Richmond City Council (Richmond, California)

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The Richmond City Council is the governing body for the city of Richmond, California. The council consists of the Mayor of Richmond and six other city council members, one designated Vice Mayor. The council members are all elected from the whole city; no members are elected by district or ward. The council members are elected to four-year terms, as opposed to the previous six-year terms. They are not all elected at once. The council members meet every first and third Tuesday of the month and, if necessary, hold special meetings on the remaining Tuesdays. Presently the entire city council is Democratic.



Currently, the mayor is Thomas K. Butt and vice mayor is Ben Choi which serve alongside councilmen Nathanial Bates, Eduardo Martinez, Demnlus Johnson, Jael Myrick, and Melvin Willis

In 2010, the council passed an ordinance approving of unlimited cannabis dispensaries. This was supported by Nat Bates, Gayle McGlaughlin, Jim Rogers, and Jeff Ritterman, while opposed by Myrna López, María Viramontes, and Tom Butt. The majority stated that they liked the idea of more but smaller operations decentralizing the activity in the city.[1] Also in 2010, the council ponied up 1.5 million US dollars to keep John F. Kennedy High School and two elementary schools from being closed due to lack of funding. This was supported by Myrna López[2]

In 2011, the council voted in its majority with Nat Bates and Jim Rogers dissenting to cancel the Point Molate casino project and give the developer and tribe 120 days to propose an alternate use for the former Navy site.[3]

2014 saw the continuing strength of the Richmond Progressive Alliance's candidates winning a majority of the council for its third straight election.[4]

In 2018, the city finally resolved the matter of the former Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot, approving mostly housing and some businesses on 30% of the land and open space/parks on the remaining 70% after years of litigation regarding a proposed Las Vegas-style casino proposed by the Guideville Band of Pomo Indians.[5]

In the 2018 elections, the Richmond Progressive Alliance whose candidates form the left wing position on the council lost their supermajority.[6] The other half of the council is typically made up of Richmond Chevron Refinery backed candidates, also Democrats, but more to the right.[6] The reasons cited were Gayle McGlaughlin and Jovanka Beckels running for statewide office and Ade Recinos falling to sixth place in the election.[6] In 2019 the city council was mulling a ban on coal and petroleum coke storage that is frequently stored in boxcars along the industrial city's myriad train tracks off-gassing potential contaminants to the city's urban population possibly contributing to respiratory illnesses.[7]

In 2019, the city was mulling (and expected to pass) banning coal storage in box cars and at its Levin Terminal giving the business 3 years to transition to alternate business practices whilst not banning the transport of coal through the city itself.[8] It amounts to blocking 25% of the United States coal exports from the West Coast worldwide, mostly to China and other Asian countries.[9] It was opposed by the coal and storage industries but supported by a petition of 600 residents citing health concerns from the 1 million tons of coal, nearly 268 thousand tons of petcoke and nearly 156 thousand tons of scrap metal shipped and stored in the city in 2018.[10]

Also this year, the city fired its city manager by a vote of 4–3[11] Carlos Martinez citing "unfair labor practices" and the ire of the city's unions.[12]

Ben Choi[edit]

Ben Choi is the vice mayor and city councilman of Richmond, California since 2019.[13]


After Gayle McLaughlin's victory in 2006, the council appointed Harpreet Sandhu who had been the city's Human Relations Director to her vacant city council person seat. The fact that public input was not considered and that the candidates were not revealed to the public outraged many in the community. This led to the passage of an ordinance allowing anyone who can obtain 20 registered voters to sign a petition in their favor to be able to register with the city for a vacant seat. The petition was added to get the vote of council member Nate Bates, who considered passing the law without such a requirement would turn the city council appointments into an American Idol style circus.

Mayor McLaughlin voted against this measure since she thought the city needed to overhaul the process entirely to make it more democratic. Her campaign manager and vocal community activist Juan Reardon called the new ordinance a "travesty."[14]

The council has been noted in the media for frivolous and unproductive bickering, especially between Tom Butt and María Viramontes.[15] The council has been noted for having two distinct and opposing factions consisting of: Viramontes, López, Sandhu and sometimes Bates which conflicts with the remaining fellowship of McGlaughlin, Butt, Ritterman, and sometimes Rogers.[15]


The 2000s saw the rise and fall of pro-Chevron and anti-Chevron camps on the city council and the formation of the Richmond Progressive Alliance co-founded by Andres Soto. It was also the time during which Richmond was transformed from city with high gun violence and homicides to one with renewable energy and new schools built by a progressive Green Party mayor - Gayle McLaughlin who replaced Irma Anderson.

For the beginning of the decade the city council lineup was as follows: mayor Irma L. Anderson with vice mayor Jim Rogers and councilpersons Nathaniel Bates, Thomas K. Butt, Richard L. Griffin, John Márquez, Gayle McLaughlin, Mindell L. Penn, and María Viramontes.

During this decade the city managed to dig itself out of a 35 million US dollar deficit with crippling cuts to city services and 200 city job layoffs to a nearly 105 million US dollar renovation of the Richmond Civic Center.[16]

2004 saw the city's council majority endorsement of a casino at Point Molate.[17] In 2006 the city council voted to drop its membership in the Richmond City Council.[18] Richmond was the first city in California to do so, and in the country second behind only Chicago.[19] Mentioning the word "reparations", this story was picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle and carried in papers in Salt Lake City, Utah and Bluffton, South Carolina.[19][20][21]

As part of the "Consent calendar" at the 1 March 2005 meeting, the city council adopted an ordinance, sponsored by Mindell Penn and María Viramontes, to divest city funds from financial institutions linked to slavery.[22]

In 2009 the council was reduced in size from 9 to 7 seats in order to save the city salary costs.[23]

Myrna López[edit]

From 2006 to 2010 Ludmyrna "Myrna" López was on the city council, she was criticized as a rubber stamp for Chevron and the developers such as the Point Molate Casino by Andrés Soto while she promoted jobs and education for the most part.[24] She criticized the Richmond Progressive Alliance for not accepting corporate donations while not interfering with mass mailers sent out in opposition to Measure U an advisory ballot measure to approve of or disapprove of an Indian gaming casino at the former Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot.[25]

Mindell Penn[edit]

Mindell Lewis Penn[26] was a city council member in the city of Richmond, California between 1999 and 2005.[26] is a graduate of the UC Davis Financial School of Management, and is affiliated with the "powerful" Bay Area group Black Women Organized For Political Action.[27]</ref> She served on the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park project committee.[28][29] Mindell Penn was succeeded by the appointment of Tony K. Thurmond upon her resignation.[30]

John Márquez[edit]

John Márquez is an American Democratic politician and activist who has held various positions in Richmond, California city government over a span twenty-three years in addition to further years of service before and after in the West County Area.[31] This includes eighteen years[32] as a city councilman and a stint as vice mayor. He was the first Latino to serve on the Richmond City Council. Originally he was an appointee to the council in 1985 and won an election to that seat in 1987,[31] he subsequently lost his second bid in 1991.[33] However he was elected again in 1993 and twice more in 1997 and 2004.[33] In 1990 and 1998 he also served as vice mayor.[33] Márquez was defeated for re-election in 2008, and also lost a mayoral bid in 2001 to Green Gayle McLaughlin.

Jeff Ritterman[edit]

Jeff Ritterman is a cardiologist, politician, and activist from Richmond, California. He is currently vice president of the board of for the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility[34]

From 1981 to 2010 we worked at Kaiser Permanente's Richmond Medical Center where he rose to the position of chief cardiologist. From 2008 to 2012 he was a city councilman for the Richmond City Council, where he proposed a soda tax ballot measure, to combat childhood diabetes, that eventually failed to pass.[35]

Jim Rogers[edit]

Jim Rogers popularly known as "The People's Lawyer", was a city councilmember for the city of Richmond, California. He was first elected in 2002, and his final term expired in January 2015. He is a Democrat. From 1994 to 1998 he was a member of the board of supervisors of Contra Costa County, California.[36]

Harpreet Sandhu[edit]

Harpreet Singh Sandhu is a Sikh American politician and community activist from Richmond, California and one of the most prominent ones of the Sikh religion. He was the first Asian and the first Sikh city councilman in Richmond, and one of only a few Sikhs to hold office in the United States.[37][38] He lost reelection in 2008.[39]

Tony Thurmond[edit]

Tony K. Thurmond is an American politician who is the 28th and current California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Thurmond was narrowly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2018 over his opponent, Marshall Tuck.[40] He was the endorsed candidate of the California Democratic Party and all five 2018 California Teachers of the Year.[41][42] A Democrat, he went on to represent the 15th Assembly District from 2014 to 2018.

María Viramontes[edit]

Maria Theresa Viramontes[43] is an activist and former city councilwoman for Richmond, California's city council between 2001 and 2010.[44][45]

In 2003 she voted against the Point Molate casino, however in 2010 she supported the project, that was later turned down by Richmond voters for the former naval fuel depot.[46] In 2004 she again voted against a casino proposal by Upstream and its partner Harrah's.[47]

In 2005 she proposed a measure with John Márquez to declare a state of emergency over the city's high crime rate which she compared to a "war zone"[48] something opposed by then-mayor Irma Anderson citing that such situations involve the National Guard and suspending civil rights, ultimately her proposal was voted down.[49] In 2006 she supported spending $US 30,000 on taxi script for low income residents.[50]

Also in 2010 she was voted out along with Ludmyrna López and replaced by Corky Boozé and Jovanka Beckels – both of whom campaigned on anti-casino platforms and Boozé in particular was a vocal critic of Viramontes.[51][52] Furthermore, that year she vehemently supported the preservation of the wild turkeys of Point Richmond, and also in the North & East neighborhood.[53]


Rosemary Corbin[edit]

Rosemary Corbin is a longstanding Democratic public figure and former mayor of Richmond, California.[54]

Corbin served on the Richmond City Council from 1985 to 1993, and then as the mayor from 1993 to 2001.[55] In 1993, Corbin defeated incumbent Richmond Mayor George Livingston, who was seeking re-election.[56]

In 1998 the city's mining ordinance expired leaving the city's quarries and abandoned mines regulation up to the state, something councilman Tom Butt tried to ameliorate in 2006 with a new ordinance which caused conflicts with the city attorney John Eastman.[57]


John Ziesenhenne[edit]

He was a councilman from 1982 to 1993 and ran for mayor in 2010 unsuccessfully against Gayle McGlaughlin who won. He lives in the North & East District and is CEO of an insurance company. He supported the casino and hotel project at Point Molate.[58]

George Livingston[edit]

George Livingston was an American politician who served as the first elected African American mayor of Richmond, California, from 1985 to 1993.[56] Livingston was appointed Mayor in 1985 by the city council. He won election as Richmond's first elected African American mayor in 1989 for a full term.[56][59]



George Carroll[edit]

George Carroll was an American lawyer who was an important civic figure in Contra Costa County, California and the city of Richmond.[60]

He was the first black lawyer in Richmond, California.[60] In 1961 Carroll became the first African American elected to the city council (1961–1964)[61] and later became the first black mayor of Richmond (1964–65)[61] or any large American city.[60] Afterwards George Carroll became the first black judge in Contra Costa when he was appointed to the Bay Municipal Court by Governor Pat Brown in 1965.[60][61]

Nathaniel Bates[edit]

Nathaniel Bates is a former mayor and seven-term city councilmember of Richmond, California.

Bates was a city councilmember from 1967 to 1983 and again from 1995 to the present. He was chosen as mayor for 1971–72 (during which time he was the first African-American to chair the Contra Costa Mayors Conference) and again for 1976–77.[62] He was the third African-American mayor of Richmond after George B. Carroll. His seven terms on the city council are unprecedented in the city of Richmond, and his 32 years of service make him one of the longest-serving city councilmembers in the state. He is a Democrat.[citation needed]





1905 founding through 1910s[edit]

Spanish government[edit]

The city was part of Rancho San Pablo. The government included juez de camps (field judges) such as Víctor Castro.

Ohlone government[edit]

The future city of Richmond would be the site of the Wichiun village of the Chochenyo speaking Ohlone people. They governed the land through tribal chiefs out of the village site at present day Alvarado Park


  1. ^ Stewart, Ian. "Council passes 'liberal' medical pot ordinance". 21 July 2010. Richmond Confidential. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  2. ^ Meron, Shelly. "City pays to keep three Richmond schools open". 8 September 2010. East Bay Times. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  3. ^ Richmond Council Cancels Point Molate Casino Deal, Janna Brancolini, The Berkeley Daily Planet
  4. ^ Despite the Best Efforts of the Democratic Party, Some Good Candidates Won in Berkeley and Richmond, Becky O'Malley, The Berkeley Daily Planet
  5. ^ Richmond Successfully Resolves Point Molate Litigation, The Berkeley Daily Planet
  6. ^ a b c Geluardi, John. "Progressives Failed in Richmond". 04 December 2018. East Bay Express. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  7. ^ Richmond city council to consider ban on coal storage, Kathleen Kirkwood, KTVU
  8. ^ 'Showdown' Over Richmond Coal Storage Set For This Week, El Cerrito Patch
  9. ^ Coal Exports Choked by Green-Minded Towns on U.S. West Coast, Will Wade, Bloomberg
  10. ^ Richmond City Council to consider coal storage ban, Kathleen Kirkwood,
  11. ^ Richmond City Council Haplessly Fires City Manager, John Geluardi, East Bay Times
  12. ^ Richmond city manager fired after less than a year, Ali Tadayon, East Bay Times
  13. ^ Richmond councilmembers to be sworn in tonight, Richmond Standard
  14. ^ Council shifts way it fills seats, Contra Costa Times, by Joshua Geluardi, March 11, 2007; retrieved May 25, 2007
  15. ^ a b Strife doesn't throw council off course: Despite setbacks, Richmond's leaders say, city has regained respect and its bond rating, by John Geluardi, Contra Costa Times, posted online August 18, 2007, retrieved August 23, 2007.
  16. ^ Environmentalists Take Lead in East Bay Land Disputes, Richard Brenneman, The Berkeley Daily Planet
  17. ^ Richmond Council Endorses Casino Plan For Point Molate Site, Richard Brenneman, The Berkeley Daily Planet
  18. ^ Richmond Council Drops Chamber Membership, Judith Scherr, The Berkeley Daily Planet
  19. ^ a b Jason B. Johnson, Chronicle staff writer (March 12, 2005). "EAST BAY. Firms that profited from slavery reviewed. Richmond, Oakland consider early step to seeking reparations". San Francisco Chronicle. SFGate. Retrieved 2011-12-11. Richmond Councilwoman Maria Viramontes, who proposed the measure along with fellow Councilwoman Mindell Penn, said the city's new law was inspired by the events in Chicago...
  20. ^ Jason B. Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle (March 21, 2005). "2 California cities look at profits from slavery. Movement may lead to restitution payments". Salt Lake City: Deseret News. Retrieved 2011-12-18. Richmond Councilwoman Maria Viramontes, who proposed the measure along with fellow Councilwoman Mindell Penn, said the city's new law was inspired by the events in Chicago...
  21. ^ San Francisco Chronicle (March 21, 2005). "Firms that profited from slavery reviewed". South Carolina: Beaufort Gazette. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
  22. ^ "CC01MAR2005.pdf" (PDF). City of Richmond. March 1, 2005. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 29, 2012. Retrieved 2011-12-18. Consent calendar...ORDINANCE – regarding the Slavery Era Disclosure Act and disclosure and divestment of investment earnings from City-sponsored Pension Funds or Investment Funds from financial and insurance institutions that benefit from international investment in slavery – Second Reading – Councilmember Penn and Viramontes (620-6513).
  23. ^ McLaughlin Takes Office Tuesday, Richard Brenneman, The Berkeley Daily Planet
  24. ^ Connelly, Christopher. "Lopez's well-funded re-election bid focused on jobs, education". 26 October 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
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  26. ^ a b Cecilia M. Vega (June 1, 2005). "Richmond. Councilwoman says she will resign". San Francisco Chronicle. SFGate. p. B.5. Retrieved 2011-12-15. Councilwoman Mindell Lewis Penn...will resign at the end of the month...move to Detroit to be with her elderly mother. Penn, 60, was first 1999 and re-elected in November.
  27. ^ Finances, Jobs, Safety Top Issues in Richmond Race, J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, Berkeley Daily Planet, 20-08-2004, access date 23-12-2011
  28. ^ "Rosie the Riveter Memorial Project History". US National Park Service. Rosie the Riveter Trust. Retrieved 2011-12-20. panel...formed...on January 16, 1998. The Rosie the Riveter Selection Panel consists of...businesswoman Mindell Penn...
  29. ^ "Vision and strategic plan" (PDF). US National Park Service. Rosie the Riveter Trust. June 11, 2005. pp. 20–21. Retrieved 2011-12-20. She currently serves as First Vice-President on the BWOPA State Board of Directors, the Contra Costa County Community College Board of Trustees, and the Rosie the Riveter Trust Board of Directors. In 2002, she retired from Pacific Gas and Electric Company as Director of Government Relations, Contra Costa County.
  30. ^ Finances, Jobs, Safety Top Issues in Richmond Race, Douglas Allen Taylor, The Berkeley Daily Planet
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  32. ^ Francisco Rendon (October 29, 2008). "John Márquez". Accent Advocate. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved 2012-04-29. Originally appointed in 1985, he was the first Latino to serve on the Richmond City Council... Still an adjunct professor at CCC...
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  34. ^ Jeff Ritterman, MD,
  35. ^ Richmond's soda tax campaigner, Carolyn Jones, SFGate
  36. ^ Supervisors to Choose New Chairman of Board, San Francisco Chronicle, January 1, 1999
  37. ^ First White House celebration of Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Founder of Sikhism
  38. ^ Richmond Sikh, Activist Joins Council, John Geluardi, Contra Costa Times, January 18, 2007, access date 07-12-2011
  39. ^ Richmond’s Newest Councilmember Brings Activist Credentials to the Job, Richard Brenneman, The Berkeley Daily Planet, November 26, 2008. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  40. ^ Gammon, Robert. "Tony Thurmond Wins State Superintendent of Schools Race", East Bay Express. November 16, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  41. ^ "California's 5 Statewide Teachers of the Year for 2018 Endorse Tony Thurmond for State Superintendent" (17 Oct 2018).
  42. ^ "Tony Thurmond Wins California Democratic Party Endorsement in Landslide".
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  44. ^ Albany ends election of police chief / Emeryville OKs higher taxes on hotel guests, Rick DelVecchio, Meredith May, Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle
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  46. ^ Plan for Casino in Richmond Raises Fears of a Bad Precedent Plan for Casino in Richmond Raises Fears of a Bad Precedent, Frances Dinkelspiel, The New York Times
  47. ^ RICHMOND / Point Molate casino on track after City Council OKs proposal / Willie Brown enters fray for Chevron, which is fighting deal, Cecilia M. Vega, SFGate
  48. ^ RICHMOND / Killings, violence down sharply this month / Police arrest 3, seek 3 others in June 27 double homicide, Leslie Fulbright, SFGate
  49. ^ Richmond votes against state of emergency, Leslie Fulbright, San Francisco Chronicle
  50. ^ West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee minutes
  51. ^ Planned Richmond casino at Point Molate in danger, Carolyn Jones, SFGate
  52. ^ Corky Boozé man to watch on Richmond City Council, Chip Johnson, SFGate
  53. ^ Point Richmond Turkeys Headed for the Soup, Tom Butt, The Berkeley Daily Planet
  54. ^ Chevron Access Needed for Richmond Bay Trail Link, by Geneviève Duboscq, The Berkeley Daily Planet, 27-03-2007, access date 06-04-2009
  55. ^ Rosie the Riveter
  56. ^ a b c Peterson, Gary (2012-01-07). "Richmond's first elected black mayor dies". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
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  59. ^ Jones, Carolyn (2012-01-11). "George Livingston, Richmond's 1st black elected mayor". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
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  61. ^ a b c Richmond's Black History Corner, city of Richmond, California website; accessdate January 17, 2016.
  62. ^ "Biographies & Terms: Nathaniel Bates",; accessed December 2011.

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