Tom Butt
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  Does Political Polarization Help the Unhoused?
February 21, 2022

When the RPA dominated City Council utterly fails in a policy initiative and get criticized for it, they blame it on “political polarization” instead of fessing up to bad judgment. The City Council is spending $1.5 million of public money on sole-source contracts that RPA members wrote and awarded to two organizations. So far, there has been no accountability for either contract, and the objective of reducing the homeless RV camps at Rydin Road and the Richmond parkway has not been achieved. Neither has the objective of spreading out RVs into neighborhoods with “scattered sites.” Not one such scattered site has been implemented.

That’s’ why I left the two RPA-dominated ad hoc committees the City Council established. It was a waste of time. The RPA City Council members don’t listen anyone but each other, and they think they know all the answers. What they know how to do best is fail.

Sometimes, the truth hurts.

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin <>
Date: Mon, Feb 21, 2022 at 4:35 PM
Subject: Does Political Polarization Help the Unhoused?
To: <>

Does a political polarization help the unhoused?

The purpose of politics is to enable the members of a society to collectively achieve important human goals they cannot otherwise achieve individually.

Yet we live in a society that is extremely divided because competition is at the root and heart of capitalism (the system we all live under).  So as we seek to achieve important human goals, we continuously come up against a system that drives us apart and places us in conflict with each other.  

Today we live in a politically polarized nation and world.  And the United States is becoming polarized much faster than other countries. We see this polarization at work within the politics we experience in our City of Richmond.

One of the most polarizing aspects of politics in Richmond can be described this way: Mayor Butt vs. the Richmond Progressive Alliance (or the progressive movement as I prefer to call my role in our politics).

Mayor Butt has a view of the world that is different than those of us in the progressive movement.  Each side has a right to hold to its strong views and argue in favor of such views. But it’s also important to recognize that progress can be stalled by polarization and sometimes a zero sum result can be the outcome. I do not think any one of us wants that to occur.

As an example, let’s take a look at the unhoused situation in Richmond. Not only have conflicts erupted on how to deal with this situation on the City Council but also within our communities and neighborhoods.  Polarization has indeed set in and to no avail to our unhoused community.

We continue to see numerous places throughout the city where unhoused people are living in tents, RVs and other vehicles, as well as people living in doorways, alongside railroad tracks and many other places (often very unhealthy and unsafe). People are there simply trying to take shelter in a time of dire economic crisis.

Can we agree, for the sake of this very vulnerable community, to put the unhoused community first?   This is a difficult task, because the unhoused community is not monolithic and there is not a one size fits all solution.  Some of our unhoused neighbors have very difficult challenges to overcome and others simply need to be steered in the direction of a new opportunity.

We are on a tough journey to help the many people whose lives have been impacted by an unjust society that has spun out of control. Many strategies, many programs and many actions are needed.

By way of this open statement, I am calling on all my colleagues to look for points of cooperation. I myself am committed to seeking such cooperation. We can each work on specific solutions we choose to embrace.  We need well-managed scattered sites, safe parks, cabin and interim shelter villages and real affordable permanent housing.  We also need to help people with workforce development, mental health and substance abuse programs, as well as foster a sense of community and peer support within managed settings.  

Some solutions may happen quickly and others may take more time.  But we are all needed in addressing this overall unhoused crisis, which is going to be with us for some time because we live in era of deep capitalist crisis which is proving incapable of resolving this and other current crises. Capitalism created these problems and cannot solve them within the structure of competition that it is based on. Instead, the path forward falls on all of us and we can make the difference by working together!

Tomorrow Mayor Butt will deliver his State of the City address. I ask my progressive colleagues to “let it go” should Mayor Butt choose to use that presentation as a battering post against progressives. I promise to do so myself. And I ask Mayor Butt to not use that opportunity that he has as mayor to insult his colleagues.

Mutual benefit will be achieved if we can move good programs forward for the unhoused, good climate solutions, good development projects, good services for our neighborhoods and good outcomes on litigation that the City faces.   

Thank you to all in our community for building relationships of solidarity with each other (inclusive of both housed and unhoused residents).

We are in this together!

In solidarity,

Gayle McLaughlin
Richmond City Councilmember, District 5


Gayle McLaughlin for Richmond City Council 2020 | PO Box 5284, Richmond, CA 94805