Empty city council seat has 18 contenders
on February 5, 2015
With former councilmember Tom Butt’s ascent to the mayor’s office after last November’s election, a vacant seat was created on the city council. Before the Tuesday night deadline, 18 candidates from diverse backgrounds filed applications to fill the empty seat. The council majority will only choose one of them.
Among the candidates are former mayor Rosemary Corbin, who was a city councilmember from 1985 to 1993 and mayor of Richmond from 1993 to 2001, former city councilmember Jim Rogers, who narrowly lost the 2014 election, longtime Richmond Progressive Alliance member Marilyn Langlois, and many other community leaders and city commissioners.
According to Deputy City Clerk Pam Christian, on February 10, a special council meeting will be held for candidates to make presentations about their experience and why they are a good fit for the vacant seat. Each will have up to 8 minutes. The meeting will be broadcast to the public. The city council may or may not vote on the appointment at that meeting.
The 60-day period for the council to appoint someone concludes on March 13, 2015, according to City Attorney Bruce Reed Goodmiller. If the council majority can’t decide, a special election will most likely be held on November 3, 2015, Goodmiller wrote in an email. Such an election will cost the city an estimated $200,000, according to Finance Director James Goins.
Four votes are needed to appoint anyone to the council. The local rumor mill is in overdrive as to how the council members are likely to pool their votes, noting that Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) members hold three of the votes: Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez.
On the other hand, the politically moderate councilmembers are also likely to collaborate, according to longtime resident and political watcher Charles Smith. “Tom Butt has three votes already lined up,” he said. “[Jael] Myrick will be on Tom Butt’s side, and even though Butt and [Nat] Bates don’t get along, they get along better than Bates and the RPA.”
Appointing a person to a vacant seat is not new for Richmond. In the November 2012, election, Gary Bell was elected to the council. But he fell ill before he could be sworn into office, and he died later. In early 2013, 12 people submitted applications to fill Bell’s vacancy. In a political play, the council passed over 2012 election next-highest vote-getter Eduardo Martinez and appointed Jael Myrick to the seat. Martinez ran again in 2014 and finally won the election.
Below is a short biography of each of the 18 candidates, presented in alphabetical order, using information from their candidate statements and other materials available online. You can find the complete candidate statement for each candidate online here.
- Ben Choi, 43, is an account manager at MCE Clean Energy. According to his candidate statement, Choi has served on the Richmond Planning Commission for five years. He pledges to lead Richmond beyond the “two dimensional thinking” of “either clean air or jobs” or “either civil liberties or public safety.”
- Otheree Christian is a high school campus security officer. He ran for a school board seat in the West Contra Costa Unified School District in the November 2014, election. According to his candidate statement, Christian is currently also serving as president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council.
- Rosemary Corbin was a city councilmember from 1985 to 1993 and mayor of Richmond from 1993 to 2001. According to her candidate statement, during her terms as mayor, she helped pioneer the “smart growth” movement and reduce the city’s murder rate.
- Anthony Creer is a terminal operator for a bulk storage company in Richmond. He ran for the two-year term city council seat in 2014 against Corky Booze and Jael Myrick. He won 17.14 percent of the vote in that election.
- Raquel Donoso, 40, is the director at Mission Promise Neighborhood, a government-funded initiative to improve children’s lives. She ran for a school board seat in the West Contra Costa Unified School District in November 2014, election.
- Oscar Garcia is an environmental engineer at Chevron Richmond. According to his candidate statement, he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School and obtained a degree in chemical engineering from UC Berkeley. He believes that his appointment would mean that “the Richmond City Council would have a Latino member that is a product of Richmond.”
- Rhonda Harris is the CEO of R.F. & Associates, Inc. (RFA), a development and consulting firm, according to her LinkedIn profile. She’s been a Richmond resident for 38 years and she founded the Veterans Resource Program. Harris ran for city council in 2010.
- Claudia Jimenez, 36, is an architect, environmental planner and a community organizer. According to her LinkedIn profile, Jimenez worked at Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization from 2011 to 2014, and she was the lead community organizer for the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay Community Benefits Agreement Campaign.
- Dameion King, 38, was unique among last year’s slate of city council candidates for being the only lifelong Richmond resident from the Iron Triangle. He ultimately won 3.19 percent of the vote. King works as a case manager and career coach for Rubicon Programs, helping former prison inmates reenter society, and as president of the Redemption Center, a nonprofit that promotes social welfare in urban communities. He has also served on the Richmond Housing Authority’s Advisory Committee and as the chair of the Marin Clean Energy’s Community Leadership Advisory Group.
- Sheryl E. Lane is the Director of Public Policy and Alumni Engagement at EARN (Earned Assets Resource Network,) a non-profit organization. Lane has served for over five years on the Richmond Planning Commission and she is the current chair of the commission.
- Marilyn Langlois, 64, is a retired community advocate and mediator. According to her candidate statement, Langlois has worked for the mayor’s office for four and a half years and spent two years on the Richmond Planning Commission. She says these experiences are “contextual knowledge and practical skills needed to craft optimal policies beneficial to residents, local businesses and the environment.” Langlois ran for city council in 2012.
- Jeff Lee is a retired senior account manager who served for six years on the Richmond Planning Commission, where he worked to “intelligently and respectfully finesse our City’s new General Plan” during Mayor Gayle McLaughlin’s administration, according to his candidate statement. He now serves as oversight board member to the Successor Agency of Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency.
- Vinay Pimple is an attorney and graduate of UC Berkeley’s School of Law. According to his candidate statement, Pimple has volunteered as a member of Richmond Trees, and is a writing coach at Richmond High School and a math tutor with LEAP. His stated goals as a council member include creating more jobs with better outreach to businesses and working with the school district to “implement solutions for improving student results.”
- Samuel L. Pooler, 43, is an attorney and small business owner. He moved to Richmond four years ago because “it has the potential to be a model for growth and economic development,” Pooler wrote in his candidate statement. He aims to “help foster a more cooperative relationship” between businesses and the city council, and to “see a renewed focus on balancing environmental concerns” with economic growth.
- Jim Rogers, 59, is a former Richmond city councilmember who narrowly lost his seat in 2014, finishing with 13.19 percent of the vote behind Eduardo Martinez’s 14.77 percent. Long considered a moderate voice on the council, Rogers contends on his candidate statement that “it’s all about the issues, not political friends and enemies.” As a council member, Rogers spearheaded the passage of the Measure U half-cent sales tax and helped to negotiate the $90 million community benefits package that came with the approval of Chevron’s Modernization Project.
- David Schoenthal, 47, is an entrepreneur and independent associate with LegalShield, a legal service provider. He is president of the Point Richmond Business Association, a member of the Economic Development Commission, and a PTA member and parent at Washington Elementary. According to his candidate statement, Schoenthal has recently been working with the Richmond Police Department and community groups to build collaborative relationships and increase safety.
- Kathryn Sibley is an executive assistant of the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission. According to her candidate statement, in 2007, Sibley was appointed by Mayor McLaughlin to the San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the Public Art Advisory Committee.
- Uche J. Uwahemu, 42, is a business owner. According to his candidate statement, Uwahemu has over 20 years of experience in non-profit and private work. If appointed to the city council, Uwahemu’s goal is to work with elected officials “to create a robust smart economy in Richmond.” Uwahemu ran for mayor in November 2014, against Tom Butt and Nat Bates. He won 13.84 percent of the vote in the election.
Bonnie Chan and Semany Gashaw also contributed to this report.
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