Soda tax, school board race, open council seat bring campaign cash to Berkeley

Berkeley skyline by Louie Kablooie

The future of growth in downtown Berkeley is uncertain, with zoning changes on the November ballot. Photo: Louie Kablooie

The lure of an open Berkeley City Council seat has turned the race to replace Gordon Wozniak in November into a big bucks proposition.

The District 8 race for Wozniak’s position, the city’s proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax on distributors and the Berkeley School Board race — with four people vying for three seats — are already bringing in significant campaign contributions as the November 2014 election approaches.

Read Berkeleyside’s 2014 election coverage

July 31 was the deadline to file campaign expenditure reports for the first six months of 2014. Berkeleyside has rounded up the highlights below. Those who want to learn more can look through the documents on the city of Berkeley website.

Berkeley City Council District 8

Lori Droste, who is facing three other challengers, has raised  $23,503 since January, with many of the donations coming from friends and business associates outside Berkeley. She has also won the support of District 1 Berkeley Councilwoman Linda Maio ($250), BART Board of Directors member Rebecca Saltzman ($100), and Libby Schaaf, an Oakland council member who is running for mayor of that city ($100).

Snapping at her fundraising heels is Michael Alvarez Cohen, who has raised $16,945, mostly from people inside the city. His supporters include Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California and the woman behind the push to shut down Berkeley Patients Group (she gave $250). Chris Hudson, a developer with Hudson McDonald, donated $250, as did Ito Ripsteen, a commercial real estate broker who used to work with John Gordon but who recently launched Vine Street Investments. (He gave $250, too.) Chris Barlow of Wareham Property and Denny Abrams, who developed the Fourth Street shopping district, both kicked in $250.

Outgoing Councilman Wozniak gave $250 to Alvarez Cohen, and Berkeley Councilman Laurie Capitelli gave $250 to both Droste and Alvarez Cohen.

Jacquelyn McCormick, who ran for mayor against Tom Bates in 2012, has raised $7,710 for her District 8 campaign. Supporters include Dan Knapp, CEO of Urban Ore ($100), city zoning board Commissioner Sophie Hahn ($250), political consultant Samuel Salkin ($250), architect and city Planning Commissioner Patrick Sheahan ($100) and balanced-budget advocate James Fousekis ($250).

George Beier, who has run many times against Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington in District 7, found himself relocated to District 8 with the recent redrawing of district boundaries. He is now running to replace Wozniak and has raised $3,800. One of his supporters is Sean Barry, who is running against Worthington for the seat in District 7. Barry donated $250.

Council District 7

In District 7, Sean Barry, who sits on both the Planning and Community Health commissions, and is a spokesman for Blue Shield, has raised $4,687. (He just declared his candidacy in June)  His supporters include Wozniak ($250), Wozniak’s aide Kristin Hunziker ($250), Capitelli ($250), Berkeley Councilwoman Susan Wengraf ($100) and Sbeydeh Walton, Mayor Bates’ senior legislative aide ($100). Beier also donated $250. Kriss Worthington did not file a campaign report for his council race, but only updated the contributions made for his unsuccessful 2012 race for mayor.

Council District 1

In District 1, incumbent Linda Maio reported that she had not raised any money for her campaign yet. Alejandro Soto-Vigil, a member of the city’s Rent Stabilization Board and an aide to Worthington, has raised $2,039. His supporters include boona cheema, the former longtime director of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency ($250), Sophie Hahn ($250) and Wang Sang Koon, a math professor at the California  Technical Institute ($250). Another challenger, Merrilee Mitchell, did not file papers.

Council District 4

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín is running unopposed in downtown Berkeley’s District 4. He raised $150 from city Parks and Waterfront Commissioner Toni Mester. Arreguín is carrying a $16,195 in accrued expenses. (Accumulated over the life of his campaign, but required to be reported now.) He owes $10,000 to Jason Overman, a political consultant, and $6,000 to Stefan Elgstrand, his deputy campaign manager. Elgstrand, a former intern in Worthington’s office, now sits on the Public Works Commission. He was involved with a lawsuit over redistricting lines to determine the November 2014 council district boundaries, earlier this year.

Berkeley School Board

The race among four candidates for three spots on the Berkeley School Board has also brought in numerous donations. Ty Alper, a law professor at UC Berkeley, raised $9,890 in the past six months. When added to the $16,295 he raised in 2013, he has $26,185 at his disposal – the most, so far, of any school board candidate.

Julie Sinai, former chief of staff to Mayor Bates and now director of local government and community relations at UC Berkeley, was appointed to the board in May 2013 to fill a vacancy left by the departure of Leah Wilson. Sinai will now run for election. She has raised $20,373.

Current School Board President Josh Daniels has raised $3,025. And current School Board Member Karen Hemphill has raised $550.

Some of Sinai’s supporters include Mayor Bates ($250), and council members Wozniak ($250), Capitelli ($250) and Darryl Moore ($100). Developer Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests gave $250, as did Richard Robbins of Wareham Development. Sid Lakireddy, president of the Berkeley Property Owner’s Association, donated $250 and John Caner, who leads the Downtown Berkeley Association, gave $150. She also received donations from teachers and educators.

Alper’s supporters include Karla Herndon, a longtime teacher of Latin at Berkeley High. She gave $250. Daniels has the support of many teachers as well.

City Auditor

Anne-Marie Hogan is unopposed. She raised $627 in contributions and brought in another $2,900 in loans.

Sugar-sweetened beverage tax, aka “the soda tax”

The proponents of a tax on soda kicked off their campaign on Aug. 2. Photo: Berkeley vs Big Soda

The proponents of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages kicked off their campaign Aug. 2. Photo: Berkeley vs Big Soda

Even though the Berkeley City Council only voted on July 1 to place a tax on soda on the ballot, proponents have already gathered $50,713. Most of the money has come from local politicians and groups. Supporters include Vicki Alexander, co-chair of the Healthy Child Initiative campaign. She contributed $7,100. Dave Fogarty, who retired from Berkeley’s Economic Development program earlier this summer, donated $6,000. Capitelli, one of the driving forces behind the tax, gave $5,000, and his fellow council member, Wozniak, gave $1,000, according to campaign expenditure reports. The Ecology Center donated $3,000 and the Berkeley Dental Society gave $500.

Opponents of the soda tax, who have organized under the banner of Californians for Food & Beverage Choice, have not raised any funds yet. The local campaign is called “No Berkeley Beverage Tax, With Major Funding by American Beverage Association California PAC.”

Read more about the sugar-sweetened beverage tax on Berkeleyside.

Downtown initiative

The fight over the zoning of Berkeley’s downtown has already generated debates and political jockeying for the votes of residents. Supporters of the measure, called the Yes on Berkeley’s Green Downtown & Public Commons Initiative, have raised $7,765. Sophie Hahn, one of the authors of the initiative, as well as a city zoning board member, has given a little more than $700. Local 595 of The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers donated $500, as did the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, the Council of Neighborhood Associations, the “Save West Berkeley, No on Measure T” committee, as well as city Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman. Austene Hall, the chair of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission and a main backer of the initiative, donated $3,130 of her time gathering signatures, according to campaign expenditure reports.

The initiative’s opponents, Save the Downtown Plan, has only raised $100, from Capitelli.

Redistricting referendum

The Yes on Redistricting group — which supports a council majority-approved redistricting map adopted in December — did not file any campaign expenditure reports. The Berkeley Referendum Coalition — which has been fighting the adopted map — has raised $9,206, including $2,500 loaned by Martin Spence, a legal assistant in San Pablo. Some of that money was carried over from 2013. Read the background on the redistricting map battle in past Berkeleyside coverage.

Editors’ note: This story has been updated to show that Ty Alper, not Lori Droste, has raised the most money of any local candidate. The story had also stated, before it was changed, that Julie Sinai had raised more than Alper.

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  • guest

    Do you really think the Berkeley electorate is so dumb that they need it spelled out for them?

    Measure D will be opposed by the companies who will be taxed by it, and who will have to deal with the ridiculous bureaucratic nightmare of Berkeley-brand red tape it will create. Measure D will be supported by people who want more tax money for the general fund, people who believe that the government should be used to stop other people from making “bad” choices and by people who are convinced that all sugar is poison.

    Measure R will be opposed by the downtown businesses and developers who are trying to improve our city core with new housing, hotels, business complexes, etc. Measure R will be supported by the regular crowd of anti-development forces who oppose all changes to Berkeley, like our new libraries and Berkeley Bowl West, and by Jesse Arreguin who has decided to stake his campaign on courting those votes.

    It’s really pretty straightforward.