City Council Election 2012: Gary Bell
on October 19, 2012
Gary Bell was the first person in his family to go to college, a star football player, and the youngest city council member ever elected in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas.
But don’t ask the Richmond City Council candidate about his defeats.
“Did you just use the defeated word with me?” he asks, his eyebrows arched incredulously.
“Well, you lost the election, right?” I say, referring to his Richmond run in 2005.
“Isn’t that what you just told me? You didn’t get reelected?”
“That’s what happened. I didn’t get reelected. There are very few things I have ever lost in my life.”
Not being re-elected in 2005, missing a win in 2006 for mayor, and suspending a campaign in 2010 because of his wife’s health issues haven’t put a damper on Bell’s optimistic attitude towards the Richmond City Council election
“We just didn’t work hard enough” the last time, he says, “and there was an anti-incumbency environment.” Bell had previously served on the Richmond council from 2000 to 2005.
This year, the candidate focused on fixing the city’s budget and adding jobs went door to door angling in voters most likely to pick him, leaving personally signed fliers at their door if they weren’t home.
As he walks through the northeast upper Macdonald neighborhood, he is careful to avoid houses with gates; a dog bite from his childhood still brings back memories.
“I was shaking back there,” he said after two pit bulls leaped to the door after he rang the bell at one house.
Bell believes those most likely to vote for him are his prior supporters, between 35 and 55 years old, minorities, earn an income of $25,000 and above, and have at least a high school education.
Bell has been active in the community despite not being in city government since 2005, serving on half a dozen committees and volunteering at the Souper Center and the National Institute of Art and Disabilities center, where he is also a board member.
“I know what I’m getting myself into,” the City Council veteran said with a smile, adding that he hopes to bring people together with a bipartisan approach – an attitude much like that of President Obama, who he strongly supports. As with Obama’s generally centrist approach, Bell fiercely guards his position as a candidate independent from the influence of political groups like the Richmond Progressive Alliance, or its nemesis, Chevron.
When asked if existing council members support him, Bell sighs. “I have mixed feelings on accepting their endorsements because right now the council is split, so if you accept one person’s endorsement then it almost puts you in a situation where you’re supposedly matched up with someone else, and I don’t want to create that environment.”
But part of the reluctance to take sides may also be because Bell grew up as the middle child with five brothers and four sisters sharing one bedroom, sleeping on bunk beds, on pallets, and on the floor.
“I grew up with more people in my family than there are people on the City Council,” he said. “I know how to get along and how to negotiate to some extent.”
Bell was raised in Wichita — along with his numerous siblings — by his single mother. His father, who was in the army, left the family when Bell was five years old.
“When you watch somebody who figures out a way to raise 10 kids on their own and none of us are in jail and none of us have turned out really bad … she passed some of that on to us,” he said, explaining that it has contributed to his work ethic.
In high school, Bell, an athlete, didn’t think about going to college until a friend on the wrestling team got a college scholarship.
“I seriously said to him, ‘Do you think I can get one of those?’” Bell recalled with a laugh. He’d soon pocketed a half-scholarship for wrestling.
It wasn’t long before he managed to get a full football scholarship to Garden City College, and eventually, another one to Wichita State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business. It wasn’t long before Bell made his way to Richmond for a job opportunity at Imperial Bank, eventually getting an MBA from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, and finally becoming CEO of Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union in Berkeley. He was also recently appointed to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Some in the community have raised questions about support Bell has received from Moving Forward, a group created by a San Francisco law firm and funded entirely by Chevron. The group spent nearly $12,000 on signage supporting Bell; but Bell said he never asked for their endorsement and was not given any money directly from the organization.
“This moving on group? I don’t know them, I’m not sitting down with them,” he said. “My support is widespread, very widespread. Because one organization or one entity makes a larger contribution doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to be more beholden to them than someone who’s out walking doors. That means more to me.”
Richmond Confidential welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Richmond Confidential assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.
Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.
Please send news tips to email@example.com.
What’s your position on medical cannabis dispensaries? Green jobs? Heavy crude processing? Bike paths on the side streets? Chief Magnus?
Support for medical cannabis.
Support Green Jobs.
Not sure of your question on heavy crude, it has to processed but under right conditions.
Bike paths are good for the community.
No problems with Chief Magnus.
Hope that answers your questions.
From the East Bay Express, 10/17:
“At least one of Chevron’s candidates has had problems of his own.
Former Councilman Gary Bell took his wife to Las Vegas at taxpayer expense during the eight-week lame duck period after he was voted off the council in 2004. According to city records, Bell charged nearly $3,000 to his city travel account for seminar materials, travel, hotel, and car rental.
Ostensibly, Bell was attending a seminar on affordable housing, but it is unclear how taxpayers benefitted from sending two de facto private citizens on a three-day trip to Las Vegas. The indiscretion is magnified because at the time, Richmond was gripped by the worst financial crisis in its history. Hundreds of city employees had been laid off and library branches and senior centers closed.
From: “Big Oil Targets Little Richmond, Again:
The political battle between Chevron and grassroots progressives is continuing this fall.”
By John Geluardi
Read the article in East Bay Express.
None of the article is true.
Very poor piece of writing.
You say “None of the article is true.”
So, just to be clear:
You and your wife did not travel to Las Vegas at taxpayer expense after you were voted out of office in 2004?
Why does the reporter cite city records of your expenditures?
Don’t the voters of Richmond have a right to know how you spent their tax money during your previous term of office?
Yes. Can you back up your lies with documents. I have receipts to document all of my travel and my wife travel. what do you have/
Hi Gary, Do you really want to challenge my story in a public forum?
If you have records produce them.
John, do your home work like a good reporter would do. I have receipts to back me up. I do not appreciate you including my wife in this political lie you are puting out there on behalf of the Richmond Progressive Allaince.
How low will the RPA go?
I know it is hard for you guys to accept that I am independent.
Please understand, this election is not just about Chevron and the RPA.
Gary should stop claiming he has no ties to Chevron and the Beverage Industry as if they are like unwanted suitors sending flowers.
Actually, Bell should manifest his better qualities by disavowing himself from the more vicious and cruel mailers sent out by his supporters. He owes it to the public and himself to stand up bravely.
I am independent. I am not a member of the RPA, nor have I taken contributions from Chevron or the Beverage people. You know I have no control over the negative flyers being sent out, including the one from Council Member Beckles who is a member of the RPA.
Both groups should be ashamed of how you are damaging the democratic process.
Being independent takes more courage than joining a group. But then what would know about being independent.
Gary, do you want to denounce the smear letters or would that upset your campaign corporate sponsors. I am an independent who voted for Obama, Butt, Langlois, and Martinez.
Actually, i feel you are far superior to Bates and Booze, but those letters are cheap and tawdry. So, denounce them.
Mr. Bell vehemently denies he’s in any way involved with Chevron’s promotion of him. But why did he, Bates and Roberson pose (individually and as a trio) for all those professional portrait photos in the Chevron billboards and mailers? Did Chevron’s ad agency take Mr. Bell’s photo without his permission?
As canidates we take pictures all the time. Sometimes in groups sometimes as indivduals.
It is my firm opinion that If Mr. Bell valued his integrity as much as he values holding political office, he would have come out months before the election asking Chevron to cease and desist with funding any type of media supporting his campaign. Plain and simple.
Mr. Bell has spoken out of both sides of his mouth – he didn’t own up to having a relationship with Chevron or the Chevron funded “Moving On” PAC, but he did nothing to stop their involvement / support of his campaign. While I find Nat Bates much more distasteful than Mr. Bell, at least Nat makes no attempt to sidestep his relationship with Chevron. The same cannot be said about Mr. Bell.
Now that Chevron’s purchase of his council seat has been finalized, let’s see how he votes. We’ll be watching with a bag of popcorn.
re: Vegas trip
As you well know, I have the documents to back up my story. I always do. Your attempt to discredit me by claiming I am in league with the Richmond Progressive Alliance is baseless and offensive.
If you can produce receipts showing you repaid the city for your 2004 Vegas trip, I’ll happily write a retraction. Until then, the record shows you charged the trip to your city of Richmond travel account, which was at The Mechanics Bank and managed by Trina Jackson then with the city’s finance department. All of the charges were made after you were voted off the council. The charges, $2,552.37 not including meals, were as follows:
11-15-04 South West Airlines $160.20
11-18-04 Novogradac $ CO LLP $1,287.12
12-6-04 Dollar Rental-Las Vegas $406.60
12-6-04 Four Seasons-Las Vegas $704.45
Please let me know if you would like to review the documents.
John my records reveal the following:
$ 160.20 Air travel for myself only
$1287.12 Study materials for conference
$ 406.60 Ground transportation/week
$ 704.45 Conference Hotel/week
All expenses accounted for and considered normal. No one from city hall has questioned the expenses to this date but you.
My wife did not travel at city taxpayers’ expense and you know that for a fact. The conference was on tax credit financing. I was still a member of the City Council until mid January. Tax credit finance is important to affordable housing creation in our underserved communities.
Since leaving office I continue to work with underserved communities with affordable housing needs. I took an oath to serve and my service does not stop with the outcome of an election. I will remain committed to helping to improve our city and that is why I a running again.
As we discussed my recent appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was because of my work in this area well. By the way the CFPB is responsible for hold large banks accountable; I will use my experience with CFPB to hold Chevron accountable as well. I was appointed to help with the work because of my background not my politics.
Go to http://www.consumerfinance.gov/pressreleases/consumer-financial-protection-bureau-announces-consumer-advisory-board-members/ and read my bio they posted of why I was selected.
John, I am not trying to discredit you; I just think you should report the full story. I also want you to leave my wife and my family out of your attacks on me as a candidate. As I have stated before, I don’t support negative information being spread about any candidate, regardless of who it is coming from.
By the way it does not include meals because I paid for those out of my own pocket.
When I came to Richmond in 1998, I quickly noticed that Chevron ran the city government. It was that way until the RPA candidates started getting elected to the City Council and as mayor. I do not think it a coincidence that Chevron has paid for huge billboards all over town supporting you, They do not spend money frivolously. Would you please give me examples of times that you have criticized and/or voted against Chevron for their emissions, for their appealing their tax assessment, for their attempt to refine heavier crude oil through their stalled upgrade? I cannot recall a single time that you have ever done that.
How about denouncing the sleazy hit pieces against Langlois and Martinez? You say that you do not like the polarizationin Richmond. Show that you mean that by denouncing those hit pieces. RPA has never used personal information against their opponents., They do criticize Chevron for throwing their weight around, but it is their policies that are criticized not the people who are in charge at Chevron,.
The fact remains, Mr. Bell: When faced with the details of the East Bay Express article, you stated in writing here: “None of the story is true.” Your denunciation was false and irresponsible. Your responses do not demonstrate that you are a trustworthy candidate.
Gary, I’m not attacking you. All I did was report the facts. You and your wife took a trip to Las Vegas at taxpayers expense when your council term all but over. That is the whole story. I’m glad you have finally chosen to admit it.
Not true John. You have a prejudiced point of view. Tha is very clear.
I was cleared and passed a through background check by the Fed prior to being appointed to the CFPB. That carries a higher value than you petty acqusitations.
You refuse to tell the truth. Have you no shame.
No more comments from me on this.
Mr. Bell, I asked you two questions yesterday in a reply to comment by you. I have gotten no answer. Would you please answer my two questions? I repeat them below.
To show you really are independent, would you please give me examples of times that you have criticized and/or voted against Chevron?
Will you denounce the sleazy hit pieces against Langlois and Martinez? You say that you do not like the polarization in Richmond. Those mailers are in part responsible for creating polarizatioin. Show your independence by denouncing them,
I don’t know Bell…It seems to me like you took advantage of the City money after you were kicked out of office. The City manager, your friend Isiah 35-million-in-the-red-Turner may have approved it, but it smells bad anyway. By the way, what did you need a car for? Part of the conference? Sightseeing at the taxpayers expense perhaps? We could have fixed several potholes with this money…and you had been rejected by the voters already. You should re-imburse the City.
I would like to post my comments here in this space, but I’ve already voted for Bell and Bates, Moving Forward.
I’m sorry you’ve chosen this unfortunate stance. Making false accusations against me and denying how you paid for this trip nearly 10 years ago, does you no service.
As a matter of courtesy, when a profile of a candidate comes out–like this one and the many others about the other candidates–it’s polite to refrain from the types of negative comments we’re seeing against some of the candidates. This is especially true when it comes to the personal attacks.
When I read the profiles of the RPA candidates, I couldn’t help but notice that the opposition refrained from the personal attacks. I saw one comment that challenged the viewpoints of the candidate but I saw no personal attacks–the same kind of attacks these very same people seem so vitriolic about when they see something similar in mailers against their own candidates.
Where has the civility gone?
I’m reminded of a couple of years ago when I was brought before the Council (along with some of my compatriots) to be recognized for the combined 320 years of volunteerism in cleaning up our community. Immediately after the presentation an RPA spokesperson rose to tell those in attendance and those watching on TV that I didn’t have a right to exist. Does the RPA offer tutorials on how and when to make inappropriate comments? Does anyone over there understand about common decency?
Don aren’t you part of Moving Forward, the Chevron funded group which has flooded Richmond mailboxes with all that manure against Langlois and Martinez. …and you asks about civility? What a joke…
You ask whether I am a part of this group and in the same sentence–without benefit of learning the validity of that question–condemn me based on your assumption.
I am not a part of any group. When I speak or take action, I speak for myself and you always know that it’s me. My name is attached to my comments–Citizen Anonymous Taxpayer.
Just curious–even though you call the mailers manure, I haven’t really heard either candidate or their supporters say that what’s included on these mailers is not true. Didn’t Eduardo file a bankruptcy in 1998 citing more than $200,000 in debt? Didn’t Marilyn recently write about her doubts suggesting that the CIA and the Mossad were responsible for bringing down the Twin Towers? Are the official records mistaken showing the failure of Eduardo to attend public meetings that he asked to serve on? Didn’t Marilyn refuse to pay her Federal income taxes a couple of years back? I’ve heard these candidates try to explain away their acts but I haven’t heard them say that these were false claims.
[…] Bell, a returning candidate who lost his seat in 2004, has fought to dissociate himself from the $422,000 Chevron has spent on his campaign in independent expenditures through Moving […]