In the most recent election Berkeley knocked down Measure S, a ban on sitting on sidewalks in the city's business districts between certain hours. The measure was widely understood to target poor people, the homeless, and itinerent youth who, in the eyes of some, are to be blamed for the recent poor performance of the downtown and Telegraph avenue business districts.
Interests in favor of the measure outspent the opposition by something like 10-to-1 ... yet nevertheless lost the sometimes bitter fight.
The Street Spirit recently reported on just how ugly the Yes-on-S campaign got. Of course, there are the usual accusations of misleading fliers but, as we'll see, this isn't all:
No on S was able to get the endorsements of five local Democratic clubs with the sole exception of the Berkeley Democratic Club, which endorsed Measure S and created a misleading slate card, which included their endorsement of the sitting ban, Offer-Westort said.
Despite its name, the Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC) does not officially represent the Democratic Party any more than any other local Democratic club. Yet their slate cards had "Official Democratic Party Voter Guide" printed on them.
"They're advertising to be someone who they're not," Offer-Westort said. "I mean it's extremely dishonest."
That's iteresting enough but it gets worse:
The BDC supplied John Caner, the chief executive officer of the Downtown Berkeley Association and a major Yes on S supporter, with their duplicitous slate cards to give out to voters.
Caner then had Davida Coady of Options Recovery Services, also a key backer of the Yes on S campaign, recruit approximately 50 homeless people to hand out the misleading slate cards to voters right outside of Berkeley polling places on Election Day.
The No on S campaign spoke with some of the homeless people and were told they thought they were being hired by the Democratic Party to hand out information in support of the Obama campaign.
"So they're handing out these slate cards, which are not of the Democratic Party, despite what they claim, and they're pushing an anti-homeless law," Offer-Westort said. "It's one of the most disgusting kind of vicious things that I've seen in electoral politics."
Coady refused to comment when Street Spirit contacted her at Options Recovery Services, where she is medical director.
I wasn't able to independently verify that polling-place electioneers were misled in their hiring but I do very distinctly recall that my polling place had exactly one person electioneering nearby: A young fellow holding aloft a large Obama sign while handing out those fliers from the Berkeley Democratic Club.