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Comments On Council
February 16, 2001

West County Times Readers Forum

In an otherwise informative article about the Rev. Charles Belcher (Times, Feb.12), the newest member of Richmond's City Council, I noted that Councilman Tom Butt was singled out as an example of City Council acrimony simply because Butt refused to submit with alacrity and finality to a City Council decision he believed to be contrary to California law. 

While collegiality is admirable for a legislative body, so is tenacious advocacy for one's constituents and adherence to one's principles. There has been a long history on the Richmond City Council of a majority trying to stifle dissent and silence criticism. Butt has always been an independent voice, but council members continue to try to marginalize him. 

A recent example was the tabling of his motion to find a way to rebate windfall utility tax revenues to Richmond residents. Butt does his homework and is untainted by special interests.

Recent efforts initiated by the council's procedures committee have been aimed at the number of items Butt can submit on the agenda and prohibiting him from using his council letterhead to write letters voicing opinions that contravene council decisions. 

Fortunately, City Attorney Malcolm Hunter reminded proponents that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution applies equally to citizens and City Council members. 

Belcher, with his laudable professional background, is indeed a welcome addition to the council. It is hoped he will fulfill the expectations of those who placed him there. 

However, I'm puzzled as to why the Times would devote such a lengthy piece about Belcher when he is just starting his temporary appointment to the City Council. Many of us in the community could not recall any member of the council in the past decade receiving such extensive coverage from the local press.