City Council fails to appoint candidate to vacant seat

Sean Pyles

blogimage.jpgA divided City Council last night failed to appoint a candidate to fill the vacant City Council seat. After hearing presentations from all but one of the 18 candidates, the council began a series of hurried motions to appoint a candidate to the seat. However, none of the motions achieved the four necessary votes to elect a candidate.

The Council stood divided on party lines. After hearing presentations from the candidates and comments from the public, councilmember Gayle McLaughlin was the first to put a name forward: Marilyn Langlois, the leading candidate from the Richmond Progressive Alliance organization of which McLaughlin and fellow councilmembers Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez are also members.  

Vice Mayor Jael Myrick stood principally opposed to the appointment of Langlois. “I do not feel comfortable appointing a fourth RPA candidate,” Myrick explained. “In two years, three of these seats will be up for election, and if the public wants an RPA majority on this council they can decide that then.” 

Myrick agreed with Langlois on many ideas, he explained, but he did not want to give one entity a majority control of the Council. The vote for Langlois was divided by affiliation. Beckles, McLaughlin, and Martinez voted in favor, while Butt, Myrick, and Councilmember Nat Bates abstained.

Six more nominations quickly followed Langlois’: Sheryl Lane, Raquel Donoso, Claudia Jimenez, Kate Sibley, Rosemary Corbin, and Ben Choi. Each nomination failed to get the necessary four votes, and each continued the voting pattern established by the first nomination. Two of the seven voted on nominations were presented by the Council’s RPA members, with the remainder brought forward by Myrick and Butt. Donoso stood as the only candidate to garner three non-RPA votes. 

In the end Vice Mayor Myrick nominated Dameion King, a community activist, but when the nomination failed to get a second Mayor Butt called an end to the meeting.

Council will again try to appoint a nominated candidate to the vacant seat during their next meeting. A special election will be held in November if the six-member council fails to come to a decision by March 13th. Such an election is unprecedented in Richmond, and it is estimated by city officials to cost upwards of $200,000.  

With little more than a month to make the decision, councilmembers will have to negotiate their principles if they want to save tax payers from taking the brunt of their indecisiveness. 


Below are the results of the motions for each candidate in the order they were nominated: 

Langlois: motion by McLaughlin, seconded by Beckles: failed - Myrick no, Bates/Butt abstaining

Lane: motion by Myrick, seconded by Butt: failed - Martinez/Bates/McLaughlin/Beckles abstaining, Butt and Myrick yes

Donoso:  motion by Myrick, seconded by Butt: failed - Martinez/McLaughlin/Beckles abstaining, Butt, Myrick, Bates yes

Jimenez: motion by Beckles, seconded by Martinez: failed – Myrick/Butt/Bates abstaining, Martinez, Beckles, McLaughlin yes

Sibley: motion by Butt, seconded by  Myrick: failed – Martinez/Beckles/McLaughlin/Bates abstaining, Butt and Myrick yes

Corbin: motion by Myrick, seconded by Butt: failed - Martinez/Beckles/McLaughlin/Bates abstaining, Butt and Myrick yes

Choi: motion by Butt, seconded by Myrick: failed - Martinez/Beckles/McLaughlin/Bates abstaining, Butt and Myrick yes

King: motion by Myrick, no second

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  • Don Gosney
    commented 2015-02-11 12:22:08 -0800
    Although Councilmember McLaughlin chastised the non RPA Councilmembers and the public for using RPA affiliation as a litmus test, the RPA Councilmembers voted as a block either for two of the applicants or solidly against everyone else. It might have been a more convincing argument that these three truly are independent thinkers had they shown some independence at this meeting.

    Something of great concern is what we can expect to happen between now and next Tuesday. What kinds of back room deals might be struck? What kinds of allegiances might be coerced? How much quid pro quo will be demanded? Will there even be the hint of Brown Act violations?

    The one thing that was amazing at this meeting was how smoothly it went. With the exception of the disruptive child in the audience during the first hour that kept many of us from hearing the applicants, the meeting was incredibly brief and without rancor. No disruptive cell phone calling or candy bar unwrapping like two years ago to break the concentration of applicants.

    Many of the speeches lasted less than the 8 minutes allotted each of them, members of the Council had few questions of the applicants, most of the applicants declined their 2 minute rebuttal and even one applicant was a no-show.

    Many of the applicants spoke well and, if decisions were based only on the speeches, we would have about a half dozen new Councilmembers today. But there’s always more than just what’s said in the speeches.

    Ten of the applicants had been appointed by the RPA Mayor to commissions and such. Most people would assume that she would only appoint people who shared her values and commitments. It would then stand to reason that they would continue to be sympathetic to those values—RPA values—if they were to ascend to the Council.

    Many served on the Planning Commission where the Chevron Modernization and development issues were decided and these were sometimes very controversial votes—often going right down the party line.

    But little of that was evident from their speeches so it’s critical to know the players, know the issues and know the back stories of each of these applicants.

    Next Tuesday’s meeting is expected to be quite a show.
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