Seven Days 

Flag-waving in Richmond, witch-hunting in Berkeley, gerrymandering in Oakland.

Race Bate-ing

There once was a day in Richmond politics when the initials BMW referred to a coalition of three African-American councilmembers: Nat Bates, Jim McMillan, and Lonnie Washington. And although Bates, who's currently running for mayor, has ostensibly resigned from the group, his foes wonder if he's still intimately involved in BMW. If so, that could be problematic. State campaign laws prohibit an independent expenditure committee from coordinating its activities with a candidate it's supporting. A recent brochure paid for by the BMW -- tapping into the current patriotic fervor by featuring a photo of Bates backed with an 11" by 17" American flag poster -- is raising more suspicions of collusion. The BMW piece tells recipients they can pick up additional copies at the Bates for Mayor campaign headquarters. At least, they could for a while. "Those things went out like wildfire," Bates tells 7 Days.

Of course, the limited supply of the brochure is not what bothers Bates' critics. "I think there are really issues about that being legal," says John Dalrymple, head of the Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County, which is backing Irma Anderson for mayor. "The question here is whether or not this was really an independent expenditure. ... It doesn't appear to be." Bates retorts that BMW produced the piece and dropped it off at his headquarters after printing it.

Meanwhile, Lonnie Washington, president of BMW, says he wasn't happy with the flag-waving piece, but not because it breaks any campaign laws. He's hacked off because not only doesn't the mailer ever ask anyone to vote for Bates, it doesn't even mention the date of the election. "I don't know if you could even call it a campaign piece," he sighs.

FYI to Richmond voters: The election is on Nov. 6.

Reeses Pieces

The dispute over the legality of the flag brochure is the campaign equivalent of playful locker room towel-snapping. The other BMW piece that landed recently is a vintage Richmond election-time sucker punch. The mailer all but accuses mayoral candidate Tom Butt, who is white, of being a racist who got the FBI to investigate four "innocent" African-American politicians and power broker Darrell Reese by falsely accusing them of corrupt deeds. The glossy campaign hit also includes a letter supposedly signed by five black reverends. The ellipses-happy missive begins, "Tom Butt brought ... shame ... loss of honor ... families hurt to Richmond's African-American neighborhoods. His outrageous lies and allegations of African-American leaders taking bribes still resonates." It concludes: "The African-American Community can never forgive Tom Butt."

Butt says he was surprised to see Rev. Tommie Bradford of the Independent Community Church listed as one of the signatories. "I had visited his church only a couple of months ago on August 26," Butt recalls. "I found him and his congregation to be hospitable, and I found him to be a true gentleman." Butt called Bradford to find out why the reverend was dissing him all of a sudden. According to Butt, Bradford insisted "he had never signed such a letter and had no knowledge of it." Two other reverends listed on the faux letter -- Yaahn Hunter and Edward ONeal -- told the West County Times that they were duped into lending their signatures to the hit piece. "I was led to believe I was taking a stand against racism," Hunter groused to the Times. "And I am against racism in every form, but I have no knowledge of Butt being a racist. I had no idea this was about him in any way."

BMW prez Washington says he wasn't personally involved in soliciting the signatures so he doesn't know if the pastors were misled. The signatures were apparently gathered by a mysterious committee, the members of which Washington would not name (Butt suspects Reese is behind the piece). Still, Washington finds it hard to believe that the reverends had no idea what they were getting into. "I don't understand these people not knowing what they were signing," Washington says.

Asked how he will respond to the attacks, Butt's answer seems to be: I won't. "Over the last six years I have become so used to these ridiculous and pitiful pieces that it has become difficult for me to become worked up over them," he said. "In fact, I have come to anticipate and rely on their arrival so much that I would probably lose sleep if they stopped."

College must be too easy nowadays

Don't UC Berkeley activists have anything better to do? Last week, the Daily Californian ran an advertisement from the Ayn Rand Institute, and while the ad was an asinine rant calling for the invasion and occupation of Iran, the New York Times and the Washington Post printed it as well.

The following day, someone stole about 1,000 copies of the paper from its racks, replacing them with a flier denouncing the Daily Cal's "hate speech" and calling for readers to boycott the paper. "[The ad] has also enmeshed the Iranian community in a climate of hostility and has essentially placed a death warrant on the heads of innocent people, both here and abroad," reads a typically overblown passage. "As its publication history has demonstrated, the Daily Cal will continue to print racist, hateful, xenophobic speech until the campus community takes broader actions. We ask all students, faculty, staff, and community members with consciences to boycott the Daily Californian and demand that the current sham daily be replaced with a genuine, accountable student newspaper." Cry us a river. This marks the third attempt to punish the editors of the Daily Cal for doing their job since September 11. If activists can't find a more obvious focus for their displeasure with US foreign policy, here's a hint: There are two federal buildings in downtown Oakland, and last we heard, picketing was still legal. But it's so much safer to pick on a student newspaper.

Real and imagined threats at KPFA

Tom Brokaw and the National Enquirer aren't the only members of the media to feel the fallout of the war. Last week, a staffer at the KPFA newsroom answered the phone and heard a voice say a bomb was primed to explode in the studio. "The person said you should get out of the building in ten minutes, because a bomb was going to go off," says Matt Martin, who works in the newsroom. "We went off the air for about half an hour. Interestingly, the last bomb threat was more than ten years ago, when we were reading The Satanic Verses on the air."

Meanwhile, the convoluted internecine politics of the KPFA-Pacifica feud have entered a new phase with word from Pacifica board member Pete Bramson that executive director Bessie Wash has been fired. When Wash replaced Lynn Chadwick as Pacifica's head, she initially promised to peacefully resolve the conflict, but soon resorted to the same bizarre, tyrannical tactics that seem to be Pacifica's stock-in-trade. At one point, she even interrupted a national broadcast of Pacifica Network News to read a rambling diatribe against her opponents at KPFA and New York's WBAI, violating her own gag order. KPFA staffers aren't sure what Wash's ouster portends; Pacifica chair Robert Farrell recently made overtures to mediate the dispute, but he's held out the olive branch before, only to yank it back. It may not matter in the long run; Pacifica officials recently announced that after two years of fighting with its own stations, the network is broke and may not be able to continue operating.

Rush told them to write

Pity Tamlyn Bright, executive assistant in Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean's office, who has the thankless job of sorting through thousands of e-mails that have poured in from irate Americans upset with the City Council's resolution to condemn the bombings in Afghanistan. So far Bright has glanced through only 1,500 e-mails; roughly half threaten to boycott the city's businesses. The messages (of which the Express has also received its fair share) arrive with subject headings such as "Are you with the terrorists?" and prose proclaiming, "You traitors disgust me!"

The mayor and some neighborhood merchants' associations have tried to distance themselves from the City Council's action. The mayor's Web site notes, in capital letters no less, that she and three councilmembers "DID NOT VOTE" for the resolution. Bright says Dean has already asked the other side to reconsider. Reid Edwards, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, says the business community does not support the resolution. "This was just simply the council, which on occasion decides that the city of Berkeley will have its own foreign policy," he says.

Lisa Bullwinkel of the Solano Avenue Merchants' Association says businesses are feeling the burn, though how much can be directly attributed to the boycott is difficult to discern as the economy was not exactly robust prior to the council vote. Bullwinkel, part of the Main Street Alliance, says the group is preparing an advertising blitz for the holiday season.

Whether they agree with the resolution or not, everyone seems to agree that people have overreacted. The text of the resolution contains five sections, the first of which condemns the terrorist attacks and applauds the heroism of the rescue effort. "There's a certain part of the actual resolution that all of us could agree with," Edwards says. For her part, Bright says of the correspondents: "They're not quite informed. But everybody is pretty much enraged and indignant and basically wish to revile Berkeley, as it is the patriotic thing to do."

Brunner, we hardly knew ye

As soon as former Berkeley mayor Loni Hancock threw her hat into the race for the 14th Assembly District, rumors began swirling about eroding support for former front-runner and Oakland City Councilmember Jane Brunner. First, two of Brunner's most critical supporters -- state Senator Don Perata and Senator Barbara Boxer -- were already reportedly backing out of her corner. Simion Gant, a spokesperson for Perata, confirmed that the senator was on the verge of withdrawing his support for Brunner. According to incumbent Assemblymember Dion Aroner, who has endorsed Hancock, Perata's sudden neutrality was a bad sign for Brunner, who had counted on his expertise and phenomenal fund-raising capacity to carry the day. Given that most of the district's labor support was heading for attorney Charles Ramsey, Brunner needed Perata's support more than ever. In addition, Brunner had been keeping Boxer's endorsement a secret trump card to be played at the right moment. But Boxer and Hancock have been good friends thanks to Hancock's work in Bill Clinton's Department of Education, and rumors immediately started buzzing that she was about to yank her endorsement.

Last week, Brunner's campaign distributed a flier around the district trashing the Berkeley City Council's recent vote to condemn the bombing of Afghanistan; Hancock's backers said the flier was a desperate attempt to pin the vote on Hancock and tar her with the old "Galloping" Gus Newport brush. "I think it's incredibly inappropriate, but if Jane wants to run against the Berkeley City Council, I guess she can do that," Aroner said. If nothing else, it seemed a sign of desperation, for mere days later, Brunner withdrew from the race. Citing the recent redistricting fight, Brunner barely held her punches when diagnosing the speed of her decline. "We looked at the numbers and it became clear that after the gerrymandering was through, we only had 16,000 Oakland residents left in the district," she told 7 Days.

"Wait a minute -- did you just say gerrymandering?" we asked.

"Yes I did."

"Who did the gerrymandering? Was it Dion?"

Long pause. "It was ... somebody."

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