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Media Coverage
Richmond Council Makes Peace, Then Battles Again
November 19, 1997


Wednesday, November 19, 1997
Section: News
Page: A01
Scott Andrews 

RICHMOND The City Council's meeting to swear in four recently re-elected members began congenially enough Monday, with friendly words, vows of cooperation and lofty ideals aplenty. 

But it wasn't long before the city's fractious politics wiped the smiles off the celebrating faces and proved how elusive a fight-free meeting is for the divided council. 

Everything began pleasantly. The Rev. Barbara Hamilton-Holway delivered an inspirational invocation, describing the "joyful" gathering. There were congratulatory boutonnieres and bouquets of red roses for the victorious incumbents: Irma Anderson, John Marquez, Richard Griffin and Mayor Rosemary Corbin. 

Corbin vowed to become a better listener. Anderson spoke about reaching goals by working together. Marquez thanked the defeated candidate, Gary Bell, for running a clean campaign. The council unanimously voted to make Marquez its new vice mayor. 

It seemed that City Council members, whose meetings have been epitomized by shouting matches and threats of violence, were trying to make peace. 

But it did not seem that way for long. 

Councilman Nat Bates challenged Corbin's appointments to regional boards and committees. Bates argued that the city charter does not give the mayor authority to make those nominations. He also suggested Corbin be replaced on two boards. 

Councilman Tom Butt then called for a vote to support Corbin. A fight was brewing. The nine-member council appeared to be back in its familiar rough-and-tumble mode. Not everyone was happy about it especially not the members who were celebrating and vowing peace. 

"We want to be warm and fluffy all of us tonight," said Griffin, who suggested the vote be postponed to avoid a fight and give city attorneys time to examine the issue. 

Corbin said the celebration was no time for a fight, and her view eventually prevailed. Neither Butt nor Bates won support; Corbin adjourned the meeting without a vote on her appointments. 

But the rancor did not end when Corbin rapped her gavel and a crowd of family members and campaign workers filed toward buffet tables laden with fresh fruit, chicken wings and cake. 

Bell buttonholed Councilman Alex Evans to complain heatedly about Evans' strong campaign criticism of Bell's leadership of a defunct lending board. 

And Butt mocked one of the council's most frequent critics, Ron Deziel, as Deziel ate from the buffet. Deziel, who attends nearly every council meeting, has repeatedly criticized the council, saying it spends $50,000 per year on food. 

"You're hogging down on that food you criticize us for buying," said Butt, who has argued with Deziel on the issue before. "You have no shame, do you?"