With exactly three weeks until the upcoming election, Richmond’s key political players were out in full swing and the council’s division on full display at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The main source of tension for the evening was a recent fight between Corky Booze and Richmond Progressive Alliance member David Moore. The much-disputed incident between the two men resulted in an exchange of blows outside the Sept. 20 Point Richmond Neighborhood Council’s Candidates Night forum.
Councilmember Nat Bates placed an item on the agenda to talk about the altercation, but Tom Butt then moved that the council table the discussion. Jeff Ritterman seconded the motion by Butt, which removed the item from the agenda. Due to the council’s official rules as read by City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller, further comment on the issue could not be made from the council dais, and any councilmember who wished to speak would have to do so during open forum.
Nat Bates, Jim Rogers and Corky Booze did just that.
Booze took the one minute allotted to individuals in public comment to say he would call the District Attorney to press charges against Moore the following morning, and to call out Butt’s block of the item.
“As long as we’re doing what you want it’s OK,” he said to Butt. “But you really showed your true colors tonight.”
Bates, speaking from the podium, said he was looking out for the rest of the council.
“The attack on Councilmember Booze could have been directed at any one of us,” Bates said. “My concern has to do with the safety of all of us.”
Rogers, who typically sides with the council’s progressive alliance, agreed with Bates and said that discussion of the incident should rise above the council’s divisive nature. The item was really an issue of public policy, he said.
Bates said we live in a “violent society,” and both he and Rogers suggested metal detectors as a solution to the concerns raised by the incident.
“If a person comes up unprovoked and attacks another person, that’s a serious crime in my opinion,” Bates said. “Especially if it’s an elected official.”
Other speakers during open forum, like City Council candidate Bea Roberson, said they suspected the decision to table the item stemmed from a fear that discussion of the issue would bring to light details from the incident—including suspicions that the RPA planned the alleged attack—that the group would rather keep secret.
“If you are not afraid of the facts that are going to come out, let it be brought forward and spoken about,” Roberson said.
RPA member Michael Parker, though, said the item’s placement on the agenda in the first place was an abuse of council power by Bates and Booze.
“It was put on there to divert attention from the fact that Councilmember Booze is himself involved in other assaults,” Parker said.
After the meeting, Bates said that by attempting to present the item, he was hopeful that the council would discuss the incident and take a collective position that incidents of this kind would not be tolerated regardless of who is being attacked.
Bates said he recognizes that the tabling of the issue comes down to the council’s consistent struggle with divisiveness.
“Had it been someone other than Corky, I know that it would have been another reaction,” he said. “That’s not the way government should operate.”