Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2019  
  < RETURN  
  State of the City
February 28, 2019

In case you missed it, you can view the State of the City presentation by clicking here.

You can read about it below.

Richmond Confidential

Richmond mayor delivers State of the City address
Edward Booth on February 27, 2019

On Tuesday, Mayor Tom Butt summarized the current condition of Richmond and set goals for the future in his annual State of the City address. Butt’s roughly hour-long speech, assisted by a data-laden slideshow and a short promotional video, provided a present-day overview of Richmond’s finances, education, public safety, transportation, housing, commercial development, business, economy and environment.

Much of Butt’s presentation celebrated new and upcoming developments alongside longstanding cultural and historical ones. He highlighted the recently opened Richmond Ferry, which has attracted over 16,800 passengers with an average of 624 passengers a day, according to the presentation. Butt also mentioned the recently opened Dirt World bike park—the first such park in the East Bay—as well as Unity Park, which is part of the Richmond Greenway project, and the upcoming Mary “Peace” Head Memorial Garden. He also spoke of the success of the city’s historical assets such as the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center, which receives an average of 5,000 visitors a month.

But he also mentioned areas for improvement and worrisome trends throughout the speech. Public safety, Butt said, continues to be the top concern for Richmond residents. Though the rate of many crimes—theft, burglaries, robberies, domestic and aggravated assault—dropped in 2018, property and violent crime rose by 4 and 1 percent respectively, according to the presentation.

The homicide rate also rose, from 15 murders in 2017 to 18 last year. With a bar graph that visualized the number of homicides during the terms of the past five mayors, Butt noted that though homicides have gradually decreased, their number tends to rise and fall in multi-year cycles. This year, Butt said, Richmond got off to a bad start with four homicides in January alone.

“Homicides remain Richmond’s biggest challenge,” Butt said. “Most Bay Area cities our size have maybe one or two homicides a year or not at all, while we remain in the double digits.”

Homelessness and housing was another major topic. Butt called homelessness a “growing problem” and referred to homeless camps as “unhealthy, unsafe and a visual blight.” He said that though the city had no dedicated fund for tackling issues related to homelessness, the mayor’s office was attempting to raise $1.5 million to provide a managed camp.

“We’re doing more than our fair share, which is still not enough,” Butt said.

Butt also spoke about the affordability of Richmond relative to the rest of the Bay Area, noting that the median apartment rent in Richmond, according to Zillow, is at $2,596 per month—well below the Bay Area median and just $13 more the median rent throughout California. Even so, Butt said, Richmond is still unaffordable for many people, as average incomes are not high enough.

“Rent control can prevent excessive increases, which does not seem to be our problem,” Butt said. “But it cannot drive down rents. Only increasing supply can do that.”

Another portion of the speech focused on the environment. In this section, Butt chronicled the threats of climate change and the city’s mitigation efforts, which include endorsing renewable energy, hosting an electrical vehicle rebate program, and suing the fossil fuel industry. While outlining calamitous threats—future sea level rise, the increasing chance of wildfires and heatwaves, intense downpours and intensified droughts—Butt also used smoke from the November Camp Fire in Paradise, California, as an example of a current climate change-related hazard. Smoke from the fire shut down Richmond schools and hampered Bay Area air quality for weeks.

“Climate change is here and we’re having to deal with it,” Butt said.

Butt also talked about the city’s problems with an influx of trash and illegal dumping and officials’ attempts to halt it, then turned toward transportation. He noted improvements meant to make travel easier for bikers and pedestrians, particularly improvements to pavement.

Butt ended the presentation with his wishlist of goals for 2019, which included annexing North Richmond, moving forward in developing Point Molate, driving down the homicide rate, expanding support for the homeless, reducing dumping, resolving the recycling crisis and improving sidewalks for pedestrians.

Before the speech, Butt honored four Richmond citizens: Alysa Liu, honored earlier at the meeting as the youngest ice skater in history to land a triple-axel in competition—at the age of 12; Marcus Faumui, a Richmond firefighter named by United Airlines as the “hardest working person in America”; Betty Reid Soskin, who, at 96, is the oldest park ranger in the United States; and Rich City Rides founder Najari Smith.

Butt gave each of them official Richmond hats, and they each shook his hand in turn.

As the mayor concluded his speech, he took a moment to consider his role as mayor. “People ask me all the time: How do you like being the mayor? Are you having fun?” Butt said. “Most of the time I just clear my throat and I sort of shuck and jive a little bit, you know, I don’t want to answer that. But, you know, this is fun. And thank you for making it fun.”

Skating phenom Alysa Liu honored at Richmond State of City
February 27, 2019

Skating great Alysa Liu one of four honored at Richmond State of City
Skating phenom Alysa Liu, a Richmond resident, was honored with a city proclamation prior to the State of the City address on Tuesday, July 26, 2019. (All photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney and Mike Aldax

Richmond gleamed with Pride and Purpose Tuesday night, when Mayor Tom Butt honored four famous community members during his State of the City address. Among the special guests honored were Alysa Liu, the 13-year-old who this year became the youngest to ever win the women’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships; Betty Reid Soskin, the famous National Park Service ranger who was named as one of the 2018 Women of the Year by Glamour Magazine; Marcus Faumui, the Richmond firefighter and cancer survivor named the hardest-working person in the U.S. by United Airlines last year; and Najari Smith, the Rich City Rides founder who recently won the Jefferson Award for community volunteerism.

The four champions in their own rite received standing ovations at the State of the City.

“Now these are not all the famous people in Richmond,” Mayor Butt said. “We thought it was a good sample and represents the best that Richmond has to offer.”
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt (far left) honors four distinguished community members during his State of the City on Friday, July 26, 2019, including, from left to right, Rich City Rides founder Najari Smith, Richmond firefighter Marcus Faumui, National Park Service ranger Betty Reid Soskin, and skating phenom Alysa Liu. (photo by Mike Kinney)

In addition to being a guest of honor, Liu received a city proclamation honoring her massive victory in the free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Not only was she the youngest to win it, she received the highest technical element score in the competition and became the youngest female skater to land a triple axel at the U.S. Nationals.

She began skating at age 5, skated in her first competition in 2015, and at age 9 qualified to compete at the senior level.

Richmond’s Alysa Liu becomes youngest U.S. Women’s Figure Skating Champion

“The city of Richmond is delighted to have a resident with such incomparable talent,” said Councilmember Melvin Willis.
Liu, accompanied at the State of the City by her father, Arthur, told the Richmond Standard what it takes to be a national champ.

“If you want to skate too, you can; just follow your dreams,” she said. “Don’t let anybody make you do it. And don’t do it for them. Do it for yourself.”

Soskin needed no introduction. At 97, she’s the oldest person serving as a permanent National Park Service ranger, and was integral in establishing the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond. She’s also an author, community and civil rights activist and perhaps one of the nation’s most electric speakers.

Glamour Magazine names Betty Reid Soskin among 2018 Women of the Year

Mayor Butt called her a “moral compass in challenging and chaotic times,” and praised her honor as one the 2018 Glamour Women of the Year. Soskin was, as always, humbled by the recognition Tuesday.

“I have found after a long life that if you live long enough, you begin to get awards for being able to tie your own shoes,” she said.
Shirley Butt (left) seated next to Betty Reid Soskin at the State of the City address in Richmond City Council Chambers on July 27, 2019.

Another humble guest of honor, Faumui denied being the hardest working person in the U.S. – even though he took his physical agility test at the same time as he endured chemotherapy. The firefighter who battled cancer, is known to work 60 to 70 hours weekly and organized a benefit for foster children was named “hardest working” among 30,000 nominations across the country.

Richmond firefighter named hardest working person in the U.S.

His wife nominated him for the award.

“Nowhere near am I the hardest working person,” he said. “Little kids deal with cancer all the time. I’m just lucky enough to have a beautiful wife who cares about me. Lucky enough to be a firefighter, too.”
Richmond firefighter Marcus Faumui (right) seated alongside his wife, Alma, at the State of the City address on July 27, 2019.

Smith also declined to take credit for his accomplishments, citing the Richmond community as the catalyst. The well-known bicycle and transportation activist in Richmond and the East Bay has been fighting to increase sustainability in modes of travel, along with mental health and community-building. His grassroots efforts earned him the prestigious Jefferson Award for community volunteerism.

“It’s because of you all who come together to make the city great is why I’m up here today,” Smith said.

Transforming lives one bike at a time

Smith gave shout outs to other community members doing great work before inviting city residents to the weekly Sunday rides Rich City Rides leads from Unity Park, leaving at 10:30 a.m.

“If you don’t have a bike, we’ll make sure to provide you with one,” Smith said. “At Rich City Rides we want to make sure no one is left out of the movement.”

Signup Breaking News

Mayor: Budget Balanced For Now But City Coping With Regional, Global Challenges
Bay City News Service
Published 10:23 pm PST, Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Richmond is facing the same regional and global pressures currently bearing down on the Bay Area and the nation at large, but this evening Mayor Tom Butt updated his constituents on the city's efforts to take those challenges in stride.

While violent crime -- homicide in particular -- remains to be one of the city's most pressing problems, homelessness, housing and climate change are also top priorities.

Increasing property taxes and sales tax revenues have enabled the city to balance its budget, Butt said, but the costs associated with increasing employee compensation, benefits and the state Public Employees' Retirement System will present challenges in the future.

"Pension payments are estimated to rise to more than half of the city's payroll, putting us in the top 12 percent of cost-burdened cities in California," Butt said.

Current forecasts anticipate deficits in other programs as early as 2021. They could hit the Kids First Richmond program -- which aims to make sure that kids are healthy, educated and living in safe and stable environments -- as soon as 2023.

"Housing and homelessness stand out as one of our most pressing challenges, but no subject seems to generate more controversy and conflict," Butt said.

The mayor pointed out that the city does not have a dedicated revenue stream to address issues related to homelessness, but it has dedicated $120,000 to fund an outreach team, and the mayor's office is working to establish a managed camping area for those experiencing homelessness.

"We're doing more than our fair share, which is still not enough," Butt said.

Median rent for an apartment in Richmond is around $2,600, according to Butt, and average rent for an apartment is lower than that. Richmond is relatively affordable, compared to other nearby cities.

But Richmond is not immune to the effects of gentrification and the housing crisis.

"Even with comparatively low rent, Richmond is still unaffordable for many renters," he said.

Climate change remains to be a major issue confronting Richmond and the Bay Area at large, Butt said, which will almost certainly impact the city's housing stock. He said the city anticipates roughly 3 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, and it could be higher than that.

"We're talking about as much as 8 feet in the worst scenario," Butt said.

"We can expect drier overall conditions in the future, combined with periodic, devastating floods," he added. "Much like we're experiencing now."

The mayor ended on a high note, however. The city expects to complete a bicycle and pedestrian path across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge this summer, and the recently established ferry line from Richmond to San Francisco has had an average roughly 625 passengers per day since it opened, with peak ridership of over 900 on opening day in January.

Copyright © 2019 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Richmond's Alysa Liu ~ National Figure Skating Champion
Don Gosney
By: Don Gosney

Richmond has been home to a number of professional athletes over the years playing football, baseball, golf and a sundry of other sports.
And recently, Richmond’s own Alysa Liu became the national figure skating champion.
While the others had to wait until they completed high school or college before they rose to stardom, Alysa has yet to begin high school.  Alysa is but 13 years old and she’s the best in the US and one of the best in the world.

Sadly, because she is so young, it will be several years before we’ll see Alysa in the Olympics.

On Tuesday evening the Richmond City Council invited Alysa and her father Arthur to come before the Council to receive a proclamation honoring her achievements.|

Learn more about her amazing story:
Alysa Liu ~ NBC Sports
On the Tonight Show
2019 US Nationals
2019 US Nationals Short Program