Berkeley residents receive advertisements criticizing City Council District 4 candidate Kate Harrison

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Berkeley residents have been receiving advertisements — which state that they were paid for by the Berkeley Police Association, or BPA — criticizing City Council District 4 candidate Kate Harrison’s record of handling homeless encampments.

The advertisement states that Harrison, the incumbent, “wanted a vote on encampments without public notice” and urges voters to “vote anyone but Kate Harrison.” BPA President Chris Stines could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The flyer states that it was paid for by BPA. The association issued a press release in August that used similar rhetoric, asserting that Harrison has “supported policies that de-professionalize and demoralize” police functions.

Additionally, according to the city of Berkeley’s Public Portal for Campaign Finance Disclosure, BPA has spent about $15,247.51 as of Oct. 24 on materials to oppose Harrison’s re-election campaign. The materials the association has financed include mailers and buttons that express opposition to Harrison’s campaign.

According to District 4 candidate Ben Gould, the recent flyer helps voters understand the numerous ways in which the community has been “let down” by Harrison.

“When your opponent has done so many problematic things that it’s hard to keep track of them all, and then tries to further obfuscate her record, it’s hard to get the word out to voters that something shady is going on,” Gould said in an email.

Berkeley resident Negeene Mosaed criticized the advertisement, however, which depicts homeless encampments next to text boxes about Harrison’s inability to resolve the issue.

“I find it really irresponsible of the police association to state such a thing,” Mosaed said in reference to the advertisement. “How could (Harrison) be responsible for this condition caused by income inequality?”

Harrison said the advertisement “exaggerates” her stance on homeless encampments. She said an alternative plan for encampments involves the construction of tiny homes for homeless youth in light of the shelter emergency in Berkeley, which she said has “nothing to do with encampments or tents.”

“(The advertisement) completely misstates the record of what we’ve been doing about homelessness,” Harrison said.

Harrison added that BPA should not be commenting on a policy area outside of its jurisdiction. Instead, she said BPA should comment on topics within its area of expertise such as a more transparent police review system.

Gould’s campaign released a similar advertisement, commenting on Harrison’s housing policy record. The advertisement rebuts Harrison’s claim that she doubled the number of affordable units in new developments, stating that the increase occurred in 2016 — a year before Harrison took office.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín was concerned that the advertisements misrepresent the council’s record, according to Harrison. While the council did double the number of affordable units in new market-rate housing developments in 2016, the calculated percentage of affordable housing was not based on the entire project, Arreguín stated in a press release. Arreguín said that in May 2017, Harrison closed a loophole that allowed developers to provide only half of the promised affordable housing.

In reference to  the advertisement’s impact, Mosaed expressed concern that BPA could “sway” the election with its money and influence.

“Big corporations and interest groups have been able to buy elections at a federal level. I just hope we still have a democracy at a local level,” Mosaed said.

Contact Alexandra Casey at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @acasey_dc.