Last week, city council pushed back a decision to take the next step in annexing North Richmond after councilmembers expressed concern over logistics and public opinion. The vote will now occur on October 17, extending the already long and contentious debate.
According to Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, the city council needed more input from the public in order to make an informed decision. “It seems to me that we are putting the cart before the horse,” she said at the meeting.
Her concern seemed to drive the discussion last Tuesday, September 26, with councilmembers Jael Myrick and Melvin Willis expressing similar sentiments.
The mayor, however, argued that there would be plenty of time for both the residents of North Richmond and also the city of Richmond to back out if the situation was not agreeable.
“The residents and businesses in unincorporated North Richmond will have a full opportunity to vote on this proposition,” he said. “No matter what we do, if a majority of the community does not want to do it, then they can stop it.”
Lou Ann Texeira, a representative from Contra Costa’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), explained that all it would take is a single statement of protest from a registered voter or homeowner to throw the decision into public forum.
At that point, if written protests were received from more than 25 percent of the qualified population, the matter would be decided in a vote by North Richmond residents.
Beckles appeared concerned with the logistics of that process, claiming that requiring a written statement places an extra burden on communities of color. She said there were merits to other options, though, such as voting.
City Manager Bill Lindsay pointed out that, as an alternative to Richmond initiating the process, residents of North Richmond could bring annexation to a vote by submitting an application to LAFCO by petition, which would require the support of 25 percent of registered voters and homeowners. Alternatively, Contra Costa County could put forth an advisory measure to gauge public support.
Butt said that the county has shown no interest in spending additional costs and resources for such an option.
As for public opinion, only three speakers addressed the council on the matter. And they were equally as divided.
Mike Parker, a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance claimed that North Richmond was a part of the city in every sense, “except in the way that somebody drew the lines.” He added that the community should begin the annexation process as a gesture of goodwill.
Henry Clark, a North Richmond resident and member of the municipal advisory council, said that annexation was an attempt at gentrification, and North Richmond did not need any help from the city.
“We’re taking care of ourselves,” he said.
Robert Rogers, a district coordinator in Supervisor John Gioia’s office, also spoke at the meeting. He explained that current North Richmond residents represent less than a third of a percent of eligible voters in the county. As a part of Richmond, they would represent 3 percent.
At this point in the process, there appear more questions than answers—a fact compounded by an inquiry raised by another public speaker, Don Gosney.
“Do the people of Richmond want this to happen,” he asked.
“How exactly will we benefit from this?”