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November 2, 2004

Two of the great myths of Richmond city government are that (1) the City Council makes policy, and (2) five votes is all it takes.


On July 20, 2004, the City Council voted 5-3-1 to authorize release of an RFP to evaluate Chevron’s energy usage (Item 0-3). Voting in favor were Butt, Belcher, Rogers, Bell and Viramontes. Voting No were Griffin and Anderson. Penn abstained.


The purpose was to find out if the maximum tax payable option (the “cap”) were to be deleted from the Utility Users Tax ordinance, would ChevronTexaco likely pay more tax or less tax? This information was considered critical in a decision whether or not to place the matter on the ballot to potentially enhance City revenue to address the budget crisis. This is an issue that has been debated fro over a decade, and it was a popular topic in the town hall meetings held in the spring of this year to solicit public comment and suggestions on the financial debacle.


It is now nearly three and a half months since July 20, and the RFP has not yet been released. I have requested status reports from staff regularly over the last few months with no response. Finally, in desperation, I placed it on the October 12 City Council agenda for a report.


The report we got at the City Council meeting was from Acting City Attorney Everett Jenkins, who said the draft RFP had been prepared but that Interim City Manager Phil Batchelor would like to address the Council regarding the matter prior to publishing the RFP.


Rogers complained about the frustration experienced by City Council when policy resolutions are adopted but not acted on by City staff. I used stronger language, saying the inaction by staff was inexcusable.


The rest of the City Council sat quietly, apparently unconcerned that staff, and not the City Council, decides policy in this the city.