The City Council returned to business – with the meeting going into the next morning and the occasional spat between councilmembers — at its first post-election meeting Tuesday night.
Before the meeting started, audience members were told to wait outside while fire and police officials responded to a carbon monoxide leak in the council chambers building. Richmond Fire Marshal Terry Harris said that the Fire Department responded to a call by a person who complained of the smell of gas and a headache. The building was evacuated around 5 p.m. Around 6:45 p.m., the attendees were permitted to re-enter the chambers. Harris continued to monitor the carbon monoxide throughout the meeting.
The tenor of the meeting was set during public comment, where many Richmond residents focused on the health of councilmember-elect Gary Bell, who is currently hospitalized for the treatment of meningitis, according to the Contra Costa Times.
Councilmember Nat Bates said he visited Bell at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Richmond Friday evening, and said he was in “good spirits” and was asking the nurse when he could go home. The next day, Bell’s condition worsened, and he was rushed to the Redwood City Kaiser facility.
“I was surprised because when I left him, he was in good condition,” Bates said.
Angela Cleo Smith, Bell’s campaign coordinator, posted a message to his Facebook page Nov. 12 stating that he had since had two major surgeries. Over the phone, Smith declined to comment on his condition but said that he is being “monitored.”
Richmond resident Antwon Cloird opened the public comment section of the meeting with a request that councilmembers restart the meeting and have a moment of silence for Bell. Later, Eduardo Martinez answered Cloird’s request during his own open forum comment; Martinez used the final 30 seconds of his time at the podium for a moment of silence and prayer for Bell.
When the group moment of reflection had ended, the meeting’s discussion moved to a resolution adopted by the city to enter a lease agreement for a property at 256 24th St., which will be home to the future West Contra Costa Family Justice Center. The new facility will be a “one-stop shop” with a range of services for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking, and child abuse and neglect, Police Chief Chris Magnus said during the presentation.
“This is a very exciting item, and I think one of what will hopefully be our biggest forward steps in terms of providing public safety and reducing crimes in Richmond,” Magnus said.
A council agenda item relating to the issue of the Marin Clean Energy Community Choice Aggregation program, which has served as a source of contention for councilmembers Butt and Booze, was moved to next week’s meeting. The scheduled report by staff was postponed at the request of Booze because he said city staff did not provide him with documentation he requested before the meeting.
As the meeting came to a close, Mayor McLaughlin sent further thoughts of well wishes for a speedy recovery to councilmember-elect Bell and his family.
His health and well-being were also on the mind of Councilmember Nat Bates.
“He’s a fighter; he’s tough; he’s going to come back,” Bates said. “We need him on the council.”
Additional reporting by Avni Nijhawan.