Campaign Notebook: He May Have a Geo, But He Gets Around Town





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Editor's note: The following is the second in a two-part series, "a day in the life of a mayoral candidate." It is an account of the reporter's experience Monday shadowing former Berkeley Assemblymember Tom Bates.

Amid a sea of feminists and female rights supporters at a fundraiser sponsored by the National Organization for Women, Berkeley mayoral candidate Tom Bates fit right in on Monday night.

Throughout the female musical performances and readings of original work, Bates remained inconspicuous, sitting in the back row but supporting the performers with applause and laughter when appropriate.

Tom Bates

He took the stage after several such performances and was greeted enthusiastically by the mostly female audience. He rallied his supporters at the intimate dinner-time gathering at Cafe de la Paz on Shattuck Avenue, asking the crowd, "Is it OK if I play my guitar?"

Bates told his backers, "This is the fourth musical event my campaign has had. If we're going to win, we're going to have a good time along the way!"

He joked with the audience, saying, "I think every other person in Berkeley is an artist ... or a therapist!"

With the support of his audience, Bates explained his progressive stance on the Berkeley mayoral campaign, telling them he planned on revitalizing the arts in Berkeley and making "progress" in schooling and housing. He emphasized the importance of women's and environmental issues.

"We're going to turn this town upside-down!" he finished enthusiastically.

Two more artists took the stage next with an original sing-a-long.

"Little shelters in the Caymans, and we don't mean grass huts. These are shelters for corporations, and they don't think they have enough of them, so they buy up legislators who will give them tax cuts."

After the event, some people munched on chiquitos and green figs filled with mango sauce, talking with fellow feminists and Bates supporters. Bates posed for several pictures with the performers and his wife, Loni Hancock, Berkeley's former mayor who is running unopposed for the Assembly seat.

Bates left the cafe at 7:30 p.m. to head to his 28th mayoral forum with Mayor Shirley Dean set for 8 p.m. at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church, also on Shattuck Avenue.

He walked from the cafe to his car, a trusty red Geo Prizm, with a bottle of water and a handful of napkins and wiped off his windshield, explaining, "The wipers don't work."

Upon his arrival at the church, the Channel 2 television crew promptly pounced on Bates for an interview. Although he hadn't been expecting the coverage, he kept his poise, using animated gestures.

He then entered the meeting room of the church to a choir singing "This Little Light of Mine." Bates took a seat onstage next to Dean promptly at 8 p.m.

Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action, a group of 12 Berkeley churches, sponsored Monday night's event.

Representatives of the group opened the meeting with a prayer, then outlined the ground rules for the night.

"There will be no hissing or booing," said Rev. Rodney Lee. "This is not an open forum, so only people who are on the agenda will speak. Each candidate will have four minutes to speak."

Two congregation members presented research they had done on city issues, focusing on the four they felt were most important for the future mayor to address: affordable housing, Berkeley Unified School District not meeting the needs of minority students, safe communities and after-school programs.

Several community members gave testimony about Berkeley schools failing to meet the needs of minority children and the ever present issue of the achievement gap at Berkeley High School.

Dean spoke first, committing herself to after-school programs and reminding the audience that she personally coaches high school writing.

Bates then outlined his campaign, which he says is based on the very same issues addressed by the congregation members.

He said that although the city spends huge amounts of money on after-school activities each year, there is no proof that the money is being used efficiently. If mayor, he would "make sure things work right," he said.

"It takes a village to raise a kid," he concluded.

Three congregation group members asked them if they would promise to meet with Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action within 30 days of their election to office to discuss the issues. "Absolutely," they both responded.

Bates left the church and headed back to his campaign office in Downtown. With lots of work still to be done, Bates' night was not yet over.

"Berkeley is wonderful in process and in participation but awful in implementation," he said. "Let's change that."

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