The Richmond City Council chamber was packed beyond capacity last night. Family, friends, and supporters of the victors in last November’s election came out to watch as their newly-minted government representatives took the oath to be sworn into office.
The night was a time for celebration for most, however a rally held by a new community organization before the event made it clear that the new council has their work cut out for them.
“Concerned Citizens of Richmond, a grass roots group of concerned citizens from Richmond, was created to ensure that the many voices of Richmond are heard,”Richmond resident Don Gosney declared before a small but dedicated audience. Gosney then went on to cite lingering issues with the city’s housing authority, the demolished MLK center, and ever-growing deficit.
Concluding his remarks, Gosney said that “Richmond has some serious issues in front of us, and we need for our elected leaders to put their politics behind them, reach out to people that may disagree with them, and find ways to work together to make Richmond a better place for ALL of us to live in.” (Full disclosure: Don Gosney is a part owner of Radio Free Richmond.)
The camaraderie of the events inside the chamber stood in stark contrast to Gosney’s remarks. In the hour leading up to the ceremony, the elected and reëlected representatives waiting to be sworn in mingled with constituents and took in the jubilant air of the evening.
“What a journey it has been,”outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said during her departing remarks from office. McLaughlin, who was sworn into a City Council seat last evening, cited progress in crime reduction, taxing Chevron, and making the city a more welcoming environment for the growing immigrant population as achievements over her eight-year run as mayor.
McLaughlin, along with newly-sworn in councilmembers Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez, was elected in a progressive sweep of city council seats. Amid a contentious fight between Chevron-backed candidates and the Richmond Progressive Alliance, each of the Alliance’s candidates won in last November’s election. Last night the three were sworn in by the City Clerk, Diane Holmes.
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom attended the ceremony to swear in longtime councilmember Tom Butt as Mayor and reëlected councilmember Jael Myrick to the two-year council seat.
Before reciting the oath, the Lieutenant Governor reflected on the council and community around him. “I’m grateful to be here,”began Newsom. “What makes Richmond great is its capacity to celebrate all of its interesting differences but to still unite over the community. That’s the spirit of this moment, and that’s the spirit of Richmond.”
After being sworn in, Mayor Butt looked around and thanked his peers for their hard work. He then issued his first official declaration as holder of the highest office in Richmond. “This is probably the most fun one I will ever order,” Butt joked. “The order of the day is to party!”
The audience rose into applause upon Mayor Butt’s declaration. The ceremony was followed by a reception in the Richmond Memorial Auditorium where the public celebrated the newly sworn in officials and their civic duties ahead.
Last night was a time for celebration. It was clear from each of the Councilmembers and the new Mayor that while they are enjoying this time to reflect, they have a lot planned for the coming year in Richmond.