Bea Roberson: Campaigning from the Council Chamber


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blogimage.jpgOur council members are up to something. Two, who used to be friends, are now bickering like an old married couple, and others are suddenly acting much more involved than ever in the city's problems. It looks like everyone has just one thing on their mind: the election that is just around the corner. While there are rules against campaigning in the Chamber, it looks like that is exactly what's happening.

Each week it gets worse, and right down the line it looks like one council member after another is acting up to get their voice out to save their seat. Corky and Jael, who are competing for the two-year seat, are taking jabs at each other left and right. Corky has lost sight of the Mayor, his former enemy number one, and he is relentless in his attacks on Jael. Whenever Corky speaks about anything that is on the agenda it's clear that he hasn't been listening. Corky and Jael are too focused on each other at this point. And they make it obvious to anyone who is listening. 

Now Jael, to counter these attacks, is chiming in on very every item. Until recently he was quiet as a church mouse and he never had much to say, but now he keeps talking about this and that about any agenda item that comes before him. Most of the time Jael isn't saying anything of substance, he just wants his voice out there.

The Mayor and Jovanka are putting on their own show for the Chamber. The two keep adding all of these agenda items that would never have been there before. There are so many proclamations on the agenda, at this rate every month will have its own special designation by election day. They chose to honor one former Latino employee(who quit and went to work elsewhere) and just laid off another equally deserving Hispanic employee.  Where is her award? While it's all nice and good to celebrate hard working government employees and honor the cultural make up of our city, it just seems like they are doing this to make themselves look like they are actually doing something for once. To anyone who has been around City Council meetings before, it's so clear that this is all for appearances.

The thing is, this type of behavior isn't anything new, either. Every election season the council members who are up for election suddenly begin sitting up a little straighter in their seats and acting much more attentive to the problems around them, not realizing that it is clear as day what they're really up to. And, even worse, it's insulting to the public who have largely been ignored by these elected representatives for so long. Notice how while the Mayor and Jovanka are celebrating the poets laureate of the city, they have yet to act on the city's public housing crisis. The two are only catering to those who they think will vote for them while they continue to ignore the rest of the city.   Jim Rogers, an attorney who was not allowed to continue practicing law, seems to be trying to make sure his name is on most of the motions put forth, whether by hijacking the motion or making an unnecessary friendly amendment.  Anything to try to get his name in the books so he can brag about getting something passed.

The only ones who aren't joining in with the petty electioneering in the Chamber are Nat Bates and Tom Butt. These two have been around for long enough that they know better than to engage in such showmanship. Watching Butt and Bates in the Chamber, it seems like they are waiting for their fellow council members to burn themselves out fighting and putting up a show until it's the right time to step up and show what they stand for.

The saddest part about all of this is that it's only going to get worse. We have a little more than a month until the election and at least two City Council meetings in that time. I have no doubt that we're going to continue to see Corky talking about everything, and Jael will keep up his dance of showing that he's engaged and knowledgeable. The Mayor and Jovanka are bound to bring up more pointless proclamations. Jim Rogers will keep pandering to what the audience wants. Meanwhile, Bates and Butt are just going to sit back and watch it all unfold. Our city is going to have a very different City Council after November 4th, that's for sure. Let's just hope that all of our current elected officials don't embarrass themselves too much in the meantime. Richmond is tired of having to apologize for their elected officials. I still say we could balance the budget and pave all our streets if we sold the council meetings to TV as a reality show.

By: Bea Roberson, Richmond resident

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  • commented 2014-10-03 01:31:56 -0700
    The most exciting prospect for new progressive business leadership—without the financial backing of Chevron (Bates) and outside greedy real estate development interests (Butts) is mayoral candidate Uche Justin Uwahemu. Time for a REAL change, not an cosmetic"orchestrated" one financed by those with agendas contrary to the dreams and aspirations of REAL Richmond residents..
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