Issues

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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End Climate Chaos

On August 6, 2012, a massive fire tore through the Chevron Richmond refinery, sending a huge plume of black smoke over West Contra Costa County. The fire blanketed neighborhoods in black smoke and the sky turned dark as the smoke blocked out the sun. 15,000 residents sought medical treatment, and many report developing long-term respiratory issues as a result.

In the aftermath of the fire, thousands of people mobilized to City Hall, demanding that our politicians and air regulators take real action to hold Chevron accountable and protect the health and safety of workers and communities.  Investigators with Cal/OSHA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found that Chevron had ignored a decade of warnings about severe corrosion in the pipe that caused the refinery fire.  

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YouthWORKS

In late May 2022, the City Council heard an inspiring account of a key component of the investment recommendations made by Richmond’s Reimagining Public Safety Community Task Force, this one highlighting YouthWORKS. Tamara Walker, Deputy Director for Employment and Training, led the presentation. She worked in the city in the 1990s and was actually a founder of this forward-moving program. She did not take full credit, of course, noting that there is a full staff participating in this venture. She handed the mic over to Fred Lucero, Manager for Richmond Build and YouthBuild and Bouakhay Phongboupha, Interim YouthWORKS program manager for their accounts of preparing young people to work. Lucero noted that his group aims to ensure continuing education and training in year-round and summer programs helping youth prepare for high-growth and high-wage jobs in the building trades as well as develop skills that will aid them in adulthood.

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Arbulu Art Design

By Jamin Pursell

My name is Michael Arbulu. I am the owner and lead designer of Arbulu Art Design here in Richmond. I have been running my studio since 2019. Arbulu Art Design provides custom design and fabrication services for homeowners and businesses in our local community. 

My studio was born out of the belief that art can and should be a part of everyday life. My goal is to bring a customer’s unique vision to life, drawing upon my skill in fine art, industrial and graphic design, and fabrication experience. I approach design from the viewpoint of an artist and come up with creative solutions to design challenges big and small, to fit ideas into a myriad of spaces—outdoor decks, custom furniture, art deco pieces, and many other objects.

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RPA August Calendar

Here are upcoming RPA meetings and events. Note, most meetings are only open to RPA members, although allies and guests are often welcome. If you are interested in becoming a member, you may do so here. Dues may be waived if they are a barrier to you joining the RPA. If you have questions about joining the RPA, or are interested in attending a meeting as a non-member, please contact  [email protected]

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The Next Step in Police Accountability: A Look at RPD’s Expiring Contract

By Reimagine Richmond

Any time one sector of municipal government workers get a raise, police officers get a raise. If city workers get a raise, police get a raise. If city management gets a raise, police get a raise. If police management gets a raise, police officers get a raise. If firefighters get a raise, police get a raise. 

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Supreme Court Reversal of Roe v. Wade

The Richmond Progressive Alliance joins many across the country in outrage and heartache over the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 49 year old ruling that granted federal protection of abortion rights.

We support reproductive rights, bodily autonomy and health care rights for all. Abortion is a health care issue that impacts hundreds of thousands of pregnant people and their loved ones each year. We believe abortion is a public good, a right that should be universally legal, free, and safe.

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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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Richmond Celebrates Juneteenth

On Saturday, June 18th, the Richmond community came together to celebrate Juneteenth. Our city’s annual parade and festival, always well-attended by Richmond residents and the wider Bay Area community, hasn’t taken place since the pandemic began in 2020. While President Biden only designated Juneteenth as a federal holiday last year, the return of Richmond’s festivities marks over two decades of celebrating the holiday in Richmond.

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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].