Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2016  
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  Not a Pretty Picture
May 4, 2016

Richmond City Council meetings may lack the drama of the past, but there is still plenty to drive a sane person over the edge.

Take the resolution to oppose Measures N and O. For the City Council this should be a no-brainer. Measure N removes the public review process from a bad development proposal and locks the City into a one-sided, self-serving development agreement written by the developer. It is already opposed by TRAC, the Greenbelt Alliance, Senator Loni Hancock, three former and current Richmond mayors, the Richmond Progressive Alliance and many more. Vinay Pimple, Gayle McLaughlin and I voted for it. Bates, Beckles, Myrick and Martinez opposed it or abstained. Myrick said that if the City Council supported it, people would vote against it. Beckles wondered if the City Council had ever taken a position on an initiative before. I thought the City Council was about leadership, not wimpsmanship. Guess not. I don’t know whether Poe got to them, or they are just weenies. Very disappointing.

Measure O would lock the City into a formula for city Manager compensation that is five times the median household income in Richmond. Of 101 cities in the nine-County Bay Area, Richmond has the lowest median family income except for one, San Pablo. This would lock Richmond in to a compensation formula that would render us unable to recruit a future city manager with a competitive salary.  It is ironic that based on the Measure O formula, Richmond would not be able to compensate its city manager as much as San Pablo is paying its city manager right now. Once again, Bates, Beckles, Myrick and Martinez abdicated their responsibility to provide leadership on this issue. Let the people decide, they said.

Even the RPA has come out against Measure N and O ( Media Coverage of Measures N and O, May 2, 2016), but two of the three RPA members on the City Council went another direction.

I hope the people are smarter than most of our City Council when they vote on June 7.

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns, below is a photo of Jovanka Beckles playing scrabble during budget presentations. This is the kind of leadership we are getting on the City Council.

Moving on to another topic, the marijuana ordinance. In 2015, the legislature adopted and the governor signed, a set of bills known as the “California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act,” that among other things, sets up a comprehensive regulatory and permitting process for marijuana cultivation and product manufacturing in California. Both of these are already taking place in Richmond on a massive scale, and we have the authority from Measure V of 2010 to tax them at 5% of gross sales. The City could be getting $100,000 a month or more in tax revenue from these operations, but we need an implementing ordinance. We had one on last night’s agenda that Gayle and I had worked on and also had the support of our existing permitted dispensaries. The draft has been in the City Council packet since Friday, but Bates and Martinez claimed they had not had time to read it. Beckles and  Myrick waffled. The votes weren’t there, and we had to continue it for two weeks, probably costing the City $50,000. Again, where has responsibility and leadership gone on the City Council?

And while I am at offending people, I want to take a shot at several department  heads who are suffering from head in the sand syndrome regarding our 2016-17 budget. The city manager presented a preliminary 2016-17 budget that was $10,1 million in the red, admitting that we have work to do -- $10 million of work in cuts or revenue enhancement. When the department heads made their budget presentations, I asked them what cuts they would recommend if they had to make a pro-rata (about 6%) cut to close the budget gap. Essentially, they said they couldn’t cut any more. This is not going to get us where we need to go.

Similarly, the department heads appear to be unable to embrace the need to increase revenue. I found it very disappointing. Maybe I’ll feel better in two weeks, but for now, you can take this job and shove it.