Does Richmond, California, have a progressive majority?

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Evening News broadcast Feb. 14, 2015

 

KPFA Evening News Anchor Cameron Jones: At Tuesday’s Richmond City Council meeting, the six sitting councilors adjourned without appointing a candidate to fill the seventh seat, which was vacated by former Councilor Tom Butt. Butt won Richmond’s mayoral election last November and was sworn in as Richmond’s elected mayor last month. If the Council fails to appoint one of 18 candidates vying for the vacant seat by March 13, Richmond will hold a special election.

On a celebratory election night at Richmond Progressive Alliance headquarters, re-elected Richmond City Councilors Gayle McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckles listen as City Councilor Eduardo Martinez speaks. Chevron spent $1 million each to defeat them – and failed. In an October speech to a packed Richmond Auditorium, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, had said, “If you can stand up and beat (Chevron) with all of their money, you’re going to give hope to people all over America.” – Photo: Tom Goulding, Richmond Confidential
On a celebratory election night at Richmond Progressive Alliance headquarters, re-elected Richmond City Councilors Gayle McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckles listen as City Councilor Eduardo Martinez speaks. Chevron spent $1 million each to defeat them – and failed. In an October speech to a packed Richmond Auditorium, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, had said, “If you can stand up and beat (Chevron) with all of their money, you’re going to give hope to people all over America.” – Photo: Tom Goulding, Richmond Confidential

The Richmond Progressive Alliance, commonly known as the RPA, is backing Planning Commissioner Marilyn Langlois for the vacant seat. The RPA made national and international headlines last November, when each of their three City Council candidates won their seats even though Chevron Corp, spent $1 million each to defeat them.

Chevron’s Richmond Oil Refinery is the largest industry in Richmond and the largest greenhouse gas emitter in California, and for many years Richmond was considered a company town. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Richmond City Councilor Eduardo Martinez.

KPFA: Councilor Martinez, you’re one of the three councilors representing the Richmond Progressive Alliance, commonly known as the RPA, which is supporting Richmond Planning Commissioner Marilyn Langlois for the vacant seat on the Richmond City Council. Can you explain why the RPA thinks Langlois would be the best choice?

Eduardo Martinez: Well, Marilyn Langlois is a planning commissioner; she worked for the mayor’s office, so she has a working relationship and an understanding of the city. So, from that end, she’s the best candidate.

From the other end, the community side, she’s been working with various organizations – Safe Return, Cease Fire – so, from the community end, she’s also very well qualified and very well known. So I can’t think of a better candidate.

KPFA: OK, the Richmond Confidential website quoted Councilor Jael Myrick opposing Langlois and saying that, “If so much power is going to be concentrated in one organization, meaning the RPA, I think it needs to be done through an election.” Would you care to respond?

Marilyn Langlois, here with Eduardo Martinez and Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee at a Richmond Progressive Alliance event April 22, 2012, has long been a major advocate for Haiti, HAC and the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, along with her advocacy on local Richmond issues.
Marilyn Langlois, here with Eduardo Martinez and Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee at a Richmond Progressive Alliance event April 22, 2012, has long been a major advocate for Haiti, HAC and the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, along with her advocacy on local Richmond issues.

Eduardo Martinez: Yes. Right now, the one organization that has more power than any other organization is the Democratic Party. There are five Democrats on the City Council and one Green Party member. So if he’s worried about any party having control, then maybe we should get rid of some of the Democratic officials.

But I think that’s not the issue. I think the issue is something else. In terms of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, it’s exactly that – an alliance. It’s an alliance of progressive people. So if Jael sees himself as a progressive, then he should see no problem with being part of that alliance, whether he’s a member or not.

KPFA: Could you explain why you’re not legally able to confer with your fellow RPA councilors – Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckels and/or Mayor Tom Butt – about this before next Tuesday’s City Council meeting?

Eduardo Martinez: Well, before the process started, Mayor Tom Butt sent email out to Gayle McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckels with his short list of candidates. Once he did that, he started a conversation with those two councilors meaning that there are no other Council members who can talk to them about the process because, if they did, it would violate the Brown Act by having four Council members discussing candidates. The Brown Act disallows any majority having that conversation behind closed doors.

KPFA: And that was Richmond City Councilor Eduardo Martinez on filling the vacant seat on the Richmond City Council.

In Berkeley, for Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch, Colored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.