with great frequency in l972, many of Loni’s motions would die for lack of a second. Bailey was delivering a clear message that the coalition was over.
Nor did it help when the volunteers in Loni’s office produced a proposed alternative city budget for l97l-72 which, with only minor changes, was copied and published as the Bailey-Simmons alternative budget. Formal communication and planning between Loni’s office (filled with volunteers) and the Bailey-Simmons office (filled with a mostly white, paid staff) ceased almost entirely by the latter part of l97l.
Meanwhile Warren Widener hired a booking agent and went on the national lecture circuit as the “Radical Mayor of Berkeley” or “How to Make a Revolution Within the System”, truly cashing in on his victory. (In contrast, Loni initially decided against any travel outside Berkeley.) Back at home, Widener tried to fill the vacant ninth seat with his good friend Ken Simmons, a black moderate, now a generally pro-development vote on the East Bay Municipal Utilities (EBMUD) Board. Simmons could not get any left votes out of fear he was too conservative and he came up one vote short on the right because of Bordon Price’s non-cooperation. Price wanted to appoint a woman since the Council already had seven men.
None of this maneuvering was public, but it had personal significance for Widener by pointing out that he could more easily pick up votes by working with the Council’s right wing than by trying to deal with Bailey and Simmons who he felt were intransigent and unreasonable in refusing to support Ken Simmons, thus preventing the creation of a black City Council majority.
The l97l-72 Budget
Passage of the l97l-72 city budget had been delayed for two months by a series of 4-4 votes over issues such as affirmative action, a hiring freeze to keep open vacancies to be filled through affirmative action, reducing the amount of the police department budget, and funding for community agencies. On August 3l, l98l, Widener broke the budget stalemate by making a deal with the Council’s right wing that severely cut funds which had only recently been added for community agencies. Loni, Bailey and Simmons all denounced him as a sell-out.
At the next meeting, September 7, l97l, I informed Widener that the hiring freeze the Mayor wanted (and thought was part of his budget deal) to maintain existing vacancies for future hiring under an affirmative action program, had been excluded from the budget by City Manager Hanley. Widener then refused to support the budget ordinance on second reading until the freeze was restored.
Thus, with Loni’s help and in the absence of Bailey and Simmons, Widener extorted the right wing on the last day on which the Council could legally act to adopt a budget and tax rate. A week after selling out to the right, Widener changed direction, demonstrating his intransigence on affirmative action by holding out until 3 a.m. in the morning when the entire right wing (except for McLaren) capitulated and provided the necessary votes to adopt a budget with a hiring freeze to Widener’s liking.
The Sue Hone Appointment, December l0, l97l
Ultimately it was the vacant ninth seat and not the budget which would determine the Council’s long term political alignments. After Rick Brown had been rejected, Loni Hancock and the April Coalition leadership supported Margot Dashiell, an idle gesture. Ying Kelley’s name was also mentioned. Widener finally gave up on getting five votes for Ken Simmons, and as with his initial tie-breaking budget vote, went over to the right. At the December l0, l97l Council meeting, without warning to Loni, Bailey, or Simmons, Widener cast the decisive fifth vote to appoint Ed Kallgren’s candidate and political twin, Susan Hone, to the vacant seat. Hone had been a leading contender for some time, but her surprise appointment was a political explosion. The Council’s right wing now had at least 5 votes, 6 if you include Widener. (The 5 votes to Widener’s right could and would take actions he disapproved of in the l97l-72 period.)
Widener’s vote to appoint Hone caused him to be denounced once more by Bailey and Simmons (with real venom), by Loni Hancock, and every other element of the April Coalition. While he would still vote with the left on selected issues, Widener’s support of Hone placed him on a path that, after various twists and turns, would ultimately lead to a permanent switch of constituencies and his assumption of Wilmont Sweeney’s mantle as leader of the moderate/conservative coalition.
Councilwoman Loni Hancock
By l972 the April Coalition had completely faded away, leaving Loni Hancock the task of representing a diverse constituency that demanded action. Politically isolated on the Council, literally trapped in the seating arrangement between Bailey and Simmons, who pursued their own agenda which included whispering threats against her during meetings, her task was very difficult. But she possessed an incredibly strong sense of political morality, an inner toughness that wouldn’t let her quit. Loni grew up in New York City, the daughter of two Unitarian ministers. Her father, Donald Harrington, had been for many years state chairman of New York’s Liberal Party, to the left of the Democrats, and she was raised on a mixture of politics and religion. Her mother came from Hungary, as reflected in her name, Ilona, which everyone shortened to Loni. A graduate of Antioch College in English, Loni had a gift for public speaking. Her husband, Joe, a U.C. professor of plant pathology, provided continuous moral support and helped her through the hard political times. Her daughters, Leita and Mara, seemed to view politics as a thief who stole their mother.
Loni concentrated on the issues, trying to translate the best aspirations of the April Coalition into the nuts and bolts of Council action. She had quickly learned in mid l97l that acting ladylike and privately trying to persuade the conservatives to support her motions would not work. The battle had to be public. She would make her motions while trying to avoid confrontations with Bailey.
A large staff, one or two marginally paid, the rest volunteers, formed around Loni. The original staff nucleus was small. Kathy Rhodes (now Dusky Pierce) was Loni’s first assistant, followed by a group that included Sandy Martin, Merry Blodgett, and myself. From this beginning, the staff grew and matured until we had created a two-way network with the community. Some people were specialists, others generalists, and we had a long list of resource people. Lenny Goldberg and Ed Kirshner were among our economists; Marilyn McGregor worked with Sheila Daar on childcare; Evie Wozniak had the marina; Peter Birdsall and then Eve Bach did the budget; Neil Mayer was Loni’s city planner and housing specialist; Ruth Denton helped staff the office. Anna Rabkin later became Loni’s Administrative Assistant. There were countless others over the years.
Loni’s Office would keep the appropriate community leaders and activists informed about proposals on the Council agenda, solicit their opinions, and try to represent the progressive position on every issue. Weekly, open packet meetings were invented, held at Loni’s Council Office, 2490 Channing Way, Room 209, to brief her and discuss strategy for each Council agenda. As Loni’s administrative and/or legislative assistant for many years, it was my job to coordinate our outreach system and try to make it work. Requests from the community for action would be introduced by Loni on the City Council agenda where they would invariably lose, be postponed, referred, or die for lack of a second. If an item lost, next week Loni would introduce one or two new items until her proposals helped to fill the agenda. A minority of l97l-72 proposals introduced or supported by Loni did pass including:
- City funding for the first time for community agencies such as the Berkeley Free Clinic, the Women’s Health Collective, and child care centers;
- Repeal of the ordinance prohibiting street vendors unless they moved every five minutes (6/20/72);
- Repeal of the prohibition on closing streets for block parties (9/7/7l);
- Permission for the city’s policemen and firemen to have beards and long hair. (Police Chief Baker opposed this motion on the grounds that “The police had to look respectable to the people they serve.” (ll/2,l6/7l);
- Declaring Berkeley a sanctuary for war resisters.(ll/2/7l) Passage of this amended motion, greatly weakened to obtain Kallgren’s support, gave Widener the opportunity to hug a deserting Coral Sea sailor on television.);
- Abolition of the summer round up of young people coming to Berkeley (5/l8/7l);
- Ordering the police to concentrate drug law enforcement on heroin, not marijuana (7/l3/7l);
- Defeating the proposed Marina Shopping Center (l0/l2/7l);
- Establishing a broadly representative Charter Review Committee (l/l8/72);
- Endorsing the l972 statewide California Marijuana Initiative, with City Hall as a signature gathering point (3/28/72);
- Approving a feasibility study for city ownership of PG&E’s distribution system, although not with the preferred consultant firm (4/25/72);
- Reiterating the l969 city policy to seek a lease of Peoples’ Park from the University.(5/l2/72) The University still rejected the lease;
- Funding a city recycling program, non-controversial in those days (6/20/72);
- Setting a strict policy limiting police use of guns and requiring that juveniles be afforded civil liberties protections (9/26/72).
- Establishing curbcuts in Berkeley streets for access by people in wheelchairs. This was an early win for the disability rights movement, pioneered in Berkeley. By surrounding the Council, all in their wheelchairs, victory was certain.
The above successes were good for Loni’s morale and that of her staff and constituency. But the list of unsuccessful motions included nearly all the fundamental issues. Even when supported by Bailey/Simmons and occasionally Widener, in her first year or so on the Council, Loni could never get five votes for any of the following:
- Stopping the West Berkeley Industrial Park project from continuing to destroy needed housing in a historical neighborhood. (An issue on which Bailey and Simmons were always good votes.);
- Consideration of rent control;
- A progressive city budget. (The right wing always devised and passed the final budget, proving they had a working majority. The l972-73 budget was secretly negotiated by Widener and the five conservatives, but then he even voted against it.);
- Significant action on police review or reform;
- Proposals for job sharing (job restructuring) to allow city workers to voluntarily work less than full time while retaining seniority and benefits. (This once revolutionary idea is now the law for state workers.);
- Effective neighborhood preservation;
- Restricting the Berkeley Police from arresting marijuana users and growers;
And in a class by itself, among all the losing motions:
- Contributing $l,000 of city funds to help rebuild the North Vietnam’s Bach Mai Hospital which had been destroyed by American bombers.
The Bach Mai Hospital motion was defeated on May 9, l972 before a packed crowd of anti-war protesters in the Berkeley Community Theater. Nixon had just ordered another escalation of the war by bombing North Vietnam’s dikes and harbors, causing people to take to the streets in rage, ending up at the City Council meeting, which we had moved to the Community Theater to accommodate the crowd.
Passage of the Bach Mai proposal, previously ignored by the Council, but now presented by Ying Kelley on behalf of a citizens peace group as the first order of business, would have satisfied the angry crowd that demanded action. But the motion was defeated, 4-5, at the hands of the conservative Council majority.
Before the roll call even finished, “Super Joel” Tornabene, a counter-culture leader, grabbed a microphone and started yelling: “The City Council is inciting to riot!! The City Council is inciting to riot!!” This caused the crowd to charge the Council, overturning the tables and ending the meeting. The crowd then rampaged into downtown Berkeley breaking windows, finally ending up at the unguarded Peoples’ Park fence, which it knocked over and destroyed by sheer force of numbers, nearly three years to the day after the hated fence was built.
Peoples’ Park has been unfenced ever since, thanks to a losing Loni Hancock City Council motion. This remains the Council’s most influential action concerning Peoples’ Park in the entire l5 years of the park’s history.
Bailey and Simmons
Meanwhile, Bailey and Simmons moved their Council office out of the hills, and after a brief stopover on the same floor as Loni’s office at 2490 Channing Way, they finally settled into a large space on Adeline near Alcatraz in the heart of the black community. They formed their own organization, the Community Coalition for Political Action (CCPA). Bailey savagely attacked his opponents at Council meetings, including City Manager Hanley and other city staff members. A meeting to discuss rival affirmative action hiring plans submitted by various Councilmembers ended when Bailey called Kallgren a “buffoon”. Kallgren walked out. Bailey often called Widener a “pig” and Sweeney an “Uncle Tom”. To Bailey every issue was a racial issue. He tried to defeat a gardening contract for an Asian firm because it should go to a minority “and when I say minority, I mean black.” (6/27/72) He opposed efforts to preserve older houses from demolition unless black developers were exempted. He refused to endorse the June l972 Rent Control Initiative Charter Amendment on the grounds that sufficient blacks had not been consulted in its drafting.
In a July l972 twenty-two day strike by city employees, Bailey supported the garbage workers who were black at the expense of two other unions, primarily female, white and black, representing library and social workers. The unions had originally struck together as a unified block, but by promising a generous settlement to the garbagemen in return for shafting the other unions, Bailey broke the workers’ unity and the strike. The August settlement was made on Bailey’s terms as he donned a hat from the garbage workers union, Local 390, to meet with reporters. This was a highpoint of Bailey’s power because he had a surprise alliance with Widener that could race-bait and intimidate other Councilmembers, sometimes picking up two more votes for a majority. (The strike was difficult for Loni because she alone among the Councilmembers supported the workers’ original private demands, as presented in executive session. The unions publicly demanded more than she could accept, so Loni simply supported the right to strike.)
Bailey turned a dispute over childcare funding among rival groups into a racial fight. He had his supporters picket Loni’s house, finally intimidating the non-Bailey childcare groups so totally that they would not even speak in front of the Council.
The epitome of Bailey at work was a unique vote he produced on purely racial lines over whether minorities should be given a blanket affirmative hiring preference over white women. For that time only, on July 27, l97l, Bailey, Simmons, Widener, and Sweeney were outvoted 5-4 by the white members of the Council. Ultimately, an affirmative action program drafted by Director of Personnel Larry Williams, was passed a year later on July 27, l972. The adopted program was for minorities and all women, but the courts invalidated it as reverse discrimination. (Hiatt v. City of Berkeley (l982) l30 Cal. App. 3d 298, l8l Cal. Rptr. 66l).
Bailey challenged and antagonized all existing black leadership across the political spectrum. After the Black Caucus publicly denounced him for lack of accountability, he was also condemned by the Black Panther Party. Bailey conducted a feud with Congressman Dellums, and, reportedly, the two of them almost got into a fight at a party. At one time, elements of the black and white left held secret meetings to consider recalling Bailey themselves, but the project was abandoned as divisive and impractical.
Berkeley’s conservatives had no such problems with recall. The right wing threatened to recall Bailey, Simmons, and Hancock (“the three Radicals”) almost from the first day they took office. As time passed, the conservatives dropped Loni’s name from their recall threats and finally decided that recalling Ira Simmons wasn’t worth the effort. Under Wilmont Sweeney’s leadership, the Bailey Recall Committee was established. Berkeley’s black and white establishment had received such verbal and political abuse at Bailey’s hands that they could take it no longer. Bailey’s days on the Council would now be numbered.
Some elements of the city hall old guard also could take the pressure no longer. After months of tension with the Council’s left wing, City Manager William Hanley resigned on December l0, l97l to become Hayward’s Manager. Supposedly a liberal when the Democratic Caucus Councilmembers appointed him in l966, he had always appeared to be a sworn enemy to the progressive community. He acted like a tenth Councilmember, always trying to dictate policy, publicly stating that he would not implement certain City Council decisions if he disagreed with them. Generally, Hanley deserved the epithets that Bailey hurled at him.
Paul Williamson, the Director of Social Planning, was unanimously appointed Acting City Manager on January l8, l972. Williamson was mild, black, and essentially non-political. He got the job of Acting City Manager apparently because no one else wanted it. He held it for two years.
City Attorney Robert Anderson resigned in early l972. His conservative legal opinions, rarely presented in writing, always seemed designed to limit the Council’s options and declare anything new or progressive to be a violation of law. He once declared that a city appropriation for childcare was illegal. The Council ignored that opinion and should have ignored many others. Paul Williamson
appointed Don McCullum, attorney for the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency and now a Superior Court Judge, to replace Anderson as City Attorney. The City Manager and City Attorney were now both black.
Nearly l00 Berkeley police officers quit in l97l-72. Police Chief Bruce Baker also resigned, another key City Hall departure that pleased the April Coalition constituency. After a long search the new Police Chief was William Pomeroy, a man with some progressive ideas who had helped with security at the Woodstock Festival in New York. While the Gazette bemoaned these resignations of the old timers, each one gave progressives hope that the replacement might be better since there was always such massive room for improvement.
June l972 – Rent Control
Anger at outrageous Berkeley rents had existed for years, leading to rent strikes in l969 against landlords such as Richard Bachenheimer. The rent strikers were various tenant collectives, forerunners of the Berkeley Tenants Union. Most tenants didn’t strike, but they were still upset over unfair rents that exploited Berkeley’s housing shortage.
In the fall of l97l, a small group of people began drafting a rent control charter amendment. The Fair Rent Committee (Marty Schiffenbauer’s idea for a good electoral name) included Rich Illgen, Denny Keating, Neil Mayer, myself, and, of course, Marty.
Rich Illgen had been the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) representative on the City of Berkeley Rental Housing Committee set up by the old City Council in the wake of the rent strikes. His pro-rent control motion on that committee died for lack of a second. Attorney Denny Keating was a rent control/housing expert who prepared the initial draft of the initiative based upon New Jersey rent control laws. There were no rent control laws closer to home that Denny found usable as models. We were breaking new ground for California. Marty Schiffenbauer came from New York City. He knew all about rent control. Neil Mayer was a U.C. economics graduate student who Loni had managed to get appointed to the City Planning Commission.
The sentiment was for a tough law that would make it very hard to raise rents, plus an elected rent board to enforce the law. John Denton and others warned the group that stringency on allowable rent increases would probably cause the initiative to lose in court, but the committee lacked sufficient experience and judgment to listen. Another mistake, in hindsight, was the provision calling for a special election to pick the rent board. Not having any way of knowing which ballot the initiative would ultimately appear on, the special election was intended to protect against lengthy delay in choosing the board. It turned out to be a disaster and I certainly learned from that mistake, subsequently doing my best to eliminate special elections.
The initiative was finalized after community meetings made it tougher in response to sentiment to remove small landlord exemptions. Loni’s motion at the February 8, l972 Council meeting to have the Council place the rent control measure on the June ballot voluntarily without signatures died for lack of a second. That was a clear message from Bailey, Simmons, and Widener about their level of commitment to rent control, although they had all campaigned in l97l as rent control supporters.
The arduous signature gathering task went forward, with Marty Schiffenbauer coordinating the drive and collecting over 2,500 names himself. In those days, the initiative circulators had to mark the precinct number of each petition signer. This tedious “precincting” requirement has since been abolished by state law, but in l972 Rich Illgen precincted nearly all the petitions himself. Finally, well over the required 7,500 signatures were submitted to City Clerk Edythe Campbell and she certified the petition to the Council as having qualified for the ballot. But which ballot? In those days, state law and the City Charter allowed the Council to pick the ballot. The Fair Rent Committee wanted the initiative placed on the upcoming June l972 ballot, and Loni made that motion. Rent control opponents didn’t wish to see the initiative on any ballot, but certainly June was too soon.
On March 2l, l972, after intense lobbying, Loni’s motion to put rent control on the June l972 ballot passed with the necessary five votes: her own, plus Widener, Bailey, Simmons, and Republican Bordon Price. Price, an opponent of rent control, often demonstrated such examples of integrity and fairness in his votes. For this independent voting record, Price was considered a traitor by the Republicans who had elected him.
Thanks to Bordon Price, the Rent Control Charter Amendment made the June 6, l972 ballot as Proposition I (eye). This was the McGovern v. Humphrey Presidential Primary and the first time l8 year olds could vote. I coordinated a six month, intensive campus-based voter registration drive that added l5,000 new voters to the Berkeley rolls. Now they would have rent control as well as McGovern to vote for.
The rent control campaign was entirely in the hands of the Fair Rent Committee. The April Coalition did not exist in a June election. Loni Hancock was the only Councilmember to endorse the initiative, joined by Congressman Dellums and Assemblymen Ken Meade and John Miller. The 5 members of the Council’s right wing endorsed against the initiative and were heavily featured in landlord literature. Widener, Bailey and Simmons were officially neutral, but clearly hostile.
Jeff Gordon and Peter Birdsall, the top student electoral leaders, joined with Rich Illgen and the other Fair Rent Committee members to provide campaign outreach and precinct organizational work. Art Goldberg, now editor of the Bay City Business Journal, also worked very hard in this campaign, joined by some of the tenant union people who had not been involved earlier. The Fair Rent Committee’s main goals were to slate Yes on I with the McGovern campaign at every opportunity and to mount a campaign in the black community. We printed our own slate posters and did a mailing to West Berkeley featuring the Dellums and Miller endorsements. Dellums even taped a Yes on I radio spot for black stations.
We also formed an important alliance with Democrats United, an independent slating group that was led by Helen Moncharsh of Berkeley and Joe Close, Ken Meade’s Administrative Assistant after Tom Bates left. They did a tabloid mailing for a McGovern slate that included a Yes on I Berkeley insert. Finally, in the most critical coup of all, Joe Close printed the McGovern Campaign’s “official” Democratic Party election day doorhangers with Yes on I for Berkeley distribution. The Fair Rent Committee’s get-out-the-vote effort used these doorhangers in conjunction with the campus McGovern for President Campaign. But at the Southwest Berkeley McGovern Office, run by Mary Widener, the Mayor’s wife, a funny thing happened to the doorhangers. Mary Widener had every doorhanger used by that office cut to eliminate Yes on Rent Control.
The landlords’ No on I campaign treated the measure as if it were a replay of Community Control of Police. They spent a fortune on citywide mailings which screamed “Don’t Divide Berkeley!” They hired black kids to tear down pro-rent control posters for 25 cents a poster brought back to the landlords’ office. The landlords generally conducted a shrill and unsophisticated campaign, except
for one mailer, credited to former Daily Cal Editorial Page Editor Craig Oren, which softly argued that rent control was bad for students.
Turnout on June 6, l972 was incredible, with over 57,000 Berkeley voters, a June primary record that still stands. This resulted from the l8 year old vote and the intensity of the McGovern v. Humphrey Presidential Primary battle. The rent control results showed a tight race with the lead changing throughout the night. Finally, Yes on I pulled ahead to stay. As first announced by Marty Schiffenbauer over KPFA at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, rent control won with YES 27,9l5(52%) to NO – 25,30l(48%). Overwhelming student support for rent control combined with a huge campus turnout had beaten the hills’ negative vote. The black community came out tied. Outspent by l7 to l ($34,000 to $2,000), having only two basic pieces of literature, the tiny Fair Rent Committee had triumphed.
In June l972, the voters also adopted Measure H, moving Berkeley’s municipal election date from the first to the third Tuesday in April of odd numbered years. This two week shift consolidated the Berkeley election with the Peralta Community College Board elections. The Peralta consolidation was important in its own right, but we had an ulterior motive in supporting H. The new mid April date prevented city elections from falling during Spring break or registration week and thus protected a high student turnout in contrast to the April l, l969 registration week election when students weren’t a factor.
In the Democratic Congressional primary, Ron Dellums swamped unknown Stephan Sestanovich by 84,929 to 3l,l88.
Grassroots, the progressive community newspaper, began monthly publication in July l972. It replaced the Monitor which had been the Berkeley Coalition’s official paper. The Monitor staff was perceived of as too conservative by those Berkeley and April Coalition people interested in working on a local political paper. Rather than fight for control of the Monitor, they preferred to kill it off and start over. Grassroots was never any organization’s official paper. It has always reflected the politics of the people who volunteer to produce it, the Grassroots Collective. Now l2 years old and firmly representative of the ideological left, Grassroots has survived a perpetual financial crises and publishes every two weeks. Doug Brown started with the paper and still devotes a great deal of his time towards keeping it together.
November l972 – Measure M: The Election Rigging Amendment
The June l972 Rent Control initiative’s victory shocked Berkeley conservatives because the left had won a majority of the vote in spite of being overwhelmingly outspent. Right wing gospel held the April Coalition’s l97l victory to be a fluke, an anti-democratic triumph of the minority caused by the moderate/conservative majority splitting its vote among too many candidates.
The obvious remedy was to require election of the Mayor and Councilmembers by majority vote, using run-off elections between the top finishers whenever candidates failed to obtain a majority on the first round. All the right wing had to do to save Berkeley was change the City Charter to institute run-offs in time for the April l973 election.
Thus was born the first and last conservative initiative charter amendment. Former Mayor Wallace Johnson signed the first petition on behalf of a unified Republican/Democratic right wing coalition. (Johnson’s April 20, l97l attempt to have the lame duck Council put a similar charter amendment on a December l97l special election ballot had failed by a single vote when Bordon Price objected to such haste.) In l972 sufficient signatures were quietly collected for this “good government” measure and it qualified for the ballot.
But, as with previous initiative charter amendments, Community Control of Police in l970-7l and Rent Control in l972, Council politics, not the rule of law, would determine which ballot would contain the measure. All initiative charter amendments were legal pawns in the Council’s hands, with no rights to any particular ballot.
The Majority Vote Initiative was presented to the City Council at its August l5, l972 meeting, just at the deadline for requesting placement on the November l972 ballot, the mandatory ballot in the eyes of the initiative’s sponsors. However, this initiative was a direct attack on Widener, Bailey, Simmons, and Hancock, all of whom the right wing assumed could never obtain a majority vote or win a run-off election. Widener and Bailey took the attack very personally, calling the initiative racist and declaring that they would not allow it on the November l972 ballot.
The August l5, l972 Council meeting disintegrated over the Majority Vote Initiative. Mayor Widener, presiding over the Council, declared the meeting to be adjourned at l2 noon because no motion had been made to extend it beyond noon as required for an extension by the Council’s rules. He departed, followed by Bailey and Simmons. (Loni was absent.) The five members of the Council’s right wing at first appeared confused and ready to leave, along with an even more confused city staff.
Vice Mayor Wilmont Sweeney, a leading supporter of the Majority Vote Initiative, took charge. He called the Council back into session, five members strong, a majority that could take action. Motions were passed 5-0 to overrule Widener’s procedural adjournment, extend the meeting past noon and then place the run-off initiative on the November l972 ballot. No Widener/Bailey denunciations could do anything to change that reality. Measure M was on the November l972 ballot and this meant another political war, but the lineup on both sides was fascinating and ironic.
The initiative scheduled the regular city election so it would nearly always fall during finals week in the U.C. calendar when most students were incapable of organized political action. The drafters claimed this was “inadvertent”.
Nevertheless, Measure M was inherently anti-student. The campus progressive political organization, led by Jeff Gordon, Peter Birdsall, and myself went into full mobilization to defeat it. Another massive voter registration drive, coordinated by Mike Fullerton, now co-editor of the Co-op News, and helped by the independent efforts of the McGovern campaign, set the all time Berkeley record of 93,057 registered voters, with l0,500 voters added since June l972.
I called Measure M “the Election Rigging Amendment” in the No on M ballot argument I wrote and submitted, covering both the anti-black and anti-student charges. The signers of my argument included Congressman Dellums, Loni Hancock and Jack Kent but not Mayor Widener. Widener wanted to be on the NO argument so strongly that he talked one of my signers into letting him replace her. I was quite shocked to find the Mayor’s name on my ballot argument. Loni remembers Widener being so vehement against “M” that at the opening of a NO on M headquarters, he promised never to support anyone for public office who was either pro-M or neutral. This was to be the last time Widener was on the progressive side for a major issue, but it certainly was not the last time that he made a solemn political promise which he totally ignored later.
Bailey, Simmons and Widener were already allied when Measure M went on the ballot. All of them combined with Congressman Dellums and the Black Caucus under a variety of independent organizations to devastatingly attack “M” in the black community as a racist measure. Run-off elections were inherently anti-minority and anti-black, they asserted. (Jesse Jackson makes this same argument today about run-off primaries in the south.)
The double whammy attack on Measure M as anti-student and anti-black made it much easier than with rent control to officially slate No on M with the McGovern campaign and with Democrats United, the independent slate mailer. McGovern, the Democratic Party nominee against Nixon, had the strongest Berkeley campaign, followed by the various black and student No on M campaigns. Once again, as with the June l972 election, the April Coalition did not exist.
The Yes on M forces became politically isolated, with little more than the League of Women Voters and the right wing. Councilwoman Sue Hone, who cast the deciding vote to put M on the November ballot, maintained a neutral position. Of the current Councilmembers, only Vice Mayor Sweeney and Councilman McLaren endorsed the initiative. The pro-M forces mailed literature featuring pictures of blacks such as Ron Dellums who had won with majority votes, falsely implying that the people shown endorsed the initiative. Dellums, of course, opposed M and protested the unauthorized use of his picture. Few voters were fooled.
Jeff Gordon, working with attorney and School Board member Mark Monheimer, filed suit against M’s majority vote ballot title on the grounds that in practice the initiative would not actually guaranty that Councilmembers were elected by a majority vote. The case was settled when the city agreed to mail a postcard with a corrected ballot title to each voter. The mailing probably disturbed or confused many voters about Measure M, thus helping the “NO” side.
On November 7 l972, an all time record number of nearly 70,000 Berkeley voters went to the polls. George McGovern lost the nation but carried every Berkeley precinct except the notorious 20020 in the high hills. Measure M passed in the hills 2-l, but was absolutely buried in the campus and black communities, losing citywide by YES: 26,599(4l%) to NO: 37,890(59%). Dellums and Meade easily won re-election (Dellums l26,9l3, Peter Hannaford 86,587; Meade 65,627, H. Pat Balen 26,380), and Tom Bates was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors from the 5th District which at that time included only Oakland.
Speaking for the right wing, former Mayor Wallace Johnson had a simple explanation for Measure M’s defeat: voter fraud. He spent the remaining years of his life claiming (but never proving) that illegally registered voters were stealing Berkeley elections.
The defeat of Measure M was a significant progressive victory because we looked forward to the moderates and conservatives continuing to run too many candidates and splitting their votes in l973 as they had in l97l. We didn’t realize that by beating M, we had taught our opponents that their future depended on creating political unity rather than changing the City Charter. They learned this lesson well and would teach it back to us in l973.
The Perils of Rent Control (l972-73)
In June l972 we won the first electoral battle in what is currently a l3 year rent control war. After June l972, the question was whether we could also win the upcoming political/legal battles.
The next step was the legal requirement that the Rent Control Charter Amendment be ratified by the California Legislature. Normally a mere statutory formality for all municipal charter amendments, the landlord lobby tried to block ratification. Berkeley Assemblyman John J. Miller, now an Appellate Judge, outsmarted the landlords by sneaking ratification through the Legislature while no one was looking. Finding the charter amendment ratification process unnecessary and burdensome, Assemblyman Miller later passed legislation to abolish it completely. (l975 Statues, Chapter 238, Section l3.)
With ratification completed, Rent Control was now the law in Berkeley. But could we enforce it? The Charter Amendment provided for a freeze on rent increases until the Rent Board was elected. The Board would then preside over a rent rollback to August l5, l97l levels. However, landlords were ignoring the freeze and raising rents while City Attorney Don McCullum recommended against any freeze enforcement. Loni Hancock’s motions to direct the City Manager and City Attorney to enforce the freeze were defeated by the City Council on September l9 and October l0, l972.
None of the five Council conservatives (Hone, Kallgren, Sweeney, Price, McLaren) would vote for enforcement of the freeze. All five had publicly endorsed against the Rent Control Initiative. Thus began the long tradition, existing to this day, under which the conservative Council majority first opposes progressive initiatives and then sabotages their implementation after the voters adopt them.
Counsel for the Defense
As expected, the landlords promptly filed suit to invalidate the Rent Control Initiative. Another long conservative tradition was born of using the courts to try and overturn the will of the majority of Berkeley voters.
Rent control supporters, having no confidence in the unsympathetic City Attorney, Don McCullum, wanted the official city defense of the initiative to be conducted by Myron Moskovitz, then and now our community’s and the state’s leading tenants rights/rent control attorney. Loni Hancock’s motion for the Berkeley City Council to hire Myron Moskovitz as its rent control defense attorney received only two votes on October 24, l972, her own and Bordon Price’s. Bailey and Simmons voted “No” because they did not want a white attorney (Moskovitz) to take the case away from a black attorney (McCullum).
Moskovitz was still able to argue the case as attorney for the pro-rent control interveners. He would do most of the relevant rent control defense work as a volunteer. City Attorney McCullum also provided diligent representation. The case was Birkenfeld v. the City of Berkeley. (Over seven years later, a different City Council would actually hire Myron to defend a new set of rent control laws, a task he continues to labor on.)
The Rent Board Election: January l973
The Rent Control Charter Amendment called for election of the 5 person Rent Board within l80 days after Legislative ratification. This was done to prevent endless delay and Council manipulation. The result was a special election on January 23, l973. Only the 5 Rent Board seats were on the ballot. Rent control supporters hoped that the hills would not turn out. We were in for a surprise.
The pro-rent control forces began meeting to choose a slate of candidates. Now the Fair Rent Committee veterans who had written and passed the initiative (primarily electorally oriented people) tried to work with the activists of the tenant unions and tenant counselling groups (primarily ideologically inclined). It was very difficult. This new grouping generally had an ideological majority, although there were no tightly disciplined caucuses of the type that dominated the l973 April Coalition. At an early meeting that ideological majority voted to abolish the Fair Rent Committee (over the objections of its members who favored continuing a broader-based electoral strategy symbolized by the reference to “fair rents”) and to adopt the new name “Berkeley Tenants Organizing Committee” (BTOC).
BTOC then proceeded to develop a platform and set a convention for November l2, l972 to pick a slate of 5 Rent Board candidates. The electoral and ideological people made a good faith effort to cooperate, hoping that things would work out, but never attempted to discuss, let alone create, a consensus, balanced slate of candidates.
The BTOC Rent Board candidates convention was totally open and anyone could vote. Various efforts were made to pack it. The convention deteriorated into an unpleasant, confused battle between electoral people and various ideological factions for the 5 slots. 230 people voted on the initial ballot. The convention rules did not work, amazingly leading to the first ballot nomination by majority vote of 7 candidates. Two surplus candidates, Larry Duga and Carol Selter (Norris) were un-nominated through run-offs.
The convention’s politics and strategy were questionable. As part of a continuing effort to find a powerful black community ally, (electoral people wanted a political bodyguard to protect us from Bailey), all factions of BTOC supported an alliance with the Black Panther Party.
The Panthers designated Karen Stevenson as their candidate, apparently ordering her to run for the Board. No one in BTOC knew her and she had no identifiable qualifications other than being a Berkeley tenant. Nevertheless the convention dutifully nominated her with more votes than any other competitor. She proved to be an exceedingly weak candidate (The Daily Californian declined to endorse her), finishing last among the two slates. No further such alliances with the Black Panthers were pursued, and the Panthers were persuaded not to run Erika Huggins as a Berkeley City Council candidate in l973.
Also nominated was Ella Walker, a black woman from West Berkeley who had worked very hard to pass the Rent Control Initiative. Ella Walker and Rich Illgen were the Fair Rent Committee’s main speakers. Bill Walker, a homeowner and leader of the Ocean View Committee which opposed the West Berkeley Industrial Park, was the slate’s third nominated black candidate. He had no rent control background and was a surprise selection. Barbara Dudley, a housing/tenants’ rights attorney, the bright, articulate leader and prime candidate of the main ideological faction, was nominated, along with Marty Schiffenbauer, who always seemed to transcend ideology and had a foot in nearly every camp.
However, the ideological factions of BTOC, which clearly had a convention plurality if not a clear majority, refused to nominate Rich Illgen, the Fair Rent Committee’s leader. They didn’t trust him. Yet Rich Illgen’s combination of technical housing/rent control experience, his work on behalf of Measure I, and his general electability, made him the leading candidate of the pragmatic/electoral faction. As a member of that faction, I must stress that we saw Rich’s nomination as essential to having a successful, winning slate.
The unanticipated decision by BTOC’s ideological leadership to prevent Rich’s nomination created an angry backlash among electoral people which hurt the Rent Board campaign and contributed greatly to massive April Coalition factionalism in l973 (which was underway already and probably inevitable). The electoral leadership learned that ideologues neither respected a candidate’s qualifications nor had any interest in broadly-based slates. Therefore, went the lesson, the ideologues could not be allowed to control any future conventions.
To oppose the BTOC slate, Al Raeburn, a veteran Democratic Caucus campaign manager, put together the Coalition for Fair Rent Control’s Berkeley Five slate, consisting of Mary Moore Larkin, Robert Curran, Barbara Saunders, Foster Senegal, and Carol Strand. They campaigned as open-minded, liberal Democrats, promising to support rent control, enforce the law fairly, and make it work. Curran even obtained Cesar Chavez’s endorsement. None of the pro-rent control forces believed their promises. The Gazette endorsed the Berkeley Five, and we assumed they were merely landlord hacks, indistinguishable from their conservative supporters on the City Council and among the landlords.
The BTOC campaign for the Community Rent Control Slate was primarily run by the ideological leadership which had controlled the convention, people such as Nick Rabkin, Barbara Dudley, and Dan Siegel. They had few resources and very little money. “Walker, Walker, Schiffenbauer, Stevenson and Dudley”, (a poetic slate, easy to chant and remember), received endorsements from leading electoral/pragmatic figures such as Loni Hancock, Jeff Gordon, Peter Birdsall, and Rich Illgen, plus some electoral help from that faction. That help would have been much greater had Illgen been on the slate. The general hope was that tenants would vote for the BTOC slate in large numbers out of self-interest while the hills would be passive. All our judgments were wrong.
On election day, January 23, l973, the hill turnout greatly surpassed campus/tenant areas in absolute numbers of voters and in the huge margins of victory provided the Berkeley Five. Hill victory margins of 5 to l were common in the Berkeley Five’s sweep of BTOC as the election was completely dominated by hill voters. I never wanted to see another special election again.
The January 23, l973 Rent Board Special Election Results with 30,828 voters:
elected Mary Moore Larkin l6,394(53%) Berkeley Five
elected Carol Strand l6,l38(52%) Berkeley Five
elected Barbara Saunders l5,876(5l%) Berkeley Five
elected Foster Senegal l5,060(49%) Berkeley Five
elected Robert Curran l4,957(49%) Berkeley Five
Barbara Dudley l3,345(43%) BTOC Community Rent Control Slate
Marty Schiffenbauer l2,587(4l%) BTOC Community Rent Control Slate
Bill Walker l2,292(40%) BTOC Community Rent Control Slate
Ella Walker l2,l00(39%) BTOC Community Rent Control Slate
Karen Stevenson l0,096(33%) BTOC Community Rent Control Slate
This election broke a string of five progressive victories in a row (dating back to Dellums’ June l970 triumph over Cohelan), and provided the right wing with a political textbook on how unity could defeat the left, especially an ideological left.
Of the five losing BTOC candidates, only Marty Schiffenbauer stayed active in Berkeley politics and in l980-8l served on the City Council-appointed Rent Board together with Rich Illgen who became Chairman. BTOC continued under ideological leadership at its 2022 Blake headquarters which it shared with Grassroots, became the Berkeley Tenants Union (BTU), and periodically returned to the electoral wars with mixed results.
The Rent Board’s Surprise
The new Rent Board took office and its first major order of business was to hire an Administrator, a chief executive officer. In what still ranks as the most shocking act taken by any Berkeley elected body in the last 20 years, the Rent Board hired Dan Siegel as its Administrator. Siegel had not only campaigned against the winning board candidates as a BTOC ideologue leader, he personified extreme far left radicalism to conservative Berkeley because of his May l5, l969 “Let’s go down and take the (Peoples) Park” Sproul Steps speech for which he was removed as ASUC President, then tried and acquitted of inciting to riot. (A current equivalent would be a BCA Council majority hiring Leo Bach as City Manager).
By appointing Siegel, the Rent Board members proved that their campaign promises about enforcing the law weren’t lies after all. Unlike the many conservative City Council candidates who followed in their liberal campaign footsteps, these five Rent Board members were not hypocrites. They really were interested in reconciliation with their pro-rent control opponents to try and make the law work. As a result of the Siegal appointment, all of the Rent Board’s conservative/landlord supporters felt stabbed in the back and denounced the Board as a pack of ungrateful traitors. Rent control backers were equally stunned and began to work with the Board we had tried to defeat.
l973 – The Battle for Berkeley, Round 2
The April l7, l973 Berkeley election was a rematch of the political forces that had clashed two years earlier. The prize remained the same: a 5 vote Council majority to control the city. All sides had undergone some changes as the battle lines were formed. Berkeley elections reflect a kind of political Darwinism, and victory would go to whichever side had made the most successful electoral adaptations since l97l.
The April Coalition
Rising from the dead, the April Coalition began to hold meetings in the fall of l972 aimed at adopting a platform and running candidates for the April l973 elections. The major uncontested adaptation was a change in candidate selection. Instead of delegating specific nominations to the Black Caucus or any other outside organization, the April Coalition decided to nominate all four of its own City Council candidates itself at an open convention.
To many of us who remembered l97l, this was a mandatory response to the Bailey/Simmons debacle. From l973 on, if mistakes were to be made regarding City Council candidates, we would make them ourselves rather than let any other organization choose candidates for us. Other groups could recommend candidates, but they could not select them for us to rubber stamp. In addition to the inherent principle of democratic decision making, this is one of the few April Coalition organizational policies retained intact by BCA to the present day.
From the inception of the l973 election season, the April Coalition was the victim of a vicious internal civil war between its ideological and electoral factions. The seeds of this war were visible in l97l but the nomination of Rick Brown (ideological) and Loni Hancock (electoral) was such a reasonable internal compromise that, combined with the unifying influence of Community Control of Police and the l97l April Coalition’s tremendous diversity, helped prevent the formation of institutional factions or caucuses.
For l973, the April Coalition had no unifying factor except the desire for power, power to control the organization, power to nominate four candidates, power to run the campaign, and power to govern the city after the anticipated victory.
From the beginning in l972-73, there were two leadership groups vying for this power, each one fearful and distrustful of the other. Since the April Coalition had been dead for two years, there was no recent tradition of working together organizationally. The BTOC experience, where the two factions had tried to cooperate and essentially failed on all levels, added to the divisive atmosphere. The counterculture people, who often helped to mellow out the l97l April Coalition, were mostly absent in l973.
The April Coalition’s two rival factions or caucuses rarely if ever talked to one another. They fought from the first Coalition meetings on and the battle escalated until the candidate convention climax, but the fighting did not end at the convention, moving on to paralyze the campaign as well.
The Pragmatic/Electoral Caucus
The April Coalition’s pragmatists were unified by the following major goals and attitudes:
- A focus on nominating candidates who could broaden our electoral base and win the election.
- Support for Loni Hancock as an ideal example of the type of Councilmember we wanted to elect, so that with a progressive majority, Loni’s motions would pass instead of fail or die for lack of a second.
- Open antagonism towards Bailey for his having stolen our votes in l97l, pursued vicious, anti-coalition policies on the City Council, and subjected Loni Hancock to extensive personal and political anguish. Pragmatists wanted to disassociate completely from Bailey and succeeded in making certain that he was never invited to participate in the l973 April Coalition. The Electoral Caucus had no unified position on Bailey’s recall, although Loni publicly opposed “political” recalls on principle, as did many others, probably a majority.
- A desire to downplay ideological extremism of the kind that alienated voters in l97l and would have the same damaging effect in l973 unless stopped in the platform and elsewhere.
- A belief that the Ideological Caucus was incapable of constructive leadership and must be prevented from implementing its policies or nominating its candidates, all of which were certain to lose the election.
Loni Hancock was the spiritual leader of the pragmatic caucus as a symbol of Ron Dellums’ coalition politics in action. Jeff Gordon was the major organizer together with Peter Birdsall, Frank Daar and many others. The pragmatists included the majority of Berkeley Coalition veterans and the entire campus electoral organization. Needless to say, I was an active member of this caucus.
The Ideological Caucus
The Ideological Caucus had its inception in a Sunday Morning Group of about 20 veteran radicals who met weekly at that time from the summer of l972 on to prepare for the l973 election. Rick Brown helped with the initial organizing before going to teach at UCLA. (His presence in l973 might have reduced the conflict level.) The group later expanded into a much larger gathering as the April Coalition Convention approached. (Source: Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Joel Rubenzahl essay, page 349).
The unifying factors for the Ideological Caucus included the following:
- A class analysis of politics according to which the ruling class must be challenged by an alliance of the oppressed classes. Third World people, as the most oppressed class in the country, must be a leading part of this alliance.
- Sympathy, if not outright political support and approval for D’Army Bailey in his symbolic role as a black leader of the oppressed against the white establishment. Therefore, strong opposition to the impending Bailey recall. The April Coalition voted to oppose the recall.
- Support for maximizing Third World leadership and power in the April Coalition.
- A desire for a radical platform that would clearly delineate the April Coalition’s programs and ideological perspective, both locally and internationally.
- A belief that the Pragmatic Caucus wanted to win the election at any cost and was therefore too unprincipled to be trusted or to be allowed to control the April Coalition’s platform or nominate its candidates.
If the Ideological Caucus had a spiritual leader, I feel it was probably D’Army Bailey, although many members of their caucus would dispute this.
The major leaders/organizers of the Ideological Caucus were Dan Siegel, Anne Weills (formerly married to Bob Scheer), Don Davis of the Black Caucus, and student Tom Accinelli. Their support came from people who in l97l were associated with Community Control of Police and the Rick Brown candidacy and included BTOC people plus nearly all those who defined their politics as radical or socialist.
It should be apparent that the gap between the two rival caucuses was probably unbridgeable. In any case, no one made any efforts to bridge it. The two caucuses met and plotted separately. There were no negotiations or peacemakers. April Coalition meetings were battlefields.
Pragmatists such as myself never understood why the Ideological Caucus even existed. Loni and her office had worked closely with a significant number of the Ideological Caucus’ leading members. Many of them, such as Lenny Goldberg and Ed Kirshner, were resource people we considered to be vital parts of Loni’s staff. Others were Loni’s appointees to boards and commissions, such as Joel Rubenzahl who was one of Loni’s four initial choices for the Charter Review Committee. In fact, because of Loni’s close association with Lenny, Ed, Joel, and many of the others, the Ideological Caucus had no real disagreements with her over Council issues.
Since, by implication, the Ideological Caucus supported Loni on nearly all Council issues, we could not understand what motivated them to obstruct our efforts to elect four more like-minded coalition people to the Council so that Loni would have a majority to turn her positions into official city policy. One answer was Bailey, who in spite of his voting record, provided an alluring, charismatic, third world leadership symbol, a fundamental alternative to Loni, which the Ideologues tended to find irresistible. The Ideologues wanted to work with Bailey; We didn’t, not any more. I therefore believe that Bailey, although physically absent from the battlefield, was a root cause of the anger between the rival caucuses which destroyed the April Coalition that had elected him.
The War Unfolds
Fortunately, the Ideological Caucus did not oppose the new April Coalition policy that we would nominate all four of our own candidates. This was probably because that caucus assumed they would be in control and do the nominating along with their Third World allies.
The Ideological Caucus’ primary Third World leader was Don Davis of the Black Caucus. His theme was that the April Coalition would overwhelm black and other Third World interests by the disproportionate number of whites involved. At one April Coalition meeting, he led a successful Ideological Caucus effort to remedy this by establishing a Steering Committee to run the April Coalition, composed equally of black, white, Asian, Chicano, and Native American representatives. Thus, the Ideological Caucus tried to turn the April Coalition (whose racial composition was overwhelmingly white) into a predominantly Third World organization under which the white members were undemocratically disenfranchised down to a 20% share.
This racially determined Steering Committee actually met and tried to function, although no Native Americans could be found to serve on it. When first established, it represented a major symbolic victory by the Ideological Caucus, but this Steering Committee too was paralyzed by deep divisions from the rival caucuses that ultimately led to its abolition.
The April Coalition was to remain an ultra-democratic organization where anyone could come and vote. Power to control the April Coalition would therefore belong to whichever caucus could win the packing fights by bringing a simple majority to the Platform and Candidate Conventions.
The January 28, l973 Platform Convention was a very mild warmup for the real fight over candidates a week later. On local issues, the two caucuses essentially agreed on most things except tone. There were no major battles and ideological rhetoric dominated the platform. On the international side, the Ideological Caucus proposed a War and Imperialism plank that included support for the Kmer Rouge and the Pathet Lao along with a dozen other national liberation movements. Pragmatists succeeded in removing the most offensive portions of this plank, such as the national liberation laundry list, but what remained was almost as bad.
The adopted platform called for unilateral disarmament by the United States and declared that “the City of Berkeley should invite and receive by official welcome progressive leaders who represent popular struggles for national liberation.” Another section, Berkeley and the World, proclaimed the Ideologues’ creed: “America’s rulers are the enemies not only of the people struggling for liberation in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, but of the great majority of us, the American people.” At least the platform was ambiguous on the Middle East, mentioning no state or organization by name. From an electoral point of view, the platform was bad, but it could have been much worse.
At the core of the fight between ideologues and pragmatists was a protracted struggle over who should be the student candidate. In l973, as in l97l, the existence of a student slot on the ticket was taken for granted and the fight was over who would fill it.
The combatants were Peter Birdsall vs. Lenny Goldberg. Peter Birdsall, 22, had been a major student electoral leader since l970. He was campus campaign coordinator for Dellums in l970, Rent Control in June l972, and McGovern-Dellums-No on M in November l972, among many other campaigns, specializing in precinct organization and get-out-the-vote. Together with Jeff Gordon and myself, Peter headed the campus electoral group that named itself after election day, the April 6th Movement in l97l, the April l7th Movement in l973. Peter had worked in the Dellums and Hancock offices, concentrating on fiscal matters. He was a graduate student in the School of Public Policy. Peter could run as a highly qualified liberal Democrat and try to win election by expanding our base among swing voters.
In l97l, Peter had supported left candidate Rick Brown for the student nomination over the more moderate, more electable Craig Murphy who was backed by Jeff Gordon. (We naively thought this fact would make Peter acceptable to the left.) Now in l973, the entire student electoral leadership was united behind Peter Birdsall as he declared his early candidacy at a press conference.
To radical students, Peter Birdsall was just as unpalatable as Craig Murphy had been two years earlier. Murphy had been defeated by Rick Brown for the April Coalition nomination, so the student members of the Ideological Caucus, led by Tom Accinelli, looked for a candidate to oppose Peter. They found Lenny Goldberg, a 27 year old graduate student completing his economics doctorate. Lenny was well liked by everyone and his previous work with Loni’s office had never marked him as an ideologue. Nevertheless, he accepted the mantle as the Ideological Caucus’ candidate for the student slot.
Among pragmatists, on and off campus, there were always many people who felt that both Peter and Lenny should be nominated to maintain political balance, even if two youngish white males would unbalance the slate overall. The problem was that the Ideological Caucus would never nominate Peter if they had control of the convention just as they wouldn’t nominate Rich Illgen for the Rent Board. The Electoral Caucus had to always fight to nominate Peter, and only when that goal was successfully achieved, could we worry about the final slot on the ticket.
The Pragmatic Caucus had two other candidates for a balanced slate. One was Margot Dashiell of the Black Caucus. Margot, 30, always a reluctant candidate, finally agreed to run in l973, two years after her l97l withdrawal had signalled the Black Caucus’ capitulation to Bailey and Simmons. Margot and Loni were both personal and political friends who could help heal the racial wounds caused by Bailey. Bailey resented Margot and actually voted against her appointment to the Planning Commission along with the re-appointment of Frank Daar (August 8, l972).
Margot had one outstanding political advantage. As the Black Caucus candidate for l973, the Ideological Caucus joined with the Pragmatic Caucus to make her a consensus choice, the only such candidate the April Coalition had.
Ying Lee Kelley, 4l, was the Electoral Caucus’ third candidate. An anti-war activist and McGovern delegate in l972, Ying had fought for peace by using all possible tactics, including civil disobedience. She had once been arrested for tying herself to a draft board office by her (then very long) hair. Everyone who knew Ying felt she would be a dynamic candidate and Councilmember, plus she expanded the April Coalition’s vote into the Asian community. Ying was the elected Chairperson of the Charter Review Committee, having been appointed to the committee by Loni. Ying reluctantly agreed to run for the Council, finally deciding that she could use the office as a platform to work for peace and justice in Berkeley and abroad.
Now the Pragmatic/Electoral Caucus needed a fourth candidate to complete our convention slate and keep any votes from straying to Lenny until Peter was safely nominated. At our normal meeting place, Evie and Gordon Wozniak’s living room, Veronika Fukson of the Westbrae Neighborhood Association became this placeholder. Some pragmatists wanted to actually nominate Veronika. Others assumed we would let Lenny have the final slot as a gesture of reconciliation after Margot, Ying, and Peter were nominated.
The Ideological Caucus knew that Margot would be nominated without opposition. They expected Lenny to defeat Peter since this had already happened l24-l09 at the April l7th Movement’s own nomination meeting on January 29, l973, a kind of practice packing fight/recommendation for the real April Coalition convention. (This l973 student convention was as meaningless as its l97l counterpart, which had nominated Craig Murphy over Rick Brown, only to see the April Coalition decisively do the opposite. Fortunately, it was the last of its kind since, to date, there has been no subsequent fight between two or more students for BCA’s City Council nomination.)
Dan Siegel, 27, and Anne Weills, 30, the Ideological Caucus’ two major white radical leaders, each wanted to run for City Council. (Dan had been a candidate as far back as l969 when he was a U.C. law student. The Berkeley Coalition instead chose Loni Hancock.) This time, the Ideological Caucus put forward Weills. Anne had no background in municipal issues and her stridency limited her potential support at the convention.
For their final slot, the Ideological Caucus could have agreed to Ying Kelley as a consensus candidate, either for the sake of conciliation, or as acceptance of the inevitable. The Ideological Caucus had no one who could match Ying’s popularity and no valid political reason to oppose her. Still they decided to challenge Ying at the convention with Bill Walker, recently defeated candidate for the Rent Board. The Ideological Caucus slate would be Margot Dashiell, Bill Walker, Lenny Goldberg, and Anne Weills vs. the Pragmatists’ Dashiell, Ying Kelley, Peter Birdsall, and Veronika Fukson.
There was one City Council candidate who sought the April Coalition nomination through the back door of political intrigue, Henry Ramsey. Ramsey, a black law professor at Boalt Hall, was a Widener appointee to the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency. On that body, he showed a passionate commitment to the West Berkeley Industrial Park, the housing demolition project Widener had campaigned against in l97l. Thus, Ramsey personified Widener’s betrayal of the Mayor’s l97l election promises. (Ramsey had also helped demolish large segments of Richmond as a former member of the Richmond Redevelopment Agency.)
Now, in l973, as Widener’s candidate for the Council, Ramsey publicly announced that he would seek the April Coalition nomination. Widener then tried to impose Ramsey on the April Coalition. The Mayor, fresh from his reconciliation with Congressman Dellums in the successful No on M fight, managed to get elements of the Dellums Office to pressure the April Coalition’s leadership to nominate Ramsey. Coalition people already knew that in addition to having bad politics, Ramsey was sexist, arrogant, unpredictable and vicious. In a rare show of unity, the leadership of both April Coalition factions refused to even consider running with Henry Ramsey. Totally rebuffed, Widener was forced to peddle Ramsey elsewhere.
The l973 Convention
On February 4, l973, the April Coalition held its second and final City Council Candidates Convention. This was the greatest packing fight in modern Berkeley history, with the two rival caucuses having spent many weeks trying to drag the maximum number of bodies to the open convention.
The master packer was Jeff Gordon, leader of the April l7th Movement. He had spent many years in the highly combative politics of Los Angeles and UCLA Young Democrats. Always a one-man campaign capable of incredible bursts of energy, Jeff occasionally attended law school. We were roommates from l970 to l973. In l971, Jeff lost the convention packing fight when Craig Murphy was easily defeated by Rick Brown. At that time, Jeff had mistakenly trusted in the packing efforts of his allies. In l973, Jeff personally organized the packing on behalf of Peter Birdsall and the Electoral Caucus. He vowed not to lose again.
Franklin School was jammed to capacity as the desperate packing fight nearly tripled the convention attendance compared to l97l. As in l97l, all prospective candidates had to sign a pledge not to run for the Council if they lost at the April Coalition Convention. Candidate nominations began and the ideologues rewarded Loni Hancock’s two years of service on the City Council by booing her as she stepped to the mike to nominate Peter Birdsall.
The convention rules were designed to prevent the recent BTOC fiasco where 7 candidates had received a majority vote on the first ballot for 5 available slots. Everyone could vote for a full slate of four, but the April Coalition would nominate only one person on each ballot, a procedure that allowed the two caucuses to assess their strengths and strategies at each step in the process.
l,l64 people voted on the first ballot, a record that will probably never be broken by BCA or any other Berkeley political organization. 583 votes constituted a majority for nomination. The first ballot results among the 7 leading candidates were:
nominated Margot Dashiell l,030 Electoral and Ideological Caucuses
Ying Kelley 789 Electoral Caucus
Peter Birdsall 682 Electoral Caucus
Lenny Goldberg 500 Ideological Caucus
Veronika Fukson 497 Electoral Caucus
Bill Walker 440 Ideological Caucus
Anne Weills 435 Ideological Caucus
The first ballot nominated Margot as everyone expected, also conclusively establishing that the Electoral/Pragmatic Caucus had won the packing fight and would control the convention. We celebrated.
After a caucus, the Ideologues belatedly conceded Ying’s nomination, as Lenny Goldberg moved her endorsement. Bill Walker withdrew.
The second ballot was reduced to Peter Birdsall, Lenny Goldberg, Veronika Fukson, and Anne Weills. Each person could now vote for two candidates. ll08 ballots were cast with 555 votes required for nomination. The second ballot results:
nominated Peter Birdsall 657 Electoral Caucus
Lenny Goldberg 499 Ideological Caucus
Veronika Fukson 497 Electoral Caucus
Anne Weills 4l5 Ideological Caucus
With Peter safely nominated at last and one slot remaining to be filled, there came the moment of decision for both caucuses. The Ideological Caucus had to decide whether their final candidate would be Lenny or Anne. The Pragmatists had to choose between trying to freeze out the Ideologues entirely by attempting to nominate Veronika or seeking reconciliation by accepting Lenny or Anne.
We knew that the Ideological Caucus would never have considered the reconciliation alternative had they been in our position. Plus, Veronika would be a stronger candidate than Lenny and many people no longer wanted to be in the same organization with the Ideologues. Elements in the Ideological Caucus had been threatening to walk out all day, and nominating Veronika might rid us of them once and for all.
Still, the original Electoral Caucus strategy had been to nominate Lenny at this point in the spirit of unity, recognizing how furious we had been when the BTOC convention excluded our primary candidate, Rich Illgen. However, if the Ideological
Caucus insisted on Anne Weills, we would definitely try to nominate Veronika.
In the midst of these discussions, Lenny came over and asked Loni if the Electoral Caucus would accept Anne. Loni remembers responding to him, “We won’t nominate Anne Weills, but we will nominate you.” (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Loni Hancock essay, page 394). The Ideological Caucus heard this report and offered Lenny Goldberg as their final candidate. The Electoral Caucus leadership urged a vote for Lenny, but Veronika did not withdraw.
l0l8 people were still present to vote on the third and final ballot:
nominated Lenny Goldberg 796
Veronika Fukson 222
The l973 April Coalition had nominated Margot Dashiell, Ying Lee Kelley, Peter Birdsall, and Lenny Goldberg, who stood together in unity after the nine hour convention ordeal. Both the Electoral and Ideological Caucuses were represented on the slate and would join in the campaign.
Government By Initiative
Birdsall, Dashiell, Kelley and Goldberg were not the sole representatives of the progressive community on the April l973 ballot. Seven municipal initiatives joined them, a collective expression of frustration at the conservative City Council majority’s refusal to constructively deal with major issues. The grand total of eight initiatives was another record unlikely ever to be broken. Nearly all the initiatives, either before or after they made the ballot, had been presented as Loni Hancock motions, only to be defeated by the Council or die for lack of a second. An initiative is always an act of electoral rebellion, of legal resistance against those holding power in a democracy. The Berkeley progressive community has traditionally turned to initiatives because it had no other choice except surrender. I will discuss the eight l973 initiatives in reverse ballot order:
Public Ownership of PG&E (Measure 8)
This initiative had by far the longest and strangest history. It dwarfed all others in controversy, and because it directly challenged a major corporation, it was the only April Coalition backed initiative to be massively outspent by a slick, professional, and lavishly financed negative campaign.
In September l965, Walter Packard of the California Power Users Association proposed that the Berkeley City Council undertake a feasibility study of the city acquiring PG&E’s electric power distribution system and going into the electricity business. (Many cities in California and the nation run their own electricity systems, although the great majority of them were operating by early in this century.) The conservative City Manager, John Phillips, a holdover from the Republican administration, reported favorably on the request and urged serious consideration of the necessary moves to acquire the power system. His report referred to net income ranging from about one to three million dollars for seven California cities somewhat comparable in size to Berkeley that were operating their own electric systems. The next step was a preliminary feasibility study estimated to cost from $l0,000 to $l5,000. (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Margaret Gordon essay, pages 306-307).
PG&E immediately began bombarding the Council, both politically and technically, with a multitude of reasons for rejecting the City Manager’s recommendation and scrapping any further consideration of the project. The Council subsequently voted unanimously to take no action. PG&E had won the first round.
However, economists and other fiscally concerned people in the progressive community read City Manager Phillips’ report and took up the issue of municipalizing PG&E, making it a standard feature of every left campaign from the Community for New Politics through the Berkeley Coalition to the April Coalition.
In l97l-72, Refusers of Illegal and Oppressive Taxes (RIOT) decided to focus on this issue in the wake of the April Coalition’s l97l victory and their own successful initiative in that same election repealing the City Council’s regressive Utility Users’ Tax. By taking over PG&E, RIOT hoped to provide the city with a huge source of income which would more than compensate for loss of the utility tax. RIOT’s leaders included Ellen Ewing, Charles Smith, and Ed Kirshner.
The City Manager’s December l965 report said that the first step towards municipal ownership of PG&E was a preliminary feasibility study. So, nearly six years after that report was issued, on October l9, l97l, Loni Hancock made RIOT’s motion to authorize that study. The motion lost. RIOT responded by circulating an initiative ordinance calling for the city to take all necessary steps to municipalize PG&E, providing it was shown to be feasible and the voters approved the necessary bond issues.
Now things really became confusing. On February l5, l972, the Council reversed itself and declared its intention to conduct the initial feasibility study, leading to the award of the actual contract for the study on April 25, l972 to the firm of Cornell, Howland, Hayes & Merryfield at a cost of $42,000. Loni’s motion to select the R. W. Beck Company, preferred by RIOT, was defeated. Meanwhile, RIOT’s initiative ordinance qualified for the June l972 ballot. Instead of placing the measure on the ballot, the Council amazingly passed it on first reading on March 2l, l972. Things were not what they seemed. The Council conservatives voted for the initiative as part of a complex PG&E strategy to defeat it.
PG&E immediately instigated a lawsuit which restrained the Council from passing the ordinance on second reading until April l8, l972 when the suit had been dismissed. The lawsuit bought PG&E time to organize. Now PG&E financed, through a citizens front group, a referendum against RIOT’s Council-passed initiative ordinance. Sufficient referendum signatures were collected with the allotted thirty days to block the initiative. The measure ended up being placed on the April l973 municipal election ballot so that the feasibility study would be finished prior to the vote. PG&E gained a ten month delay and an election with lower turnout than either June or November l972.
The Cornell firm’s feasibility study reached ambiguous conclusions on the fiscal wisdom of municipalizing the system. Both RIOT and PG&E were to cite the study’s findings. RIOT argued that a municipal system would lower electric bills and earn substantial income. PG&E claimed the opposite. However, PG&E had unlimited funds to tell its side of the story through city-wide mailers and newspaper ads, while RIOT (what an unhelpful name for electoral purposes while battling a giant corporation) had little more than exuberance for a nobel cause.
This was to be a most unequal battle as PG&E, usually working through its citizens front group, the Berkeley No on 8 Committee, hammered away that municipal ownership was a terribly dangerous, fiscally irresponsible experiment for Berkeley that would end up costing everyone huge amounts of money through higher electric bills. The “No” side, primarily PG&E itself, ended up spending $l00,000 against the measure, over 30 times what RIOT spent. The great irony here is that PG&E spent corporate funds to convince the voters that it was unprofitable to sell electricity in Berkeley. Clearly the Berkeley market was profitable enough so that PG&E wished desperately to preserve it.
The Four Police Initiatives (Measures 4, 5, 6, and 7)
After the defeat of Community Control of Police, the City Council did nothing to establish any new method for police review or reform. Widener never formally presented his promised alternative to the l97l initiative. Bailey made an unsuccessful motion to fire the police chief and Loni presented a number of limited police reform proposals, but there was no possibility of any significant changes receiving five votes.
An April Coalition/Hancock Office police issues committee formed that included Dan Siegel, Paul Foreman (an ex-L.A. cop), Jim Chanin, Johnnie Porter (an ex-Berkeley cop), Tom Dalglish, Art Goldberg, and many others. They decided to separate police reform into four relatively mild initiative ordinances for the April l973 ballot. Under this strategy, they hoped to confuse or divide the opposition so that at least some of the four measures would pass by escaping the savage assault that buried the more radical, all encompassing Community Control of Police Initiative. The four measures ultimately sponsored by the Police Initiative Committee were:
A Police Review Commission (Measure 7), composed of nine members appointed by the City Councilmembers, to hear complaints of police wrongdoing and make policy and disciplinary recommendations.
Police Weapons Control (Measure 6), forbidding the police from using various kinds of weapons.
A Police Residency Requirement (Measure 5), under which all officers would have to live in Berkeley. (In l97l, statistics showed that 85% of the force lived outside the city.)
Mutual Aid Pact Regulation (Measure 4), under which all police mutual aid pacts with other jurisdictions were abolished unless the City Council approved them on an annual basis.
The Police Initiative Committee qualified all four initiatives for the April l973 ballot, but a strong, organized, well financed opposition never appeared. No ballot arguments were submitted against any of the four measures. Instead of dominating the entire campaign as in l97l, the police initiatives were generally invisible in l973.
The Berkeley Marijuana Initiative (Measure 3)
The l972 California Marijuana Initiative (CMI) would have de-criminalized the weed, a very popular measure in Berkeley. After getting the Council to endorse the statewide initiative on March 28, l972, Loni tried for immediate implementation. She moved that it be the city policy not to enforce the laws against possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana and that the Berkeley Police therefore make no arrests for any of the above actions. The motion lost, but the California Marijuana Initiative, state measure l9, received 7l% of the Berkeley vote on November 7, l972. Berkeley nearly always votes thirty percentage points or more to the left of California as a whole. CMI lost statewide by 2-l.
With such an overwhelming mandate for marijuana de-criminalization, a few of us decided that Loni’s losing motion for local implementation would make an important and popular statement as an initiative ordinance. I drafted one of the shortest initiatives ever. The key operational clause stated that:
“the Berkeley Police Department shall make no arrests for the possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana without the authorization of the Berkeley City Council.”
Steve Conrad, an ASUC Senator, and April Maynard, later to become U.C. Berkeley’s first woman student body president, agreed to circulate the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative (BMI) on campus. Their Sather Gate table was swamped with happy signers as the BMI quickly qualified for the April l973 ballot.
I hoped the BMI would increase turnout in the campus and counterculture communities. The initiative’s ultimate legality was not a major concern. This was intended to be a fun initiative in support of the principle of local control of a city’s police department. No ballot argument was submitted against BMI and things could have gotten dull. However, Tom Accinelli came up with an idea to match l97l’s DeBonis Door raffle. Tom’s “Win a Kilo” raffle, “First Prize – 1 Kilo of … Take a Guess!?”, a dollar a ticket, was a benefit for the BMI/April Coalition campaign. The money poured in.
Many students staffed the “Win a Kilo” table, one of whom, an Argentinean, just happened to be there when the Berkeley Police decided to arrest him for running an illegal raffle. Now we had a real backlash against the police and more publicity than even Tom Accinelli could handle. The charges were dropped in exchange for Tom’s promise to avoid violating the law in the future by making the dollar per raffle ticket a “voluntary donation”. (Thanks entirely to the Berkeley Police, the arrested student/martyr, was later elected to the ASUC Senate as a member of Tom’s radical party, the Berkeley Liberation Front. His slogan was “Elect a felon.” Now we heard rumors that the police were obtaining raffle tickets in an attempt to win and then bust the operation upon delivery of the prize. The raffle continued, having fully supplanted the initiative in the public’s eye.
The Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance (Measure 2)
A community conference in l972, (ironically held at the Bailey-Simmons office), brought together a number of Berkeley people with creative ideas in housing and land use. Under the leadership of Ken Hughes and Martha Nicoloff, a committee formed to draft a comprehensive ordinance. Participants included John Denton, Veronika Fukson, Neil Mayer, myself, and a host of other contributors. I came up with the ordinance’s name and part of the basic use permit mechanism.
Of all the l973 initiatives, the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance (NPO) was probably the most significant in terms of long range, constructive effects. It was certainly the most difficult to draft. The ordinance kept changing as one new feature after another was added. The ordinance started as a tough restriction upon housing demolition and a use permit requirement for new housing in those zones that permitted multiple units. This was our attack upon the ugly, ticky-tacky apartment buildings that were destroying Berkeley’s older housing, especially in the campus area. Then came a mandatory revision of the Berkeley Master Plan plus review of all existing zoning. Neil Mayer added inclusionary zoning, the requirement that buildings of four or more units reserve 25% of the units for low or moderate income persons.
Next the ordinance was brought before the City Council which approved it in principle on November l4, l972 by a 6-3 vote, Bailey, Simmons, and Widener dissenting. The Council directed the drafters to obtain more community input and come back when they had a final draft.
The additional community input we received focused on the discriminatory nature of the new construction section, which as then drafted, exempted new housing in the R-l zone (the hills) from the use permit and public hearing requirements. The drafters decided upon another change in the interest of equality. All zones in the city, including the R-l hills, would now require a use permit and Board of Adjustments public hearing for any new housing. (Since l973, this provision has been very popular in the hills because it empowers the residents.) But on December l2, l972, covering the hills (and not exempting black developers) so offended the City Council that they voted 6-l on Bailey’s motion to reject the NPO without discussion. The NPO would have to take the initiative route after all. Signature gathering began.
After the NPO qualified for the ballot as an initiative, no ballot argument was submitted against it, much to our surprise. However, the Council was to single the NPO out for attempted sabotage in March and April l973.
The April Coalition endorsed all seven of the above initiatives and adopted them as part of our slate. Loni signed all seven pro-initiative ballot arguments, joined by the four April Coalition candidates on the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative argument. If this was Government by Initiative, we were for it. But there was still one more initiative.
30 for 40 (Measure l)
The Progressive Labor Party (PL) became the first (and to date the last) left sectarian group to qualify an initiative for the Berkeley ballot. The measure was officially sponsored by the Committee for a Shorter Work Week.
The 30 for 40 measure required all Berkeley employers to reduce the work week from 40 to 30 hours without any loss of pay for the workers. (PL had no visible labor support for its measure.) The initiative appeared illegal, except as to the City of Berkeley itself as an employer. For the city, 30 for 40 meant fiscal catastrophe.
Not only did the April Coalition oppose 30 for 40, Lenny Goldberg, a veteran PL antagonist, wrote a negative ballot argument which Loni got the Council to adopt and submit unanimously.
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce still felt compelled to spend thousands of dollars on city-wide mailings and radio spots attacking 30 for 40. The Chamber’s campaign stressed the unanimity of opposition to 30 for 40, listing the April Coalition as a prominent opponent of the measure along with every group to the Coalition’s right. I was happy to see the Chamber’s money thrown away kicking the deadest horse on the ballot. 30 for 40 was to set the record for the fewest votes and lowest percentage received by
any modern Berkeley initiative.
The Opposition – The Berkeley Four
April Coalition leaders waited hopefully for the moderates and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, to fragment themselves as they had in l97l. But with one minor exception, it never happened. The forces to our right learned from their l97l experience, plus the recent Rent Board election example, and produced a unified slate in l973 to oppose the April Coalition. But it was a long and twisted path that led to this first City Council edition of the conservative coalition.
Mayor Warren Widener
Early in the l973 election season, it was clear that Mayor Widener cared only about electing his friend, protege, (and hatchet man), Henry Ramsey to the City Council. The Mayor’s unsuccessful attempt to peddle Ramsey to the April Coalition by way of the Dellums Office has already been detailed. But prior to that attempt, it is possible that Widener would have first tried to sell Ramsey to his closest Council ally at the time, D’Army Bailey. Bailey, Simmons, and Widener had been strong and successful partners from the July l972 city strike through the November l972 No on M campaign. I therefore hypothesize that sometime in early December l972 Widener sought Bailey’s support for Ramsey and was turned down cold.
Bailey would never have agreed to help elect such an aggressive, black, potential rival as Ramsey. Bailey might have proposed alternative candidates who Widener rejected.
The above theory is a speculative attempt to explain the historically significant Council meeting of December l9, l972 when the Widener/Bailey-Simmons alliance suddenly collapsed. The overt cause was a spur track relocation permit sought by Southern Pacific Railway. Bailey opposed giving anything to Southern Pacific (SP) unless the company complied with the strict levels of the city’s affirmative action hiring program. Widener had voted against McLaren’s motion to grant the permit without affirmative action conditions at the December 5,l972 Council meeting.
But two weeks later, on December l9, Widener voted with the Council’s right wing to grant SP the permit conditioned upon a much more modest affirmative action program than the one demanded by Bailey. For the first time in more than half a year, Bailey hurled his standard vilifications at Widener. The Bailey-Simmons/Widener alliance publicly died that night, never to return. The SP vote must have been a mere symptom of some underlying cause. I think that cause related to the l973 election, which probably meant the Ramsey candidacy.
In any case, Widener would continue with the selling of Henry Ramsey, although there was soon to be only one buyer left, Councilman Ed Kallgren.
Ed Kallgren and the Living Room Slate
The Berkeley Democratic Caucus had died in l97l. Discounting Widener, who won with April Coalition votes, its only successful l97l council candidate, corporate attorney Ed Kallgren from the law firm of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, had been elected because of Republican support. How could the Berkeley Democratic Caucus, founded by liberals in the l950’s to fight conservative Republicans, continue if its future depended on joining forces with the Republicans? It could not continue. The Democratic Caucus died in l97l at the age of l6.
That left Councilman Kallgren as the personal embodiment of a new, long term, potentially successful coalition: establishment Democrats plus conservative Republicans. Kallgren began laying the foundation to institutionalize that coalition. He spent much of the next two years addressing conservative and Republican Berkeley audiences. He asked for a show of hands: “How many people voted for me?” Nearly every hand would rise. Then he inquired: “How many people voted for Harriet Wood?” A significant percentage of hands dropped. Harriet Wood was the defeated l97l black woman candidate endorsed by the Democratic Caucus and Mayor Johnson’s One Berkeley Community, who finished first in black precincts, but sixth overall because the conservative hills gave her little more than half the vote received by Kallgren. Kallgren then told conservatives the bottom line: If they wanted no more D’Army Baileys on the Council, they would have to give black Democrats the same support he had received as a white Democrat.
To paraphrase Kallgren, in my words, if the Republicans wanted to save their city from the radicals, they would have to abandon their traditional racism and vote overwhelmingly for appropriate black candidates. Kallgren’s evangelistic message of political pragmatism sank in with the conservatives.
Now Kallgren had to find a slate for the Republicans to support. He concluded that no overt Republican or conservative could win because liberals wouldn’t vote for an avowed right winger. Therefore, Republicans would be excluded from his slate even though Republicans would have to elect it.
Kallgren began a series of meetings in the large living room of his Claremont house to pick his slate. About 75-80 people, who Kallgren called moderate or liberal Democrats, participated in these private, invitation-only gatherings, hearing the potential candidates and making endorsements in early February l973. (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Kallgren essay, pages 426-430.)
Incumbents Sue Hone and Wilmont Sweeney were obvious choices. The group took Henry Ramsey, thus obtaining at no extra charge Mayor Widener’s endorsement of the entire slate, the Mayor’s help as leader of the campaign steering committee and Mrs. Mary Widener’s services as campaign manager. (Note that Mayor Widener thus betrayed his solemn promise of only a few months earlier not to support anyone who had endorsed Measure M or been neutral. Sweeney had helped lead Yes on M, while Hone took no position but had voted to put the measure on the November l972 ballot.) For the final slot, Kallgren’s group picked Joe Garrett, an alleged U.C. student not currently enrolled. Rejected candidates included Harry Overstreet,a black architect who ran anyway, and Harry Weininger who did not.
The slate of Wilmont Sweeney, Sue Hone, Henry Ramsey, and Joe Garrett called themselves the Berkeley Four.
Councilman Tom McLaren, 53, was the last Republican leader on the City Council. Elected in the Republicans’ l969 comeback, his conservative constituency was intact and his term was up. Kallgren’s potential victory required McLaren’s withdrawal from the race and his endorsement of the Berkeley Four.
Kallgren showed his analysis of the l973 election to McLaren. Take the voter registration figures. As of January l973, thanks to the l8 year old vote and several years of successful progressive voter registration drives, Berkeley had 5l,443 registered Democrats (73%) and ll,4l0 registered Republicans (l6%). McLaren, the Republican, couldn’t win, and if he did run against a Kallgren slate, the votes he received would only serve to elect the April Coalition’s candidates. McLaren concurred in the bottom line of this analysis, but still hoped that room would be found for him on Kallgren’s unity slate. McLaren therefore filed for re-election. (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, McLaren essay, pages 260-26l.) After the Kallgren slate was selected, McLaren announced his withdrawal from the race and his enthusiastic endorsement of the Berkeley Four. The Conservative Coalition was born. It has endured to the present.
Bordon Price was Tom McLaren’s unofficial Republican running mate when both were elected in l969. Loni Hancock describes Price as “unfailingly gentle, courteous, and independent minded.” (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Hancock essay, page 384.)
Price’s independence had long ago cost him nearly all of the conservative constituency that elected him. This didn’t bother Price who felt he had been true to his convictions and campaign promises and therefore deserved a second term. Bordon Price decided to run for re-election and no amount of pressure from Kallgren or the city’s Republican leadership could get him to change his mind.
Price was the first of several Councilmembers to be discarded by the Conservative Coalition for the political crime of being independent. Yet, invariably, Conservative Coalition candidates campaign for election on the basis that they are independent, while, allegedly, April Coalition/BCA candidates are not. The Conservative Coalition’s very existence has always been founded upon many such hypocrisies.
But Berkeley City Councilman Bordon Price was no hypocrite. He really was independent.
The l973 Campaign: April Coalition vs. Berkeley Four
A Few Words About Terminology Over the Years
Political labels are powerful weapons, especially in Berkeley. The words an individual uses to describe the opposing sides often reveal which side that individual belongs to. Impartial or neutral word usage is possible in Berkeley politics, but only if a serious effort is made.
The word “radical” has always been the cornerstone of this terminology struggle because it has at least two distinct applications. When used in reference to a political opponent, it is always intended to scare, disgust, or at least offend the voters. In this context, “radical” means “dangerously extreme”. As stated by Councilman Kallgren, “The word ‘radical’ was and is distasteful to me.” (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Kallgren essay, page 4ll.) The electronic and print media have consistently labeled terrorist activities as “radical”, so that the two words are now synonymous in the minds of many people. Here are two examples from the mid l970’s:
The woman who took a shot at President Ford yesterday is a former FBI informant who infiltrated radical groups and later said she converted to the radical cause. (San Francisco Chronicle, September 23, l975).
Raids on radical bomb factories (San Francisco Examiner headline, February 22, l976).
As a negative political word, “radical” is also used to label the extreme right wing. In the l984 campaign, Walter Mondale tried to impale President Reagan with the word: “When it comes to the deficits, he is neither a moderate nor a conservative–he’s a radical.” (San Francisco Chronicle, September ll, l984, page l4.) Whether inflicted on left or right, it is a modern smear word.
Thus, a newspaper article, speech, or campaign ad calling the April Coalition, Berkeley Citizens Action, or any of its candidates “radical” is a political smear, whether intentional or accidental.
However, the word “radical” once had a relatively honorable political history in America, referring to progressive, populist, or left movements seeking fundamental, root change. The “radical” Republicans after the Civil War favored extreme measures to achieve equality for black people, and have been condemned for trying to achieve their goals by impeaching President Andrew Johnson. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) were certainly “radical” in demanding workers’ rights and refusing to support World War I. The IWW was destroyed by the U.S. Government because of its politics.
Some people on the Berkeley left describe their own politics as “radical”, meaning they favor major societal changes in the tradition of such past American movements. Dellums for Congress literature in l970 explained that:
“If it’s radical to want a living wage, a decent home and adequate health care for every American, then I am a radical.
If its radical to believe that the quality of life in America-the air and land and water about us, and the hopes and joys of our lives-are more important than the drive for a quick profit, then I am a radical.
If it’s radical to want an end to war and violence and destruction, so that we can all devote ourselves to the challenge of peace, then I am pleased to call myself a radical.”
Thus, the two uses of the word “radical” inherently conflict as to political intent and effect. For at least a dozen years, electoral people on the left have been trying to persuade our foolhardy colleagues to stop using the word “radical” on the practical grounds of self-interest. I favor the word “progressive” as a permanent substitute, since it not only has a noble history of its own (California Governor Hiram Johnson, Senator Robert LaFollette), but survives as a purely electoral word, without negative connotations. The main drawback with “progressive” is also its strength, the political wholesomeness that even motivates conservatives to voluntarily (and fraudulently) don the progressive label.
Unfortunately, there are always some stubborn, ideological people on the left who keep using the word “radical” in reference to their own politics, and thus play into the hands of our opponents. Such specific individuals can properly be called radicals by their friends because the word is intended to describe, not smear them. I will use “radical” for that purpose. However, any collective use of the word “radical” to label an organization or a group of candidates, (the radical April Coalition, the radical Berkeley Citizens Action, or the radical slate), functions as political libel because such groups do not adopt the word or use it for self-description. In a Berkeley campaign, “radical” remains a scare word,a code word, by which opponents are labeled for the sole purpose of mobilizing the center/right against the left.
The same people who “radical-bait” the April Coalition, and later BCA, invariably use the term “liberal” to describe the opposition center/right coalition. The forces associated with Councilmembers Ed Kallgren, Warren Widener, Shirley Dean, and Gilda Feller wish to be called “liberal”, regardless of their anti-liberal voting record and conservative Republican support. “Liberal” is a good, affirmative, electoral word because a plurality or majority of Berkeley’s voters are liberal Democrats. If the race is described in the press and accepted by the voters as “liberals” vs. “radicals”, with both coalitions misrepresented to the left of their true positions, the “liberals” will always win, no matter how conservative they really are. This terminology trick became a major factor in the l973 campaign.
In fairness and objectivity, the word “liberal” has been meaningless in Berkeley politics since the l97l election and should not be used to describe either side. Traditional liberals have no real organization, have elected no candidates, and are a minority in both of Berkeley’s two major parties. Both coalitions include liberals, but the dominant politics of each group is far to the left and the right, respectively, of traditional liberalism. The Berkeley liberal political center does not exist. It has been divided and conquered, a victim of left and right wing coalition politics in our two party system.
Even the term “moderate”, when applied to the Kallgren/Feller grouping, is totally deceptive. Moderates are in the middle. Bordon Price became a moderate, an independent, ultimately rejected by both sides. The Kallgren/Feller side is Berkeley’s right wing, backed by Republicans for well over a decade, because they function as local conservatives. Objectively, they are part of a Conservative Coalition, the most accurate term.
Thus, from l973 on, the Berkeley political battle has been between a Progressive Coalition and a Conservative Coalition, using a pair of historically honorable, descriptive political terms. For the right-wing, “moderate-conservative” is reasonable, because it captures the coalition aspect, as does left-progressive for the other side. The Daily Cal’s use of moderate-conservative and left-progressive in the early l980’s was a highpoint of descriptive fairness that the rest of the media seldom matched.
Because terminology remains so important a sword in Berkeley politics, radical-baiting will probably never go away. Perhaps if a libel suit was filed against the next use of the “radical” smear during a campaign, that might finally get the point across.
The April Coalition Campaign
The April Coalition’s l973 campaign was a nightmare because the civil war between the Electoral and Ideological Caucuses was transplanted, with all its unpleasantness intact, direct from the candidates’ convention to all the campaign meetings. The four candidates got along relatively well, but nothing could keep the Ideologues from trying to run the campaign even after they had lost at the convention. Two examples stand out.
The Order of Candidates’ Names
In l973, as in previous years, until later changed to random order by state law, City Council candidates appeared on the Berkeley ballot in alphabetical order. Thus, nearly all campaign literature and posters normally presented slate candidates in alphabetical order so that the voters’ name recognition sequence matched the ballot sequence. (Walker, Walker, Schiffenbauer, Stevenson and Dudley was an exception for poetic reasons.) In l97l, April Coalition posters read: “Bailey, Brown, Hancock, and Simmons”. This order was certainly not due to any political bias favoring Bailey, but simply reflected the alphabetical order of the candidates’ names.
In l973, the ballot order, the alphabetical order of our candidates names was “Birdsall, Dashiell, Goldberg, and Kelley”. That is how everyone expected the campaign materials, especially the posters to read. Everyone except the Ideologues. They protested the listing of Peter Birdsall first as inherently prejudicial and unfair to Lenny Goldberg. The Ideologues insistently demanded reverse alphabetical order: “Kelley, Goldberg, Dashiell, Birdsall”. The result was totally inconsistent use of both orders on bumper stickers and other material. At one point, Jeff Gordon had the main campaign poster printed in alphabetical order without official authorization just to get it done, no matter who complained.
Denouncing Partial Endorsers
Worse than the order of names battle was the endless struggle over which partial slate endorsers to denounce. In l973, as in other years, many newspapers and people, including some elected officials, endorsed partial or mixed slates, perhaps throwing in support for an independent candidate. Slate campaigns traditionally used these partial endorsements as best they could, ignoring some, printing literature for individual candidates to accommodate others.
Many l973 endorsers such as Congressman Dellums, Assemblyman Meade, and Councilwoman Hancock supported the entire April Coalition slate. But Assemblyman John Miller endorsed Birdsall, Dashiell, Kelley, and Harry Overstreet, the leading black independent candidate. Miller, who is also black, undiplomatically specified that he was endorsing Overstreet over Lenny Goldberg because Goldberg was an Ideologue.
Miller’s statement so infuriated the Ideologues around Lenny that they demanded the public denunciation of Assemblyman Miller and the rejection of his endorsement by the April Coalition and the three endorsed candidates. Electoral people in the campaign, plus Margot, Ying, and Peter, adamantly refused to denounce Assemblyman Miller, and this argument continued during the entire campaign. Miller was never denounced.
Then, as election day approached, Berkeley’s State Senator Nicolas Petris endorsed Peter Birdsall, Harry Overstreet, and Sue Hone. Again Lenny was excluded and the Ideologues screamed for Petris to be denounced. Petris’ offense was far worse than Miller’s because he had endorsed a Berkeley Four candidate. Plus, Senator Petris was white while Assemblyman Miller was black. Color couldn’t excuse the Senator’s offense. To the Ideologues, there could be no excuse for failure to denounce Petris. I believe they turned it into an ultimatum. In any case, Peter Birdsall issued a public statement denouncing Senator Petris and rejecting his endorsement. It is therefore not surprising that in the last ten years since his denunciation, Senator Petris has consistently endorsed the entire slate of our opponents.
Somehow the April Coalition and April l7th Movement managed to disconnect from the Ideologues long enough to conduct a campaign stressing our Program for People, support for the initiatives, the Dellums and Hancock endorsements, and Loni Hancock’s record on the Council compared to that of the Berkeley Four’s incumbents. Nearly 6,000 new voters were registered and a tremendous enthusiasm developed for the April Coalition slate among progressives in our traditionally strong areas, the greater campus community, plus central and north central Berkeley. Our red slate posters, the ones Jeff Gordon had printed secretly, appeared in hundreds of windows where they couldn’t be torn down.
Sproul Steps rallies were huge successes, one featuring Congressman Dellums. Lenny wrote a song about how “You can’t fight city hall, you’ve got to take it over”, which he sang at our rallies while playing the guitar. He was our first singing candidate, although, unlike Nancy Skinner in l98l, the song was not recorded. Lenny as folksinger, pictured singing and strumming the guitar, was a far better image than the one his ideological friends had stuck him with.
Meanwhile, the April l7th Movement, under Jeff Gordon’s leadership, engaged in a concentrated and successful effort to prevent Joe Garrett, the Berkeley Four’s alleged student candidate, from getting any significant student support. Garrett’s non-student status, combined with his lack of campus contacts, made him an easy target. The Berkeley Four’s “student candidate” was to do worse in the campus community than in any other part of Berkeley.
The Berkeley Four Campaign
The Berkeley Four spent over $75,000 in l973, an incredible sum, much of it raised from large corporations such as Santa Fe Railway Co., Southern Pacific Land Co., Cutter Labs, Crown Zellerbach, Del Monte Foods, Safeway, and Colgate Palmolive. The April Coalition spent about one fifth of that amount.
There had to be multiple Berkeley Four campaigns. First, a public effort portraying the slate as liberal Democrats, even very liberal. In press statements, campaign ads, and in literature mailed to Democrats, the Berkeley Four pretended to be agents of change, of reform, actively trying to impersonate a progressive slate by lying about nearly everything they stood for.
For example, a Berkeley Four ad in the April ll, l973 Daily Cal offered the commitment that “Existing rent control and housing laws must be enforced to protect tenants from exploitive rents…”. This contradicted the numerous Sweeney and Hone votes against enforcing the existing rent control law, therefore falsely portraying the Berkeley Four as rent control supporters. The same ad also stated “Existing housing stock must be preserved.” and “use permits should be required for all significant developments, residential, commercial and industrial.” That sounds like support for the NPO, however the Berkeley Four actually opposed the initiative and made a serious effort to block its passage. Such deceptions were repeated on a massive scale.
Then there was a private Berkeley Four campaign, aimed solely at registered Republicans through the mail. In a letter addressed “Dear Fellow Republican,” the Republicans were told by their own leaders, former Mayor Johnson, Councilman McLaren, and Allan Leggett (The Berkeley Unity Committee) that they had to support the Berkeley Four who “are reasonable, responsible people who will listen to the point of view of all citizens in the community with open minds and will make their decisions on the basis of all of the facts presented to them in the interest of all persons affected. Such would not be the case with the election of the radicals who have stated publicly that their Council votes will be dictated by the April Coalition.”
Note first that the “open mindedness” praised in the letter is a perfect description of Bordon Price, who the Republicans hated for doing exactly what the letter claims is desirable. This “open minds” reference is totally hypocritical. The Berkeley Four were never open-minded; they were a tightly disciplined slate, which is exactly what the Republicans wanted and got. Secondly, the April Coalition candidates are accused of stating publicly that they will be puppets, a complete falsehood as well as a factual impossibility. Anyone familiar with the April Coalition would know that it was organizationally incapable of even attempting to control Councilmembers’ votes. The April Coalition never existed after an election was over. Finally, the letter uses the word “radicals” four times to describe the April Coalition and argue that Republicans must vote for “all four” of the Berkeley Four to stop the radicals.
The Berkeley Four consciously hid the role of Republicans in their campaign to prevent the liberal Democratic masquerade from being exposed. The Conservative Coalition was to repeat this pattern in the campaigns of l975, l977, and l979. Not until the campaigns of l98l and l982 were the Republicans to succeed in being allowed to come out of the closet and publicly participate in the candidate selection and campaigns of the Conservative Coalition.
A dominant theme of the Berkeley Four campaign involved the continual smearing of the April Coalition as dangerous radicals, linked tightly to D’Army Bailey and committed to an extremist, irresponsible platform. The Berkeley Four published falsified Council voting records and asserted in ads and mailings that Bailey’s actions were those of the April Coalition.
For example, a Widener column in the Berkeley Four’s “Democratic United Bulletin” repeatedly attacks the “Coalition Three”. Much of the time the Berkeley Four appeared to be running against the unpopular Bailey, not Birdsall, Dashiell, Goldberg, and Kelley. (Bailey actually endorsed no candidates in the April l973 election as he was obviously unhappy with the April Coalition and preoccupied by the growing recall threat against him.)
While the April Coalition had endorsed Bailey out of ignorance in l97l, it was demagogic for the Berkeley Four campaign to hold the Coalition responsible for his actions. The April Coalition was Bailey’s victim and the Coalition’s l973 candidates were clearly independent of his control as Loni had been. Even the Ideologues only admired Bailey as a symbol, never defending the specific things he had done. However, Bailey’s unpopularity did rub off onto the April Coalition candidates as the Berkeley Four’s negative campaign was highly effective.
While distorting the April Coalition’s relationship with Bailey, there was one key City Council reality which the Berkeley Four desperately wanted to hide: the fact that they already were the Council majority. With their two incumbents running for election, Sweeney and Hone, plus their three endorsers, Widener, Kallgren, and McLaren, the Berkeley Four constituted the present governing five vote majority on the City Council. Yet they would never admit to being the majority, preferring to campaign as outsiders, rescuers, who would provide a new Council majority and free the city from the dangerous grip of anarchy represented by the April Coalition. The same Widener column previously quoted also claimed “the City Council lacks a political majority.
In reality the Berkeley Four had two incumbents on their slate and were the majority. We were the challengers, had no incumbents running for election, and held only one seat (Loni), or three seats if you erroneously count Bailey and Simmons. So successful was the Berkeley Four’s campaign of multiple deception, combined with sensationalist press coverage of “radical Berkeley” since l97l, that many voters actually believed D’Army Bailey and the April Coalition to constitute the current city government which the Berkeley Four were seeking to throw out of office. Through many campaigns, the Conservative Coalition has repeated its l973 tactics and refused to admit that it held the current Council majority.
The April Coalition could not break through the web of well-financed lies and hypocrisy that constituted the Berkeley Four campaign. We attacked them for having been chosen privately in Kallgren’s living room in contrast to our open convention, but few voters cared. (In fact, many individual Council candidates, including Ron Dellums (l967) and Loni Hancock (l969) were originally chosen in living rooms, Sweeney’s and the Sellers’, respectively. Kallgren simply expanded this method to chose an entire slate.) We tried to campaign on issues, yet the Berkeley Four would not be pinned down on any issues, generally avoiding public discussion of the initiatives.
It took an eight year City Council veteran such as Jack Kent of the Democratic Caucus to understand what the Berkeley Four really represented. Jack had attended the final Kallgren living room meeting, and he endorsed the April Coalition slate on the grounds that they were committed to the issues he cared about: social programs, environmental needs, and open government. Jack later wrote that the alliance between the Kallgren Democrats and the Republicans put liberals “in an embarrassing position” since the Council majority could not take any progressive action without alienating the Republicans upon whom they were dependent. Jack disapproved of this negative alliance that stood for nothing except keeping the left out of power. (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Jack Kent essay, pages l02-l03.)
But Jack Kent was an exception. He saw through the Berkeley Four’s liberal facade and knew what their current and future Council majorities really represented. Far more typical of an average liberal Democrat’s comprehension level was Newsweek’s April 9, l973 issue, which wrote, concerning the Berkeley Four:
“they have a slate of leftists all their own, obviously hoping that they may thus be able to split the radicals and perhaps drive them from power.”
That sentence symbolizes the triumph of a campaign built upon fraud and disinformation.
Finally there was the case of Congresswoman Bella Abzug, a progressive, feminist hero. She was the star attraction at an April Coalition fundraiser where her picture was taken with our candidates. Then she went to a Berkeley Four fundraiser for pictures with their candidates. She endorsed no one. We were too disgusted to use any pictures with her, but Bella appeared next to Wilmont Sweeney in Berkeley Four mailers.
The Berkeley Four were thus public leftists, McGovern Democrats, secret Republicans, and everything in between; something different for every constituency. Meanwhile, the April Coalition, whose supporters were primarily registered Democrats, could not escape the shackles of the “radical” label.
The April Coalition tried picketing the Berkeley Four campaign office to draw attention to their deceptive practices. But even the Daily Californian would not expose the Berkeley Four as a conservative fraud. The Daily Cal endorsed the April Coalition, but made a fortune from the lies in the Berkeley Four’s full page ads. In the opinion of the April l7th Movement’s leadership, Daily Cal Editor-in-Chief Jim Hoffman and Editorial Page Editor Sean Gordon were too cynical to care whether or not the Berkeley Four’s entire campaign was a lie. Hoffman and Gordon expected politicians to lie. That wasn’t news to them.
Meanwhile the Berkeley Gazette, under right-wing editor Mike Culbert, crusaded for the Berkeley Four and mercilessly flailed away at the April Coalition.
Home Stretch and Finish Line
The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce mailed an official looking set of ballot arguments against the NPO and the four police initiatives to all Berkeley voters. This was supposed to compensate for their omission from the Voters’ Handbook. We knew from our precinct workers and polls that Public Ownership of PG&E was in big trouble.
Then the Berkeley Four’s Council majority tried a set of last minute sneak attacks on the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance. At the March l3, l973 Council meeting, they proposed to go on record against the NPO and submit a negative ballot argument after the legal deadline had passed. This effort was abandoned when the City Attorney McCullum told them it was a violation of law.
Now desperate to stop the NPO, Widener called a special meeting of the Council for Monday, April 9, l973, to have the city send each voter a “clarifying notice” to the Voters Handbook. The handbook was misleading, Widener claimed, because the Yes on NPO ballot argument included the following sponsors:
Berkeley City Council
Berkeley Planning Commission
without indentation, mistakenly implying that the City Council and Planning Commission, rather than Loni and Neil as individuals, had endorsed the initiative. The Council majority proposed to remedy this by sending each voter a statement that the Berkeley Planning Commission really opposed the NPO, a shameless effort to illegally use city funds to campaign against the measure. Shirley Dean had campaigned against the the NPO more than any other Planning Commissioner and could have pushed for this tactic.
Loni had wrecked her back. She couldn’t sit up or stand up and anyone else would have been home in bed. She had to be carried into the April 9 special Council meeting on a stretcher-like recliner. Placed down in front of the Council platform, she was ready to do what she could to stop the anti-NPO mailer. Sue Hone appeared, but not 4 other members of the Council majority. Lacking the needed 5 votes, Hone left and the special Council meeting never took place.
The April 17th Movement held a spirited noon rally on campus a day prior to election. Our candidates spoke, but the feature Sproul Steps attraction was a drawing to pick the successful “Win a Kilo” raffle entry. To no one’s surprise the winner’s name could not be announced, but I was later told that the kilo had been delivered to a happy U.C. dorm.
Election day was a frantic, incredible Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) effort in which the April Coalition and April l7th Movement had more volunteers than we could constructively use. 5-6 GOTV workers were put into each of our strong precincts, which were much smaller in size than current precincts. The resulting campus community turnout was the largest ever for an April election, exceeding l97l by 2,000 voters, and giving us a clear advantage over the hills in the absolute number of voters. Black turnout dropped dramatically from l97l without the exciting, bitter, Widener vs. Sweeney race for Mayor. (It was certainly less dramatic, but more ironic in l973 when the Berkeley Four literature proclaimed: “Widener Needs Sweeney …”.) Overall, turnout was nearly 50,000 voters, down l,500 from the l97l all-time April record.
The April l7, l973 results with 49,932 voters:
elected Susan Hone 23,667(47%) Berkeley Four, Appointed Incumbent
elected Wilmont Sweeney 23,650(47%) Berkeley Four, Incumbent
elected Henry Ramsey 23,247(47%) Berkeley Four
elected Ying Kelley 21,082(42%) April Coalition
Margot Dashiell 20,863(42%) April Coalition
Joe Garrett 20,238(41%) Berkeley Four
Peter Birdsall 18,997(38%) April Coalition
Lenny Goldberg 18,293(37%) April Coalition
Harry Overstreet 5,488(ll%) Independent
Bordon Price 4,363( 9%) Independent Republican, Incumbent
Velma Bradley l,894( 4%) Independent
Leo Bach l,865( 4%) Independent
30 For 40 (l) YES 6,984(l5%)
NO 40,l58(85%) FAILED
Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance (2) YES 27,280(59%) PASSED
Berkeley Marijuana Initiative (3) YES 28,230(6l%) PASSED
Mutual Aid Pact Regulation (4) YES 24,985(54%) PASSED
Police Residency Requirement (5) YES 22,680(48%)
NO 24,320(52%) FAILED
Police Weapons Control (6) YES 22,735(49%)
NO 23,7l8(51%) FAILED
Police Review Commission (7) YES 25,620(56%) PASSED
Public Ownership of PG&E (8) YES l9,942(42%)
NO 27,308(58%) FAILED
We lost decisively, electing only Ying, in spite of improving our percentage of the vote over l97l by 4-5% per candidate. Lenny and Peter, finishing seventh and eighth, received the same percentages that placed Bailey and Hancock second and third in l97l. Ying and Margot both received 2% more of the vote than had Kallgren, l97l’s first place finisher.
Yet the Conservative Coalition succeeded in unifying the center and right wing so completely that its three winning candidates obtained 7% more of the total vote than had Kallgren, even though Kallgren was the l97l unity candidate with every center/right endorsement possible.
In April l973, as with the Rent Board race, the hills controlled the election by producing overwhelming victory margins, better than 3 to l, for the Berkeley Four, while the April Coalition could manage only a little more than a 2 to l edge in the campus community. Campus turned out more voters than the hills, but the hills’ unified Democratic/Republican vote for the Berkeley Four produced large enough victory margins to offset the campus turnout edge. Additionally, the Berkeley Four’s slate of two blacks and one white incumbent defeated the April Coalition overall in the black community. Margot Dashiell did very well among black voters and Ying did less well, while the young white males, Peter and Lenny, fared poorly in the black community. Still, the Berkeley Four’s plurality margins in black precincts were small and inconsequential compared to their decisive, victory-producing hill margins.
The Berkeley Four’s l973 triumph maintained their pre-election five vote Council majority. Ramsey would simply replace McLaren. The new Berkeley Four majority would be extraordinarily tightly disciplined compared to its predecessor. Ramsey’s election also meant the Council now had its first ever black majority: Widener, Sweeney, Ramsey, Bailey and Simmons. (These five men would never vote together on any contested issues.)
For the April Coalition, bitter defeat was slightly tempered by Ying’s election and the passage of four out of our seven initiatives: the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, Police Review Commission, Mutual Aid Pact Review, and the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative. The electorate gave six of the initiatives far more votes than our candidates received, indicating that our issues enjoyed far greater popularity than the April Coalition itself. The Coalition candidates did no better than the municipalization of PG&E measure, 42%. That measure was the only initiative subjected to the same kind of well-financed smear campaign that beat the April Coalition.
This loss retired Jeff Gordon and Peter Birdsall from Berkeley politics. Jeff finally got his law degree and moved back to Los Angeles. Peter went to work for Superintendent of Schools Wilson Riles Sr. in Sacramento and now lobbies privately on behalf of schools as Executive Director of Citizens for Education. Lenny Goldberg taught at San Francisco State before becoming Assemblyman Tom Bates’ chief legislative assistant, a post he has filled with distinction and success since l977. Lenny, who never really was an Ideologue, is now so associated with Tom Bates’ pragmatic politics, that the two of them are occasionally attacked by the current Berkeley left for making compromises to get bills passed and for other acts that fall short of ideological perfection.
Most of the Ideological Caucus’ leaders also retired from Berkeley politics in l973. Dan Siegel retired after working very
hard against the Bailey recall and now has a community and labor law practice in Oakland. Dan and Anne Weills got married.
The final comment on the April l973 Berkeley city election should belong to the victor, Councilman Ed Kallgren. He blamed independent candidates Bordon Price and Harry Overstreet for draining off enough center/right votes to elect Ying Kelley and prevent a Berkeley Four sweep. (Experiment and Change in Berkeley, Kallgren essay, page 428.)