At City Chambers, council candidates occupy seats they hope to fill this November

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Residents got a glimpse at what this year’s City Council candidates would look like on the dais in the City Council Chambers at a candidate forum Monday night.

Ten of the 11 candidates attended the forum, moderated by the League of Women Voters and the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council. Anthony Green was absent.

“It amazes me that there’s so many candidates for three seats,” resident Karen Leong Fenton said.

Fenton said watching the forum helped since she normally depends on newspaper coverage to understand City Council dynamics.

“And I haven’t made up my mind,” Fenton said. “So [the forum] was eye-opening.”

The audience turnout wasn’t as robust as most city council meetings, with rows of chairs empty in the chamber, but the taken seats were filled with several familiar faces.

Usual-goers Wesley Ellis, Don Gosney, Andres Soto, and Jackie Thompson—who recently resigned as a volunteer for Councilmember Corky Booze—were in attendance.

Current Councilmembers Jeff Ritterman, Booze, and Jovanka Beckles sat on the other side of the dais during the forum, unseen and unheard until the mediators opened up for questions.

Jovanka Beckles asked candidate Marilyn Langlois to address a campaign mailer sent this week that accused Langlois of failing to pay her federal taxes during the years of 2007 and 2008.

The mailer was sent by Moving Forward, a coalition of businesses, labor unions, and other associations, which also created a website opposing Langlois’ election.

Langlois confirmed during the meeting and in a released statement on Monday that she did refuse to pay her federal taxes in a “war tax resistance as a symbolic gesture to protest the use of federal tax dollars for the illegal and destructive Iraq war.”

As with previous forums in the Richmond Senior Center and Point Richmond, Chevron’s future with the city was discussed and was used by residents and council members as a way to distinguish candidates from one another.

Along with Beckles, Ritterman posed a question to Langlois, asking if she thought there’s a danger to having city councilmembers who are beholden to Chevron, naming Nat Bates, Gary Bell, and Bea Roberson as those who the company is paying to become elected.

Langlois said it’s important candidates remain separate from corporations and hold Chevron accountable.

Bell clarified that he hasn’t received funding from Chevron after a resident asked him if he would recuse himself from voting on items related to the company.

Monday’s discussion included the newest development with refinery, which is the decision to appeal a ruling on its tax assessments. In April, the County Assessor’s Appeals Board denied Chevron’s tax assessment appeal for the years 2007-2009, when the company says it was over-taxed by up to $73 million.

“You would think that what happened August 6,and the bypassed pipe, and pure PR would tell [Chevron], ‘OK, we’re going to wait before we try to do this, and insult them again by trying to take money,’” candidate Jael Myrick said.

The next candidate forum will be held this Wednesday at 6 p.m. at St. Peter C.M.E. Church in El Cerrito.

4 Comments

  1. Don Gosney

    Another fine event. It’s always good to hear how candidates respond to questions.

    I’m concerned, though, when we have forums where people from the public can ask questions directly of a specific candidate. The problem we run into there–and this is seen at almost every forum where this is allowed–is that the questions are meant either to embarrass a candidate (as was the question about Chevron’s support of Gary Bell at this forum and Nat Bates last Thursday) or questions designed to give their candidates a chance to pontificate and campaign (as was the case where Jeff Ritterman and Jovanka Beckles asked questions of fellow RPAers Marilyn Langlois and Eduardo Martinez allowing them free TV time to campaign–as was seen with their prepared responses to these questions).

    An alternative to this process would be to have the public write out the questions and have the moderator pull a candidate’s name at random–as they do with questions from the panelists.

    Another benefit of this option is that sometimes the questions–with the requisite background info–often takes more time than the response. If the questions are written down, this might save enough time to allow another 4-6 questions.

    Another benefit to randomly asked questions is that all of the candidates would be treated equally. At this forum, for instance, Tom Butt was asked 3-4 questions while Bea Roberson, Jael Myrick, Eleanor Thompson, Mark Wassberg and Michael Ali-Kinney were relegated to second class status and almost totally ignored. They weren’t really given an opportunity to respond because they were never asked the questions.

    There’s always next time.

    • Jeff Ritterman

      My question was meant to make clear that Chevron is supporting Bates, Bell and Roberson. Chevron has paid for their billboards. I think there is a GREAT danger in having councilmembers beholden to Chevron (Bates, Bell and Roberson) at a time when the council will need to discuss the Chevron fire, the Chevron rebuild from the fire and the Hydrogen Plant plan. It seems like a terrible mistake to have Chevron friendly folks on the council who are not likely to hold Chevron responsible for its actions. Vote for Langlois, Martinez and Butt who are all independent of Chevron and highly capable of leading the city into a positive future.

      • JS

        I think a fair question to all candidates would be how they view the use of these “independent expenditure” committees use of attack ads to support or oppose their candidacy. All or most of the candidates signed a pledge not to engage in negative campaigning and denounce those who did it in support of them. When such an “independent expenditure”, even names the candidates it is supporting, those candidates should publicly acknowledge this. Every election is a struggle between those of us working to keep the process honest and viable and those who seek to turn it into a farce.

  2. ritchie cook

    Beauutiful website. Professional, competion for the anderson valley advertizer

Comments are closed.