Ignacio De La Fuente, Jane Brunner, and Cops Attack 

They unleash a flurry of false and misleading mailers against Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan and City Attorney Barbara Parker. Plus, what's up with SEIU and Measure T?

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Kaplan said her campaign is preparing a response mailer. She's also urging more volunteers to help with phone banking and door-to-door campaigning to help offset the false and negative attacks. "A lot of people are outraged," she said. "And we're encouraging people to get involved."

Linney said, however, that Parker's campaign plans to not respond directly to the hit pieces and instead will continue to focus on the positive things she's done in office. "We could spend money trying to defend ourselves; we could spend money going after Brunner and OPOA," Linney said of the police union. "But we've decided to spend money telling voters the truth about Barbara's record ... that she's a professional."

These types of positive campaign messages are important, but candidates that solely depend on them are taking a risk. In fact, the campaigns that are usually most vulnerable to negative and false attacks are the ones that decide to take the "high road." Again, President Obama in the first debate is the perfect example of what can happen when a candidate decides to remain positive and doesn't respond to an aggressive attack.

SEIU and Measure T

It's no secret that public-employee unions have been under siege. During the past several years, they've endured widespread layoffs, pay reductions, and pension cuts. And so it's no surprise that public-worker unions typically endorse ballot measures that raise revenues for the public agencies that employ their members. It's why numerous unions throughout California are backing Proposition 30: The measure will raise revenues and result in fewer cuts to state and local government services and workers. It's also why public employees in the City of Berkeley, who are members of the union SEIU 1021, wanted to endorse Measure T, a ballot initiative that promises to generate millions in new revenues for city government.

Yet for some reason, those Berkeley city employees were overruled by the union's county leadership. And so SEIU 1021 may now be one of the first unions in Northern California to oppose a ballot measure that would raise funds for the public agency that employs its members — and thus help that agency, the City of Berkeley, avoid more devastating cuts to jobs, pensions, and pay.

In interviews with the Express, SEIU's county leadership would not explain why the Berkeley city employees were overruled, nor would the leadership give any reason for why SEIU 1021 was opposing Measure T.

The ballot measure would allow dense developments on six underused sites in West Berkeley. The Berkeley firefighters' union has endorsed the measure in part because the new developments would likely generate at least $6 million in permit-fee revenues for the city alone, said David Ross, a retired Berkeley firefighter who is still active in the union and was part of the local Berkeley endorsement process.

Ross also noted that the housing and commercial growth generated by Measure T would create millions of dollars of new real estate transfer, property, and sales tax revenues for the city. "And Measure T is not going to cost the City of Berkeley a dime," Ross added. The measure also includes no new or increased taxes for existing city residents.

Ross confirmed that the political committee representing local Berkeley chapters of SEIU 1021 had voted to endorse Measure T, before being overruled. "They all wanted it — they actually endorsed Measure T," he said.

The county leadership for SEIU 1021 instructed Ariana Casanova, the East Bay political coordinator for the union, to answer questions posed by this reporter on the reasons for the county's decision. Casanova said that, typically, the county leadership political committee adopts the recommendations made by the local union members who would be affected by the measure.

But Casanova would not comment on why the county leadership committee decided not to adopt the recommendation of Berkeley city employees of SEIU 1021, saying it was internal information. She would only say that the county political committee that makes the final decisions on what to endorse decided to oppose Measure T.

When asked why a public-employee union would oppose a ballot measure that could help a public agency avoid budget cuts, Casanova responded, "I really wish I understood it myself." And when this reporter noted that he could not remember another East Bay public-employee union having ever before decided to oppose a ballot measure that would raise revenues for a public agency that employs its members, Casanova said, "I don't recall a similar situation either."

The Alameda County Building Trades Council union also has endorsed Measure T. Andreas Cluver, the union's treasurer-secretary, told the Express that his union believes the new developments made possible by Measure T will create good union construction jobs. He also said that he received verbal commitments for project-labor agreements from several of the site developers to use union workers.

SEIU's decision on Measure T also is at the heart of a controversy in the election. Opponents of Measure T filed an ethics complaint with the city, contending that the measure's supporters had falsely claimed in mailers that SEIU 1021 had endorsed it. Darrell de Tienne, one of the leaders of the pro-Measure T group, said that they had thought SEIU 1021 had endorsed the measure after hearing that the Berkeley city employee committee had voted to do so. He added that once he was informed that the county union leadership had overruled the three Berkeley SEIU chapters, he removed the SEIU 1021 endorsement from the Yes on Measure T website, but that it was too late to do anything about the mailers.

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