By supporting Jill Stein, Jovanka Beckles failed the test of judgment.
In the lead-up to the historic 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, America had a choice between distinct visions for the country: amnesty for the undocumented versus family separation, protection of the Affordable Care Act versus a commitment to tear it apart, gun violence prevention versus support for the NRA, a strong safety net versus tax cuts for corporations, regulations on greenhouse gases versus eliminating them, and on and on.
Last week that choice was thrown into even starker relief as President Donald Trump nominated the right-wing Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, where, if confirmed, he will shift policy to the right for decades to come, challenging a woman’s right to choose, undermining California’s gun laws, overturning independent counsels, and much more.
Our East Bay community was near-unanimous in making that choice, with over 90 percent of voters choosing Secretary Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But not Jovanka Beckles, candidate for Assembly District 15 and Richmond City Councilor.
According to recent reporting by Politico, “at a time in which many Dems are especially angered at Trump administration policies, Beckles ‘drew audible gasps’ at a voter forum last March when she announced she voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein over Hillary Clinton in the November election against Donald Trump.”
Not only did Jovanka Beckles vote for Jill Stein, she was one of only a handful of elected officials to actively support her in an election where Stein’s vote count exceeded Trump’s margin of victory in the three critical swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
It was a test of judgment, and one that Beckles failed.
And we should not be surprised.
As civic leaders in Richmond, we’ve had front row seats to the record of Jovanka Beckles. What does it look like? Rather than constructively tackle our community's real issues, she has focused on ideas that can delve into conspiracy theory. She sponsored a city council resolution opposing "airborne weapons systems that have purportedly targeted residents with mind-control technology.” Her legislation turned the City of Richmond into a punchline, but the real cost became apparent when our police were inundated with calls from people around the country suffering from mental illnesses. Those individuals need help, not to have their dangerous conspiracy theories validated by the Richmond City Council.
Her track record is no better when she does take the time to actually address real issues facing our community. It's obvious that the Bay Area faces a housing crisis that has sent costs into the stratosphere, consumes the incomes of hardworking families, and leaves too many on the streets. Beckles response is telling. "We don't suffer from a housing shortage crisis," she said. In line with her rhetoric, she and her allies have consistently opposed the construction of new housing in Richmond. According to Mayor Butt, they have "stalled and caused downsizing to several projects, stopped one 100% affordable project, and most recently opposed a settlement for Point Molate that includes 740 units." Denying we have a housing crisis and actively opposing new home building will exacerbate our problem.
Jovanka Beckles has been a council member for almost eight years, and part of a super majority on the council for the past one and half years. How many housing developments has she championed? How many businesses has she recruited to Richmond? How has she spurred economic growth and housing development in downtown Richmond and near our transit centers? What policies did she champion that helped stop gentrification? None!
Those who oppose Beckles and her allies in elections or support differing points of view on key issues are faced not with constructive debates but rather venomous personal attacks and lies. After a city council vote, she repeatedly screamed into the face of fellow council member Vinay Pimplé. According to Pimplé, she went even further, mocking his disability (he is blind) by “screaming in my face the coarse messages on the RPA banners, 'Vinay is the Pimple on Tom's Butt.' She added loudly and multiple times that she wanted to tell me about the things I couldn't see.” Ms. Beckles knows all too well what it feels like to be on the receiving end of unwarranted, cruel and hateful remarks while serving on the city council. Sadly, rather than leading by example based on her own unfortunate personal experiences, she chose to emulate the very behavior she speaks out against simply because her fellow council member merely disagreed with her point of view.
As we saw with the harmful candidacy of Jill Stein, who we vote for matters. Who we send to Sacramento to represent us matters. Jovanka Beckles has time and time again failed basic tests of judgement, effectiveness, and decorum. Let’s not elect her to the Assembly.
Uche Uwahemu and Leisa Johnson are residents and community leaders in the City of Richmond.
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