Richmond’s Voters Deciding on Mayor, Council, Special New Tax
RICHMOND — Voters in this city’s Iron Triangle who turned out today to decide on the mayor’s race and Measure T, the tax code revision that would bring millions to the troubled city, expressed ambivalence about the measure and mixed support for the incumbent mayor.
Outcomes of Richmond Election Remain Elusive
RICHMOND — As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night, returns on the Richmond election were still not finalized, leaving the outcomes of the mayor’s race, city council race and the vote on Measure T in doubt.
With 25 of the 53 precincts reporting, Gayle McLaughlin led the race for mayor with 36 percent of the vote, followed by incumbent Irma Anderson, who had 35 percent. Gary Bell trailed with 27 percent.
“We all knew it was going to be a close race,” Bell said at his campaign headquarters last night.
One voter’s sentiment may have explained McLaughlin’s early lead. “Mayor Anderson doesn’t have a progressive thought in her body,” said Bruce Greenlee, 61, an attorney who voted for McLaughlin at Wilson Elementary School.
In the race for the three open city council seats, Jim Rogers lead with 21 percent followed by Maria Viramontes, 20 percent, and Corky Booze with 17 percent.
At 11:30 p.m. last night, 60 percent of votes counted were against Measure T, the tax code revision that proponents argue could bring millions to the troubled city.
One third grade school teacher at the Grant School in Richmond said she was troubled by voting problems. Mary Oshima said around 20 people arrived today at Grant, a former voting precinct, ready to cast their votes. Oshima complained that the change of voting precincts was not sufficiently publicized.
A frustrated Oshima tried with no luck to contact city and county officials to find the new location of the precinct, which had moved to the Wilson Elementary School.
“You feel like you’re being disenfranchised,” she said.
Late last night Mayor Irma Anderson said she was still expecting to prevail. “I’m waiting for the win,” Anderson said.
City officials have said Measure T would bring in an additional $8.5 million in general fund revenue by creating a “manufacturing” class in the city’s tax code and changing the way landlords are taxed. They said $8 million of the projected Measure T funds would be generated by Chevron’s oil refinery and that the additional half million would come from landlords. Chevron pays about $30 million in taxes to the city, roughly one-third of the city’s general fund budget.
Chevron has spent more than $200,000 in Richmond campaign contributions and waging what City Council member Maria Viramontes characterized as a “deluge of misinformation” at a recent Measure T press conference.
Ayoka Medlock, 28 a case analysis worker for the federal courts in Oakland, said she voted yes on Measure T. Chevron has “been getting away with everything for too long,” she said.
But at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on 17th Street in the Iron Triangle, William Woods, 22, said he had decided against Measure T. “I voted no,” Woods said. “My mom’s rent will go up. We don’t need that in Richmond. We need more business.”
Crime has been the dominant issue in the city’s mayoral and City Council elections. There have been 38 homicides in Richmond this year, exceeding the total for all of last year. In recent months, residents camped out in the toughest parts of the city to protest the homicides. They called their sit-ins “tent cities.”
Candidates campaigned on a platform to move the city forward and deal with the escalating violence and the lingering effects of 2004’s $35-million budget deficit.
In the race for mayor, incumbent Irma Anderson faces challenges from Councilwoman Gayle McLaughlin and Gary Bell, a banker. Anderson’s campaign has been well-funded, backed in large part by business interests. Her challengers, aiming to capitalize on residents’ growing frustration with crime and blight, have blamed the mayor for lack of leadership.
Neal Minihane, a 41-year-old FedEx employee, said he voted for Gayle McLaughlin. “It bothers me that Irma said she’s going to make the streets safe,” he said. “But what has she done for the last four years?”
Five candidates are running for three open seats on the City Council. There are two incumbents, Jim Rodgers and Maria Viramontes, and outsiders Corky Booze, Jim Rodgers and Ludmyrna Lopez. Booze is running for the seventh time.
All the candidates have promised to bring civility to a council plagued by infighting in recent years. Development has also been a priority, with the San Pablo and Macdonald Avenue corridors topping the list of areas in need of revitalization.
The Richmond City Council has nine members, including the mayor, who is elected separately but still sits on the council.
John Mahoney, 55, said today that he was voting for Anderson and for Measure T. Mahoney said he did not believe the assertion by Measure T opponents that the new law would cause rent increases. “Chevron can’t raise people’s rents,” he said. “People have got the wrong impression.”
Another voter, Lonnie C Washington, 78, said he voted for Bell, and against Measure T. “I like her,” Washington said of Anderson. “But she never got control [of the council]… We’re developing more problems than solving them.”
Opponents of Measure T have said it’s potentially illegal, and that such a tax would make Richmond an unattractive place to do business. “The chamber wants it to be easier to do business with the city,” said John Ziesenhenne, chair of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce board and member of RichPAC, the chamber’s political action committee.
Anderson’s war chest of $67,000 was more than twice that of either of her two opponents. Gayle McLaughlin ran her mayoral campaign on $17,000 and Gary Bell raised $32,000.
Of Chevron’s contributions in Richmond this fall, $120,000 went directly to the Committee to Oppose Measure T. According to the California Secretary of State Web site and campaign filings at the Richmond City Clerk’s office, the Committee for Quality Government Sponsored by Chevron Corporation gave the Black American Political Action Committee of Contra Costa a $33,000 contribution. BAPAC then gave the same amount to Mayor Anderson’s campaign.