An artistic installation at a home on Claremont Crescent aims to get out the vote. Photo: Pete Rosos

Cash still coming in for Measures O and P

No other Berkeley ballot measure or race has attracted money like Measures O and P.

The campaigns for and against the measures have together raised more than $450,000 to try to influence the vote on affordable housing and homelessness.

Bond measure O would tax property owners to fund the maintenance and creation of affordable housing, and Measure P would increase the transfer tax on the top third of property sales in Berkeley to fund homelessness services and housing. Supporters are campaigning for the two together.

As of the end of the last filing period, Oct. 20, the committee “Neighbors for an Affordable Berkeley – Yes on O & P 2018” had raised $140,423, including cash and non-monetary donations. And since then tens of thousands of additional dollars have come in.

The biggest single backer of O and P is Kaiser Permanente, which gave $50,000 on Oct. 23.

Some of the other largest donators to O and P are developers, who are likely eager to have Measure O pave the way for more construction. The nonprofit Bridge Housing donated $35,000. Bridge and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project are slated to build and run a $110 million affordable housing complex on Berkeley Way. Measure O revenue could potentially close the funding gap.

In just the past 10 days more large contributions have come in from the Wareham Development Corporation ($15,000), building materials supplier Leigh Hanson ($10,000), the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee ($3,000), developers Realtex ($5,000), nonprofit SAHA ($5,000) and the Austin Group ($2,500), and others. Previous hefty donations have been made by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, EAH Housing, the East Bay Community Foundation, PG&E, a carpenters PAC, the California Federation of Teachers and local elected officials and residents.

Still, supporters’ coffers might not be as full as their opponents’, explaining the volume of No on P mailers many Berkeley residents have received.

The real estate industry has funded the opposition to Measure P, the transfer tax increase, to the tune of $238,000. That’s how much the “Committee for Affordable Housing and Accountability – No on P, Sponsored by Realtors” had raised as of Oct. 20. No contributions have been reported since.

The National Association of Realtors has given $193,250 and the California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC has given $45,000.

Broker Jonathan Weldon and resident Jessica Behrman have also established a small committee that has raised around $1,000 to fight Measure O.

Comparatively, Measure R has raised a modest amount. The measure, which would approve the creation of Vision 2050, a long-range infrastructure plan, had drawn $2,620 from supporters as of Oct. 20. No opposing contributions have been reported.

Committee “Citizens for Vision 2050 – Yes on Measure R” had previously misreported the higher $3,260 donation total. An accidental redundancy and inaccuracy were corrected on an amended filing, said treasurer and former City Council member Gordon Wozniak. Wozniak contributed $710, while the electrical workers union gave $1,000 and Raymond Yep, chair of the existing Vision 2050 effort, gave $500.

Measure Q, Berkeley’s response to state Proposition 10 (the potential repeal of Costa Hawkins and expansion of rent control) has received no funding for or against, according to the city’s election portal.

The campaigns for and against Measures O and P have raised big money — and spent a lot of it on mailers. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Police independent expenditure committee spends big

The Berkeley Police Association PAC, which represents Berkeley’s officers, has spent $27,134 this election season, mostly to send out mailers against City Councilwoman Kate Harrison.

The BPA PAC — operating as an independent expenditure committee — took in $12,130 in donations from July 1 to Oct. 20, 2018, according to campaign finance records. The BPA already had $25,557 in its coffers.

The BPA PAC has sent out a number of fliers trying to link Harrison to some of the woes in Berkeley, including homelessness. Harrison has disputed the claims in recent newsletters, and has issued a call for more civility.

Harrison voted to pull the Berkeley Police Department out of Urban Shield exercises and has advocated giving the Police Review Commission more power over the police department, two policies with which the BPA disagrees.

Candidates get creative

Door-knocking, fundraising, phone-banking…will such traditional methods of campaigning cut it in 2018?

Many local hopefuls have been experimenting with other strategies this election cycle too.

From the Berkeleyside office window, our staff spotted Kate Harrison supporters holding up signs on a busy downtown street corner. In a recent email, the City Council candidate said undecided voters should just give her a ring on her cell, listing the phone number.

Another candidate, Rashi Kesarwani of District 1, on the other hand, wants voters’ contact information. If supporters provide their email addresses they can learn, through a tool called VoterCircle, how many of their contacts live in her district. Then they can send a mass email to the group in support of Kesarwani.

Plenty of other candidates — or at least groups supporting them — have sent out text messages too. Assembly District 15 candidate Buffy Wicks’ campaign said it has sent 189,693 texts and held 239 house parties in voters’ living rooms. Wicks’ opponent Jovanka Beckles’ campaign has been texting and canvassing up a storm too, said Ben Schiff from her communications team, but the volunteers are “too busy” campaigning to report data.

Candidates in a couple races are running as slates, hoping voters will approve them as package deals. For School Board, incumbent Ty Alper, Ka’Dijah Brown and Julie Sinai are running together for the three seats on the ballot. Rent Board candidates (mostly incumbents) Soli Alpert, James Chang, Paola Laverde, Maria Poblet and John Selawsky are running as the “Community Power Slate.” In other cases, candidates are teaming up to take advantage of the ranked-choice voting system.

One City Council candidate doubles as an artist and illustrator, so it’s unsurprising that Alfred Twu, of District 8, has chosen to forgo the standard blocky, bold-lettered yard signs. Visitors to the Elmwood might have spotted Twu’s brightly watercolored and detailed posters on telephone polls.

Another candidate, District 7’s Aidan Hill, has been speaking out through the public comment microphone at every recent City Council meeting.

Corrections: This story originally listed Bridge Housing as the largest contributor to Measures O and P. The single biggest backer is Kaiser Permanente, which gave $50,000. The story also initially listed Jessica Behrman as a real estate agent. She is no longer an agent.

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Natalie Orenstein

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...