Ambivalent Electorate Firmly Says ‘No’ to Oil
Radical progressives maintained control of the Berkeley City Council in Tuesday’s election, but voters rebuffed the leftists’ bid to scrap the city’s new district-elections process.
The mixed message in Berkeley was indicative of ambivalent voter sentiment on local issues throughout California.
Voters agreed to increase local taxes for some projects, but not others; a symbolic nuclear ban was endorsed in one county, but not in its neighbor; and growth limits were imposed in many places but not in others.
Opposition to Drilling
On one topic, however, most Californians agreed: They dislike offshore oil drilling, and endorsed measures designed to choke it off.
In Berkeley, Loni Hancock held off challenger Phil Polakoff in the mayoral race to give the progressive Berkeley Citizens Action coalition a narrow 5-4 majority on the City Council.
The coalition had an 8-1 majority in 1984, but its uncompromising style prompted voters last June to initiate district elections to reduce the group’s power. Voters on Tuesday rejected by a 60%-40% margin a coalition plan to repeal that district-election system.
Elsewhere, voters in cities and counties up and down the state were approving measures to hamstring onshore facilities needed to make possible the offshore drilling being encouraged by the federal government.
Construction of pipelines, terminals, refineries and other oil-processing facilities will be banned by the measures, which passed overwhelmingly. Bans were approved by 77% of the voters in San Diego, 72% in San Francisco, 74% in Sonoma County, 70% in Morro Bay, 69% in Oceanside and 53% in San Luis Obispo County.
A 52% majority of San Mateo County voters south of San Francisco blocked a proposal aimed specifically at the oil industry, but 62% of voters approved a coastal-protection measure that will have virtually the same effect.
At least five communities voted on whether to increase local taxes or decline tax rebates in order to finance repairs and construction of roads, sewers and other infrastructure that was put off because of voter-approved tax cuts from Proposition 13 in 1978.
Voters in Alameda and Fresno counties both agreed to increase sales taxes 0.5% to pay for road construction and repairs, but another such measure was rejected in fast-growing Contra Costa County east of San Francisco.
Meanwhile, a sales-tax increase to finance jail construction in San Diego County won 51% of the vote, but needed a two-thirds majority to take effect.
Tax Rebates Surrendered
However, voters in Santa Barbara County voted to give up $20 million in tax rebates mandated by state law. The money will be used over the next four years to fix county and city roads, provide additional health clinics and courtrooms and control toxic materials and hazardous wastes.
At the same time, Santa Barbara voters rejected rent control for the third time in eight years. Almost $300,000 was raised to defeat the initiative by a 58%-42% margin. Santa Barbara is known for its high rents and low vacancy rate.
However, growth controls won the support of voters in several small towns, including Carlsbad and San Marcos in San Diego County, while voters in the booming Marin County town of Fairfax north of San Francisco rejected a proposal to curb construction.
San Franciscans, however, voted to limit growth by narrowly approving a proposal to halve the city’s current high-rise construction quota. The latest measure, one of six anti-growth initiatives to win voter approval in the last decade, also will help preserve the city’s Victorian architecture.
Voters in the city-county of San Francisco also returned five incumbents to the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Nancy G. Walker, a liberal, received the most votes and thus stands to inherit the powerful board presidency when current president John L. Molinari runs for mayor next year.
San Franciscans also passed, by a 60% majority, the nation’s first voter-sanctioned comparable-worth program for city workers. The program, written by Walker, will reduce pay inequities between jobs usually held by women, such as secretaries, and higher-paying jobs considered to require comparable skill often held by men, such as truck drivers.
“It’s a historic victory,” said Ed Herzog of United Public Employees Local 790, the largest city union sponsoring the initiative. “It’s a victory for women; it’s a victory for minorities. I think it sends a signal across the country that the American people, when pressed, support comparable worth.”
North of San Francisco, two counties voted on whether they should be the first in the state to declare their opposition to nuclear weapons.
Marin voters agreed to declare their entire county a “nuclear-free zone,” but voters in neighboring Sonoma County declined a similar proposal that would have sought to prohibit the production, transportation, storage, processing, disposal and use of nuclear weapons within its boundaries.
Berkeley voters, meanwhile, declared their city nuclear free, making it the 14th city in the state to do so. However, the measure will not affect weapons research at the University of California, which as a state agency is exempt from city ordinances.