This is What Democracy Looks Like!
After a long meeting on Tuesday April 5, the Richmond City Council voted 5 to 2 to "discontinue" consideration of a Casino at Pt. Molate. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin made a 12 point motion, seconded by Jovanka Beckles and backed by Corky Booze, Jeff Ritterman and Tom Butt, ending consideration of the Casino. Jim Rogers and Nat Bates voted against the motion.
Where Things Are:
Under the terms of the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) of 2004 between Upstream (Developers) and the City Council, Upstream has up to 120 days to rework its plans for the area for a project that does not include a Casino. If Upstream does not come up with a satisfactory non-Casino plan then Richmond can actively entertain other plans.
In reality, Upstream may make a number of attempts, including legal maneuvers, to reverse the Council decision. By the Tuesday meeting, the developer was busy attempting to buy support with promises to almost every group that had an interest in the issue. Promises were made to protect employees and patrons from second-hand smoke, pay for a bicycle path, and buy video equipment for the Richmond Auditorium. So we have to continue to be vigilant.
Democracy in Action:
The battle against the Casino at Pt. Molate is an inspirational case of democracy in action. Six years ago the city council overwhelmingly supported the Casino. As late as a year ago pundits pronounced opposition to the Casino so weak that it seemed like a sure thing. The developer had enough money to hire PR forces, pay community members to create a pretense of community support, and offer huge sums to environmental groups like the Sierra Club, and Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP). They even tried to present themselves as the "hometown team" defending Richmond against the "outside" Casinos and Card Clubs which only cared about killing potential competition.
Thank you to the Community
This developer strategy failed because most of the opponents of the Casino could not be bought. Hundreds of people took their own time last November to campaign against the Casino. They sent council members a record number of e-mails opposing the Casino and came out to speak against the Casino at numerous meetings including this last one. All were doing it because they cared for the community and understood what a threat the Casino would be to the future of Richmond and its ability to attract good jobs and improve conditions in the community. They made brilliant, heart-felt, thoughtful statements that compared well to the a statements of paid staff of organizations with a financial interest in the Casino.
The RPA thanks every person who made a contribution of time, money, and spirit to this remarkable effort.
This struggle in Richmond follows in the tradition of the civil rights movement, the uprising in Egypt and the struggle in Wisconsin--people understanding that only by putting in the time, organizing and standing together can we retake some control over our lives and our futures.
As the chant goes: This is What Democracy Looks Like!
top photo from Richmond Confidential
NO on Casino!
At its meeting on Tuesday, April 5th, 6:30, the City Council will vote on the Casino Project and deal a hopefully fatal blow to this project which threatens Richmond. Even when, as we expect, the Council votes down the Casino, it is possible that the developers will try to go to court to insist on a project rejected by the community. That is why we need to be out in great numbers to show the developers, the courts, the media, and anyone else that this community really means NO!
You can make a difference.
1. Come to the City Council Meeting
The Council meeting will be moved to the Richmond Auditorium to accommodate the large crowds. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 but we will be gathering at 6:00 to prepare ourselves, exchange information and sign up to speak.
2. Send Emails to the City Council
There are a couple of council people who still don't get it that the community has said no. "The November vote was only advisory," they say.
But it helps to send your emails to all members of the council. Those members who are opposed to the Casino can use your email to demonstrate the backing for the position of the council.
The best email is one that you write yourself and provides arguments about why the casino should be rejected. You can give arguments about the impact of a Casino, alternative uses of Pt. Molate, or the fact that the Richmond community has clearly said no by their decisive vote on Measure U and election of candidates who stood firmly against the Casino. But even just a short email that says 'I expect you to vote against the Casino' with your name and Richmond address is effective.
You can send your email to this email address firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be forwarded to each city council person separately.
Or you can write to city council members individually:
email@example.com (Jim Rogers)
3. Help Phone Other Richmond Residents
The RPA is organizing phone banks for Thurday 3/31, and Monday 4/4 from 6 pm to 8:30. We need your help. Please bring your cell phone and charger. We will provide lists, notes, snacks and a lot of good feeling.
Statement by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin
Many of you are aware that the City Council voted to certify the Pt. Molate Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on Tuesday night. I want to start out by saying clearly that this was NOT a vote on the casino. It was a vote to certify an EIR. Certifying an EIR is distinct from approving a project. I stated this at the Council meeting, and I am stating it again now.
Vice Mayor Tom Butt addressed many of the problems with the FEIR and offered modifications. I felt strongly that his suggested modifications had merit. Our staff had some concerns with some of Tom’s suggestions, and offered an alternative set of modifications. Councilmembers Ritterman, Beckles, Booze and Rogers felt that staff’s point of view was more in line with their thinking, and thus cast a majority vote to certify the FEIR. I chose to vote against this certification because it didn’t include insertions suggested by Tom Butt that I felt were important to strengthen this environmental document.
So, while disagreements on this document emerged, it’s important to remember that no one on Tuesday night cast a vote FOR or AGAINST a casino. The matter at hand was the certification process of the environmental impact report, and there were differences on how to approach this.
None of us should fear our differences. As we move forward, we will find many such differences. It will be incumbent on each of us to learn how to evaluate such disagreements. In my view, the disagreement on the FEIR is not as significant as disagreements regarding the issue of whether to allow a casino to be built at Pt Molate. It is the responsibility of the new City Council to take up the casino issue, and we shall indeed do so at our April 5 meeting. I urge the public to come out on April 5th and sign up to speak on the item.
Confusion and Tempers at City Council Meeting
Council Narrowly Certifies Pt Molate FEIR
The City Council certified the Final Environmental Impact Report for several different possible developments of Point Molate, on Tuesday March 8th. The long hearing included requests to speak by 46 people examining all aspects of the FEIR.
The council was clearly caught in a procedure and contract with the developer adopted by the previous pro-Casino council. The whole council seemed to agree that they wanted the EIR to be certified with changes even if slightly flawed so they could move on in the process. The council would have the opportunity to vote directly on the Casino project in a month or so after the EIR passed.
It was clear that council members wanted to make major changes in the EIR, but were also guided by wanting to avoid situations that improved the developer's ability to sue the city. Unfortunately there was not agreement about how significant changes could be without crossing the legal line.
Late in the meeting the Council recessed to closed session to discuss some of these questions. When they came back into open session, Tom Butt lost his temper complaining that the rest of the council had been intimidated by the lawyers. He then said that he would vote for the Casino and stormed out. (Hopefully he will reconsider after a night's sleep and apologize-His contributions to the council were obvious to all earlier in the meeting.)
The amendments covered many issues. Particularly critical was the TRAC proposal that the developer be required to cover 95%of the Bay Trail costs. The proposal adopted after the closed session consult only required "fair share" payment.
Other amendments covered cost of sewage treatment, native plants, smoking, and traffic. Several stronger amendments on these subjects ("Errata B" ) were rejected by the council apparently because of concerns about liability issues.
Mayor McLaughlin amended the EIR with numerous studies detailing the negative social and economic impact of gambling.
The vote on the EIR as amended was passed by the Council (Beckles, Booze, Ritterman, and Rogers in favor, McLaughlin opposed, Butt and Bates absent).
Many members of the RPA and the community who spoke from the floor at the hearing felt the EIR, even as amended by the Council, was inadequate or clearly flawed on a number of points including the issues of crime, economic and social impact, and traffic. However we understood that pressing for major changes in the FEIR could legally result in extending the "approval process" with another round of comment. We prefer the process keep moving to the next steps --probably in April-- where the council has the opportunity to vote directly on whether or not to have a Casino.
The RPA has consistently and strongly opposed the Casino and urges all Richmond residents to stand together to finally bury this Casino and move on to building something positive for Richmond.
A Wall Street billionaire, a unionized public employee, and a Tea Party member are sitting at a table eyeing a huge plate piled high with a thousand delicious cookies. The financier reaches across and takes 999 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants your cookie."
Let our voices be heard:
NO CASINO at Point Molate
A Casino Will Not Be Good For Richmond—
There ARE Alternative Plans for Point Molate
The initial funding for the Casino collapsed when Harrah’s pulled out and we are left with vague promises for the current casino. Funding for alternatives will be developed by a combination of public agencies and private developers.
Casino Supporters Lose in Court
"Casino developers too often make outrageous claims to win community approval. Raising false hopes about local hiring with empty promises is an insult to Richmond workers."
-Gayle McLaughlin, one of the signees of the argument agaisnt Measure U, and Mayor of Richmond [for ID purposes only]
Opponents of a casino at Pt. Molate won an important court victory Monday August 30.
Measure U on the November Ballot asks whether Richmond voters favor a Casino on Pt Molate. (The vote is advisory only). Both supporters and opponents of the Casino filed arguments to be printed in the official ballot guide all voters receive. In an attempt to get the upper hand and intimidate opponents with threats of monetary penalties Don Gosney, sued the signers of the NO argument. Gosney, an open casino supporter and building trades operative in Richmond claimed the phrases, "no guarantees of jobs for Richmond residents" and "low wage jobs" in our ballot arguments were false and misleading.
Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Barry Baskin, after hearing arguments from both sides and reviewing the evidence, denied Gosney's petition and ordered our original written arguments to remain.
Signers of the ballot arguments sued by Gosney were Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Councilmember Jeff Ritterman, Andrés Soto, Rev. Ken Davis, and Citizens for a Sustainable Pt. Molate's Joan Garrett.
Gosney's key evidence were the unsigned "agreements." Gosney claimed the "First Source Agreement" and "Living Wage Ordinance agreement" mentioned in their proposed agreement proved the Guideville Pomos had agreed to guarantee 40% of jobs for Richmond Residents and 70% for Contra Costa residents and to pay a living wage of more than $15/ hr. Gosney also claimed the unsigned "agreements" were an indication that the Guideville Pomos "would" abide by these.
Our side showed that in addition to being unsigned, these agreements also contained numerous contract loopholes that rendered them meaningless. One loophole gives the tribe the right to hire tribal persons over any local hiring agreement and the tribe plans on calculating wages by including estimated tips as part of the workers' wages.
Judge Baskin gave Gosney's side a chance to rebut, but they could not. Judge Baskin had no choice but to deny Gosney's petition.
This victory is important because we now have an independent court decision saying the casino promoters cannot actually guarantee Richmonders casino construction or operational jobs with good wages. And this was in a case that the Casino promoters themselves chose and prepared.
Vote No on Measure U
Vote for Candidates willing to take a stand against the Casino
Gayle, Jovanka, Eduardo
Sham Hearing on Pt Molate Casino Alternatives
Richmond is now going through the motions of soliciting alternative uses for Point Molate. A consultant ($50,000) is gathering and evaluating alternatives. Add to that the thousands of dollars for the salaries of city legal and administrative staffs. It is money wasted to cover the rear ends of city council people who back the casino project.
The reality of this solicitation process came through at the first workshop on Wednesday August 4.
Although the consultants were supposed to be soliciting alternative uses they made no provision for usable maps of the area. They made no arrangements for people to have access to the area. Instead they made clear that alternatives that would pass their preliminary qualifications had to show that they were "financially feasible", implying that any project had to be without city funds. As one person commented at the hearing, the criteria virtually excluded the most likely way that a large public purpose development can take place: initial seed money from public agencies working with private developers with a long term plan. Thus the process was wired so that only developer Upstream's Casino proposals would appear to pass financial tests. See the "idea" form presented at the meeting.
All proposals that were submitted would be passed on to Upstream and City staff before being submitted to the City Council. Any business plan for Point Molate that might be profitable, or at least financially feasible, or was just a good idea, would have to be submitted to Upstream for its possible use. The situation is roughly comparable to the city agreeing tentatively to accept Chrysler's bid for police cars, but telling people who like to see Ford cars considered as well, that Ford would have to submit its designs to Chrysler for consideration.
Why are we wasting city time and money on this charade? You can find the answer by watching the city council meeting of May 18.
The city did not have to extend the LDA. In fact Mayor McLaughlin had placed an item on the agenda to allow the city to begin to entertain alternative uses for Point Molate. But during the previous item on the agenda -extending the LDA for 2 months - council member Viramontes waited until public discussion was closed to make a long confusing amendment to extend the LDA for almost a year. It also created the illusion that the city was going to consider new alternatives by setting up the procedure that put Upstream in the driver's seat. Viramontes claims to oppose the casino but lately every one of her actions has been to smooth the road for it.
For more information on the issues concerning the Casino project at point Molate and alternatives see the Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate web site.
What you can do.
Richmond residents will have the opportunity to cast an advisory vote on whether we want a casino at Point Molate on November's ballot thanks to a motion at city council by Butt, Ritterman and McLaughlin. Most important is to make sure your neighbors understand what is really going on and vote against the Casino in November.
You can also write letters or call city council members and tell them that you want a process to consider alternative uses for Pt. Molate based on balanced criteria which includes traffic, social impact, and the environment and which allows other developers to present their own proposals.
There are Alternatives
Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate have been working on alternatives and ways of funding them. But the rules are rigged so that they can not be developed without being used by the Casino developers.