Berkeley Mayoral Elections a Case of Deja Vu

Photo: Current Mayor Tom Bates came to Upper Sproul on Tuesday to campaign for the 2008 mayoral elections. He ran against his current opponent, Shirley Dean, to win the governorship.
Skyler Reid/Staff
Current Mayor Tom Bates came to Upper Sproul on Tuesday to campaign for the 2008 mayoral elections. He ran against his current opponent, Shirley Dean, to win the governorship.

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Berkeley Mayoral Candidates

Berkeley mayoral candidates discuss their plans and qualifications.

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The election for Berkeley mayor this November features the same candidates as it did six years ago-but this time, the tables are turned.

In 2002, incumbent Shirley Dean was defeated by Tom Bates. Now, Bates is the incumbent and Dean is trying to win back her former position.

For the most part, the issues remain the same-downtown revitalization, environmentally friendly programs, government accountability and crime.

Bates was reelected in 2006 for a two-year term that would align the mayoral election with the presidential election.

Many say Bates won in 2002 because he vowed to bring a fresh perspective to overly divisive city politics.

But Dean, who was mayor from 1994-2002, said Bates is not accessible and city government is less open, practices she vowed to change.

"The mayor has to go into neighborhoods and meet with people and have open office hours," she said. "Right now you can't get an appointment with the mayor."

George Beier, co-president of the Berkeley Democratic Club and a Bates supporter, agreed that accountability is an important issue for all politicians.

"Berkeley is a small town, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to call up your council member and get a call back," he said.

Bates said these charges are untrue.

"Berkeley is the most open city in the U.S.," he said. "People don't always like the outcome, but they have the opportunity to make themselves heard."

Concerns about city accountability were prevalent at a community meeting following a double homicide in South Berkeley last month. To reduce crime, both candidates said they would increase police presence in the area.

Dean also said she would work to build trust between the community and the police.

"We need to work with the community in terms of their perception of what is happening," she said. "Then the community begins to have confidence in their partnership with the police."

Another common issue that voters will have to consider this November is downtown revitalization.

Resident and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce member Alex Hancock said the area has improved under Bates, but more progress is needed.

"We need to create more apartment housing, retail space and office space. It drives down the cost of living in Berkeley and allows more people to live and work within Berkeley. (Bates has) been out there representing business and promoting development," he said.

Bates believes that revitalization and environmental improvement go hand in hand. He said high-density housing is key to bringing people downtown and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"The word is going out that if you want to build in Berkeley, you have to be green," Bates said.

But Dean said the city should not knock down many buildings downtown because of the waste it creates.

"We obviously need some development downtown but if want to be a green city we have to understand that the greenest buildings are the ones that are reused," she said.

Dean was also critical of the solar panel financing program Bates helped create because she said it is too expensive for many families to afford.

Instead, Dean said she would focus on smaller changes that would be more applicable to individual residents.

"We don't need big, fancy plans, we need pretty normal kinds of things that can add up to a big change," she said.


Amy Brooks covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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