Richmond voters shift outlook of City Council
By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 11/03/2010 02:27:36 PM PDT
Richmond voters passed up two establishment candidates and ushered in new leaders to steer the city, a move that changes who holds the majority on the City Council.
The shift will likely affect decisions on major issues including the proposed $1.2 billion casino-hotel resort at Point Molate overlooking the Bay. Voters defeated the advisory Measure U on a casino with 57.5 percent voting no. And with the approval of two new council members, voters created a council majority that opposes gaming on the waterfront.
"People want to see something better there," said Jovanka Beckles, who won a council seat Tuesday night after narrowly missing victory in 2008. "With that resounding no (on Measure U) and a progressive majority on the City Council, we're going to be able to entertain other ideas for Point Molate."
A council vote on Point Molate appears bound for early next year, when the council must decide whether to certify the project's environmental report and turn over the land to developer Upstream and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians.
On Tuesday, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a Green Party member, survived a barrage of attack ads in October to win re-election in a three-way race with 40 percent of the vote. She beat one of her most vocal critics, Councilman Nat Bates, who captured 36.5 percent of the vote. Former Councilman John Ziesenhenne trailed both at 22.8 percent.
In the race for three open council seats, veteran candidate Corky Booze emerged as the top vote-getter with 14.8 percent after nine previously unsuccessful election attempts. Incumbent Jim Rogers and Beckles, a Richmond Progressive Alliance member, captured the other two seats, with 14.3 percent and 13.2 percent of the vote, respectively.
The trio pushed out incumbents Myrna Lopez and Maria Viramontes by at least 900 votes.
Richmond elections are well-known for drawing big money and big spending, but the winners were not the largest spenders.
In the mayor's race, for example, Bates outspent McLaughlin almost 2-1.
"Having a lot of money doesn't guarantee victory all the time," Rogers said. "It certainly helps but some voters get annoyed when you have special interests pounding on somebody. It can be a double-edged sword."
"The influence of big corporations is something that doesn't hold sway in Richmond anymore," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin wants to foster a more diverse economy that reduces the city's financial reliance on the Chevron refinery and embraces green technology.
Beckles said she looks forward to creating more youth activities to help stop violence.
That means joining with the school district on after-school programs, reviewing staffing levels at libraries and community centers, and talking to youths and groups to brainstorm ideas.
Rogers wants a permanent plan to spare neighborhood schools from closure. He wants to continue funding road repairs, increase the number of police officers by at least 30 and require that problem liquor stores pay for police patrols to deal with issues around the stores.
City Council's lurch left shakes up Richmond
By David Ferry and Ashley Hopkinson for Richmond Confidential
The progressives' electoral victories last night will likely have a lasting effect on Richmond, further straining the city's relationship with Chevron Corp. and throwing the future of the proposed casino at Point Molate into question.
With the ousting of pro-business councilmembers Maria Viramontes and Myrna Lopez, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin now has a firm grip on the city council for the first time. She can expect consistent support from four of the council's six other members.
Newly-elected councimember Jovanka Beckles is part of a new majority on the city council. (Photo by Robert Rogers/Richmond Confidential)
And for the first time, with no opposition to stall progressive action on the council, the mayor and her cohorts' agenda will be tested in the real world. McLaughlin said they're ready for the challenge.
"We know that this is a wonderful responsibility and mission that we have, and in that respect we take it very seriously and we think it will bring about much needed harmony and different ideas," McLaughlin said.
By ushering in a progressive council, McLaughlin said the voters had given her group a mandate of sorts -- and made governing a little easier for her, by voting out two opponents.
"[Voters] wanted a progressive city council as a whole and it's going to take a lot of pressure off us (not) having to ward off those that have been saying otherwise -- that 'no the community doesn't want this,'" McLaughlin said. "We see that they do now want this!"
The night's results were a particular blow to Chevron, which spent $1 million supporting the campaigns of Viramontes, Lopez and mayoral candidate Nat Bates through political action committees. The oil giant, which in recent years has often been in negotiation with the city over tax revenues and oversight, can now only rely upon support from Bates, who remains a councilmember.
Read the fully story on RichmondConfidential.org.
Posted By: Richmond Confidential (Email) | November 03 2010 at 07:05 PM
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Gayle McLaughlin survives
With all precincts reporting, incumbent mayor Gayle McLaughlin won a narrow victory over councilmember Nat Bates and John Ziesenhenne. However, Bates did not concede defeat before the night was over.
McLaughlin won with only 40.4 percent of the vote, edging out Bates by 607 votes. The mayor finished with 6,282 votes, Bates with 5,675 and Ziesenhenne at 3,551.
The vote tally was not finalized until after 1 a.m., and as of midnight neither Bates nor Ziesenhenne had officially thrown in the towel.
McLaughlin sounded exuberant at the Richmond Progressive Alliance's headquarters, surrounded by a crowd of about 100 supporters.
"Thank you so much. I cannot say it enough," McLaughlin said through tears around 11:30 p.m. "This is a grassroots campaign and it is a model to grassroots campaigns everywhere."
Read the full story on RichmondConfidental.org.
Posted By: Richmond Confidential (Email) | November 03 2010 at 06:50 AM
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Richmond voters pass pot tax, reject casino
Richmond voters on Richmond voters on Tuesday chose to levy a five percent tax on the city's medical marijuana dispensaries, and expressed displeasure about a proposed casino development at Point Molate.
The casino referendum, Measure U, asked residents to weigh in on whether the city should support the proposal from the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians to build a tribal casino at Point Molate. While the referendum is an advisory measure, Tuesday's results reflect the progressive trend that re-elected Green Party Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to a second term and put Jovanka Beckles and Corky Boozé on the City Council.
"We do want development at Point Molate," Boozé said, "but we want it without a casino. We can do better than just a casino."
Defeated mayoral candidate John Ziesenhenne was disappointed by the voters' decision to elect officials who were "anti-business."
"It looks like people who were elected have a different agenda for Richmond than the direction it has been going," he said. "I'm worried for business in Richmond."
Read the full story at RichmondConfidential.org.
Posted By: Richmond Confidential (Email) | November 03 2010 at 06:37 AM
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Progressives prevail on council
By: Christopher Connelly | November 3, 2010 – 1:50 am | Filed Under: Election 2010, Front, Government
After a contentious election season, the votes are in: Cortland “Corky” Boozé, Jovanka Beckles and Jim Rogers won the three open seats on the city council. The race was extremely tight, with no candidate taking more than 15 percent of the vote in a field of ten candidates.
Corky Boozé, making what he said was his tenth run for council, led the pack with 5,885 votes. “I always wanted to do something for my community and this gives me the opportunity,” he said. “Now we can get things done, we can change this city, and we can change it in a positive way.”
Rogers was the only incumbent to keep his seat; this will be his fourth term on the council. Beckles, who narrowly missed winning a seat on the council in 2008, came in third, surpassing Myrna Lopez’s total by about 650 votes. “Everything we do will be in the best interest of you, Richmond, the city in which we live, the city in which we work,” Beckles told her supporters.
The new councilmembers will join Vice-Mayor Jeff Ritterman, Tom Butt and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Nat Bates on a council with a strongly progressive streak. Four members, as well as the newly re-elected mayor, are on record as opposing the casino at Point Molate. Voters also rejected Measure U, a nonbinding advisory measure intended to gauge public support for the casino.
Despite exceptionally large amounts of money thrown into the race from all sides, the biggest spenders did not win.
Jobs Now, an independent expenditure committee funded entirely by Chevron, pumped $1 million into the election. The funds went to support Maria Viramontes, Lopez and Bates.
Lopez and Rhonda Harris found themselves on the receiving end of attack mailers paid for by Northern California card clubs opposed to the casino at Point Molate.
Campaign contributions ranged widely. At the low end, Harry Singh raised $2,000 and Eduardo Martinez raised $12,295. Lopez was the top fundraiser with $73,536 and Viramontes came in second at $66,571. Adding Rogers, the top three fundraisers raised just over half the money in the campaigns. As of the last filing, the nine candidates together raised nearly $375,000.
Viramontes, Lopez, Rhonda Harris and Virginia Finlay received endorsements and donations from Richmond’s establishment: building trades unions, the Democratic Party organization and heavy industry. Each of the four expressed support for the casino, although most said their vote on the matter would be influenced by the outcome of Measure U.
Jim Rogers, something of an independent in the nonpartisan race, had support from both sides of the divide.
Gary Bell was also on the ballot, although he dropped out of the race in the summer to take care of his ailing wife.
In a city known for a hardball political culture, this year’s election was particularly divisive.
Through the political action committee Richmond First, the police and firefighters unions funded research on Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Beckles. The research turned up information on the mayor’s past financial and mental health problems, which was heavily publicized by the unions. None of the research into Beckles was released. The unions also paid for billboards denouncing both Beckles and the mayor as unwilling to listen to the police and fire departments.
The Contra Costa Times endorsed Viramontes, Lopez and Finlay. In an editorial, the Times criticized Rogers (supported by the paper in past elections) for “an arrogant attitude toward campaign laws, conflict of interest and public disclosure that we find repulsive.”
In an email circulated Sunday, the Bay Area Political Action Committee (BAPAC) targeted Beckles and Boozé. In it, BAPAC called Boozé “intimidating” and criticized him for a lack of leadership. Beckles, the email said, “selectively identifies her ethnicity.” Both Beckles and Boozé, BAPAC charged, are unduly influenced by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a group promoting environmental sustainability and leery of corporate influence in city politics. Boozé ran on an almost identical platform to Beckles, but was not endorsed by the Alliance because he accepted corporate donations.
The Chamber of Commerce’s office was broken into, but no evidence has emerged to indicate it was politically motivated.
And on Tuesday morning, a minivan hit candidate Eduardo Martinez and sped away. Martinez, who was checked out at Kaiser and released, said the driver intentionally hit him after he tried to jump out of the way.
Chevron Shut-Out in Richmond
East Bay Express Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 9:51 AM
Chevron Corporation pumped an unprecedented $1 million into to Richmond political races this fall, but all three of its candidates appear to have lost. The oil company’s mayoral candidate, Councilman Nat Bates, is losing to Gayle McLaughlin 37 percent to 40 percent. And Chevron’s city council candidates, Councilwomen Myrna Lopez and Maria Viramontes are tied for fourth place with 11 percent in a contest in which only three candidates will be elected.
Candidate Corky Booze (15%), Councilman Jim Rogers (14%), and candidate Jovanka Beckels (13%) are leading the council race, and all three are progressives. And with progressives Tom Butt and Jeff Ritterman already on the council, that means Chevron, a company that has dominated Richmond politics for years, likely will have very little influence inside City Hall in the years to come.
Richmond Mayor wins, two incumbents ousted
By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 11/01/2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Incumbent Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, left, applauds while supporters, including Jose Rivera, right,...
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin won a second term early Wednesday morning in a heated three-way race for the city's top post.
McLaughlin captured 6,282 votes, or 40 percent, to beat out one of her most vocal critics, City Councilman Nat Bates. Bates received 5,675 votes, or 36.5 percent.
Former councilman John Ziesenhenne trailed both with 3,551 votes or 22.8 percent, a gap that was simply too large to bridge.
Bates and Ziesenhenne have criticized the mayor, saying she has failed to embrace the kind of business and industry the city needs to generate jobs for locals. McLaughlin disputes those claims and said she wants a more diverse economy that reduces the city's financial dependence on the Chevron refinery and welcomes the growing green technology sector.
Meanwhile in the race for three open council seats, veteran candidate Corky Booze, incumbent Jim Rogers and challenger Jovanka Beckles claimed the top votes to win. Booze garnered 5,885 votes or 14.8 percent; Rogers 5,665 votes or 14.3 percent; and Beckles 5,245 votes or 13.2 percent.
The trio pushed out incumbents Myrna Lopez and Maria Viramontes. Lopez received 4,594 votes or 11.6 percent, and Viramontes received 4,340 votes or 10.9 percent.
The other candidates -- Virginia Finlay, Rhonda Harris, Eduardo Martinez and Harry Singh -- trailed by larger margins and lost their first bids for elected office. Candidate Gary Bell withdrew from the race in August, but
garnered enough votes to come in eighth.
With four of seven council seats up, Tuesday's critical election will affect how the council votes on major issues on the horizon including the contentious casino-hotel resort proposed at the old Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot. The new additions to the council means a majority now oppose the casino plan.
Measure U, the advisory ballot measure on whether to build a casino at Point Molate, was defeated with 9,041 no votes or 57.5 percent.
Measure V, the 5 percent marijuana tax, passed handily with 11,657 yes votes or 77 percent.