Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2021  
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  Happy New Year 2022!
December 31, 2021

For the full report, see 2021 Year End Report.

A COVID Weary, Divided and Contentious City

As one person said, “I’m staying up on New Years’ Eve, not to see the new year come in but to make sure 2021 is gone.”

Richmond remained largely virtual through 2021, and just when we thought there was light at the end of the tunnel, the Omicron variant sent us scurrying back behind our masks. Proof of Vaccination became the currency of the realm, as important as your drivers’ license and credit card. Where to get your vaccinations and booster became the prevailing subject of conversation and media posts.

Following a sweep in the November 2020 election, members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance seized power over the Richmond City Council in January 2021, pushing their agenda with an unprecedented vengeance, establishing the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force to downsize the Richmond Police Department, implementing Measure U to scare away businesses, endorsing fireworks and sideshows, suspending street sweeping, and making it an obsession to dismantle the previously entitled Campus Bay and Point Molate projects, putting the City at great risk in both endeavors.

Homelessness continued to be a major concern of both residents and businesses, but the RPA-led City Council flubbed one opportunity after another to relocate the unsanctioned RV camps at Rydin Road and the Richmond Parkway, rejecting every proposed managed “safe park” site under pressure from neighborhood objections. The RPA-favored and much touted “scattered site” plan was adopted as an ordinance in June 2021, but by the end of 2021, not a single site had been approved and activated.

The RPA dominated City Council was so focused on their social agenda and awarding double-digit raises to their favorite unions that they failed to notice the City was looking like crap, with trash and weeds everywhere, sideshows, fireworks, residents complaining of no traffic enforcement, city employees unresponsive to complaints and requests for service and the city manager failing to recruit new employees, leaving the City short over 100 employees. After waking up to that fact, they finally got around to firing the city manager.

Concerned about Richmond’s shaky financial future, the state auditor notified the city manager of an upcoming audit and requested preservation of all records.

Obsessed with and embarrassed by the mayor’s opposition to some of their ill-conceived initiatives, the City Council took away two of the mayor’s powers that the previous mayor, Gayle McLaughlin had enjoyed, (1) the discretion to cancel meetings and (2) the ability to report out closed session actions.

The City Council polished off a year of discontent and resistance to criticism by adopting two resolutions to condemn me, one resolution to censure me, direction to the city attorney to lodge complaints against me to the district attorney and the grand jury, and finally to invest tens of thousands of dollars suing the me. To pursue the lawsuit against the me, the City is paying a southern California attorney nearly $500 an hour --tens of thousands of dollars to date -- with no tangible results so far.

One of the objectives of the lawsuit against me is to force me to remove from my website a report of a two-year investigation, supported by the RPA City Council members, that cost the City over $50,000 and ultimately exonerated me following baseless complaints by one disgruntled employee.

Any hope for collegiality and compromise between RPA and non-RPA City Council members was quickly dashed, as the year turned into a series of bitter disputes between RPA City Council members and the other two members – Nat Bates and myself.

Along the way, the city manager and city attorney became collateral casualties, the former being fired and the latter resigning after being pressured by the RPA City Council to engage in illegal and unethical acts. Earlier in the year, half of the staff of the City Attorney’s Office left.

Police Chief Bisa French went on administrative leave until a sad and unfortunate issue involving a family member is resolved.

As a reflection of the failed RPA City Council leadership, the City’s Community Survey ratings fell in 2021 for the first time since the survey was initiated in 2007.

There is, however, always good news. So far, our family has dodged COVID-19 and all of its variants.

After two years of severe drought, rain and snowfall are breaking records.

Schools and swimming pools are back open. Restaurants and other public venues, such as the Riggers Loft, Black Star Barbecue, Assemble, Lara’s Fine Dining, El Garage and the Baltic opened or were reborn with new identities. Others, like the historic Hotel Mac, remain closed.

In December, the California Department of Parks and Recreation awarded Richmond two grants totaling nearly $9.2 million for Shields-Reid Park renovation and Dirt World Bike park Renovation. Richmond got over $27 million from the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act).

Ferry service got cheaper and more frequent. The failed submarine power cable to East Brother Island was repaired, and the bed and breakfast inn opened back up to full houses.

The Hacienda affordable housing project rehabilitation is finally under construction and will open in 2022. Nevin Plaza and Nystrom Village have found developers, and the City of Richmond will finally someday exit the budget bleeding public housing business.

Following is a snapshot of 2021, mostly in pictures.

For more recaps of 2020, visit the TOM BUTT E-FORUM archives at and the mayor’s Facebook page at

My wishes for 2022, while perhaps overoptimistic, are as follows:

  1. Zero homicides.
  2. End of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. End of the drought, including the annual wildfire smokeout.
  4. Successful defense of Campus Bay and Point Molate litigation and sale of Point Molate for development.
  5. 2022 election that breaks the stranglehold of the RPA on Richmond.
  6. Sufficient federal and state resources to relocate homeless persons into permanent housing.
  7. Restoring Bisa French as chief of police.
  8. Appointment of a permanent city manager and city attorney.
  9. Clean up Richmond to look really good for a change.
  10. Electing a good replacement for me as mayor.

As I begin my last full year as mayor of Richmond, I wish the people of Richmond a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Tom Butt, Mayor
City of Richmond