Robert Collier lives in North Berkeley and is co-chair of the Berkeley Pools Campaign. He writes about the intensifying campaign for Measure C:

In Berkeley, local folk know it’s election season when the city’s streets begin to be garlanded with election signs supporting one or another candidate or ballot measure. By that standard, this weekend marked the official opening for the June 8 election.

Around Berkeley, signs began to sprout like mushrooms overnight in support of Measure C, the pools bond to save and rehab Berkeley’s four municipal pools. Teams of Barracudas – the youth swim team that is among the measure’s most enthusiastic backers – roved the city, knocking on doors, planting window signs and yard signs.

Measure C is already getting a lot of attention, and it is likely to eclipse the other items in Berkeley’s June 8 election. Measure C is the only city measure on the ballot, which also has five relatively low-profile state measures (see the League of Women Voters’ summary online here). While the Republican primaries for governor and senator are hotly contested, the Democratic primaries are not – which, given Berkeley’s liberal political leanings, means that Measure C may be the only high-energy item to bring voters to the polls.

To its supporters, Measure C is a once-in-a-generation “legacy” decision. It would save Willard Pool and the Warm Pool from permanent closure. For the Barracudas and Masters teams, it would expand King Pool to larger size, resolving the overcrowding that has forced team members to do their training laps in the small dive pool. For residents of West and South Berkeley, it would rehab West Campus and Willard Pools. For the disabled, elderly and parents with infants, it would rebuild the indoor Warm Pool at West Campus, replacing the decrepit, decaying version at Berkeley High School that is scheduled to be demolished next year. And for all pools, it would provide operating funds to keep the pools open and the swim programs humming despite the worsening budget crisis.

But rarely in recent memory has there been a local campaign so resolutely grass-roots and youth-focused, as legions of Barracudas – and their parents – try to win the needed two-thirds of voter support. Scores of kids organized a swimathon last month at King Pool, at which they were joined by their elder brethren of the Cal Mens Water Polo team. Barracuda moms and dads are even organizing a swimathon at Willard Pool next month at which the kids will throw prominent local politicians into the pool, fully clothed (and on camera, for auction). And the students of Berkeley City College have gotten involved too, composing a series of short music video ads for the campaign that starts its roll-out on the Measure C Campaign website today.

Whatever one’s leanings, it promises to be an unforgettable campaign. Measure C has received the support of Berkeley’s entire political spectrum – the unanimous City Council and School Board, former Mayor Shirley Dean, Sen. Loni Hancock, Ass. Nancy Skinner, and an alliance of seemingly everyone else in the Democratic and Green Party firmaments.

But the expected low election turnout means that the result is unpredictable. Victory or defeat hinges on what happens in the streets — and in the pools — between now and June 8. Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is sacred. Stay tuned!

Photo: Shelley Hayden

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