Tens of thousands of developer dollars didn’t outweigh Bernie Sanders’ endorsement in Berkeley’s mayoral race. Bernie-blessed progressive Jesse Arreguin pulled the surprise upset of the century by beating the developers’ darling Laurie Capitelli convincingly in an instant-voting runoff. The National Association of Realtors in Chicago had spent more than $60,000 on behalf of Capitelli.
Capitelli was retiring Mayor Tom Bates’ chosen successor. Bates had a laudable record fighting for progressive issues in earlier decades, but in recent years turned into a crabby, high-handed, and devious proponent of high-rise luxury housing developments downtown. Capitelli, a retired real estate agent, generally acted as Bates’ right-hand man.
Just as Bates’ endorsement did not help Capitelli, so Capitelli’s endorsement plus $13,000 in Chicago money and nearly $18,000 in police PAC donations failed to advance Stephen Murphy, Capitelli’s chosen successor in the District 5 council post. Sophie Hahn, who narrowly lost to Capitelli for the council seat four years ago, obliterated Murphy with 62 per cent of the vote. Murphy, who was fined by the Court of Appeals in 2012 for dishonesty and incompetence as an attorney, has been a leading activist in promoting luxury housing development.
Retiring progressive Max Anderson in District 3 had better luck with his endorsement of Ben Bartlett. Bartlett outclassed his opponents, winning a 57 per cent majority on the first ballot.
Incumbent Darryl Moore, in recent years usually another “me too” vote with Bates, appears to have lost his seat to first-time candidate Cheryl Davila. Davila, a tenant and mother of two, campaigned in opposition to gentrification and for community control of police behavior. On the first ballot, Moore was in the lead, but stood ten points short of a winning majority. In the ranked-choice runoff, the votes of third place finisher Nanci Armstrong-Temple went primarily to Davila and put her over the 50 per cent mark with a lead of 42 votes over Moore. However, a number of absentee ballots remain to be counted, and there is a theoretical possibility of a reversal. Final results may not be known for a few days.
With Arreguin leaving his District 4 council seat to become mayor, a special election will have to be held early in 2017 to replace him.
With or without Davila, the tenor of Berkeley’s City Council has shifted in a progressive direction. The Bates machine with its 6-3 rubber-stamp majority is demolished.
A major outlay of $892,540 by a PAC for the Berkeley Property Owners Association also failed to defeat Berkeley Proposition U1 or to pass Proposition DD. The U1 measure, which passed by 74 per cent, will raise about $3 million for affordable housing. The BPOA-sponsored effort, DD, would have raised less than half that amount. The No vote on DD was over 70 per cent.
The CALI slate for the Berkeley Rent Board — Christina Murphy, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon-Weisberg and Igor Tregub — won all four seats on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. Incumbents Nathan Wollman and Judy Hunt were unseated. The CALI slate also had Bernie Sanders’ endorsement.
The over-all pattern of voting in Berkeley reflects strong opposition to the luxury-priority high-rise construction projects that the Bates administration has pushed through in the past several years. With a six-vote majority, Bates was easily able to override the three progressive council members, Arreguin, Kriss Worthington, and Max Anderson. Council meetings frequently took on the air of a charade, with long parades of citizens lining up to oppose a given measure, and the council majority then ignoring all input and voting 6-3 in favor. Voters punished the Bates administration for this conduct. The progressives made it clear that they are not opposed to development per se, but to development that prioritizes luxury housing over affordable housing.