The Brass Liberation Orchestra played at the campaign kick-off for No on Measure S. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Under bright blue skies, an arc of orange balloons, and the sound of the Brass Liberation Band, the “No on S” campaign held its campaign kick-off rally in Constitution Square near the Berkeley BART station on Sunday.

About three dozen people, ranging from City Council member Max Anderson to homeless advocates, from those living on the street to Scoop Nisker, the author and former KFOG news announcer, gathered to express opposition to Measure S, which would make sitting on a sidewalk in a commercial district illegal between 7 am and 10 pm.

“The business community may be distressed about the financial prospects of their businesses, but this isn’t an answer to that,” said Anderson. “I refer to it (the sitting ban) as snake oil. It’s a kind of non-applicable solutions to problems that don’t exist.”

Mayor Tom Bates and Senator Loni Hancock joined Council Member Darryl Moore at his re-election kick-off event on Saturday

“They are using it as a punishment against the homeless,” said Ninja Kitty, a homeless man who has been working to fight the measure. “They don’t want us here anymore. They want to raise property values. When that happens, everyone’s rent goes up. You guys (speaking to the crowd) don’t want to be where we are. Why would you want to get rid of us? We are your rent security.”

Linda Lye, an attorney with the ACLU, which sent a letter to the City Council two weeks ago telling it that the vote to place the sitting ban on the ballot violated the Brown Act, said Measure S is a bad idea.

“Measure S is mean-spirited,” said Lye. “It is ineffective and constitutionally problematic.”

While the measure is serious, those fighting it have determined to include a bit of levity in the form of political theater. On Sept. 30 from 4 to 7 pm, opponents of the measure will host “The Olympic Sitting Competition,” where Berkeleyans of all sorts will be able to show off their sitting techniques. To demonstrate, Carol Denney set down a chair in the plaza and ran, or danced, or walked up to it a few times and then sat down with a flowery gesture.

“We are going to award a gold medal, a silver medal, and a bronze medal to the premiere sitting athlete of our time,” said Denney.

Starting early on Saturday, workers for various campaigns gathered at the joint HQ on University near Sacramento. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The No on Measure S forces are also holding a “Kiss-In,” in front of Old City Hall on Oct. 2 at 6:30 pm. Details were few, but smooching will be encouraged.

Meanwhile, the “Yes on S” campaign launched its Berkeley Civil Sidewalks website last week. The coalition says its goals are twofold: “to take the initiative to help people into services and to prevent sidewalk encampments that keep shoppers away from our neighborhood businesses.”

The Yes on S campaign launched its website last week

The Yes on S campaign lists among its supporters Mayor Bates and Council Members Susan Wengraf, Laurie Capitelli, and Gordon Wozniak, along with Liveable Berkeley and many Berkeley merchants, particularly in downtown where more than 70 businesses have signed their names to the effort. The measure is seen as being particularly pertinent to Berkeley’s downtown area, which is in the throes of a major cleanup operation, as well as Telegraph Avenue.

The weekend was filled with other campaign events as well. City Council member Darryl Moore, who faces two opponents in the race for the District 2 seat, kicked off his campaign Saturday with a picnic at San Pablo Park.

Saturday was also the official opening of the joint campaign headquarters rented by mayoral candidates Jacquelyn McCormick, Kriss Worthington, and Khalil Jacobs-Fantuzzi. Council Member Max Anderson has space there, too, as does Adolfo Cabral, running against Darryl Moore, and the Yes on Measures U and V campaign.

Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to November 6.

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...