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
Even VP Nominee and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Goes Where Richmond Chamber Fears to Tread

Yet another email blast from the Richmond Chamber carrying Chevron’s water on Measure T caught my attention today. Chamber Board President Tom Waller whined that “Measure T fails  “the initial test of reasonableness because … it is vindictive and even spiteful in its targeting of oil companies.”


See Tom Waller’s letter below, from which certain quotes are taken.


I got to thinking. Is Measure T some super liberal, Green Party, commie pinko plot to deprive Chevron of its hard-earned profits? Well, maybe so. Certainly, conservative Republicans would never do anything like that, or would they?

It turns out that even arch-conservative Alaska Governor Sarah Palin had the guts to go after the oil companies when it made sense for her constituents. Did Palin’s tax on oil companies fail “the initial test of reasonableness because … it is vindictive and even spiteful in its targeting” of oil companies? I notice she didn’t tax dog sled makers, fur trappers or restaurants.

Did Palin target oil companies? “Is that the criterion for a business to pay more taxes - because it apparently can? If we can, is that the criterion for each of us?” You bet Palin targeted oil companies. Why, because, as Willie Sutton said about banks, “That’s where the money was.”

Palin brags that she forced the oil companies to fork over an estimated $6 billion (yes, that’s with a “B”) in new taxes this year, increasing existing taxes to more than $10 billion, enabling the state to use the oil companies taxes to pay out thousands of dollars to Alaska residents, approximately $2,000 a year to every Alaskan from oil company profits.

But in Richmond, our Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want Richmond residents to benefit. They just want to suck up to and protect Chevron.

Now, I’m not voting for Sarah Palin, but I will admit that she seems a lot smarter than the Chamber board members.

As far as all the arguments about wet blanketing business, not one business has proven it would be significantly impacted by Measure T. Even the poster child Galaxy Desserts would, according to its own statement, take a hit of about $22 a day when they are paying at least $1,282 a day for rent. Would $22 a day drive them away from Richmond. No way!

From the Richmond Chamber:

We're all still trying to make sense of the latest shenanigans from Richmond City Council member, Tom Butt, after he promulgated last Friday a forged letter on Chamber of Commerce letterhead supporting Measure T.


In a subsequent email, Butt issued a hollow-sounding apology for the "error and any inconvenience it may have caused". He seemed to grin and shrug his shoulders like it was just a Halloween trick-or-treat prank. As if the forger was someone else, he said he received the bogus letter from an unnamed disgruntled Chamber member who has now confessed.


It's often good to lighten up and not take things too seriously. However, as a public servant with serious responsibilities, Butt should know there are minimum standards for personal integrity and conduct.


Is there anyone who can possibly justify Butt's latest actions as a demonstration that he's a got-it-all-together City Council candidate with the qualities Richmond needs? I think not.


Regrettably, for all of Butt's years on the City Council and his positive accomplishments, I believe his needlessly derisive stir-the-pot style, sarcastic pronouncements, and cynical, condescending behavior have become a net negative for the City of Richmond. We deserve better than that.


As for Measure T, the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors opposes it not because of reactionary political views or because we are Chevron's surrogate, lackey, shill, or pawn (all nonsense) but because the Measure represents bad policy for Richmond.


Measure T fails the initial test of reasonableness because, with arbitrary notions of "fair share", it is vindictive and even spiteful in its targeting. It's no secret that Chevron makes billions in profits and apparently has a big enough bank account to write a check for 100% of Richmond's city budget. Many people wouldn't dare trust the possibility that there are any other beneficial uses for those profits. But here's my point.


Is that the criterion for a business to pay more taxes - because it apparently can? If we can, is that the criterion for each of us?


Furthermore, not only is the proposed Measure T tax likely to be illegal under existing tax laws but the Measure's ambiguous wording (changing inputs into outputs) invites inclusion of many other businesses like restaurants and florists. Some businesses are clearly affected and claims by the Measure's proponents that the impact for most of them is "minimal" smacks of unhelpful arrogance.


Why on earth would we want to be short-sighted to enact Measure T and throw a wet blanket of disincentive across the entire business community? As businesses of all types consider where to locate, operate, and/or expand, imagine their internal deliberations: "This time manufacturing is targeted but maybe next time it'll be my company's sector."


Let's remember that business activity is the economic engine (an eco-system of producers, suppliers, and customers) that generates wealth not just to provide funds for executives, shareholders, and re-investment but also to pay employee wages and benefits along with government taxes and fees for the many community services that we all expect.


The real answer to more job opportunities for Richmond residents is at least two-fold. First is the need for job seekers to commit to education and skills-building as keys to adding value through entrepreneurship or employment by others. Second is the need for city leaders to commit to creating conditions that encourage business investment by existing and prospective local employers.


The best answer to putting more money in city coffers for desired community services follows from the comment above: increase the tax base by attracting more business investment. Making Richmond a cool place to live also involves making it a cool place to operate a business.


Please vote NO on Measure T.


Tom Waller

Chairman, Board of Directors

Richmond Chamber of Commerce