Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has run out of patience with colleague and Councilman Corky Booze, the man she says is responsible for inciting routine dysfunction and chaos at Richmond City Council meetings.
The mayor sent out an email letter this week (see below) castigating Booze — she doesn’t mention him by name but everybody knows who she is talking about — for what described as an unacceptable “battering situation.”
Her missive comes after Tuesday night’s huge blow-up some six hours into another marathon session, where the mayor sat as a referee between Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles who was calling Booze a “bald-faced liar” and “evil” while he repeatedly demanded the mayor shut her up when he has the floor. (Read my colleague Robert Rogers’ story on the meeting here.)
For his part, Booze calls the mayor’s email a blatant “political hit piece” intended to promote the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s slate of candidates running for the city council in November. He says the mayor, Beckles, councilmembers Tom Butt and Jeff Ritterman repeatedly interrupt him.
“This email is over the top,” Booze said. “I’ve never heard of a mayor doing something like this. But I’ve been hitting the Richmond Progressive Alliance every Tuesday.”
Councilman Nat Bates, who is also on the outs with the mayor, blames McLaughlin for the council meeting chaos.
“In most organizations, be it church, community group, business or governmental, the success or failure of the meetings almost always rest in the leadership quality of the chairperson,” he said. “A chairperson must be fair, impartial and lead by example while displaying respect for their colleagues and the public. Unfortunately, this mayor does neither and thus is the result of a dysfunctional Richmond city council.”
Here’s the mayor’s email:
I am compelled to make a statement about the current state of affairs at Richmond City Council meetings.
Those of you who follow City Council meetings know how much chaos and discord exists. I want to share my feelings about this.
There is dysfunction on this Council, but the dysfunction does not come from the Council as a whole. This dysfunction comes from one councilmember. It is truly a shame that this councilmember disrupts time and time again the needed business under discussion at the Council meeting. He forces us to deal with chaos, disruptions, and vitriolic speech that bring harm to the entire city of Richmond.
It is the people of Richmond who suffer from all of this. It is the people of Richmond who are being held hostage because this councilmember refuses to adhere to the rules of the City Council. As chair, my job is to keep the meeting moving forward. When discussion becomes unproductive, I necessarily need to move us on. Discussion not only becomes unproductive, but as I said, it becomes chaotic, disruptive and vitriolic in its content….and it is this one councilmember who will not adhere to my role as chair. He feels that once “he has the floor” he has it until he has fully finished attacking and insulting me, other councilmembers, members of the City staff, and/or certain members of the audience. Then when the frustration level of other councilmembers has reached a limit and they intervene (after I have intervened unsuccessfully with him talking over me and talking over the gavel – as I call him out of order), we have even more chaos on the Council. I have called and will continue to call recesses of the Council meeting when such situations occur.
One of our others councilmembers, who has suffered his insults incessantly, conveys the situation in an explanatory way like this: “You have one councilmember beating up on another. The first councilmember attacks and attacks with the other councilmember not fighting back, recognizing that the public can see the despicable behavior exhibited and judge for themselves. Yet the beating continues until the councilmember under attack, now on the floor suffering more jabs, decides she has had enough and stands up and pushes back. The first councilmember and his supporters in the audience call out: How dare you push back? You are being “unprofessional.”
This, my friends, is where the current state of affairs on the Richmond City Council is at. One councilmember is managing to hold a city hostage.
This MUST not continue. Many of us have looked toward changing the composition of the City Council in order to shift toward a better Richmond, and we will continue to do that. We have made so many gains with good councilmembers being elected in recent years. We will make more gains in November, and in subsequent elections. But we are currently dealing with something that is immediate in nature.
We are dealing with a battering situation, the result of which, if allowed to go on, will be highly destructive for our city. As a result, I will be more strictly enforcing the rules of the City Council, as per my role as chairperson, provided to me by the Charter of the City of Richmond in accordance with the Constitution of the State of California. Disagreement on issues is expected and can be productive, but where we are at right now is something altogether different.
I call on all members of the City Council and members of the audience to adhere to my call for order during meetings when I put out such a call. The disruptive nature of our Council meetings MUST be reversed.
I will not relinquish my parliamentary procedure duties. I will not let one councilmember hold the city hostage.
Thank you for your support at this critical time. We shall prevail, even among setbacks, to bring forward a political culture whereby the people’s business can be addressed in a healthy and productive way.
Mayor, City of Richmond