Richmond proves this California city has turned a corner
By Cindy Beitmen
Guest Commentary Contra Costa Times 11/20/2010
I MOVED to Richmond in 2003 during a period of crisis when the city had a multimillion dollar debt and was still suffering under the weight of decades of corruption in the police and city administrations.
As Richmond's bond rating sank, almost every aspect of running the city was negatively impacted. The situation was unbelievably dire, but it was the first time I understood the caring and resiliency of our community.
People of Richmond came together to voice their concerns and their fears in emotionally charged meetings. Despite the hardships, many citizens were willing to volunteer by doing whatever they could to help the city.
Since then, we have had our share of very difficult times, but I now see Richmond as the phoenix rising from the ashes.
The city has a long history of corruption and crime that have left the rest of the Bay Area and beyond with the solidly embedded thought that Richmond is a city that one should be fearful of; a place that should be avoided where crime and corruption are a part of everyday life.
I would encourage all of those who have criticized Richmond in the past to take time to really understand the positive changes in our city before they are so quick to make judgments.
Take, for example, the last election. The police and firefighter's unions, as well as Nat Bates who was running for mayor, decided to take the road well traveled in Richmond's history.
They hired a consultant who found personal information about Mayor Gayle McLaughlin from years back that they chose to make public and used as ammunition for countless mailings.
Most of us received a barrage of robo-calls and e-mails continuing the underhanded tactics of sleazy campaigning that have worked in the past.
I was very fearful that this dirty politics campaign against Mayor McLaughlin would convince the voters to elect a new mayor who freely took contributions from Chevron and developers, stated that he really wasn't concerned about environmental issues, and was a strong proponent of building a mega-casino in Richmond.
When it was announced that McLaughlin had won her re-election, I knew that this was a huge turning point in politics as usual.
I was so proud of McLaughlin for staying true to what she believed in despite anything that was thrown in her path. She has an amazing strength of character that held up against the worst campaign abuse many of us have ever experienced.
Our re-elected mayor can now continue her mission of doing what is best for Richmond and its people. I was proud of our mayor, but realized the overwhelming pride I now have for the people of Richmond who voted out pro-Chevron, pro-casino, pro-corporate contribution candidates and replaced them with a pro-Richmond mayor and City Council.
It was clear that many voters in Richmond saw right through the negative million-dollar campaigning, and realized the virtue in electing candidates who refused all corporate funding and are now beholden to no one except the citizens of Richmond.
The process has been a difficult, uphill battle, but things have changed in our city.
So think before automatically making disparaging comments concerning Richmond and find out the truth about what kind of people and government we now have.
Cindy Beitmen is a resident of Richmond.