Election Politics May Have Swayed Council Pool Vote

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Nearly two months after a series of failed proposals to save Willard Pool came before the Berkeley City Council, a District 7 candidate revealed that two council members may have voted against incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington's proposals to keep the pool open with the motive of damaging his chances at reelection.

At the Cal Berkeley Democrats meeting Thursday night, George Beier - District 7 candidate and president of the Willard Neighborhood Association - said two unnamed council members called him after a council meeting this summer and said they did not want Worthington to enter the election with a victory in regards to the pool issue.

Over the summer, Worthington presented the council with two sets of options to fund the pool, both of which were voted down in a 5-4 vote. The pool closed July 1.

Worthington, who said he was unsure of the truth in Beier's claims, said he was shocked to hear that council members might have voted in consideration of the proposals' sponsor rather than the proposals themselves.

"Part of me was very depressed that they would be willing to hurt a bunch of people using ... their political points," he said. "It's sad and upsetting ... how could somebody play politics and try to affect somebody's election and make people suffer because of an election thing?"

In an interview, Beier confirmed that the phone calls had occurred but declined to reveal which council members called him, adding that he regrets sharing those private conversations.

"Kriss had attacked me ... and I spoke in anger, and I was indiscreet," Beier said.

In other efforts to remove Worthington from the council, Mayor Tom Bates and several council members - Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Laurie Capitelli, Susan Wengraf and Gordon Wozniak - have endorsed the incumbent's opponents, Beier and Cecilia Rosales, in the Nov. 2 elections.

Councilmembers Max Anderson, Jesse Arreguin and Wozniak had supported Worthington's pool proposals, which would have re-allocated street repair funds from Districts 7 and 8 to fund summer operational costs.

Council members shared concerns that these proposals discriminated against other groups that would not benefit from special accommodations and would also push back the paving of streets in the city.

Similarly, Beier also presented a proposal, which the council rejected in a 8-1 vote at its June 29 meeting, that would have reduced a city subsidy given to city employees for YMCA memberships by 25 percent - enough money, he said, to keep the pool open through the summer.

Council members called the proposal an illegal violation of numerous city contracts that were not open for negotiation, while Worthington called the plan a "slap in the face" to city employees who a week earlier, had voluntarily reduced their work hours and wages, saving the city nearly $2 million.

Though Maio voted against all of the proposals - and also acknowledged that election campaigns are often "charged and emotional" - she said that candidates should maintain "maturity, reason and thoughtfulness" throughout their campaigns and that seated council members should vote according to their constituents' concerns rather than council politics.

"It is important to keep your eye on the ball and that is to give the voter, the resident, the constituent, the press your best thinking, conducting yourself as the leader you propose to be," Maio said in an e-mail.


Stephanie Baer is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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