Op-ed: Berkeley values: Divisiveness isn’t one of them

During the course of a campaign it is completely fair to compare one’s record against that of one’s opponent.  I take no issue with that.  I am proud of my work for education, children’s health, affordable housing, fiscal prudence, public safety and housing linked to transit.

But last week my opponent emailed his supporters to alert them that the campaign would be getting “nasty.” He did not disappoint. His emails, Facebook advertising, Instagram, Twitter and even snail mail have revealed his campaign strategy: highlight flashy endorsements and demonize the opponent with half-baked accusations.

If someone has been working in a community for over 50 years, it’s easy to scrutinize their record.   And I understand the appearance of a conflict when, in 2010, I asked a colleague to help the newly hired Police Chief find a place to live in Berkeley and subsequently accepted an unsolicited consultant’s fee.  This was several months after the City Council unanimously – including my opponent — approved a home purchase loan as part of a hiring package for the potential chief so he could buy a house in Berkeley – a requirement of employment. I donated the fee to local charities.

My opponent and I have different approaches to making legislative decisions. Time and time again he claims that his way is the only way and if I don’t vote with him I am against the long-term goals we all embrace. I require evidence, information and stakeholder participation, which can result in a slower process, but end with strong solutions and consensus.

Full disclosure: I worked as a Realtor in Berkeley for over 40 years. And yes, Realtors did, as an independent expenditure committee over which I had no control, finance advertising on behalf of my campaign. That was their decision. Though I do understand that they support more housing in our community — as do I —  I don’t appreciate outside money in our local elections. I believe transparency is critical in our election processes, which is why I support Berkeley’s Measure X1 for publicly financed elections.

But we would be naïve to think that my opponent isn’t also benefitting from an influx of outside money trying to sway this election: the California Nurses’ Association (all appropriately documented and transparent), and a “local” PAC entitled “Working Families for a Better Berkeley,” a pass-through committee funded entirely by the SEIU, the union that represents our city’s workers.

I am deeply disappointed on behalf of our whole community that this campaign has taken such a dark turn. Let’s compare our records. Let’s compare our accomplishments. Let’s compare our visions.  These are the criteria on which voters should base their decision. After Nov. 8, we will all have to work together to make Berkeley a better place.

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Laurie Capitelli is a long-time resident of the City if Berkeley. He has been the city council member from District 5 since 2004, and is currently a candidate for Berkeley Mayor.