Tom Butt
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  A Good Start
September 11, 2019

Last night’s City Council meeting, the first regular meeting since July 23, was remarkable in many ways.

The meeting started with both a new city manager and a new police chief. There were no rants or disturbances from the audience. Everything on the Agenda was on the Consent Calendar, and only two items were pulled off – they both passed!

We were out of there about 8:30 PM.

The Ordinance revision that further restricts e-cigarette sales passed unanimously after a month of devastating publicity for Juul and the vaping industry about illness, death, and skyrocketing youth use.

Some of the same people who oppose development of Point Molate spoke against using funds resulting from a litigation settlement for demolition of the abandoned warehouses at Terminal 1, but it passed anyway. The action was merely administrative to ensure the City has access to the funds remaining in the settlement agreement cleanup account into the 2019-2020 Recognized Obligation Payments Schedule so that the City can make use of the funds to complete the cleanup of the Terminal One site.  Expenditures will be subject to Council approval at a later date. Under the terms of the 2005 Settlement Agreement, these funds can only be used for the remediation of the Terminal One property. The vast majority of the funds are being used for development of the cleanup plan and soils remediation of the site. The buildings on site also contain some hazardous materials in the form of asbestos as well as lead which is why the funds can be used for demolition work.  These funds cannot be used for anything other than Terminal One remediation and cannot go into the General Fund.

Finally, the City Council approved the appointment of Willie Hicks to the Planning Commission. Hicks is a Richmond native and president of Laborers Local 324. Opponents argued that somehow he is controlled by Chevron and will tilt the Planning Commission in Chevron’s favor.

There were, as usual, also a couple of speakers opposing the development of Point Molate. In Point Molate news, there was a hearing yesterday in front of Federal Judge Gonzalez-Rogers on the SPRAWLDEF motion for preliminary injunction to stop implementation of the Point Molate Settlement. SPRAWLDEF withdrew their motion and the parties will meet in December with Magistrate Judge Spero, the judge who oversaw the settlement, to discuss resolution of SPRAWLDEF’s claims. 

Richmond bans sale of e-cigarettes

The city follows in the footsteps of San Francisco, which was the first city to ban the controversial products
Richmond city councilmembers voted Tuesday to ban the sale of e-cigarette products that haven’t been approved by the FDA. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

By Ali Tadayon | | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: September 10, 2019 at 10:09 pm | UPDATED: September 11, 2019 at 6:53 am

RICHMOND — Following in the footsteps of San Francisco, Richmond will ban the sale of electronic cigarette or vape products like Juul until they are reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Richmond City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the ban, which would go into effect at the start of 2020. The ban applies to all e-cigarette products that have not obtained a premarket review order from the FDA — which is most of them, according to the proposal from Mayor Tom Butt. San Francisco became the first city to ban e-cigarette products that have not been approved by the FDA back in June. Michigan, last week, became the first state to pass the ban.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Butt said the issue was personal. Butt’s mother died from emphysema, and his father died of lung cancer. Both were smokers.

He also said the issue is important to Richmond, which he said has been targeted by the e-cigarette industry “as a place that’s ripe for e-cigarettes.” Earlier this year, he said, Juul gave the Richmond Police Athletic League an $89,000 grant to discourage children from smoking. Butt said Juul’s true intention is “to build legitimacy for this product” in Richmond.

Several Richmond High School students testified to the popularity of vaping at their school, despite it being illegal to sell the products to minors. One student said that her 12-year-old cousin was recently caught smoking an e-cigarette.

“They think it’s harmless,” said junior Andrea Rosillo.

U.S. federal government survey figures show that last year, one in five U.S. high school students reported vaping in the previous month. The U.S. surgeon general has called the surge in youth e-cigarette use an “epidemic.”

Shop owners at Tuesday’s meeting urged the City Council not to pass the ban, saying they refuse to sell to minors and thus shouldn’t be punished for the products getting into the hands of children. Merchant Evan Curry said the products would still be sold illegally in the city just like menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products that Richmond banned last year.

“All you’re really doing is taking money out of the pockets of hard-working shop owners,” Curry said.

Activist Cheryl Sudduth said people should think of the ban in terms of how it will prevent children from vaping, not in terms of money.

“It’s disappointing to hear people equate the loss of revenue with the lives of young people when we know that the chemicals that are in these products can cause irreversible lung damage,” Sudduth said.

“These chemicals can stunt the growth of brain tissue. We can bring in new products, new revenue but we cannot bring in new children, we can’t bring in new lives for young people and adults,” she said.

Richmond Police Chief Allwyn Brown Resigns After No Confidence Vote

September 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

RICHMOND (CBS SF) — Richmond Police Chief Allwyn Brown resigned Tuesday amid ethical questions about his professional relationship with city finance manager Belinda Brown, his wife, and a landslide vote of no confidence from the rank and file officers of the Richmond Police Officers Association.

Ben Therriault, association president, announced the results of the Labor Day weekend vote last week at a meeting of the Community Police Review Commission, adding that he would return to Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting with damning information about Brown.

During opening remarks from Interim City Manager Steve Falk, prior to the public comment period in which Therriault addressed the council, Falk announced that Brown had tendered his resignation.

“I have been in conversation with Chief Brown and the first thing I did was thank him for 35 years of distinguished service to the city, where he accepted a noble and difficult assignment, and he did it with grace,” Falk said.

“Chief Brown informed me today that he will no longer serve as the police chief for the city of Richmond.”

“This is all I am at liberty to disclose at this time regarding Chief Brown and no further information will be forthcoming,” Falk said, adding only that he did not intend to initiate a search for a permanent police chief during his time at the city’s helm, which is slated to end Jan. 15, 2020.

Assistant Police Chief Bisa French has been appointed as the interim chief, marking the first point in Richmond city history that a black woman has served as top cop. She did not comment on the matter during the City Council meeting.

According to the city’s website, French has served with the Richmond Police Department since 1998. She was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2006. She is a mother of three and holds a master’s degree in human resource management.

Meanwhile, the questions about Allwyn Brown’s work expenses, and whether improper expenditures may have been approved by his wife, remain unanswered.

Belinda Brown is responsible for maintaining “financing, auditing, and record keeping standards to ensure sound fiduciary practices,” according to the city website, which also says that Belinda Brown is still serving in her official capacity as finance director.

Therriault said the matter was brought to his attention several months ago by a member of the public but former city manager Carlos Martinez, who was fired in late July by a split vote of the City Council amid allegations of unfair labor practices, declined to do anything about it.

“Someone came in and claimed that the public trust has been broken,” Therriault said.

“You don’t get a pass as the police chief,” he added. “That needs to be looked into.”

Therriault filed an expansive Public Records Act request July 18 for related documents to test that citizen’s hypothesis. He says the city has responded, but has not yet provided the documents requested.

“When we get (them) we will provide (them) to any investigative journalist that wants it,” Therriault said.

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