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Voting Record

For additional information, see the September 9, 2001 E-Forum for the 6-year voting records of Richmond Mayoral candidates.

A lot can be learned by studying the voting record of candidates who have served on the City Council, although the vast majority of items before the City Council are perfunctory resolutions, ordinances, contracts and other actions required for the routine operation of city government.

Perhaps contrary to popular perception, most items before the City Council proceed to a vote with little or no comment or debate and are adopted unanimously. Consent calendar items are considered so routine that multiple items are passed with a single vote, unless an individual council member or member of the public request its removal.

The relatively few items that generate disagreement and debate among council members, as well as testimony from the public, take up a disproportionate amount of time relative to their number. They are important, however, in revealing the underlying political philosophies and loyalties of individual council members. The issues that tend to generate the most dissension include land use and design, capital project financing, City employee bargaining units, and issues involving special interests such as developers, Richmond Sanitary Service and Chevron.

The following discussion is intended to illustrate voting patterns on representative contested issues and groups of similar issues. There are, however, always inconsistencies, and this summary is not intended to be either comprehensive or exhaustive. Council members who are no longer on the Council have been omitted from the discussion so that the focus can be on the current City Council members. This is intended to be thought provoking, and comments, corrections and additions are welcome.

With his own home overlooking the Chevron Refinery, Butt has been a witness to many fires, gas releases and explosions over the years. He knows how fearful the community is for its safety. Butt wrote the resolution, passed unanimously by the City Council, directing City staff to draft an Industrial Safety Ordinance.

Capital Projects and Public Works Issues

Bates and Griffin have a record of opposing the sale of bonds for capital improvements and anything related to the improvement of the facilities of Municipal Sewer District No. 1, Richmond’s collection system and wastewater treatment plant that serves approximately 60 percent of the city. Fore example:

  • Bates, along with Griffin, opposed sale of $40 million of bonds on October 19, 1999 (Resolution 167-99) to upgrade the sewer system and treatment plant and the necessary rate increase to service the bonds.
  • Bates has continued to vote against contracts with various consultants required to implement the wastewater facility upgrade, but he did not oppose release of the RFI on April 1, 2000, to see who was interested in taking over the plant.
  • When staff, on January 30, 2001, recommended pursuing four options for operation, Butt, Penn, Griffin, Belcher, Bell, Anderson and Corbin voted “yes,” and Bates opposed with Marquez abstaining.

Bates and Griffin also voted in the year 2000 against issuance of Redevelopment and Capital Improvement Bonds that will be used for widespread improvements to streets, parks and public buildings. For the year 2000 capital improvement bonds, Bates and Griffin were joined in their opposition by Bell. Similarly, Bates voted, in 1996, against placing a bond issue on the ballot to allow the voters to decide on a $60 million bond issue for capital improvements.

Tom Butt has voted for every initiative to provide funding for capital projects in Richmond, including deteriorated streets such as the one shown above.

Clean and Safe City Issues

Claims from injuries on damaged sidewalks cost the City dearly, and by State law, sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the abutting property owner. On May 9, 2000, an ordinance amending the Municipal code to make abutting property owners liable for claims resulting from dangerous sidewalk conditions not caused by City trees was passed with the support of Butt, Penn, Anderson and Corbin. Bates and Marquez. Griffin and Bell voted “no.”

Bates routinely opposes levying assessments for lot cleanups, boarding of vacant buildings, and demolition of unsafe buildings on properties that have been cited as nuisances. For example, on December 14, 1999, Resolution 206-99 for lot cleanup assessments passed with the support of Butt, Pen, Marquez, Griffin, Bell and Corbin, with Bate voting “no.” Anderson was absent.

On October 12, 1999, a proposed ordinance to ban “camping,” which was seen by some as an “anti-homeless initiative,” was tabled, with Marquez, Bates, Griffin and Corbin supporting and Butt dissenting. Anderson abstained.

For six years, Butt has voted for every authorization to abate nuisances and lien the offending properties.

El Sobrante Development Issues 

Bates has almost always been a leader in pressing for annexation and development of land in the El Sobrante Valley, including the fringe unincorporated areas. He has also carried measures to assist property owners in raising the value of their land.

  • On December 12, 1997, Bates moved for the City to pay for appraisals for El Sobrante parcels outside city limits, with both low density and high density scenarios, in what some considered an effort to help the owners get the best price for their land, should the East Bay Regional Park District buy it. The measure passed, with Anderson, Bates and Griffin in support and Butt and Corbin opposing.
  • Later when LAFCO wanted to reconcile the Urban Limit Line and the Sphere of Influence, leaving the same parcel outside, Bates led an unsuccessful battle against LAFCO, but only after getting the support of the City Council on January 4, 2000, with a vote of 6-3, with Bates, Penn, Marquez, Anderson, Bell and Griffin supporting Bates, and Butt and Corbin opposing.
  • When Bates wanted to help place a representative friendlier to development on LAFCO, the City Council tabled his motion on April 3, 2001.

On April 20, 1999, Anderson moved to continue consideration of the El Sobrante moratorium for one month. The motion passed 5-2, with Marquez, Anderson, Bates and Griffin supporting and Butt opposing. However, on April 6, 1999, the final map for Canyon Oaks was approved 5-1-1, with Bates dissenting, citing relationship with the proposed moratorium.


Butt has consistently opposed poorly planned development in the El Sobrante Valley and supported the comprehensive City-County planning effort and the moratorium on new development.

Labor and Employment Issues

Support for various City bargaining units typically divides the City Council in predictable ways. The largest unions are Richmond Police Officers Association (RPOA), Richmond Firefighters Local 188, and SEIU Local 790.

  • Bates and Griffin routinely support RPOA and Local 188 issues, and Bates typically opposes Local 790 issues.
  • Marquez generally joins in support of RPOA and Local 188.
  • Butt is generally the only one to have taken on and opposed actions favorable to Local 188.
  • In a posturing move in April of 2001, to support a new retirement plan favorable to RPOA and Local 188, Bates moved to bypass the formal negotiating process and place the “3% at 50” proposal on the following week’s agenda for vote. The item was, however, tabled, with Butt, Penn, Bell, Anderson and Corbin voting “yes,” and Bates, Marquez, Belcher and Griffin voting “no.”
  • When the reappointment of Joan Kubota was considered on November 2, 1999, Bates cast the only “no” vote, presumably because Kubota, a lawyer, was opposed by the RPOA.

On job reclassification and salary adjustment issues for employees other than police and firefighters, Bates typically votes a lone “no.”

Labor issues, in general, enjoy unanimous City Council support, for example, Resolution 37-01A on April 3, 2001, in support of project labor agreements. However, when release time for Marshall Walker to serve as president of SEIU 790 came up on April 23, 1996, Bates broke from the rest of the Council and voted “no.” But when Powers placed a discussion of the matter on the June 22, 1999, agenda, Bates joined with the rest of the Council in tabling the motion.


Despite a felony conviction for tax evasion connected to his lobbying activities and a hefty fine for lying to the FPPC, Reese continues as a power broker in Richmond politics, closely allied with the RPOA and Firefighters local 188.

Land Use Issues 

Land use issues typically involve appeals from the Planning Commission or Design Review Board. For neighborhood issues, Corbin and Butt, sometimes joined by Marquez and Griffin, are most likely to support neighborhood groups opposing specific projects.

  • For example, the appeal on February 24, 1998, by a property owner of a Planning Commission decision denying a subdivision was supported by Marquez, Anderson and Bates. Corbin and Butt voted “no’” with Griffin absent.
  • When Eleanor Loynd appealed DR 00-68 on November 28, 2000, the entire Council supported her with the exception of Bates.
  • On October 22, 1996, when the controversial Castro Ranch Road project, Resolution 160-96, came up for annexation approval, Butt, Marquez and Corbin voted “no,” while Griffin, Bates and Anderson voted “yes.”
  • On March 4, 1996, the owner of a gas station/market appealed CP 95-27 after the Planning Commission denied a conditional use permit to sell alcoholic beverages. He City council, with Bates, Griffin and Anderson voting “yes,” overturned the Planning Commission, granting the use permit and a letter of convenience and necessity. Butt, Corbin and Marquez opposed.

Of all the council members, Butt has the best record for supporting neighborhood groups opposing projects. On several land use issues, Butt has found himself alone or part of a small minority supporting an appeal brought by neighborhood groups.

  • On March 17, 1998, a group of neighbors appealed CU 97-35/CD 97-43 on the grounds of insufficient parking. The appeal failed, with Butt as the only supporter of the appeal.
  • On October 5, 1999, another appeal of a variance related to parking for a residence on Western Drive (Resolution 156-99) was denied, with Marquez, Anderson, Bates, Griffin and Corbin voting to deny the appeal, and Butt voting “no.”
  • On January 23, 2001, the Point Richmond History Association appealed Variance VOO-01 and Design Review Permit DR 00-105. The appeal failed, with Penn, Marquez, Griffin, Belcher, Bell, Anderson and Bates supporting the applicant and only Butt voting “no,” with Corbin abstaining.
  • On the matter of the appeal by Corky Booze on CU 99-41, April 4, 2000, only Butt and Griffin supported Booze, while Bates, Penn, Marquez, Bell and Anderson supported the applicant.
  • On July 20, 1999, the applicant appealed the Planning Commission denial of CD 99-7/V 99-4, and the Council overturned the Planning Commission 6-0-1, with Butt abstaining and Marquez absent.
  • On July 13, 1999, Ordinance 13-9 was proposed to rezone an area in the Iron Triangle to higher density. Despite opposition by the neighborhood council, it passed 6-2, with Butt and Griffin dissenting.
  • On June 29, 1999, the owner appealed CU 99-7, Planning Commission denial of a conditional use permit for a bar and lounge. The appeal was granted 6-2, with Corbin and Butt voting “no.”
  • On June 29, 1999, an order to vacate a street used for parking by a church was heard. The motion to approve the vacation failed 4-3, with Marquez, Anderson and Corbin voting “yes,” and Bates, Butt and Griffin voting “no.”
  • On January 26, 1999, Robert Kish appealed the EIP approval of the EIR for the Brickyard Cove commercial building. After Butt inserted a condition in it that incorporated a letter, acceptable to the appellant, by Gary Schaefer into the EIR (Resolution 6-99), the appeal was denied 5-2, with Griffin and Bates voting “no,” On October 12, 1999, the Council voted to rezone ”Seacliff Estates” as a widely opposed Planned Area Development, Ordinance 45-99. It passed with Anderson, Bates and Griffin, supporting, Butt and Corbin voting “no’” and Marquez abstaining. On February 8, 2000, SunCal appealed the Planning Commission denial of TM 7502R (Seacliff Estates). The appeal prevailed with Bates, Penn, Griffin, Bell and Anderson supporting SunCal. Butt and Marquez opposed.
  • On May 4, 1999, the El Sobrante Valley Legal Defense Fund and Friends of Wildcat Canyon opposed approval of the Pearl Ridge 800 MHZ antenna until the PDRB had reviewed it. A motion to approve that did not include mandatory PDRB approval passed 6-1, with Butt dissenting and Griffin absent.
  • April 6, 1999, appeal by Hermann Welm from Planning Commission denial of RZ90-15, a revision of the Final Development Plan for Point Pinole Properties. Appeal granted 5-2, with Anderson, Bates, Griffin and Corbin voting “yes,” and Butt voting “no.”
  • On February 23, 1999, Butt went against the neighborhood and supported an appeal by Corky Booze to avoid an EIR in seeking to reverse a rezoning of his property that took lace in 1994. The appeal failed, with Marquez, Bates, Griffin and Corbin opposed, and Butt in favor

Bates and Griffin have always found the Planning Commission too “anti development” to suit their tastes, and on February 20, 1996, Bates, Griffin and Anderson pushed through an ordinance amendment reducing the City Council votes required to reverse a Planning Commission decision from 6 to 5. Bates also voted against the appointment of both Strauss and Finlay to the Planning Commission.

Butt is sometimes joined by Marquez and Griffin in supporting neighborhoods on land use and design issues.

Butt supported the Planning Commission denial of a revised Final Development Plan at Point Pinole Business Park. Butt was not opposed to the project, he just felt it could have been designed a little better to provide the quality of project Richmond needs.

Tom Butt has been a staunch defender of urban creeks and has fought projects that threatened the integrity and ecology of Rheem Creek, Baxter Creek, Wildcat Creek, Central Creek and San Pablo Creek.

Ex-Mayor Corbin and Councilmember Butt often voted alike in representing the minority position of the City Council in land use and design issues.

Fiscal Policy

Butt, Bates, Griffin and Bell are most likely to cast votes against items that they see as fiscally frivolous. For example, on December 7, 1999, funding for the relationship with Regla, Cuba, passed 5-3-1, with Penn, Marquez, Anderson, Bell and Corbin voting “yes,” and Butt, Bates and Griffin voting “no.”

Bates and Griffin have shown a continuing suspicion of debt and bonding for municipal purposes, regardless of how sound or important the measure is.

  • Bell staked out a position on fiscal responsibility by opposing subsequent changes to adopted budgets. On November 23, 1999, he was the lone dissenter to Resolution 103-99 adjusting the Fiscal Year 199-00 Budget.
  • On September 27, 1999, the Council voted to place on the ballot a charter amendment that would allow the City Council to set limits on the city manager’s authority to enter into contracts rather than the current arbitrary limitation of $10,000. It passed 6-1-1, with Bates voting “no,” and Griffin abstaining.
  • On March 30, 1999, Ordinance 9-99 was passed 6-1 to allow issuance of general Obligation Pension Bonds to provide full funding of pensions while freeing up excess funds for the general fund. Griffin voted “no,” and Bates was absent.
Wedge Issues 

There have been some real “wedge” issues over the years. A good example is the Lobbyist Ordinance. It passed on December 17, 1996, with Butt, Corbin and Marquez supporting and Anderson, Bates and Griffin abstaining.

The most contentious issue since 1995 was the saga of selection of a consultant to prepare the reuse plan for Point Molate. Not satisfied with the short list selected to be interviewed by staff, Griffin, Bates and Anderson insisted on interviewing all the candidates, eventually reaching down to one ranked low by staff to which to award the contract. Butt cried “foul” and eventually prevailed on the Navy to compel the City to repeat the whole process. Feelings and egos were bruised during he process, in which accusations were made by Butt regarding meddling by Darrell Reese and possible quid pro quo deals. Griffin, Bates and Anderson hired an attorney and threatened to sue Butt. Eventually, the consultant ranked first by staff was awarded the contract.

Butt has introduced resolution to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order twice, the latest on May 2, 2000. The motion failed with Bates, Penn, Anderson, Marquez and Corbin abstaining. Butt, Bell and Griffin voted affirmatively.

On the appointment of Charles Belcher to the City Council, the first vote divided with Bates, Penn, Anderson, Griffin, Bell and Anderson supporting, and Butt, Marquez and Corbin abstaining.

Butt’s “Battle of Point Molate” left bruised feelings and damaged relationships with colleagues  for years.

Chevron Issues 

Butt continues to feel that Chevron has too many privileges not enjoyed by other Richmond business and does not contribute to Richmond in way commensurate with the company’s wealth and presence. Other City Council members typically support Chevron, and Butt has been on the losing end of many measures he sponsored to correct his perceived inequities. Sometimes Butt is, however, joined by Corbin and Marquez. For example, On June 29, 1999, Chevron asked Richmond to hire and independent consultant chosen by Chevron to provide oversight of Chevron’s reorganization. The item was approved by Anderson, Bates, Griffin and Corbin, with Butt and Marquez voting “no.”

The measure with the largest potential ramifications was Butt’s proposal to remove the cap on Chevron’s Utility User Tax. It has been introduced and rejected twice.

Bates has been, over the years, Chevron’s strongest cheerleader. For example, on October 12, 1999, Butt sponsored a Resolution requesting City Attorney to provide a legal opinion on ownership of intertidal lands. Passed 7-0-1. Bates abstained.

Voting Blocks and Patterns 

Over the years, voting blocks and patterns have undergone subtle changes as political alliances changed. Until about three years ago, Anderson frequently joined Bates and Griffin when votes split on controversial issues. These were generally the same issues that had the support of Darrell Reese, Local 188 and the BMW. Sometimes, there was evidence that Darrell Reese had something to gain as a lobbyist.

Over the last couple of years, however, Anderson has moved out of that block and has been more likely to join Corbin, Marquez and Butt, who tend more often than not, to join in supporting issues involving the environment, quality development and issues contrary to traditional special interests.

Corbin has carved out a niche of her own in opposing anything perceived as beneficial to Richmond Sanitary Service and contrary to the interests of Richmond citizens.

Overall, Anderson is most likely to vote with the majority on any contested issue, and rarely takes an independent stand.

Bates and Butt share the record for ending up on the losing end the most of 8-1 votes. Although Butt loses a lot, he also wins a lot on measures he wrote or sponsored. On a related note, Bates, Butt and Griffin are the most likely to question the wisdom of staff or even criticize staff in public. This usually draws return criticism from their colleagues, who more often tend to support and defend staff.

Butt wins, hands down, in showering the most attention on staff with questions involving constituents’ complaints and details of City operation and policy. For this, he is routinely criticized by his colleagues, and occasionally by the city manager. Butt has no apologies.

January 20, 1998, Gioia and McMillan blast Reese – “The Black Men and Women Organization is being controlled by a ‘white, conservative Republican,’ who doesn’t even live in the city, former City Councilman Jim McMillan said Monday.” West County Times, January 20, 1998.