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Ritterman to step aside, field open for candidates for Richmond City Council

on April 23, 2012

Jeff Ritterman is out. Marilyn Langlois and Eduardo Martinez want in.

The campaign kickoff event at the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) downtown offices Sunday drew more than 120 people and featured speeches from this fall’s candidates for city office about platforms and accomplishments. But the biggest news was Councilman Ritterman’s public proclamation that he will not run for re-election in November after one term on the council.

“I came here in 1981. I was 32 years old, and they made me chief of cardiology at Kaiser hospital,” Ritterman told the crowd. “I sort of never looked back, never took a breath.”

After a pause, Ritterman said his decision was based mostly on a desire to spend more time with family. “My motivation has always come from my loved ones, my family, there are a lot of them in the neighborhoods here, and it’s just time to replenish that well,” Ritterman said.

November’s election promises significant change. Along with Ritterman’s seat, those of Councilmen Nat Bates and Tom Butt are up for re-election. Both council stalwarts, Bates and Butt have said they will run to retain their seats. Along with Langlois and Martinez, Native American activist Mike “Raccoon Eyes” Kinney has announced a run for council. If Langlois and Martinez are elected, RPA candidates could hold a majority on the city council. Of the seven members that comprise the council and mayor, at least three are RPA-supported.

Rumors that Ritterman would not seek re-election have swirled for weeks. Elected in 2008, the renowned cardiologist transitioned into a political force. His energy and zest for debate won him admiration from supporters and derision from opponents. He is opting to step down after arguably his most vigorous year in office. Ritterman spearheaded the successful efforts to snare the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which chose Richmond for a major new research campus, and has fought hard for a new tax on soda sales, which he argues will reduce consumption of excessive processed sugars in Richmond. The soda tax ballot measure goes to voters in November.

Ritterman also noted that he and his coalition were successful in thwarting efforts to build a casino at Point Molate. “We have very much further to go,” Ritterman said to the RPA crowd on Sunday. “It’s a long road.”

Those comments were part of his segue to supporting Langlois and Martinez, whom he predicted would replace himself and Councilman Bates on the council.

Martinez, who lost a bid for council in 2010, said, “I want to build a city that gives highest priority to our kids.”

Martinez, a retired school teacher, stressed the importance of education, and said the school system must be better integrated into city public policy making. Martinez also said the city must do a better job of re-integrating residents who have been recently released from prisons, and supported more job training at the neighborhood level. “We need to start a program where community centers become job centers,” Martinez said.

Martinez also touched on the Berkeley lab, which will bring tens of millions of dollars in federal funding to the city. “We must be sure [the lab] hires Richmond residents,” Martinez said.

Langlois, who earlier this month stepped down from her position as Mayor Gayle McLaughlin’s community liaison, began her remarks by introducing her mother, Barbara Langlois. The elder Langlois, age 90, was the first woman elected to council in the city of Lafayette in 1974. “She advocated what we now call equitable development and smart growth, long before they were buzzwords,” Marilyn Langlois said.

Langlois praised Ritterman for his efforts to highlight income inequality, and said she would take a similar path. “I intend to continue that theme throughout my campaign. I know that is possible for everybody to have a good life if we can do a better job of sharing all of our resources and assets. Including those of multibillion-dollar corporations, who are still lacking a little bit in their sharing skills,” Langlois said, drawing hearty laughter from the crowd.

Langlois also praised McLaughlin, her former boss, for serving as a “pioneer and guiding light for all of us” in her progressive efforts.

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