Published on October 28,
West County Times editorial: We recommend
Gayle McLaughlin, Maria Viramontes, Myrna Lopez and Virginia
Finlay for Richmond mayor and City Council
NO CONTRA Costa city presents more election issues this year than Richmond.
There's plenty for voters to consider: The city's crime rate. City finances.
The Chevron refinery retrofit. The Point Molate monster casino. Attracting
business. The court-blocked manufacturer's tax. The rank-and-file police and
firefighters' ugly campaign tactics.
There's no candidate with whom we completely agree. But there are four who
can help the city continue on what has been a generally positive path that
has included a return to financial balance and reduction of the crime rate.
We endorse the re-election of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and council members Maria
Viramontes and Myrna Lopez, and we recommend former Planning Commissioner Virginia
Finlay for the remaining available seat on the City Council.
Starting with the mayoral race, we don't always agree with McLaughlin. We
sometimes find her more of a bulldog than we would like. But we respect her
carefully researched stands.
McLaughlin supports the refinery retrofit if the company levels with residents
about its plans and fulfill its legal obligation to provide adequate pollution
protections. We have also found the company to be evasive. We understand the
oil giant plays hardball politics that require equal resolve from the city.
Unfortunately, the other two mayoral candidates, Councilman Nat Bates and former
Councilman John Ziesenhenne, remain too eager to side with Chevron without
critically evaluating environmental issues.
We agree with McLaughlin that the casino is a bad long-term strategy with
serious social implications for the region. Bates and Ziesenhenne are willing
to turn Point Molate into a gambling center without consideration for the social
cost. Bates is an outspoken proponent, while Ziesenhenne disingenuously tries
to hide his opinion from voters. It takes careful questioning to ferret out
We also admire McLaughlin's push to bring more green businesses to the city.
They are the companies of the future. At the same time, we feel strongly that
the city must be supportive of its current business and industrial base. For
that reason, McLaughlin, as the leading public face of the city, must improve
her relations with many in the business community. The city and business leaders
must find a way to work as a team.
The mayoral race will determine one of the four City Council seats on the
ballot. For the other three, we were heavily influenced by the city's improvements
over the past few years and consequently leaned toward the incumbents.
Finlay and incumbents Viramontes and Lopez understand the city's finances,
the need to work with the business community and the need to protect the environment.
While we disagree with Lopez and Finlay on plans for a casino, we sense they
are candidates willing to consider the voters' wishes expressed in advisory
Measure U on Tuesday's ballot.
We are particularly impressed by Viramontes, who carefully analyzes city finances
and details of sensitive negotiations on disputes with Chevron and on the proposed
casino. She is a very hardworking member of the council who deserves strong
support for another term.
We picked the three candidates from a strong field of 10. In making our selection,
we passed over three -- Jovanka Beckles, Corky Booze and incumbent Jim Rogers
-- whom we have endorsed in the past. We have no problem with Beckles or Booze.
We just don't think they are the strongest candidates this time around.
As for Rogers, we are troubled that he continues to maintain a maze of campaign
accounts that allow him to exceed campaign contribution limits others respect,
and enable him to funnel money directly into his and his mother's pockets as
loan repayments. Moreover, his reports are literally sloppier than any others
we've seen. It's an arrogant attitude toward campaign laws, conflict of interest
and public disclosure that we find repulsive.
A final word about behavior: The police and firefighters unions should be
ashamed of their hit pieces on McLaughlin. While they might have policy differences
with her, there is no excuse for their despicable personalizing of their attacks.
We're disappointed that public safety workers in Richmond continue to choose
union leaders who still cannot conduct themselves in a professional manner.