Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2023  
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  Bizarre is Business As Usual
March 10, 2023

The City of Richmond government is stranger than fiction. You can’t make this stuff up. The bizarre has become business as usual.

  • The recipient of a multi-million-dollar contract with the City of Richmond sits on the City Council.
  • The District 6 councilmember lived rent free in a million-dollar house in District 2 for the better part of 2022 while her home in District 6 was being expanded.
  • The District 2 councilmember won his seat by pulling an envelope out of a bag.
  • The average rent for an apartment in Richmond is $2,716/month ($1,800 for even a studio), but the District 1 councilmember pays only $650/month for his  residence, whose owner just happens to be the executive director of RichmondLAND, an organization launched by the District 6 councilmember’s spouse.
  • The City Charter states, “No person may serve as Mayor for more than two full terms,” and “In the absence or disability of the Mayor, the Vice Mayor shall serve as the Mayor.” Termed out former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin served as mayor at the March 7, 2023, City Council meeting in violation of the Charter. No one seemed to mind except Mark Wassberg.

  • Two City Council members who have experienced bankruptcy are the primary proponents of a public bank bankrolled with Richmond taxpayers’ money.
  • The city attorney routinely selects his own firm, Aleshire & Wynder, LLP,  to provide legal services for the City of Richmond . On March 7, 2023, the City Council approved an expenditure of $85,000 in connection with the proposed Chevron Hydrogen Fuel project. The Agenda Report justified it because, “Given the complexity of the project, City staff is proposing to use Aleshire & Wynder, LLP, to provide legal services.” Who is “staff?” You guessed it, Dave Aleshire, partner in Aleshire & Wynder.
  • Until recently, the mayor’s chief of staff also served as chair of the Rent Board, in violation of California’s conflict of interest statutes that are based on the belief that a public official cannot serve two masters simultaneously, and that the duties of public office demand the absolute loyalty and undivided, uncompromised allegiance of the individual that holds the office. The purpose of the conflict of interest statutes is to eliminate temptation, avoid the appearance of impropriety, and limit the possibility of improper personal influence on a public official’s decisions.
  • Where scofflaws are rewarded. In the recent hearings over encroachments, both applicants tried to fence in public land without a proper permit. One was ordered to remove the encroachment, which he only partially did, and the other had an illegal encroachment agreement terminated by the City. Instead of taking responsibility, both claimed they were victims of vicious (even racist) neighbors, won the sympathy of the City Council and were awarded collectively 3,000 square feet of public land for their private use.

Back in the day, these stories would have been red meat for a competitive press vying to see who could dig the deepest and write the most compelling story. Today, we have no press (at least in Richmond) and no one to tell the story.

Where have all the writers gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the reporters gone?
Long time ago.
Gone to flack jobs, every one.
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

The life cycle of a journalist: (1) You get a master’s degree from UC Berkeley. (2) Take a low paying job churning out fluff pieces for some local paper about to go under.(3) Take a slightly higher paying job as a staffer for a local politician or public agency manufacturing news where none exists or spin actual news to the benefit of your employer. Ironically, the only consistent news source in Richmond anymore is Chevron’s Richmond Standard.