Richmond’s City Council candidates met for their second night in a row at Thursday evening’s Point Richmond Neighborhood Council’s Candidates Night forum.
Candidate Anthony Lamar Green was the only one not present at the Schooner Building in Point Richmond, which due to its size provided a more intimate setting than Wednesday’s forum at the Richmond Senior Center.
About 60 Richmond residents filled the seats as the candidates began the night with opening statements.
For the rest of the night, questions and comments were dominated by three subject areas: Chevron, Measure N, and Richmond’s youth and seniors.
The first question of the night was posed by the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council and dealt with the relationship between the city and Chevron. Gary Bell responded first, stressing the importance of Chevron to Richmond but also the role of the city in holding Chevron accountable.
“Chevron is a citizen, though they’re corporate, and they have responsibilities,” Bell said. “They should pay taxes and operate in a safe and sound matter. The city should make sure they do that in a preventative way.”
Richmond Progressive Alliance candidate Eduardo Martinez compared the city’s relationship with Chevron to a marriage, saying that when things go bad the relationship must be reevaluated.
“When you have a company that proposes that they care about Richmond, but they have headquarters elsewhere, end the leases of properties that provide income to Richmond and lie to citizens about explosions … then you have problems,” Martinez said. “When a company has to brand every donation they give, then we have a problem.”
Nat Bates supported the city’s relationship with the company, noting the positives it brings to the city during tough times.
“There needs to be neutral respect between the city and Chevron,” he said. He went on to emphasize the city’s need to work with the company to promote job growth and economic development.
Wednesday night the candidates just took an informal vote on Measure N, but Thursday offered more of a platform for discussion.
RPA candidate Marilyn Langlois said that passing the measure should be a priority for moving the health of the city forward and stopping the obesity pandemic. “If it passes, it will be effective,” she said. “Otherwise, why would the soda companies be spending millions of dollars in public relations to have it defeated?”
Both Jael Myrick and Bea Roberson said they were skeptical of the tax, citing the financial strain it would cause for the poor and working class people of the city, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck
“I don’t see a guarantee this this will stop obesity,” Myrick said, “but there is a guarantee that this will raise the cost of groceries.”
Roberson went on to say that the tax could also take away important revenue for the city. “Now when I go to buy a Dr. Pepper in El Cerrito, I’ll also stop and buy my groceries there, too,” she said.
Mark Wassburg agreed, saying that the measure would not stop obesity because of unhealthy food options that would still exist in the city.
All the candidates agreed that the city’s obesity problem needs to be addressed.
Perhaps the most agreed-upon issue of the night was the importance of services for seniors and youths.
Eleanor Thompson said that she was the only one of the candidates who has dedicated her life to helping reduce crime in Richmond and helping the city’s young people get jobs and seek the training they need to do so.
Mike Ali-Kinney had a similar response, touting his work with Stop the Gang Violence Moratorium in the early 1990s.
Tom Butt appealed to attendees’ understanding of the city’s economy as a means to address concerns for the city’s old and young people.
“Programs targeted to young people fight for funds just like programs for paving streets or hiring police,” he said. Therefore, a robust economy is necessary for the city to provide sufficient programs at the level it should for these groups, he said.