Mayor Tom Bates, who has held office since 2002, announced his widely anticipated bid for re-election today. Bates, 74, has served one two-year term and two four-year terms.
Berkeley’s mayor used his recently activated Twitter account to break the news at 11:28 am today. He wrote: “Announcing today that I’m running for Mayor of Berkeley to continue the progress we’ve made over the last 10 years,” and followed up with a tweet directing people to his website, TomBates.org.
Speaking to Berkeleyside, he said: “I’m going to be seeking another term. I’d be delighted to continue the work I’ve been doing.”
This year’s mayoral race will be the first decided by ranked-choice voting. As yet, however, no challenger has emerged to Bates.
Bates said the five main goals he had when he started as Mayor of Berkeley 10 years ago were: 1) making Berkeley a leader in tackling global warming and climate change, 2) finding ways so that people who work in Berkeley can live in Berkeley, 3) tackling the achievement gap and health disparities for children, 4) providing excellent services for our citizens, 5) revitalizing the downtown.
In addition to those five, Bates said he was particularly interested in how the city could promote jobs and economic development. “I think a lot of that will happen through our rezoning,” he said, and mentioned as examples the new Downtown Plan and the West Berkeley plan. He also cited the East Bay Green Corridor as a route to improving economic development.
Asked about unfunded liabilities and infrastructure, Bates said: “We have to negotiate with our employees to share in the burden”, and went on the explain that he thought the city had been “overly generous” in terms of pensions. “Employees will have to start picking up some of the pensions costs. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to work with the unions,” he said.
Negotiations are currently ongoing with the police and service employees to that end.
Speaking specially about Berkeley’s infrastructure, Bates said: “Our infrastructure is crumbling around us. We have to find some way to get more money into the infrastructure.” He mentioned in particular the city’s streets, storm drains and sewage system.
“The tax burden is very high, but we also provide lots of services. We have to be honest with people. We have to demonstrate to our citizens that we are going to tackle this.”
Bates doesn’t believe there is support for higher property taxes. He hopes, however, that there might be a path to a small increase in sales tax.
“I would dedicate those revenues to our infrastructure. My hope is that citizens would be supportive. We are just not keeping up with the problems. You go to any city in northern California and the streets are falling apart, with the exception of El Cerrito. And they raised the sales tax. We’re not going to get funding from the federal or state government. We have to look to ourselves.”
In February, Bates filed the necessary campaign finance forms for re-election, although those did not commit him to a bid. Last week, in a less formal move, he gingerly starting using a long-dormant Twitter account (two days ago, this teaser: “Berkeley rules. We’re tackling challenges, but there’s still work to be done. Announcement later this week.”).
Bates’ wife, State Senator Loni Hancock, preceded him in the Berkeley mayor’s office where she served for two terms. No other names have yet emerged as candidates for mayor. Hancock is running unopposed for renomination for her state senate seat.
The official nomination period for candidates is July 16 to August 10. In addition to the mayoral race, the November general election includes races for council districts 2, 3, 5 and 6, four rent board seats and two school board seats.
Heads-up: Berkeley’s Mayor Bates to start tweeting soon [04.17.12]
Mayor Bates lays groundwork for re-election bid [02.03.12]
Mayor Bates’ new chief of staff brings startup experience to City Hall [01.11.12]
Berkeleyside interview: Mayor Tom Bates [07.19.10]
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