The Max Anderson campaign kickoff was held at La Peña on Sunday. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

In a campaign kickoff filled with poetry, tears, fried chicken, Acme bread, and a huge Sweet Adeline’s chocolate cake, Max Anderson launched his third bid for City Council Sunday night.

Dozens of local politicians, union activists, and residents of south Berkeley gathered at La Peňa Cultural Center to show their support for Anderson, who has represented District 3 since 2004. So far, he is running unopposed.

“This is the kickoff, so we’re kicking it off,” said Anderson as he stood before the crowd, surrounded by his election staff, his wife Linda Olivenbaum, daughter Marisha Anderson, and other family members. “We’re kicking it in the streets.”

Supporters had gotten on the stage throughout the evening to testify to Anderson’s willingness to support the weak and helpless, including African-American babies, whose survival rate in Alameda County is lower than average, struggling students, African-Americans suffering from hypertension, and the disabled.

Anderson, the speakers attested, was instrumental in preserving the Black Infant Health Program, in fighting to make sure a new South Branch Library was built, in bringing the Ed Roberts Campus to the south side of town, and working to revitalize the Adeline corridor and transform it into an arts district.

Max Anderson is running for a third term for Berkeley City Council

“He’s a straight shooter,” said Mayor Tom Bates, who is frequently on the opposite sides of issues from Anderson on the council. “He’s somebody who tells you what he thinks. He’s somebody who argues passionately for what he believes in. He understands the big picture.”

Bates was joined at the party by other local politicians, including Alameda Supervisor Keith Carson, City Councilmembers Jesse Arreguín and Kriss Worthington (who performed a poem for Anderson), Berkeley Unified School Board members Karen Hemphill and Leah Wilson, and Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board members Igor Tregub and Pamela Webster. Jacquelyn McCormick, who is running for mayor against Bates, and Adolfo Cabral, who is running against City Councilmember Darryl Moore, were also there. Carole Davis Kennerly, who held the District 2 seat on the city council from 1978-84, was the emcee.

Before the speeches began, Anderson talked about what he had accomplished during the past four years and what he hoped to do in the next four. He said he was proud of helping develop the Ed Roberts Campus and bringing roundabouts and beacon lights to pedestrian zones, both of which have made the area safer for pedestrians. He wants to keep working with the city’s Economic Development Department to bring more vibrancy to the Lorin District (also known as the Adeline corridor). Since he is a nurse, Anderson said he was excited about the Lorin crop swap every Sunday and the move of the Tuesday Farmers’ Market. In the fall, Oakland’s Breathmobile, a mobile medical clinic that helps people manage their asthma, will start working with 14 kids from south Berkeley, he said.

“Paying attention to what the community needs has been a joy for me,” said Anderson.

District 3 is in south-central Berkeley

Laura Menard, who ran unsuccessfully against Anderson in 2004, took issue with his characterizations of his accomplishments, particularly his claim that he was instrumental in bringing traffic calming measures to south Berkeley. She said she was the person who mapped out the area, called the community meetings, and galvanized the residents. Only when the support and funding were lined up did Anderson step in, she said.

“As typical, Max Anderson is taking credit for other people’s work,” said Menard. “He is a do nothing City Council member.”

Menard also called Anderson “an angry, aggressive bully,” pointing out that just a few weeks ago he used harsh language from the City Council bench to threaten Bates. (On June 13, in a discussion about Bates’ proposed ballot measure to make it illegal to sit on sidewalks in commercial districts between 7 am and 10 pm, Anderson said to Bates: “You ain’t the dictator around here. You are not going to treat me like one of your little punks.”)

Later on in the evening, as Anderson addressed the crowd, he started talking about September 11, 1973. He was at a political conference when he heard that the Chilean army, with help from the CIA, had overthrown President Salvador Allende. That political maneuver catalyzed the formation of numerous political and cultural organizations, including La Pena, Anderson said, as tears streamed down his face. He implied that the day was also one of the reasons his commitment to political change deepened.

Looking at his nephew, Todd Risby, Anderson said: “We share some very active lachrymal glands. We don’t mind shedding a few tears now and then.”

The hit of the night was Worthington’s spoke word poem about Anderson. It began:

“Max’s deep felt words of common sense/often rise to the level of eloquence/In the hear of Council meetings, for his stirring oration/the public spontaneously gives him a standing ovation.”

(See the video below for the rest of the poem.)

YouTube video

Jacquelyn McCormick vows to be a more inclusive mayor [06.18.12]
Sophie Hahn announces candidacy for City Council [05.09.12]
Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates announces his re-election bid [04.26.12]

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...