What I Believe:
three important dimensions to municipal government.
1. Nuts and Bolts
The first is about nuts and bolts – providing the essential facilities and services that enable the city to function efficiently and effectively. These include such things as public safety (police and fire), building permits and inspections, code enforcement, sewage collection and treatment, parks and recreation, streets, trails and public buildings. Making things work, on time and on budget, is an important objective of mine.
As an architect, contractor, planner, developer, business owner and real estate economist, I bring a lot of education, experience and skills to bear on shaping public policy that makes things work, and I will, to the best of my ability, insure that the people of Richmond get the best possible return for their investment in City government and that every neighborhood is treated equally in the provision of programs and service.
2. Quality of Life
The second dimension is what I call quality of life issues. These are what make people and businesses want to move to Richmond and stay in Richmond. They create that essential sense of community and community pride and they contribute to people’s health and happiness.
Currently, many people simply need a job to enjoy any quality of like at all. The Bay Area job market is regional, and Richmond, alone, cannot provide full employment for Richmond residents. But to the extent that Richmond can attract and hold businesses, it will enhance the jobs-residents balance, reduce transportation times and costs and increase local economic activity that feeds on itself to create even more jobs.
Richmond’s new General Plan 2030 incorporates quality of life issues in a big way. There is evidence that businesses are both growing in Richmond and moving to Richmond because of the direction they see the city going.
The way cities are planned and the way they grow affects our health, our safety and our state of mind. Good urban design is not a luxury; it is, like healthcare, something we all deserve and must have.
As an architect, I know that the built environment profoundly affects people. For example, school children learn better in classrooms with natural light than they do in classrooms with artificial light. The design of cities for car dependence is a significant cause of the upward spiraling obesity and diabetes trend, especially in children. Access to fresh, outside air in buildings makes people healthier and reduces absenteeism at work and at school.
Since 1995, I have been a member of a statewide organization of local elected officials, the Local Government Commission, which is dedicated to building livable communities. I serve on the board of directors of the Local Governent Commission, which I chaired for four years. I also serve on the League of California Cities Environmental Quality Policy Committee.
How you get to work, to school, to recreation and to shopping determines how much you spend on transportation, how much time you spend getting there and whether or not your journey is one that contributes to your health and that of your children. A successful and healthy City must provide a diversity of jobs, housing and economic opportunities for its residents. See http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org and http://www.policylink.org/default.html.
All of these also determine the carbon footprint of a city and whether we are part of the problem of climate change or part of the solution. As Richmond grows, it deserves nothing short of the best. I not only understand what constitutes quality development; I am committed to see that we get it.
The most bitter and emotional battles in Richmond are fought over land use. The City Council approved the General Plan 2038 and will later approve a new Zoning Ordinance to implement it. The City Council is often the last stop for development projects that are appealed from the Planning Commission or Design Review Board. Will we conserve our precious shoreline for future generations, or will we squander it up for cheap housing and industrial development?
For the 17 years I have served on the City Council, my detractors —the Chamber of Commerce, industry and developers —have characterized me as anti-business and anti-growth. They have done this because I will not allow sub-standard and poorly designed development in our city, and I know the difference between good and bad. For a person disparaged as anti-growth, it is ironic that I make my living based on growth — if there is nothing built, I am out of a job. I am also the only business person on the Richmond City Council; I have to make a payroll for 30 persons every two weeks. Why would I be anti-business?
Equity means that no one who is willing to join in the effort is left out or left behind as Richmond moves forward.
It means that the flatlands get the same level of services as the hills, and that all citizens have access to government, not just those with money and power.
It means that housing opportunities are available for every income level, that all residents can find decent jobs without spending significant portions of their lives commuting, and that, if they choose to commute, they have choices other than the automobile.
It means that industrial pollution is no more acceptable in poor neighborhoods than in wealthy ones, and that those neighborhoods where pollution has been concentrated deserve our help to continue making the air cleaner, prevent future industrial accidents, and assist those whose health and economic prospects have suffered by their previous exposure.
Finally, equity is also about responsibility and accountability; we all have an obligation to participate in public life in some way to ratify our citizenship, even if it only means getting out to vote once a year.
As a City Council member, I will measure every municipal service and initiative by its equity, and I will work to ensure that our city government hears and responds to the concerns and needs of all Richmond residents.
At the beginning of 2012, I expressed hope that the following would occur and committed to work to see that they did. Some have been successful and are so noted. Others are still outstanding.
Tom Butt Wishes/Predictions for 2012 (see 2011 Year End Review and Prediction and Wishes for 2012, In What Will We Delve in 2012? December 31, 2011.
Shipyard 3 Buildings. I hope that the National Park Service will lease enough space in the General Warehouse and/or Riggers Loft for the Maritime Museum Archives to enable the financing of rehabilitation of the Riggers Loft and tenant improvements for the General Warehouse, and that the work will be completed in 2012. It would also be nice for the National Park Service to designate the Cafeteria Building as its headquarteres and begin the rehabilitation of that structure. (Update: we lost the bid for the Maritime Museum Archives, but work on the Riggers Loft is going forward, funded by a grant).
Point Molate. I wish that the City will prevail in or successfully settle its lawsuit for interpretation of the Upstream contract and that a new plan for development of Point Molate will go forward.(Outcome: Litigation is still in progress).
Railroads. I hope that the proposed Quiet Zones at Cutting Boulevard and 4th Street and Canal Boulevard will be completed and activated. I hope that the City will keep its promise to limit street blockages by trains serving the Port of Richmond during the day. I wish that BNSF would make its engineers more sensitive to the needless harm they are causing by abusing train horn at night. I wish that the Federal Railroad Administration and the California Public Utilities Commission would become as concerned about the adverse impacts of noise as they are about grade crossing safety. (Outcome: Cutting Boulevard and 4th Street are almost done, and Canal Boulevard is in progress. The litigation over street blockages by trains is still in litigation at the California Court of Appeals).
Crime.I hope Richmondís crime rate continues to decline, and I hope the homicide rate will also decline in 2012.(Outcome: both crime and homicides are on a downward trend)
Chevron.I hope that the Chevron Energy and Hydrogen Project will be permitted and start constrution in 2012. I wish that Chevron would either drop their property tax assessment appeals or negotiate a settlement that leaves Richmond whole.(Outcome: The permitting process for the Chevron Energy and Hydrogen Project is well underway. Chevron lost their latest property tax appeal).
Elections.I hope the 2012 City Council elections will result in a City Council that can work together for a progressive and sustainable future. I predict that one or more incumbents will choose not to run for reelection. (Outcome: the campaign is just beginning).
Marijuana.I predict that the City Councilís plan to license marijuana dispensaries will fail due to federal intervention. (Outcome: There has been no federal intervention, and the City Council has increased the number of permitted dispensaries from three to six).
Booker et al.I predict the Booker litigation will be resolved in 2012. (Outcome: The superior court litigation has concluded with a loss for the plaintiffs. The federal court litigation is pending, but over half the plaintiffs have settled and dropped out).
North Shoreline. The idea of the North Shoreline as open space will be toast in 2012. (Outcome: The City Council majority did not support North Shoreline open space).
Our City – Our Choice – Our Future
Together we can make it happen.