Tom Butt
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  Richmond Progressive Alliance Engaging in Increasingly Risky Initiatives
May 13, 2021

The RPA controlled City Council is steering the City into extremely dangerous new waters, driven by obsession with experimental ideology that could (1) bankrupt the city and mire it down in expensive lawsuits for years, and (2) reduce the police force to a level that would not be able to deal with most criminal activities.

Reimagining Public Safety

Although I was traveling on May 10 and unable to attend the City Council meeting, I understand the Council voted 5-0, with Bates and me absent, to support the recommendations of the Reimagining Pubic Safety Task Force, including defunding the police with an amount of more than $11 million and transferring the funding to other programs, including homeless programs, mental health response programs and the Office of Neighborhood Safety. The net loss of some 35 officers would result in essentially crippling the Police Department’s ability to respond to or investigate any but the most serious crimes. Crimes dropping through the cracks could include: traffic violations such as speeding, parking violations and DUIs, vehicle break-ins, petty thefts, muffler thefts, donuts, fireworks, dumping, shoplifting, porch pirates, copper wire theft and noise complaints. Taken together, these make up about 99 percent of all the complaints I get about crime from Richmond residents and businesses. With knowledge that there will no longer be a law enforcement response, criminals will no longer have any fear of arrest and subsequent consequences, removing any remaining deterrents and probably leading to an increase in crime.

Even before any actual budget action by the City Council, I am told that police officers are already looking for work elsewhere with some already gone.

There is a particular obsession of the Task Force with traffic stops. The Task Force wants to de-prioritize traffic stops for minor safety violations (apparently safety is no longer important), institute a moratorium on traffic fees and fines until march 2022, and consider an alternative method of traffic enforcement by unarmed civilians. Although traffic stops have precipitated some violent encounters in some other cities, there is little history of that in Richmond. Traffic stops in Richmond often result in loaded guns being taken off the street. It will be interesting to see how well this works with unarmed civilians. 

Figure 1 – Earlier this year in a routine traffic stop, the driver refused to yield and shortly after, the car crashed into another vehicle in the intersection of Marina Way and Barrett Ave. Three suspects fled the vehicle and ran onto the Union Pacific train tracks. Officers searched the area and located all three subjects. A search of the vehicle revealed 5 firearms, all fully loaded. Two of the guns were rifles and 3 were hand guns with extended magazines. The two rifles were an AK-47 and AR-15 with high capacity magazines. All three suspects were either on parole or had outstanding warrants for their arrests.

Two of the three proposed diversions -- homeless programs and mental health responses -- are already Contra Costa County responsibilities and will get additional funding from Measure X and increases federal programs, and the City’s diversion of resources into these categories will simply disincentivize the County from adequately allocating funding in Richmond in the future, and the money will be diverted elsewhere.

This ideological shift is being driven by an unrepresentative but highly vocal minority of Richmond residents (and non-residents such as Andres Soto and Tamisha Walker - “Tamisha lives in District 1 and wants to make Antioch a home for her family for generations to come.”) who have bought into the theory that police are hard wired to turn routine encounters into violent or even fatal attacks on people of color, and police are incapable of engaging with any outcome other than use of force. There is simply no significant history of that in Richmond.

One observer noted that the Task Force and its supporters are largely made of people who have some personal bone to pick with police or stand to benefit from the proposed transfer of funds.

Below is the story from Richmond Pulse.

11 May City Council Supports Task Force Recommendations to Reallocate Police Funds

Posted at 14:16h in City GovernmentNews by Danielle Parenteau-Decker 0 Comments
Twelve people in boxes in screenshot from Zoom meeting

(Screenshot captured by Mathew Miranda / Richmond Pulse)
By Mathew Miranda

The Richmond City Council voted 5-0 in a special meeting Monday to direct city staff to include recommendations from the Reimagining Public Safety Community Task Force as the next city budget is drafted. Mayor Tom Butt and Council member Nat Bates were absent.

The one-item meeting garnered 74 public speakers, many of whom supported the task force’s recommendations to shift $10.3 million from the Richmond Police Department to several community services and resources. In a previous interview, Chief of Police Bisa French estimated that the department could lose up to 35 officers with the reallocation.

All five council members present said they support the recommendations.

“I understand that individuals may feel that all hell is going to break loose, and things are going to change dramatically, but I have faith in Richmond,” said Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson.

“I see now is a time to be visionary and now is a time to reimagine public safety, and that’s what we are doing,” said Council member Eduardo Martinez. “We want people to be enabled to their best.”

Although not present at the meeting, Butt has repeatedly stated his displeasure toward the police department reallocation.

The recommendations cannot be officially included in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget until its adoption at the end of June. Per the city charter, City Manager Laura Snideman will also need to return to the council with her professional recommendation of the proposed reallocation.

The City Council created the task force in June 2020 with the intention “to transition from Richmond’s current community policing model,” according to the staff report. Twenty-one members were appointed to the task force and met 16 times from October to May in preparation for the recommendations.

The task force organized itself into four subcommittees: community-based solutions; health and safety; smart budgeting and resource allocation; and accountability as safety. Representatives from three of the four subcommittees presented recommendations on Monday night.


  • $3.4 million to SOS! Richmond for a three-tiered program approach of community engagement, hygiene and health services and transformational support
  • $2.4 million for a community crisis response program to address mental health crises and substance use issues without police
  • $2.5 million increase to the Office of Neighborhood Safety, which provides and coordinates targeted interventions and prevention services


·        $1.9 million increase to the RichmondWorks Summer Youth Program for about 700 more youth jobs
·        Requiring written consent for all vehicle searches pursuing to traffic stops
·        Banning pretextual stops
·        Instituting a moratorium on traffic fees and fines until March 2022
·        Considering developing an alternative method of traffic enforcement led by unarmed civilians
·        De-prioritizing traffic stops for minor safety violations, including not wearing a seat belt, expired registration or failure to signal
·        Focusing police actions on investigative stops and driving violations related to traffic safety including speeding, running a red light or impaired driving

The budget and resource subcommittee gave an overview of the Richmond Police Department budget.

Currently, 39.8% of Richmond’s general fund, or roughly $67 million, is spent on the police department. While presenting, task force member Marisol Cantu provided statistics showing that Richmond spends more per capita on police than New York, San Jose, Detroit, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Per capita, Richmond also ranked fourth compared with the 25 largest U.S. cities.
“This indicates striking over-commitment to community control rather than community investment and violence prevention,” Cantu said.

The $10.3 million reallocation would bring the police department’s percentage of the general fund budget to 33.6% or about $57 million. The task force proposed the department achieve this new budget by reducing sworn officers, overtime and “other pay”, as well as auxiliary services.

Campus Bay and Point Molate

The same RPA controlled City Council majority is also obsessed with stopping any future development and dismantling full entitlements for Point Molate and Campus Bay. The problem is that almost any action the City Council takes to undo these contracts also constitutes a breach of the same contracts, and the City Council has a duty to the covenant of good faith and fair dealing to support them. Gayle, especially, should understand this because her actions and poor judgment as mayor several years ago were found by the Ninth Circuit to likely constitute a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, plunging the city from a full victory in Federal District Court back into litigation that continues today, a decade later.

Gayle continues to pursue a dangerous strategy of trying to reopen CEQA reviews, DTSC approvals and City contracts. Although she has pulled her resolutions from the agenda twice, she apparently remains determined to open the door to reconsideration. See her latest attempts here, and a response letter from the Campus Bay developer here.

Other than the RPA and their omnipresent Greek Chorus of echo gallery supporters (Pam Stello, Deborah Bayer, Sally Tobin, Jeanne Kortz, Tarnall Abbot and Jim Hanson), very few people in Richmond have strong feelings about development at either location or understand the complex issues involved.

What people also may not understand is that the course Gayle and the RPA are pursuing is not only costing the City big money in attorneys fees right now, but in the future could expose the City to a hundred million dollars or more in litigation losses. Reversing the actions of a previous city council that that they see as illegitimate is a primary obsession for them.

It is ironic that while Gayle has no qualms about the City incessantly spending money opposing developments and recklessly exposing the City to even more costs, she offered up a long litany of requests from her District 5 at the May 11 City Council meeting to increase funding for citywide internet broadband and free computers, better recycling, cleaning up illegal dumping, paving, curbs, sidewalks, repairing and opening community and senior centers, parks, code enforcement, lighting, youth programs, libraries and homelessness. Note that even without any staggering litigation losses, the City could lose more than $22 million if 30 percent Point Molate is not sold for development with the remaining 70 percent reserved for parks.