Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2019  
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  Long City Council Meeting Grows Raucous
November 6, 2019

Last night was a long and raucous City Council meeting lasting a few minutes short of eight hours, but with at least one very positive outcome.

We started in closed session at 3:00 PM to review applications for city manager. There were a total of 89 applications, which were sorted by our recruiting consultant CPS into first, second and third tier prospects. We will meet again next Tuesday to try and reduce the field to no more than eight, who will be invited to interview.

The open session was dominated by Open Forum speakers opposing TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act), which the City Council, sans moi, asked staff todevelop as an ordinance. There were probably 50 people, either speaking against it or displaying anti-TOPA placards. Even RPA stalwart Mike Parker said the draft submitted by supporters was deeply flawed.

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Next was a vote to sustain and amend the April 2018 decision made by the City Council in closed session to settle the Point Molate litigation with Upstream and the Guidiville Band. Although the closed session decision was mandated by a Federal judge and allowed under the Brown Act, detractors have continued to criticize it as a “closed door” decision lacking public process. There is an active lawsuit by SPRAWLDEF and a number of individuals challenging the decision as a violation of the Brown Act and an improper conferring of entitlements.

The action by the City Council was intended to counter the bogus Brown Act allegations and verify that no entitlements were conferred by the settlement. The City Council voted 4-3 to support the amended settlement agreement, with Willis, Myrick and Martinez dissenting. The action was recommended by the interim city manager, the City Attorney’s Office and outside counsel.

The Point Molate obstructionists, whose agenda is actually no development at Point Molate (one even advocated tearing down “Winehaven”), continuously clamor for “public process,” while hypocritically ignoring the most fundamental aspects of a public process – observing rules of decorum and respect. These two dozen, mostly old, white lefties, including many out-of-towners, are largely remnants of the once powerful Richmond Progressive Alliance, now a mere shadow of its former glory.

Once the obstructionists had their three minutes at the podium, where they were listened to respectfully by City Council members, the public hearing was closed, and councilmembers began discussing the matter. Instead of paying the same respect they enjoyed, this unruly, irrational and obsessed group began loudly shouting down and arguing with City Council members to the point that it was impossible to move ahead with business.

After three warnings, I asked security to clear the chamber, an option allowed by the Brown Act. The majority of my colleagues, who apparently favor disruption over decorum, promptly took a vote to overrule me and allow everyone to stay.

However, all’s well that ends well, and I am proud of the three City Council members, Choi, Bates and Johnson, who did the right thing and voted in the City’s interest.

Finally, the City Council opened the first of four required public meetings to implement voting districts in Richmond. Previously, after hearing an expert and our own legal staff opine that the City had no reasonable choice, the City Council agreed to proceed. The City retained a demographer who described the process and who will proceed to create at least three alternative maps for City Council consideration, along with any submitted by the public. In order to conform with state law, the process has to move very rapidly.

Not a single City Council member or public speaker, other than attorney, Scott Rafferty, who started this process to enrich himself through an arcane state law, supported the concept of district elections. Attorney Rafferty was clearly the most despised person in the room and managed to offend almost everyone, particularly City Council members. The item was not an action item, only a public hearing, but the City Council directed the city manager to schedule three additional workshops to encourage public participation.