PRAYING HURT: The Eye couldn't help but be inspired during memorial services for former Antioch Councilman Reggie Moore -- and not just because of the large turnout.
R. Mario Howell, pastor at Antioch Church Family, presided over the event just months after having surgery on his spine, saying he felt compelled to be there for Moore and his family, especially after spending time with him while he battled cancer and was in hospice. The Moores joined the church in 2010.
"If anybody asks me what Reggie meant to me, I tell them he was a door-opener," said Howell, who wore a large neck brace.
Despite his stiffness, Howell loosened up as the service got going.
At one point, he started jumping up near the pulpit, saying he felt good to be there. He then stopped, saying he didn't want his wife or the doctors to get upset at him.
When Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, finished speaking about Moore and teared up several times, Howell jokingly said: "You ain't nothing but a big baby." Frazier replied that it was because of his love for Moore.
Howell later called up Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, to speak.
"I hope when something happens to me, you all come and see me," Howell said.
He also called up police Chief Allan Cantando, joking: "I want to get in good with you."
"Every funeral should be light, because people are coming in with hurt feelings," Howell said Wednesday. "Through good singing and stories, it can help lift their spirits."
richmond's councilman journalist: The Eye has written before about the explosion of journalistic endeavors in Richmond, where every City Council meeting borders on slapstick and the streets are rife with gritty yarns. But now an unlikely raconteur has thrown down the gauntlet -- and done so with vigor. When The Center for Investigative Reporting published a scathing exposé about the city's Housing Authority, The Eye expected the typical response: outrage, action and finger-pointing by embattled city officials.
What was unexpected was that Councilman Tom Butt, a 69-year-old Point Richmond architect, would pick up his pen and fire back with a nearly 5,000-word exposé of his own, dissecting the center's report and concluding that it was "oriented more toward sensationalism and hyperbole than toward objective reporting."
Butt, who published his piÃ¨ce de résistance on his popular website, grabbed his pen, pad and camera and swooped into the Hacienda housing project, a six-floor, 1960s-era concrete structure that loomed large in the Center for Investigative Reporting's multipart series.
The councilman, who speaks in a syrupy Arkansas drawl, chatted up managers and residents at the 150-unit complex, snapping pictures of clean apartment units and smiling residents.
Butt dismissed portions of the series, including reports of cracks in the building, which he wrote were actually expansion joints. In sum, the councilman-turned-investigative-journalist concluded that he debunked many of the myths purveyed by the more seasoned journalists who called his city's leadership into question, even dusting off a journalistic concept rooted in the turn of the 20th century to complete his counterpunch.
"The condition and operation of public housing in Richmond is clearly less than desirable, but the reality is not nearly as bad as (CIR) portrays it," Butt wrote. "(CIR) must think they have done a great service by taking on Richmond's public housing, but what they have done borders on yellow journalism, striving for sensationalism while ignoring both reality and the bigger picture."
COUNCILMAN CRIES RACISM: Pinole Councilman Phil Green caused a bit of a murmur at a meeting recently when he brought up racism to make the point that the City Council should add to the agenda a discussion of the city's hiring policies and practices.
"People have called, and they've asked me why certain people weren't allowed to apply for certain positions," Green said, adding, "they're claiming ... that there's problems with who we're hiring." After a minute or two of back-and-forth, Green elaborated: "People have been saying that there's racist things involved."
During the ensuing murmur, Councilwoman Debbie Long could be heard saying, "Come on, come on," while Councilman Peter Murray said, "That's a pretty hefty accusation."
In a telephone interview last week, Green declined to reveal the ethnicity of the supposed victims or beneficiaries of racism. He declined to say who or how many people had complained to him about racism in hiring, saying that he, like news reporters, needed to protect his sources. And he declined to identify any alleged incidents of racism in city hiring brought up by his sources.
"I'm not accusing anybody of racism. Absolutely not," Green said. "I'm the messenger. Constituents asked me to bring this forward. They want to know, is everybody getting a fair shot to fill out an application so it doesn't raise questions of race and creed and so forth."
Green will be up for re-election in November.
Staff writers Paul Burgarino, Robert Rogers and Tom Lochner contributed to this column.