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Richmond Pre-Election News from West County Times

Richmond council candidate leaves race, citing city's harsh politics

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

Article Launched: 10/22/2008 11:43:58 AM PDT


A Richmond City Council candidate dropped out of the race early Wednesday, less than two weeks before Election Day, saying the city's harsh politics are too much.

Candidate Chris Tallerico, 38, e-mailed supporters at 1:35 a.m., saying that he was disgusted with Richmond politics and sorry he ever ran. He said he has been called a "racist" and "fascist," labels he disputes.

His announcement comes as public outcry continues over a Richmond Police Officers Association campaign mailer that a number of residents find offensive and have called "racist," and which names Tallerico, who said he did not create the piece.

"At tonight's (Tuesday's) council meeting, I was again vilified and called a racist. More outrageously disgusting accusations with no basis," Tallerico wrote. "I've been the guy saying that we need to treat EVERYONE the same. How is that racist......???"

Tallerico was one of four candidates named in the four-page union mailer, which arrived in mailboxes early this month. It attributes the city's crime to drugs, and states, "Drugs comes to Richmond from across the Mexican border." It says that city leaders who oppose driver's license checkpoints hold "public safety hostage." The piece urged voters to support Tallerico and Councilman Nat Bates for election, and reject Jovanka Beckles and Jeff Ritterman.

The mailer ignited an instant firestorm among Latinos and other residents who argue the piece is inaccurate and unfairly blames the immigrant population for Richmond's troubles. The coalition Richmond Community United for Peace issued a series of demands, including that the Richmond Police Officers Association produce a second mailer to apologize for the first one, that candidates who received RPOA campaign funding give it back, and that Tallerico be removed from the Police Commission if he does not support the demands.

Richmond is a city with a history of blunt and divisive politics. Name-calling and accusations fly in public and private arenas. Election seasons can be particularly gritty. Aggressive campaign pieces targeted at specific candidates and financed with big money are not unusual.

Council bickering was one reason voters agreed in 2004 to shrink the council from nine members to seven. That reduction takes effect this election, with the terms of five members expiring but just three seats up for grabs.

Tallerico's decision to withdraw leaves nine candidates. Incumbents Bates, Tom Butt, John Marquez and Harpreet Sandhu hope to keep their posts, while challengers Beckles, Corky Booze, Rock Brown, Navdeep Garcha and Ritterman seek their first term in public office.

Tallerico still will appear on the ballot because his announcement came after the official candidate withdrawal deadline and after ballots were printed, City Clerk Diane Holmes said. If Tallerico is a top vote-getter, he would then decide whether to accept the position or submit a letter of resignation.

The Richmond Police Officers Association mailer and subsequent outcry laid bare tensions in the city.

On Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously condemned the piece following two hours of public testimony and discussion. The council, with Marquez abstaining, also ordered a new law prohibiting unauthorized use of city emblems and seals. The city police emblem appears three times in the mailer; City Manager Bill Lindsay and police Chief Chris Magnus have said the flier does not represent the views of the city. An administrative order will take effect immediately, City Attorney Randy Riddle said; an ordinance will be crafted for a council vote.

"We should have dealt with this years ago," said Councilman Jim Rogers, who proposed the law.

It also is a violation of state law for firefighters and police officers to appear in uniform while conducting political activities, officials added.

Uniformed police officers appear in a picture in the mailer.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights and Human Relations Commission will look into concerns raised about the flier Monday. The Police Commission on Nov. 5 will review and discuss a complaint lodged against Detective Kevin Martin, Richmond Police Officers Association president, and Sgt. Andre Hill, the association's vice president, regarding the mailer. As with all complaints, Chairwoman Cora Ward said, commissioners will review the complaint in a meeting closed to the public.

Tallerico will "more than likely resign" from the Police Commission, he said.

"The politics will carry over and I've had enough. I'm trully [sic] beaten down and can't take anymore," Tallerico wrote in his e-mail.

In his e-mail forum Wednesday, Councilman Butt wrote: "Chris seems to be a decent guy who cares about Richmond. It is regretful that he got caught up in RPOA's political style, and it took the wind out of him."

The Richmond Police Officers Association purchased an ad in the Times on Tuesday and distributed fliers that read, in part: "It was certainly not our intention to offend any element of our community. If we did so, we accept responsibility and apologize."

Some residents have accepted the statement as an apology. Others disagree because they think the language is not strong enough and it was not mailed to every home that got the first mailer.

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com.


Richmond police association apologizes for incendiary flier

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

Article Launched: 10/21/2008 11:06:59 PM PDT


RICHMOND The Richmond Police Officers Association yielded to public pressure and issued a statement Tuesday regarding a campaign mailer that some have called racist and offensive.

With two weeks to go before the City Council election, the association purchased an advertisement in the Times that reads in part: "It was certainly not our intention to offend any element of our community. If we did so, we accept responsibility and apologize." The point of the mailer was to express concerns about "the potential of having officers selectively enforce laws" and to support candidates who share their views, the ad read.

A flier with the same statement was being distributed around town.

The statement comes about three weeks after a four-page RPOA mailer began arriving in residents' mailboxes, attributing the city's crime to drugs and stating, "Drugs come to Richmond from across the Mexican border." It adds that city leaders who oppose driver's-license checkpoints hold "public safety hostage." It urges voters to reject council candidates Jovanka Beckles and Jeff Ritterman, and to vote for candidates Nat Bates and Chris Tallerico.

Some residents blasted the mailer, saying it incorrectly and unfairly blames the immigrant population for Richmond's crime. Several top city officials including the city manager and police chief moved quickly to denounce it and to clarify that it does not represent the city.

Before a packed room that included all 10 City Council candidates Tuesday night, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin asked the council to formally denounce the mailer. The council, including three members who received campaign funding from the RPOA in their bids for re-election, voted unanimously on that motion and added they do not condone racial political pieces.

"This mailer has offended people of all races and political creed," McLaughlin said.

A packed house listened to about two hours of public testimony and council discussion on the matter, after urging officials to condemn the mailer.

"We don't need this. We need to have multiracial unity," resident Margaret Brown said.

Some critics of the mailer accepted the RPOA's statement as an apology. But others said it falls short, in part because the language is not strong enough and in part because it was not mailed to the households that received the first mailer.

The coalition Richmond Community United for Peace made several demands, including that the RPOA issue a second mailer apologizing for the first. It also wants the Contra Costa Democratic Central Committee to withdraw endorsement of candidates who do not call for an apology.

Furthermore, the coalition called for the Police Commission to investigate Detective Kevin Martin, the RPOA's president, and Sgt. Andre Hill, its vice president, and for Tallerico to be removed from the Police Commission if he does not denounce the piece. It called for the Richmond Human Relations and Human Rights Commission to investigate the RPOA leadership, and for Harpreet Sandhu to resign as a commission liaison if he does not support demands for an apology.

Bates, who received campaign funding from the RPOA this season along with Councilman John Marquez, Sandhu and Tallerico, responded to public demands that he return the funding. Bates said every council member has received RPOA campaign money in the past except McLaughlin.

Andres Soto, a spokesman for Richmond Community United for Peace, lodged a complaint with the Police Commission against Martin and Hill in connection to the mailer. He claims the officers, both of whom were identified as contributing to the mailer, made "unsubstantiated claims about Latinos. These claims are racist in nature and constitute racial abuse."

The Police Commission investigates claims of excessive force and civil rights abuses against police officers. Commission Chair Cora Ward said commissioners would review and discuss the complaint Nov. 5 at the Hilltop Community Center.

As with all complaints, the commission will hear the evidence during a portion of the meeting closed to the public.

Beckles and Ritterman, both named in the flier, said statements about them were not true. Tallerico, also named in the mailer, said he was not involved in creating the piece and called it "gutter politics."