Opponents of Measure T say supporters have mailed out false flyers claiming that Berkeley’s SEIU Local 1021 supports the measure, when in fact it opposes it. Photo: Tracey Taylor
Opponents of Measure T say supporters have mailed out false flyers claiming that Berkeley’s SEIU Local 1021 supports the measure, when in fact it opposes it. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Opponents of Measure T have issued a formal complaint to the city of Berkeley which states that supporters of the controversial measure are using false and misleading information on flyers that have been mailed to voters.

Zelda Bronstein, a former Planning Commissioner, filed a complaint Oct. 17 with the Fair Campaign Practices Commission pointing out that the Coalition for a Sustainable West Berkeley, the backers of Measure T, state on some mailings that Berkeley SEIU Local 1021 supports the measure, even though the union website clearly states that it opposes it.

In addition, the Coalition for a Sustainable West Berkeley website states that the Telegraph Avenue Property & Business Improvement District is an endorser, said Bronstein. Since Business Improvement Districts are city entities, they cannot legally make endorsements in elections, writes Bronstein in the complaint.

“This endorsement is illegal,” she said.

Proponents of Measure T have removed the references to the endorsements of SEIU and the Telegraph Avenue BID from the Yes on Measure T website, but said the inclusion was a communication error, not a deliberate attempt to mislead the electorate.

Darrell de Tienne, the secretary for the Coalition, and the agent for Doug Herst’s Peerless Greens project, which would directly benefit from the passage of Measure T, said the local branch of SEIU 1021 voted to endorse Measure T on Sept. 20 after a meeting with Mike Tolbert, a former Berkeley planner, and Dave Ross, a former Berkeley firefighter. However, the Berkeley local was forced to rescind its endorsement when the administrative office in Oakland voted to oppose Measure T, he said.

However, neither de Tienne nor Joe DeCredico, the co-chair of the Yes on Measure T campaign, was able to provide any documentation that the Berkeley SEIU unit had voted to support Measure T. They did name a long list of city employees in local SEIU management positions whom they said attended the meeting.

Members of the Berkeley unit of SEIU would not talk to Berkeleyside on the record about the situation. Calls to the Oakland SEIU office were not returned.

The flyer on which an inaccurate endorsement has been listed, according to critics

Peter Albert, the co-chair of the union’s political committee in Oakland, said in an email to DeCredico that local chapters cannot take positions contrary to that of the parent organization.

“Our union, SEIU Local 1021, has decided to support the NO on Measure T campaign in Berkeley,” Albert wrote DeCredico. “This represents the position of all the members, chapters, and jurisdictions of Local 1021. Individual chapters, such as one in Berkeley, do not have the option to take a position contrary to that of the union as a whole.”

In regards to naming the Telegraph Avenue BID as an endorser, Roland Peterson, its executive director, said that was a clerical error. That group collects money from local businesses and donates it to a non-profit, the Telegraph Property and Business Management Corporation, which, by law, can endorse campaigns, he said.

“The mistake was the Yes on T folks used the wrong name in their literature,” said Peterson.

The correct endorsement should be the corporation, he said.

The Fair Campaign Practices Commission is scheduled to discuss the complaints at a special meeting Thursday Oct. 25 at 7 pm.

Here is a copy of one of the flyers sent to voters. (Note that it actually has a misprinting and says that SEIU Local 21 rather than 1021 endorses Measure T.)

Visit Berkeleyside’s Voter’s Edge Berkeley for complete coverage and tracking of the city’s 10 ballot measures. Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to Nov. 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 Created California, published in November...