Thomas H. Bates (born February 9, 1938) was Mayor of Berkeley, California and a member of the California State Assembly. Bates is married to Loni Hancock, another 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. He worked in real estate prior to his service in the state legislature. Bates also served as a member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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 $250 (as opposed to the misdemeanor of petty theft recommended by UCPD.) Following his election, Bates led the city council in passing an ordinance that outlawed the stealing of free newspapers and gave a series of talks discussing his mistakes and what he learned from them. Four years later, the California legislature passed a similar law that would apply statewide.
Housing and urban development were major issues throughout Bates’ long tenure as mayor. Bates’ success in promoting an environmental agenda as a member the California Assembly led him to partner with the environmental groups like the Sierra Club in promoting a series of “Smart Growth” policies for Berkeley and the Bay Area. In addition to advocating dense, transit-oriented urban development, Bates worked to mitigate the effects of Berkeley’s rapidly rising housing costs on the city’s low-income residents. Bates proposed a municipal density bonus program to incentivize the inclusion of affordable units in new developments and to increase the fees that developers must pay into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. Bates also put up resistance to UC Berkeley’s expansion. In 2004, following the release of UC’s Long-Range Development Plan, Bates promised to fight the expansion “tooth and nail.” Claiming, “The university asked us to sign the equivalent of a blank check,” Bates announced that the city would file a $4.1 million lawsuit against the university. After a year of negotiations in which the university agreed to increase its ongoing fiscal support for city services, the lawsuit was settled for $1.2 million.
Bates also sponsored and campaigned for the passage of Measure S in 2012, a sit-and-lie ordinance which would have made sitting on the sidewalk in certain commercial districts illegal and subject to citation and/or arrest depending on number of repeated violations. Bates and Measure S supporters unsuccessfully argued that threatening legal sanction would encourage persistently homeless individuals to access social services.
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% sold alcohol to minors and adults under age 21.
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.)
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." Bates voted to approve the motion. He voted to amend the letter on February 12 to remove language like "unwelcome intruder" from the letter. 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."
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.) 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, poet Mark Schwartz, and Jacquelyn McCormick.
In June 2015, Mayor Bates was at the focal point of the Berkeley Balcony Collapse tragedy which claimed the lives of 5 young Irish J1 students and an Irish American student. Mayor Bates was praised by the Irish media for the sensitivity and consideration he showed and the support he gave to the Irish J1 community and the families of the victims of the accident. He promised a broad and wide ranging investigating into the cause of the accident with the likely cause being that the balcony of the building was not constructed properly leading to dry rot developing, leading to the balcony to become structurally compromised.