A 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