Two major issues are dominating the election season in Richmond. Monday gave the Chevron fire center stage, but on Tuesday, it was time for Measure N to return to the spotlight – and even councilmembers who are not seeking reelection this November decided to enter the fray.
At the council meeting two weeks ago, people carrying ‘No on Measure N’ signs welcomed visitors in the Civic Center plaza. Tuesday, children in sports uniforms from an array of sports clubs in Richmond, clutching signs and posters handed out by the Fit for Life campaign in support of the “soda tax,” filled the council chamber.
The Fit for Life campaign pointed to the children and parents as an example in support of the measure, but the Richmond sports club representatives were more interested in the need for more sports facilities for Richmond youth.
Each chair in the chamber also had a small campaign card promoting Measure N—a point of major contention at the start of the meeting.
Juan Reardon, who was representing the Fit for Life organization supporting Measure N, said that two weeks ago he received an OK from a police officer to place political literature on the seats, as long as they were not handed out to members of the public in the chamber.
After the call to roll, Councilmember Corky Booze argued that the fliers had been distributed illegally and should be removed from the room.
“There are fliers in this chamber, like this,” Booze said, holding up the blue-and-white flier from his chair. “And these fliers are political fliers that aren’t supposed to be here. Correct me if I’m wrong, the city attorney said they were supposed to be removed. They were thrown on the floor. And before we start this council meeting we need to police our council chambers. If we are going to allow people to come in here and trash our chambers…”
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin interrupted, and after a brief back and forth, McLaughlin said, “I would like to ask our officer to please, either through the city manager, or someone, to please just pick up the fliers that are on the floor and that’s the end of that. It was a mistake.”
City staff members, including City Manager Bill Lindsay, began collecting the campaign material from the audience.
But Booze and McLaughlin continued to argue.
As the argument finally died down for a moment, Mayor McLaughlin asked the city clerk to read the code of ethics.
Booze immediately interjected and said, “I don’t know why you are reading the code of ethics when you don’t follow them.”
City Clerk Diane Holmes began reading. “City of Richmond code of ethics,” she said. “We shall be professional, courteous and respectful –”
Members of the audience laughed, causing Holmes to pause.
Following the code of ethics, the hubbub returned to the audience as more campaign fliers were being collected.
“I would like some order in the chambers, right now,” said McLaughlin, clacking her gavel. “I would like everyone’s voices to cease to make comments.”
One member of the public, Johanna Carty, said she was not willing to let the conflict continue in front of her two children, and the other children in attendance. Carty stood up, interrupting the arguing councilmembers and said, “What kind of example are you setting for the kids? There are a lot of kids here. Can you guys act like adults? Please.”
McLaughlin then asked for order in the chamber for the rest of the meeting and transitioned to the public comment section of the meeting – where the audience turned the subject immediately back to the soda tax and council decorum.
It was the third Tuesday evening meeting in a row for the City Council, and only five weeks remain before the election.
“The heat of the election is upon us,” council candidate Eduardo Martinez said during his public comment.