Photo: a very sick me after six years on the Council
When I was elected to the Vallejo City Council in 2005, the City was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Former city councils had been kicking the budget can down the road in order to stay "solvent" by making deals with the Vallejo Police Officers Association (VPOA) and the International Association of Firefighters #1186 (IAFF). They kept agreeing to give these public safety unions (PSUs) raises and other extra benefits in exchange for agreeing to defer payment of previously given raises for the next couple of years. As councils kicked the can down the road year after year, these deferred raises and other contract sweeteners kept compounding. When I was elected, 12% was due. We didn't have the money to pay for those deferred raises -- though the PSUs "generously" offered to defer again if we gave them another sweet deal for a couple of years.
I said no way, not going to happen. We'll take our medicine and fix the problem. I wouldn't leave for future councils what was left for me, and the citizens of Vallejo deserved better. We tried to bargain with the PSUs, asked them to take a modest pay cut so we could stay solvent. They refused. In the end, even the PSU paid-for council members had to vote for bankruptcy -- despite some of them frantically scribbling numbers just minutes before the vote. Numbers don't lie; we were bankrupt.
The PSUs were livid. For years they'd gotten used to buying and bullying city council members, and hated me for leading the charge to tell them, "No." They made sure I paid for it, though. I've haven't talked publicly much about what they did to me, how they harassed me, harassed my family, helped try to recall me and Councilmember Marti Brown, the complaints I filed against them for their harassment, the Internal Affairs Investigation the police did, the brutal, misogynistic cyber bullying they engaged in on a daily basis on the Times Herald blogs, Topix. I stopped reading the blogs early on, and had friends who would read them and reported the ones to me that threatened my life or had personal information, etc. I had to stay away for my own sanity. I was being cyber bullied before it even had a name.
I NEVER let them silence me or stop me from pushing for reform and changes (like PB and passing Measure A -- yay!). However, with the bullying and harassment, combined with working a full time job, caring for my ailing mother, in addition to my Council duties, I got very sick. The photo above is what I look at when I'm tempted to run again. I'm not a thin person, never have been -- I obviously became very ill.
So I understand Mayor Sampayan choosing not to run again. I'm so thankful to the wonderful people who have reached out to me asking me to run -- your support warms my heart. I know Vallejo needs strong, independent leadership like I could provide. That's the hardest part, I know I could do it. But I have to choose me first this time.
It makes it so much harder knowing that our current choice is Councilmember Hakeem Brown, who is a PSU-supported candidate who follows their lead. And I'm sure Councilmember Rozzana Verder-Aliga will run, who is also a PSU-supported candidate who follows their lead. The same group of people who participated in bullying and harassing me for opposing them are now trying to elect a mayor who will do their bidding.
I will say that I am very heartened by all the people showing up and demanding changes to the corruption and excessive use of force in our VPD. The people following the money, researching the budget, participating in meetings, watching what they're doing. I can only tell you from my experience, that while it may not feel like it does any good because the council majority just does what they want, it matters. Daylight matters. Your voices matter. It may not be instant gratification...but your pushing impacts them. There is such strength in a loud, vocal citizenry. I was in the minority on the Council for six of my eight years. But I was a strong, dogged, vocal minority, and I was able to make changes. And when I couldn't effect change, I spoke the truth about what was happening, and that made those who were serving the PSUs instead of the people of Vallejo mighty uncomfortable.
I promise to keep fighting with you. I'm getting ready to start to tell stories and share information from before and during bankruptcy, which is in many ways mirroring what is happening now. I want to give you hope that we can make change together, and help you all see where we shouldn't repeat some mistakes.
Now. I know there are a lot of people who have proven by their work in the community that they can be a good, independent mayor. You don't have to have experience as a city council member. That's easily learned. I've been watching the various battles you've all won. Will you consider running? I'd be happy to help. Who's in?
Dear Vice-mayor Gomes:
It was heart warming to read your authentic, powerful message and appeal to inspire new activists who care about Vallejo and its declining reputation to step-up and run !
Mina Diaz and Tina Arriola are set to run in Districts 3 and 6 so far. I suspect CM Sunga an Verder-Aliga are possibly doing their homework, now that incumbent is not running. There is a strong feeling to choose the BEST candidate we know and have with proven trak record, distinguished service to the people as a decorated Veteran and Attorney and 8-year councilmember of great, consistent repute and impact, fighting for the people to do the right things by Vallejo i.e. Robert McConnell is the BEST choice and we must all convince, persuade him to seek this important office to set a vision, direction and MAKE VALLEJO GREAT AGAIN !
Thank you for responding to the public and for helping all candidates and the voters to know FACTS from those 8 years on the Vallejo City Council along with another great CM, Marti Brown. Together, we shall prevail again .... Hope you and all your loved ones are keeping well in these Covid challenging times. Best regards and Namaste!
Very good story. Well written too. Admirable and inspiring. I'll be looking forward to hear more of them.
Ever since Trump was elected, I've been getting more and more involved in local politics, starting with our HOA. I figured, if someone as dumb, incompetent, unpleasant and corrupt as Trump can make it to the presidency, I should be able to do something for my community. I mentioned it to my wife about a month ago and her face turned to stone so let's just say, the idea wasn't well received. Your prodding however, has tickled my mind. I need to think about this and do some research.
Ms. Gomes, Many, many thanks for your bravery in outing the graft, collusion, apparent extortion and mendacious city officials (so-called "public servants") continue to drive our beautiful city into massive debt all the while starving our community schools, organizations and citizens into penury.
It is clear that the power of the PSUs is immense in this city. In particular, the VPD have seemingly flaunt their power harassing and even killing citizens even as they seem to have disappeared from patrolling our streets and neighborhoods as scofflaws flagrantly violate speed limits, stop signs and traffic signals. It seems the VPD is now more concerned with responding to housing code violations than actual crimes. And, when they finally do respond to crimes, their response routinely seems to be "Shoot to kill first, ask questions later” and then claim that they feared for their very lives . The VPOA is a shameless organization that supports secrecy, legal immunity for VPD officers who kill our citizens and it is apparently involved in what appears to be a mafia-style extortion racket against our elected officials.
I'm particularly shocked that after all the murders of black and brown people (for which we now have a growing negative INTERNATIONAL reputation), these same elected officials seem to believe that gifting the VPD with a $50,000,000 building on the waterfront is payback for all the lives the VPD have viciously murdered. Not to say the heartbreak, pain and suffering these unnecessary deaths have brought their immediate and extended families, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens.
Sadly, and from what you write, I can only surmise that defunding the current incarnation of the VPD and putting a stop to the proposed $50 million dollar HQ and re-imagining a new Public Safety organization and increased funding of community-based organizations that actually help and support WILL NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY.
I want to see Vallejo free of this extortion racket and I want to see the individuals and their organizations in our city who extort our Mayor, City Council and God-knows how many others in this city identified, investigated, removed or disbanded and justice served.
I love living in Vallejo (I bought a home and moved here from San Francisco in 2008) and I want to help make this happen. I'm hopeful the Mr. Robert McConnell will take up the banner and, with all Vallejoans behind him, carry on the fight that you began so many years ago. Let me know what I can do as I and many, many others are with you 100%.
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