Letters for the week of 11-21-2001

"Berkeley is rapidly losing its diversity with the demise of vacancy control and sky-high rents."

Mayor Dean’s Machiavellian Machinations

In response to allegations by Will Harper (“One Man, 2/3rds Vote,” November 14) on redistricting, there are several points to which I’d like to make. First, what actually happened at Andronico’s is that after Ms. Hawley yelled at myself and volunteers, the store manager came out and agreed that one person from each side of the debate could be on each side of the two doors to pass out fliers and/or petitions. The petitioners rejected that offer, so the store manager asked us all to leave.

Second, it ‘s clear that Armstrong and the conservatives on the council feel politically threatened by students and tenants in the redistricting proposals. With the addition of students and tenants, primarily due to the Census undercount centering in district 8, Armstrong went ballistic. She was quoted as saying, “With the wave of a wand (the progressives) destroyed a district (8), that was created in 1986 as a largely homeowner district, by putting in significantly more students.” (Berkeley Daily Planet, October 4, 2001.) Dean and her conservative allies have long been opponents of Berkeley’s rent-control protections. Now, Berkeley is rapidly losing its diversity with the demise of vacancy control and sky-high rents.

Third, the redistricting issue is also about the mayor’s struggle to broaden her power base against her progressive opponents. Mayor Dean uses her expensive PR machine to smear the progressives and Berkeley’s liberal tradition at every opportunity. In her frantic bid for reelection, she has played an “Audie Bock” role on the war issue. To this day, she is misrepresenting the city manager’s and fire chief’s position on the removal of the flags on the City of Berkeley fire trucks. On her Web site she writes: “City of Berkeley fire chief and city manager would not allow the American flag to be displayed on city fire trucks.” The city manager’s memo on the subject: “Our fire chief did indeed give the order to replace parade flags on city trucks with more appropriate sized and safely mounted American flags.”

Ms. Dean has also lied about the progressive councilmembers position on the war in Afghanistan. Until publicly called on it by Councilmember Maio, Dean used every media opportunity available to publicize a boycott against Berkeley businesses, and her Web site listed the ways people could boycott Berkeley. Mayor Dean’s Machiavellian machinations have become self-fulfilling prophecies at the city’s expense.

Dean belittles the progressive movements of Berkeleyans as being “stuck in the ’60s.” She recently said at council meeting that Berkeley was better off in the ’50s.

Berkeley deserves a fair redistricting plan as well as a mayor who is proud to represent its mantle of liberalism and take a strong leadership role on improving the environment and working for peace and social justice.
Dona Spring, Berkeley city councilmember

Ignore The Law, Do What’s Right

I read the Will Harper column of November 14 (“One Man, 2/3 Vote”) and am shocked at its blatant sin of omission. The City Charter requires the council to redistrict each nineteen years based on the numbers produced by the US Census Bureau. This time those numbers were way off. Everybody knew that and the city was, and is, attempting to get them changed.

But the council was advised by the city attorney that it had to use the then-existing numbers. On that basis the current plan is in full compliance with the charter. Why didn’t Harper report that?

A better way to handle the situation, in my opinion, would have been for the council to ignore the charter and the city attorney and simply use the accurate numbers. That would have resulted in even districts and prevented the political maneuvering by the losing faction. Let a citizen sue the city alleging that its use of the real numbers was a violation of the charter.

And I see little threat to Armstrong next November. The students notoriously don’t vote in significant numbers. But this has sure been a good organizing tool for the minority faction on the council.
Malcolm Burnstein, Berkeley

Will Harper responds:
In fact, my article addressed all of the issues Burnstein raises, as the following paragraph makes clear:

“Berkeley’s charter requires the council to redraw the city’s eight council district boundaries every ten years after the new census. The idea is to adjust for population shifts and allot every district a roughly equal number of residents. But the latest census count had a fatal flaw: It failed to tally as many as 6,000 Berkeley residents. While the general consensus is that Berkeley gained thousands of residents during the 1990s, according to the official count the city’s population increased by just nineteen people. Most of these overlooked residents lived in the student-heavy south campus areas of District 7 and District 8. For instance, Census 2000 showed only one person living in the Unit 2 Residential Complex on Haste Street, while the 1990 Census turned up 1,070 residents. But while even the progressives concede that the official count is wrong, the charter requires the council to rely on the census when redrawing district lines.”

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