Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2020  
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  Anybody but Team Richmond
October 1, 2020

It’s only 34 days to the election, and ballots come out next week. How you vote could dramatically change Richmond.

If you don’t read the rest of this, just vote for the candidates highlighted in red.

District 1 (Iron Triangle and Belding Woods)

  • Eleanor Thompson – CEO/Business Owner
  • Melvin Lee Willis, Jr. – Incumbent

District 5 – Marina Bay, Richmond Annex and Laurel Park

  • Ahmad Anderson – Small Business Owner
  • Najari Smith – Business Owner
  • Gayle McLaughlin – Community Organizer, Educator
  • Mike Vasilas – Small Business Owner

District 6 – North and East

  • Vinay Pimple – Educator/Government Analyst
  • LaTanya Dandie “Ms Dandie” – Mental Health Worker
  • Claudia Jimenez – Community Organizer

If you want to know why, read on.

The most important thing you as a voter can do is to make sure the Richmond Progressive Alliance does not retake the City Council. The Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) has carefully positioned their candidates (“Team Richmond”) to win all three districts that are up for grabs, with the objective of reestablishing an RPA City Council majority. I don’t have to tell you that the Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates are anti-business, anti-growth, anti-development, anti-housing, and anti-police. They favor raising taxes to increase the pay of City employees while opposing economic development in Richmond. They do not want Richmond to grow and flourish. Instead, they want to make Richmond a national laboratory for unproven radical social policies at the expense of Richmond taxpayers.

Figure 1 - The Richmond Progressive Alliance Team Richmond
Two candidates, Melvin Willis in District 1 and Najari Smith in District 5, went on a last minute “district shopping” trips instead of running in their home districts.

  • Just a few days before the filing deadline, incumbent Council member Melvin Willis abandoned his home of record for the last four years in District 6 to run in District 1, where he has never lived previously.
  • Although not a declared part of Team Richmond, Najari Smith, changed his home of record from District 3 a few days before the filing deadline to jump to District 5. There is no evidence that Smith actually lives in or has ever lived in District 5 other than registering to vote there. Smith, along with McLaughlin and Willis, is a former member of the powerful Richmond Progressive Alliance Steering Committee. Political experts believe that Smith’s entry into the race is a ploy by the RPA to draw African American votes away from Anderson and boost McLaughlin’s prospects. McLaughlin won two terms as mayor in three-way races where she failed to get a majority vote. With four candidates in District 5, the winner needs only 26% of the vote!

It is even more troubling that two of the candidates affiliated with the Richmond Progressive Alliance, (Melvin Willis and Najari Smith) report living (presumably renting) in homes that are not in compliance with any of the three ordinances regulating rentals, including the Rent Program (RMC 11.100), the property for the rental inspection program (RMC 6.40) and a business license required to be in the rental business (RMC 7.04).

A third RPA candidate, Claudia Jimenez, was a major proponent and assisted in drafting Richmond’s Rent Control ordinance, but until she was caught flouting it, she was also violating the three ordinances regulating rentals, including the Rent Program (RMC 11.100), the property for the rental inspection program (RMC 6.40) and a business license required to be in the rental business (RMC 7.04).

The irony is that the Rent Program was the flagship accomplishment of the RPA, but apparently, they figured it did not apply to them or to their landlords.

Fortunately, we have highly qualified candidates in each of the three districts who can successfully challenge the RPA candidates and move Richmond forward instead of backwards. .

Here are the three candidates who deserve your support and your vote. With COVID-19, traditional walking and knocking is not going to happen. Campaign rallies, house parties and public forums (except virtual) are not going to happen. Candidates need funds for mailers and media advertising. Please donate to their campaigns so they can get the word out.

District 5 – Cortez/Stege, Eastshore, Laurel Park, Marina Bay, Panhandle Annex, Parkview, and Richmond Annex.

Ahmad Anderson is a Richmond native and a Cal graduate where he played defensive back on the football team. He previously served on the boards of the Contra Costa County Childcare Council, Youth Service Bureau and as vice-president of the NAACP. He is a resident of Richmond’s Laurel Park neighborhood, not far from Booker T. Anderson Community Center, named after his father. His mother is former Mayor Irma Anderson. He is the proud father of five: military veteran and educator Brooks Fletcher; Dr. Brandon Anderson a Surgeon and Stanford University graduate; Breeyan Cornelius, AC Transit driver; Brandon Von Der Werth, business executive; and Cameron Morrow, who just graduated from High School this year.

Figure 1 - Tom Butt and Ahmad Anderson

He has extensive experience as a private sector CEO, nonprofit Vice President or Board member for organizations such as Goodwill Industries and KPFA Radio, and as a regional workforce director and manager of complex projects and large budgets.

Ahmad supports the things Richmond voters care about most. He supports reform and reimagination of law enforcement practices with a renewed focus on mental health, job training and youth prevention services. He also knows that we must focus on responsible, neighborhood-based safety that reduces gang violence, and property crimes while improving 911 response times for any family needing help.

He will work to reduce homelessness, increase job training and address the blight of illegal dumping. “I will, promised Ahmad, “fight for our District’s fair share of money to address dumping, remove graffiti, and repair potholes and streets. Every resident deserves to live in a safe, healthy, and clean neighborhood.

District 1 – Iron Triangle and Belding Woods

Eleanor Thompson has lived in Richmond 54 years. Unlike her opponent, who moved to District 1 recently solely for the reason to qualify as a candidate, Eleanor has a long history of serving residents of the Iron Triangle. She is the founder and executive director of Social Progress, Inc., a nonprofit organization where youth of the Iron Triangle neighborhood gather after school for tutoring and mentoring.

Figure 2 - Eleanor Thompson

Thompson began her career as a substitute teacher with the Contra Costa Unified School District. She also served on the Community Police Review Commission, as a member of the Anti-Drug Task Force, and as president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council.

Thompson thinks these experiences give her a unique perspective and she can be the voice of the people. She feels strongly about the problems of crime, homelessness and lack of access to healthcare.

Public safety is a priority for Thompson, who believes in fully staffed police and fire department. Having lived in Richmond for over five decades, Thompson has witnessed drive-by-shootings and killings of African Americans. In order to stop these crimes, Thompson wants to create jobs for youth. “Keeping the youth busy is good for the local economy,” she said.

In a future Richmond, Thompson hopes to see the crime rate drop, more housing built, the eradication of homelessness and a cleaner environment.

District 6 – North and East

Vinay Pimpléis an extraordinary individual, who despite total blindness, graduated with a law degree from Cal, becoming an attorney. He is also a skilled software engineer. Vinay was appointed to the City Council in 2015 to fill my position that was vacated when I was elected mayor. He fell only nine votes short of being elected for a full term in 2018.

Figure 3 - Vinay Pimple

When he served on the City Council from 2015 to 2017, Pimplé became known for his analytical skills, particularly his keen understanding of City budgets and fiscal matters. But he also brought an insight into the struggles of many residents who face challenges based on immigration status or ethnicity, “On the City Council, I found that so many of our laws were written by privileged outsiders from Berkeley and San Francisco, who simply had no idea about how discrimination works or how people deal with hardships. As a blind person of color and an immigrant, I have firsthand experience of the various ways in which our communities face discrimination and other challenges.”

Pimplé understands the connection between economic development and a fiscally healthy city. “The other major challenge we have is to improve city services. We need to raise revenue by building housing and attracting businesses, and by careful personnel management. I have experience of doing just this. During my two years on council, I approved 450-plus affordable homes, and 300-plus market-rate homes. I took the lead in convincing police officers, fire fighters and managers to take big cuts in take home pay so that we could balance the budget without cutting services.”

Pimplé is a prolific volunteer in the schools and an education booster. “The most important issue is to increase opportunities for our youth. I want to improve education and job training and reduce crime. Education is the key. I will make sure that we make a full shift to a college-going culture because only about 30 percent of our eligible students currently use the Richmond Promise college scholarship. I will continue my work of expanding training for careers in the building trades. I will make a big push for volunteer mentors. Mentors can be game-changers when we focus on high-risk children aged 12 to 17. Mentors can build a bond with high-risk children and navigate them towards all these opportunities that will help our children realize their full potential.”

I urge you to not only vote for the following candidates but also to support them with your campaign contributions.

Anderson for City Council 2020
5016 Nunn Street
Richmond, CA  94804
FPPC #1427328

Vinay Pimple for Richmond City Council 2020
PO Box 5237
Richmond, CA 94805
FPPC #1427387

Eleanor Thompson For Richmond City Council 2020
P.O. Box 1906
Richmond, California 94802
FPPC # 1427326

The RPA Candidates

Gayle McLaughlin is a former mayor and city council member. After being termed out as mayor in 2015, she successfully ran for City Council, but ambitions for higher office prevailed, and she resigned before her term ended to unsuccessfully run for California lieutenant governor, winning only a handful of votes. Now, she wants back in. McLaughlin has been pretty much invisible in Richmond since 2015, resurfacing only recently after announcing her City Council candidacy. She wrote a book, Winning Richmond – How a Progressive Alliance Won City Hall, taking creditfor everything good that happened in Richmond during the RPA heyday, even though the RPA actually controlled the City Council only two of the 12 years that Gayle was either a City Council member or mayor.

Point Molate remains a prime focus of the RPA as they advocate for a vision they have no idea how to implement. It is ironic that Gayle McLaughlin is singularly responsible for the City of Richmond losing total control over the future of Point Molate and having to spend millions of dollars on litigation. After the City Council abandoned the casino project, the City was sued by Upstream and the Tribe. The City prevailed on all counts in Federal District Court, but Upstream and the Tribe appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which remanded the case back to the District Court, finding a plausible claim that Mayor McLaughlin had inappropriately tried to influence public policy and “breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

We therefore conclude that the TAC [Third Amended Complaint] states a plausible claim that, by preventing the occurrence of the condition precedent and relying partially on the non-occurrence to deny the casino project and avoid carrying out the purpose of the LDA, the City breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing when it promulgated Resolution 23-11 and discontinued consideration of a casino use for Point Molate.  (
In short, McLaughlin abused her office as mayor to pursue her personal agenda regarding Point Molate, and it has cost the City dearly. The band of several dozen opponents of Point Molate development are largely the remnants of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, founded and led by no other than Gayle McLaughlin, who, ironically, lost City control over Point Molate.

Melvin Willis
is a sincere and well-meaning member of the City Council, completing his first four-year term. He hasn’t yet put down roots in District 1, moving into the district purely for political reasons. A member of the RPA, Willis has close ties with SEIU Local 1021, whose representative serves on the RPA Steering Committee and helps pay the rent for the RPA office across from City Hall – a blatant conflict of interest. He has never made a vote that is contrary to the interests of Local 1021. Because of RPA support, Local 1021 is the only Richmond public employee union that did not agree to help pay for their health care costs. Like other RPA colleagues, Willis has little regard for the business community and has consistently voted against developing Point Molate and the Zeneca site. Rent Control has pretty much been his main agenda from the beginning.

In 2017, Melvin Willis was quoted in the media as advocating cutting the Richmond Police Department budget:

Willis said he would like to cut the police department’s budget and reallocate some of its remaining funding to city youth programs. “I would like to redefine public safety,” Willis said. “We need more investment in youth, our libraries and rec center are rundown. The RYSE youth center and Urban Tilth are viable programs that help prevent crime and violence.” (

At a 2018 candidates forum, Willis doubled down on his promise to downsize the police department, this time by 20 percent. (, and on June 16, he voted to reduce Richmond Police Department funding by 20 percent.

Like Willis, Claudia Jimenez is a community organizer, a skill set that doesn’t always transfer well to being a legislator who needs an objective viewpoint to serve all the people of Richmond. Her biggest claim to fame is working on and advocating for a radical community benefits agreement that played a significant role in killing the proposed Global Campus. The proposed agreement had provisions that UC Berkeley did not have the power or money to fulfill, and they eventually canceled the project. Although UC Berkeley is, like the City of Richmond, a cash-strapped public agency and not a cash-flush private developer, they were treated like one.

Another major campaign she was involved in at CCISCO was pushing UC Berkeley to accept a community benefits agreement for the proposed UC Berkeley Global Campus project in Richmond. The proposed campus is expected to bring local jobs during its construction and elevate Richmond’s profile in the technology sector of the San Francisco Bay Area. But critics warn that it could lead to the displacement of low-income Richmond residents who are unable to afford the increasing cost of living the campus would trigger.(
Ironically, RPA candidate Claudia Jimenez and her spouse, Eli Moore, who were major proponents and assisted in drafting Richmond’s Rent Control ordinance, were later found to be flouting the ordinance’s requirements when they became landlords. They said they forgot.

This election will determine Richmond’s priorities for the next four years. Please help keep the Richmond Progressive Alliance from taking over Richmond.