City in Conflict Over Publicity

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The Berkeley City Council may find itself embroiled in partisan conflict tonight when it is expected to debate whether each of the nine council members receive a fair share of publicity.

Councilmember Dona Spring proposed a measure designed to prevent city mailings from giving lopsided attention to some city officials.

Spring, a council "progressive," said she was disturbed by a mailing from the city manager's office that listed the names of "moderate" Mayor Shirley Dean and Councilmember Betty Olds. The office sent 6,000 postcards to Berkeley residents notifying them of a public meeting about a fire station project.

"I've talked to several (council members) who felt this was unfair," Spring said.

Their names were also inappropriately included in the city manager's annual report, which was mailed to 50,000 residents, she said.

"(The city manager) mentioned Betty Olds' name twice, which is a violation of the city mailing rule," Spring said.

This issue is especially important, she said, because political careers depend on publicity.

"The political implications are that Councilmember Olds is just about ready to run for re-election," Spring said. "Having a postcard and a citywide mailing certainly helps your publicity."

Spring said the television coverage of the mayor's recent State of the City Address was also unfair because it was paid for with city funds. She said the mayor should have paid for it since her office has a larger expense account than council members do.

Spring's proposal calls for each of the other council members to receive one hour of cable TV time and a mailing paid for with city money. Subsequent mailings would list all council members' names or none at all.

Dean said she was outraged by Spring's proposal. She said her office paid for the cable access broadcast.

"(Spring is) totally incorrect on most of her facts," Dean said. "She's just got herself all mixed up. I think she's complaining because she didn't get mentioned in anything."

Dean said this issue is an example of the "petty partisan politics" that she referred to in her address.

"This is the kind of stupidity that's got to stop," she said. "Dona Spring, I guess, wants to be mayor. If the citizens of the city elect her, then fine, she can have a State of City."

Susan Wengraf, Olds' legislative aide, called Spring's proposal "childish and immature."

"This is like a kindergartner saying, 'Oh, you paid more attention to her than you did to me,'" Wengraf said. "This is absurd."

Wengraf said Olds was not involved in writing or sending the mailings and that Olds' name is mentioned twice because the city manager printed the wrong information and had to make a correction.

"We had nothing to do with the mentioning of her name," she said. "We are innocent victims."

Wengraf pointed out that the council allocated $15,000 more to Spring's personal account because she is disabled.

"She has more money than anybody else so she can buy as much TV time as she wants," she said. "It's another councilmember having a temper tantrum."

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he was perturbed by the mailing because he originally requested the fire station meeting.

"It's sort of funny when you request a meeting and you see it advertised with two other people's names," he said. "I don't actually want the city to put my name on the mailing. But it becomes a question of why those names were selected."


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