Tom Bates

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For the Gunpowder Plot conspirator, see Thomas Bates.
Tom Bates
Mayor Bates.jpeg
Mayor of Berkeley
Assumed office
December 2002
Preceded by Shirley Dean
Personal details
Born (1938-02-09) February 9, 1938 (age 77)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Loni Hancock

Thomas H. Bates (born February 9, 1938) is an American politician and is currently serving as the Mayor of Berkeley, California. He previously served 20 years as a member of the California State Assembly before being termed out in 1996. Bates is married to Loni Hancock, a former mayor of Berkeley and State Assembly member who currently serves in the California State Senate. Bates is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and was a member of the Golden Bears' 1959 Rose Bowl team. Bates was a Captain in the United States Army Reserves after graduating from college and served in Germany.[1][2] He worked in real estate prior to his service in the state legislature.[2] Bates also served as a member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.[3]

State Assembly[edit]

Bates served in the California State Assembly representing the 14th District (the East Bay Area) from 1976 to 1996. During those 20 years, Bates was known as one of the legislature's most liberal members. Under Republican governors, Bates authored over 220 bills that became law, including the creation of the East Bay Shoreline State Park, a number of progressive social policy laws, and the founding of the first Community Bank in the Bay Area.[2] Bates authored the first legislation in the country allowing "brew pubs" - establishments that brew their own beer for sales on and off the premises and are typically combined with a restaurant.[4]

After retiring from the Assembly in 1996, Bates taught at UC Berkeley and worked to ensure healthier foods in the Oakland and Berkeley school districts.[2] In 2002, Bates was drafted out of retirement to challenge the two-term incumbent mayor of Berkeley, Shirley Dean. He won the race with 55% of the vote.[3]


Bates at a strike for UC workers in 2005.

Bates personally stole approximately 1,000 copies of The Daily Californian on the day before the 2002 Berkeley mayoral election after the student-run campus newspaper endorsed his opponent, then-Mayor Shirley Dean. Bates won the election the next day, but continued to deny any involvement even after being caught by a Daily Californian editor, leading to the filing of a police report. Eventually, Bates pleaded guilty to the theft and he was charged with an infraction and was fined $100 (as opposed to the misdemeanor of petty theft recommended by UCPD. [5] Even after admitting to the crime, however, Bates continued to downplay the newspaper theft by comparing the act to being caught offsides in football. [6] After sentencing, Mayor Bates claimed he would work with the City Council to pass a law outlawing the stealing of free newspapers, and speak to Berkeley public school students about the consequences of his actions.[7]

Mayor Bates' public mission statement on the City of Berkeley website claims to support the following: expanding youth and education services, creating stronger environment policies, improving relations with the UC Berkeley campus, building more housing in the downtown, and restoring civility to Berkeley government [1].

However, Bates has continued to vocally oppose any new UC Berkeley building projects or expansion, vowing in 2002 to fight against UC Berkeley's proposed expansion plan "tooth and nail." Bates has also strongly opposed the building of affordable, low-income housing in Berkeley, calling then Mayor Newport's attempts to accept federal grants and build low-income housing as "really stupid." [8] Bates also sponsored and heavily campaigned for the passage of Measure S in 2012, a sit-and-lie ordinance which would have made sitting on the sidewalk illegal and subject to citation and/or arrest depending on number of repeated violations. Bates and proponents characterized the people sitting on the sidewalks, many homeless, as those who "use drugs," "are mentally ill," and are "menacing." Bates and Measure S supporters argued that threatening legal punishment would improve the lives of homeless individuals unable to access social services. [9]

He also supports zero tolerance in enforcing the legal drinking age, and in 2004 Berkeley police launched sting operations against many liquor stores and bars throughout the city, and found that 40%[citation needed] sold alcohol to minors and adults under age 21.[10]

In 2004, Berkeley voters approved Measure I, amending the City's charter to change the date of mayoral elections to coincide with presidential elections and to adjust the mayor’s 2006 term to two years on a one-time basis to accomplish this result. Therefore, the next mayoral election took place in November 2008.

In November 2006, Mayor Bates won re-election in a landslide, defeating former City Planning Commissioner Zelda Bronstein 63% to 31% - the largest margin of victory in a Berkeley mayor's race since 1967. (Native American and community activist Zachary Runningwolf and Christian Pecaut won 5% and 1%, respectively.)[11]

In January 2008, Berkeley drew national attention when the Berkeley city council passed a motion to send a letter to the US Marines to tell them they were "unwelcome intruders."[1] Bates voted to approve the motion.[1][12] He voted to amend the letter on February 12 to remove language like "unwelcome intruder" from the letter.[13] On 13 February 2008, Bates said: "I think it stands (that) we didn't want them here and they came here. And (they are) unwelcome, you know we'd like them to leave voluntarily. So I don't think an apology is in order."[14]

In November 2008, Mayor Tom Bates was re-elected to a third term by a large margin, defeating former Mayor Shirley Dean 61% to 36% (two official write-in candidates won 3%, collectively.)[15] In 2009, Bates appeared in the documentary film Power Trip: Theatrically Berkeley

In November 2012, Bates was re-elected to a fourth term by a margin of 55 percent, defeating opponents including Kriss Worthington and Jacquelyn McCormick.[16]

External links[edit]


California Assembly
Preceded by
Ken Meade
California State Assemblyman,
12th District

Succeeded by
John L. Burton
Preceded by
Johan Klehs
California State Assemblyman,
14th District

Succeeded by
Dion Aroner
Political offices
Preceded by
Shirley Dean
Mayor of Berkeley, California
Succeeded by