They May Want The Title But Do They Really Want The Job?

Don Gosney


Over the years Richmond has had Councilmembers who seem more pre-occupied with wearing the title of Councilmember but have been less enthused about actually doing the work that comes with the title.

Richmond has had Councilmembers who—while business is being discussed in the chambers—are on their computers sending emails, on the Internet using the dating service he subscribed to seeking a new mate and using the computer to take care of his business bills.

A couple of years back when the meetings used to last past midnight, it was a running joke amongst the few members in the audience still in attendance as they watched one Councilmember routinely nod off.  She would have her chin placed in the palm of her hand and as she would nod off her chin would slip out and she would wake for a few seconds. 

At the Council meeting last night (05/03) Mayor Tom Butt snapped a photo of Councilmember Beckles as she used her tablet to play Scrabble while department heads were briefing the Council on ways they might be able to reduce the $11 million budget deficit.  From what’s on her Council monitor this happened while Fire Chief Adrian Sheppard was presenting his report.

The next morning, Mayor Butt used his popular eforum to post the photo.  He also wrote: 

“Talk about fiddling while Rome burns, below is a photo of Jovanka Beckles playing Scrabble during budget presentations. This is the kind of leadership we are getting on the City Council.”

Showing 5 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • John Knox
    commented 2016-05-10 11:53:51 -0700
    The problem isn’t with the Scrabble playing per se, but with the general lack of sufficient focus on the part of some council members on the serious financial problems the City has, and the propensity to “wish away” the need to make hard decisions. Comments have been along the lines of: don’t panic, I am sure we will fine the money somehow, the City Manager will come up with some ‘creative’ solutions’ — without any concrete and workable proposals. Since certain council members are very closely aligned with the SEIU, they seemingly must never ever approve a layoff or reduction in salary or benefits, or even suggest one. It is kind of like the Grover Norquist “no taxes” pledge, for the left. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the rest of the Council will have the fortitude to make the hard decisions — none of this is easy.

    The fact is that the general fund budget is something close to 80% personnel costs. The remaining 20% is largely fixed, like debt service, utilities, insurance costs etc. There simply is no way to effect an $11 million or so structural reduction in the general fund budget without impacting labor fairly substantially. The key will be to do so with the minimum impact on vital public safety services. Some “nice to have” programs are going to have to be cut. The city’s mission is to provide effective basic services to its residents, not to function as a “jobs program” or to attempt to solve every perceived or real societal problems.

    Passage of the “Kids First” ballot measure which attempts to use the ballot box to effect budget decisions would also make things very much harder (hint: vote “NO”).

    Raising new taxes is not a near term solution, and may not even be a longer term solution given the bad taste many voters have about the Measure U situation.

    I hope that when the budget is finally proposed and hard decisions are made, the voters support all of the council members who take the responsible approach and approve a structurally balanced, sustainable budget that starts to help the City out of its current financial tight spot. There will be complaints from many quarters, and the council needs to know the citizens have their backs when it comes to making tough decisions.

    The alternative is to drive the car toward another financial cliff, like the one narrowly avoided in 2003-04. But unlike then, this time there are many fewer options to avoid a real financial meltdown.
  • Rob Welch
    commented 2016-05-05 20:14:45 -0700
    So Mayor Butt calling people out for not taking action on Richmonds serious and looming budget deadline is disrespectful and ‘bends reality’, but Ms Beckles playing Scrabble during a City Council meeting is not disrespectful? Don’t you both have that exactly backwards?
    Since when is playing Scrabble on your tablet during serious budget discussions acceptable practice for City Council members?
    I suggest you reconsider just who is bending reality here…
  • Charles Smith
    commented 2016-05-05 18:31:28 -0700
    In all fairness to Councilmember Jovanka Beckles had she voted the way Mayor T. King Butt voted that photo would never have seen the light of day.
  • Zach Wear
    commented 2016-05-05 12:48:58 -0700
    I believe ALL the council members are doing their jobs, and I have never suggested otherwise. I disagree with Tom a great deal, but never have I thought he isn’t doing his job— the same for Jael, Vinay, Nat, Jovanka— everybody. It is impossible to be a City of Richmond Council Member and NOT give 110% care to doing the work. If you don’t care about the work, the $1500/mo isn’t worth it, you’re better off quitting. To suggest that anyone on the council isn’t giving it their all and then some is disrespectful and bends reality. Tom Butt and Don Gosney are playing games of their own, and they are far more political than some strokes on Scrabble.
  • Veronica Keeton
    commented 2016-05-05 03:15:42 -0700
    This bad behavior is not new. It has been obvious for years that RPA councilmembers (and affiliates) are not there do the work required to run this city. They have no interest in city operations or finances, they lack the necessary qualifications and experience, and have no desire to even be good councilmembers. They are only there to promote/push RPA and personal agendas, and fleece the taxpayers to pay the bills for their pet projects and other problems they create, by any means necessary.

    Wake-up Richmond Residents!! Stop voting these type of people into office. Do some veting.
Fight your California speeding ticket and win here. Fight your red light camera ticket here. Fight your cell phone ticket here.