As many of you know, over recent months Mayor Tom Butt has gotten into the habit of - hmmm, how should I put this?...well, to put it in the best possible light, he has gotten into the habit of showcasing his disdain for the RPA and those of us on the City Council who affiliate ourselves with the RPA (namely - me, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez). This is a sad situation that only seems to grow in scale.
Most recently, Tom Butt has once again launched into a show of contempt against the RPA due to a recent decision made by the Council last night. A bit of background: the mayor wanted to move the Red Oak Victory Ship, a historic World War II ship that is part of our overall history of ship-building in Richmond, to a specific location at the Port. The ship needs to be moved due to our contract with one of our new Port businesses - a winery - whose lease requires the City to move the Red Oak because it currently blocks the view from the winery. But the mayor wanted to put the ship in a berth that was already in use, citing it was a better location for the Red Oak. However, this would have cost up to an additional $300,000 in relocation costs and would have caused a delay in moving it, thus potentially opening up the City to a lawsuit. We chose instead to move the ship to an empty berth, as that was the most cost and time-efficient solution at this point, and frankly there is nothing standing in the way of us moving the ship again.
Well, because the vote last night did not go his way, Tom launched this morning into "put RPA down" mode. The fact is that the RPA, as an organization, did not even discuss this issue. While it was a priority apparently for the mayor, it was not a priority for the RPA.
To understand more about last night's vote, please see this article: http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_28407495/richmond-relocation-red-oak-victory-ship-agenda. I think it is an accurate portrayal of the situation. The decision that the Council made was a sensible one. I can certainly understand the mayor feeling disappointed, but the "scorched earth" approach he takes whenever he's disappointed only exacerbates division. And at this point, sadly I believe that is his intention.
It was quite predictable that Tom Butt's E-Forum would feature an anti-RPA message this morning based on this Port issue. And it was also predictable that he would follow that up with an E-Forum about the budget, criticizing me and others for adding $6,000 last night to the budget for important community-building efforts like festivals, which frankly pales in comparison to the additional $300,000 he was seeking for relocating the Red Oak Victory Ship. Contradictions abound here.
While I expected the mayor to put out his E-Forums today, I didn't expect another "payback" - explained below:
After deciding to reappoint several of my previous appointees (back when I was mayor) to the Pt Molate Community Advisory Committee, he did an abrupt reversal. I had to tell these hard-working, dedicated volunteers that they would no longer be reappointed by the mayor.
They, of course, were disappointed and in fact one of them wrote to Mayor Butt asking him to reconsider. Here is his reply as to why he was not reappointing them:
"You need to talk to Gayle. She has strange ideas about collaboration and doesn't understand that her actions and the actions of the RPA have consequences that affect other people, including you."
I can't help but see this as a bit Machiavellian. My "strange ideas about collaboration" are based on honesty and respect for intellectual engagement on the issues. Does collaboration mean discounting sensible arguments made by other colleagues? Perhaps Mayor Butt thinks that "collaborating" means bowing to whatever he wants or thinks he needs politically. I'm sorry, but I cannot oblige. And how uncool is it to be punishing citizen volunteers because councilmembers didn't vote in line with him?
Tom also claimed (via email exchange with a constituent): "Then she turned on me, just like Corky Booze did." What?? The fact of the matter is I have remained pretty quiet in recent months over controversies that have developed, as Tom has continuously, through his E-Forum and social media, flung public insults at me and others on the RPA, who I might add actively supported him throughout his mayoral campaign. So I ask: Who turned on whom?
AND just this evening, Tom put out another E-Forum, this time criticizing Councilmember Beckles for putting an item on the agenda directing staff to further research a Fair Housing Ordinance to include previously incarcerated residents. Amazingly, as of this afternoon, Tom was a co-sponsor of this item. I was just in a meeting this afternoon that included David Gray, one of the mayor's staff, who stated Tom's co-sponsorship of this as an example of the mayor's concern for renters. And as of yesterday the Agenda Report had his name on it. Go figure...
Please know that I will continue to serve the people of Richmond with conscientiousness and dedication, voting together with any and all my councilmember colleagues (including the mayor) on issues that I feel are important and reasonable for our community.
--Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin
This article was distributed in Gayle McLaughlin's email newsletter on Wednesday, July 1. To join the mailing list for it, click on this link.