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  City Council to Consider Penn Replacement
July 10, 2005

Selection of a replacement for former Councilmember Mindell Penn is on the Agenda for July 12, 2005. Although the Council can use any method it wants to get there, in the end it will take a motion, a second, and five votes.

Lobbying, scheming and predicting are rampant. At this time, I would give the best odds to Tony Thurmond. He appears to be the only candidate who can possibly muster five votes on the first ballot, largely because he is essentially qualified and lacks the baggage of some of the others. Perhaps in second place would be Deborah Preston-Stewart, who seems to have the backing of some politically powerful public employee unions.

City Council members up for reelection in 2006 are reluctant to select someone who would have a good chance of knocking them out of their own seat next year, and although race and gender should not be factors in the selection of a representative of all the people, business as usual will prevail in this case.

E-FORUM readers responding to Who Will Replace Mindell Penn? July 2, 2005, favor Bell or Soto, with a couple of advocates for Thurmond and none for the others. Other than emails, I have gotten only two letters on the subject, both supporting Bell. Following are all the emails I have received:

          I hope you are one of the 5 votes for Tony on Tuesday. He would be a level head, respectable, responsible, and a person who you could work with on the Council. Please consider him seriously.

          First choice: Soto. Second choice: Bell. Last Place: anyone Nat Bates supports.

          Thanks for amassing all of this info.  From my perspective:  The fairest thing to do would be to appoint Andres Soto, and he is certainly qualified.  Gary Bell would make sense.  Tony Thurmond might be O.K., but, is something of an unknown quantity.  And, the rest are too far off of the radar screen.  Letís hope for the best for Richmond.

          The scuttlebutt is that Maria and Irma made a deal ... Maria would nominate Soto but someone else would get the nod. have you heard this? 

          Good information Mr. Butt!

          Thanks for asking.  I appreciate your even-handed review of the candidates, and publishing their records and responses to the questionnaire. I believe it would be most democratic to allow the voters to select the replacement in November.  If the council does not allow this to happen, I strongly support Andres Soto.  I think we all know that the only reason he was not elected last year was the heavily funded, last-minute smear campaign run by people too ashamed to name themselves as authors and underwriters.  It was one of the most disgusting things Iíve seen in a while.  Soto has done so much already for Richmond; heís really the best choice any way you look at it.

          I was born and raised in Richmond.  We bought our first home in 1990 on Lincoln Avenue in Richmond.  I strongly support Andres Soto and as a show of the votes, so do the people of Richmond. I strongly recommend Andres Soto for Richmond City Council. Thank you.

          Richmond resident who's voted for you in the last two elections, most recently along with Soto/McLaughlin.  Hoping you'll support Andres to continue to support the New(er) School of politics that those two subscribe to.   For me itís an easy choice, as its those two's world views that most closely match mine; but I'm fairly confident Andres would be a reliable ally and also be pretty process-oriented. But I basically like your other options too; not sure how bad Gary's connection to the unions really are. Since I'm online, need to thank you for your eforum, the best action I've seen that enables participatory democracy ....

          I'm always watching the E-Forum for interesting updates on the "Politics" of Richmond, and I must say it is deja vu all over again.  Hope you don't mind me putting in my two cents.  I have to admit I'm surprised that you failed to mention that for at least the last two council appointments the council selected individuals who had not run for a council seat in Richmond. I wonder how Gary Bell might feel now that he is sitting on the outside with the all too real possibility that the council might appoint someone who had not stood before the voters before? ( Mindell Penn recruiting Rev. Charles Belcher) I also wonder if this present council has enough respect for the citizens of Richmond and not look outside the city limits as they did when Donna Powers and Co. had to wait until Alex Evans moved into the city before they made the appointment. I know from experience that the candidates for this seat will be asked a lot of questions from Councilmembers but it all boils down to two things: Who do you support for Mayor? & What are you going to do for me? Tom, you were the only one that didnít ask that of me when I went through the process! Hopefully the Council will now respect the voters enough to accept their choice and appoint Andres Soto, The first runner-up. But I'm not going to hold my breath!

          Thanks for soliciting input on the Council's appointment of a replacement for Council member Penn. I've read (twice) through all the material you thoughtfully collected and provided twice, and I found myself returning to the original two selections for Council that I cast votes for in November: Andres Soto and Tony Thurmond.  Both prioritize community interests, rather than automatically identifying the interests of corporate/landlord denizens of Richmond as being synonymous with the interests of the City.  Of those two, given that the person is replacing Ms. Penn, I would favor the one who seems to be more committed to the forging of coalitions on the Council in favor of sound (although not always perfect) policy decisions. That is to say, I ask you to vote for Tony Thurmond. It pains me to say so, since Soto would have won a seat, I am convinced, had he not been the subject of a negative vote suppression effort by the Police/Firefighters. Thurmond's advocacy of a new look at Richmond's developer fees in comparison to other cities' fee levels, in particular, made me think that he might bring a good approach to the nexus between Richmond's economic development and fiscal challenges. Thanks for asking for our opinions.

          Gary Bell gets my personal nod.

          I support Andres Soto being appointed to the council - he is a bright, energetic man who already is working hard for the betterment of Richmond on many fronts - and he received the next highest vote count from the last election, evidencing the support of a significant number of the citizens of Richmond (and he supports lifting the utility tax cap on Chevron!) 

          I have previously expressed my support for Mr. Gary Bell as Mrs. Penn's replacement.  With the budget issues still fresh on the minds of Richmond residents, I believe we have been given a chance to right a wrong in last November's election.  Why Mr. Bell was not re-elected, I don't know, however I do know we need his financial expertise.  I appreciated Mendell Penn and I'm sorry to see her leave.  She tried very hard to keep the peace and maintain some professional respect during the council meetings.  I don't know that any of the possible replacement choices could do this.  While Mr. Soto and Mr. Booze present themselves as a voice for the people they would have trouble building cohesive  working relationships with the people they have been so vehemently critical of week after week. My vote goes to Mr. Gary Bell!

          Thanks for sending this. Andres Soto has my vote, if it comes to that (I voted for him in Nov.).

          The question about the replacement for Mindell Penn is an interesting one.  I don't know too much about the people who are "in the running" with one exception.  I have strong feelings about Andres Soto based on limited, but first hand experience with him.  He shoots from the hip, voicing his opinions on subjects about which he clearly knows nothing.  I think he has an over-inflated sense of self importance and likes to hear himself talk.  I don't trust him or his judgment and would not want to see him on the Council.  The Council needs people who are not self proclaimed experts in everything, who are willing to say they don't know (when they don't), and who are willing to listen and learn.  Soto does not seem to meet those requirements.

          Did a nice job compiling data on the candidates.  Hope theses are not the only ones being considered.

          I've read your attachment relating to possible candidates to be picked by the Council to replace Mindell Penn.  Though I recognize that the 8 remaining Council members have the authority to choose Ms. Penn's replacement (and what will happen if there's a 4-4 deadlock?) I'd like to know what happens to "the will of the people" in this obviously political candidate "shuffle?Ē There are over 8,000 folks who live and voted in Richmond's last election for the candidate of their choice.  Why should you powerful 8 have greater power than the 1000 times 8 have? Please note  I was NOT one of the some 8,300 Richmond residents who voted for Mr. Andre Soto.  However, if I was on the Richmond Council, voting for a replacement for Ms. Penn, I would vote for Mr. Soto, because I believe that IS the will of the people. It is fiscally irresponsible for the City Council to spend ANY city funds for a special election on this issue!

          Thanks for the info...I am forwarding to everyone I know in Richmond. FYI, I would vote for Andres Soto again...for all of his experience that he notes...but also because I think we need another Latino voice on the council.

          The voters, the taxpayers, the people who are RICHMOND, knocked Bell OFF the Council, that should be respected and he should not be appointed.  Most important, Soto was the runner up, the TOP vote getter and beat Bell like a drum.  SOTO SHOULD BE APPOINTED and you, Tom, should support Soto for that reason, too.  Soto was the runner up and the peopleís choice, right behind those who took the open seats on the council.  If this is a democratic process, that's how it would be done (but in Richmond, that's a lot to ask or hope for). When a City says NO to a candidate and throws them out of office, it is a terrible thing that he (Bell) is even being considered for the open seat.  It's a terrible thing that Bell is even asking to be appointed after he was soundly defeated and thrown off the council by the voters. We didn't want him in November and we don't want him now. As for RUMOR --- this came right out of the Viramontes camp:  Viramontes and Marquez want Tony Thurmond because "he can be controlled."  They refuse to support Soto even though Viramontes will make a big show of nominating him for the seat.  She will do this in an attempt to "save face" over the debacle she and Marquez put this city through in the past month.  This trick will backfire, too.  If she nominates Soto, Viramontes should support him and make certain he gets appointed.  No more tricks.   

          Appreciate the opportunity to comment.  Here are my views: In looking for the ideal candidate in Richmond, I would value these attributes, in no order of preference: 

- Integrity

- Education & intellectual prowess

- Business experience

- Fiscally conservative & knowledgeable in financial management

- A collaborator and not a divisive personality

- Commitment to ALL the residents and NO special interest groups

Given the above, I would eliminate both Soto and Booze due to their extremely divisive rhetoric (even though I prefer outspoken leaders and not group thinkers). Stewart hasn't demonstrated very much community service and her lack of visibility has made it difficult to assess her political views. That leaves Thurmond or Bell.  I like both of them. Tony is very committed to the community, level headed and very much a collaborator.  I don't think he has as strong of the other attributes as Bell (specifically in his financial background and business experience). Bell is a known quantity and you know where he stands on issues.  He tried early on to alert the council and public on the financial mismanagement and is not afraid to speak his mind.  I could live with either, but would give Bell a slight edge on both business and political experience.

          What does Mindell Penn say about all this?  Surely, she has some opinion on who could and should replace her seat on the Council.