Mayoral profile: Charles Ramsey
on June 2, 2014
West Contra Costa School Board President and mayoral candidate Charles Ramsey, age 52, believes that Richmond can be a vibrant community, a bustling hub where young people choose to settle down after their youthful stints in San Francisco – as Ramsey did himself.
After growing up in Richmond – while his father was worked in the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office in the sixties – Ramsey went to U.C. Hastings School of Law. He then moved back to Point Richmond to open up a law practice. Later, he moved to El Cerrito with his then-wife and raised their two daughters there. He has since divorced and is now living in Central Richmond.
So what will draw people to want to raise a family in Richmond?
“You’ve got to make it a place where they know it’s safe and they have good schools,” Ramsey said. But Richmond isn’t Moraga or San Ramon, he added. Unlike these other cities, Richmond has had a huge problem with property value decline. Looking forward, “it’s all about growth.” Revitalizing the inner city will be high on his agenda. “Those places look the same as when I was a kid,” said Ramsey of the vacant storefronts in downtown. “We’re talking 40 years ago, they haven’t changed.”
Ramsey’s campaign platform is also dedicated to improving the city’s school program, working with Chevron to insure sustained safety at the refinery, and working to garner genuine investment in the city’s troubled public housing system.
These may seem like lofty goals, but Ramsey said, “I don’t think they’re lofty when you look at the school district.” His more than 20-year legacy on the school board shows he can turn things around, he said. During his service on the school board, Ramsey oversaw the board’s full repaying of state debt. And to him, that’s the biggest accomplishment, “having the ability to be solvent now, and be fiscally capable of managing without the need of oversight.”
Second, he said, the board has made schools safer. “The kids seem to be excited and engaged in staying on campus,” he said. “That has been a really good feeling for me.” Third, Ramsey noted, he has overseen the development of dilapidated facilities at schools, including the new De Anza High School and the current Richmond Swim Center project at Kennedy High School. “That’s happening because of collaboration between the school district and the city.”
Ramsey’s biggest campaign donors are mostly labor unions, including local Building Trades councils. “I have the broad support of working men and women,” he said. Ramsey also receives donations from architects and construction lobby groups that are linked to school district development projects. One major donor is the lobby group Construction Employers’ Association, which represents Arntz Builders–the contractor that is building the $7.6 million swim center. Ramsey is glad to have the support from all of these groups. “I’m just pleased that people are excited about my campaign,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough race.”
Despite the Richmond City Council’s reputation for tumult and contention, Ramsey says he gets along with everybody on the council. “You have to just allow people to be themselves and not get them on the defensive,” he said. “Most people don’t realize that 90 percent of what happens, everybody agrees on. If you allow people to get through the ten percent, most of the stuff will happen pretty routinely.”
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