Mayor Tom Butt: Who will replace Gayle McLaughlin on council?

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Mayor Tom Butt: Who will replace Gayle McLaughlin on council?
Members of the Richmond City Council from left to right: Eduardo Martinez, Gayle McLaughlin (departing), Jael Myrick, Tom Butt (mayor), Jovanka Beckles, Melvin Willis, Ben Choi.

Mayor Tom Butt

In a normal election year, you need 6,000 to 10,000 votes, a war chest of tens of thousands of dollars and untold hours of campaigning to win the dubious distinction of serving on the Richmond City Council. In the next few weeks, that opportunity is available for only four votes, no cost and minimal time campaigning.

Richmond Councilmember and former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin announced her resignation effective July 18 to pursue her campaign for California Lieutenant Governor. Her full statement was read at last night’s City Council meeting and is copied at the end of this email.

McLaughlin’s resignation sets in motion procedures prescribed in the Charter and Municipal Code to ultimately fill the position. Article III, Section 10 of the City Charter states that the City Council has 60 days from the date the vacancy occurs to make an appointment to the vacant seat. That date would be Saturday, September 16, 2017.

Last time this happened was when my seat became vacant on January 13, 2015, due to my election as mayor, and Vinay Pimple was ultimately appointed to fill it.

Richmond Municipal Code 2.16.090 outlines the procedure for filling vacancies on the City Council, and it states, “Every person who is interested in filling the vacancy shall be required to file a candidate’s statement as set forth in Section 2.16.080(a), but without payment of any fee.” The City Council must announce the vacancy, establish a deadline to file candidates’ statements in the City Clerk’s Office, and set a date for a public meeting for the City Council and the public to hear from the candidates who have submitted statements.

Last time this occurred on January 13, 2015, the City Council established January 29, 2015, as the deadline to file candidates’ statements in the City Clerk’s Office, and set Monday, February 2, 2015, as the date for the public meeting. Vinay Pimple was ultimately selected on March 3, scarcely a week before the 60-day deadline.

Last night, the City Council adopted the schedule for the current appointment:

  • Closing date for applications: August 15, 2017
  • Date of public meeting to hear from candidates: September 12, 2017

Applications are available in the city clerk’s office.

The City Council will have until September 16, 2017, to select a replacement. Presumably this will happen on September 12. If not, it could happen at a special meeting later the same week, but no later than September 16. If an appointment is not made within 60 days, we will have to call for a special election probably in June of 2018 at a cost to the City of up to $200,000.

The prevailing (and perhaps cynical) wisdom is that the RPA will select a candidate, and the four RPA City Council members will vote that person in to insure the continuance of their five-member majority. The prevailing wisdom also is that the chosen person will be Marilyn Langlois, the perennial but unsuccessful top RPA member chosen in previous elections and appointment opportunities.

On the other hand, last time this happened, Eduardo Martinez went rogue, and we ended up with the RPA’s worst nightmare, Vinay Pimple.

This opinion piece first appeared on the mayor’s e-forum newsletter.

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