Jacquelyn McCormick vows to be a more inclusive mayor

Jacqueline McCormick, who is running for mayor, stands outside her house with her dog, Divotte. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The interior of Jacquelyn McCormick’s Berkeley hills home looks like it could be in the glossy pages of a lifestyle magazine.

An enormous mirror reflects the image of visitors who walk into the entry hall of the house, the remnant of the four-acre Henry Taylor estate that once sprawled across the ridge. To the right is a spacious living room (a former ballroom in the estate’s heyday), with a large fireplace, a comfortable seating arrangement, a grand piano, and art work done by McCormick’s stepdaughter, Alexandra Salkin.

The fact that the interior of McCormick’s home is arresting isn’t so surprising, given that she became an interior designer in 2002 after a long career managing commercial real estate for banks. What’s surprising is that McCormick, 58, has done much of the work on the house herself.

When she and her husband, Michael Salkin, a former UC Berkeley economist turned portfolio manager for Morgan Stanley, bought the house on The Uplands in 2004, it was a mess. The house hadn’t been touched since the 1930s and there was six inches of standing water in the basement. McCormick got busy. She painted the living room walls and fireplace with a lime wash, which produced a pleasing variegated effect. She found a bathroom console at Omega Salvage and put the legs on herself. She added molding to the kitchen and installed a slate mosaic around the stove.

“I did most of the work,” said McCormick, who spent years flipping old houses when the real-estate market was more robust. “This is Jacquelyn’s blood, sweat, and tears.”

Working hard, getting her hands dirty, and focusing on the basic bricks that make up a house are the same traits McCormick plans to use in her campaign for Berkeley mayor. McCormick is challenging Mayor Tom Bates, a 10-year incumbent running for his fourth term. As a former assemblyman, state senator, and husband of former Berkeley Mayor Loni Hancock, Bates epitomizes the insider, and McCormick hopes to make that the wedge issue that wins her the race.

“It’s a long shot,” said McCormick. “I know that. It is going to be a Herculean effort, but I have the energy and perseverance to fight for it because I believe the community deserves it.”

McCormick is part of a group of Berkeley residents who feel that Bates and his allies on the City Council make law in an autocratic way, without consulting the citizens. They also believe the city government has been lackadaisical about the city’s finances, first by sweetening benefits for employees in the mid-2000s and then refusing to grapple with the city’s enormous liabilities.

“Tom is not inclusive,” said McCormick. “He basically doesn’t include any input from the public. He has an agenda and that’s the one that is being followed. It is not a citizen-centric leadership and that is what I want to bring.”

McCormick is the coordinator for Berkeley Budget SOS, a group formed to call attention to the city’s financial situation. She was one of the organizers who helped gather 4,000 signatures to put the FACTS initiative on the November ballot. FACTS stands for “fiscal accountability, clarity, transparency, and sustainability.” The initiative requires the City Council to produce a biannual report that lays out the city’s liabilities. It would also prohibit the city from putting and bond or tax measures on the ballot unless it has completed the reports.

McCormick was opposed to Measure R, the 2010 ballot initiative that laid out the conceptual framework for the Downtown Plan, as well as Measure T, which would allow medical cannabis dispensaries to build large-scale spinoff sites to grow marijuana. She believes the city council should more closely follow the advice of the city commissions.

She is opposed to the proposed sit-lie ordinance because she thinks it impinges on people’s civil rights and there are already laws in place to prompt people to move along. She wants to look for untapped revenue centers in the city’s operation, like its recycling department. The city might consider culling out materials from people’s throwaways that could be sold, she said.

“I think she brings a lot of energy and intelligence and a lot of independence,” said Dean Metzger, a long-time critic of Bates and what he considers to be his pro-developer policies. “She is a person who would up the quality of life in Berkeley as opposed to the current regime in Berkeley that only wants to build, build, build, and destroy, destroy, destroy.”

But McCormick’s involvement in local politics is relatively recent and her inexperience will be a major hurdle in her campaign. She came to politics when she heard that Caltrans wanted to build a stoplight at her corner of The Uplands and Tunnel Road and that led her to getting involved with the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association. She has served on that board since 2009. But she has never held public office or served on any of Berkeley’s citizen commissions, although she is a regular attendee of the city council meetings.

In 2010, McCormick ran against Gordon Wozniak in the District 8 race, coming in third after Wozniak and Stewart Jones of the Green Party. Transforming those 878 votes into a November mayoral victory will be tough.

“I don’t think she has any chance,” said Wozniak. “Jacquelyn is smart. She presents herself well. She had not had much experience and she didn’t really know the issues when she ran against me. I would say it’s a big step running for mayor. It’s a big job. You have to run citywide. I don’t think Jacquelyn knows the issues that well or has done enough public service to even know the different communities. I don’t think she will do very well.”

McCormick said she will counteract her relative inexperience by running a grassroots campaign.

“I recognize people need to get to know me and there’s a short period of time to get that done,” said McCormick. “It’s going to take an army. It is going to be an organization that goes down literally to the block level. Can we build it? I don’t know but we sure as hell are going to try.”

Read Jacquelyn McCormick’s resumé.

Sophie Hahn announces candidacy for City Council [05.09.12]
Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates announces his re-election bid [04.26.12]
Unfunded liabilities prompt initiative, council resolution [05.15.12]

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  • David D.

    I’m “glad” to see it’s still just a useless collection of long-winded opinion pieces. Some things never change, eh?

  • The Sharkey

    So you mischaracterized/misunderstood what Pragmatic was saying, and then tried to shrug it off as a joke and vaguely insinuate that Pragmatic is trashing housewives rather than just saying “my bad?”


  • The Sharkey

    Could be that she’s only counting liquid assets, and not money that they’re putting back into their businesses/property? Or maybe she’s extrapolating numbers based on Kamlarz’s outrageous pension.

  • Charles_Siegel

     PragProg, I appreciate this humorous response.  I noticed the same sense of humor in a response you made to me, when I said that, if word derivation controls, a Lesbian is someone from the island of Lesbos.

    Others who tend to give much more bitter responses on this sort of thread could learn from PragProg.

  • Fed_Up_With_Feedback

     Welcome to the club, Frances!

  • EBGuy

    Their flips seem to focus on multi-property sales (current home and 683 Santa Barbara).  I think this may help with allocation of tax basis (is there an accountant in the house?)  In addition, she does a lot of the work; the taxman can’t get at your sweat equity.

  • Socrates

     With regard to experience, I am glad I voted for the political newcomer with little experience over the veteran Senator J. McCain.  

    Rather than make up your mind based on a breezy article, I will wait for
    a public forum / debate where I can hear both sides of the issue.  

  • Socrates

    Frances D. is one of the few professional journalists working in the East Bay who is trying report from an impartial viewpoint.     And yet, she is constantly attacked by ideologues.   But she solders on….Thank you Frances!

  • Bearparent

    It struck me as a throw-away comment by someone who hasn’t given a lot of thought to financial matters.  That’s just my 1st impression.  

    I am unsure how to reconcile her strong position on the City’s finances with the marked absence of specific remedies (that I am aware of).

    Assuming basic rules of math still apply in this case, whatever solution is ultimately implemented (hopefully by the City rather than a bankruptcy judge) will entail some combination of higher revenues and lower expenditures.  

    Would be good to know her thoughts. 

  • Bearparent

     I am also glad to have supported Senator McCain’s opponent.

    Though, I think the true neophyte in that contest was McCain’s running mate.

  • Bearparent

     Totally agree.

    Plus her book “Towers of Gold” is a great read with stimulating insights into California history.

    No affiliation, just a satisfied reader.

  • Choyingpalmo

    “The fact that she worked “hard” and has a nice house in the hills does
    nothing for me in my evaluation of her.  As a matter of fact, this
    article just turned me off of her – I had been considering voting for
    her, since I really don’t like the Bates machine…”  Same here, same here….

  • Berkeleyfarm

    I want to see pension and compensation reform.  A lot.   And I think that some city departments are likely overstaffed.  It’s the elephant in the room.   It’s eaten up money that should be helping our poor, fixing our streets, making sure our kids have safe-well equipped schools.  The money seems to have gotten “distributed” into employee perks.    Especially at the higher levels.    With that being said … I in no way think being apparently virulently anti-development is financially prudent/fiscally responsible at all.    We need pension/comp reform, badly.  We need to rein spending in.    But this is not the only piece of the revenue puzzle.  Good housing development will provide property tax revenues as well as being “greener” than building out somewhere without our infrastructure.  And people who live here will shop and eat here more.  Business growth provides business taxes and fees, again contributing to city coffers.   The third piece of the revenue equation – taxpayers – is tapped out and angry at how current funds have been used.  Depending on them to keep on giving is a bad plan.  Take a look at the last election and the current pool polls if you have any doubt.  I’d also sure like to see some specifics on how to solve the problem that inspired the sit-lie ordinance.  If current laws cover it, it should be easy to come up with a plan for enforcement.   I’ll probably hold my nose, vote for Bates, and encourage him to work on cleaning financial house now that he seems to be shifting towards the idea of the mostly-silent majority being his actual constituency.  

  • Berkeleyfarm

    It appears that Ms. English Major does not know the difference between pseudonymous and anonymous. 

  • hardlyaguest

    Mrs. McCormick, what we need is a mayor office and city council which are less inclusive not more. 

    In Berkeley “inclusive” is code for: personal agendas contravening common sense and the rule of law. As in:

    Code Pink decides to oust the Marines, the Council charges, then retreats. 

    Chief Running Water hears his ancestors howling under the scrub oaks near the stadium and Council Member Betty Olds flies up a tree to save them. A million dollars later construction starts and the kids from campus put a “Free Firewood” sign on the stack of logs.

    A guitar toting Malvina Reynolds’ look-alike shows up at your ZAB hearing to sing a poem about her chickens’ phobia for construction noise and suddenly your completely conforming, no variance required (or requested) kitchen remodel permit application is in jeopardy. Thank God David Baker’s gone, But watch out! Sophie Hahn is seeking a council seat…and along with her “retail in residential” re-zoning attack on our peace and quiet for vending veggies she may also be supporting chicken voting rights. 

    A big grocery store wants to locate in a beat up strip mall with an empty parking lot and the neighborhood’s collective memory doesn’t go back far enough to recall it once was a popular big grocery store. After much ado, Jo’s Jo’s prevail.

    Counterintuitively, small schools require much more staff (teachers and admin) than big schools. The school board, elected by the teachers union, coughs up countless thousands to wired-in consultants to convert BHS. KIds are imported from other cities to reap state funds to help support the Big Small School. Standardized test scores also get smaller.

    The is nothing grand or democratic about Berkeley style “Inclusiveness”.  It only operates for the few that have the time to haunt the meetings and hearings holding up poorly hand printed signs (that printing must be intentional, to provoke sympathy, google: “fonts for pathetic hand printed signs, available in Mac or PC”.

    They rest of us would be happy to be excluded from City politics if the City would only do its job! Teach the kids something they can use. Make the sidewalks safe for walking not sleeping. Fix the streets. Give the city departments a “customer service” attitude, not a “What the hell do you want. I’m lifetime tenured public employee and now you’ve ruined my nap.” attitude. 

  • Smokey

    Only YOU can prevent forest fires.


  • Smokey

    I realize that very little of this is poetic license, but still…you’ve got five 1-hour episodes right there.  If I’d read this before heading out for groceries this evening, I’d thought to whip out my cell phone and get footage of all the radicals of a certain age handing out free copies of Spartacist before Medea Benjamin’s talk at the Hillside Club.  It could be part of the opening credits.  Seriously, why should Portland get all the attention? 

  • Smokey

    [Edit: “I’d have thought…”]

  • hardlyaguest

    Thanks Smokey. 

    I see our “radicals of a certain age” as “Left Overs”. Stumbling over the oversize mantle of a movement that moved on long ago. Whatever was left of the real Left’s original passions, they’ve turned into “look at me” moments in the local media. 

  • Berkeleyfarm

    This is brilliant and I have bookmarked it.

  • julie

    The article seems like someone on Bate’s payroll wrote this. It’s not till about the 5th paragraph that it mentions any thing to do with politics. There is one quote from Wozniak, one quote from Dean Metzger, and finally at the very end there is a quote from Ms. McCormick. 
    Sometimes I view Berkeleyside as an extension of the city council. 

  • julie

    Wow, this is first time I posted something and no one commented or gave me information that my assumption ( after doing a bit of research) was false.