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Scramble for Vacant City Council Seat Begins

Mayor-elect Gayle McLaughlin will be sworn in on the evening of January 9, 2007, and that moment will mark the beginning of the next great race – for the City Council seat she instantly vacates. According to the City Charter, the City Council has 60 days to appoint someone to fill that seat, and if the Council fails to do so, the seat will remain vacant. Following the November 2008 election, the City Council will be reduced to seven members.

One might think that the front runner for the vacant seat would be the runner-up in the November 2006 election. That would be Corky Booze. However, an election runner-up has never been appointed to fill a vacated City Council seat. I was the runner-up in 1993, but the City Council instead appointed Alex Evans to fill the seat vacated by Jim Rogers when he was elected to the Board of Supervisors.

When Alex Evans moved on, Charles Belcher was appointed instead of runner-up Steve Harvey. And when Mindell Penn resigned, Tony Thurmond was appointed instead of runner-up Andres Soto.

Why is this? Probably because candidates fresh from an election where the City Council’s ability to run the City have been questioned may not be the favorite of those they have recently criticized.

In the scramble that will begin soon, there are a handful of prospective candidates, some who have more or less began campaigning publicly, or others have begun campaigning on their behalf.

Certainly the most talked about is Corky Booze. According to an article in the East Bay Express, “Richmond Mayor-elect Gayle McLaughlin says she believes community activist and gadfly Corky Booze should be appointed to her old city council seat.” Click here for the entire story. It is likely that Booze will get at least two other votes, mine and that of Nat Bates.

Others that have been mentioned include:

·         Don Gosney, a labor leader who had demonstrated substantial technical and environmental credentials in his decade-long co-chairmanship of the Point Molate Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), service on the General Plan Advisory Committee and industrial safety issues.

·         George Schmidt, a one-time City Council candidate who currently serves on the West County Wastewater District Board and who has been active in the Richmond neighborhood council system for years.

  • Harpreet Sandhu, a member of the Human Relations Commission and an immigrant from India who would be the first Asian council member. He works for the U.S. Postal Service and is the former president of the Gurdwara Sikh Temple in El Sobrante. He also was a delegate at the 2004 National Democratic Convention.

·         William Acevedo, an attorney with Wendel Rosen Black and Dean, an Oakland-based law firm that specializes in representing business clients. Acevedo is an Economic Development commissioner.

  • Richard Griffin, a 24-year council veteran, who would be a “safe” choice because it is presumed he would not run for reelection in 2008 against those who appoint him.
  • Linda Jackson Whitmore, a teacher and the wife of Richmond Globe Publisher Vern Whitmore.
  • Irma Anderson, the outgoing mayor.

Although in times past, the City Council has gone through a charade of soliciting applications and inviting candidates to showcase their qualifications, the final choice has generally been made with a carefully orchestrated motion and five votes.

There are a lot of political machinations going on behind the scenes. The business (read industrial) interests are still picking themselves off the ground from the victory of Gayle McLaughlin and are desperately hoping to salve the loss with the addition of a friendlier and more pliable councilmember. The African-American community (read BAPAC) is concerned that African-American representation has dropped from six members to just two members in a very short time – but they don’t count Corky as part of the solution. A lot of ordinary people seem to think Booze has earned the seat, but the City Council will be a tough sell.