For the 2016 Richmond City Council Race, I am initially endorsing Jim Rogers and Jael Myrick. I may make an additional endorsement at a later date.
Jim Rogers Jael Myrick
This year’s election is critical for Richmond’s future. The prospect of a fourth Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) member being elected, giving the RPA a Council majority, could dramatically alter the future of Richmond – and not in a good way. The RPA has been willing to work with me on occasion, particularly on issues involving sustainability and the environment. We collaborated to pass the General Plan 2030, ban toxic pesticide use by City maintenance crews and bring Richmond into MCE Clean Energy. We voted together to renew City Manager Bill Lindsay’s contract and oppose Kid’s First. We both opposed Measures N and O. We are at our best when we find common ground and collaborate.
On the other hand, the RPA continues to be obsessed with ideology rather than solving many of the tangible everyday issues we face as a city and as a community. For example, they promoted wildly radical conspiracy and paranormal theories like space weapons, mind control, and targeted individuals. They insisted on the City Council passing a resolution to indicate their shared belief and support As a result, the Richmond Police Department continues to be the go-to place for people worldwide suffering from paranoia and delusional disorders to seek protection and relief instead of treatment.
As we watched Richmond’s credit rating plummet last year, the RPA showed little concern for fiscal responsibility and continued to pile on expenditures to an otherwise balanced budget. With crime prevention and public safety our residents’ highest priority, the RPA has gone after the Richmond Police Department with a vengeance, not for what they have done, but for the mistakes other police departments in other cities have made. And while pushing rent control is a popular but controversial solution for a tight housing market, the RPA has routinely and inexplicably voted against both new affordable housing projects that would increase the affordable housing supply as well as market rate projects that would contribute millions of dollars for affordable housing through inclusionary zoning.
The RPA has almost no interest in economic development and job creation – the backbone to our community’s future. To the RPA, business is anathema and all corporations are evil. The RPA played a key role in the demise of the UC Global Campus project because they were more obsessed with shaking down the University than seeing the project succeed. UC Director of Local Government and Community Relations, Ruben Lizardo confirmed this, “"When you have a lot of negative press about folks who are saying the project will have a negative impact, it sends a mixed message to potential investors and gives pause to any university interested in partnering with us…And he agreed with the mayor that negative comments about the project, including fears that it would hasten gentrification, had made it more difficult for the university to pursue this project.”
While most people in Richmond were working hard to make the UC Global Campus a reality, the RPA attacked it with a vengeance. Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin said at a March 17, 2016, rally at City Hall that Richmond, “will not allow residents to suffer from the campus’s arrival.” City Council Candidate Melvin Willis said, “the only way to ensure that Richmond residents benefit from the campus is if the campus commits to community improvements that the Richmond Bay Community Working Group has approved.” Last year, the RPA, ACCE ( for whom Melvin Willis works) and others took their protests about the UC Global Campus to the UC Chancellor’s residence, pounding on the front door and vandalizing property. The fence that was later completed to provide a measure of privacy for the chancellor when he is home became part of a rallying cry for his dismissal, and along with it his essential support for the Global Campus.
The RPA never compromises or negotiates with parties they don’t agree with, something you sometimes have to do in effective government. RPA City Council members refused to engage with Chevron on negotiating the Environmental and Community Engagement Agreement (ECIA), and they voted against the $90 million contract that brought the Richmond Promise program and millions of dollars for sustainability initiatives, garnering Richmond a coveted Beacon Award just this week. Once the funding was secured, however, RPA City Council members moved to take control of the money by setting up an ECIA committee run by one of their own.
The Richmond City Council works best when there are checks and balances among a range of independent political viewpoints that force debate, encourage dissent and ultimately result in collaboration and compromise resulting in well-considered and sound public policy initiatives. When any one group holds sway, bad decisions are typically the result. We saw this in the years up to 2008 when pro-Chevron forces controlled the City Council. The result was a flawed EIR for the Chevron modernization project that was stopped in its tracks by a court decision that delayed the project for years.
City Council candidates Melvin Willis and Ben Choi are both members of not only the RPA, but also its inner circle -- its small and elite Steering Committee. If either of these two is elected, the RPA will totally control Richmond for at least the next two years, and the City will be run, not from City Hall by the City Council, but by a group of RPA insiders from their new headquarters conveniently located across the street from the Richmond Civic Center. The other three City Council members, including the mayor, would become completely powerless and irrelevant.
My highest priority is to help elect liberal and progressive candidates who want the best for Richmond but do not reflect the extremism and ideological purity the RPA demands. That is why I am endorsing Jim Rogers and Jael Myrick for City Council. I don’t always agree with either of them, but experience has proven that I can work with them.
My second biggest fear is the potential return of Corky Booze to the City Council. Booze was elected in the wave of opposition to the Point Molate casino, which he opposed along with the RPA City Council members and me. Both RPA Council members and I endorsed him, which we all now acknowledge as a terrible mistake. In his previous term, before being voted off the Council, Booze left a legacy of unprecedented destruction of civility and order. He encouraged homophobic and xenophobic rants by public speakers at every meeting. Booze engaged in endless rants himself on every issue and incessantly insulted other city council members personally as well as City staff. He was personally responsible for routinely extending meetings past midnight and into the early morning hours. His tenure was so marked by negativity that he cannot point to anything productive he accomplished during the four years he served. Booze is now facing significant penalties for operating illegal junkyards in several Richmond locations.
Both Jim Rogers and Jael Myrick have strongly supported progressive environmental and sustainability agendas in the past but have also supported economic development and jobs policies. Both Rogers and Myrick are very smart individuals, pragmatists and tough negotiators, and both have a history of holding Chevron accountable.
Jim Rogers served with me on the negotiating team that successfully secured a $114 million settlement with Chevron over tax disputes in 2009. Rogers, Myrick and I successfully negotiated the $90 million ECIA with Chevron in 2014 that we are implementing right now with the Richmond Promise and many other programs.
As past Contra Costa Times editorials said: "to his credit, Rogers has proven he can work with his colleagues on the Council...Rogers is a man of his convictions...independent...he'll get back to the nuts and bolts."
Electing Jim Rogers and Jael Myrick will result in a balanced City Council that is both pragmatic and progressive while continuing the priorities voters care most about – crime prevention and public safety, health and the environment, streets, parks and other infrastructure, jobs and economic development and fiscal responsibility.