Chapter 21 – June 1980, Measure D, Rent Control Round 4

Note: This history was written by David Mundstock and republished here with his permission. The opinions in this piece are his and do not necessarily reflect the positions of BCA members. For original link go to

The June l980 Election – Rent Control on the Brink of Extinction or Expansion

The June 3, l980 contest featured another full-house ballot that proved ideally suited to an intense BCA slate campaign. BCA made l8 endorsements, but the emphasis was on a quartet of ballot measures, two local BCA endeavors, D (rent control) & E (the Library Relief Act), plus efforts to defeat a pair of right wing state initiatives, Propositions 9 (Jarvis II) & l0 (anti-rent control).

Rent Bowl IV – Measure D (Rent Stabilization)

The Berkeley Housing Coalition, minus the Tenants Union, immediately began drafting a permanent rent control law to replace the temporary six month Measure I extension which had managed to take effect January l, l980.

After two months of work, the new measure was brought before the City Council. On March 4, l980, the Council voted 6-l-l to place the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance on the June ballot. Bill Segesta was the sixth “Yes” vote, continuing his policy of voting to put almost anything on the ballot, regardless of whether or not he supported it.

Never before had the City Council voluntarily placed a pro-tenant measure on the ballot. All three previous rent control propositions had been initiatives out of necessity. But in l980 rent control was on the ballot without the collection of a single signature.

The proposed ordinance, Measure D, was entitled “Rent Stabilization” because BCA strategists still considered it electorally unwise to call rent control by its rightful name. Measure B’s crushing loss in April l977 retained a dominant, lingering effect. However, unlike mild Measure I (the November l978 rent rebate initiative), this new l980 ordinance was a full fledged rent control law in all but name. It was to be called rent control nearly everywhere except in BCA campaign literature.

Measure D had much in common with its two major predecessors, the successful June l972 initiative Charter Amendment (Measure I, invalidated by the Birkenfeld decision) and the badly beaten Measure B from April l977. All three were comprehensive laws, but the drafters of Measure D tried extremely hard to avoid the legal/political mistakes which had caused the earlier initiatives’ demise.

To survive the inevitable court challenge, Measure D was written to the Birkenfeld decision’s specifications, with very flexible rent adjustment provisions. There would be an annual, city-wide rent ceiling adjustment plus rent increases or decreases granted on a case by case basis.

On the all-important political issue of small landlords, Measure D maintained the current exemption for owner-occupied buildings of four units or less that was so offensive to BTU. For the first time, an exemption from rent control was provided for newly constructed units. This was a response to the common landlord argument that rent control stifled the creation of new rental housing. The good cause for eviction section of the ordinance would still apply to new construction.

Unlike its predecessors, Measure D was an ordinance instead of a Charter Amendment, with its nine person Rent Stabilization Board to be individually appointed by the City Council under the Fair Representation Ordinance.

The two earlier permanent rent control measures, I & B, had assumed an anti-rent control Council majority and therefore mandated a Rent Control Board elected by a vote of the people. The drafters had felt that only elections could produce a pro-tenant board. Creating a new set of elected local officials had required an amendment to the City Charter. Now, if Measure D passed in June l980, the five vote BCA/Carole Davis grouping could promptly appoint a similarly pro-tenant majority to the Rent Board. Considering the dreadful l973 rent board election experience, the appointment process appeared to be a blessing.

Measure D required landlords to register their rental units with the city and pay a fee which was intended to support the administration of rent control. Use of the city’s general fund (taxpayers’ money) for any purpose other than a loan to the Rent Board was prohibited. These provisions were intended to keep the landlords from scaring ordinary homeowners with tax increase horror stories.

The proposed good cause for eviction section listed ten allowable grounds for removing a tenant, including non-payment of rent, violations of the lease, and the landlord’s desire to move into the unit. For purposes of this last provision, certain specified relatives of the landlord could also move in and evict a tenant.

On balance, Measure D was a strong rent control law that differed from the defeated April l977 Measure B only in a few key political areas, such as small landlord exemptions and the appointed Rent Board. Of course the most stringent rent control measure had been the l972 initiative. Compared to that Charter Amendment of eight years earlier, Measure D was much more favorable to landlords.

If it passed, Measure D’s greatest political vulnerability was dependence upon a continued pro-tenant Council majority. Should the conservative coalition regain City Council control in l98l or later, they would automatically be able to appoint a pro-landlord Rent Board majority. But that was a problem for the distant future.

For the current election, BCA’s task would be to repeat its November l978 Measure I victory pattern, rather than the disastrous April l977 Measure B massacre. The landlords could be expected to conduct another expensive campaign against the new Berkeley rent control law. And to make things worse, the landlord effort was already under way in the form of a state wide anti-rent control initiative.

Proposition l0 – The Rent Fraud Initiative

California’s large landlords and real estate interests were deeply disturbed by the sudden enactment of local rent control laws in the wake of Proposition l3. Not only had a few initiatives conquered massively financed opposition campaigns (Berkeley, Davis, Santa Monica), but a host of city councils and county boards of supervisors were enacting their own forms of rent control (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hayward, San Jose, etc.). The rent control cancer was dangerously out of control. Rent control was even becoming politically popular as part of a full scale tenants revolt against perceived unfair rent increases while property taxes plummeted.

The California Association of Realtors, the California Apartment Association, the mobile home park owners, and other landlord groups decided they had to fight back with their own “rent control” initiative, a state constitutional amendment seeking to impose “Fair Rent Control Standards” on all of California. If this law had a model, it was Warren Widener’s Measure J, defeated in a November l978 landslide. Some of the same forces responsible for “J”, such as the California Housing Council, were hoping their fraudulent technique would work better on the state wide level.

As certified by California Attorney General George Deukmajian’s office, the petition’s legal title was “Rent Control”, rather than “Fair Rent Control” as the sponsors had proposed. But the initiative did not establish any form of rent control, operating instead as a limitation on allowable local rent control laws. The measure contained these major provisions designed to obstruct effective rent control in cities and counties:

* All current local rent control laws would be repealed as of November l980.

* All local legislative bodies would be prohibited from adopting any new rent control laws. Rent control could only be passed by a vote of the people. (With their ability to overwhelmingly outspend opponents, the landlords had won l4 of l7 recent ballot measure campaigns.) New rent control laws would be subject to all of the following restrictions:

* Vacancy de-control. All voluntarily vacated rental units could be re-rented at whatever level the market will bear.

* Landlords were guaranteed very generous rights to raise rents under a variety of different standards.

* All single family homes and newly constructed units would be permanently exempt from rent control.

* Rent control laws would all automatically expire after four years.

* State rent control was banned.

Yet the initiative’s sponsors, deceptively named “Californians for Fair Rents”, hired signature collectors who were instructed to tell the public that this was a “rent control petition” which would “prevent rent gouging”. A massive fraud was underway in the fall of l979 as tenants and other rent control supporters were duped into signing an anti-rent control petition. This was happening all over the state, enraging tenant activists.

On October 25, l979, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) a state legal aid program for the poor, responded with a lawsuit (l3 Advocates vs. Californians for Fair Rents) seeking an injunction against continued misrepresentation of the initiative.

Filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court, the suit also sought an order requiring that all initiative signers be informed of the petition’s true nature and given an opportunity to withdraw their names in the manner provided by law. Since signature collection was a business enterprise, with organizers and circulators paid a certain amount per name, the suit was aimed at halting false advertising rather than political speech. The Berkeley City Council later joined the case as a plaintiff.

CRLA Attorney Richard Oliver of Stockton compiled numerous exhibits documenting this cynical signature gathering deception. For example, the California Association of Realtors newsletter explained the implications of the initiative’s “Rent Control” title:

… this title may appear misleading to REALTORS, as the measure would in no way establish controls….however, the title is likely to make getting signatures easier, since the majority of state voters appear to favor some form of rent controls.

(It was a delicious irony that while BCA tacticians were afraid to use the term rent control for fear it would turn off the voters, rent control opponents reached the opposite political conclusion and chose the rent control label for anti-rent control purposes.)

From another court exhibit, here are excerpts of a speech to the Apartment Owners Association of Santa Barbara by Lynn Wessell, Southern California petition coordinator:

Our Rent Control initiative cancels out rent control in Santa Monica, El Monte, and everywhere else in California. If it passes we’ve destroyed all the work on behalf of tenants that’s existed to this time. It’s the ultimate solution to rent control before the industry goes to hell. …

You’ll have no trouble getting people to sign. At the L.A. County Fair we gathered 6,000 signatures in one week. Here’s our pitch: “Hello, I’m working for fair rents in California. Will you please sign our initiative to put it on the ballot. Rent gouging must be stopped.” They sign. Nine out of ten signed. The most turn downs were from landlords.

There were numerous affidavits from people who had been deceived into signing the petition and pictures showing circulation tables with banners such as “You Can Control Rent – Sign Here”. Stockton petition circulators were given an information sheet telling them that the initiative “prevents landlords from enacting huge rent increases.”

In response to CRLA’s allegations, the initiative’s sponsors denied all charges and claimed the suit was politically motivated. Plaintiffs’ evidence of an organized state wide signature collection fraud was not persuasive to San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge William Biddick, Jr. On December ll, l979, he refused to issue a preliminary injunction, concluding:

… the leadership of the initiative forces has been responsible and the written information presented to the circulators of the petition has been accurate and not designed to mislead. …

… it is fundamental that the Court should not casually intervene in an area which deals with substantial First Amendment rights.

Since the courts declined to interfere in this “political” dispute, the landlords’ Proposition l0 made the ballot.

Having successfully defrauded thousands of people into signing their petitions, the real estate industry would now conduct a TV blitz designed to mislead millions of voters into killing rent control. BCA would do its part to make certain that no one in Berkeley was misled about what Proposition l0 really stood for.

Measure E, the Library Relief Act of l980

BCA’s budgetary hopes rested upon the seemingly impossible task of winning a 2/3 vote for a contested property tax increase. (See page 36l.)

Since Proposition l3 had outlawed all property tax increases based upon the value of buildings, Measure E proposed a very different, creative tax, calculated entirely on the basis of building size. Residential units would be taxed at a rate of 2.3 cents per square foot, commercial units at a higher 3.5 cents rate. This was a progressive tax, since richer people tended to live in bigger houses. This special tax would last for ten years and was designed to restore Berkeley library services to their pre-Proposition l3 levels.

BCA people were happy to stand for the preservation of Berkeley’s libraries. The libraries were not controversial at all, and they even had an organized support constituency which enthusiastically embraced Measure E.

Had this tax originated with “library people”, perhaps only the Republicans would have opposed it. But Measure E came from Leland Traiman and the BCA dominated Budget Committee/City Council. Its passage would help immensely to balance the Council majority’s l980-8l budget. In the harsh world of local politics, Measure E was thus a BCA tax, only incidentally connected to the library, and major elements of the Berkeley Democratic Club therefore felt compelled to oppose it. Nevertheless, other BDC people were willing to dispense with partisanship and support E on its merits.

Proposition 9 (Jarvis II) – Howard Jarvis vs. the State Income Tax

Jarvis I had been Proposition l3, the victorious June l978 initiative slashing local property taxes. Local governments had managed to survive in large part because of state aid. But now Howard Jarvis was preparing to apply his meat-ax to the state income tax. Proposition 9 called for a 50% reduction in California personal income tax rates, amounting to a nearly five billion dollar revenue loss in l980.

Passage of the Jarvis II initiative would mean that the fiscal nightmare suffered by local governments in the last two years would now be replayed at the state level, with devastating consequences to nearly all governmental services. BCA Councilmembers did not want the responsibility for passing a city budget if 9 passed and E lost.

The guts of BCA’s June l980 campaign was Yes on D & E, No on 9 & l0. The fate of these four measures would directly impact people. But there was one more local measure, although only symbolic, which still received significant emphasis.

Yes on F: F-ck the Draft

President Jimmy Carter had responded to the Soviet Union’s l979 invasion of Afghanistan by proposing to reinstate draft registration. As in anti-Vietnam War days, the draft remained highly unpopular in Berkeley, especially with the campus community. A group of BCA students, including Nancy Skinner, Dave Panush, and Eve Krotinger, decided that Berkeley people should officially oppose the Carter policy. Their chosen vehicle was an advisory ballot measure, probably the briefest text ever to face the city’s voters:

The citizens of Berkeley oppose the instituting of a peacetime registration and a peacetime draft and petition the federal government to significantly reduce military spending and use the money saved to develop safe, renewable sources of energy and to create jobs and services.

By the now familiar 6-3 vote taken on March 4, l980, the Council majority plus Segesta added Measure F to the June l980 ballot, where easy passage was anticipated.

The Yes on F campaign and East Bay Women for Peace later held a fundraising brunch featuring “specially prepared anti-draft blintzes” and a talk by Free Speech Movement leader Mario Savio. The No on F campaign seemed to start and finish with Bill Segesta’s ballot argument that a volunteer military discriminated against minorities and the poor “because they cannot find a better job.”

The balance of BCA’s slate consisted of the following endorsements:

* Ron Dellums (Congress), Tom Bates & Elihu Harris (Assembly), and John George (Board of Supervisors) for re-election.

John George was totally unopposed, in stark contrast to four years earlier. The other three lacked primary opposition but would face contests in November.

* Bob Knox for Alameda County Treasurer

Knox, 36, was a liberalish investment banker from Oakland. His opponent, appointed incumbent James Scully, 53, was a 2l year county veteran who seemed to personify business as usual. Knox promised to be innovative in the Berkeley tradition, and he talked about creating a responsible investments policy while encouraging citizen participation. BCA, Dellums, Bates, George, and even the Berkeley Democratic Club endorsed Knox. He carried Berkeley and won a close race.

In November l984 Bob Knox was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, replacing Joe Bort who retired.

* George Brunn for Alameda County Superior Court

Judge George Brunn had served on the Berkeley-Albany Municipal Court ever since Governor Pat Brown appointed him in l966. Generally a liberal, Brunn’s political connections were with BDC. Facing a pair of opponents from Alameda and Piedmont, George Brunn was seeking promotion to the higher court as Berkeley’s favorite son. BCA endorsed him, as did nearly all Berkeley elected officials and political organizations.

Ron Dellums and John George supported a rival candidate, Jack Gifford. Judge Brunn received a majority of Berkeley’s votes, but trailed badly nearly everywhere else and failed to make the run-off.

* Alameda County Democratic Central Committee

Two years earlier, in June l978, contested BCA and BDC slates had fought for Central Committee seats in order to influence City Council endorsements. That battle was precipitated by the Central Committee’s endorsement of BCA’s losing l977 Council slate. (See pages 27l-72).

The initial 1978 Central Committee election skirmish had been narrowly won 4-3 by BDC, and then followed by Central Committee endorsements favoring BDC’s unsuccessful candidates in April l979. Already there was a tradition that whichever side won Central Committee backing lost the City Council election.

The new Berkeley partisan political game of fighting over Alameda County Democratic Central Committee seats and endorsements was dealt a severe blow by Justice John Miller’s decision in a Marin County case, Unger vs. Superior Court (l980) l02 Cal.App. 3d 68l, l62 Cal.Rptr. 6ll. Miller ruled that Central Committee endorsements for non-partisan offices violated the California Constitution.

Thanks to Justice Miller, (who always liked to eliminate unnecessary political activity), Central Committee once again could not be taken seriously. In the future, the Central Committee would be unable to back either side in Berkeley City Council elections.

However, rival slates continued to be formed as people still insisted on competing for Democratic County Central Committee, considering it a stepping stone to something important. After all, Andrea Washburn was elected to Central Committee in l978 and nominated by BDC for the Council in l979. BCA people wanted to follow that same path. These candidates desired endorsements and BCA generally obliged them.

In l980 BCA backed a slate of five Central Committee candidates, including three of the organizations own members, all of whom were assumed to be interested in running for City Council: Leland Traiman, Walter Edwards, and Barbara Buswell. Getting elected mattered to these people as individuals, but Central Committee was a very low priority for nearly everyone else.

* Yes on ll – Tax Big Oil

Progressive forces had one state-wide initiative on the June l980 ballot. Proposition ll sought to tax the windfall profits of oil companies. This initiative became famous for its TV ad consisting entirely of pigs eating and grunting, apparently at the public trough. The pigs were pictorial representatives of the oil companies. It was alleged that standards of good taste in political advertising had been broken.

BCA support for Proposition ll was automatic and the initiative received 73% of Berkeley’s vote. However, the oil companies ran a sophisticated, big budget media campaign against the measure and defeated it by 700,000 votes. The buying of state ballot measure elections continued unabated.

No progressive California initiative had won in the six years since passage of Proposition 9, the June l974 Political Reform Act.

* Yes on T – Keep Fluoridation

The battle over whether our drinking water should be fluoridated is an American political cliche, with the opponents stereotyped as right wing nuts. But in Berkeley the anti-fluoridation forces were led by environmentalists.

A regional East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) fluoridation ballot measure (T) was being heavily contested by both sides. At first this seemed like an ideal case for no BCA endorsement either way.

The pro-fluoridation dentists argued convincingly that fluoride in the water would stop cavities. Low income, minority kids would benefit the most from fluoridation because they often lacked access to proper dental care. But the health concerns raised by segments of the environmental community couldn’t be ignored either. BCA’s constituency was clearly divided over fluoridation. Berkeley’s EBMUD Director, Helen Burke, was staying cautiously neutral on T while both sides attacked her.

But the dentists came up with a persuasive argument to many people in the BCA campaign leadership: If Yes on T were endorsed by BCA, the pro-fluoridation campaign was willing to pay generously for the slating privilege of being in the BCA tabloid and on the election day doorhanger. Thus, the pro-fluoridation position represented campaign money to help pass Measures D & E. It appeared the anti-fluoridation forces couldn’t support the BCA slate financially.

With BCA, money enters the endorsement picture only when the rival sides are each making a plausible progressive argument on a low priority measure and people can’t decide who is right. Such was the case with Measure T, and the funding factor carried enough votes to win endorsement of fluoridation at a sparsely attended meeting.

There was sufficient internal hostility to this endorsement so that BCA literature never contained any pro-fluoridation argument. But Citizens to Save Fluoridation contributed $l,000 to BCA and the BCA tabloid and doorhanger slates both included “Yes on T”. On election day, some BCA campaign workers took matters into their own hands. The BCA doorhanger I received was altered to read “No on T”.

Fluoridation ended up winning in Berkeley and district-wide. Our water is still fluoridated today.

The Presidential Primary

As usual, there were some major contests that BCA stayed out of.

At the top of the ballot, Senator Edward Kennedy was challenging Jimmy Carter for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination. BCA strongly disliked Carter’s performance in office as too conservative. But Kennedy was losing nationally, and his brand of imperfect liberalism produced few passionate supporters within BCA. The local Kennedy campaign did not pursue an endorsement and the Presidential Primary ended up being ignored by BCA. That was a definite improvement over the Fred Harris fiasco of four years earlier.

The Barsotti Recall

The ugliest electoral war on the June l980 ballot was the White Panther Party’s attempt to recall Berkeley-Albany Municipal Court Judge Mario Barsotti.

Barsotti, 56, a conservative twelve year court veteran, had been appointed by former Governor Ronald Reagan. In June l976, BCA’s own Larry Duga had nearly defeated Barsotti while Larry’s running mate, Dawn Girard, did unseat the other Reagan appointee, Judge James Holmstrom. But that race had been conducted when the incumbent judges sought re-election to new six year terms. Even so, BCA, Larry, and Dawn were all attacked in l976 for “politicizing the judiciary”.

The White Panther Party had communes in their home base of San Francisco and also Berkeley. The group numbered a few dozen people and it operated various community programs, including the food conspiracy, a wholesale food purchase and distribution service. The White Panthers also held street fairs on Telegraph Avenue and free concerts.

The group’s origins were in the hippie/counter-culture movement, but they added far-left ideology and a strong belief in the right of armed self-defense, naming themselves after the like minded Black Panthers. The White and Black Panthers shared a history of confrontations with the police and an authoritarian leadership structure.

Tom Stevens, 35, was the leader, spokesman, and public personification of the White Panther Party. Stevens had served time in San Quentin Prison following a l974 shootout between the White Panthers and the San Francisco Police. The Panthers claimed they were defending themselves against a violent, unconstitutional police raid on their home. The White Panthers believed very strongly in asserting their Constitutional rights. A feature of White Panther street fairs was a huge banner on which was written the entire Bill of Rights.

In l976, the White Panthers were loosely involved with various other counterculture groups in leasing a house in west Berkeley. The house on Ninth Street became a communal residence and the site for several community programs, one of which, unconnected with the Panthers, received short-term City of Berkeley funding. The house’s owners began lengthy eviction proceedings in l978 for non-payment of rent.

The White Panthers fought eviction on a host of complicated legal grounds, asserting that their rights were being violated. The issues involved lack of proper notice to the actual tenants and the naming of a non-existent person as the defendant. The White Panthers normally represented themselves in court instead of relying upon lawyers.

Many judges presided over this convoluted, protracted eviction case. In l979 Judge Barsotti signed a final order of eviction against numerous parties including Tom Stevens and the White Panthers. Stevens claimed the order was an abuse of judicial authority and a denial of his constitutional right to due process of law.

Tom Stevens and the White Panther Party launched a recall campaign against Judge Barsotti. The formal list of charges was as follows:

Mario Barsotti has consistently exhibited a wanton disregard for the law, illustrated by:

l) ordering the eviction of leaseholders on the strength of a default judgment against a non-existent person not named in the lease;

2) issuing a warrant for the arrest of hundreds of innocent citizens during the People’s Park protest;

3) refusing to set bail, in direct violation of PC l272, for a political activist convicted of a misdemeanor;

4) vindictively jailing acquitted defendants for contempt of court;

5) forbidding researchers to use public court files.

He has allowed judicial discretion to degenerate into the brazen biases of a person born into wealth. His record on setting bail and denying release on O.R. is the most cruel of any judge on the Berkeley-Albany Bench. His hostility to tenants is undisguised. His vengefulness against political dissidents is notorious.

Many of Judge Barsotti’s rulings are made in backrooms ex parte.

He has continually acted so as to degrade rule by law itself into a private club for favored lawyers.

He has increasingly used his office as an instrument for class war against those who are not affluent, compromising the judicial integrity that has, for seven centuries, shielded society from tyranny.

Judge Mario Barsotti filed this formal answer to the recall:

l. The charges contained in this Recall Petition are FALSE.

2. The Petition was inspired by people who lost a lawsuit in my court.

3. I have recently been reelected by the people of Berkeley and Albany to their municipal court on the basis of my performance as a judge for many years.

The White Panthers, although numerically small, were tireless petition circulators. They gathered the necessary signatures of Berkeley/Albany voters to place the recall on the June l980 ballot.

The recall ballot was identical in form to that used six years earlier in the removal of Councilman D’Army Bailey. Voters would first decide “Yes” or “No” on the recall itself, and could then select a replacement judge who would take office only if the recall carried.

Berkeley attorney Len Holt, 5l, a black activist and civil rights veteran, became the sole candidate against Barsotti on the bottom half of the ballot. Holt had been defeated for the Berkeley School Board in April l977 after receiving an ambiguous BCA endorsement. The White Panthers supported Holt and Holt supported the recall.

Both Tom Stevens, on behalf of the recall, and Len Holt, on his own behalf, came to BCA for endorsement at meeting after meeting. They were rebuffed in a series of bitter, divisive arguments, followed by votes in which endorsement motions always lost.

The recall had strong support in the ideological community, including Grassroots and the Berkeley Tenants Union. BCA’s minority of ideologues wanted to endorse the recall.

Meanwhile, Larry Duga, Barsotti’s opponent four years earlier, Supervisor John George, and other prominent BCA people were publicly against the recall. They reflected the progressive community’s historical opposition to any political recall. (See page 7l.)

Berkeley recalls, such as the unsuccessful attempt to remove two pro-integration School Board members in l964 and the ouster of Councilman D’Army Bailey in l973 were a traditional right-wing weapon to attack political opponents.

In response to those precedents, most progressives believed recall was legitimate only in cases of malfeasance in office. Applying this single standard, Larry Duga opposed the recall on principle without supporting Barsotti. Duplicating Loni Hancock’s approach to the Bailey recall, Duga would not let Barsotti use his name because the anti-recall literature was full of extravagant praise for the judge.

Perhaps the dominant BCA sentiment, reflected by Mayor Newport, was an unwillingness to have anything to do with the recall. Nearly everyone with campaign experience knew the recall would be overwhelmingly defeated, to the long-term political benefit of Judge Barsotti. The recall was viewed as an electoral cancer that could contaminate BCA, destroying the chances to pass Measures D and E. But the White Panthers and their allies kept demanding BCA support, becoming a nuisance.

Tom Stevens started a series of vicious verbal and written attacks upon progressive recall opponents such as Larry Duga and John George. His later condemnations also included recall neutrals, like BCA and Congressman Dellums, as traitors to the left.

One such early Stevens leaflet included a long list of endorsers, some of whom were supporting Len Holt without even taking a position on the recall. Holt had solicited support for himself as a candidate on the bottom part of the ballot, and now people who had endorsed him were shocked to find their names appearing on pro-recall literature castigating John George and Larry Duga.

The Holt campaign was also accused of mis-using the names of elected officials and other people who had recommended Holt for a judicial appointment, while declining to support him in the recall. The names of these people had started to appear on Holt literature. BCA subsequently refused to endorse Holt, ending up with no position on any aspect of the recall.

Recall related attacks and counter-attacks produced deep scars on the left, further estranging BCA from the White Panthers’ ideological allies. As one of its main June l980 projects, together with No on l0, the Berkeley Tenants Union conducted a vigorous door-to-door campaign for the recall, urging voters to remove pro-landlord Judge Barsotti.

Meanwhile, Judge Barsotti’s well financed anti-recall crusade became a powerful political bandwagon with support across the political spectrum. Rock impresario Bill Graham even staged a Barsotti fundraiser, apparently because one of the judge’s children worked for him. Tom Stevens responded by attacking Graham as a cultural parasite.

The recall and the White Panthers were condemned by every “respectable” newspaper and authority figure imaginable. BCA and Dellums were even criticized by recall opponents for staying neutral. Reporting on the recall story in detail, the May ll, l980 San Francisco Examiner used the most electorally devastating headline within memory:

“Berkeley revolutionaries try to recall a judge”

Rent Control: The Decisive Battle

The BCA Campaign – Yes on D, No on l0

BCA campaigned under its own name as well as Citizens for Rent Stabilization. For the first time in four years, Mal Warwick was not the campaign coordinator. Although still active in BCA and the campaign on a part-time basis, Mal had started his own direct mail fundraising business (Mal Warwick & Associates).

The BCA campaign now had a collective leadership headed by Dave Panush, who bore the illustrious title of “Campaign Staff Assistant” and received a small salary. Having just graduated from U.C., where he used to run campus campaigns, Dave was now in nominal charge of BCA’s city-wide effort at the age of __.

None of Dave Panush’s student leader predecessors were ever popular enough with the April Coalition or BCA to be considered for such a promotion. Sharing responsibility with Dave was a Campaign Committee that included Teresa Bergman, Sean Gordon, Royce Kelley, Walt Millikin, Rachael Richman, and Arlene Talbot. This was the new generation of BCA leadership whose experience primarily began with the l977-78 campaigns. Ann Chandler was the BCA treasurer and the hard core volunteers included John Farrell, Nancy Skinner, and Peter Babcock, among many others. Jodi Lerner was now the campus coordinator.

Slate_Yes_on_D_LMeasure D received all the standard rent control endorsements: Dellums, Bates, George, and the BCA Councilmembers, plus Carole Davis and the Alameda County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Support from the latter two was certainly not routine.

The most significant non-endorser of Measure D was the Berkeley Tenants Union. By BTU standards, the ordinance was too weak, so the Tenants Union officially remained neutral on it. Their unwillingness to endorse D kept the BTU/BCA cold war going, with things made worse by BTU’s public criticism of Measure D during the campaign.

There was not a great deal new to say about rent control, considering that BCA’s April l977, November l978, and April l979 campaigns had focused upon this issue. In June l980, BCA’s key point was that present rent limitations (the six months Measure I extension) would cease to exist if D lost. This was the same kind of argument used in the April l979 City Council race as a reason for supporting the BCA slate. There was nothing subtle about this basic BCA message, repeated over and over again in mailings, newspaper ads, and literature taken door to door:


 Berkeley’s current Rent Stabilization and Eviction Protections expire this June unless Measure D passes.

To prevent huge Rent Increases and unfair Evictions, vote Tuesday, June 3.

YES on D * NO on l0

A sophisticated set of targeted mailings went to each community. Black precincts received a postcard from Ron Dellums and John George:

 June1980RentControlLLow income and minority families are being forced out of Berkeley by the spiraling cost of housing. This is a challenge we must meet.

Measure D is a reasonable solution. Measure D – a rent stabilization program – protects tenants from rent gouging while guaranteeing landlords a fair return on their investment.

Berkeley was first to voluntarily integrate our schools, and first to enact laws banning housing discrimination. Now we must meet the challenge of providing affordable housing for our community.

A similar postcard from Dellums and Tom Bates was sent only to tenants. It read:

Dear Berkeley Renter,

Because all current rent protections end June 30, only Measure D will ensure that rents remain affordable. It will also provide much-needed protection from unfair evictions.

We strongly urge you to vote YES on Measure D for Real Rent Protection.

P.S. State Proposition l0 is initiative fraud, sponsored by big real estate interests. It will eliminate all rent protections throughout California. Vote No on l0.

Democratic homeowners in the hills received a softer letter from Dellums and Bates urging Yes on D:

Dear Friend,

Rent stabilization works in Berkeley.

The rent relief program overwhelmingly passed by Berkeley voters two years ago has worked – and worked well – despite real estate industry predictions of chaos.

Measure D on the June 3rd ballot will continue to protect tenants from unfair rent hikes and arbitrary evictions while guaranteeing landlords a fair return on their investments.

A citizens commission, made up of people from across Berkeley’s political spectrum, will enforce Measure D. Citizens, not bureaucrats will serve on this board. It will be financed entirely by a small registration fee paid by rental property owners.

Measure D totally exempts in-law apartments, owner-occupied buildings of four units or fewer, and – to encourage new housing – all new construction.

“Measure D is fair, balanced and absolutely necessary.”

Mal Warwick worked with the Alameda County Central Labor Council on a very effective slate mailer for No on 9 & l0, Yes on D, E, & F. Its punchlines were:

Warning: Fraud at the Polls on Tuesday

Vote Tuesday – Fight the Tax and Rent Frauds

The targeting approach was perhaps taken to its extreme in the proposed BCA Republican mailing for a slate of John Anderson for President, No on 9, and Yes on D. Anderson, the neo-liberal Republican congressman from Illinois, was challenging Ronald Reagan in the GOP primary. Anderson had a loyal Berkeley following, especially in the campus community, where hundreds of students had registered Republican just to vote for him. The slate postcard aimed at reaching these Anderson supporters was printed, complete with Anderson’s picture, but never mailed.

The BCA campaign decided that the postcard was both deceptive and dangerous, since its sole purpose was to link John Anderson to measures he had not endorsed. Besides, BCA concluded that it had no business campaigning for a Republican Presidential candidate that had never been endorsed by the organization’s members. Here was a healthy example of BCA’s electoral leadership setting its own ethical campaign standards and enforcing them through self-censorship.

The Campaign Against Rent Control – No on D

The Berkeley Fair Housing Committee, under Chairman James Furuichi, conducted a single issue campaign against Measure D. No on D endorsers included the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, the Berkeley Democratic Club, Berkeley Black Council, Assemblyman Byron Rumford, Sr., former Mayor Widener, and the BDC Councilmembers (except for Bill Segesta who apparently stayed neutral).

The No on D campaign operated under a serious handicap caused unintentionally by the presence of Proposition l0 on the state ballot. California’s large real estate interests were putting their campaign money into Yes on l0. Unlike April l977 when the Berkeley rent control initiative was targeted for defeat by major landlord organizations, the current Measure D fight had a relatively low statewide priority.

Thus, Berkeley’s landlords had to finance their own anti-D campaign, with only minor help from outside the area. The most experienced anti-rent control campaign managers, such as l977’s No on B mastermind Don Solem, were also busy running Yes on l0. No on D had to make do with campaign assistance from members of the Slevin-Brown firm, but Ed Slevin, BDC’s victorious l977 campaign manager apparently wasn’t available either.

Berkeley landlords were unable to finance an overwhelming barrage of No on D literature, and what did come in the mail generally seemed to be pallid imitations from recent campaigns.

Under the slogan “Berkeley is Worth Saving”, (copied from BCA’s April l977 City Council campaign), a typical No on D flyer made these points:

Berkeley Doesn’t Need Measure D






A landlord mailing explained:





l. More Red Tape, More Regulations, Less Privacy

2. Irresponsible Creation of City Hall Politics

3. Measure D Is Blatantly Unfair

4. Uncontrolled Rent Board

5. Measure D will Shrink the Rental Supply

The message was repeated in another mailer featuring this dramatic quotation:

“… Rent Control appears to be the most efficient technique

presently known to destroy a city–except for bombing.”

Assar Lindbeck, Noted Sweedish Economist

The No on D campaign never addressed the fact that most Berkeley rents had been controlled for the past l and l/2 years. The landlords thus ignored BCA’s primary argument that Measure D stood for continuity.

Anti-D literature also kept stressing that taxpayers would be stuck with a million dollar bill for the huge rent control bureaucracy. But unlike April l977, when the city attorney’s analysis and the ballot title reinforced these fiscal claims under control of a BDC Council majority, things had changed. The ballot title for Measure D stated:

Financial Implication: Programs created by this Ordinance are intended to be self-sustaining and not funded by the City’s General Fund.

Much of the landlord literature seemed unsophisticated, untargeted, and out of touch with current perspectives, such as these passages from a mailer sent to tenants:

These facts clearly show that:

* Most Berkeley owners have been reasonable and restrained with rents. We don’t need comprehensive restrictive rent controls.

* In constant dollars, Berkeley rents are lower today than anytime since l970.

* The proponents of Measure D refuse to look at the facts and resort instead to scare tactics and name-calling.

* Contrary to what Measure D proponents tell us, Berkeley is a “small owners” town. These people care about Berkeley and have invested their savings in good faith. Many are senior citizens.

The landlords were talking to themselves, not to the majority of their tenants, who had been concerned about high, unfair rents for over a decade.

Libraries: the Measure E Campaign

Measure E’s supporters began with an upbeat, non-partisan ballot argument:

Measure E will benefit Berkeley in three ways:




The Berkeley Public Libraries deserve protection. Library use in Berkeley is the highest in the East Bay. Over l,000,000 books are borrowed annually, and the Library is one of the nation’s busiest.


The above argument’s signers included a truly odd political couple, Mayor Newport and ex-Councilman Henry Ramsey, plus Fred Cody, former owner of Cody’s Books, and Mary Kraetzer, President of Friends of the Berkeley Public Library (the very respectable non-political library support organization).

Measure E supporters had hoped that no one would submit a negative ballot statement. But they were disappointed as BDC’s Sue Hone, Ed Kallgren, Warren Widener, and Bill Segesta, among others, made these No on E arguments:

We support the Library. We have always supported the Library.

We urge you to vote No on Measure E. Reaching this decision was painful but we sincerely believe that MEASURE E IS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE LIBRARY.

Measure E will destroy forever inclusion of the Library as a basic City service together with fire and police protection and public works.

Measure E is temporarily leaving the Library WITHOUT ANY FUNDING AT ALL AFTER l0 YEARS. What will happen then?

Measure E is divisive. The Council majority is forcing the community to take sides and has rejected every attempt to find an alternative which would unite us.

In order to get a proposal that is MORE responsible, MORE supportive of the Library, you must REJECT Measure E. We urge you to TAKE THE POLITICS OUT OF THE LIBRARY and work with us in building unified community support for a REALISTIC, PERMANENT, EFFECTIVE SOLUTION for our libraries. 



An active, non-partisan Yes on E campaign operated under the name Keep Libraries Alive. Among its leaders were Ethel Manheimer, who served as treasurer, and Leland Traiman. This group was an unusual mixture that combined library employees and members of Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, plus centrists, BCA and BDC people. They came from different worlds and had no history of working together. BCA veterans participating in this independent campaign described their mission as “trying to prove that we didn’t have horns.”

To have any hope of receiving the required 2/3 vote, Measure E had to win over the center and several thousand BDC supporters. Keep Libraries Alive assembled an endorsement list that broke all known political barriers for a contested local issue, including, from left to right: Mark Allen, all pro-BCA elected officials, State Senator Nick Petris, the entire Berkeley School Board, former Assemblyman Byron Rumford, Sr., and former Republican Councilman Tom McLaren. Yes on E literature stressed the non-partisan, umbrella nature of the campaign, using slogans such as:

Finally, something Everyone in Berkeley can agree on.

Everyone is for E, and E is for Everyone

Keep Libraries Alive spent $l3,000 aiming at the impossible dream of a 2/3 vote.

E’s opponents, led by the Council minority, pushed for the Berkeley Democratic Club to officially come out against the measure at its April l980 endorsement meeting. In this partisan forum, BDC’s left wing finally won a battle, as the No on E motion received a majority but fell a few votes short of the 60% needed to pass. BDC’s official position thus was no endorsement on Measure E.

Failing to make the BDC slate was a severe setback for the No on E campaign. Besides the Voters Handbook, they had no other vehicle for delivering the anti-E message. A viable No on E organization never developed, leaving the campaign field almost exclusively to Keep Libraries Alive and BCA.

Then in late May l980 BDC published and mailed several thousand copies of its slate tabloid, the Berkeley Democrat. The official BDC slate was notable for its lack of conflict with BCA. The Democratic Club and BCA were both against Proposition 9 (Jarvis II) and for Elihu Harris, Judge Brunn, and Bob Knox. BDC either made no endorsement or totally ignored Dellums, Bates, George, Proposition l0 (anti-rent control), Measure E (Libraries), Measure F (anti-draft), and Measure T (Fluoridation).

The only conflicting endorsements were over Measure D (Rent Control) and Democratic County Central Committee, where BDC had its own four person slate. But attention was focused, not on the benign endorsement box, but on this featured article, apparently written by Leo Bach:

Measure E The Library Story

The Berkeley City Council in its own inimitable manner recently placed a divisive question before the people which is destined to divide Berkeley as it has never been divided before in regards to the library. Rather than making it a clear-cut decision on whether to support the library or not, the proposal before the voters on June 3rd has high political overtones, since the question before the voters is not so much whether the library should be supported, but how the $2,000,000 released by the “Library Relief Act” should be spent by the City Council majority. …

As the story unfolds, the BCA, seeing the handwriting on the wall in terms of funding its so-called private agencies endangered because of anticipated budget deficits, sought a new source of revenue that would enable them to continue to fund their pet projects. …

Why not seek a new source of money for the library. After all, everybody loves the library, as well they should. …

What about the BCA, what do they get out of the plan? If Measure E passes, it would free the $2,000,000 that the library would normally get from the general fund. Now the BCA dominated council could spend it as they see fit. …

So, because of the council majority’s hidden agenda, you will not be able to vote on the “true” Library Relief Act. They placed their proposal before the voters which will not only bail out the library but also BCA’s favorite programs. We, the people have the final authority to vote it up or down. It’s up to you.

The tabloid contained a few other similar statements. These partisan political attacks on both Measure E and BCA raised serious ethical questions, since BDC had taken no position on E. Eleven people, nearly all active BDC members, wrote a blistering letter to the Democratic Club’s Board of Directors demanding a retraction and disavowal of the tabloid:

Spending Club funds to mail thousands of these tabloids is a misappropriation of Club funds and a direct violation of the letter and spirit of the Club’s by-laws. Above all, the unauthorized attacks on Measure E are a breach of trust – breaking faith with the Club’s membership which voted on this matter in an open meeting. The Club cannot expect to act in this dishonest manner and still retain its effectiveness.

One of the signers was Henry Pancoast, a veteran centrist helping run the Yes on E campaign. In the Daily Cal’s May 29, l980 lead story, Pancoast was quoted as comparing BDC’s tactics to those of former President Richard Nixon. In the same article, BDC’s Leo Bach and Ove Wittstock defended the tabloid as representing BDC’s true sentiment. There would be no retraction.

The tabloid flap left No on E people badly discredited and BDC in turmoil. The No on E campaign generated no further literature.

The Battle Over State Propositions 9 & l0

Proposition 9 became a major unifying factor in the June l980 election. Both state-wide and locally, vast coalitions including business, labor, and political leaders were formed to defeat the Jarvis II initiative and keep California solvent. The No on 9 media campaign emphasized that key supporters of Proposition l3 were against Jarvis’ new initiative because the state surplus had been exhausted and billions of dollars in income tax cuts would invite fiscal chaos. Even Jarvis’ former property tax cutting partner, Paul Gann, was against 9. These TV ads skillfully aimed at persuading Jarvis’ original Proposition l3 constituency to abandon him on Proposition 9

In Berkeley, Proposition 9 scared the University of California administration so badly that Chancellor Michael Heyman funded a student voter registration drive for the first and only time. CAMPUS VOTE l980, under coordinator Kevin Gladstone and ASUC President Karen Westmont, used the Chancellor’s money to mail every U.C. Berkeley student a postcard for registering to vote and some extremely powerful reasons for filling out the postcard:

How your tuition and your rent may be affected by the June 3 election


Proposition 9, the proposed state income tax cut, would reduce state revenues by an estimated $4 billion or more per year beginning immediately after the June 3 election. The University of California will experience debilitating budget cuts if Prop. 9 passes. How will this deficit be made up? Faculty cuts? Reduction in services? Tuition? These questions are being considered right now. The outcome of the Proposition 9 vote will determine whether tuition will increase, perhaps greatly, in the coming semesters.


Proposition l0, the anti-rent control initiative, would strike down all existing rent controls in California, including the law now in force in Berkeley. If passed, Prop. l0 would give landlords a Constitutional right to raise rents as high as the Consumer Price Index or higher – and the CPI’s now running at almost 20 percent!

You must register by May 5 to Vote on Props. 9 & l0

The mailer also urged students to register so they could vote on “Rent stabilization in Berkeley” and the “Referendum on the Draft”. To conservatives, the entire package amounted to partisan liberal slate literature, illegally funded by the University, and the U.C. administration was attacked by pro-Jarvis Republicans in Sacramento. But thanks primarily to fear of Proposition 9, the campus voter registration drive was a resounding success. The Berkeley campus community was ready to murder Jarvis II.

At the state level, Proposition l0 was a more difficult target than 9. A second lawsuit succeeded in getting its official ballot title changed from “Rent Control” to just plain “Rent”. At least that word wasn’t misleading. Tom Hayden’s Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED) helped lead the main No on l0 campaign, joined by the California Housing Action and Information Network (CHAIN), the statewide tenants’ organization of which BCA’s own Carole Selter Norris was President. The anti-l0 coalition called itself Californians Against Initiative Fraud.

Proposition l0 was under attack in the press as a deception. For example, back on November l3, l979, the Sacramento Bee had responded to the CRLA lawsuit with an anti-initiative editorial entitled “Rent Control: Illusion, Delusion”. Many other newspapers had followed suit, condemning the proponent’s fraudulent approach. Fraud, not the wisdom of controlling rents, was taking center stage.

The Yes on l0 campaign seemed uncertain whether it should continue pretending to be rent control, or switch to a more straight forward presentation in favor of the initiative. Their media message became a bit confused, but the Yes on l0 TV ads still proclaimed that the measure was for “fairness”.

The No on l0 campaign produced a brilliantly inspired television spot that began with people talking in favor of l0, with the camera pulling back to reveal that the speakers were actors on a set, being urged on to greater emotion by a director. Then the ad cut to Academy Award winner Jack Lemmon who explained the fraudulent nature of Proposition l0. Lemmon urged voters not to be fooled and to vote No on l0. This ad was extremely effective in destroying the entire deceptive foundation upon which Proposition l0 was built.

In Berkeley BCA linked 9 & l0 together, often calling them the tax and rent frauds. Yes on D, E, & F completed the main slate. The No/Yes slating was extremely tricky, but BCA ended up carrying the three affirmative local measures on 9 & l0’s negative coattails.

Climactic Events

BCA’s day glo orange on blue posters were being altered. The Yes on D, No on l0 message started appearing on telephone polls as No on D, Yes on l0. At a BCA press conference on May 28, l980, Supervisor John George accused the landlords of “dirty tricks”. David Panush had discovered cut-up BCA posters in the Fair Housing Committee trashbin.

While denying these charges and complaining about their garbage being searched, a No on D representative told the Daily Cal that such poster revision tactics “may be considered an acceleration of the traditional sign vandalism.”

The Daily Cal’s front page endorsements were limited to six ballot measures: Yes on D, E, F & ll; No on 9 & l0. No surprises. Daily Cal news coverage in the campaign’s final days focused on the importance of the student vote and rent control issues, such as an 80 year old widow’s fight to avoid an illegal rent increase so she could stay in her apartment.

The Berkeley Gazette maintained a very low election profile, with only casual coverage. Gazette endorsements were nearly all negative: No on 9, l0, ll, D, E, and the recall, but Yes on Fluoridation. The Gazette’s politics no longer fit any particular pattern. Still, many people felt the paper’s No on E recommendation might have been a fatal blow to the library measure’s chances or reaching the 2/3 mark.

On the weekend before election day, the No on D campaign distributed a lengthy tabloid, the Berkeley Fair Housing News. It was delivered ineffectively, like a throw-away advertising flyer, the copies rolled up with a rubber band and thrown on porches. Apparently the landlords lacked the money to mail it. The tabloid proclaimed “Measure D Threatens To Turn Berkeley Into Armed Camp”, repeating the landlords’ April l977 headline.

But this wasn’t April l977 and that earlier tabloid had been mailed. As BCA people collected this litter (the rolled up tabloids) from hundreds of porches for prompt recycling, it felt like the landlord campaign was expiring, in spite of a vast spending advantage over BCA that exceeded l0 to l.

The Barsotti recall produced a final insane twist. Pro-recall candidate Len Holt turned out to be a landlord, and the Gazette reported that Holt’s tenants felt gouged by his high rents, terrible maintenance, and threats of eviction. A very embarrassed Berkeley Tenants Union persuaded Holt to immediately lower the rents. The Gazette’s day before election issue carried a story that Holt’s satisfied tenants had responded to their reduced rents by endorsing him for Judge.

CAMPUS VOTE l980 sent newly registered student voters a Get-Out-The-Vote mailing that resembled BCA literature in both appearance and content. Now focusing on Measure D and Proposition l0 since everyone was already against 9, the text contained no overt endorsements, but again fell far short of impartiality:

What have you got to lose if you don’t vote Tuesday?


Tuesday’s ballot includes state and local propositions which will affect you. Look at the issues carefully.


* Measure D is a proposal by the Berkeley City Council to replace Berkeley’s current rent stabilization measure, which will expire in June. It continues and expands the present law.

* Measure D is designed to prevent rent gouging and arbitrary evictions but assures landlords a fair return, as required by the State Constitution.


* Proposition l0 will strike down all existing California rent control laws, including Berkeley’s and other laws now in effect in San Francisco, Los Angeles and many other cities.

* Major apartment house owners, developers, mortgage bankers and other proponents have spent in excess of $5 million to pass Prop. l0. Opponents have raised and spent under $l00,000.

The ASUC and Baskin Robbins joined forces to offer students a free single scoop ice cream cone as a reward for voting. The student government would later be severely criticized for the Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) mailing, not the ice cream.

BCA held its traditional Monday before election campus rally, featuring Mayor Newport. Congressman Dellums also spoke at the U.C. campus that evening. BCA then conducted its normal AM & PM GOTV slate doorhanger effort. For the first time, BCA’s thousands of doorhangers were individually hand stamped with exact polling place locations for each precinct. This added service to the voters (assuming the doorhangers went to the correct precincts) was an ambitious Walt Millikin innovation that became standard BCA practice.

The Berkeley Fair Housing Committee produced its own election day doorhanger to compete with BCA. BCA’s doorhanger contained l8 separate endorsements, while the landlord doorhanger simply urged “VOTE NO ON D”.

Besides doctoring BCA posters, the highpoint of the Fair Housing Committee’s “slate” campaign had been a front page picture of a Berkeley house in their tabloid. Painted on the house in huge letters was “NO on 9,D”. That wasn’t going to counteract the BCA slate steamroller.

The June 3, l980 Results: 48,480 Berkeley Voters

Ballot Measures


Berkeley California

Jarvis II Income Tax Cut YES 6,22l(l3%) 2,538,667(39%)

Initiative (9) NO 40,5l8(87%) 3,942,248(6l%)

Anti-Rent Control Initiative YES l0,703(23%) 2,247,395(35%)

(10) NO 34,984(77%) 4,090,l80(65%)


Rent Control Ordinance (D) YES 25,l24(57%)

NO l9,096(43%)

Library Relief Act Tax (E) YES 30,352(69%)

(2/3 vote required) NO l3,463(3l%)

Anti-Draft Statement (F) YES 26,097(63%)

NO l5,425(37%)

Recall of Berkeley-Albany Municipal Court Judge Mario Barsotti

Berkeley Grand Total

FOR RECALL l2,l62(3l%) l3,l45(29%)

AGAINST RECALL 27,679(69%) 32,l72(7l%)

Citywide turnout was down about l,000 voters from the June l976 Presidential Primary. But the number of campus community voters increased over June l976 levels, greatly outdistancing the hills. BCA scored its third consecutive election triumph on the strength of immense campus community majorities plus penetration into both the hills and west Berkeley. Of BCA’s l8 candidate and ballot measure endorsements, l7 carried the City of Berkeley.

Propositions 9 and l0 were buried by Berkeley voters on their way to stunning state wide defeats. 92% of the greater campus community rejected Jarvis II and 84% cast their ballots against the landlord initiative.

Measure J’s dismal failure in November l978 had been repeated in the state as a whole, proving that electoral fraud doesn’t work, even with millions of dollars to finance it. Both Howard Jarvis and the landlord interests were undeterred. There would be a Jarvis III and a Jarvis IV. The next major challenge to California’s local rent control laws would come in the Legislature’s l984 session.

With the passage of Measure D, Berkeley joined Santa Monica as the only California cities with comprehensive rent control laws. The two rent measures shared common legislative origins, as tenant activists in both cities claimed original authorship. There had been quite a bit of mutual copying.

Berkeley’s new Rent Control Ordinance lost by a little more than 2 to l in the hills, while winning 3 to l in the campus area and carrying every single black precinct but one. Measure D and November l978’s Measure I had almost identical results, indicating emergence of a solid pro-rent control majority, at least in June and November elections.

For BCA activists, the sweetest victory came when Measure E passed with 69% of the vote. Yes on E campaign leaders received an ovation when they came to the BCA victory party. The library tax was supported by more than 4 to l in the campus are and 2 to l in the black community. The hills were split with E slightly ahead. E won majorities in nearly all the lower hill precincts, while losing in the higher hills.

Elevation and conservatism correlate in Berkeley. But the avalanche of campus “Yes” votes made up for the hill losses. Berkeley became the first California city in the post Proposition l3 era to pass a tax increase for libraries. Elsewhere, only police and fire department revenue measures had been able to receive the required 2/3 support.

The BCA-supported slate for Democratic Party Central Committee even produced four winners, including Leland Traiman and CED’s Barbara Buswell. Among Berkeley voters, the only BCA slate loss was for Central Committee, as BDC’s Byron Rumford, Sr. finished first while Walter Edwards was defeated, both in Berkeley and district-wide.

The Barsotti recall proved that nine years after the Community Control of Police Initiative polarized the city, the ideological left still could receive 3l% of the vote and lose by over 2 to l with something comparably divisive. BCA had managed to put a great deal of electoral distance between itself and the recall, as Measure D received twice the pro-recall vote. Thanks primarily to BTU’s hard work, the recall carried some black and campus precincts, while losing over 7 to l in the hills.

Grassroots, the left-wing community newspaper, declared the recall results to be a partial victory and hoped that Judge Barsotti had learned his lesson and would be fairer to tenants in the future.

Tom Stevens and the White Panther Party were only practicing their recall skills in preparation for a much more formidable target than a municipal judge. The Panthers initiated the recall of San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein on the grounds of her support for gun control in violation of the Constitutional right to bear arms. Again the Panthers amazed everyone by collecting enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot, this time at a special election.

In a complete replay of the Barsotti scenario, Feinstein’s progressive opponents were fragmented over the recall. While the San Francisco media used the White Panthers for a punching bag, Mayor Feinstein crushed both the recall and her divided left of center opposition. Feinstein emerged so triumphant and politically supreme from the recall that no serious candidate dared to oppose her re-election in l983.

The June 3, l980 campaign ended with a triumphant BCA press conference that became the Daily Cal’s lead story two days after the election:

What do you do if after months of strenuous, sometimes debilitating campaigning, you are successful in passing all of the city’s major ballot issues?

You hold a press conference and smile a lot to try to hide the hangover of victory. …

“This proves what’s possible with a progressive coalition which tries to meet the needs of the people,” said Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport.

BCA Councilmember Florence McDonald termed Tuesday’s victories “a defeat for voter apathy” and “an affirmation of voter confidence in BCA.”

Fourteen years after Bob Scheer lost for Congress, the Berkeley progressive community had reached its highest electoral plateau ever, a working Council majority whose ballot measures were all approved by the voters.