Controversial Measure N grabs spotlight at council meeting
on September 26, 2012
Two major issues are dominating the election season in Richmond. Monday gave the Chevron fire center stage, but on Tuesday, it was time for Measure N to return to the spotlight – and even councilmembers who are not seeking reelection this November decided to enter the fray.
At the council meeting two weeks ago, people carrying ‘No on Measure N’ signs welcomed visitors in the Civic Center plaza. Tuesday, children in sports uniforms from an array of sports clubs in Richmond, clutching signs and posters handed out by the Fit for Life campaign in support of the “soda tax,” filled the council chamber.
The Fit for Life campaign pointed to the children and parents as an example in support of the measure, but the Richmond sports club representatives were more interested in the need for more sports facilities for Richmond youth.
Each chair in the chamber also had a small campaign card promoting Measure N—a point of major contention at the start of the meeting.
Juan Reardon, who was representing the Fit for Life organization supporting Measure N, said that two weeks ago he received an OK from a police officer to place political literature on the seats, as long as they were not handed out to members of the public in the chamber.
After the call to roll, Councilmember Corky Booze argued that the fliers had been distributed illegally and should be removed from the room.
“There are fliers in this chamber, like this,” Booze said, holding up the blue-and-white flier from his chair. “And these fliers are political fliers that aren’t supposed to be here. Correct me if I’m wrong, the city attorney said they were supposed to be removed. They were thrown on the floor. And before we start this council meeting we need to police our council chambers. If we are going to allow people to come in here and trash our chambers…”
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin interrupted, and after a brief back and forth, McLaughlin said, “I would like to ask our officer to please, either through the city manager, or someone, to please just pick up the fliers that are on the floor and that’s the end of that. It was a mistake.”
City staff members, including City Manager Bill Lindsay, began collecting the campaign material from the audience.
But Booze and McLaughlin continued to argue.
As the argument finally died down for a moment, Mayor McLaughlin asked the city clerk to read the code of ethics.
Booze immediately interjected and said, “I don’t know why you are reading the code of ethics when you don’t follow them.”
City Clerk Diane Holmes began reading. “City of Richmond code of ethics,” she said. “We shall be professional, courteous and respectful –”
Members of the audience laughed, causing Holmes to pause.
Following the code of ethics, the hubbub returned to the audience as more campaign fliers were being collected.
“I would like some order in the chambers, right now,” said McLaughlin, clacking her gavel. “I would like everyone’s voices to cease to make comments.”
One member of the public, Johanna Carty, said she was not willing to let the conflict continue in front of her two children, and the other children in attendance. Carty stood up, interrupting the arguing councilmembers and said, “What kind of example are you setting for the kids? There are a lot of kids here. Can you guys act like adults? Please.”
McLaughlin then asked for order in the chamber for the rest of the meeting and transitioned to the public comment section of the meeting – where the audience turned the subject immediately back to the soda tax and council decorum.
It was the third Tuesday evening meeting in a row for the City Council, and only five weeks remain before the election.
“The heat of the election is upon us,” council candidate Eduardo Martinez said during his public comment.
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I think a more helpful way to frame the behavior of the Council is to address actual examples of where they fail to adhere to Rosenberg’s Rules or get off topic from the actual issues on the agenda and into personal attacks on other council members or members of the community. Those are somewhat more objective ways of describing what happens in the Council chambers.
It’s embarrassing to see how these small children are being used for political gain by unscrupulous and manipulative people. These children are handed signs to hold up because they know it’s what the news media is looking for when they take their photos or shoot their B-roll for the 11 o’clock news. Do you think these children really understand what Measure N is all about? Some of them can’t even read the signs they’ve been given to hoist before the assembled crowd.
These kids–and their parents and coaches–are being misled into thinking that if we add a 46% tax to a can of soda that overnight two dozen new soccer fields will pop up in their neighborhoods. Has anyone actually looked around to figure out where these new soccer fields can be erected?
And Dr. Ritterman has declared that he wants the Measure N proceeds to be used to teach all 3rd graders how to swim at the Plunge. Has he even talked with the School Board about taking the kids out of class or does he plan to force them to attend his classes on their own time? And will he provide transportation for these kids from where they live so they can all head to Point Richmond to learn to swim?
I wonder what the reaction from the Kayakers and the senior citizens who pretty much own the Plunge will be when a thousand or more third graders are allowed to use “their” Plunge.
Ms. Carty is correct when she voices her concerns about the show of anger and hostility from the Council members in front of the kiddies. I’d like to take it one step further and tell them that I’m a sensitive soul and as a senior citizen I don’t like seeing people fuss and fight in front of me. Like so many others, I don’t care who started it or even who ends it–I don’t want to see it at all. Hostility begets hostility. It’s like a failure by some members who refuse to respect each other and the public. This failure to respect begets a failure to of the public to respect the members of the Council.
I used to run some pretty good sized construction projects and many of the contractors had a sensible policy about fighting: they didn’t care who started it or who was at fault. If you got into a fight you were fired on the spot. You’d be surprised how people learned to get along with each other. [At least until they got to the bar after work where there were no holds barred.]