Op-ed: Yes on D campaign must stop bubbling over

Just like there are two sides to every coin, there are two sides to every campaign. KTVU’s story on Berkeley’s Measure D, which first aired last week, was an unsettling look at some childish and unfortunate behavior by those pushing hardest to pass the soda tax here.

Signs have been planted on lawns around town declaring stances on various measures appearing on the November ballot. Signs posted at private residences are an expression of an individual’s position, and none are more prolific than the Measure D signs.

The campaigns on both sides of Measure D have also put up their signs on public property, such as lampposts, which the City allows so long as the signs do not cause a hazard.

I have heard stories from my neighbors afraid to plant “No on D” signs in their lawns, fearing confrontation from the vocal and aggressive “Yes on D” campaign. I was skeptical, wondering how confrontational civilized adults would behave despite any disagreement.

But as I sat on my couch watching the local news last night, I was troubled to see firsthand exactly why my neighbors are afraid to express opposition to Berkeley’s proposed soda tax. Yes, they are AFRAID. They are afraid to express an opinion in the city that gave birth to the free speech movement.

What I found most alarming was that Martin Bourque, spokesman for the Yes on D campaign, did not condemn the tax supporters who were caught red-handed on camera stealing signs and getting violent with workers from the No side.

Instead, he said he has not directed his supporters one way or another on what to do when they opposition signs around town. Really? Even when his people are stealing signs and trying to intimidate campaign workers who they disagree with?

So now I see it. Now I see that the Yes on D campaign, which frequently accuses the ‘No’ side of bullying tactics, is not so innocent. In fact, maybe Yes on D should think about abiding by that classic moral code so often flouted by schoolyard bullies: the Golden Rule.

I see signs today. But tomorrow, those same signs may be gone, stolen by soda tax supporters. Of course, elections aren’t won or lost by the number of signs displayed in bushes and on lawns. They’re just the cherry on top of an emotional issue. I hope Yes on D campaign takes a hard look at itself and stops bubbling over.

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Betty Walker is a long-time Berkeley resident and community activist.