E-Mail Forum
  City Council On Business
March 6, 2010


In response to the Chamber of Commerce email of March 3 bashing both the City Council and the mayor for their lack of accuracy and acumen regarding Richmond businesses, all City Council members but one felt compelled to respond.

Below is the Chamber email followed by the City Council members’ responses ranging from the defensive to the amusing. Bates even calls for “…a cease fire and adhere to a policy in which all councilmembers weigh in on future nominations to avoid politicizing the situation.”

I wish I could be as diplomatic as the mayor, who wrote., “... certainly our city is well-served by a council with a diversity of opinions”

I really feel bad about all the unrecognized and dishonored businesses, so I will place on a future agenda a recognition for all businesses that have not been previously honored. That should make everyone feel better.


Hello all,

I have been deliberating as to whether or not to comment on Tuesday evening council meeting, but find I must make a few comments in order to set a few things straight.

I was disappointed that the Council had to use students to research who the top ten employers were.  I would have thought Council members would know that information, as well as who the top ten sales tax generators are. By using these students to do research, several mistakes were made that were not corrected. First, there was the mix up with Kaiser. I am sure that Dr. Ritterman was embarrassed. Kaiser actually has 193 physicians, 1213 employees and 116 volunteers working at the Medical Center here in Richmond. Your presentation said that they had 800.  The lab was introduced as having 200 employees, in the wrong order and Kaiser’s Allied School of Health and the Kaiser Optical Lab was not mentioned . Those two would be several hundred more. Certainly this is a disservice to Kaiser.  

Additionally In my opinion there were several businesses missing: The Mechanics Bank, with three branches and a Corporate headquarters as well as the Republic Services group with Richmond Sanitary Services and West County Resource Recovery.  If numbers were accumulated for the Mall, it could have been accumulated for these two companies also. Both of these companies deserved to be included, and recognized for their years of service to this Community.  Since Home Depot was included, which has an El Cerrito address, Overaa Construction, which started in Richmond 100 years ago and is now on Parr Blvd. in North Richmond with well over 275 employees, should have also been included. Both Wal-Mart and Target have a large number of employees but their names also were missing. I could go on. In the future I would be happy to review your list.

Then Madam Mayor claiming to have started the business of the month when actually this program started many years ago with Mayor Corbin and I. We honored Richmond businesses each month based on their contributions to the community, not to companies who just have their doors open. We also spent one day a month visiting businesses in Richmond. We were honored by the U. S. Conference of Mayors for this program. I continued this business of the month program  with Mayor Anderson who recognized the value of this program. Three years ago when Rosemary and I visited with the Mayor, we explained the program’s benefits and I offered to continue the program with the Mayor. She said she would get back to me. I am still waiting... Now I am waiting for a correction that gives credit where credit is due.


Judy Morgan
Richmond Chamber of Commerce
(510) 234-3512

Tom Butt:

I think this whole honoring business thing has gotten out of hand. It’s entirely childish. We have this competition to see who can recognize the most businesses and then posturing about who thought about honoring businesses first, which businesses are bigger, better, badder, greener, etc.

In my opinion, any business that can pay someone to work, pay taxes and provide a service to the community is worth recognizing, particularly in this economy. By honoring any one or more businesses, we implicitly send the message that the other 3,000 or so are somehow less deserving.

I have never participated in this business honoring frenzy, and I hope I don’t have to.

Don’t we have better things to do? I say let the City Council run the City, and let businesses run business.

The only thing I could endorse is a proclamation honoring all businesses.

Jeff Ritterman:

Thanks for the corrections Judy. 

Maybe the best way to proceed would be to honor those who we left out at a future date. 

My suggestion would be to have Judy help us with the list of those we neglected to honor and find a time in the next 1-2 months to honor them.

Any other thoughts?

In partnership, Jeff

Jim Rogers:

I agree with Jeff

Ludmyrna Lopez:

Thank you for the corrections.  We should have had further review of the item and partnered with you in the process.  This certainly should not be the last time the City Council recognizes the contributions of businesses in Richmond.  There should be other interesting and unique ways to recognize businesses during the year.  I am open to working on this in the near future.  Ludmyrna

Nat Bates:

You have a valid point in the city not being accurate with some of those business honored this past Tuesday evening. The staff involved were Trina and two interns, Yvette and  Ericka who were under a short deadline and as I understand, communicated with the finance department to ascertain the size of the employment base rather than tax revenue to the city. Hindsight suggest we should have coordinated with you and the Richmond Chamber who obviously as we now know, have a better knowledge and record of the businesses and their operation. To that end, I accept full responsibility and apologize. However, to recognize both the size and total revenue would have been confusing and where would one draw the line. Also to suggest councilmembers should know the names of each company in the city and its number of employees is prosperous and totally unrealistic. Not one councilmember can identify from day to day how many city employees we have.

Be mindful the initial idea of recognition for Chevron came about as a result of the continued bashing by radicals. Not everyone share their negative attitude toward Chevron and it was my intent to educate some of the public how valuable Chevron was to the city. While acknowledging Chevron, it occurred to me that there were other companies deserving recognition as well. Out of respect to the office of mayor, I personally contacted Gayle and ask if she would co-sponsor the recognition of several companies including Chevron. She initially declined while stating she wanted to continue to do her own thing  with her own selection of businesses.  About two or three hours later the mayor called and indicated she had changed her mind and was willing to cosponsor all of the awardees including Chevron.

Granted, there were mistakes in counting the number of employees but no one was intentionally slighted. I discussed Mechanics Bank with staff and was informed they only had about 100 employees at their Hilltop office. Most of us are aware the bank is perhaps the oldest business institution in the city and has several branches throughout the city with a number of employees. That I must admit was an oversight that should not have occurred and I should have corrected the error. My apologizes to the chamber and my good friend Ed Downer. With respect to SunPower, staff had included them in as a member of the Ford Plant. It was the mayor who contacted staff and had SunPower removed for a special presentation.

As Judy indicated, under Mayor Corbin and Anderson, businesses were recognized on their merits and not political. If anyone has made these recognitions political, it has been the mayor. Not only with recognitions to her favorite businesses but also to her cadre of supporters and friends. To be honest, some of her supporters have more influence as to who is recognized than council members. Several councilmembers have requested proclamations for individuals who have received recognition from other agencies or organizations.  A few of my recent recommendations were  Laura Johnson (Assemblywoman Skinner, woman of the year), Vern Whitmore (West Coast Black Publishers, Newly elected President), Frank Fisher (Honored by S/F Musical Arts Foundation) and I challenge anyone who would say these proclamations were politically motivated.

In conclusion, I agree with comments from several councilmembers in recognizing those businesses we missed as soon as possible but at the same time, I would suggest we call a cease fire and adhere to a policy in which all councilmembers weigh in on future nominations to avoid politicizing the situation. Working with the chamber and other business organizations is a good way to identity various businesses for recognition.  With today's poor economical climate, it is a good idea to show appreciation to these companies who continue to remain in Richmond and is a good will effort on our part we should not dismiss. All I request is we do not under any circumstances recognize INTERACTIVE RESOURCES.  

Have a nice and dry weekend.

Nat Bates

Gayle McLaughlin:

It was nice to see you at the Solar Richmond event yesterday.  Thanks for your March 4 email with your suggestions, corrections, and insights about the history of business recognition in Richmond.  I appreciate your kind offer to assist in any future business recognition efforts or events that the City Council undertakes.  And thanks to Jeff, Tom, Jim, Ludmyrna and Nat for also weighing in -- certainly our city is well-served by a council with a diversity of opinions.

Best regards,

Gayle McLaughlin