Last night, June 4, 2019, I proposed for the second time to appoint a total of 19 individuals to fully seat the Rent Board, Planning Commission and Community Police Review Commission. The City Council failed to provide the three votes needed to approve it.
The RPA and the RPA City Council members will soon be responsible for the demise of the Rent Board and Community Police Review Commission if they don’t act affirmatively on the appointments.
The terms of the current Rent Board members expired March 21, 2019, and the board is functioning under a questionably legal provision of Resolution 4-09, adopted January 20, 2009, which allows a 90-day holdover for any board or commission members not replaced by a new appointment. In any event, the 90-day period will end on June 19, and unless rent board members are appointed at the next (June 18, 2019) City Council meeting, the Rent Board will cease to have any members and will cease to function
There are up to 5 seats on the Rent Board open for appointment by the mayor. Two of the five original appointees have resigned. We are looking for new applications from Richmond residents and while it is not required, we are encouraging renters to apply. Also, only two of the five board members can own or manage residential rental property or be a licensed real estate professional.
This dispute starts with the authority granted by the Charter to the mayor to appoint individuals to boards and commissions:
Due Date: June 11, 2019
Powers and Duties:
Attend monthly board meetings
Provide oversight and policy direction for Rent Program
Regulate rent adjustments and fees
How to Apply:
Please click the link below to apply, and submit completed applications to the City Clerk. Full eligibility requirements can be found on the Richmond Rent Board Application
Please click the links below for additional information regarding the Rent Program
Richmond Rent Program
Richmond Rent Board
Questions application process or eligibility requirements contact:
Office of Mayor Tom Butt
Article III-A(c) of the Charter states:
(As amended at election November 6, 1984 and November 2, 2004) Appointments and Removals. The Mayor shall have the authority at any regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council to make appointments to or removals from all City boards, commissions and committees with the concurrence of at least four (4) other members of the City Council.
(Added at the election November 2, 2004) Effective with the November 2008 election, the Mayor shall have the authority at any regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council to make appointments to or removals from all City boards, commissions and committees with the concurrence of at least three (3) other City Council members.
For the appointment process to work, (1) the mayor and City Council must ultimately agree on an appointee. And (2) an appointment can be confirmed only if the mayor is one of at least four affirmative votes. In other words, there is no room in the Charter for an appointment to take place without the mayor’s affirmative vote. That is indisputable.
What is not so clear is how that “checks and balances” provision is executed in practice. One interpretation of the intent of the Charter requirement is that the mayor must simply find an appointee that is acceptable to the City Council.
A more nuanced interpretation is that the appointment process is ultimately a collaboration where a certain amount of give-and-take or compromise is required to make the system work. If the mayor is limited to appointments acceptable to the City Council, that means the City Council (and not the mayor) is really making the appointments by rejecting any they don’t support. The mayor cannot override the City Council, but he or she can choose not to appoint, thus motivating the City Council to accept some appointments they otherwise don’t favor. In this case, there may be compromises where each party gets some but not all of what they want.
In last night’s case, the City Council got 17 of 19 appointees that were unanimously acceptable. There were only two that drew any objections. That seems like a pretty good compromise, but the RPA doesn’t deal in compromises. No quarter is their motto.
The tension between the mayor’s power to appoint and the City Council’s power to approve has occurred more than once in the past.
On February 6, 2007, Mayor McLaughlin offered up a slew of appointments to eleven boards and commissions in a single agenda item, as was her practice:
In the matter to approve reappointments to the Arts & Culture Commission: Kathryn Sibley; Parks & Recreation Commission: Lones Stern-Banks; Housing Advisory Commission: Anntheia Yvonne Harrison-Farr; and appointments to the Human Relations Commission: Marilyn Langlois and Jesse Montiel; Arts & Culture Commission: Fred Jackson; Planning Commission: James Jenkins and Michael Esposito; Park & Recreation Commission: Kathy Robinson and Diego Garcia; Personnel Board: Kim Stewart; Economic Development Commission: Michele McGeoy and Jovanka Beckles; Richmond Police Commission: Rob Ham and Nemy Bautista; Richmond Shimada Friendship Commission: Steven Pinto; and Richmond Youth Commission: Michelle Chenault. A motion was made by Councilmember Viramontes, seconded by Councilmember Marquez made a motion to holdover the appointments to the Planning Commission due to the possibility of the merge of the Design Review Board with the Planning Commission that the Council approved two years ago, and she also suggested that the Police Commission appointments be held over until the policy regarding conducting background checks is established. Mayor McLaughlin stated that the City’s current ordinances are that the Planning Commission and Design Review Board are separate boards and the ordinances established should be complied with. A substitute motion was made by Councilmember Butt, seconded by Councilmember Thurmond, to approve all of the recommended appointments. Mayor McLaughlin stated that the issue of the possible merge of the Planning Commission and Design Review Board was discussed, but not formally voted on for approval. Councilmember Butt withdrew his substitute motion. A substitute motion was made by Councilmember Bates, seconded by Councilmember Thurmond to approve the appointments and reappointments, excluding those for the Planning Commission and Police Commission, and vote separately for the appointments to the Planning Commission and Police Commission, passed by the unanimous vote of the Council. On motion of Councilmember Butt, seconded by Councilmember Thurmond, to approve the appointments to the Planning Commission and Police Commission, failed by the following vote: Ayes: Councilmembers Butt, Thurmond Mayor McLaughlin. Noes: None. Abstentions: Councilmembers Bates, Lopez, Marquez, Rogers, Sandhu, and Viramontes. Absent: None.
Bates did not favor some of the appointments to the Planning Commission and Police Commission and moved to unbundle the process by voting first on all but the Planning and Police Commissions, and that motion passed.
A second motion by me to approve the remaining appointments failed with Bates, Lopez, Marquez, Rogers, Sandhu and Viramontes abstaining.
That left the Planning Commission with potentially not enough members to muster a quorum, so on May 1, 2007, Bates proposed a workaround that would enable Planning Commission members whose terms had expired to continue serving indefinitely until a successor was appointed and approved. The item passed on the first reading and was adopted at the second reading on June 5, 2007, with me supporting Mayor McLaughlin and voting to oppose. This ordinance, which is of questionable legality, essentially hijacked the mayor’s prerogative to control the appointment process. It ensured that the mayor would be stuck with the appointees of a previous mayor without a City Council majority vote to do otherwise.
In the matter to adopt a “Resolution of the City Council of the City of Richmond, California, formally establishing the Policy of the City Council Concerning the Continuation of Boards and Commission Members’ Terms. ”Interim City Attorney, Randy Riddle, gave an overview of the item. Following discussion, a motion was made by Vice Mayor Bates, seconded by Councilmember Rogers, to approve the item as is with the understanding that the City Attorney includes language that specifies as new Board members or Commissioners are appointed, persons being replaced are identified. A substitute motion was made by Councilmember Butt, seconded by Mayor McLaughlin to authorize a person that is up for reappointment to stay on for an additional month if a person is not appointed. The substitute motion failed by the following vote: Ayes: Councilmember Butt and Mayor McLaughlin. Noes: Councilmembers Thurmond, Rogers and Vice Mayor Bates. Abstentions: Councilmembers Lopez, Sandhu, and Viramontes. Absent: Councilmember Marquez. The original motion passed by the following vote: Ayes: Councilmembers Lopez, Rogers, Sandhu, Thurmond, Viramontes, and Vice Mayor Bates. Noes: Councilmember Butt and Mayor McLaughlin. Abstentions: None. Absent: Councilmember Marquez. What is ironic is that when the City Council was able to thwart Mayor McLaughlin’s ability to appoint individuals to the Planning Commission and Police Commission, I supported Mayor McLaughlin at the time, voting in the minority..
Now, Mayor McLaughlin’s Richmond Progressive Alliance is using the tactics previously used against McLaughlin, about which they were highly critical, to try and thwart my ability to appoint individuals to the Rent Board and the Planning Commission. Just like Bates did in 2007, they are trying to bifurcate the vote on appointments, voting in favor of those they like and blocking those they don’t. This is pure hypocrisy.
In the more than four years I have been mayor, I have made plenty of compromises on appointments, perhaps more than any previous mayor, but I’m not sure the City Council has made any.
We can either work this out, or it will work itself out in a way that makes no one happy. There will be no winners, only losers.