Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, contributed another $285,000 in support of the Yes on Measure D campaign in the last few days, bringing his total contribution to $370,000. More may be coming, according to Howard Wolfson, his senior aide.
Bloomberg paid $200,000 for television ads, including one that aired during the fourth game of the World Series, according to Wolfson. (Campaign finance statements had not been filed as of press time). A second ad will run on Berkeley cable television through the election, he said. Bloomberg also gave a second $85,000 directly to the Yes on Measure D campaign.
“We have obviously been watching what the folks in Berkeley have been doing with real interest and think there is an opportunity for success here, and are concerned the effort on the ground was being swamped by the resources of the soda industry,” said Wolfson. “So we wanted to come in and try to level the playing field a little bit.”
The soda industry has spent $2.3 million so far to defeat the proposed measure, which would assess a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. That includes an $877,000 donation to No on D that was made Oct. 23. Distributors, not retail customers, would be taxed, although industry officials say distributors would pass on the tax.
The Yes on D campaign has raised about $549,939, including the Bloomberg contributions, according to campaign finance records. (Bloomberg’s payment for the ads will be counted as an in-kind donation to the Yes on D campaign. One of the advertisements appears above; see the other one on YouTube.)
Bloomberg’s donation undermines the argument that the push to tax soda is a local effort, said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the No on Measure D campaign.
“This ad proves that this has never been a local grassroots effort,” he said. “From the outset, these attempts to punish people by taxing their food and beverage choices have come from a well-orchestrated campaign by a national activist lobby. This is the 1% pushing a tax on the 99%, and exempting themselves from it.”
Bloomberg has not donated to a measure on the San Francisco ballot that would tax soda at 2 cents per ounce. That measure needs a two-thirds majority vote to pass because the proceeds would go into a special fund. The Berkeley measure only needs 50% of the votes to pass because the money would go into the city’s general fund, although the Berkeley City Council has said it will spend the money it raises to educate residents about diabetes and obesity. Wolfson declined to comment on why none of Bloomberg’s money had gone to San Francisco. Bloomberg gave $10 million to help pass a soda tax in Mexico.
“There is a real opportunity to advance the cause here,” said Wolfson, of Berkeley. “It would be the first time in the country any municipality has done this. It will send a signal to other municipalities that it is, in fact, doable.”
The soda industry has defeated 30 soda tax measures around the country in recent years.
In addition to the Bloomberg ad, UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich has made a video of a blog post he wrote that was published on Berkeleyside and elsewhere, titled “If a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America it can’t pass anywhere.” Reich made the ad in connection with Upworthy, the website that is famous for click-worthy headlines. The headline of his video is “Like Coke Or Pepsi? You Might Not Like Them As Much After You Hear What They’re Doing.”
District 7 candidates do it their own way
Instead of holding a traditional debate where candidates stand at a podium and talk about their campaign platforms, the two candidates for Berkeley’s District 7 held an informal discussion at Caffe Med on Telegraph Avenue on Oct. 21. Kriss Worthington, who is running for re-election, sat at a table with his challenger, Sean Barry. Other Telegraph regulars were on the scene, including Craig Becker, the owner of the Med, and Ken Sarachan and his wife, Laurie.
Barry is making a serious run for Worthington’s seat, but it remains to be seen if he can overcome Worthington’s name recognition, particularly with students at Cal. Barry has raised $35,177 to date and has sent out numerous flyers. The Berkeley Police Officers PAC also paid for a mailer supporting him. (See below for other support it is giving.) Worthington has raised $19,966 to date, according to campaign financing reports.
League of Women Voters tells mayor its name is misused in connection with Measure S
The League of Women Voters has sent a letter to Mayor Tom Bates and the City Council protesting the use of its name in the ballot argument for Measure S, which would codify council districts adopted by council in December.
Although the ballot argument and rebuttal to the argument against Measure S state that the League of Women Voters of Berkeley/Albany/Emeryville was involved in organizing meetings to shape new district boundaries, that is incorrect, according to the letter sent to Bates on Oct. 23. Nancy Bickel, the League president, and Carol Stone, the action coordinator, signed the letter.
“We were not asked nor did we approve the inclusion of our name in the argument and rebuttal,” stated the letter. “In fact, the LWVBAE is neutral on Measure S. The proponents of the measure and/or the City Clerk should have asked us to sign to give permission for the use of our name.
“Our participation in the adoption of the redistricting plan was brief and superficial. Our past president, Sherry Smith, at the request of the City, officiated as moderator at two or three meetings. The League had no role in arranging the meetings nor in the Council’s decision to adopt its plan.”
The ballot argument makes it look like the League was deeply involved with the redistricting process. It states: “Voting YES on Measure S supports citizen participation. Berkeley citizens were encouraged to submit their own map proposals. The City Council considered a total of seven (7) maps drawn by Berkeley residents. The City Council and the League of Women Voters held seventeen (17) forums, community meetings, and public hearings on redistricting. In the end, the Council adopted a map drawn by Berkeley citizens.”
The letter asks that Bates and supporters of Measure S refrain from using the League’s name in any mailers or door hangers.
Update, 3:06 p.m: Berkeleyside reached Mayor Tom Bates this afternoon who said he had nothing to do with the ballot argument: “I was surprised when the League raised the objection. I don’t know how you rectify it. It’s gone out to everybody,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate situation but I don’t think it’s a major problem.”
Update, Oct. 28, 3 p.m. Kristin Hunziker, campaign manager for Yes on S, who was once an aide to City Councilman Gordon Wozniak, wrote the ballot argument for S. She disagrees with the League’s recollection of events. The League, along with the city clerk’s office, city manager’s office and city attorney’s office, held meetings in 2011 and 2013 to explain the redistricting process and encourage citizens to participate, she said.
“The ballot statement says they helped put on meetings. It’s definitely a factual statement that the League and city put on these events,” said Hunziker.
Berkeley Police Officers’ Association PAC weighs in on local campaigns
The Berkeley Police Association, which previously paid for mailers for District 7 candidate Sean Barry and District 8 candidate Michael Alvarez Cohen, has increased its spending in the District 7 and District 8 races.
The PAC paid for a mailer against Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington, bringing its total contribution to challenger Sean Barry to $5,616, up from $3,460., according to campaign finance records.
The police PAC also paid $3,399 for a slate mailer for Berkeley Councilwoman Linda Maio, who is running against Rent Board member Alejandro Soto-Vigil. It contributed $250 for Lori Droste, who is running in District 8, and paid $500 for a robo-call campaign to urge voters to support Michael Alvarez Cohen as their first choice, and Droste as their second, in ranked-choice voting, according to Sgt. Chris Stines, association president.
[Editor’s note: Late Monday, Berkeleyside learned about an Oct. 23 campaign donation from the American Beverage Association to the No on D campaign. That information was added to the story.]
Berkeley ballot snafu, more money for 2014 election (10.22.14)
Bloomberg donates $85k to support Berkeley soda tax (10.16.14)
Beverage companies spend $1.675m to defeat soda tax (10.09.14)
Campaign donations reach record levels in Berkeley (10.07.14)
Beverage companies donate $800,000 to fight soda tax (09.22.14)
Op-ed: If soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere (09.10.14)
Judge changes Berkeley soda tax ballot measure (09.04.14)
Berkeley councilman faces PR man in ‘soda tax’ debate (07.30.14)
Rend Board commissioner Soto-Vigil challenges 22-year incumbent Maio in District 1 (07.22.14)
Berkeley puts sugar tax on November ballot (07.02.14)
Plans firm up for Berkeley soda tax, city parks measures (05.21.14)
Community survey shows difficulties for ballot measures (05.06.14)
Sugar tax hits the sweet spot for Berkeley residents (03.14.14)
Will Berkeley be first in nation to impose soda tax? (02.12.14)
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