|Lame Duck City Council Cements Four-Year
Control of Chevron Community Fund
January 7, 2009
Proving that there is indeed life after the political grave, a lame duck City Council still dominated by the Chevron Five used its last official gasp of any substance to ensure control over the discretionary $10 million of Chevron money in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).
Led by Nat Bates, the Chevron Five (Bates, Viramontes, Marquez, Sandhu and Lopez) designated three City Council members at last night’s City Council meeting to serve on the Richmond Community Fund Advisory Committee (RCFAC)
Click here for the entire Community Benefits Agreement. The portion describing the RFAC is as follows:
C. The Richmond Community Fund Total expenditure is $10,000,000
(1) In each year 2009 through 2018, CHEVRON shall provide $1,000,000 to fund non-profits and community programs, in participation with a Community Advisory Council constituted as described below:
(2) The Richmond Community Fund Advisory Committee (RCFAC) shall consist of three sitting or retired Council Members appointed by the City Council, two members appointed by CHEVRON, and two members of the committee jointly chosen by the CITY-appointed and CHEVRON-appointed members to act as advisors and provide financial oversight. The term of each RCFAC is four years.
The motion, crafted by Bates, included Ludmyrna Lopez, Council Member-elect Jeff Ritterman and himself as the three members appointed by the City Council. Having paid close attention in math class, Bates added up the Chevron controlled votes. Two of the three City Council members (Bates and Lopez) are Chevron-controlled, and combined with the two Chevron appointees, this provides four of the five votes to select the other two. When the entire committee is appointed, Chevron will control six of the seven votes.
When the Chevron Five moved to appoint themselves to control the $10 million prior to the November election, they drew serious public outrage and media criticism:
West County Times editorial August 21, 2008:
…the way the company struck it's $61.6 million community benefits deal smells — and the stink is coming from both sides of the table. On Richmond's side, some City Council members — especially Maria Viramontes and John Marquez — should be ashamed of their secret dealing with the company. The public and city staff only saw the final document the night that the council approved it along with the refinery improvements. Such an important deal should have been exposed to the full sunshine of public review.
Then there's the issue of spending oversight. Some $10 million of the money is to go toward a fund to benefit nonprofits and community groups (to be doled out) by an advisory board...Quicker than you could say "political opportunity," the council majority appointed three of its members who backed the Chevron deal — Nat Bates, Ludmyrna Lopez and Harpreet Sandhu — to serve on the committee (with John Marquez as the alternate) ....Officials running for re-election should not be doling out funding to the same sorts of groups from which they will be seeking support.
Facing an angry public prior to an election, the Chevron Five backpedaled on September 2 and rescinded the vote taken on July 29 for the Richmond Community Fund Advisory Committee appointments. The Minutes include the following discussion:
In the matter to discuss and reconsider (1) the matter to appoint members to the Richmond Community Fund Advisory Committee (RCFAC) pursuant to the Richmond Community Benefits Agreement; and (2) Rescind the vote taken at the July 29, 2008, City Council meeting appointing Councilmembers Bates, Sandhu and Lopez to the RCFAC and Vice Mayor Marquez as an alternate; and (3) Schedule consideration of appointments to the RCFAC at the second City Council meeting in 2009. Councilmember Viramontes name was placed on the agenda as a sponsor of the item in error. Withdrew Item three from the agenda. Vice Mayor Marquez gave an overview of items one and two. Speakers were: Corky Booze, Jerome Smith, Jackie Thompson, Michael Parker, Juan Reardon, Torm Nompraseurt, Jovanka Beckles, Dr. Jeff Ritterman. Following discussion, a motion was made by Vice Mayor Marquez, seconded by Councilmember Thurmond, to set up the mechanisms to be brought to the Council whenever it is decided how the committee is to be appointed. A friendly amendment was offered by Councilmember Thurmond to direct staff to initiate the process that will be used to fund programs and projects. The amendment was accepted. City Attorney Scott Dickey requested the Council vote on each item separately. On motion of Vice Mayor Marquez, seconded by Councilmember Thurmond reconsidered the matter to appoint members to the Richmond Community Fund Advisory Committee (RCFAC) pursuant to the Richmond Community Benefits Agreement and included the friendly amendment offered by Councilmember Thurmond by the following vote: Ayes: Councilmembers Bates, Lopez, Rogers, Sandhu, Thurmond, Viramontes, Vice Mayor Marquez, and Mayor McLaughlin. Noes: None. Abstention: Councilmember Butt. Absent: None. On motion of Vice Mayor Marquez, seconded by Councilmember Sandhu rescind the vote taken at the July 29, 2008, City Council meeting appointing Councilmembers Bates, Sandhu and Lopez to the RCFAC and Vice Mayor Marquez as an alternate by the following vote: Ayes: Councilmembers Bates, Lopez, Rogers, Sandhu, Thurmond, Viramontes, Vice Mayor Marquez, and Mayor McLaughlin. Noes: None. Abstention: Councilmember Butt. Absent: None.
With the election out of the way, the Chevron Five defiantly and shamelessly made their final move as a City Council majority by ensuring control of the $10 million for the next four years.