Tom Butt for Richmond City Council The Tom Butt E-Forum About Tom Butt Platform Endorsements of Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt Accomplishments Contribute to Tom Butt for Richmond City Council Contact Tom Butt Tom Butt Archives
E-Mail Forum
Council Rescinds Controversial Appointments and Ratifies Chevron Community Benefit Agreement

Having acted increasingly irrationally and impulsively, the Chevron Five woke up to the reality that their power grab to control the Chevron Community Benefit fund did not resonate well with the public, and the three of them who are up for re-election asked the City Council to support a rescission. See story below from West County Times.

Control of the Chevron funding was part of the Community Benefit Agreement, which also came up for a re-vote last night. It was placed on the agenda allegedly to incorporate some revisions and additions directed by the Council when they voted on it July 15. Although the city attorney had written to Earthjustice, “This action by the Council cures and corrects any violation of the Brown Act,” he denied that there was, in fact, a violation. As he described it, the move was sort of a morning after pill; it probably wasn’t necesssary, but take it just in case.

The Rescission did not include any fair and reasonable method for making the appointments in the future, so I voted against it in protest. I knew the CVhevron Five would pass it anyyway. For more details, see Chevron 5 Backpeddles From Control of Chevron Fund; City Attorney Concedes Brown Act Violation, August 30, 2008.

Votes on both matters were straight party line; the Chevron Five against the rest of the Council. Each time an “aye” vote was cast by one of the Chevron Five, the audience chanted “Chevron” and “Shame.”

Richmond council rescinds controversial commission appointments

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

Article Launched: 09/02/2008 10:35:14 PM PDT

Richmond city leaders on Tuesday night rescinded a vote to appoint themselves to a committee that would disperse $10 million to local groups, after that earlier decision drew public outcry.

City Councilmen John Marquez and Harpreet Sandhu proposed nixing the July 29 vote. Other council members agreed.

"It's never too late to own up to something done hastily," Marquez said.

Public outcry had been immediate when a council majority voted to appoint Nat Bates, Ludmyrna Lopez and Sandhu to a committee that would help decide how to divvy up $1 million a year to local groups from an agreement the city approved with Chevron. Marquez was appointed the alternate.

Opponents, including challengers vying for a council seat, argued that officials running for re-election should not be distributing money to groups from which they might seek voter support.

Bates, Sandhu and Marquez are running in the Nov. 4 council race, along with Councilman Tom Butt and six challengers. The council is shrinking from nine members to seven, leaving three seats up for grabs.

City Attorney Scott Dickey said then the appointments are legal, and Bates described the suggestion that sitting on the committee might constitute an unfair campaign practice as "quite absurd."

On Tuesday, Marquez said the money wouldn't be available for distribution until 2009 after the election anyway. Some opponents have argued that promises to local groups could still be made.

Critics returned to Tuesday's meeting, but this time applauded the council for reversing its decision.

The committee is to be composed of three sitting or retired council members, two Chevron appointees and two community members who would be selected by the city and Chevron.

The $10 million is part of a $61.6 million community benefits agreement the council approved with Chevron July 17, the same day the council approved the oil company's contentious plan to replace decades-old equipment at its refinery along with a series of mitigation measures. The agreement itself has faced opposition, in part because residents say it was negotiated without full council or public input.

Earthjustice, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Communities for a Better Environment say the city violated California's open meeting law. In their Aug. 15 letter, the Oakland-based nonprofits stated the city did not put the community benefits agreement on the July 15 agenda when the two-day Chevron hearing began and therefore failed to provide sufficient public notice. The groups threatened to sue the city if it did not fix the violation by voiding approval of the community benefits agreement.

The agreement returned before the council for final approval Tuesday. The city's attorneys brought it back for a vote after clarifying and cleaning up legal language and provisions in the document.

Richmond did not violate state law, City Attorney Scott Dickey said. Putting it on the agenda Tuesday and allowing public comment "cures and corrects" any alleged violation, he added.

The council vote to approve the agreement was 5-3, with Bates, Lopez, Marquez, Sandhu and Maria Viramontes voting yes. Butt, Gayle McLaughlin and Jim Rogers voted no. Tony Thurmond abstained.