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Richmond City Council members

City Council swings into election season

on September 12, 2012

At its first public meeting since the Aug. 6 Chevron refinery fire and a Measure N—referred to as the “soda tax”—lawsuit filed against the city, Tuesday night’s hotly anticipated City Council meeting painted for the Richmond community a clear portrait of its pending election season.

“Trends are already beginning to form,” said Councilmember Tom Butt after the meeting about the strong positions taken by many of the candidates. Butt was ready to define his own reelection campaign as the middle ground in a divided city.

“On one side you have the pro-Chevron establishment candidates like Bell, Bates, Boozé and Roberson and then on the other side you have the two RPA candidates,” he said. “I’m the sweet spot.”

Nine of the 11 council candidates attended Tuesday’s meeting. Marilyn Langlois, Gary Bell, Bea Roberson, Mark Wassberg, Eleanor Thompson and Mike Ali-Kinney all took the opportunity to speak during public forum, while current Councilmembers Butt and Nat Bates spoke from the council dais.

As the council considered amending the city’s industrial safety ordinance following the Chevron fire, Councilmembers and candidates were clearly divided between acting now and waiting until the investigation into the Chevron incident by the Chemical Safety Board was complete.

Councilmember Corky Boozé argued against the amendment, and was joined by Councilmember Nat Bates.

The CSB “came in from Washington,” Bates said. “Why are we going to jump ahead of the experts?”

Boozé and Bates were vocal from the outset, and tried to draw sharp contrasts between themselves and other councilmembers.

“They don’t care about poor people,” Boozé said from the dais and gestured to his RPA opponents.

Councilmember Jeff Ritterman, an RPA member who has repeatedly clashed with Boozé in the past, is not running for re-election and said the Bates and Boozé alliance was all part of the game.

“You’ll see that Bates and Boozé are attacking Butt, saying he’s getting special privileges,” Ritterman said. “It’s all part of the politics.”

Measure N, as it has all year, continued to play another part in the politicking. In a closed-door executive session before the meeting, the council discussed the city’s defense against a campaign disclosure lawsuit filed by the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin had removed the discussion from the public agenda at the start of the meeting and directed staff not to talk about the closed session. Boozé and Bates objected, saying it was the city’s duty to the citizens of Richmond to remain transparent on the issue, but City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller said that Councilmembers could not talk about the issue due to attorney-client privilege.

Having clearly separated themselves from the progressive alliance that now controls the council, Boozé and Bates hope to capitalize on the election not just to keep Bates in his seat but to add to their ranks by electing Bea Roberson, who aligns with Bates and Boozé on several issues.

“My goal is getting my team together and up there on the Council,” Boozé said.

But candidate Marilyn Langlois, one of two RPA candidates whose election might help the progressives achieve a four-seat council majority, said she was skeptical about speakers’ intentions at the meeting.

“There’s always the difficulty of seeing if people are speaking because they’re really looking out for the best interests of all of the Richmond residents,” she said. “Or are they just trying to carry votes with one constituency or another?”

And though they’re on opposite sides of the Richmond political spectrum for now, Nat Bates said he agreed.

“You’re going to find a lot of politicking between now and the election, people using anything and everything to try and get an advantage,” he said. “It will probably even get nasty, but that’s the nature of politics.”


  1. Felix Hunziker on September 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    As usual Nat Bates offers a calmer, more circumspect view on all this political theater. Tom Butt is putting up a smokescreen – he hates Chevron, votes with the RPA bloc and is hardly the moderate he attempts to portray. Marilyn just carries water for the RPA – that’s been clear for years.

  2. Billie Herman on September 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    …and, just what exactly did get accomplished at this meeting? Doesn’t sound like they do much of anything but rail at each other. What got done for the City of Richmond at this particular meeting? Sounds like nothing!

  3. Jeff Ritterman on September 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    I think the meeting clearly illustrated the polarization with Bates, Booze, Bell and Roberson taking a position favoring Chevron. Bates’ billboards are financed by Chevron. At a time when the community needs to hold Chevron accountable for the recent fire it makes no sense to have Chevron sponsored candidates on the City Council. In addition, the current city council majority which does not include Bates or Booze has taken the city far. We have avoided the terrible mistake of the gambling casino. We have more solar than any other neighboring city. We have joined Marine Energy Authority which will move the city and the state toward a greener energy mix. We were chosen as the site of the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs Bay Campus. We have a growing cluster of green the, clean tech and health companies. Crime is down. The budget is balanced. The only smart choices for City Council are Marilyn Langlois, Eduardo Martinez and Tom Butt.

    • Tonyt Suggs on September 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm


      Terrible mistake of the casino. Well, San Pablo seems to be doing just fine. Paved roads, new El Portal Center, cleaned up their part of 23rd Street.

      Chevron sponsored candidates. No other corporation has ever supported candidates for any office local, statewide or nationally?

      Dr Ritterman, who have you taken contributions from? Any evil corporations, even other doctors that are also “corporations?

      More solar panels. Great! How many permanent jobs have that created?

      LBNL. How many of those jobs held by Richmond residents?

      It will be nice to have a council made up of all the same political ideology. That way there are no viewpoints from a different perspective.

      At least then the meetings will go much quicker because everyone will already have their vote told to them.

      That in itself will save the city money. They can shut the lights off earlier and save some of that green energy.

    • Don Gosney on September 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Why is it that when someone suggests being prudent and pragmatic the RPA folk always shout that they must be in the pockets of Chevron or some other big business?

      And where does it say that every big business is always working against the people?

      And why is it that at every turn we have “leaders’ of our community that ignore the actual issues and turn things personal?

      We’re actually allowed to disagree on issues without going nuclear and proclaiming a jihad against people that disagree.

      Take, for instance, Tom Butt’s position that every old building in town (except my house) is historic and is deserving of preservation and gazillions of tax dollars for restoration. On many of these buildings Tom and I disagree. But do you see me threatening Tom or lurking around his home late at night? No–it’s just a disagreement on the issues. It’s not personal.

      On the other hand, a short while ago when a member of the Council was pushing to outlaw the ownership of pets, after he won the vote he admonished the public for wasting the Council’s time speaking out against issues when everyone knew the Council already had the votes to win. All the while he was staring directly at me. That was personal.

      Sometimes it’s wise to dial it down a notch. None of us should have to worry about about our personal safety when heading back to our cars. None of us should have to worry about the late night phone calls threatening our homes or family just because we haven’t bought stock in the RPA Kool-Aid factory (the stuff without the sugar additives).

      • Jeff Ritterman on September 17, 2012 at 7:10 am

        Don, As far as Chevron’s pockets. Let’s face it, Nat Bates’ billboards were paid for by Chevron, no question about it. I suspect Chevron also favors Bea Roberson and Gary Bell. Let’s also face the fact that this is no time to have councilmembers in office who have a debt to repay to Chevron. We have had a disaster of a fire. We need councilmembers with the independence to be able to stand up to Chevron not councilmembers who owe their seats to Chevron.

        Bates, Bell and Roberson are Councilmember Booze’s “team”. In my view Councilmember Booze has been a very destructive force since being on the council.

        If you like Booze’s antics, if you think Chevron should have its candidates controlling the City Council, then you should vote that way. If not, you should vote for Marilyn Langlois, Eduardo Martinez and Tom Butt and as Danny Glover says: YES on N, Less Soda More Sports equals Healthy Children.

        Not sure if it is me you are referring to about the pet issue but if you remember correctly you and others complained about the time wasted when in fact you and others who complained wasted all of the time. The item came to me in February. I delayed until June so as not to put it on an already over loaded agenda. The presentation and discussion were very short on purpose so as to conserve time. What was the point of wasting the communities time to say the item took up valuable time. The next meeting it was on the Consent calendar needing no time at all and someone removed it from consent and again we had the complaint about how much time the item took up when in fact it was again the complainers who wasted the time. Not sure if you are just having trouble remembering what actually took place or if you are just misrepresenting what happened.

  4. Tom Butt on September 12, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Good story, but what I said was “sweet spot,” not “switch spot.”

    • Rachel Witte on September 13, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Hi Tom – Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve made the change to the article.

  5. Chevron's Pollution on September 12, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Chevron’s councilmembers:
    Irma Anderson (gone)
    John Marquez (gone)
    Harpreet Sandhu (gone)
    Maria T. Viramontes (gone)
    Ludmyrna Lopez (gone)
    Nat Bates
    Corky Booze

    • Chevron's pollution on September 12, 2012 at 11:22 pm


      Gary Bell (gone, re-attempting)

    • Jim Kay on September 13, 2012 at 3:07 am

      That looks like veolia’s check list, or what remains of it.

  6. Mike (Ali) Raccoon Eyes Kinney on September 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    While everybody else is running their mouths about nothing during the campaign trial, my election to a seat to the City Council is getting closer daily! I say to this this community and voters: RISE TO POWER!
    Mike Raccoon Eyes,
    Native Advocate and Candidate for Richmond CA. City Council 2012.

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