|Richmond Election in the News
October 22, 2004
The state's political watchdog agency is investigating Richmond City Councilman Nat Bates for an American flag mailer that he sent during his unsuccessful 2001 bid for mayor, Bates acknowledged Thursday.
The Fair Political Practices Commission also is investigating a political action committee known as Black Men and Women of Richmond, which paid for the mailings.
The poster-sized brochures were mailed to Richmond residents in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and featured a photo of the councilman and a poem about thankfulness and told recipients they could pick up additional copies at the Bates for Mayor campaign headquarters.
At issue, according to Bates, is whether the poster can be considered a campaign mailer.
"It wasn't a campaign mailer. It had nothing to do with the campaign," Bates said. "That's the questionable info that is being discussed."
FPPC spokeswoman Sigrid Bathen said the agency does not comment on investigations or confirm that an investigation is under way.
But Bates, who lost his bid for mayor in 2001 but remained on the council and who is running for re-election on the Nov. 2 ballot, said he received a letter from the FPPC on Wednesday asking him to answer questions about the mailer.
BMW treasurer and former Richmond Mayor George Livingston said he also received a letter from FPPC investigators Wednesday, but he refused to discuss the specifics of the letter. He said the letter outlined "some things that happened with Nat Bates' mayoral campaign."
"They're investigating BMW, but I'm not really concerned about it," Livingston said. "I don't want to be bothered. To me, it's no big deal."
The FPPC is tasked with investigating alleged violations of the Political Reform Act in state and local government, and has the capacity to initiate formal administrative or civil enforcement proceedings.
Bates questioned why the investigation was being conducted two weeks before the election, and said it was politically motivated.
"Each time we've got an election coming up, you've got either the FBI involved or someone else," Bates said, referring to a 1999 federal investigation into allegations that he solicited bribes from city contractors. He was never charged.
"I guess the CIA will be involved next time," Bates said. "These people, they just try to destroy other people's character."
BMW Chairman Lonnie Washington said the FPPC contacted him three months ago to informally ask about the mailer, which he called a "voter info pamphlet. "
"I really never understood exactly what they wanted. I just answered their questions," Washington said. "It was just supporting this candidate. There's nothing illegal."
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CAMPAIGN 2004 -- RICHMOND
With five of the Richmond City Council's nine seats up for grabs and a field of 15 candidates, voters could fundamentally change the direction of a city where fiscal mismanagement and a plan to bring Las Vegas-style gaming to town top residents' concerns.
Beyond having the opportunity to shake up the council, voters will decide on Measure R, which would reduce the council to seven members beginning in 2008 -- a move that would save the city at least $40,000 annually and has no organized opposition.
Four incumbents and 11 challengers are vying for five open seats, turning the race into something of a free-for-all that has attracted everyone from career politicians to a man whose campaign statement says he is "simply a follower of Jesus Christ, and the quality of human life is my priority."
Despite their disparate backgrounds, the candidates agree the city has endured financial crises for way too long.
"We can no longer let this council make excuses to the public," said Corky Boozé, a business owner and six-time candidate. "To move the city forward, we have to start with new, fresh people with new, fresh ideas."
This year's $35 million budget shortfall has prompted hundreds of layoffs, closed library branches and community centers and left streets in disrepair.
Most candidates agree that balancing the budget is Richmond's top priority, but their suggestions for avoiding another huge deficit are as varied as their personalities.
"I would get rid of every individual in the finance department and human resource department, the nonunion employees, because they're the ones who caused the problem," said candidate Bill Idzerda, an energy policy strategist for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
Incumbent Tom Butt, a vocal critic of the city's financial management, wants the city's computerized accounting system improved and greater technological training within the finance department.
"I still don't think we have our computer management system to a point that it will do everything it needs to do so that we manage our fiscal requirements," Butt said.
John Marquez, a retired labor standards investigator and 14-year councilman who lost his seat in 2001 during an unsuccessful run for mayor, wants the city to use the nearly idle Richmond port to increase revenue.
"My idea is to use the resources that Richmond already has," he said.
Another key issue facing the council is a hotly debated proposal to build a Las Vegas-style casino and resort at Point Molate.
Earlier this year, the city council unanimously announced its intention to sell the land for $50 million to casino developer Upstream Development of Emeryville but postponed a formal decision until after the election.
Many incumbents now refuse to take a stand on the issue, saying they want to learn more about Upstream's offer and a counteroffer from Chevron, which runs a refinery adjacent to Point Molate and opposes building a casino there.
Chevron has offered $80 million for the land. Upstream's deal is potentially more lucrative over the long haul, however, because it provides millions annually in casino revenues and taxes.
Many challengers also have been vague about Point Molate.
"Right now the best use is one that's going to bring economic revenue to the city of Richmond as well as work with the fiscal crises," incumbent Mindell Lewis Penn said in a comment typical of the candidates.
Challenger Andrés Soto, a community activist and legislative policy director for the Trauma Foundation in San Francisco, questions both proposals.
"I would say, from what I've seen now ... I do not believe gaming is a sound basis for future economic development," he said.
The mudslinging is in full swing, with voters receiving mailers demonizing Soto as a radical and endorsing Marquez and Kathy "Storm" Sharff. The brochures were financed by unions representing Richmond police officers and firefighters.
More than $150,000 has been spent on the race as of Sept. 30, campaign finance records show, with much of the money coming from labor unions, industry and political action committees.
A group known as Black Men and Women of Richmond has given a total of $8, 500 to 11 of the 15 candidates, with incumbent Nat Bates being the biggest beneficiary, receiving $2,500. The organization has ties to political consultant Darrell Reese, the former head of the city's firefighters union, who was at the center of an FBI probe five years ago into vote-buying at Richmond City Hall and later was convicted of tax evasion.
Besides deciding on Measure R, voters will consider Measure Q, a half- cent increase in the sales tax to help finance a wide range of services, including police and fire protection. The two measures have no organized opposition.
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Two months after he took over as Richmond's interim city manager, veteran county administrator Phil Batchelor wrote a 170-item list of what was wrong with the city's bungled finances.
-- The audit manager wasn't doing audits.
-- The city spent millions of dollars on a new computer system that still doesn't work, requiring officials to prepare budgets by hand.
-- Payroll costs were skyrocketing, but no one knew by how much because the books weren't balanced until half a year after the money was spent.
There are many reasons why Richmond found itself with a $35 million budget deficit, which forced the City Council to slash hundreds of city jobs and shutter its branch libraries and many community centers this year.
At the top of the list are the soaring costs of employee salaries, retirement benefits and health care coverage, which accounted for most of the $19.1 million jump in government, public safety and streets expenses last year.
Nearly half the increase -- $9.3 million -- resulted from a spike in salaries and retirement benefits for firefighters and police officers. Unlike many cities, Richmond does not require them to contribute to their retirement benefits, which allows them to retire at age 50 and collect up to 90 percent of their salary.
The full picture of Richmond's financial mess -- and whether any funds were misappropriated -- should become clearer next month when state auditors release their report on the city's finances.
But one problem has simply been the way Richmond has done business for years, something that jumped out quickly to outsiders like Batchelor and Finance Director Pat Samsell, who joined the city 13 months ago.
"The systems here did not have built-in checks and balances," said Batchelor, who retired in 2001 after 17 years as Contra Costa County administrator. "The end of the year passed, a fund could be overspent, and there wasn't a control in place to stop it."
Among his recommendations to the City Council are to develop a process to guard against embezzlement and to review the city's credit-card policy and cancel unnecessary credit cards. The city also has missed the benefits of bulk discounts because it does not have a centralized purchasing function, and it has failed to collect all the revenue it is due because it lacks an accounts- receivable department.
Samsell said it was troubling to see how city officials had been using one-time funds -- such as grants or the sale of public property -- to cover operating expenses rather than putting it in reserves.
Samsell said he was also shocked to learn that Richmond used an arcane way of funding its workers' compensation system -- which had been run out of the city attorney's office. Workers compensation costs accounted for $8.5 million of the budget shortfall, and the city has since adopted the finance structure used by the state in hopes of controlling the costs.
Among Batchelor's recommendations for Richmond's City Council is to get better use out of the Systems, Applications and Products computer system the city purchased for more than $4 million in 2000.
The system was purchased during the five-year tenure of City Manager Isiah Turner, who was promoted to the post in May 1998. He was hired in 1991 as director of employment and training after resigning from a similar post for the state of Washington when auditors determined he misused $22,000 in funds for travel and phone expenses.
Turner, who retired at the end of last year, had been criticized by some for traveling to Orlando, Fla., to tout the virtues of the computer system while it was proving to be expensive and ineffective in Richmond.
In July of 2003, then-Finance Director Anna Vega resigned, as did former City Attorney Malcolm Hunter, who at the time oversaw the city's workers' compensation program.
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Richmond council candidate's statements stir up questions
Questions have arisen about the background of a Richmond City Council candidate who has won the strong backing of the city's public safety unions.
Although union-produced campaign literature supporting Kathy Scharff and her own statements to the Times say she was a 28-year executive of Fresno, a city about three times the size of Richmond, she actually was an administrative assistant, noise monitor and council assistant (a job reclassified as deputy city manager for a few years).
Scharff also wrote "n/a" in answer to many queries on a Times questionnaire, including whether she had experience running for political office. In fact, she ran a well-funded campaign for the Fresno City Council in 1993.
One Richmond council election mailer says she oversaw Fresno's personnel services. Attorney Jeff Reid, a former city manager, disputes that.
Scharff, 56, and her spokesman, Michael Ali, have refused to clarify these questions despite numerous attempts to reach them.
Scharff has allied herself with major players in city politics, including the city's powerful police and fire fighter unions and veteran Councilman Nat Bates, with whom she has been walking precincts. The unions spent $20,000 to write and produce two mailers that landed in area mailboxes last week.
"Kathy's got a big financial background," said Jim Russey, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 188. "She came to us about a year ago."
While she made no promises, Scharff voiced support for one major tenet, said Mike Gormly, president of the Richmond Police Officers Association: "If you want quality police personnel, you'll have to pay market" wages and benefits.
"She seems like a sharp, dedicated person," he said.
Scharff, a council meeting regular, did not attend this week's session. Ali left the meeting abruptly without speaking to the Times reporter who pursued him.
A glossy color mailer proclaiming, "Out of Economic Chaos: A New Leader," was published by Keep Richmond Safe, a political action committee funded by the police association and Local 188.
Russey said the political committee does not independently review candidate backgrounds. "We just go by the resume."
Though she mounted a well-financed campaign in Fresno that included a manager, media consultant and TV spots, Scharff, then Kathy Lowry, lost her bid for a council seat in a run-off against Michael Erin Woody, who ran a bare-bones campaign.
"She was fairly well-connected to the Republican base -- business, the Chamber of Commerce," said former City Manager Jeff Reid. "The other guy just got out and hustled a little bit more."
In the 1980s, Fresno council assistants, who gather information, help prepare drafts and aid constituents, were renamed deputy city managers.
Scharff lost her $74,000-a-year job as a deputy city manager in a political firestorm over the aides' bloated salaries at a time when the city faced a $2.5 million deficit and probable cuts in public safety.
The deputy city managers, a classification junked in 1995, should not be confused with assistant city managers, who administer operations in many departments, said Fresno city spokesman Ken Shockley.
Scharff was reassigned to the Fresno airport.
The union campaign literature says Scharff oversaw Fresno's personnel system and managed a $28 million Federal Aviation Administration grant.
"She was not part of the executive management staff, but did work on a priority list of putting new windows in homes within a range around the airport," Reid said. "I know nothing about her administering the personnel system."
Reid appointed an airport manager who "had a different strategy" in 1998, and Scharff left soon thereafter.
In the late 1980s, Scharff worked for Mayor Dale Doig. He was called before a criminal grand jury after being linked to a convicted pimp and to a convicted cocaine dealer. Doig had appointed the dealer to a city loan commission, and had advocated for light treatment at his sentencing.
The grand jury also called in Scharff to testify when several phone messages from both men turned up missing.
After one appearance, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions. The jurors said untrue or misleading testimony of several witnesses stymied their work and the grand jury presented no indictments.
Newcomers earn favor in Richmond
In a campaign season filled with surprises, Richmond's public safety unions -- major players in the city's elections -- are publicly embracing two would-be newcomers to political office.
In two glossy full-color mailers recently sent to residents, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 188 and the Richmond Police Officers Association declared their support for City Council candidates Kathy Scharff and Arnie Kasendorf, neither of whom has held elective office, as well as longtime supporter Councilman Nat Bates.
"New people, new faces," said IAFF president Jim Russey. "Kathy has a great financial background in the public and private sector. Arnie seems like a nice guy. We need people who aren't going to be bound to staff recommendations."
Scharff came to the fire station about a year ago to learn more about proposed cutbacks to public safety and became an advocate for the departments, he said.
A longtime employee for the city of Fresno, Scharff worked as a council assistant, a deputy city manager and a noise officer for the city's airport. She also held an administrative position in a convalescent hospital.
In a separate mailer, the public safety unions also have endorsed former Councilman John Marquez.
Marquez has the support of all the area trade unions, former Assemblyman John T. Knox, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the Richmond Police Officers Association and Richmond Councilwoman Maria Viramontes, among others.
This season has brought Councilman Tom Butt several first-time backers, including the Richmond Police Officers Association.
He has been embraced by the Black Women Organized for Political Action, the Black American Political Association, the Contra Costa County Construction and Building Trades Council, the Sierra Club, state Sen. Don Perata, former mayors Rosemary Corbin and George Livingston, and 25 neighborhood council presidents -- "as individuals," he said. "That's important."
Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock and U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, jointly endorsed six candidates: incumbents Gary Bell, Tom Butt and Mindell Penn, and challengers Marquez, Eddrick Osborne and Andres Soto.
The Richmond Business Political Action Committee is backing Bell, Osborne and Penn.
Although up to now this season has been largely civil, Richmond's elections have historically careered toward a slugfest at the finish line, with mailboxes stuffed with eleventh-hour mail pieces.
Many have been linked to Black Men and Women, or BMW, a political action committee funded by Local 188 and stewarded by political consultant Darrell Reese. Some of the group's past forays have included a nine-page, full-color mailer that attacked Butt as racist in language so egregious that Councilwoman Mindell Penn called it "absolutely the worst gutter politics I've ever seen."
"So far, it's been real low-key this year," Russey said.
Soto, in his first foray into politics, has picked up endorsements from Pinole City Councilwoman Maria Alegria, San Pablo City Councilwoman Genoveva Calloway-Garcia, the California Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County, community leader Fred Jackson, West Contra Costa County Unified School District trustee Charles Ramsey, the Richmond Greens, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, SEIU Local 790 and the Rev. Andre Shumake.
Tony Thurmond, also a newcomer, has garnered the support of the Contra Costa Central Labor Council, Contra Costa Building Trades Council and SEIU 790.
The finances of the city's most fruitful political action committee are a mystery. Black Men and Women, or BMW, has failed to meet state guidelines for filing financial reports.
What's more, no repercussions are likely.
While developers, unions, businesses and individuals are donating to the campaigns of Richmond City Council hopefuls, the bulk of election money is funneled through independent political action committees -- primarily those controlled by firefighters and police.
While council candidates can accept no more than $2,500 in political donations, there is no ceiling to the amount independent committees can take in -- or spend.
BMW president Lonnie Washington said he has not yet begun compiling its mandated list of donors and expenditures, which was due Oct. 5.
BMW has contributed to the campaigns of all contenders, with the exception of Herman Blackwell, Gayle McLaughlin and Andres Soto.
Washington told the Times that he is requesting an extension from the county clerk's office with the aim of filing the forms this week, something Contra Costa County registrar Steve Weir said the elections office does not do.
But neither does the county enforce compliance. Nor does it levy fines, as many counties do, said elections office staff member Rosa Mena.
"We don't refer them to any enforcement agency," Mena said. "If (a report) is turned in late, it's stamped 'late.'"
That laxity is bankable in Richmond for PACs.
"Those who are breaking the rules are putting the others at a disadvantage," said Supervisor John Gioia. "They are flouting the law. It's a disservice to the public. They are hiding where they are getting their money and how they are spending it, and the public doesn't get to find that out."
The Richmond Police Officers Association has raised nearly $50,000; International Association of Fire Fighters Local 188 nearly $10,000. Both these groups and other donors funnel money into Keep Richmond Safe, which has paid for five glossy, full-color mailers that have landed in local mailboxes over the past two weeks.
One citywide mailer costs about $10,000, IAFF president Jim Russey said.
One innuendo-laden piece describes how former City Manager Isiah Turner hoodwinked the city council into believing the city enjoyed a surplus, while in fact there was a snowballing deficit that reached $35 million before the council, and the public, learned of it.
In fact, Turner had warned the council of a growing deficit, and cautioned that layoffs loomed on the horizon unless public safety unions were willing to begin paying a co-share of their health and retirement benefits.
Councilman Gary Bell had begun asking pointed questions about expenditures, diminishing revenues and a lack of financial controls. He was subsequently removed as chairman of the finance committee and denied the vice mayorship when his turn became due.
Russey said the mailers were a response to anticipated hit pieces blaming incumbents. But those hit pieces haven't arrived.
"We anticipated more attacking," he said. "If you're going to go out and attack people, be accurate. I never thought it was totally the council's fault. I just wanted to be able to say, 'Wait a minute, it may not be their fault, guys.'"
Keep Richmond Safe has published mailers for challenger John Marquez, one urging voters to cast ballots for incumbent Nat Bates and newcomers Kathy Scharff and Arnie Kasendorf; one lambasting Turner and excusing Mayor Irma Anderson for not knowing the extent of the city's deficit; and a fifth praising Bates, council members Tom Butt and Maria Viramontes and even long-ago Councilman Tom Powers for bringing former county administrator Phil Batchelor aboard as interim city manager.
Sales tax hike intended to reverse Richmond's budget decline
Posted on Sun, Oct. 17, 2004
Voters will have the chance to vote on the first in a series of measures designed to pull Richmond back from the edge of a deep fiscal drop.
Measure Q, written by Councilman Jim Rogers and supported by Rogers, Richmond Police Officers Association President Mike Gormly and Richmond Fire Fighters President Jim Russey, would increase the general sales tax by one-half cent. It could generate as much as $6 million a year.
After reviewing options, including parcel taxes and special taxes, both of which require two-thirds voter approval, the City Council in April settled on it as the most likely to get revenue for a budget ravaged by service cuts and job losses. It needs a simple majority to pass.
The idea was immediately embraced by the council. It also met with favor in a poll of likely voters.
Most of the 403 people called by Evans/McDonough Co. Inc. in June said they would support the tax increase -- particularly for public safety services, library hours and after-school programs.
Eighty-five percent of likely voters contacted in the survey rated the city's financial management negatively, but three-fourths approved of a half-cent general sales tax.
Money is the pivotal issue in November's race for five Richmond City Council seats.
All 15 candidates say they will press for greater fiscal accountability in the wake of a $35 million deficit that emerged last March. Several candidates support hiring an independent auditor.
It's a tough time to campaign as an incumbent: Staggering shortfalls have spurred mass layoffs and bone-deep program cuts. Eleven challengers promise a new day, but with an action plan in the works delineating recovery priorities, four incumbents running for re-election say their experience is critical.
Although some challengers stress their concern for the schools, the City Council has no authority over public education.
Community centers, parks, libraries and other services, however, have been slashed in the wake of the fiscal crisis. Some contenders have proposed revenue-generating solutions that could restore the badly depleted services.
Wild cards include the Civic Center: Whether to stay in the $109,000-a-month Marina Way South rental, upgrades to which exceeded $3 million, and what to do with the red-brick saltbox construction at 2600 Barrett Ave., which now sits vacant, with no plan for seismic upgrades.
The issue creating the loudest din in recent weeks has been whether to sell 354-acre Point Molate, one of the city's environmental and historical gems, to ChevronTexaco for a park or to a developer for conversion to an upscale hotel-casino and shopping complex.
Open space versus development is playing out elsewhere, too. With 32 miles of shoreline, development figures prominently in the campaign. Even advocates of waterfront construction are careful to say public access must be factored into any development plans. Most voice support for completion of the Bay Trail and for preserving some degree of open space.
Richmond's most recent developments have been primarily weighted toward tract-housing and drive-through, fast-food chains. Efforts to provide infill housing also are gaining ground.
Community groups are pushing for a "just cause eviction" ordinance, which would prohibit rental property owners from evicting tenants arbitrarily and without adequate notice. Proponents are hoping to make the proposed law a campaign issue. Richmond has no rent control or codified rent protections.
Although many credit popular Police Chief Charles Bennett for revitalizing the spirit of community-involved policing, public safety continues to be an issue for much of the city.
Richmond residents waited an extra year to vote contenders into office: A measure passed in 2001 delayed a scheduled election to the next even-numbered year, to coincide with state and federal elections.
The election is significant for another reason: This may well be the last time voters help fill a nine-seat council. There is a measure on the ballot which, if passed, will reduce council seats to seven, effective 2008.
Many times over the years, Richmond residents have proposed cutting the size of the City Council -- and it's on the ballot again Nov. 2.
Measure R, which would decrease the number of council seats from nine to seven effective in 2008, is a direct outgrowth of the city's attempt to generate cash.
To borrow against future property tax revenues, Richmond needed the OK of the state Legislature. It insisted the city pursue reforms, including reducing the council's size by as many as four seats.
Council members Nat Bates, Charles Belcher and Richard Griffin angrily resisted what they described as outside interference in city business.
But for others, council reduction -- regardless the chain of events that spurred it -- is an idea whose time has come.
"It's time to look at what is in the best interests of the citizens of Richmond," said Councilwoman Mindell Penn, one of four incumbents seeking re-election.
Proponents say a smaller council will be a more efficient, cost-effective and affable council.
Between cell phones, salaries and the cost of reproducing staff reports and other documents, the savings has been pegged at about $300,000 per year.
Exasperation with the frequently contentious Richmond City Council has simmered among unions, the city's dozens of neighborhood councils and activists. Even those who take no issue with specific council members say a nine-seat council is too unwieldy. Anyone advocating for a cause or project must persuade at least five council members of its importance.
Critics also blame the council's size for the rancor between members. Some, however, including municipal government consultant Henry Gardner, say if council members are able "to disagree without being disagreeable," size is irrelevant.
There is little disagreement, however, that the council's size can make for lengthy meetings. As each member weighs in on agenda items, council meetings can drag on until the early morning hours.
Some community leaders, including candidate Andres Soto, have insisted that any reduction be tied to district elections, although Measure R has no such provision.
If voters approve Measure R, it will be the first major change in local elections since 1985, when the city started directly electing a mayor, rather than rotating the post among council members.
Councilman Tom Butt pitched a nearly identical ballot measure in January, which would have taken effect in 2006.
Voters trounced a 1991 measure by former Councilman Tom Powers that would have reduced council seats but also instituted district elections.
At nine members, Richmond's current council is one of the largest in the region and the state. While the standard for general-law cities in California is a five-member council, some charter cities such as Berkeley, Fresno and Long Beach have nine-member councils.
No other council in Contra Costa County has more than five members.
Proponents of the change include Vernon Whitmore, co-founder of the Black American Political Action Committee of Contra Costa, and Eleanor Loynd, president of the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council.
No one has filed rebuttal arguments against the measure.
Richmond hopefuls rake it in
Industry, labor unions, developers, political action committees and individuals have poured more than $150,000 into Richmond City Council campaigns, records show.
Business interests alone account for $53,000 -- nearly $50,000 of it in the most recent filing period, which ended Sept. 30.
Campaign finance disclosure statements reveal that developers have contributed $13,700 to council races, home builders $9,500, local industry $27,900, and waste management services $2,000.
Unions have anted up more than $13,000, and the city's most ubiquitous political action committee, Black Men and Women, or BMW, has donated nearly $10,000.
Incumbent Councilwoman Mindell Penn has taken the lead in fund raising, having amassed $50,910 to date -- $37,460 in the most recent filing period. Penn's donors include homebuilders and developers, labor unions, area businesses and individuals.
Longtime City Councilman Nat Bates has brought in more than $42,000 in campaign contributions, $13,000 in the most recent period. Bates' contributors are almost entirely developers and builders.
BMW, cofounded by Bates and former councilmen Jim McMillan and Lonnie Washington, gave generously to all 15 candidates. The group's filing had not been received at the county election office because Washington requested an extension beyond the Oct. 5 postmark deadline since he was out of town, he said. The group's report from the last filing period showed that much of its money came from the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians.
BMW donations ranged from the maximum allowed under city finance rules of $2,500 for Bates to $1,000 for Councilman Gary Bell and Eddrick Osborne to $500 for challengers Corky Booze, Arnie Kasendorf and Kathy Scharff. The PAC gave $250 to former Councilman John Marquez and $200 to newcomer Tony Thurmond.
DiCon FiberOptics, whose corporate headquarters is in Marina Bay, gave Bates, Councilman Tom Butt and Penn each $2,500, and Osborne $500.
DP Security, which has contracts to patrol Point Molate and City Hall South, handed Marquez $250, Butt $850 and Booze $250.
Bell is running a lean campaign, fueled by contributions from individuals and small businesses totaling less than $30,000.
Butt has amassed $28,415, primarily from individual donors.
Among the challengers, Booze has collected $7,608, Kathy Scharff, $1,669, and Tony Thurmond $3,821. Kasendorf reported some $20,749 in his first bid for elective office, mostly from a loan to himself.
Deborah Preston-Stewart garnered nearly $8,000, Eddrick Osborne just under $12,000, and Andres Soto received nearly $12,000, entirely from individuals, most of whom are connected to community-based nonprofit organizations.
Bill Idzerda did not accept any campaign contributions.
Disclosure reports from candidates Herman Blackwell and Gayle McLaughlin had not been received by Friday.
Marquez claimed $17,543 in donations to date, including $12,866 in the last period. Marquez won the lion's share of labor union support, including $1,250 from the Richmond Police Officers Association; $1,000 each from the IBEW Local 302 and the Boilermakers Local 549; $500 each from the Operating Engineers Local 3 and the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159; $250 each from Laborers International Local 324 and the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council; and $100 each from the Pile Drivers Local 34 and the Teamsters Local 315.
Who the hell is Kathy "Storm" Scharff, and why is she accusing Richmond’s former city manager of getting his job because he was sleeping with a councilmember? That's what a lot of Richmond politicos are wondering this week as they digest the series of incendiary campaign mailers that arrived in mailboxes earlier this month and were paid for by the police and firefighters' unions.
The front of the piece featuring Scharff, a council candidate who is backed by the public safety unions, reads: "Out of Economic Chaos a new leader." But that’s not the juicy part. Inside is a quote purportedly made by Scharff about ex-Richmond City Manager Isiah Turner, who abruptly quit last year shortly before it was revealed that the city had a $35 million deficit. She says it's a blueprint for disaster when the city council hires its top executive "because he is your friend ... hometown boy ... politician ... romantic relationship ... best man at your wedding."
Turner was indeed a hometown boy who grew up in Richmond. As for the best man thing, that refers to Turner's pal, Councilman Gary Bell. (Bell says Turner wasn't best man, just a groomsman. Turner also was named city manager a year before Bell was elected to the council.) But as for the "romantic relationship" comment, well, that left even other councilmembers scratching their heads. Yes, there have been rumors, but to say something so scandalous during a campaign based on rumor seems, well, irresponsible.
Feeder wanted to ask Scharff if she stood by the quote, or if it was even accurate. After all, it appeared in a brochure her own campaign didn't produce. Scharff, however, didn't return messages, so it was off to Point Richmond, where she was scheduled to appear with several other candidates. Spotting her frosted blonde mane down the street, Feeder asked, "Are you Kathy?" She smiled widely and said, "Yes." The smile quickly disappeared once Feeder identified himself. Thinking fast, he blurted, "Who was the 'romantic relationship' you were referring to in that mailer?" With audible irritation, Scharff said: "You'll have to do your homework. The quote stands." Then she disappeared into the Hotel Mac.
Feeder decided to do some homework alright but on Ms. Scharff, not the "romantic relationship." The 56-year-old candidate seems at first glance to be something of a blank slate. She showed up in town about five years ago after spending nearly two decades working in Fresno's city government, a fact detailed in the same brochure in which she accused Turner of screwing the council in more ways than one. What the brochure doesn't say -- and what even some of her supporters don't know -- is that she ran unsuccessfully for Fresno City Council in 1993. Back then she was known as Kathy Lowry (her hubby is named Scharff) and ran on a "tough on taxes, tough on crime" platform and got thousands of dollars in donations from developers, according to the Fresno Bee. She was defeated by a long-haired 26-year-old dude who had voted only once in his life.
Lowry evidently had political baggage from when a 1987 grand jury investigated her role in the disappearance of certain phone records when she was an aide to ex-Mayor Dale Doig. "The grand jury report concluded that someone had illegally removed the missing telephone messages from a City Hall closet," the Bee reported in an April 6, 1993 story. "Lowry and Doig claimed their Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify in January 1987. The phone message books were originally sought by the Bee in connection with stories about Doig's political contacts." An earlier Bee story identified one of those contacts as a cocaine dealer.
That concludes this week's homework assignment. Does Feeder get an A, Kathy?