Posted January 13,
Richmond Council Gets New Blood
Unifying the City Council—and Richmond—was the theme at a
tear-filled swearing-in ceremony for incumbent Mayor Gayle
McLaughlin, new Council members Jovanka Beckles and Courtland
“Corky” Boozé, and returning Council member Jim Rogers.
Richmond residents packed the main floor of the Richmond Memorial
Auditorium Tuesday night, many in furs and suits, to welcome
the new Council members and honor outgoing members Ludmyrna
Lopez and Maria Viramontes.
The more than two-hour ceremony, which began with a Latin
chant and concluded with a vocal performance by the East Bay
Center for the Performing Arts, was as emotional as it was
drawn out. The incoming and outgoing Council members gave uniformly
glassy-eyed speeches, introduced family members, raised their
hands in oath or accepted distinguished service awards in exeunt,
and were in turn acknowledged by each of the existing members.
The pomp and circumstance was cut with good humor but, as Council
member Tom Butt pointed out, how could it not be with a Butt
and a Boozé on the roster?
With unemployment in Richmond at 18 percent and $12.5 billion
in proposed state spending cuts, creating jobs and local resourcefulness
was the common refrain of the evening. “We don’t need anyone
to save us,” said Boozé, who won a seat on his
10th try. “We will save ourselves.”
“I’ve noticed that everyone being asked to sacrifice are the
poor and elderly,” Beckles told Richmond Confidential after
the ceremony, referring to the proposed
budget cuts Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday, which include
$1.7 billion from health care for the poor and disabled, $1.5
billion from welfare and $1.4 billion from public universities
and community colleges. “We have to demand that billion-dollar
corporations pay their taxes.”
In her remarks Beckles called for creative ways to promote
economic self-sufficiency in Richmond, explaining to Richmond
Confidential after the ceremony that these include worker-owned
cooperatives, growing food locally in community gardens, and
encouraging local entrepreneurship.
Boozé told Richmond Confidential he will work to create jobs
by ratifying city contracts that mandate at least 50 percent
local employment. “If concrete is being poured in Richmond
and it’s not Richmond people pouring it, then no vote from
Corky Boozé,” he said.
The addition of Beckles and Boozé brings a progressive majority
to the Council, meaning Mayor McLaughlin, a Green Party member,
can expect support from four of the six other councilmembers.
But returning councilmember Nat Bates, who lost
his mayoral bid to McLaughlin by only 607 votes, waved
his hand in dismissal when asked how he’d navigate this new
balance. “We’ve got to look for employment opportunities
and [ways of] getting the business community involved,” he
Despite calls for unification, McLaughlin still appeared to
be nursing wounds from accusations
during the race that she was unfit for office due to past
mental health and financial struggles. “Personal attacks distract
us from the crucial discussions that need to take place,” said
McLaughlin in her address. “Richmond voters clearly demonstrated
that they have little appetite for tabloid-style smear campaigns.”
“Contrary to some other opinion, the mayor and I do get along,”
said Bates in his own remarks. “Gayle is not vindictive; she
doesn’t hold grudges.”
Against the backdrop of violence in Arizona, several council
members and guest speaker the Revered Phil Lawson called for
an end to gun violence in Richmond. “The way we deal with crime
is through education,” Beckles told Richmond Confidential,
noting that only one after-school program was open during the
holiday break, when kids most need something to do.
Boozé said that his efforts to address crime this coming season
will include opening a police substation on Cutting Blvd.,
working with ministers to help youth, and reorganizing the
Office of Neighborhood Safety. He also announced that he plans
to focus on the African-American homeless residents of Richmond,
though he did not specify a particular approach. In the face
of expected budget cuts, Boozé plans to make better use what
he sees as an under-tapped resource in Richmond: volunteerism.
Beckles said she is most looking forward to weighing in on
Point Molate when the final Environment Impact Report is finished.
The first meeting of the new council will be on Tuesday, January
18 at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Civic Center Plaza.