Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2022  
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  Richmond's Next Mayor
September 30, 2022

In less than six weeks, Richmond voters will choose Richmond’s next, and seventh, elected mayor. They have four choices: (1) Councilmember and current Vice-mayor Eduardo Martinez, (2) Councilmember Nat Bates, (3) Shawn Dunning and (4) Mark Wassberg.

Wassberg will not win, but according to polls, he may garner as much as 8 percent of the vote. For those who don’t recognize the name, Wassberg is a homeless individual who attends almost every City Council meeting to rail against undocumented immigrants and homosexuals, typically with a full two-minute string of profanity. If you are inclined to vote for Wassberg, don’t waste your vote. Vote for Bates or Dunning instead.

Even with Wassberg, it is essentially a three-way race that would be much better as a one-on-one race. I wish that either Bates or Dunning would drop out, but that’s not going to happen. Unlike some other cities, Richmond does not have a runoff or ranked choice voting, so the person with the most votes wins, even though that person may get far less than a majority vote.

In the past, Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) candidates have prevailed in three-way races. In her first run for mayor in 2006, Gayle McLaughlin “…squeaked into office with just over one-third of the vote, giving her the victory over two-term incumbent Irma Anderson” (Richmond Confidential June 10, 2010). That was a three-way race in which Gary Bell ran third. Supervisor John Gioia was quoted, “McLaughlin benefited from having two African American candidates in the race that split the black vote.”

In 2010, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin won a second term, again “…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.” (Contra Costa Times, November 3, 2010).

In essentially a one-on-one race for mayor in 2018 (a third candidate, Kathy Robinson, got only 23 votes), I prevailed over RPA candidate Melvin Willis with 55.82 percent of the vote, showing that an RPA candidate can be beaten in a one-on-one race

In the upcoming election, you can bet that Mark Wassberg will not pull any votes away from Eduardo Martinez, making it even more difficult for Bates or Dunning to crack the 30-point advantage Martinez can count on from hard core RPA supporters.

My recommendation is to vote for either Nat Bates or Shawn Dunning and not for Eduardo Martinez.

Eduardo Martinez

A victory for Martinez would ensure at least two more years of divisive and failed RPA City Council control as well as giving the RPA absolute control over future appointments to City boards and commissions. Martinez is an amiable guy, but his ideology driven politics are toxic.

In Richmond’s Charter, the mayor has little actual power other than one vote, same as other councilmembers. The city manager has total control over running the city, subject only to policies and budgets adopted by the entire City Council. To outsiders – and the press -- however, the mayor is the face of the city. We need a mayor who represents the whole city and who will welcome businesses and promote economic development that provides jobs and tax revenue. We need a mayor who takes public safety seriously and sees our police department as essential and not simply a liability to be defunded and disbanded. Polices promoted by the RPA, including Martinez, have made Richmond less safe, reduced the number of rental housing units available, driven development to a standstill, doubled the number of homeless people camped on streets and under bridges and increased trash and toxic dust on our streets.

Martinez has been a leader in the RPA crusade to dismantle the nationally recognized community policing model that Chief Chris Magnus built in Richmond.

Eduardo Martinez wants to spend your taxpayers’ money to fund a public bank run by his Berkeley friends to provide low-interest loans to his other friends. We already have public banks – four of them – in Richmond. They are called credit unions. Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve their members. Like banks, credit unions accept deposits, make loans and provide a wide array of other financial services. But as member-owned and cooperative institutions, credit unions provide a safe place to save and borrow at reasonable rates.

Eduardo Martinez is a self-proclaimed socialist who believes that all businesses providing essential services should be owned by the government, as in Cuba and North Korea. If he had his way, farms, grocery stores, restaurants, barbers, clothiers, automobile factories and homebuilders would all be run by the government under control of people like him. “Any public good on which people’s lives depend should be publicly owned…” wrote Martinez. “I expect my support will primarily come from left-leaning voters..” (responses to an endorsement questionnaire from the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America).

You don’t want the RPA running businesses, and you don’t want to give the RPA any more power over Richmond, which is, itself, essentially a $200 million business. Fiscal responsibility is essential for a healthy city. Fully half of the RPA city council members have experienced personal bankruptcy. While there is no shame in filing for bankruptcy, it’s probably not the best qualification for public office; you certainly don’t see it listed in their campaign literature.

After two years of RPA control, Richmond is ready for a change. Recent polls show that Richmond residents now believe the City is headed in the wrong direction. In a 2019 poll, only 30 percent of residents believed Richmond was on the wrong track. By September of 2022, after nearly two years of RPA control, that number had risen dramatically to 50 percent!

Nat Bates

Although I hold the Richmond record for the longest serving councilmember for consecutive years, Nat Bates holds the record for the most total years. He has been on the City Council off and on since 1967, serving twice as mayor under the old one-year rotation system. If you are looking for experience, no one can match Bates. In addition to his city council responsibilities, his county, state and national colleagues over the years have elected him as chair of the Contra Costa Mayors Conference, president of the League of California Cities East Bay Division, chair of the California League of Cities Public Safety Policy Committee, League of California Cities Board of Directors, chair of the National League of Cities Public Safety Committee, Board of Directors National League of Cities and lifetime appointment to the National League of Cities Advisory Board Council. Bates is an unabashed advocate and promoter of economic development and business.

Bates has a BA Degree from San Francisco State and a teaching credential form California State University, Hayward. He is a Korean War veteran.

According to his website, his priorities are public safety, economic development and business, affordable housing and animal services. His endorsers include former Mayor, Irma Anderson, former Councilmembers, Maria Viramontes, Jim McMillan, John Ziesenhenne,
Harpreet Sandhu, Vinay Pimple, Corky Booze, Lesa McIntosh, Myrna Lopez, John Marquez, Donna Powers, and Mindell Penn.

Shawn Dunning

Without a political background, Shawn Dunning comes to this race from a different direction -- a successful career in professional team building and dispute resolution. He was the chief operations officer of the organizational development company Adventure Associates, Inc. During his tenure there, Shawn developed and facilitated leadership, team development, and conflict resolution programs for corporate, government, and nonprofit groups throughout the United States. Earlier in his career, he directed the Leadership Wisdom Initiative and also founded the Leadership & Training division for the international conflict transformation organization Search for Common Ground. Working from Washington D.C. and Jerusalem, Shawn led projects in the United States, the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and Southeast Asia that developed the capacity of emerging and elite political and civil society leaders to lead from a basis of common ground principles.

Shawn studied speech communication and psychology as an undergraduate at Cal Poly and holds a master's degree in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University, where he developed foundational theory and practice for Adventure-Based Conflict Resolution.

Maybe Shawn is just what we need in this era of ever-growing political vitriol and polarization at all levels of government. The current city council has been locked in a contentious 4-3 standoff on most important issues since January of 2021 when the RPA regained control. To maintain his commitment to collaborative problem solving, Shawn has been careful about taking sides on divisive issues, but increasingly he has made it clear that he supports adequately funding for police, reexamining the fairness and economic consequences of Measure U, cleaning up Richmond streets, maintaining infrastructure, enforcing traffic laws, protecting the environment and economic development.

Shawn has probably covered more ground and spoken to more voters than any other candidate, having jogged every street in every neighborhood and spoken to over 4,000 residents.