E-Mail Forum
  Endorsements and More for the Richmond 2010 Campaign
September 10, 2010


There is a lot of information in here, and I hope you will read it, but if you have neither the time nor the interest, here are my endorsements:

Mayor: Gayle McLaughlin

City Council: Jim Rogers, Jovanka Beckles and Corky Booze

Measure U (Pt. Molate Casino): No

Measure ?? (5% Marijuana Tax): Yes

The next candidates’ forum is sponsored by North and East, Richmond Heights and Richmore Village neighborhood councils from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Richmond Senior Center, 2525 Macdonald Ave.
Information about candidates for mayor and City Council is posted on the City’s website at http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?nid=2252, including the latest filing of campaign finance statements that list all donors of amounts of $100 or more.

At this time, there are three candidates for mayor, including incumbent Gayle McLaughlin, and nine candidates for City Council, including incumbents Jim Rogers, Maria Viramontes and Myrna Lopez. Reportedly, Gary Bell has dropped out of the race.

The candidate’s statements that will be printed in the Voter Information Pamphlet are also on the City’s website and are copied below. They provide some insight into what the candidates believe will be compelling to voters. Where I could find it, I have added links to the candidates’ websites.

For reasons that are not clear to me, this campaign has been both late starting and low key so far. Most candidates have reported relatively small fund raising efforts in the mid-year filing. Incumbents typically have a leftover war chest, but newbies have raised little until after close of the latest reporting period. The next 60 days, however, appears to portend a campaign that will feature aggressive and highly competitive fundraising as well as the typical hit pieces and mudslinging.
In the simplest analysis, this election will pit a slate of “establishment” oriented candidates against “neighborhood” oriented candidates. The establishment, which will be largely funded by industry (including Chevron), developers, the construction trades and large businesses, will be fronted by their surrogates, BAPAC, the Contra Costa Democratic Party Central Committee, and the Chamber of Commerce. They will back Bates, Ziesenhenne, Viramontes, Lopez, Harris and Finlay.
The establishment will try to make jobs the leading issue of the campaign, trying to paint McLaughlin as a direct cause of Richmond’s high unemployment rate while touting their candidates as the solution because they unequivocally support the Pt. Molate casino and any other business or developer in whatever they want to do to or in Richmond.
The establishment, which embraces former Chamber of Commerce  Chair Ziesenhenne as one of their own, tried everything they could think of to get Bates to drop out, but the more they pressured him, the more resolved he became. While Bates embraces establishment values, he is simply too ornery for them to control. I guess this is one time I appreciate his orneriness.
I don’t want to leave the impression that “neighborhood” candidates don’t care about jobs, crime and the economy, because these are also their priorities. They just don’t believe that Chevron, Upstream and the Chamber of Commerce have all the answers and own the key to Richmond’s future. They are just as dedicated to improving Richmond as the establishment candidates, but they want to do it independently and not as puppets for others with agendas that don’t include Richmond residents as their highest priority.
Neither do I want to leave the impression that establishment candidates are bad people. Nat Bates has the best sense of humor on the City Council, and John Z. is my insurance broker. Maria and Myrna vote with me on a lot of issues, but typically go the other way on the controversial ones. If it weren’t for politics, I would enjoy just hanging out with all my City Council colleagues. At the end of the day, however, I would rather have 80% support than 20% support, and we need some new councilmembers to get there.
The candidates and their email addresses are listed below:


My Mayor’s Race Endorsement

I have already endorsed Gayle McLaughlin for mayor. I think she can take a lot of credit for the positive direction Richmond has taken. The mayoral challengers, Bates and Ziesenhenne, appear to have almost identical platforms. They both are Richmond natives and emphasize creating jobs and fighting crime.

Despite the doom and gloom message of Bates and Ziesenhenne, recent polling shows that a healthy majority of Richmond residents are content with the direction Richmond is going and are not looking for a significant change.

Ziesenhenne and Bates are principally creatures of the frustration that Chevron and Upstream Point Molate, and their surrogate, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, feel in not being able to control the mayor and the City Council. Opponents of McLaughlin, who include incumbent candidates Maria Viramontes and Ludmyrna Lopez, are trying to use City Council meetings to label her as anti-business and blame her for Richmond’s high unemployment rate. Both accusations are factually unfounded.

For example, the Chevron project was stopped not by McLaughlin but by a lawsuit filed by environmental organizations and two successive court decisions that found the EIR flawed. In fact, McLaughlin has been part of the solution, representing Richmond in a legislature-convened mediation in Sacramento trying to get the project restarted. By voting for a flawed EIR and permitting a legally vulnerable project, Viramontes and Lopez actually set the Chevron project up for the successful legal challenge and caused its ultimate shutdown.

In the September 7, 2010, City Council meeting, both Bates and Viramontes got the campaign season off to a jump start by accusing the mayor of voting against a litany of projects that presumably would bring jobs to Richmond. What they misrepresented, however, was that the mayor’s opposition occurred during efforts to actually make the project’s better in ways that typically would provide more employment, not less. For example, they accused the mayor of voting against the Civic Center rehabilitation project. In fact, the only thing the mayor ever opposed, as did I, was building it with windows that did not open. If you want to revisit this sordid saga of politics purely for spite, read:

Richmond’s unemployment rate, while unacceptably high, is by no means the highest in the state or even in Contra Costa County. McLaughlin, who opposes the Point Molate casino, makes the point that San Pablo, which already has a casino, has the highest unemployment rate in Contra Costa County.

Table 1 – Highest Unemployment rates in Contra Costa County (See http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/?pageid=133 for complete statistics)




Census Ratios

Area Name







Contra Costa County                                        







Bay Point CDP







Bayview Montalvin CDP







Bethel Island CDP







Crockett CDP







Knightsen CDP







Richmond city







Rollingwood CDP







San Pablo city







In any event, unemployment rates generally reflect the level of wealth of cities and not the strength of the cities’ perceived “pro-business” policies. Wealthy locations with the lowest unemployment rates typically have the least business friendly policies as defined by Bates and Ziesenhenne. Try building a refinery in Lafayette or Moraga – or anywhere in Marin County. While jobs are high priorities for all of us, Richmond’s high unemployment rate is largely a result of a nationwide recession that hit California particularly hard because of our overheated housing market and the fact that Richmond’s unemployment rate has always been higher than average in both good times and bad. The last time Ziesenhenne was on the City Council, Richmond also had a relatively high unemployment rate, as it did the years he chaired or served on the board of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, an organization whose sole mission it is to enhance business opportunities in Richmond. Neither Bates nor Ziesenhenne have a magic bullet that can reverse Richmond demographics overnight and create the 5,000 (assuming 100% of all new jobs went to Richmond residents) jobs that would be needed to bring Richmond’s unemployment rate down to event the state average.

The job market for Richmond residents is the entire Bay Area, and there is limited opportunity for our city to independently buck macroeconomic trends by concentrating jobs in Richmond and ensuring they are targeted for Richmond residents. Bates and Ziesenhenne believe that you somehow bring jobs to Richmond and then use the resulting largesse to improve the quality of life. I believe just the opposite is true. If you first make Richmond attractive and improve the quality of life, both jobs and residents will follow.

Mayor McLaughlin has always focused on quality of life issues and has embraced the green economy, which has proven to be the highest producer of new jobs in California. Her approach seems to be working as Richmond can boast the highest per capita concentration of solar energy projects in California. There is simply no evidence that McLaughlin is anti-business. Since she became mayor, over 700 new businesses have started in or moved to Richmond employing over 1,000 people. Bates and Ziesenhenne have scorned green jobs and embraced the old economy, including Chevron, where the trend is job reduction rather than job creation.

Neither would the Point Molate casino project impact unemployment in Richmond for the foreseeable future. Even if the developer, Upstream Point Molate, were miraculously successful in garnering the multiple federal approvals not yet granted, any operational jobs would be at least five to six years out. Upstream continues to tout numbers of jobs as high as 17,000 for which there is no evidence that number is anywhere near accurate. Recently, the court upheld a ballot argument that Upstream’s guarantee of jobs for Richmond residents was erroneous.

Bates’ and Ziesenhenne’s pitch about law enforcement rings a little hollow when Richmond crime has continued to fall steadily for several years, and Richmond is hiring rather than laying off cops. Homicides are less than half of what they were this time last year. Any crime is too much crime, but Richmond is apparently deploying its resources in the right direction.

Incumbents, including the mayor, have the advantage that the majority of voters are reasonably satisfied with the direction Richmond is going. Like all cities, Richmond has taken hits in programs and services from the recession, but core City services are intact, and the budget is balanced. Richmond is hiring cops while many cities are laying them off. Crime overall continues to decline, and homicides are down this year by 50%. High profile public works and public/private projects such as the Civic Center rehabilitation, the Ford Assembly Building and the Plunge rehabilitation, all completed during Mayor McLaughlin’s term, have improved Richmond’s image, both locally and regionally.

Mayoral Candidate Statements

Gayle McLaughlin

During the last four years I have led our City in a new direction toward sustainable prosperity, peace, and health. Richmond is a city taking its destiny into its own hands.

While other cities are laying-off employees, Richmond has a balanced budget and no lay-offs. Thanks to our demands for fair taxation, the City’s largest corporation will pay an additional $114 million over the next 15 years.

In the midst of a deep national recession, we are defining a new economic model, focusing on emerging industries and supporting the small business sector. Since 2007, Richmond has attracted over 700 new businesses, creating 1000 new jobs.

Crime is declining overall in Richmond, thanks to an empowered community and enlarged police force. In 2010 homicides have dropped dramatically.

I share the community’s widespread opposition to a casino at Point Molate. We can do much better.

We have taken great strides in restoring transparency, participation, and democracy to city government. As Mayor I welcome input from everyone with a perspective to share.

I do not accept campaign contributions from corporations. I remain independent from undue influence of wealthy special interests.

With your vote, we will continue building a better Richmond!

Nat Bates

It comes down to one word: Jobs.

That’s why I am running for Mayor of Richmond. Jobs.

If we want Richmond to rebound and reach new heights, it’s going to take a City government dedicated to bringing new jobs and good paying jobs to Richmond.

I have been fighting on behalf of Richmond’s families for over 40 years. I have been a leader in bringing new jobs to Richmond and have been the strongest and loudest voice for our families and neighborhoods.

Once Richmond’s job market is thriving, we will be able to tackle the two other biggest problems in Richmond: neighborhood crime and underperforming schools.

I understand the challenges that face the families of Richmond. I have been a resident of the City of Richmond since age 10. I went to Stege Elementary, Harry Ells Junior High, El Cerrito High – where I starred in baseball and basketball.

I am honored to be endorsed by many members of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce for my strong support of economic development. My commitment to keeping our streets safe has earned me the endorsement of the Richmond Police Officers Association.

I am proud of my record! I respectfully ask for your vote.

John Ziesenhenne

Costa College, and graduating from UC Berkeley in 1980. My home has always been in Central Richmond. I have worked at, and now own, M.A. Hays Insurance Company in Richmond, founded in 1912.

I’ve spent my entire life involved in Richmond, serving as elder of my church, and volunteering on the Boards of the YMCA, Richmond Museum, Boys & Girls Club, Richmond PAL, and Chamber of Commerce, among others. I proudly served on our Richmond City Council, 1981-1993.

Our city needs a plan for new, consistent revenue, to create meaningful, well-paying jobs in a business-friendly, environmentally-conscious manner; reduce crime; improve educational opportunities; and provide a better quality of life for you, our citizens.

We need a Mayor who will work with all parties and factions to bring together the best ideas for a respected Richmond.

Let’s work together to bring back our wonderful City of Pride & Purpose. As a proud, life-long Richmonder, I ask for your vote for Mayor. Together, we can restore this city to the greatness it richly deserves for a much stronger future.

My plans for Richmond – www.johnz2010.com


My City Council Race Endorsements

I have endorsed a seemingly eclectic slate of candidates that includes Incumbent Jim Rogers and challengers Corky Booze and Jovanka Beckles . Here’s my rationale, not in any particular order:

  • Jim Rogers

The past two years have clearly been both my most enjoyable and possibly most productive on the City Council. I have really enjoyed and appreciated the consistent support of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilman Jeff Ritterman. Most of the time Jim Rogers has provided that crucial fourth vote that makes my day (night?). He has also gone the other way on some critical issues, such as extending Upstream’s Point Molate LDA and refusing to support an advisory vote on the North Shoreline. He drives me crazy, but at the end of the  day, I can work with him. Although I may not always agree with him, he always has well thought out and carefully argued positions. Rogers was top vote getter in 2006, and recent polls indicate he retains substantial support for reelection. If I was designing my dream City Council colleague, it may not look exactly like Jim Rogers, but he would be way ahead of most of the other current choices, including the other incumbents.

As Contra Costa Times political columnist Lisa Vorderbrueggen says, “Rogers is known as a man who marches to the beat of his own drum,” which keeps both the good guys and the bad guys scratching their heads about where he will end up on any given controversial issue. In her September 4 column, “Richmond councilman still paying off 19-year-old campaign debts,” she criticizes him for financing his own campaigns and then collecting money for years to pay himself back. Other than the extended chronology and the astounding number of races he has been in, this is little different from many candidates who hold fundraising events after their successful election to retire their campaign debts. In fact, Rogers has not always simply paid himself back. In 2008, he used tens of thousands of dollars collected against old campaign debts to set up an independent committee and finance a $30,000 campaign  for Jovanka Beckles, all without even consulting her to keep it legal. I thought that was pretty cool until it proved so successful she almost beat me. It also drove the establishment crazy when they found out where their contributions had gone.

Jim enjoys widespread support in the neighborhoods but is not trusted by the Chevron/BAPAC/Chamber of Commerce establishment.

  • Jovanka Beckles

As described above, Jovanka was the runner up in 2008 and almost beat me (and Nat Bates). That shows she has a substantial support base and plenty of traction for 2010. She is a savvy candidate who can win and who will, I believe, support most of my policy positions as well as bring her own agenda of quality of life issues. She has been endorsed by former Mayor Rosemary Corbin, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilmember Jeff Ritterman as well as our East Bay Regional Parks District representative, Whitney Dotson. Jovanka has immersed herself in Richmond over the past few years, serving on both the Economic Development Commission and the Planning Commission as well as serving as president of her neighborhood council. She has a master’s degree in business administration, attended college on a basketball scholarship and is bilingual (Spanish).

Jovanka also enjoys support in Richmond neighborhoods, and you can look for the Chevron/BAPAC/Chamber of Commerce establishment to spend a lot of money to oppose her.

  • Corky Booze

Corky has run for the City Council so many times, some people think he is on it. But he has also come tantalizingly close to winning, taking the runner up position and almost beating Ludmyrna Lopez in 2006. It would be impossible to find anyone more dedicated than Corky; I don’t think he has missed a City Council meeting in 15 years, and he rarely misses a chance to offer his opinion on multiple issues. He routinely donates generously of his time and money for numerous community events, particularly those benefitting young people. Corky is currently vice-chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission and received the Crime Prevention Activist of the Year 2009 award from the Richmond Crime Prevention Committee and the 2009 Activist of the Year Award from the Mayor of Richmond. He has been endorsed by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. Corky has two lifetime teaching certifications from the University of California Extension at Berkeley in adult education and grades K-12 and completed two years of Administrative studies in education at San Francisco State University. He served the Oakland Unified School District and the Alameda Unified School District as a vocational education instructor for eleven years.
Corky has a reputation for being provocative, particularly in his many appearances at City Council, and this has offended some. But being provocative is what an outsider often has to do to make a point, and he has called out many a City Council member, including me, for getting too cozy with the establishment or taking the easy way out on an issue. Corky has a sleuth’s nose for ferreting out corruption, political plots and insider deals that are under the radar of most everyone. I know Corky well enough to be confident that as a council member, he would be fair and reasonable and bring an incomparable knowledge of Richmond to the dais.
Corky is polling unusually high in this election and has perhaps the best chance ever to knock out an incumbent. Like my other two endorsements, Corky’s strength is in the neighborhoods.
City Council Candidate Statements

Jim Rogers

While the Great Recession and State tax grabs have cities flirting with bankruptcy, firing police, closing schools, Richmond's budget reserve's $10,000,000, we're hiring police, maintaining our doubled pothole repair budget, saving Richmond schools threatened with closure.

I made tough decisions to get us through tough times:

  • Slashing salaries, including Councilmembers;
  • Eliminating low priority positions;
  • Creating new revenue: $11,000,000.


These painful, controversial decisions funded increased police, new street outreach workers which reduced tragic violent crime by 50%.

My countless hours encouraging new businesses to provide desperately needed jobs will be wasted if we cannot deal with crime, potholes, blight. At over 1000 Neighborhood Council community meetings, I've worked with you to:

  • Write laws to crackdown on street drug dealers and crime-ridden liquor stores;
  • Ban cigarette/alcohol billboards near schools;
  • Stop bad El Sobrante developments;
  • Save Pt Isabel's dog park;


Leading means listening:

I've always voted for voters - not me - to decide tax increases;

Likewise, I'll honor Pt. Molate supporters' and opponents' passionate beliefs: voters - not me - will decide.

There's much more to be done.

Please keep me on the job to keep Richmond on the Road to Recovery.

(Qualifications: UC Berkeley Graduate, Chair, Richmond Antidrug Taskforce, Boardmember, California Common Cause, Eagle Scout)

Jovanka Beckles

I am a long time community activist. My priorities include: empowering the community to combat crime and violence by reducing poverty, creating healthy, living-wage job opportunities, providing support for small businesses, and building unity across cultures, ages, and neighborhoods. We will only move forward as One Richmond.

I have worked in Richmond for 13 years as a Children’s Mental Health provider, coordinating multidisciplinary teams of teachers, probation officers and social workers to improve the lives of children and families. I am a small business owner, a Planning Commissioner, and a former Economic Development Commissioner.

Richmond is hurting from powerful global economic changes and the failure to properly address these internationally and nationally. Courageous leaders with integrity can tackle our chronic problems of poverty, violence and despair. Employing a holistic approach, we can become the beloved community of Dr. King’s dream.

We need leaders who share our aspirations and understand our needs. We need leaders who listen and respond. With your vote, I can be one of those leaders. Because I take no corporate money for my campaign, I am accountable only to the people of Richmond.

Join me in building the prosperous, safe, and healthy city that we deserve.

Corky Booze

In 1978, I moved to Richmond. For the last 14 years I’ve attended every City Council meeting from start to finish. Now! It's time for me be elected as your City Council representative.

As your Councilperson, I will continue working on education, job development, crime prevention, funding solutions, health care and redevelopment within our city.

Many citizens have been under-represented and have not had a voice at City Council meetings. I will continue to be the community voice for the citizens of Richmond who are unable to speak out for themselves, I will continue being the arms for those who can't reach out for the help they need, and I'll be the feet for those who can't travel to City Council meetings, especially our senior citizens and the disabled. The seniors at Friendship Manor appointed me their “Ambassador”.

The Mayor appointed me to the Recreation and Parks Commission where I sit as Vice Chair. My goal which I achieved was to get restrooms, drinking fountains, bleachers, better lighting and a skate park in our public parks. I have a very positive and effective working relationship with the City Manager, Chief of Police and all department managers.

Maria Theresa Viramontes

I am running for re-election to the Richmond City Council to continue to fight to keep every Richmond job, while building the new economy.

Crime has been reduced for three years, but we must stop homicide.

We need to make investments in our people, not just the infrastructure.

Four generations of my family were raised in Richmond. When I was 17 years old, I received my first Community Service Award for establishing a Richmond tutorial program. When the Superintendent of the Richmond Unified School District endorsed my grant, I learned a valuable lesson; we must not let fear stop us from solving problems.

I have served our community as a teacher, California State Assembly staff member, College Board Trustee, Foundation Executive Director, Port Commissioner, Planning and Economic Development Commissioner and Councilmember.

As a public servant and a private citizen, I have been able to raise and allocate millions of dollars for public safety, schools, health services, investment in venture capital to create new jobs, open space and parks, road pavement and renovation of City Hall.

We must not let fear in these uncertain times; stop us from solving our serious problems.

I ask for your vote.

Ludmyrna Lopez

As a Richmond Councilwoman, my #1 job is to create jobs and keep jobs here in Richmond.

From the moment I took office 3½ years ago, my priority was to create a vibrant economy in Richmond with good paying jobs and benefits–jobs you can raise a family on.

When we kick-start Richmond’s economy, we will strengthen our schools, add police on the streets to make our neighborhoods safe and reduce emergency response times. A strong Richmond economy will give our families the level of service we deserve.

I fought to keep neighborhood schools open. I strongly supported neighborhood policing. I led the team that brought into Richmond millions of Federal stimulus dollars for job training, street improvements, and more police officers.

I am running for re-election to continue working on bringing quality jobs to Richmond, building thriving schools, and creating a community that inspires our children to learn and instills in each of us a sense of pride.

My parents moved to Richmond 50 years ago dreaming for the same things we dream of today: Good paying jobs, Safe neighborhoods, Strong schools.

Working together, we can make this dream come true. I humbly ask for your vote.

Virginia Finlay

I am running for Richmond City Council and would appreciate your vote on November 2, 2010. I believe that we all want the same things for Richmond: strong and safe communities, meaningful job opportunities, community development and a better quality of life. We also want the same things from our city: programs and services that fulfill our needs, fiscal responsibility, and transparency and integrity in our processes.

For these reasons, I am running for City Council with the slogan “Bringing Richmond Together for a Better Today and Tomorrow”.

I have dedicated over 20 years to making our city better for its residents and businesses through my work on the Richmond Planning Commission, Marina Bay Neighborhood Council, Police Activities League, Richmond Chamber of Commerce and as a Realtor in West Contra Costa County.

As a City Council member, I will work diligently and tirelessly for you. I will be prepared to evaluate the issues of the day, listen to all of the parties, and treat everyone with dignity, respect and fairness. Together, with your input and support, I will endeavor to make the best decisions for Richmond so we can move forward to meet the challenges of the future.

Rhonda Harris

I am running for Richmond City Council to improve the quality of life for residents’ by responding to concerns related to unemployment, increasing support for local businesses and homeowners, enhancing crime prevention and community safety efforts, and maintaining senior programs.

I have lived in Richmond for 35 years. As a mother, a homeowner, and a small business owner, I am vested in our City.

As a local business woman in the Richmond Bay Area, my firm has generated scores of employment and training opportunities for Richmond residents. As a member of the building trade’s community, I have worked to improve the economic development climate by transforming abandoned blighted lots into commercial properties and affordable housing.

I am an active member of the Richmond Rotary Club, President of the Contractor’s Alliance of Richmond, a Commissioner on the Community Development Block Grant Commission, VP of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Council, and a member of the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council.

Our city faces many challenges. However, I am encouraged because Richmond is a diverse and creative community. With your support, we will find solutions to deal with our challenges. I respectfully ask for your vote.

Eduardo Martinez

The children of Richmond are the future of Richmond.

I have taught public school for eighteen years. I know the needs and challenges of our youth. The City Council’s focus must be secure neighborhoods, better schools, jobs and job training, after-school activities, better parks, and a healthy environment. These priorities not only provide hope and opportunities for our kids, they are also the reasons that businesses will choose Richmond, families will stay, and property values will increase.

Education is the foundation of democracy. We must ensure a quality education for all citizens. Libraries must stay open to provide access to learning and technology. Adult school must stay open for those of us who are trying to improve our work skills, language skills, and knowledge. Kennedy High must stay open and serve the community as both a school and a neighborhood center.

I take no campaign money from corporations and developers. I am accountable only to the residents of Richmond. Our leaders must listen and respond to the needs and aspirations of the people of Richmond. With your vote, I can be that voice. Together we can build the city that will serve our children for generations to come.