Despite Defeat, Measure R’s Sponsor Still Spins Distortions

It’s probably no surprise that post-election comments by Measure R sponsor Jesse Arreguin reflect the pattern of misinformation that characterized the Measure R campaign. No on R cropped

Arreguin told Berkeleyside that a chief reason for Measure R’s defeat was the larger amount of campaign spending by the No on R side. It’s true that money influences votes in many places, but it doesn’t swing elections among Berkeley’s highly educated and well-informed voters. Look at what happened to the sugar tax (Measure D) in this election. Big Soda dumped more than $2 million to defeat it, dwarfing Yes on D spending and far outstripping any campaign spending in Berkeley history. Yet, the sugar tax was approved by three out of four Berkeley voters, the same ratio that voted down Measure R.

Arreguin neglected to mention the real reasons that Measure R lost, including opposition by an extraordinarily diverse coalition of well-respected environmental, labor, business, law enforcement and civic groups, plus the preponderance of Berkeley’s elected officials and community leaders. See the list on our Endorsements page .

All of the “No on R” groups recognized Measure R’s hidden anti-growth agenda with its prohibitive restrictions and fees on new development that would have sabotaged the revitalization of Berkeley’s Downtown, blocked badly needed affordable housing and reversed our progress in combatting climate change.

Another example of Arreguin’s deceptive post-election half-truths is his claim that Measure R was responsible for the City Council’s recent action to save the historic Berkeley Post Office. If Measure R hadn’t been on the ballot, he said, the Council would not have voted this past summer to adopt a Civic Center “Overlay” – which blocks commercial development of the Post Office and other historic Downtown buildings. It’s true that the Overlay wording adopted by the Council is taken from the Overlay portion of Measure R since it was the one section of Measure R’s scattershot provisions that the Council agreed with. But long before Measure R was cooked up, the City Council – as well as Berkeley’s elected leaders in Sacramento and Washington, Loni Hancock, Nancy Skinner and Barbara Lee – had been taking numerous steps to save the Post Office. The Council adopted a resolution opposing the sale of the Post Office in March of 2013, and the City Attorney – acting on Council authorization not connected to Measure R – filed suit against the U.S. Postal Service on the day after this past election to block the planned sale of the Post Office.

In fact, Measure R began with deception related to the Post Office. It was placed on the ballot by signature gatherers who pitched it as a “Save the Post Office” initiative. But the section about the Post Office and other historic buildings was a small part of Measure R’s massive set of stringent new requirements and fees that would affect every kind of development throughout the Downtown. The measure’s main thrust wasn’t mentioned to those who signed the initiative petition.

Arreguin also claims that Measure R deserves credit for the recent news that the developer of the proposed 302-unit Residences at Berkeley Plaza will use 100% union labor . It’s certainly true that Measure R created a situation where labor and other groups became strong allies who saw the devastating consequences that the draconian measure would bring, so an ensuing labor-developer agreement is no surprise. But to say that Measure R deserves credit for it would be like England claiming credit for the Statue of Liberty. England could argue that if it had not imposed draconian restrictions on the American colonists, there would have been no Revolutionary War, in which France became America’s ally and later presented America with the Statue of Liberty in commemoration of their alliance and the liberty achieved by American independence.

We are pleased that Berkeley voters saw through the disinformation disseminated by Measure R, which falsely portrayed itself as the “Green Downtown Initiative.” It was written by Arreguin and two other self-appointed individuals – Sophie Hahn and Austene Hall – without community participation or public input. The city would have suffered a grievous injury if the measure had succeeded in overturning our award-winning and successful Downtown Plan, which won 64% voter approval in 2010 and which was shaped through extensive community participation and more than 200 public meetings.

Measure R does deserve credit for one thing – it reminded us to beware of politicians offering Trojan horses, especially those painted green.