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Media Coverage
Bicycle Race Sparks Battle Over Funding
April 16, 1998



Monday, April 6, 1998
Section: news
Page: A03
Shawn Masten

RICHMOND Tour du-Point, an annual bicycle race through Point Richmond, has turned into a political football, pitting the Richmond firefighters union against opponents on the City Council.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 188, has taken over management of the race. Union officials want the city to continue to sponsor the race meaning public funds would pay for security, road closures and other services.

But the city is facing a financial crisis. Some council members fear the union will funnel money from the race into a political action committee to use against them. They want a guarantee from the union that they can look at their financial records. Union officials said the opposition was purely political, but said they would be willing to make financial disclosures.

Campaign targets
The key council opponents, Donna Powers and Tom Butt, were the target of negative campaign fliers funded by the union and designed by the union's powerful political consultant, Darrell Reese, in 1995. Powers said she opposes the race because it's inconvenient for Point Richmond residents.

"I'm willing to throw water balloons, put manure in the streets, anything to stop the race," she said.

"There's no way I'm going to support this unless they open their books," Butt said.

Acting City Manager Leveron Bryant said that for the city to be involved, the firefighters would need to provide a detailed accounting of the event's finances. That's no problem, said Capt. Henry Hornsby, the union president.

"We will open our books," he said.

Reese said Powers' and Butt's fears are unfounded.

"The union is going to be using the money for various and sundry things, one of them not being politically," he said. Reese is confident the city won't drop out of the race because the union's involvement is not a problem for the rest of the nine members.

"The two of them are by themselves," Reese said. "They have this concern because the firefighters' union does not support them politically."

The union said it will contribute Tour du-Point proceeds to Save the Plunge, Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Center and the Nicholl Park Renovation Project.

It's not the first time a union-backed fund-raiser has come under fire. Late last year, the state looked into $15,000 contributed to the union political action committee. Reese, who does the accounting, had listed the money as being contributions from retired firefighters. After retirees said they hadn't contributed any money, Reese said it had actually come from a fund-raising circus.

Reese said no violations or fines have been issued by the state.

The council on Tuesday will decide whether to spend $11,000 on the race.

Councilwoman Irma Anderson said she is reserving her decision until she hears from the community.

"I'm not saying we have to be a sponsor, but the city gets benefits from it," she said. "We need to know if the route is really a problem for the people on the Point. All the personal attacks aren't relevant."

Called major problem
Bob Peckham, owner of the Santa Fe Market, says the race is a major problem for many Point Richmond business owners and residents because it closes the Point's shopping district for most of the day and limits neighborhood access.

"We're totally opposed to it," he said Friday. "We lose so much money. It's just a hindrance for the people who work and live here. It's wrong for us to suffer like that."

Dave Duarte, former acting recreation and cultural services manager, founded the Tour du-Point in 1995. The day-long event, scheduled for May 31, includes criterium bicycle races, a pancake breakfast and a family fun ride.

The criterium race is sanctioned by the U.S. Cycling Federation, attracts thousands of bicyclists from across the country and is a popular stop on the road racing circuit. Criterium races are on a closed-loop course.

"Its a wholesome event the whole family can participate in and it's a spectator sport," Duarte said Friday.

The firefighters have put on the pancake breakfast since the first year. They took the family fun ride over from the city last year and took on management of the race earlier this year.

Registration for the fun ride is $22. Registration for the criterium bicycle race ranges from $15 to $40. Winners receive medals and cash prizes of up to $3,000.

The race attracted about 300 bicyclists last year and about 500 people participated in the family fun ride, a 4 1/2-mile trip through Miller Knox Regional Shoreline, the Richmond marina and Brickyard Cove.

The firefighters hope to have this year's family fun ride on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

"This type of an event gives the city a good image and raises money for charity," Hornsby said. "There's a lot of good things in the bike race. It brings a lot of people into the city."