On November 8th we will have a chance to use the full weight of the electoral process to determine who will be the next President of the United States. As important as this is, here in Richmond there is also a critical race being contested for three seats on the Richmond City Council.
Radio Free Richmond has extended an offer to all nine candidates to post their own words to let you, the voters, know their positions on what they believe to be the important issues.
RFR will post a new candidate statement every couple of days.
When I joined the City Council last year, I looked forward to focusing on the two areas closest to my heart: education and jobs.
As a former English teacher, I volunteer with the Writer Coach Connection where we mentor high school students on their writing assignments.
- My wife Joni and I volunteered as mentors with RPAL, knowing the challenges faced by our high risk teen aged children.
- As a volunteer Math tutor with the City's Literacy for Every Adult Program (LEAP), I am keenly aware of the specific problems faced by our residents, who had slipped through the cracks, in getting a second chance at jobs and careers.
Within three months of joining the Council, though, I was confronted with Moodys downgrade of our bond rating due to "unusually weak financial management" by the previous administration. My head told me that good finances weren't optional: I couldn't keep my promises of improved services without adequate funds. My knowledge as an attorney (I have a law degree from U.C. Berkeley), and my math skills (I worked as a software engineer) helped me quickly grasp the causes and scale of our problems.
With the 2013-2014 budget deficit of more than $9 million, the additional $9+ million that we borrowed to fill a hole in the 2014-2015 budget, and the suppression of the grim five-year financial forecast in 2014, prompted Moodys to downgrade our bond rating.
Despite my strong objections over the use of $3.4 million of borrowed money and the absence of a financial forecast, the Council passed the budget. Predictably, Moodys gave us a further downgrade to junk bond status, which cost us over $10 million in higher fees. This was in addition to the $16 million we had to pay for the $9 million we had borrowed the previous year.
This jolt, combined with sustained pressure from me, you (our residents), and the media, finally resulted in the 2016 budget being our first structurally balanced budget in many years. And even though we still don't pay our Annual Required Contribution for retiree health care, we are on a much better financial path. This is why the East Bay Times gave me a glowing endorsement, and why Council Member Nat Bates endorsed me.
My happiest vote was to establish the Richmond Promise scholarship program, which gives as much as $1500 per year in scholarship funds to our graduating seniors to attend college. While other Council Members wanted to restrict the scholarship to students attending only certain types of schools, along with Councilmember Bates and Mayor Butt, I made sure that ALL Richmond youth were included. I am hopeful that creating a college going culture and giving students the necessary support, will create college graduates from young people who thought college wasn't meant for them.
I fostered collaboration between LEAP and the Building Trades so that LEAP students can have good careers in the Building Trades.
Along with Mayor Butt, and Councilmembers Bates and Myrick, I approved the construction of 450 units of affordable housing, and hundreds more units of market rate housing to ease the housing crisis.
I championed the successful San Leandro Rent Review model to give relief to our renters from high rents.
If re-elected, my primary goal is to continue on the path of fiscal responsibility that we finally adopted this year, and make sure that we don't lose tens of millions through financial mismanagement.
I will partner with parents and the WCCUSD to improve education.
I will continue to create more and better jobs for our residents by attracting businesses and improving job training programs.
Above all, your concerns will always have a willing ear and a strong voice on the Council.
As my volunteering shows, I care deeply about the welfare of our residents: deeply enough to put in the hard work to thoroughly study every proposal -- to prevent laws with unintended consequences. I will continue to be a calm, thoughtful, and independent voice on the council.
The Contra Costa Democratic party, the California Democratic Party, Councilmember Nat Bates, and the East Bay Times have all endorsed me. I humbly ask for your vote, and encourage you to talk about your choice with friends and family.