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Richmond Mayor McLaughlin vows to crack down on Corky Booze

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has run out of patience with colleague and Councilman Corky Booze, the man she says is responsible for inciting routine dysfunction and chaos at Richmond City Council meetings.

The mayor sent out an email letter this week (see below) castigating Booze — she doesn’t mention him by name but everybody knows who she is talking about — for what described as an unacceptable “battering situation.”

Her missive comes after Tuesday night’s huge blow-up some six hours into another marathon session, where the mayor sat as a referee between Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles who was calling Booze a “bald-faced liar” and “evil” while he repeatedly demanded the mayor shut her up when he has the floor. (Read my colleague Robert Rogers’ story on the meeting here.)

For his part, Booze calls the mayor’s email a blatant “political hit piece” intended to promote the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s slate of candidates running for the city council in November. He says the mayor, Beckles, councilmembers Tom Butt and Jeff Ritterman repeatedly interrupt him.

“This email is over the top,” Booze said. “I’ve never heard of a mayor doing something like this. But I’ve been hitting the Richmond Progressive Alliance every Tuesday.”

Councilman Nat Bates, who is also on the outs with the mayor, blames McLaughlin for the council meeting chaos.

“In most organizations, be it church, community group, business or governmental, the success or failure of the meetings almost always rest in the leadership quality of the chairperson,” he said. “A chairperson must be fair, impartial and lead by example while displaying respect for their colleagues and the public. Unfortunately, this mayor does neither and thus is the result of a dysfunctional Richmond city council.”

Here’s the mayor’s email:

Dear friends,

I am compelled to make a statement about the current state of affairs at Richmond City Council meetings.

Those of you who follow City Council meetings know how much chaos and discord exists. I want to share my feelings about this.

 There is dysfunction on this Council, but the dysfunction does not come from the Council as a whole. This dysfunction comes from one councilmember. It is truly a shame that this councilmember disrupts time and time again the needed business under discussion at the Council meeting. He forces us to deal with chaos, disruptions, and vitriolic speech that bring harm to the entire city of Richmond.

 It is the people of Richmond who suffer from all of this. It is the people of Richmond who are being held hostage because this councilmember refuses to adhere to the rules of the City Council. As chair, my job is to keep the meeting moving forward. When discussion becomes unproductive, I necessarily need to move us on. Discussion not only becomes unproductive, but as I said, it becomes chaotic, disruptive and vitriolic in its content….and it is this one councilmember who will not adhere to my role as chair. He feels that once “he has the floor” he has it until he has fully finished attacking and insulting me, other councilmembers, members of the City staff, and/or certain members of the audience. Then when the frustration level of other councilmembers has reached a limit and they intervene (after I have intervened unsuccessfully with him talking over me and talking over the gavel – as I call him out of order), we have even more chaos on the Council. I have called and will continue to call recesses of the Council meeting when such situations occur.

One of our others councilmembers, who has suffered his insults incessantly, conveys the situation in an explanatory way like this: “You have one councilmember beating up on another. The first councilmember attacks and attacks with the other councilmember not fighting back, recognizing that the public can see the despicable behavior exhibited and judge for themselves. Yet the beating continues until the councilmember under attack, now on the floor suffering more jabs, decides she has had enough and stands up and pushes back. The first councilmember and his supporters in the audience call out: How dare you push back? You are being “unprofessional.”

 This, my friends, is where the current state of affairs on the Richmond City Council is at. One councilmember is managing to hold a city hostage.

This MUST not continue. Many of us have looked toward changing the composition of the City Council in order to shift toward a better Richmond, and we will continue to do that. We have made so many gains with good councilmembers being elected in recent years. We will make more gains in November, and in subsequent elections. But we are currently dealing with something that is immediate in nature.

We are dealing with a battering situation, the result of which, if allowed to go on, will be highly destructive for our city. As a result, I will be more strictly enforcing the rules of the City Council, as per my role as chairperson, provided to me by the Charter of the City of Richmond in accordance with the Constitution of the State of California. Disagreement on issues is expected and can be productive, but where we are at right now is something altogether different.

I call on all members of the City Council and members of the audience to adhere to my call for order during meetings when I put out such a call. The disruptive nature of our Council meetings MUST be reversed.

I will not relinquish my parliamentary procedure duties. I will not let one councilmember hold the city hostage.

Thank you for your support at this critical time. We shall prevail, even among setbacks, to bring forward a political culture whereby the people’s business can be addressed in a healthy and productive way.

 Sincerely,

 Gayle McLaughlin

 Mayor, City of Richmond

Posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Richmond | 3 Comments »

Chevron appeal decision set for Monday in Contra Costa

The Contra Costa County Assessment Appeals board will release its decision Monday on Chevron’s challenge of its Richmond refinery values.

The oil giant seeks refunds worth up to $73 million in property taxes it paid from 2007 through 2009, or slightly more than half of what the company was assessed.

The county and cities, along with fire, parks and other dozens of other special districts, will bear the burden of any repayment at a time when most public agencies have already experienced years of declining budgets.

The three-member appeals board heard dozens of hours of testimony over the winter on the complex challenge from the county’s largest property taxpayer.

Chevron argued that Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer and his staff failed to document how they derived the values and intentionally miscalculated the final numbers. (Read an excerpt of Chevron’s brief filed with the Assessment Appeals Board here.)

In response, Kramer accuses the deep-pocketed oil company of systematically bullying the county with unsubstantiated and costly appeals and lawsuits in an effort to lower its taxes.

If the board sides with Chevron, it will be the refinery’s second victory in its nearly eight-year fight with Kramer over its taxable worth.

The panel in 2010 ordered a repayment of $17.8 million on the refinery’s 2004-2006 property assessment appeal, a figure far short of what the company sought. Chevron subsequently filed a lawsuit, which is still pending.

Chevron has also appealed its 2010 and 2011 property values.

Refinery spokesman Dean O’Hair said the company remains eager to negotiate with the county a settlement of all the appeals and the lawsuit.

If the appeals board orders a refund, O’Hair said Chevron will again work with the county to minimize the financial impact on the public agencies including a phased-in repayment schedule and a waiver of interest.

The public appeals board hearing begins at 9 a.m. in the Contra Costa County administration building, 651 Pine St., Martinez.

 

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Richmond, taxes | 1 Comment »

Controversial Richmond department fuels PR duel

Richmond Office of Neighborhood Safety Director DeVone Boggan uncharacteristically fired off a swift and strongly worded press release in response to the broad release of a critical report prepared in the office of vocal critic and Richmond Councilman Corky Boozé. (See links below.)

Boggan called the report an unsubstantiated, error-ridden and poorly written document prepared by an unqualified intern. And he chastised the city for allowing what he called a “student opinion paper” to be distributed through the council agenda process.

“In the absence of a graduate school supervisor providing appropriate direction and feedback (particularly around biased presentations) this report should be considered nothing more than a writing exercise draft,” Boggan wrote.

The Office of Neighborhood Safety has been under fire for months after a bloody fight broke out in city hall between rival clients and scared the bejeezus out of staffers. Created six years ago, the department attempts to reduce gun violence in the community through a variety of intervention programs.

Boggan recently agreed that an independent evaluation is appropriate and has requested $375,000 for the analysis.

In the meantime, Boozé has had the agency in his crosshairs for some time. He has questioned Boggan’s $148,000-a-year salary, requested audits of the $2.6 million-a-year department and has repeatedly asked for proof of its efficacy.

The public relations spat is further clouded by the fact that Boozé is at war with the progressive majority on the council, whose members regard the Office of Neighborhood Safety as a centerpiece in their efforts to reduce community violence through non-police channels.

Readers should definitely view with caution the contents of the 12-page intern’s report issued under the guidance of one of the Office of Neighborhood Safety’s most vocal opponent. But just because Boozé has an agenda doesn’t mean all the findings in this report are inaccurate. It raises serious questions about how this agency spends taxpayer dollars that must be answered if the public is to have confidence in Boggan’s leadership in light of what happened here last year.

Read Boggan’s press release here.

Read intern Anna Johnson’s report and Powerpoint presentations out of Booze’s office here and here.

Watch video of the City Council’s March 27 discussion here. (It is item No. I-1.)

Posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2012
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Richmond | 3 Comments »

Butt: Put that horn where the sun don’t shine

Richmond Councilman Tom Butt

Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt is unimpressed with Federal Railway Administration staffer LeeAnn Dickson’s offer to host a community meeting about why trains use horns.

Richmond and train operators have been at war for years over horns and blocked crossings.

Dickson sent Butt an email asking which of two dates — mid-day on Jan. 11 or 12 — would work better and this is what he had to say:

Ms. Dickson,

 While I appreciate the offer of an informational meeting about train horns, I respectfully suggest that explaining horn use it is not what is really needed.

 I think people understand what a train horn is, and the City of Richmond probably knows more than any city in California how to establish Quiet Zones.

 If there is going to be a meeting, it should include the following:

  •  Why the FRA has never taken an enforcement action against a Quiet Zone violator in Richmond.
  •  Why the FRA has set up rules that require cities to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars just to silence horns at one grade crossing.
  •  Why the FRA allows railroads to use horn signals in yards at night when radios are clearly acceptable.
  •  Make the top managers from BNSF come and explain why their engineers continually lay on their horns when they don’t have to.
  •  Make the businesses along Canal Boulevard come and explain to the people of Richmond why their convenience is more important than people’s sleep.
  •  Make the CPUC come and explain why they exercise even less flexibility than the FRA with respect to train horns.
  •  Invite our state legislators to explain why they can’t rein in the CPUC with respect to train horns and protect public health.
  •  Invite our congressional delegation to explain why Congress doesn’t take action to protect people against the health impacts of nighttime train horn use.

 If we could get these people and these items on the agenda, it would have the possibility of being a really productive meeting. Otherwise, it would probably be a waste of time.

Tom Butt, Vice-Mayor, City of Richmond

Richmond City Councilman

Posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Richmond | 4 Comments »

Bill Clinton coming to Richmond

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Richmond on Oct. 21, where he will deliver the keynote speech at the first Blueprint for Healthy Communities Summit sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

It may be the first official visit to Richmond by a former or sitting president. Longtime Richmond resident and county Supervisor John Gioia cannot recall any other.  (UPDATE ON 9/1/11 sent to Gioia by Michael Husser:  “Bill Clinton is technically not the first President to come to Richmond. In 1956, President Eisenhower stopped in Richmond as part of a whistle stop tour of the Bay Area during his re-election campaign. He spoke in Point Richmond at the Santa Fe Depot. It was not a long speech, but I was there with my father (Dr. Husser) who had served as a physician during WWII and knew Eisenhower.”)

But Clinton doesn’t come cheap. The district will have to raise $150,000 for his speaking fee, probably through corporate sponsorships.  (This ought to be interesting as some of Contra Costa’s biggest corporations are oil refineries subject to air district regulation.)

The invitation-only summit at the Craneway Pavilion on the Richmond waterfront will focus on the links between land-use planning and health primarily. Attendees will be elected officials, public health directors, city staffers and others.

Here’s the email that went out to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board this afternoon:

Dear Board members,

As you know, the Air District has been working through the CARE program and CEQA guidance to help local governments consider air quality, public health and climate protection in their land use decision making. As part of this effort, the Air District will be hosting another cutting edge summit this fall focused on the linkages between public health and land use. I’d like to provide a few highlights of the summit planning.

Title: Blueprint for Healthy Communities Summit

Date: Friday, October 21, 2011

Location: Craneway Pavilion, Richmond Waterfront

Audience: Bay Area elected officials, public health directors, city managers, planning directors, business leaders, non-profits, foundations, and more

Keynote: President Bill Clinton

We are very pleased to have secured President Clinton as the keynote speaker! We have also invited, but not yet confirmed, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius as well as White House Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley. We also plan to offer two workshops and a plenary on Constructing Healthy, Complete Communities.

We already have a number of sponsors for the event and will continue to secure additional sponsorship commitments.

Due to the tight planning schedule and the timing of acceptance by President Clinton, we needed to make some quick decisions and sign a contract to book President Clinton for this event. After speaking to Board Chair Bates about the tight timeline, Chair Bates authorized the APCO to enter into a contract with the Harry Walker Group to secure President Clinton for the October 21st date. Chair Bates gave this authorization with the caveat that speaker fees would be offset by sponsorship funds. The speaking fee is $150,000. We are confident we will be able to secure sponsorships to cover President Clinton’s speaking fee. Staff will provide an update on summit planning at the September 21 Board of Directors meeting.

Please mark your calendars for this exciting, invitation-only event when the Bay Area Air Quality Management District welcomes President Bill Clinton to the Bay Area to speak about a Blueprint for Healthy Communities. Invitations will be mailed soon.

Please feel free to contact me at 415-749-4646 with questions.

Jean Roggenkamp

On behalf of

Jack P. Broadbent

Executive Officer/APCO

Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Under: Bill Clinton, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics, Richmond | 3 Comments »

Richmond real estate ad? Not!

The couple with the cheapest house in the Bay Area have produced a catchy real estate ad for Richmond.

But the city probably won’t be using it in its promotional material!

Jason Myers produced this cheeky little ditty (see below) in response to his longstanding fight with City Hall over its inability to fix the repeated flooding in his neighborhood. His house was recently assessed at an astonishingly low $4,000.

“I was smitten by the muse for this song about two weeks ago,” Jason emailed me. “During its writing, I met many outside distractions that threatened to thwart my ability to finish it, but I was determined with my nose to the grindstone, come Hell or high wa …Well, you get the idea. This is the first installment of a larger work entitled ‘The Ballad Of The Bungled Bureaucracy.’ Stay tuned ’cause there’s more to come!  (Signed) Swimmingly,  Jason”

Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Under: Richmond | No Comments »

Feinstein opposes Indian casino in Richmond

Feinstein

Feinstein

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., opposes Measure U in Richmond, an advisory measure seeking voters’ preference on a proposed Indian casino at Point Molate.

Here is her statement put out a few minutes ago by the opposition camp:

The coalition opposed to Measure U and a future Mega Casino on Richmond’s Point Molate continues to grow with today’s announcement that California’s Senior U.S. Senator, Dianne Feinstein, has taken a public position against the proposed development.

“I’m opposed to Measure U because the Casino plan for Richmond’s Point Molate is just wrong. Wrong for Richmond, wrong for the East Bay shoreline environment, and it sets the wrong precedent for our state when it comes to off-reservation gaming casinos. No on Measure U- It’s a bad deal for Richmond,” Feinstein said.

Senator Feinstein joins Richmond community members, conservationists, small business owners and the United Auburn Indian community in fighting the developer-funded Measure U. More information regarding the No on Measure U campaign can be found at www.baddealforrichmond.com


Posted on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Richmond | No Comments »

Richmond: Unions launch anti-McLaughlin campaign

The Richmond police and firefighters unions unveiled The Real Gayle McLaughlin campaign today, releasing a mailer, Web site and television ad that reveals the one-term mayor’s struggle with mental illness and financial woes.

See both below.

We’re working on a full story, which includes McLaughlin’s response to her critics. (We met with her this morning.)

I’ll post the story link here as soon as it is available. In the meantime, see the TV ad and the mailer below.

UPDATE: Read McLaughlin’s response and reaction from the Richmond Progressive Alliance here.

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Posted on Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Contra Costa County, Richmond | 30 Comments »

Richmond councilman weds

Jim Rogers and Kristin Rosekrans

Jim Rogers and Kristin Rosekrans

Richmond Councilman Jim Rogers, 54, wed Kristin Rosekrans, 40, on Saturday in Pt. Richmond, confirmed the honeymooning elected official from a cruise ship off the coast of Alaska.

Rogers included the photo when he responded to my email inquiry about acquiring copies of some of his campaign finance reports. (And yes, he had the reports sent to me.)

Here is what fellow Richmond Councilman Tom Butt posted on his email forum:

Jim Rogers and Kristin Rosekrans were married at Keller’s Beach in Point Richmond, followed by a celebration at their new home nearby. Kristin is originally from Berkeley but has spent much of the last ten years abroad, teaching in Ghana and El Salvador. In Ghana, she was Associate Director for Literacy Programs at the Education Development Center in Accra, Ghana. More recently, she has been the Senior Education Advisor for USAID in San Salvador, EL Salvador.

She earned a Master of Education in International Education Policy at Harvard and is working on her PhD at Cal Berkeley while continuing to teach. She is published in education journals, including “Influencing Education Policy Using Participatory Research and Informed Dialogue: Lessons from El Salvador.”

Kristin’s father presided at the ceremony.

Jim and Kristin met the modern way, on line. Jim joked that it’s a good thing she has been out of the country so long because she had never seen a People’s Lawyer commercial. They are off to Alaska for a honeymoon and presumably will be back in time for resumption of City Council business in September.

Posted on Friday, August 20th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa politics, Richmond | 1 Comment »

Richmond mailer barrage continues

A new group calling itself the Richmond Jobs Coalition sent out a four-page mailer to households in Richmond over the weekend, which comes on the heels of two anti-Indian casino pieces funded by card clubs under the name of Stop The Mega Casino.

Labor leader Greg Feere with the Contra Costa Building Trades Council, a vocal proponent of building a casino at Point Molate, is featured prominently along with former Richmond City Councilman Jim McMillan and Salute’s restaurant owner Menbere Akilu.

The building trades council paid for the mailer, confirmed campaign consult Kevin Reikes.

The piece highlights Richmond’s unwelcome distinction as the the Bay Area city with the highest unemployment rate — 18 percent.

The trades group heavily favors the proposed Indian casino, calling it a source of construction and permanent jobs. It is also a huge proponent of the Chevron refinery expansion project, which has stalled under a lawsuit from environmental groups.

Here is the mailer:

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Posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, Richmond | No Comments »