During these past weeks I have been asked by many friends and residents of West County, “Why was I running to be returned to the Richmond City Council, especially given the fact that the meetings are so contentious, quite long and you take so much heat from what appears to be a few disgruntled people who have nothing else to do but come down and harass the council members?”
I have thought about this question long and hard. Had I not been appointed, I probably would have never taken the chance of running for office. It’s not because I didn’t want to serve, quite the contrary. I have been involved in West Contra Costa County since I first moved here in 1979. I have been involved in our schools, the Democrat Party, State and local commissions and as a secretary, treasurer and president of our Sikh Temple in Richmond and San Pablo.
No, I probably would never have run because of what I look like, especially what that can mean to some people after 9/11. A person wearing a turban, even when a Sikh from India, is not looked upon with great favor.
In fact, most Californians don’t realize how far back in California history we go. Sikhs began coming to California in the 1890’s. They came as farmers, artisans, mechanics and just plain laborers. My own family came to live in Berkeley in 1968 and we have been here ever since. We are proud to be Americans.
However, now that I have a better chance of being returned to the City Council, I feel compelled to run because of the challenge of getting Richmond back to where it was before the terrible financial crisis of 2004 when the city ran up a $35 million dollar deficit. Most of our citizens don’t realize the enormity of the problem that the deficit caused then and still causes today.
In 2004 the city had to lay off almost 300 employees, many of them serving in the police and fire departments.
- Programs were cut.
- Services were reduced and in some cases shut down.
- Our roads went unattended
- Crime shot up.
- And many other things went without attention.
I wasn’t on the council when the crisis took place. But I am able to be a part of the recovery that has been taking place. It hasn’t been easy. During the years after the financial crisis there have been several tax measures presented to the voters of Richmond. Only one of them has passed.
What does this mean?
It means that in tough economic times the Council and city staff have to be as creative as possible in finding new revenue streams to help pay the bills and restore as many of those city services as possible.
The Council and city staff have pursued attracting new business, reducing crime — crime has been reduced by 25% over the past year — and restoring many of those services that were cut.
I am bothered by the tension between some of the members on the council, especially the ones that feel compelled to vilify other members who might vote differently than they do. I have watched and been on many boards and commissions. I don’t believe I have ever seen one of the members on any of those boards berate their colleagues just because they think differently.
I believe I bring some civility to this process even though Councilman Butt wrote that I and two other minority members of the council should “go back to where you belong.”
I believe I can work to solve problems and get the work of the city done by working collegially with the other members of the council and all citizens of Richmond.
Yes, there is a lot left to do to get Richmond back on track. Yes, it is going to take a lot of work and involve every sector that comprises the city: our community… business… industry … labor … our neighboring cities and other governmental jurisdiction. But most importantly, we need a city council that will listen to all of these interests. We need a city council that will realize that the answer to our problems does not lie with a single interest but in our collective wisdom. We need a city council that will realize that the answer to our problems is in our coming together.
That’s why I’m running.