SANTA AND SODA: The Eye didn't know whether to laugh or cry while riding west on Cutting Boulevard in Richmond last week.
Less than a month after Richmond anti-sugar crusaders were buried under millions of dollars in beverage industry advertising, Santa was in Richmond. He was stretched across a billboard towering over Cutting and Carlson, guzzling a Coca-Cola.
Corpulent and confident, in full red and white glory, Santa Claus uses an assertive left hand to tip a classic Coke bottle nearly straight up, better to fill those rosy cheeks.
"Open Happiness" reads the caption below, the kind of elegant command routinely churned out by the best marketing hucksters money can buy.
Just one month ago, most of the city's billboard space was rented by the beverage companies, but for a different purpose, to fight the No on N campaign. The beverage industry spent millions of dollars here to crush a penny-per-ounce local tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
Councilman Jeff Ritterman, the major-domo of the failed Fit for Life campaign, chuckled when told of the triumphant new billboard in what he hoped would be the nation's first city to tax soda and other drinks with added sugar.
"'Tis the season I guess," Ritterman drolled. "Lots of crazy stuff out there. ... We just keep fighting the good fight."
TEARS AND LAUGHS IN ANTIOCH: Antioch's City Council swearing-in ceremony
Tuesday marked the end of the terms of 12-year Councilman Brian Kalinowski and 14-year Councilman and former Mayor Jim Davis.
Kalinowski, a Contra Costa sheriff's lieutenant, joked that he was going to give police Chief Allan Cantando his photo that hung in City Hall for the past 12 years to remind him "the Sheriff's Office supports Antioch police."
Davis dwelled on it being "the best and worst of times" during his time on the council, and shared several stories, tearing up as he left the dais.
The meeting also marked the swearing-in of Wade Harper as Antioch's first black mayor, Mary Rocha as vice-mayor and Monica Wilson as councilwoman.
Rocha, 73, a longtime Antioch councilwoman and school board member, received several nicknames Tuesday from dignitaries, including "the Queen of Antioch" and "Antioch's Energizer Bunny."
The well-wishes eventually turned into a real meeting, as the new council was called to order. After roll call by City Clerk Denise Skaggs, the lights in the council chamber abruptly dimmed -- for a moment.
"This council will not be left in the dark," Harper joked as the lights went back on.
As for the ties, Davis, former Councilman Jim Conley and a few others in attendance wore neck attire that had the design of the U.S. flag.
No word if they meant to coordinate.
SPEAKING OF LIGHT BULBS: After outgoing Concord Mayor Ron Leone gave his farewell report Tuesday night on the accomplishments for which he was most proud, Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister presented him with an array of trinkets representing some he had overlooked, one of which was a compact fluorescent bulb.
"One of the things you talked about was the solar energy project, but we also did the new streetlights, the new street lamps in the neighborhood areas," she said. "Not the ones where the (copper) wire theft has happened, but in the areas where wire theft has not occurred yet."
An appreciative audience chuckled at her heretofore unknown psychic abilities.
MORE ZINGS IN CONCORD: Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony at Concord City Hall was also full of toasts and roasts. No one behind the dais was safe from the playful jabs.
Councilman Tim Grayson shared outgoing Councilman Bill Shinn's favorite word, "beep." As in, "words I cannot say. Seriously, though, you have colorful language," Grayson said.
Grayson next poked fun at outgoing Mayor Leone, who made it a point at the end of each meeting in 2012 to give updates on the number of events he'd attended: "I would like to announce that in the past 24 hours, I have attended 1,238,497 events."
New member Edi Birsan, who the police union attacked during the campaign by falsely accusing him of not using his real name, looked at his new nameplate and said, "I was wondering what name they were going to use."
And as Councilwoman Hoffmeister welcomed Birsan by calling him a "frequent flier" at council meetings, new Mayor Dan Helix corrected her.
"I think the word is gadfly," Helix said.
Staff writers Robert Rogers, Paul Burgarino, Tom Barnidge and David DeBolt contributed to this column.