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And Then There Were Seven

At 7:00 PM or thereabouts last night, the Richmond City Council burned off slightly more than 22% of its excess fat, shrinking from nine members to seven with the flick of a roll call. Both farewell speeches and acceptance speeches tended towards the protracted and sounded more like campaign pitches, but the atmosphere was nevertheless upbeat and salubrious – some even called it a love fest.


I sincerely hope the spirit of good will carries over into the upcoming working sessions of the new City Council.


Despite the daunting multi-page program, the official proceedings nevertheless concluded quickly and efficiently. After a group photo, the celebrants adjourned to a reception and bountiful buffet at the Ford Building Craneway for another couple of hours of music, eating and conviviality.


All in all, it was the best City Council swearing-in ceremony I have ever attended. Thanks to those who organized it and to those who attended. We are, at least, off to a good start.


Following is Contra Costa Times Political Editor Lisa Vorderbrueggen’s assessment of the new City Council:


East Bay politics of 2008 will influence developments in 2009

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 01/09/2009 10:05:13 PM PST

Updated: 01/09/2009 10:05:14 PM PST

DWINDLING retirement accounts and plummeting home values have inspired a near universal "good riddance" attitude toward 2008.

But while flipping the calendar may feel like a fresh start, it cannot erase the influence of the past year.

Here's a look at some East Bay political developments of 2008 and the ramifications for 2009.

Then there were seven

Richmond's City Council will drop from nine to seven members this year and as a result of the 2008 election melee, two incumbents lost their jobs.

That leaves a council split between two major voting blocs: Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Tom Butt and newly elected Jeff Ritterman vs. Maria Viramontes, Ludmyrna Lopez and Nat Bates.

Councilman Jim Rogers, up for re-election in 2010, has ties to both the environmental and business community and is considered a swing vote.

The political schism could play out in a number of issues.

Most of them involve Chevron, an election flash point last year. (Ritterman beat out incumbents John Marquez and Harpreet Sandhu, in large part, because the councilmen supported Chevron's controversial refinery upgrade project.)

Among the disputes still on the table, Chevron has challenged the county's assessment of its refinery operations, which could cost Richmond's general fund millions of dollars.

The city is pursuing a tighter accounting of the refinery's energy use, which could increase Chevron's utility tax bill.

The oil company must also decide whether or not to challenge Measure T, a successful measure in November that enacted a new fee on its manufacturing goods inventory.