Local Government

Sue Wilson Discusses Richmond Politics with Andrés Soto

Andrés Soto interviews Sue Wilson about politics and more on El Show de Andrés Soto.

https://kpfa.org/program/elshowdeandressoto/ - August 12th recording

Is it Chevron?

By Sue Wilson

If you live in Richmond, you’ve probably seen something from “Richmond Represented.” They are slick social media ads on your Facebook or Instagram. They consist of glossy eight-page flyers. 

You may have seen some of them this past March and April, imploring you to fight for this map and oppose that map during the city's arcane redistricting process. 

Now there are more ads and more shiny mailers blaming the Richmond Progressive Alliance for everything from homelessness to bad driving in Richmond. The recent batch seem intent on lowering the election chances of the two candidates endorsed by the RPA — Eduardo Martinez for Mayor and Jamin Pursell for City Council in District 4.

These ads and mailers are suspicious because they have no FPPC number, which means that whoever is sending them isn't following California's campaign finance laws. They often list the Coronado Neighborhood Council as the sender. What Richmond neighborhood council has enough money to enter this political fray? Aren't neighborhood councils supposed to stay out of city elections? Who is behind all this?

We've done some digging, and we're fairly confident that Chevron is behind this mudslinging. 

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What is Richmond Represented? Is it Chevron?

The following is an attempt to document several possible violations of city policy, campaign finance laws, and tax law taking place now in Richmond, California, all involving an entity calling itself “Richmond Represented.”  See Appendix 1 for a diagram of the relationships between organizations involved as they are believed to exist.

In addition to describing possible illegal activity, the goal of this is to draw attention to the fact that the Chevron Corporation seems to be exerting undue influence on Richmond city elections once again. There is increasing evidence that Chevron, working through their public relations firm BMWL and Partners, under the “Richmond Represented” banner, and drawing in several Richmond Neighborhood Councils, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to gerrymander Richmond city council districts in early 2022. And now they are spending equal amounts trying to defeat progressive city council candidates and elect others more favorable to their interests.

In Richmond, Neighborhood Councils are un-elected bodies that are supposed to act as a conduit between the city council, city staff including police, and residents. Neighborhood councils are prohibited from campaigning in city elections under their bylaws and also because they are part of a 501c3 charitable organization. But evidence shows that several people have been misusing their status as neighborhood council leaders to help Richmond Represented achieve its aims, and that corporate money has deeply infected the neighborhood council system.

A central figure in this seems to be Joe L. Fisher, a neighborhood council president who formed an additional charitable organization with the same name as the neighborhood council he serves – Coronado Neighborhood Council (1).  In early 2022 Mr. Fisher was part of the Richmond Represented campaign to influence city redistricting. As of July 2022, his Coronado Neighborhood Council has joined with Richmond Represented for a large-scale media campaign to oppose progressive candidates in Richmond. No source of funding is given for these activities, but Fisher has decades-long ties to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Chevron Corporation, and the consultancy firm that is secretly running the Richmond Represented campaign. 

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Primary Reflections and Calls to Action

By Alfredo Angulo

This June’s primary showed, above all, that electoral success does not come easily— that we will not win in November if we don’t mobilize our community’s strength. Incumbency reigned supreme in Contra Costa County, even as candidates with great credentials garnered local support, promotion from other politicians in office, and positive recognition from local media outlets. Voter turnout was a mere 34%. It was not all bad: some progressive candidates received tens of thousands of votes, and some of the races were closer than expected.

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Mayor Butt Misses the Point, Again

We know there will be retribution when we push back on corporate money in Richmond politics.

When RPA published our findings that the supposed grassroots group Richmond Represented was actually corporations meddling in city elections, we knew someone would come after us – the Richmond Progressive Alliance and the people who volunteer here.

The first wave of that attack is from Mayor Tom Butt.

In “Where is Claudia?,” Mayor Butt emails out what he thinks is a bombshell—that RPA leader and City Council Jimenez member has been staying at the home of friends in Point Richmond. What Mayor Butt didn’t tell you is that Claudia’s own house, in D6 where she’s always lived, is having construction done. Like most people in that situation, she and her family needed a place to stay until work finishes.

In “Careless Internal Memo Leak Explodes RPA Hypocritical No Corporate Donations Claim,” Mayor Butt drops another supposed bombshell: that in advance of making a decision about whether to accept a large donation, RPA members scrutinized the source of the money to make sure it is consistent with our no-corporate values.

Our response:

  • -It is normal for people to stay outside their home during a large-scale construction project. The city clerk and city attorney confirmed that Claudia’s temporary relocation did not violate any laws or rules.
  • -It is appropriate for any organization to have internal discussions to make decisions about money—how to raise it and how to spend it.
  • -RPA does not take corporate money. The Preston-Werner Foundation is not a corporation, nor does it serve corporate interests. None of the Preston-Werner Foundation donation has been used for political purposes, nor will it be.

When presented with clear evidence that there are problems with the current election, Mayor Butt’s response was to attack the organization that was bringing these problems to light. As mayor, he should be investigating possibly illegal campaign contributions and abuse of our Neighborhood Council system. His misguided obsession with the RPA continues to interfere with his ability to effectively lead our city.

 

Updated 2 PM: Look what hit mailboxes in Richmond today! A Richmond Represented flyer blaming sideshows on the Richmond Progressive Alliance and featuring Mayor Butt. Perhaps his emails this morning were an attempt to distract from what we now know: Tom Butt was working with whatever organization is pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into paper mailers, TV ads, and social media ads to defeat progressive candidates in Richmond. And he's among the small circle of Richmonders who know who is paying for all this. If it's not Chevron or their helpers at the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, he has an opportunity to set the record straight -- who IS paying for this? Feel free to ask him directly on Facebook @tom.butt1944 or Twitter @MayorTomButt or via email [email protected].

Fair Chance and Housing First Policies

On April 19, 2022, Mayor Tom Butt agendized City Council item W3, which sought to amend Richmond’s Fair Chance Housing Ordinance. While the mayor has been a vocal opponent of most tenant protections, this item reflects an interest in improving housing access. 

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Jamin Pursell Announces Candidacy for City Council

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My name is Jamin Pursell, and I am running for Richmond City Council in District 4. I believe that healthy communities thrive when a city provides abundant services and resident protections. Richmond must continue building on its progressive leadership, and District 4 is home to a new generation of families who deserve focused representation.

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This Women’s History Month, Try a Little Respect

By Floy Andrews

Margaret Hamilton as the Witch in the 1939 film version, threatening Dorothy (Judy Garland), 1939.

When the former Richmond City Attorney departed during the tumultuous conclusion to 2021, the mayor referred to her as the “wicked witch” and quoted lyrics from the Wizard of Oz song, “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead.” The mayor said equally disparaging things about our city manager as she, too, left office earlier last year. On top of that, Mayor Butt suggested that the entire city council had a “drama queen” reputation. I was offended, though not particularly surprised, to read those lines in Mayor Butt’s December e-forums. Such anti-woman attitudes permeate a culture that furthers the white male power structure.

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Mayor Butt Hit With Restraining Order

A Contra Costa County Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Mayor Tom Butt. The order was granted on December 7th, after the court reviewed a petition filed by the City of Richmond. The petition alleged that Mayor Butt “has willfully and flagrantly violated the City’s privilege,” and that his multiple disclosures on his E-forum constitute a violation of both attorney-client privilege and his duties as enshrined in Charter of the City of Richmond.

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The Brown Act: Back to Basics for the Butts

City Hall

Photo Credit: Tony Tamayo

Daniel Butt has turned truth upside down by posting that the RPA is responsible for the firing of Laura Snideman as City Manager and costing the city $300,000. He and his followers have repeated this misinformation on Facebook. 

The reality is that it was Tom Butt and Nat Bates who initiated and drove the firing of the City Manager. RPA Council members were split on the issue: some RPA council members thought that Snideman was doing a reasonable job given the circumstances.  Some thought she was doing a poor job. RPA members were also divided about what to do about the situation.

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