Long-time Berkeley progressives back referendum drive

City council members Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin and members the Berkeley Referendum Campaign turn in signatures to the city clerk’s office on Jan 21. Photo: Anthony Sanchez
City council members Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin and members the Berkeley Referendum Campaign turn in signatures to the city clerk’s office on Jan 21. Photo: Anthony Sanchez

The group that collected 7,896 signatures to force a City Council redistricting plan onto the ballot spent more than $5,000 on paid signature gatherers in January, but only raised $2,790, according to a campaign disclosure report filed with the city.

The single largest contributor to the campaign was Michael O’Malley who co-owns The Daily Planet with his wife Becky. The O’Malleys are a politically progressive couple who are often critical of Mayor Tom Bates and his more moderate allies on the council. Michael O’Malley contributed $1,000 to the referendum effort.

Other donors include Lisa Stephens, the chair of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Nancy Carleton, a former chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board, and David Blake, a member of the Rent Stabilization Board. They each donated $100. James Marshall, a computer programmer who founded the Berkeley Institute for Free Speech Online, contributed $200. Gene Poschman, a planning commissioner, donated $300, and Daniel Knapp, the owner of Urban Ore, gave $100. Urban Ore gave an additional $300, among others

Stephens is the treasurer of the Berkeley Referendum Coalition and Stefan Elgstrand, the intern in City Councilman Kriss Worthington’s office who crafted an alternate redistricting plan, is the assistant treasurer.


The referendum coalition paid $5,000 to Bay Area Petitions of Santa Cruz to hire paid signature gatherers for the referendum, according to the financial disclosure report.

The backers of the referendum drive turned in signatures to place the measure on the ballot on Jan. 21. The Registrar of Voters has 30 days to verify the signatures. The group only needs 5,275 signatures to place the issue before voters.

If the signatures are valid, the boundaries adopted by the council will immediately be suspended, as outlined in the city charter. The Berkeley City Council can then either place the referendum on the June or November ballot so voters can decide if that action should be permanent, or withdraw the redistricting plan and start anew.

In December, the council adopted a new redistricting map that included a student-majority district centered around Telegraph Avenue. The plan was known as the Berkeley Student District Campaign Map and it concentrated District 7 on the south side of campus. The map had first been submitted in April.

But Worthington, who represents District 7, and many of his supporters, viewed that plan as a thinly veiled attempt to unseat him. The BSDC map excluded the student co-ops and dorms on the north side of campus, groups that are generally regarded as politically progressive, and instead added fraternities and sororities on the south side of campus, groups that are generally regarded as more conservative.

Elgstrand in Worthington’s office then drew up a new map that shifted District 7 north to include the co-ops and dorms. He submitted the map, known as the United Student District Amendment, in July, after the redistricting process was concluding. The council did not adopt it, triggering the referendum drive.

The article has been updated to include the names of additional contributors.

Related:
Redistricting opponents secure signatures to secure vote (01.22.14)
Tight deadline to get redistricting referendum on ballot (01.03.14)
Redistricting map splits council, community (12.18.13)
Redistricting map approved, referendum idea looms (12.04.13)
Berkeley council may consider 2 campus district maps (09.12.13)
Redistricting meeting sheds light on past process (08.09.13)
Berkeley Council denies last-minute redistricting proposal (07.08.13)
Berkeley council to consider two city redistricting maps (05.08.13)
Redistricting plans focus on student-majority district (04.26.13)
Berkeley could face most dramatic redistricting in 27 years (01.11.13)
City defers redistricting, plans charter amendment (01.18.12)
Cal students file redistricting proposal with the city (09.30.11)

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