|"It's a very bad situation when elected
officials do not listen to the people they represent"
August 3, 2008
The following commentary on the Richmond City Council appeared in Saturday’s West County Times:
Saturday Readers' Forum: People can take back government
jeff rubin | From the community
By Jeff Rubin
Article Launched: 08/01/2008 11:02:08 PM PDT
I READ WITH INTEREST Gayle McLaughlin's and Tom Butt's guest commentary in the Times regarding the sellout of the Richmond City Council to Chevron on the refinery vote.
I have watched the Richmond City Council in action on TV. It's obvious several of these people do not like each other. Even worse, they are disrespectful of one another in the way they talk to each other and talk over one another.
Worst of all, it's clear by listening to the majority on the council that decisions on issues before them have been made in advance of their meetings.
A similar situation existed in Pinole until voters rose up and recalled Maria Alegria and Stephen Tilton in February. (David Cole, also a recall target, resigned before he could be recalled.)
These three, who represented a majority of our five-person council, made many back-room deals at the Pear Street Bistro, possibly in violation of the Brown Act; they protected the bistro's owner, Gary Wong, from foreclosure on his property for not repaying a nearly $500,000 redevelopment loan, and orchestrated the firing of an honest, ethical, hard-working city manager, purely for political reasons.
It's a very bad situation when elected officials do not listen to the people they represent. Come to a Pinole City Council meeting now and you will see five council members who don't always agree with one another, but they treat each other with respect and they listen to the people who speak to them.
There have been several 3-2 votes and a number of 4-1 votes; this tells me we have council members who think independently of one another and vote their consciences. There are no back-room deals being made now.
The beauty of a democracy is that the power truly does reside with the people. If the residents of Richmond truly want change in their government, they must band together and work for it.
They have a great opportunity in November, when their council is reduced from nine to seven members, to defeat the incumbents and elect better people. If they are so dissatisfied, they must take back their government.
Many people told the Concerned Citizens of Pinole that we would never recall three council members; Tilton himself was fond of telling the media that his polling showed the recall losing by a 6-1 margin.
The Pinole recall was opposed by every labor and special interest group, Congressman George Miller, state Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, state Sen. Tom Torlakson, and the Democratic Central Committee. Even the Times told people to vote "no" on the recall.
Alegria and Tilton called Concerned Citizens of Pinole members all kinds of mean names: vicious, vile, vindictive, thugs, etc. I was the subject of a mailer AND a TV spot, calling me a liar, and I wasn't even running!
You've got to have thick skin. As Howard Cosell once said after being roasted by an all-star cast of celebrities, "You realize, of course, you're throwing spitballs at a battleship."
Check this Web site (www.PinoleRecall.com): Alegria was recalled by 58 percent of the voters and Tilton by 57 percent, the latter possibly setting a state record for the shortest time served (15 months) by a first-term council member.
When elected officials get out of touch with their constituents, they should be disinvited to their office. It's a lot of work against a lot of opposition from the county's Democratic Party machine, but it can be done. I wish the people of Richmond well in reclaiming their government.
Rubin is a member of the Concerned Citizens of Pinole, a grass-roots group of Pinole citizens who organized the recall of Maria Alegria, Stephen Tilton, and David Cole.