Another contentious City Council race appears to be shaping up in Hercules, which saw a complete turnover in its elected leadership in the wake of a financial crisis and chronic political turmoil the past two years.
Attorney Bill Kelly has announced he will run for the City Council on Nov. 6, becoming the second challenger to proclaim his candidacy to this newspaper. The other is Phil Simmons, a member of Hercules' Legal Ad Hoc Committee, which dissolved at the end of last month.
And on Monday, Councilwoman Myrna de Vera told this newspaper that Hector Rubio, the chairman of Hercules' Citizens Finance Ad Hoc Committee, will run as well. Rubio, in an email Tuesday, confirmed he would run, although, he said, he has not made an official announcement.
Three council seats will be at stake. The incumbents are Gerard Boulanger, William Wilkins and Dan Romero, the current mayor, all of whom were winners in a June 2011 special council election.
Romero beat two other candidates to replace former Councilman Ed Balico, who resigned in January 2011. Wilkins won a two-person race to replace then-Mayor Joanne Ward, who was recalled. Boulanger was the lone candidate to replace then-Councilman Donald Kuehne, who also was recalled.
Balico's resignation and the recall campaign occurred as the city's finances unraveled amid increasing public anger over former City Manager Nelson Oliva's practice of throwing city business to his family's consulting
In the November 2010 election, two months before Balico's resignation, voters replaced then-incumbents Kris Valstad and Joe Eddy McDonald with de Vera and John Delgado.
Kelly said he will run for council because he wants to work to make Hercules more business-friendly and its government more open. He was an early member of the Legal Ad Hoc Committee, which first met in May 2011 as part of its initial task to help select a city attorney to replace Mick Cabral, who had announced his resignation effective June 30, 2011. The search culminated in the council's choice of the current city attorney, Patrick Tang.
Kelly resigned from the committee once the search was complete. The ad hoc committee had its term extended twice by the council, the last time to June 30, and took on additional functions such as drafting policies related to ethics, whistle-blowers, conflict of interest and nepotism and cronyism.
Romero said he will run again in November. Wilkins said he has "pretty much decided to run for one more term," although he has not completely made up his mind. Boulanger said he has not decided yet whether to run.
All five current council members shared a common theme in their campaigns: criticism of the pre-December 2010 council and Oliva. Since then, council dynamics have become increasingly testy, especially between Romero and his predecessor as mayor, de Vera, who also frequently criticizes the new city manager, Steve Duran.
De Vera and Delgado were the council liaisons to the Legal Ad Hoc Committee and took part in its meetings.
The Legal Ad Hoc committee expired amid complaints by several residents that it did not fully comply with open-meeting laws. Simmons and several other defenders of the committee have said that Romero orchestrated the complaints through proxies. Romero said he had no role whatsoever in the complaints.
Simmons is a frequent critic of Romero and Duran. Rubio faults the council for not addressing Hercules' scarcity of retail businesses and sales tax receipts, which he blames for the city's structural deficit.
Another widely perceived likely candidate, Sherry McCoy, who read a detailed critique of the council and city manager into the record during a recent City Council public comment segment, told this newspaper recently that she has not made up her mind whether she will run. A former Planning Commission chairwoman, McCoy finished second to Romero in the June 2011 special council election.
The filing period for candidacy papers opens July 16.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760.