Richmond native Anthony Green spent 13 years in the Air Force – first as an Aerospace Ground Equipment mechanic, then as a loadmaster for the C-5 airplane, which he told me was one of the best jobs he ever had. “I still got to fly around everywhere,” he said. “I just wasn’t flying the plane.”
The Air Force took him from battlegrounds in Iraq and Afghanistan to training grounds at Travis Air Force Base, as well as to Washington, Texas, Japan, Korea, and “a little bit of everywhere.” To sum up his experience, he offered one word first: humbling.
“It’s humbling to see people whose only goal is to do what they believe to be right,” he said. “Everyone in the American military is a volunteer. They don’t have to be there. At some point they could always get out of the military and probably make a lot more money doing something else.”
Green’s even-keeled, cheerful demeanor belies what could have been tough years in the military. That he’s been absent from a lot of the public discussion surrounding Richmond’s 2012 City Council race doesn’t faze him much, either.
To the linebacker-sized 36-year-old with a pierced tongue and speech so rapid and eager that it tumbles over itself as it comes out of his mouth, hefty fundraising for a local election seems like overkill. “You shouldn’t have to be a millionaire to run for City Council,” he said. “I think that’s silly.”
The reason he didn’t file a campaign disclosure statement with the City Clerk, for instance, is because there was nothing for him to disclose. “I’m not taking donations from anybody,” he said. “All the things I’m doing for my campaign I’m funding myself.”
Green works 70 hours a week as a security guard for the St. Regis Hotel and the Owl Tree and Playland bars in San Francisco. To attend a town hall meeting, he needs to get someone to cover his shift.
This one of the reasons he’s so keen on bringing more jobs to Richmond. “You can’t really work in Richmond, you’ve got to go somewhere else to work,” he said. “I’m a prime example of that. For one of my jobs, I have to be there at 6 a.m. That means I have to get up at 4. I would love to work in Richmond!”
Green decided to run for City Council after the Point Molate casino proposal was voted down in 2011. The casino would have been a huge boost for Richmond’s economy, he said – a way to create high-paying jobs, reel in taxes, and diversify a city that’s so dependent on Chevron.
If he’s elected, Green’s top priority will be to support the small business community, especially through low-interest loans from the city.
“I want to make a difference, to help the city grow a little bit,” he said. “Richmond is a great city. I love it here. But we get such a bad rap everywhere we go. Know what I mean? If we can make our city more of a mecca for small businesses – if we can get our own little area with little cafes and boutique shops and stuff – I think it would help our image.”
Green has long been interested in politics; “it’s one of the only things I’m really into,” he said. He left the military to finish his degree in political science from San Francisco State, and has worked on a variety of campaigns, including President Obama’s first campaign and two candidates’ campaigns for the Fairfield City Council. He has also volunteered in Congressman George Miller’s office and worked with the public workers’ union SEIU Local 1021.
Green moved to Richmond from New Jersey when he was six and grew up across a handful of Richmond neighborhoods. Before he joined the military at 18 – which, he said, was probably because he “watched one too many Top Gun movies” – he went to Richmond High and played for the Oilers.
When I told him I’d gone to a recent game to snap photos, his face lit up and tensed expectantly, as if he were suddenly back on the team himself. “Oh yeah? How’d they do?”
“Well, they lost,” I admitted. “Pretty badly.”
His shoulders slumped as he laughed wryly and fist-punched the air. “That’s kind of an Oilers tradition, actually,” he said. “Our freshman team is good, our JV team is good, but somehow when they get to varsity it just goes all downhill.”
Green said he thinks that’s because of a lack of funding. “A lot of schools spend a lot more money on their teams than Richmond does. Richmond High, they haven’t touched that school since I’ve been there. That school is falling apart.”
He supports Measure N mostly because a small tax on a can of soda could help fund community health programs, but he wants part of it to go to education, too.
“California ranks 47th in the amount we spend on our kids, but we’re ranked 5th in the world’s economy,” he said. “Something’s wrong about that statistic. You know what I mean?”
If he could, he’d also expand Richmond’s Police Activities League, which organizes recreational and educational programs for youth as a way to improve the community’s relationship with the police department.
“Out there now on the streets, there’s really an ‘us and them’ mentality,” he said. “Police are seen as outsiders. We’ve got to find a way to fix that, and the only way you can fix that is with trust.”
Green went to high school with several members of the RPD, so “it’s really not ‘us and them,’” he said. “They’re us! They went to school out here, they grew up out here, and now they came to help the community out here. People need to realize that.”
In his free time – the little that he has – Green would always rather be active and outside (“I am definitely not an office person,” he said. “Not an office person.”) When he was stationed in Japan, he went scuba diving every weekend. In Richmond, he bikes. His favorite pastime – snowboarding – doesn’t even happen every year, but “it’s probably one of the best things I ever did.” Not surprisingly for a Top Gun fan and an Air Force retiree, “I have a thing for speed.”
He’s not necessarily the best at it, either, but he has no qualms. “Snowboarding is easy,” he said. “I can’t turn left or stop. I can only turn right and tumble. So I just start on the left side of the hill and I just gradually work my way to the right. When I can’t go right anymore I just fall.”
More comfortable on the slope than in front of a crowd, Green’s plan over the last few weeks before the election is to hit one more town hall meeting – if he can get the time off – and then take some vacation days to head to Richmond’s residential neighborhoods with a group of friends, knocking on doors and building personal rapport.
“I went to one of those town hall meetings, but I’m not a good public speaker,” he said, blushing slightly. “I get nervous, I speak fast… I kind of have a little lisp once in a while. But one-on-one, I can meet people, I can tell them my ideals, and I think I can connect a bit better that way.”
Despite being out-advertised by many of the other candidates, “I think we’ll be just fine,” he said. “I feel good about it.”
When I asked if he’d run again if he lost, he didn’t miss a beat. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere. This is my city. As long as I’m living here I’m going to be running for City Council – until I win it.”