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October 30, 2004

Times' questions critiqued

Posted on Sat, Oct. 30, 2004


A political action committee stumping for Richmond City Council candidate Kathy Scharff attacked the Times on Friday as unethical and unprofessional for questioning her background.

In thousands of placards hand-delivered to doorsteps across the city, Keep Richmond Safe said the Times irresponsibly and inaccurately insinuated that Scharff falsified her resume.

A senior Times editor rejected the accusation.

The Times published its story Oct. 21 to clarify assertions in a Keep Richmond Safe mailer and in Scharff's candidate questionnaire that she had been a Fresno deputy city manager for 28 years.

The mailer also said she had been an administrative assistant to the city manager.

Times staff writer Rebecca Rosen Lum learned from current and former Fresno city officials that Scharff had been an administrative assistant, noise monitor and council assistant.

In the 1980s, council assistants were renamed deputy city managers until controversy over their salaries scuttled the classification, according to a former city manager, the current city spokesperson and news stories.

This week's placard says the Richmond police and firefighter groups carefully researched Scharff's resume and could assure voters she had been a top administrator.

"It looked to me like she had a good number of responsibilities and good reviews," said fire union vice president John Wade, who examined a number of documents from Fresno, including a supervisor's narrative review of Scharff.

Wade didn't know exactly how or when the research was completed but said it was clear that Rosen Lum had not seen the same documents. He did not have the documents for the Times to see.

In the Oct. 21 story, fire union president Jim Russey said the political committee does not independently review candidate backgrounds. "We just go by the resume," he said.

Scharff was unavailable for five days before the Oct. 21 story, did not respond to it and could not be reached Friday.

Times managing editor Chris Lopez praised Rosen Lum, who has covered Richmond for two years.

"Rebecca Rosen Lum has distinguished herself as a true watchdog for Richmond's residents," Lopez said. Her reporting is solid and accurate.

"It's unfortunate the candidate refuses to answer our questions and provide information to Richmond's voters, but instead relies on third parties to do her bidding."

Wade said he has long been wary of Times stories.

"It would be my take on this that for a very long time things are put in the paper that are partial truths or out-and-out untruths," he said.

He didn't know if anyone from Keep Richmond Safe had voiced concerns to the Times before it distributed the placard.

Chevron sends fliers to endorse hopefuls

Posted on Sat, Oct. 30, 2004

ChevronTexaco has flooded the city with 11th-hour campaign mailers costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Exactly how much the oil giant spent will not be known until it files a campaign finance disclosure report with the Richmond city clerk.

Company spokesman Walt Gill said he did not know how much it cost to produce and send the color brochures, but records show mailers in this election have been running between $5,000 and $10,000.

The company endorsed a mix of incumbents and challengers after a candidate forum sponsored by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Industries, said Gill.

"From Chevron's perspective, we'll do what we think is necessary and reasonable for the city of Richmond. We sat down and looked at the slate, and decided those are the best qualified to sit on the City Council."

The mailers praise incumbents Mindell Penn for taking a proactive stand on blight, and because she has championed an independent auditor to review the city's finances, and Gary Bell for questioning unchecked expenditures and inadequate controls.

A three-section fold-out mailer for former Councilman John Marquez features the photos of actors in fire and police uniforms. State law prohibits uniformed officers from participating in a political campaign during work hours. Marquez enjoys strong support from the city's public safety unions.

The refinery also embraces challengers Eddrick Osborne, whom mailers call "an award-winning new leader," and Arnie Kasendorf, touting his "record of service as long as your arm."

The refinery has a major piece of business before the council - its bid for Point Molate. It is competing with a casino developer to buy the former navy fuel depot. Upstream Point Molate LLC has pitched a lavish complex that would make use of the historic Winehaven buildings on the site.

The candidates said they were surprised to see the brochures in their mailboxes.

"They didn't ask me, and they didn't tell me," Bell said. "If anything, this will put us in the position of having to scrutinize their proposal even more because we don't want even the appearance of being in bed with them."

Chevron would fence off the bulk of the land as a security buffer for its refinery and restrict access. Friday, the company retooled its $50 million bid for Point Molate, agreeing to set aside $2 million for a shoreline park and trail and another $5 million for a jobs program. The matter will come before the council Nov. 9.

"I will look at both plans, and if we don't like either one of them, we'll open it up and start over again," Marquez said. "I want the best deal for the city."

"Chevron has come up with this idea of training for jobs, but if there is no business, what jobs are people being trained for?" Penn asked. "We need a new, steady stream of revenue in the city. I definitely want to see it developed."

Both Penn and Bell say there is ample room for development and parkland on the 354-acre property, although they dispute the contention by open space advocates that Point Molate is the last piece of pristine acreage in Richmond.

"Come on, it was a Navy depot," Penn said. "Anyone who has ever seen a property the Navy has owned then abandoned knows it is far from pristine."

Marquez said he has become impervious to big-ticket influence.

"The first few years I was on the council, I let some people pull my chain, and that was very uncomfortable. I dropped that, and started sleeping at night."

Richmond Candidate Cries Foul Over ‘Hit Pieces’: By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR



A Richmond City Council candidate has condemned two last-minute campaign flyers in that race as “eleventh-hour mudslinging” and “hit pieces” that have become “far too typical of Richmond politics” and “have nothing to do with issues that matter to Richmond residents.”

The campaign manager for Andrés Soto, the target of the mailings, said their campaign was “bracing for more mailings which are rumored to be coming out before election day.”

Fifteen candidates, including four incumbents, are running for five at-large seats on Richmond City Council in next Tuesday’s election.

Last week, Richmond voters received two mailed fliers aimed at Soto, one entitled “Cinco De Mayo, May 5, 2002,” the other entitled “Confessions Of A Radical.” The first leaflet contained excerpts of a police report of Soto’s highly-publicized arrest during a Richmond Cinco de Mayo celebration two years ago. Soto and 11 other plaintiffs received a $150,000 settlement this year from the city of Richmond stemming from the incidents at that celebration. The second contains a passage from an undated article by a UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism student noting Soto’s delight at the 1981 assassination attempt against then-President Ronald Reagan.

Under the headline “Andrés Soto is too radical to be on the City Council,” the Cinco de Mayo mailer quotes Richmond Fire Captain John Wade as saying that “Richmond Police Officers are committed to our safety… Andrés Soto is a radical that [sic] uses confrontational politics to challenge the rule of law… Richmond deserves better!”

Soto campaign manager Holly Potter says that the mailers were “engineered” by controversial Contra Costa County campaign consultant Darrell Reese, a retired Richmond fire captain who was once investigated by the FBI for allegations of vote-buying in Richmond elections. Reese was never charged with that offense, but the results of that investigation led to a four-month house arrest and a conviction in federal court for not reporting earnings from his lobbying and consulting business.

The “Confessions of A Radical” mailer reprints a single line from an article by UC Journalism School student Christina Dryness, saying that Soto “had celebrated President Reagan’s assassination attempt in 1981 by going down to the local bar for drinks.” “While I think celebration is probably too strong a term, he doesn’t deny that he wasn’t broken up by Reagan being shot,” Holly said. “I think Andrés was relating the story of his anger with Reagan in the 80’s.” She added that “the entire story is actually a flattering portrait of Andrés” that showed his conversion from an anti-government activist at the time of Reagan’s shooting to a community organizer who led a decades-long campaign against violence in Richmond. Soto, in fact, has been targeted by the National Rifle Association for his gun control advocacy.

The two mailers were sent out under the names of the Richmond Firefighters’ Association and an organization called the Keep Richmond Safe Committee. The Firefighters’ Association did not return calls related to this article. The telephone number of the Keep Richmond Safe Committee, provided by the Richmond city clerk’s office, had an answering machine with a message identifying the owner merely as “Cindy,” without any reference to the committee.

The Keep Richmond Safe Committee has filed reports with the Richmond City Clerk’s office listing campaign activities in support of Richmond City Council candidates Tom Butt, Arnie Kasendorf, Nat Bates, Kathy Scharff, and John Marquez.

Asked why Soto was a target of the mailings, Holly said “they obviously saw Andrés as a threat.” In his campaign, Soto has called upon police and fire unions to renegotiate city labor contracts which he says have “contributed to the city’s fiscal crisis.”

Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt, who was listed in the Cinco de Mayo mailer as one of three councilmembers who voted against the Cinco De Mayo settlement, condemned the mailers in an e-mail sent out to supporters. “I had no involvement in their production,” Butt wrote. “I don’t even know who the Keep Richmond Safe Committee is. … I want to make it clear that I do not appreciate being included in hit pieces. … I have been the victim of dozens of the worst possible negative campaign pieces and hit pieces in the past, and wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” Butt explained in his e-mail that he voted against the Cinco de Mayo settlement because “the city attorney refused, as part of the settlement authorization, to take legal action against the individual actually responsible for the specific negligent behavior.