|'Da Mayor' Won't
Confirm He's Chevron's Hired Gun
November 17, 2004
Rumors have swirled around Richmond in recent days that ChevronTexaco, having lost its bid to buy Point Molate, hired former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to torpedo a deal to develop a casino there.
The word among major players has alternately been that Brown is Chevron's attorney, lobbyist or public relations spinmeister.
"None of the above," Brown said Tuesday.
"You know, it's interesting how people call me and chat with me about what I could do for them and then never follow through," he said.
"I obviously would love it. They're a big, American corporation of the blue-blood type," Brown said. "But as of today, I have no client named Chevron."
The Richmond City Council decided last week to sell the waterfront land to Upstream Point Molate LLC, the developer working with Harrah's and the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians.
On Monday, Chevron spokesman Dean O'Hair said the company is "not at a point where we would go forward" with a lawsuit.
But, "there are a variety of options ahead of us," O'Hair said.
O'Hair said Brown, who works with Singer and Associates, a public relations firm hired by Chevron to coordinate its Point Molate efforts, has been consulting, not lobbying.
O'Hair was not available for comment on Tuesday.
"I guess somebody over there is finally realizing whatever they do has to be grounded in truth and reality," Upstream principal Jim Levine said of the revelation Brown is not working for Chevron.
While Brown did contact a couple of Richmond council members after last week's vote, he did not contact his longtime friend Mayor Irma Anderson.
"Ours is a personal relationship," Anderson said. "He was my husband's best friend."
"I make my own decisions about what I think is appropriate," said Anderson, who declined to vote for either proposal.
She said that by holding out the city could have gotten a better deal -- either more money upfront from Upstream or some commitment to economic development on the land by Chevron.
San Francisco tribal attorney George Forman said an able attorney could attack the legality of the agreement, mainly the city's compliance with environmental laws.
But Councilman Tom Butt said the council took pains to cover all legal ground.
Levine said Chevron asked Brown to "advise them on the realm of the possible," but that "being the supreme deal maker and mediator that he is," Brown was bound to see there was no way -- and no reason -- to derail the deal.
If there aren't sufficient legal loopholes to exploit, as Levine suggests, opportunities abound for political maneuvering. Placing the land in federal trust requires an act of Congress, and opening a casino on it requires a compact with the governor. Brown has friends in Washington and Sacramento, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom oppose urban gaming.
Also, California mayors, including Anderson, want input on tribal compacts.
"Brown is perhaps unique in the combination of skills he brings to an assignment of this nature," Forman said. "He is an attorney. He is a consummate political actor. If he is hired, it's for the range of skills he brings to bear."