|Council May Fill
January 9, 2001
West County Times 2001
Just a day after the resignation of Alex Evans, Richmond politicians say the Rev. Charles Belcher may get the nod
By Shawn Masten
RICHMOND -- The City Council appears poised to fill former Councilman Alex Evans' seat, just one day after his resignation went into effect.
If the matter is voted on at tonight's meeting -- as some council members predict -- the Rev. Charles Belcher looks like the candidate most likely to muster the five votes needed to win appointment. Steve Harvey, a council candidate in 1999, and Maria Theresa Viramontes-Campbell have also been lobbying council members for the seat.
Most council members reached Monday were keeping their cards close to their chests, but several acknowledged that Belcher is likely to be appointed. The seat will be up for election in November.
"Belcher may have five votes," Councilman Gary Bell said. "I am considering him very heavily. I haven't made a firm decision."
Belcher did not return several calls for comment Monday.
Pastor of the Resurrection African Methodist Episcopal Church on Cutting Boulevard in south Richmond, Belcher is a native of the city and member of the Human Relations and Affirmative Action Commission.
He serves on the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Richmond branch. His wife, Doris, is president-elect of the NAACP. He also was a member of the Peralta Community College District board and served as an administrative assistant to Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson.
None of the council members would say Monday who first suggested Belcher as a candidate.
If he is appointed, there would be six African-Americans on the nine-member council.
Council members and special interests groups have been jockeying for the seat behind the scenes since September, when Evans first announced he planned to leave mid-term.
The Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County has been pushing for Harvey, while Viramontes-Campbell is supported by some powerful Richmond Democrats, including council members Tom Butt and John Marquez.
"Ultimately if it becomes Belcher, I can work with him," Marquez said.
Mayor Rosemary Corbin declined to say who she favored.
Harvey, 37, a longtime member of the Planning Commission came in sixth in a crowded November 1999 election for five seats, just 184 votes behind Evans.
Viramontes-Campbell has long been politically active. She served as executive director of the East Bay Public Safety Corridor Partnership, was a member of the Contra Costa Community College District board and was chief of staff for former Richmond Democratic Assemblyman Bob Campbell, now her husband.
Harvey questioned the mayor's decision to put the appointment on the council agenda so quickly. Evans submitted notice last Thursday that he would resign effective Monday.
"It would have been better if there was some application process, so the public would have some input in the selection," Harvey said.
"I feel just a little bit uncomfortable being forced to vote on this," Bell said. "Obviously this is being orchestrated to some extent. It sounds like there's a lot of decisions being made behind the scenes."
He didn't know who had first put forth Belcher's name or whether anyone on the council had been actively courting votes for his appointment.
Of Belcher, Bell said: "He's a product of Richmond. He's grown up here. He knows the city. He's been involved in politics to some extent. Plus he serves the religious community. I think that has a lot of value."
Corbin said she placed the item on the agenda just to get the discussion going.
"I worded it the way I did so that either we can talk about what we want to do, or we can do something," said Corbin. "It's wide open."
Councilman Richard Griffin predicted a vote would be taken today. He declined to say who he would support.
"Let's face reality. This is going to happen," Griffin said. "Whoever has five votes, that's going to be the person. We don't have to prolong it. Let's go ahead and make the appointment."
Council members Irma Anderson and Mindell Penn said they hadn't decided who they would support, but each was listed as a reference on Belcher's application for the Human Relations and Affirmative Action Commission.
Anderson also expressed concern about the process and Penn acknowledged that she had been extensively lobbied by supporters of all three contenders.
"Any one of them would do an excellent job," Penn said. "No matter how it goes, the council will be the better for it."
Councilman Nat Bates denied rumors that he had organized council support for Belcher's appointment.
"He's not my candidate," Bates said. "I haven't selected anyone. I'm going to sit there and listen to what's being presented. I'm going to be noncommittal until things shake out and I see what's going on."