In Detail: Big Money for Big Smears

In every one of Jovanka’s campaigns, she has been targeted by powerful and wealthy adversaries. They have tried to smear her by digging up errors. And where they cannot find these they simply make things up or take them out of context.

During eight years in office, City Council Member Beckles has studied, deliberated, advocated and voted upon thousands of actions ranging from the routine (approving sewer renovations) to the innovative (fending off foreclosures of vulnerable homeowners) and including symbolic and demonstrative actions (for civil and human rights, expressing sympathies, etc.).

In retrospect, out of the thousands, critics can find some justifications for derision. That’s the price of being an engaged politician.

With enough money, a campaign or political action committee can commission polls that investigate which claims can be most damaging (whether accurate or not), and “push-polls” that are intended to modify people’s votes. Both of these are underway on one side of the AD15 race. (The Beckles campaign is not conducting polls of any sort).

Push-polls put forth information that is sometimes true, sometimes half-truths, and sometimes false. The idea is to plant distasteful claims that merit a negative vote for the person allegedly connected to it, in the form of, “Would it make you more or less favorable to candidate X if you knew that he abused children?”

We expect later in the campaign that so-called “Independent Expenditure Committees” will send out expensive mailings with these same charges in the hopes that there will not be time to distribute responses to the smears.

Because Jovanka has been in public life for eight years she has a record of actions and statements which are easily checked. Like most people she has made mistakes. But she has a solid record of accomplishment. Please see her website at for these.

What is revealing is how few and how weak are the charges they are making. So here we take the charges found in these expensive push polls and in on-line commentary and put them in context.

Allegation: Jovanka yelled at and mocked a blind city council member.

In 2015, the City Council passed a rent control ordinance. Under state law the California Apartment Association submitted to Council a petition within 30 days which suspended implementation of the ordinance and forced it to ballot vote. The petition with 7,000 signatures, had been circulated by highly-paid petition gatherers, who received $12 or more a signature (the usual was $2-$3/signature). There was proof of false information and misrepresentation by gatherers trying for the big bucks. But the Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters certified the petition so the Council had to suspend the ordinance and put a revised version on the ballot for the next election.

In the summer of 2016, in anticipation of the ballot measure’s likely November passage, some landlords demanded huge rent increases. Hundreds of people asked the Council to support a moratorium on rent increases above 3% for the three months until the vote. Many residents told the Council heart-breaking stories. Children, and some of the women and men testifying, were crying as they spoke about being on fixed incomes and being forced out of their homes, or of rent increases that were impossible to afford on their salaries. The meeting was emotional but orderly and generally respectful. See the video of the meeting here:
(Item K1 begins at 2:42:50 into the meeting)

The resolution won a majority vote but not the required six out of seven “super majority” required to pass an emergency measure. When the resolution’s failure was announced, angry audience members started chanting “shame, shame,” upon which the mayor recessed the noisy meeting. Councilmember Beckles, sharing her constituents' outrage, raised her voice to be heard by Council members Nat Bates, Tom Butt and Vinay Pimple who had voted against the emergency measure. She did not address Pimple with any discriminatory language as some stories allege.

Jovanka has been through a lot on the Richmond City Council, including racist and homophobic slurs. Through most of it, she remained amazingly calm. But she is also human and, like all of us, occasionally expresses her anger.

The subsequent claim by Pimple (and its reproduction on Mayor Butt’s blog) were issued as part of the run-up to the 2016 election by these two entirely politicized individuals and reproduced in the Chevron sponsored newspaper, Richmond Standard.

In the November, 2016 election, in addition to passing the rent control ordinance, Richmond’s electorate defeated rent control opponents long-time Council Member Nat Bates and interim-appointment Council Member Vinay Pimple in their bids for re-election.

Allegation: Jovanka missed 40% of the votes on the City Council.

This is simply untrue, and those who allege it provide no evidence. Jovanka has voted on the vast majority of issues requiring a vote that have come before the City Council in her two terms of service.

It is the case that Jovanka often left Council meetings when they ran too far over time. While on the Council, Jovanka also has worked full time for Contra Costa County Mental Health Services. Until 2016 most other Council members were either retired or had flexible jobs: Jovanka has the kind of job that most working people have. She has to be at work on time, and to be on time she needs to arise by 6:00. And to perform well as a Mental Health Specialist for children, she needs to be alert and awake. Tuesday night Council meetings begin at 5:30 and often go past 11:00 and sometimes past midnight. Some nights Jovanka would simply excuse herself at 11:00.

Allegation: Because Jovanka voted for Jill Stein, and said so, she helped elect Donald Trump.

Under the US winner-takes-all system, all of the 55 California electoral votes are cast for the candidate that wins a majority of the voters. That all 55 in California would go for Clinton in 2016 was never in doubt. Indeed, Hillary Clinton hardly campaigned in California once the primary was over. The Democratic Party preferred to send its resources to other states.

Jovanka voted for Jill Stein as a protest vote to indicate dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Democratic Party whose actions froze out primary candidate Bernie Sanders and whose failed policies laid the basis for the rise of Trump. Jovanka’s California vote had nothing to do with Clinton’s losses in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. When asked for whom she voted a year later, she honestly responded.

Allegation: Jovanka opposes new home building.

Taking her words out of context, some critics quote Jovanka as saying “We don’t suffer from a housing shortage crisis.” However, on her platform at the time, the very next sentence was “We are suffering from a housing affordability crisis.” Jovanka was refining the point, arguing that what housing gets built is luxury or high-priced housing rather than responding first to the real crisis – affordability at all levels.

In Richmond, Jovanka has supported many housing developments that have been built within the past five years and some that are underway. She believes that when a building is proposed in a stable neighborhood, community members should be heard by decision-makers. Choices should be made not just based on how the developer “pencils it out.”

For Richmond, Jovanka seeks development in the core of the city near transit stations and does not support giving away valuable public land on the Bay for luxury housing. She has supported environmental and community groups’ opposition to a back-room settlement that gave half ownership of the most important parts of Point Molate to a developer.

Allegation: Jovanka believes in mind-controlling space weapons.

In 2015, Jovanka was approached by a group of Richmond residents who felt that they were in some ways targeted by spaced-based weapons and suffering head pains as a result. They complained that the police made fun of them and treated them disrespectfully. Jovanka consulted with police who agreed to treat these individuals with more respect. The citizens also requested that the City Council pass a resolution that recognized their concerns, treating them with the kind of respect that had been accorded by Council resolutions opposing hatred expressed toward the LGBT community.

Jovanka sponsored a resolution that called for the City of Richmond to support the Space Preservation Act proposed by Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

The 2001 version of the Space Preservation Act of 2001 (H.R. 2977) called for banning all weapons in space that could be targeted at other objects in space or on earth.

In 2005, Kucinich reintroduced the Bill as HR 2420, with 28 cosponsors including Californians Bob Filner, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Pete Stark, Mike Honda, Maxine Waters, and Lynn Woolsey.

The Space Preservation Act, for its advocates, was fully in line with a long history of efforts to demilitarize space (such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty to which the US is a party) and was contemporaneous with Chinese and Russian efforts to gain approval in the United Nations Disarmament Commission of a draft treaty outlawing both stationing of weapons in space and anti-satellite weapons.

The Richmond City Council passed the resolution to endorse the federal legislative proposal by a 5 to 2 vote. (One of the council members voting against the resolution stated he thought a program like Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” program was a good idea.)

Council members were surprised at the number of residents from out of town who showed up to support the measure because they felt “targeted,” and subsequently the action made news when the Richmond police department received calls from claimed victims of attacks from space.

The resolution Beckles sponsored was an effort to be responsive to pained Richmond constituents. Some Council members felt it should have been handled differently, but the majority believed a compassionate act to bring comfort to many residents would be harmless to the City and beneficial for those individuals.

Whether or not the resolution was the best approach, the act affirmed opposition to the militarization of space while being compassionate toward individuals feeling pain. Whatever the cause, these individuals feel real pain and deserved to be helped and not made the butt of jokes for political advantage.

Edit October 30, 2018:

Response to letter of April 24, 2015, now being publicly circulated

There is currently in circulation online a letter dated April 24, 2015, from Jovanka Beckles to a Richmond resident, in offer of support.

Councilmember Beckles communicated to this resident her request that the city behave respectfully and helpfully to people who believed that they were targets of attacks from space-based weapons.

In this letter Councilmember Beckles was not reinforcing the delusions of people experiencing them. She was informing them that she was urging the city that they be dealt with humanely and not be dismissed when making complaints about crime or other problems.

This letter and the resolution that Council passed were meant to demonstrate respect to these people even while other means were brought to bear to heal them.

We note that the letter seeks only compassion, respect, and assistance for people who self-identified as targeted individuals.

The letter is being circulated now to claim that somehow Councilmember Beckles herself was delusional, irresponsible, or unprofessional and therefore should not serve to represent AD15 in the Assembly.

What the circulation of the letter and its malign interpretation demonstrates is the willingness of her political opponents to go to extreme lengths to smear her. A fair reading shows Jovanka Beckles to be cautious in statement and compassionate in action.

The people posting the letter thinking that they're embarrassing Beckles should be ashamed of themselves for making fun of mentally disabled people and unnecessarily exposing the addressee to public humiliation for their own political ends.

With eight years on the City Council, having addressed hundreds of pressing municipal issues, with endorsement by major local, regional, state, and national figures, unions representing hundreds of thousands of members, and having been engaged compassionately and vigorously on the ground in the East Bay for more than 20 years, Jovanka Beckles will represent AD15 in an outstanding fashion.

Allegation: The $39.00 lamb chop. "Living the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous on the Taxpayers' Dime."

During the 2014 campaign, a Chevron-financed political group sent out a mailing with this charge. Their evidence was a restaurant receipt that included a $39 lamb chop. Like all elected officials, Jovanka had a small travel allowance that allowed her to attend conferences to learn from other communities’ experiences. The allowance also allowed a small amount to be spent on meals. At one conference, where meals were expensive, Jovanka skipped meals to afford a good one. Even with this meal, her meal expenses were well under the allowed amount.

Allegation: Jovanka opposes vaccination

Jovanka is a health professional, takes public health seriously, and understands that vaccines are safe and effective. She believes that vaccinations for children should be mandatory, except for those who are immuno-compromised or have other medical conditions.

This allegation arose because, in answering a question about vaccinations at a forum, Jovanka ran out of time as she answered. She was grappling with the fact that although vaccinations work, save countless lives each year, and are safe, some people still don't trust them. Opponents were quick to use her unfinished answer to spread totally false rumors across social media.

In no uncertain terms: Jovanka absolutely supports mandatory vaccination. But she also knows that many people don’t have confidence in pharmaceutical manufacturers and government, and some resist or refuse vaccination. We need to ensure that our pharmaceutical industry and government agencies are putting safety and testing over profit. We must have elected officials who will hold them accountable and not compromise best practices.

Jovanka is endorsed by teachers, the California Nurses Association, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, Healthcare for All-California, Healthcare for All-Alameda County, and Healthcare for All-Contra Costa County. Like them, and as part of her single-payer healthcare system advocacy, she supports free and mandatory vaccination as a vital preventive health measure.

Jovanka Beckles

I am running for the California State Assembly to transform our state government to work for people, not profit. Join me and our movement to build a California that works for the many, not the few.