Make Voting Great Again: Introducing the Express’ Weekly Election 2016 Column

Introducing the Express' weekly 2016 local election-news roundup.

Progressives Team Up: Last week, Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington threw his hat into the mayor’s race — with a twist.

Worthington announced that he forged an alliance with fellow progressive council colleague and already-announced mayoral hopeful Jesse Arreguín. The two candidates will inform their supporters to vote for both of them, with the goal of keeping Councilman Laurie Capitelli out of the mayor’s office.

How does this work? Berkeley has ranked-choice voting, which allows for an instant runoff of candidates. This means that, if Capitelli does not obtain a majority on November 8, it’s possible that a Worthington-Arreguín alliance could jam their less-progressive colleague out of the top spot. That is, if they can establish a large enough coalition of first- and second-place votes.

That could be difficult. So far, there are nine candidates for Berkeley mayor — and the deadline to file is still a few weeks away, on August 12.

‘Big Soda’ Versus The Town: Makers of corn syrup-infused beverages such as Coca-Cola are going all out to stop Oakland from taxing their tooth-rotting drinks.

In November, Oakland voters will decide whether or not to levy a sugar-sweetened beverage tax. Funds raised would support health education programs. Sponsored by Councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington, Desley Brooks, and Rebecca Kaplan, the tax is modeled on one passed in Berkeley two years ago.

But the political fight between “Big Soda” and public-health advocates in Oakland is going to rage harder than the battle of Berkeley. Oakland is a major market for diabetes bombs, so the American Beverage Association has branded the proposed tax a “grocery tax,” claiming it will drive up prices on all foods.

Last week, Campbell Washington, Brooks, and Kaplan condemned ads by the ABA for playing on consumer fears of more expensive food. The councilmembers also accused the industry of lying.

It’s no wonder that “Big Soda” is so aggressive: Similar taxes are proposed locally in cities like Albany and in other major cities like Philadelphia.

Island of Goldilocks Rent Control: City of Alameda voters will have to decide between at least two rent-control measures this fall — and possibly even a third.

First, activists with the Alameda Renters Coalition qualified a measure for the ballot a few weeks back that would disallow no-cause evictions and put a limit on annual rent increases. The new rules would apply to housing built before 1995.

But, in response to this tenant measure, Alameda city council put its own rent ordinance, which they passed in March, on the ballot. The city’s approach is more tempered than ARC’s. For instance, any landlord rent spike of more than 5 percent would require review from a committee.

Activists, however, say that renters don’t have the recourse to challenge a landlord’s rent increase. They also complained that placing two rent measures on the ballot will be confusing to voters.

But Alameda Councilman Tony Daysog argued at the Tuesday meeting that the city’s approach had a perfect “Goldilocks quality”: not too strong, not too weak.

An initiative backed by island landlords hoped to throw out any and all rent-control protections, but that proposed measure appears to be short of the number of signatures required to end up on the ballot.

Oakland’s Rent Win: Currently, Oakland landlords can raise rents however much they want, even if the increase violates the city’s rent-control law. The burden is on renters to know their rights, file a petition with the rent board, and fight their landlord to stop the increase.

This November, however, Oakland voters will have the chance to reverse this system of weak rent control and establish stronger rules, including a system that requires landlords to file petitions if they want to increase rent above the legally allowed amount.

The same ballot measure would also bar landlords from evicting tenants, except for “just cause,” from all rental properties built before December 31, 1995. Currently, just-cause protections only cover buildings constructed before 1980.

Finally, the measure will fix a loophole in Oakland’s rental-housing laws. Currently, landlords can pass on the costs of capital improvements to tenants. The new law would still allow pass-throughs, but it would require that they be spread over more years, so that fewer tenants are displaced by aggressive rent increases.

Tenant activists were elated when the council put these proposed changes on the ballot. “This is gonna be one of the council’s that I can be proud of,” said longtime renters’ advocate James Vann.


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