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E-Mail Forum
Response from Copuncilmember Viramontes
September 22, 2006

Dear Maria:


As you requested, I am sharing this with my email distribution list.


I donít think parliamentary procedure is the issue. I have long since given up on either the mayor of the city attorney being able to effectively interpret or apply anybodyís rules of order. Not to mention allowing people who have the floor to speak uninterrupted.


What the issue was in this case is allowing a councilmember to speak on an issue that was properly agendized according to the Council rules. All of the arguments about procedure related to whether or not a motion could be made and voted on that altered previous direction given by the Council. I neither made a motion nor intended to make a motion. I just wanted to speak.


The video tape shows that once Mayor Anderson gave me the floor to show the PowerPoint, you and other unrecognized Council members continued to protest, interrupt me and complain about the reconsideration issue. That was inappropriate and rude, even though it was business as usual for this dysfunctional Council. I just didnít want to have to deal with it anymore.


What you all collectively did was foreclose the publicís right and interest to get information about a public policy issue that has attracted attention from not only Richmond residents but also from a number of other public agencies and respected regional public interest organizations.


Regarding the blue ribbon committee, I agree that it was a bad idea. I would not have voted for it had I stayed around. We are in the middle of a general plan update, and we already have a citizens advisory committee for that effort. It should be part of the general plan update to decide what the future uses will be of Wildcat Marsh. This is not an emergency issue by any standard, and there is no compelling need for the city to take extraordinary action to deal with it, like a moratorium on crematoria.


I still believe this container port study is an unprecedented folly, and I just donít understand your infatuation with it. What if some group of private individuals from outside Richmond  proposed moving the Raiders to Richmond, building a state prison here, dredging Macdonald Avenue to create an American Venice, etc. You get the picture. Would we allocate staff time to help move it forward? Would we initiate a partnership to study it even before any credible information is developed?


I doubt it.


There is absolutely no constraint to anyone using whatever resources they can muster to study this container port project or any other project. I just donít understand why the City feels compelled to get involved with City resources (staff time) now. Richmond owns no land in the proposed container port location and has no tangible interest in it at this time. As proposed, it is contrary to the Richmond General Plan, the Richmond Zoning Ordinance, the San Francisco Bay Plan, and dozens of other public planning and regulatory documents.


At last Tuesdayís City Council meeting, you said you simply wanted to learn more, but you were unwilling to accept that you might learn something from me or anyone else other than City staff or some outside consultant. City staff doesnít exactly have a stellar record in dealing with controversial long term planning issues, and the consultants they choose are not far behind. Note that the Planning Commission recently rejected an EIR prepared by one of the Cityís high paid consultants.


At the end of the day, I just want the public to be informed, and I donít want the City to waste money pursuing fantasies.




From: Maria Viramontes [mailto:mariatv@pacbell.net]
Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2006 9:54 PM
To: Butt, Tom
Subject: Rules


Dear Tom:


It doesn't matter if we use Robert's rules, Malcolm's Rules (the council used forever) or the current Rosenberg rules which after a year no one seems to know how to use, I am not the Parliamentarian.


If you noticed, in the past year, since we moved to Rosenberg's rules,  I have often asked before an item is heard or just before the vote for clarification of the rules from the Parliamentarian and/or the Presiding Chair/Mayor of what kind of motions can be made. 


I did so Tuesday night, if you want to verbally rag me for not doing it last January 06, you certainly could have raised the issue then so we all could get corrected.  I am sure the council would have immediately responded with a reconsideration vote and I am sure that would have carried with a majority vote and then a vote on the item as recommended, as I recall the auditor vote was approved unanimously by the council.


In all fairness, understanding what we could vote on and getting clarification on Roger's  item and report was needed, it was confusing the motion he had written in the report, and what was verbally being said, as I understood what was presented:


first, he wanted to establish a Blue Ribbon committee ( which I had no problem with) except he wanted to do it immediately (even though we do not even have a staff report on the subject which I had a problem with)


two, he wanted to empower this committee to discuss the expansion of the port without any documents or scope of work in front of them but require them to make a recommendation to council, and evaluate this idea by what ever criteria-- who knows--since it wasn't identified in his verbal request or in written report


third,  if the Blue Ribbon Committee recommended against the expansion port idea then because of this convoluted motion Tuesday night the council would automatically rescind, by the decision of the Blue Ribbon Committee, the former staff direction to provide a scope of work to study the port expansion.


With all due respect, I have never known the council to delegate to any citizen's or stake holder's committee the power to make a decision like rescinding council direction. It is also usual and useful, if the council creates a Blue Ribbon Committee that they are given a formal charge, have some staff work done to prepare for the first meeting and hopefully have staff support for their work while they meet with some deadline to return to council with some final outcome and recommendation that is hopefully thoughtfully considered by the council.  The council is responsible for the final decision.


Lets see if your email can have accurate reporting or a difference of opinion..will you send this answer to everyone instead of just slamming people, making this a personal gossip mill, tarnishing reputations in Internet space, without the ability to fairly respond.


Your colleague in exile,


MariaT. Viramontes