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Tom Butt's Platform

This is What I Believe:

There are two important dimensions to municipal government.

Nuts and Bolts

The first is about nuts and bolts – providing the essential facilities and services that enable the city to function efficiently and effectively. These include such things as public safety (police and fire), building permits and inspections, code enforcement, sewage collection and treatment, parks and recreation, streets and trails and public buildings. Making things work, on time and on budget is an important objective of mine. As an architect, contractor, planner, developer, business owner and real estate economist, I bring a lot of education, experience and skills to bear on shaping public policy that makes things work, and I will, to the best of my ability, insure that the people of Richmond get the best possible return for their investment in City government and that every neighborhood is treated equally in the provision of programs and services.

Quality of Life

The second dimension is what I call quality of life issues.

The way cities are planned and the way they grow affects our health, our safety and our state of mind. Good urban design is not a luxury; it is, like healthcare, something we all deserve and must have.
   As an architect, I know that the built environment profoundly affects people. For example, school children learn better in classrooms with natural light than they do in classrooms with artificial light. The design of cities for car dependence is a significant cause of the upward spiraling obesity and diabetes trend, especially in children. Access to fresh, outside air in buildings makes people healthier and reduces absenteeism at work and at school.

I chair a statewide organization of local elected officials, the Local Government Commission, that is dedicated to building livable communities.

How you get to work, to school, to recreation and to shopping determines how much you spend on transportation, how much time you spend getting there and whether or not your journey is one that contributes to your health and that of your children. A successful and healthy City must provide a diversity of jobs, housing and economic opportunities for its residents. See http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org and http://www.policylink.org/default.html. All of these also determine the carbon footprint of a city and whether we are part of the problem of climate change or part of the solution. As Richmond grows, it deserves nothing short of the best. I not only understand what constitutes quality development; I am committed to see that we get it.

The most bitter and emotional battles in Richmond are fought over land use. The City Council approves the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance and is the last stop for development projects that are appealed. Recent examples include Point Richmond Shores, the Zeneca Project, Kozy Kove and The Chevron Energy and Hydrogen Renewal Project. In the General Plan Update, the most contentious battle lines are drawn at the North Richmond Shoreline. Will we conserve our precious shoreline for future generations, or will we squander it up for cheap housing and industrial development?

For the 13 years I have served on the City Council, my detractors – the Chamber of Commerce, industry and developers – have characterized me as anti-business and anti-growth. They have done this because I will not allow sub-standard and poorly designed development in our city, and I know the difference between good and bad. For a person disparaged as anti-growth, it is ironic that I make my living based on growth – if there is nothing built, I am out of a job. I am also the only business person on the Richmond City Council; I have to make a payroll for 30 persons every two weeks. Why would I be anti-business?


Equity means that no one who is willing to join in the effort is left out or left behind as Richmond moves forward.

It means that the flatlands get the same level of services as the hills and that all citizens have access to government, not just those with money and power.
It means that housing opportunities are available for every income level, that all residents can find decent jobs without spending significant portions of their lives commuting, and that, if they choose to commute, they have choices other than the automobile.

It means that industrial pollution is no more acceptable in poor neighborhoods than in wealthy ones, and that those neighborhoods where pollution has been concentrated deserve our help to continue making the air cleaner, prevent future industrial accidents, and assist those whose health and economic prospects have suffered by their previous exposure.

Finally, equity is also about responsibility and accountability; we all have an obligation to participate in public life in some way to ratify our citizenship, even if it only means getting out to vote once a year.

As a City Council member, I will measure every municipal service and initiative by its equity, and I will work to ensure that our city government hears and responds to the concerns and needs of all Richmond residents.

At the beginning of 2008, I expressed hope that the following would occur and committed to work to see that they did. Some have been successful and are so noted. Others are still outstanding:

  1. I hope to see a dramatic reduction in homicides.
  2. I hope to see Planning and Building Regulations fully implement the recommendations of the Zucker Systems Report, do plan checks in two weeks, provide a usable set of Design Review Guidelines, actually do code enforcement and hire an architect to staff Design Review applications. I hope that Maria Viramontes’ war on Design Review will find a workable resolution.
  3. I hope to see code enforcement become fully effective throughout the City and at least remove the broken window syndrome as a contributing cause of crime in Richmond.
  4. I hope that the City of Richmond prevails in the struggle with Chevron for dollars with an outcome that includes a failure of Chevron’s property tax appeal, an audit that finds Chevron underpaid its utility user tax for the last two years, a provision for Chevron to build the Bay Trail across I-580 as part of the long wharf lease and a set of conditional use permit conditions for the Energy and Hydrogen Renewal project that includes $300 million for environmental justice mitigations.
  5. I hope to see construction start on rehabilitation of The Plunge, the Maritime Center and the historic buildings
    at Shipyard 3.
  6. I hope to see the Richmond Greenway completed.
  7. I hope to see a progressive and community oriented City Council majority come out of the 2008 elections.
  8. I hope the petition drive for the manufacturing tax, “A Fair Share for Richmond,” is successful and that it wins
     in the 2008 election.
  9. I hope the Home Front Festival is bigger and better than the successful 2007 event.
  10. I hope that a way is found to keep the North Richmond Shoreline as open space.
  11. I hope the City can develop the capability to follow prevailing means and standards for evaluating the condition of its infrastructure, designing rehabilitation and maintenance projects, conducting public bids and providing appropriate management, oversight and inspection.
  12. I hope the City can adopt a plan to improve the condition of its streets over the next ten years to a minimum PCI of 60.

Other things I believe in:

  • Open and transparent government.

  • Good communication with residents (Hence the E-FORUM).

  • Neighborhood empowerment.

  • Responsiveness in government.

  • Honesty and Accuracy.

Our City – Our Choice – Our Future
Together we can make it happen.