Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2017  
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  For Now, City Council Punts on North Richmond Annexation
September 27, 2017

I was disappointed that not one of the Richmond Progressive Alliance Council members, supposedly the icons of social justice, were willing to stand up and support merely advancing the process of annexing North Richmond. When the time came for action, the entire City Council simply froze. I made the motion, but it did not even get a second.

I continued the matter until October 17, to give people the time they said they needed to learn more and ponder the decision.

Those RPA City Council members who refused to take any action pleaded lack of information, as did Don Gosney, one of only two public speakers opposing taking any action. Perhaps City Council members are simply slow learners and had forgotten that the financial analysis of annexation was completed on June 13, 2017, and that the City Council had received a full report at the City Council meeting of July 11, 2017, with an opportunity to ask all the questions they wished.

Since then, there have been five community meetings, none of which any City Council member bothered to attend.

Contrary to what the author of the East Bay Times article below would have us believe, there wasn’t exactly a popular uprising of opposition to the proposed annexation at last night’s meeting. There were only three or for public speakers. Mike Parker from the Richmond Progressive Alliance supported it. Don Gosney said he didn’t have enough information. Henry Clark was the only person who opposed it outright.  Although Henry serves on the North Richmond Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) and identifies with the West County Toxics Coalition, neither appears to be located in either Richmond or North Richmond. The West County Toxic Coalition is in Antioch, and Henry is believed to reside in either Antioch or Pittsburg, putting in question his bona fides as a genuine North Richmond representative.

I hope my colleagues on the City Council can find time to study up on this over the next three weeks.

Tom Butt

North Richmond leader’s response to Richmond mayor’s annexation effort: ‘You have lost your mind, period’

Talk of annexation gets heated at Richmond City Council meeting; vote on issue postponed three weeks

richmond sign horizontal
Long contemplated, annexation of North Richmond would provide residents there superior services according to Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.
By Gary Peterson | | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: September 27, 2017 at 10:45 am | UPDATED: September 27, 2017 at 11:47 am

Let’s begin with a disclaimer. A lot of people have done a lot of work toward the proposed annexation of North Richmond by Richmond — a process only slightly less detailed and technical than the splitting of an atom.

Five community meetings were conducted over the summer. Tuesday night, the Richmond City Council received a comprehensive report that included fiscal analysis and a service plan study. Fine work. Good people. One problem:

While the What and How of the oft-contemplated annexation was explained in excruciating detail, the Why of the matter was never apparent.

I can see you tilting your head. Hang on — Dr. Henry Clark will be along shortly to enlighten and entertain you. But first, a spoiler: a vote on the proposal was postponed until Oct. 17 amid heated acrimony.

The conceptual rationality for an arranged marriage between Richmond and North Richmond (some might characterize it as a shotgun wedding) was expressed passionately by Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, who seemed to have the most emotional skin in the game. The genesis of North Richmond, Butt said Tuesday, was largely due to racism. During the 1940s, people of color were relegated to a 1.5-square-mile plot that was prone to flooding, downwind from the oil refinery and next door to the dump.

Annexing North Richmond and its 3,700 residents, Butt said, would be about “making it right.” But wait, there’s more. An annexed North Richmond, Butt said, would receive better police services than the current tag-team coverage afforded the community by the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and Richmond Police. It would give North Richmond a bigger say in local government; currently it is overseen by the county Board of Supervisors (though it has a municipal advisory committee). The cost of annexation to Richmond, according to an analysis awash in assumptions and scenarios, would be $2 million to $2.3 million annually.

Butt said a small marijuana grow in annexed North Richmond could offset that cost. “We have a 5 percent tax on that,” he said. “It’s possible one property could generate enough money to cover the deficit.” Butt also wondered out loud if the county could be persuaded to share the financial burden.

Then came the public commenters. There were only a few, but they were packing attitude.

“I, unlike some members of the council, haven’t made up my mind up yet because I don’t have enough facts,” said Richmond resident Don Gosney, whose comments hinted at the council’s dysfunctional history. “At least one of you has publicly stated you refuse to listen to anyone who disagrees with you, and one of you has not made her contact information public. How are you supposed to know the viewpoints of the public?”

Gosney then cut straight to the Why question.

“I know there have been numerous public meetings in North Richmond,” he said, “but I can’t see where a single meeting was held in Richmond to ask this all-important question: Do the people of Richmond want to make this happen? How exactly will we benefit from this?”

As good as Gosney was, Clark was the show stopper.

“No one was doing a diddly nothing for North Richmond until we organized the (municipal advisory committee),” Clark said. “The festivals and other improvements out there in North Richmond happened under our leadership. Now Tom Butt wants to come riding in on his white horse, talking some nonsense about growing marijuana in North Richmond? You have lost your mind, period.”

Yes, few speakers. But they had the audience voicing its support to the point that Butt threatened to have people removed from the council chamber. Ultimately, while Butt pushed for a vote Tuesday, he got no seconds on a motion and the vote was kicked down the road.

“People need to understand,” he said, “this is not the end of a process. It’s the beginning of a process.”

Wanna bet?