Check back here to keep track of what the media is saying about Team Richmond.
From the East Bay Express, November 19, 2014
by John Geluardi
Now that the smoke has cleared from the stunning election in Richmond earlier this month, questions are emerging about exactly how an overmatched and underfunded grassroots organization was able to soundly defeat Chevron, an oil colossus that was desperate to regain control of city government.
Chevron spent more than $3 million to attack three candidates from the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) and install the oil company's four favored candidates on the seven-member city council. But Chevron's over-the-top spending backfired and progressives swept to victory by unexpectedly wide margins. Ultimately, all Chevron bought with its millions was embarrassment and lingering ill will from a campaign that was as foul as the toxins its refinery regularly spews into the Bay Area's atmosphere.
From the Contra Costa Times, November 14, 2014
Chevron not only lost its horribly misguided attempt to buy the Richmond City Council and mayoral races, it lost its credibility with the community—again.
The oil giant had just managed last summer to negotiate a deal with the city for its refinery expansion that recognized the environmental effect of the plant. Tensions were finally beginning to ease in the aftermath of the 2012 refinery fire...
Recognizing not only the damage to the plant and the community, but also to its image, the company last year brought in a new general manager, Kory Judd, who talked of wanting to regain public support and of showing greater sensitivity to residents' concerns.
"The only way to make (the anger from the fire) go away," Judd told reporter Robert Rogers, "is to be a responsible, quiet, out-of-sight operator for a period to earn that respect."
From Moyers & Company, November 7, 2014
From Aljazeera America, November 7, 2014
by Madeline Ostrander
"The Chevrons of the world, the Koch Brothers and the others... their religion is greed... we cannot allow them to take over Richmond," Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told a packed auditorium in Richmond, Calif., last month. Sanders' appearance drew national attention to local races there that have since become a symbol of the tension between grassroots politics and big money's influence on elections.
And on Tuesday, this city of more than 100,000 garnered national headlines when it became one of the few spots in the country where progressive underdogs triumphed, even though they were heavily outspent by their opponents.
Here the battle lines were defined by one big donor, the multinational oil giant Chevron, which operates a century-old refinery in Richmond. Candidates who had accepted backing from Chevron fought an alliance of progressives who had not.
From the SF Chronicle, November 7, 2014
On Tuesday night, Richmond proved that no amount of Chevron-paid television advertisements, mailers and billboards can buy elections. Voters rejected all four candidates backed by Chevron, despite the oil giant’s investment of more than $3 million—outspending the 10-year-old Richmond Progressive Alliance by a 20-to-1 ratio.
Voters decided to elect City Councilman Tom Butt as mayor along with outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, incumbent Jovanka Beckles and retired teacher Eduardo Martinez to the City Council. Jael Myrick defeated incumbent Corky Boozé.
"There is no question the amount of money Chevron spent completely backfired on them," said Myrick. "People are smarter than that, and if they get the perception you're trying to buy them, that's an insult in of itself."
It didn't take long for people to notice how pervasive corporate spending has become in order to influence local politics.
From BeyondChron, November 6, 2014
by Steve Early
Election day, 2014, was not ending well for Nat Bates, a mayoral candidate in a largely non-white city long dominated by Chevron. The small crowd of supporters gathered in his storefront campaign headquarters on Macdonald Avenue in Richmond was beginning to look rather glum. The big box cake, with white icing and lettering proclaiming Bates to be “Our Mayor” was remained unwrapped.
The 83-year old African-American Democrat, who has been Big Oil's best friend on the city council, had every reason to expect early returns much better than the numbers his campaign manager was posting on the wall by 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening.
For many weeks, Richmond voters have been bombarded with full-color brochures touting Bates' four decades of business friendly leadership. His final mailer listed more than fifty local ministers as campaign supporters. They were joined by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Contra Costa County Building Trades leaders, Richmond police and firefighters’ unions, and the Chamber of Commerce.
From NPR, November 5, 2014
by Richard Gonzales
Tuesday's elections weren't just bad news for Democrats. Oil giant Chevron Corp. got clobbered in a hot local election in Richmond, Calif., that was widely seen as a referendum on the company itself.
The San Francisco Bay Area community of 107,000 people attracted national attention to its race for city council. Richmond is home to one of Chevron's two West Coast refineries. The city has long been known as a company town: Chevron is Richmond's largest employer and taxpayer.
But for the past six years, progressives and their allies have controlled the city council, often tangling with the Fortune 500 company over greenhouse gas emissions, especially after a spectacular refinery fire two years ago.
Chevron had hoped to reverse that dynamic by supporting a slate of candidates who are sympathetic to the company's plans for modernizing its refinery. It spent about $3 million to support them, issuing an avalanche of glossy mailers and buying virtually every billboard in town.
From the SF Chronicle, November 5, 2014
by Carolyn Jones
Richmond voters handed Chevron a resounding rejection in Tuesday’s election, defeating all four candidates supported by the oil giant despite Chevron outspending its opponents by a 20-to-1 margin.
Voters elected City Councilman Tom Butt as mayor and outgoing mayor Gayle McLaughlin, incumbent Jovanka Beckles and retired teacher Eduardo Martinez to the City Council, giving the panel a potential 6-1 left-leaning majority.
“It’s extraordinary. This is a celebration of democracy,” said San Francisco State political science Professor Robert Smith, who studies Richmond politics. “This means that big money doesn’t always win, that ordinary people can defeat huge corporate power.”
Chevron spent more than $3 million supporting Charles Ramsey, Donna Powers and Albert Martinez for council, and longtime Councilman Nat Bates for mayor. Butt won with 51.4 percent of the votes, with Bates trailing at 35.5 percent.
From Richmond Confidential, November 5, 2014
by Richmond Confidential
In a surprise victory, Tom Butt was elected Richmond Mayor tonight after a multi-million dollar campaign by the Chevron Corporation failed to defeat Butt or a slate of candidates the giant oil company had supported...
Butt’s election also helped bring victory to a slate of progressive candidates including Jovanka Beckles, Gayle McLaughlin and Eduardo Martinez , who each won a seat on the City Council.
A number of observers said that Chevron's aggressive spending may have backfired.
Uche Uwahemu, who ran third in the mayoral race, said, "The election was a referendum on Chevron and the people obviously made it clear they did not appreciate the unnecessary spending by Chevron so they took it out on the rest of the candidates."
From the Contra Costa Times, November 5, 2014
by Jennifer Baires and Robert Rogers
In a race that received national attention thanks to big money from Chevron, a slate of candidates on shoestring budgets swept their oil titan-backed opponents on Tuesday night in a resounding political defeat for the company and its campaign tactics.
Longtime local politician Tom Butt defeated his City Council colleague Nat Bates, garnering 51 percent of the vote to Bates' 35 percent.
In the race for three full-term City Council seats, outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin (16.9 percent of the vote), incumbent Jovanka Beckles (16.2 percent) and challenger Eduardo Martinez (14.6)—the "Team Richmond" slate backed by the Richmond Progressive Alliance—swept despite a flurry of negative advertising against them. Incumbent Jael Myrick trounced Corky Boozé for a two-year seat.
Incumbent Jim Rogers was knocked out of his seat, finishing fourth by fewer than 300 votes with all precincts reporting.
From the SF Chronicle, November 1, 2014
by Carolyn Jones
Chevron has spent $72 per registered voter in Richmond to push its slate of candidates for City Council and mayor in Tuesday’s election — more than a minimum wage worker brings home after a full day’s work in this blue-collar city.
The oil giant's $3 million in political contributions are also funding a powerful opposition campaign against candidates it sees as critics, one of whom is Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles. She has raised campaign funds that amount to about 85 cents per each of the 41,894 registered voters.
The multinational corporation's political involvement has created a David-versus-Goliath effect with Chevron-backed candidates starring in television ads, glossy mailers and stunning advertising billboards that tower above the city streets, while the non-Chevron candidates squeak by on small donations from residents and door-to-door canvassing by volunteers.
From Moyers & Company, October 31, 2014
"Apparently for these guys, owning and controlling our economy is not enough. They now want to own and control the government. And we are not going to allow them to do that. Not in Richmond, not anywhere."
From Democracy Now, October 31, 2014
From Moyers & Company, October 30, 2014
by Michael Winship
Amidst all the noise of this year’s midterms, in the middle of all the charges and countercharges, attack ads and spin control, barnstorming and whistlestopping, one of the most interesting and significant elections in the country is happening not at the state or federal level but in the small city of Richmond, California, population just over 100,000.
What makes Richmond such a big deal is the enormous influence of Chevron, the multinational energy company that keeps a problematic oil refinery in the city — problematic in the sense of its tendency not only to generate handsome revenues but leaks, fires and explosions, too. Complaints about its environmental impact have built for decades.
Chevron was accustomed to dominating the economy and politics of Richmond, treating it like an old-fashioned company town, but in 2007, Gayle McLaughlin, candidate of the Green Party, became mayor. She and her allies on the city council began calling Chevron out, especially after a 2012 refinery fire that sent 15,000 people off to area hospitals for treatment.
From the East Bay Express, October 29, 2014
As we noted in our story last week about this year's Richmond City Council campaign, Chevron is spending millions of dollars in an effort to retake control of city government. And so we strongly urge Richmond voters to reject this power grab, and to elect councilmembers who will stand up to the oil giant and work to protect our environment. We also think that since Chevron lost control over the council several years ago, the city's progressive leadership has been instrumental in turning city government around: Richmond is no longer beset by public corruption, crime is down substantially, and the city's once-troubled police department is now a national model of reform.
As a result, for the three four-year council seats in this year's election, we wholeheartedly endorse the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) slate of candidates: Gayle McLaughlin, who is being termed out of the mayor's office this year and is seeking a spot on the council; Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who is running for another four-year term; and Eduardo Martinez, a longtime educator who barely missed out on winning a council seat two years ago. We think McLaughlin, Beckles, and Eduardo Martinez will help Richmond continue its renaissance and will support Police Chief Chris Magnus' reform efforts.
From The Rachel Maddow Show, October 27, 2014
Robert Rogers, reporter for the Contra Costa Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about the outsized political spending by Chevron in the town of Richmond, California to help bring about a local government more friendly to its oil refinery business interests.
From Richmond Confidential, October 27, 2014
by Brett Murphy and Bonnie Chan
Chevron has poured millions into a campaign committee to influence Richmond’s mayoral and City Council elections, and the unprecedented spending has fueled questions about what the oil titan hopes to achieve with the best city government its money can buy.
Why so much and why now?
"If you're Chevron, you're probably asking yourself, 'Why not?'" said current councilmember and mayoral candidate Tom Butt. "There's no reason you wouldn’t want to control the city that in turn has regulatory control on your investment."
Robert Smith, a political scientist at San Francisco State who's been watching Richmond closely, said Chevron's thinly-veiled influence this election season might backfire and draw new, unsympathetic voters to the booth.
Such large amounts of money might "offend people's democratic sensibilities, people who might otherwise be uninterested," he said. "Throwing your weight around that excessively is just going beyond the pale."
From the Contra Costa Times, October 24, 2014
by Jennifer Baires
A couple dozen people gathered in front of City Hall on Thursday afternoon to say they were tired of Chevron trying to buy their votes and had formed a new political action committee to rival Moving Forward, the committee financed by the oil giant.
The group, Richmond Working Families, coalesced at the beginning of October, and is a coalition of community members and unions, including Asian Pacific Environmental Network Action, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action and SEIU local 1021.
According to a news release sent out before the rally, the group has raised around $50,000 in the past few weeks and plans to use that money to phone bank and knock on doors for its candidates: Tom Butt for mayor; Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez for City Council; and Jael Myrick for the two-year council seat.
Surrounded by people carrying signs reading "Our Election is Not for Sale," a handful of speakers talked about why they were helping the effort.
From Daily Kos, October 23, 2014
by Bill Berkowitz
Perhaps one of the lesser predictable outcomes of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is that it would open the floodgates to corporations having their way in local elections. That seems to be a significant part of an ongoing story in Richmond, California, a city of a little over 106,000 residents, where the Chevron Corporation—the city's main employer and taxpayer—is using a Political Action Committee to back a Chevron-friendly mayoral candidate, and several City Council candidates.
Although the Political Action Committee, called Moving Forward, claims it is made up of "labor unions, small businesses and public safety and firefighters associations," in reality, it is Chevron, headquartered in San Ramon, which makes its engine run. According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, Chevron is "the biggest spender on political campaigns... set[ing] aside $1.6 million" for Moving Forward.
From The Huffington Post, October 22, 2014
by Carl Pope
When you last filled up your gas tank, you may have thought about where the oil came from. Today let's think about where the money you paid went. Some of it, indeed, went to the salary of the trucker who delivered the gasoline, the woman behind the cash register, or the steel company that forged the drilling bit. And some of it went to long-running ad campaigns like Chevron's "We Agree," designed to make you feel as good as possible about paying too much for long dead algae. But much of it went less savory places...
Just up the road from my San Francisco home, in Richmond, California (population 107,000 people), for example, Chevron is making sure that democracy doesn't get too rambunctious in the home town of its biggest refinery. The company, whose revenues amount to $200,000 for every resident of the town, doesn't like Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, the city's first Green Party mayor, for her efforts to restore the city's shoreline as public open space, and protect its residents from the fires and explosions that have rocked Chevron's facility. So they are backing an opposing slate. Not content with spending $2.9 million on the election (about $100 per vote cast) Chevron also launched a fake "community" website to carry its point of view, the Richmond Standard. (Your tank of gas may have paid for this doozy.)
From the East Bay Express, October 22, 2014
by John Geluardi
Five of Richmond's seven council seats are up for grabs in this year's election, which means there could be a seismic shift in the city's power structure. This is a fact not overlooked by Chevron, which is spending millions in a bid to defeat its underfunded, progressive opponents and retake control of the working-class city's local government...
The campaign is being heavily influenced by Chevron, which has so far pumped $3 million into political action committees that are trying to elect the oil giant's favored candidates. As of September 30, Chevron had spent $1.4 million to promote its four favored candidates: Nat Bates for mayor and Ramsey, Donna Powers, and Al Martinez for city council. The oil company also has spent $500,000 to attack three council candidates—McLaughlin, Beckles, and Eduardo Martinez—representing the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), a grassroots organization that refuses all corporate contributions.
From Moyers & Company, October 21, 2014
by Michael Winship
When the Citizens United decision came down in 2010, many feared the Supreme Court had unleashed vast and unfettered campaign contributions from corporations bent on tightening their hammerlock on government and politics.
That hasn't happened as much as anticipated—yet. Individual billionaires and millionaires have dominated the scene instead. Perhaps it's in part because some corporations dipping their toes into new modes of campaign funding have been rebuffed by hostile consumer and stockholder reaction: witness the backlash in 2010 when Target contributed $150,000 to a 501(c)(4) supporting anti-gay rights gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer in Minnesota.
But other corporate giants seem to have no such qualms about negative public feedback. Chevron, for example. Based in California, the multinational energy company is the third largest producer of crude in the world and greedily grateful for ongoing, generous subsidies from Congress.
From The Huffington Post, October 21, 2014
by David Helvarg
If the Supreme Court is right that corporations are people I need to take out a restraining order on Chevron. To date this oil company has pumped $3 million into the November 4 municipal election in Richmond, California, the low-income multiracial town of just over 100,000 where I live. It's spending well over 10 times what all the candidates—including the four it's backing—have spent. Its spending is, to shift metaphors, like an uncontrolled blowout a visually and ethically toxic spill of postal mailers, billboards, phone calls, push-polls, internet and TV attack ads (that even show up when I'm watching the Colbert Report). Its Moving Forward political action committee describes itself as a coalition of labor unions, small businesses, public safety and firefighter associations, but Chevron has provided 99.7 percent of its funding.
I don't really blame Chevron with its annual revenues of $220 billion (that would rank it 43rd in wealth among the world's 195 nations); after all, if you're part of the most powerful industrial combine in human history and it turns out your product—petroleum—could prove lethal to much of life on earth, you do what you have to in order to stay on top a few more decades.
From TakePart Live, October 20, 2014
by Samantha Cowan
The Richmond Standard's Web banner proclaims that it's a "community-driven news" site—and sure, it offers tidbits about the Northern California city's businesses and crime blotter, but the byline for every story should probably read "Chevron Corporation."
"They provide a useful service. The problem is in presenting themselves as a neutral news service when there’s certain news that they will never cover," Harriet Rowan told TakePart on Sunday.
Rowan, a 26-year-old journalism student at UC Berkeley, writes for her university's publication, Richmond Confidential. While the Chevron-sponsored Standard won't report stories that put the company in a negative light, Rowan revealed just how far Chevron is willing to go to influence the community where it has run a refinery for more than a century.
From Richmond Confidential, October 19, 2014
Chevron’s Campaign Criticizes Progressive Mayor’s Travel, but its Favored Candidate Traveled Much More
by Brett Murphy and Elly Schmidt-Hopper
A Chevron-funded campaign committee has blitzed the streets of Richmond and the airwaves and Internet in an effort to stop Mayor Gayle McLaughlin’s bid for a City Council seat in November.
Billboards line boulevards, mailers stuff mailboxes, television commercials play hourly and a web video shows McLaughlin, who is termed out after eight years in office, skipping onto an airplane: "Gayle McLaughlin ran away when we needed her the most," a narrator says. "Why would we elect her to City Council?"
But an analysis of city documents, invoices, travel receipts and bank statements dating to 2010 shows that McLaughlin has traveled less, missed fewer meetings, and spent less money on the trips than City Councilman Nat Bates, a longtime supporter of the oil giant’s mammoth refinery here and the Chevron-backed committee’s favored candidate for mayor.
From Richmond Confidential, October 18, 2014
Continue to the accompanying story in Richmond Confidential: The Best of Bernie Sanders in Richmond.
From Richmond Confidential, October 17, 2014
by Harriet Rowan
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I), a potential 2016 presidential candidate, delivered a rousing speech to an overflowing audience in Richmond on Thursday. His speech focused on the growing economic inequality in the United States and argued for the importance of electing candidates who will implement progressive policies in the face of the growing influence of big money in politics.
"At this profound moment in American history, where the billionaire class wants to get it all... we have got to fight back tooth and nail," Sanders said, drawing boisterous applause from a crowd of about 500. "We cannot allow them to take over Richmond... we cannot allow them to take over America."
Sanders was invited to Richmond by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to help rally her progressive base in the face of $3 million in spending by Chevron Corp. to oppose McLaughlin and her allies in the Nov. 4 election.
From The Rachel Maddow Show, October 13, 2014
From the LA Times, October 13, 2014
by Michael Hiltzik
A few weeks ago, we described how the giant oil company Chevron was barraging little Richmond, Calif. (pop. 107,000), the site of one of its major refineries, with corporate PR disguised as community "news." Its instrument was an objective-looking website, known as the Richmond Standard, purporting to be a news portal for residents of Richmond.
Now we have more to say about how Chevron (2013 revenue: $21.4 billion) is trying to influence the upcoming municipal elections in Richmond, which pit a pro-Chevron bloc of city council members against an anti-Chevron bloc.
So far this year, Chevron has poured an astounding $2.9 million into three campaign committees in Richmond. Of that, at least $1.4 million has gone to a committee supporting the pro-Chevron candidates and $500,000 to a committee opposing the candidate critical of Chevron, including the current mayor, Gayle McLaughlin. The figures suggest that Chevron is preparing to spend at least $33 for the vote of every resident of the city 18 or older.
From BeyondChron, October 9, 2014
by Steve Early
If you’re Gayle McLaughlin, the Green mayor of Richmond, now termed out but running for city council, or Dan Siegel, the radical labor lawyer challenging an incumbent mayor in Oakland, who can rally the troops better than a former mayor who was a pioneering municipal reformer?
Both candidates hope to generate some home-stretch campaign energy, with the help of such invited out-of-town guests, at public forums and related fundraisers in their respective East Bay bailiwicks next week.
On Oct. 16, McLaughlin is hosting Bernie Sanders, former four-term mayor of Burlington, Vermont, at a "Town Meeting" in Richmond, preceded by a reception at her downtown campaign headquarters. Two days later in Oakland, Siegel is bringing in Dennis Kucinich, a one-term mayor of Cleveland, to speak at two similar events, one of which also features Tom Hayden, a leading progressive activist in the 1960s and longtime legislator in Sacramento.
From the LA Times, October 8, 2014
by David Helvarg
If corporations are people then one of them has been stalking me.
When humans think about the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that corporations are people and money is free speech, and about the impact unlimited campaign spending is having on our democracy, they tend to think too big. The most significant consequences may not be at the national or state level but in cities where elections can determine decisions about property taxes, land-use permits and zoning that have a direct effect on people’s lives and on companies' bottom lines...
Until 2008, when a group of candidates calling themselves the Progressive Alliance won seats, Richmond's City Council was dominated by a refinery-friendly majority known by some as the Chevron Five. Now the oil giant is trying to turn Richmond back into a company town where elected officials don’t force it to pay more property taxes, or demand transparent environmental impact reports or challenge it on pollution and local hiring practices.
From The 10 Percent Show, October 7, 2014
From Richmond Confidential, October 4, 2014
by Harriet Rowan
Chevron Richmond poured at least $1.26 million into the Richmond mayoral and city council races between Aug. 14 and Sept. 29, funneling the money through three campaign committees, all with iterations of the name "Moving Forward."
According to documents filed with the Richmond City Clerk, Moving Forward’s campaign committee, created in 2012, transferred at least $1.9 million as of Sept. 17 to two newly-created committees. The amount transferred exceeds the $1.7 million cash on hand figure that was widely reported after the last filing deadline on June 30. Moving Forward has likely received additional money from Chevron or other sources. The next campaign filing deadline is Oct. 6.
The two new committees have spent a combined total of at least $1,268,688.17 so far, with over a month remaining before the Nov. 4 election.
Also see Richmond Confidential's October 10 follow-up article: $3 Million in Chevron’s Moving Forward War Chest.
From the East Bay Express, September 24, 2014
by John Geluardi
Richmond voters have three mayoral candidates to choose from this November, but the race is really between Tom Butt and Nat Bates, two men who have a combined 54 years of service on the city council — and polar-opposite visions for the city's future. Bates is considered the most conservative member of the council and is a strong backer of Chevron and its massive oil refinery, while Butt has a long history of promoting good government policies and challenging Chevron's sphere of influence in the city. Butt is not as liberal as the council's progressive faction, although he frequently votes with it...
Whether it's Bates or Butt, Richmond's next mayor could face a serious budget shortfall, along with rising pension costs. The new mayor also will have to deal with a city council that has developed a reputation for petty bickering and unruliness. Furthermore, the coming election will determine if Chevron will regain control of the city's political structure. The multinational oil giant is spending at least $1.6 million to elect Bates and three council candidates.
From BeyondChron, September 16, 2014
by Steve Early
One of the great things about living near Chevron’s big East Bay refinery—yes, the one that caught fire and exploded two years ago—is its system of early warnings about new disasters about to befall Richmond.
In our post-Citizens United era, the nation’s second largest oil producer is now free to spend $1.6 million (or more, if necessary) on direct mail and phone alerts, designed to keep 30,000 likely voters fully informed about threats to their city.
During the last week, glossy mailers from a Chevron-funded group called “Moving Forward” have been flowing our way, at the rate of one or two per day—almost seven weeks before Election Day...My favorite manifestation of this negative campaigning involves a Latino candidate for Richmond City council. His name is Eduardo Martinez and remembering the Eduardo part is important. By some strange coincidence, Moving Forward—the Chevron-backed “Coalition of Labor Unions, Small Businesses, Public Safety and Firefighters Associations”—is backing another Martinez for city council whose first name is Al and who is apparently not a public safety threat.
From KPFA’s Up Front, Sept. 12, 2014
In this wide-ranging, half-hour discussion (at 33:35 in KPFA's archive), guest-host Marie Choi speaks with Mike Parker and Andrés Soto about why Mike withdrew from the mayoral race, Chevron's candidates, the role of social movements, the status and future of Chevron's refinery, progressive strategy, our opposition, the main issue in the 2014 race, and beyond.
Marie Choi: As November elections approach, we're turning our attention to Richmond, California, where the Richmond Progressive Alliance is battling oil-giant Chevron for control of the City Council. For many of us outside of Richmond, the RPA has been an example of what's possible when an independent grassroots organization gains council seats and pushes through a progressive agenda. Through a combination of grassroots-mobilization and holding key council positions, the RPA and its allies have won major concessions from Chevron, defended homeowners from bank foreclosures, and changed the city's approach to policing. We're talking this morning with Mike Parker and Andrés Soto, they are members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, and Mike was until recently a mayoral candidate for Richmond, California.
From the East Bay Express, September 10, 2014
by Robert Gammon
One police department in the East Bay is proving that the law-and-order crowd has been wrong all these years, and that overwhelming force—especially lethal force—is not only unjustified, but completely unnecessary. Since 2007, the Richmond Police Department, under the command of Chief Chris Magnus, the most progressive police chief in the Bay Area, has not had a single fatal shooting by one of its officers, a fact that was first reported last weekend by the Contra Costa Times.
When Magnus took over the troubled Richmond PD in 2006, he quickly realized that overwhelming force was not the answer. In 2006 and 2007, Richmond cops shot five people, killing one of them. So he instituted numerous reforms, including training officers to defuse tense situations without firing their weapons. Magnus also emphasized the importance of investigating crime, and eschewed so-called hotspot policing, in which a department saturates an area with cops like an occupying force. "We are surgical," he told the CoCo Times earlier this year. "We concentrate on people that need to be focused on."
Magnus also installed a robust community-policing program, deploying officers into neighborhoods to forge relationships with residents. The effort was designed to reverse a longstanding problem in Richmond in which residents distrusted the city's violent police force and refused to cooperate with it. Magnus also reformed the way police respond to political demonstrations, training officers to take a softer, gentler approach.
From the Transforming Reality Talk Show, September 9, 2014
by Robert "Han" Bishop
How did Richmond go from being a Chevron company town to the most Progressive City in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Why is it so difficult for Politicians to make Decisions from the Heart, even ones who are well-meaning?
Why is the upcoming election critical in preventing Chevron manipulation of the democratic process, and returning Richmond to the past where Chevron always gets what they want, regardless of public safety concerns and increased environmental pollution?
What does it mean to raise human consciousness as a public official?
These and other important issues are addressed in my (16 min) interview with Gayle McLaughlin, the Mayor of Richmond, California.
From the SF Chronicle, August 22, 2014
by Chip JohnsonChevron, the city's main employer and taxpayer, is also the biggest spender on political campaigns - it set aside $1.6 million in a political action committee called Moving Forward that supports the oil giant's favorite City Council and mayoral candidates.
Let me repeat: $1.6 million. For local elections in a city of a little over 106,000 residents...
Despite all the money thrown around by this corporate giant, it's clear not all of Richmond's residents are so easily swayed by swag. But that's not stopping Chevron from trying to influence the outcome of a city election.
Change is coming to Richmond, slow but steady. Crime is way down, development is on the way up, and the city needs to shed its historical reputation as a "company" town.
From the SF Bay View, August 11, 2014
by Ann Garrison
Retired auto worker, labor activist and community college teacher Mike Parker was, until Friday, the mayoral candidate of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, also known as the RPA. The RPA includes Mayor Gayle Mclaughlin, who has served as mayor since her first election in November 2006.
McLaughlin will term out as mayor at the end of this year, but she is running for the City Council seat she first won in 2004. Mike Parker explained Richmond and the RPA at the Labor Festival in San Francisco just over a month ago.
From BeyondChron, August 11, 2014
by Steve Early
Municipal politics in Richmond, California is not for the faint-hearted, the thin-skinned, or those easily unsettled by last minute line-up changes. Late last week, on the eve of the filing deadline for city candidates, a longtime city council member not up for re-election this year decided to throw his hat into the ring for mayor.
Arkansas native Tom Butt, a 70-year-old architect, Vietnam veteran, and 41-year resident of Pt. Richmond seeks to replace Gayle McLaughlin, the well-known California Green and leader of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), who is subject to a two-term limit as mayor.
Butt is not part of the RPA but frequently allies himself with its members on the city council. When RPA first emerged a decade ago, Butt applauded the idea that “a seemingly unlikely group of Greens, Latinos, progressive Democrats, African-Americans, and free spirits” could forge the “first Richmond coalition in memory united over ideals rather than power and personalities.”
From the SF Chronicle, August 11, 2014
by Chip Johnson
Try "Anybody but Bates"—as in Richmond councilman Nat Bates, who is running for mayor.
Bates, 82, is a longtime political presence in Richmond, a walking, talking anachronism who has held office, not continuously, since 1967, including two stints as mayor in the late 1970s.
In the opinion of his rivals, a Bates victory represents a step back in time—and in the wrong direction.
So on Friday, Richmond Progressive Alliance candidate Mike Parker withdrew his candidacy and veteran City Council member Tom Butt announced his mayoral campaign. Uche Uwahemu, a local business owner, is also running for the seat.
The concern among the city's political leaders is that if Parker and Butt split the city's liberal vote, it could provide an opportunity for Bates to win—and both Butt and Parker believe that is something that must be prevented.
From the SF Chronicle, August 8, 2014
After four years as the object of constant hateful heckling, Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles proposed an ordinance calling for those who disrupt Richmond City Council meetings to be barred from attending for six months.
This comes after Beckles, the city's first openly lesbian councilwoman, had to listen to Mark Wassberg say to her during a City Council meeting last month, "Gays have no morality. ... You're filth. You're dirt." And, "(I say this) because I have the constitutional right to say it."
It's one thing to disagree with elected leaders and hold them accountable for their policies, lack of action or behavior. It's an entirely different thing when protesters hurl personal insults before, during and after a City Council meeting to promote their own hateful message. Racial and sexual orientation slurs have no place in civil discourse.
From the SF Chronicle, August 6, 2014
by Carolyn Jones
Mark Wassberg took to the podium, wagged his finger at the Richmond City Council and said:
"I'm going to keep coming up here and tell you how gays have no morality... You're filth. You're dirt. Because I have the constitutional right to say it."
The comments during a July meeting of the council were directed at Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, the city's first openly lesbian councilwoman. She sighed and listened impassively. After all, she'd heard it all before. For four years.
Since she was elected in 2010, Beckles, 51, has endured taunts, rants and ridicule about her sexual orientation and race—she's from Panama and identifies herself as a black Latina—during City Council meetings.
From the SF Chronicle, July 18, 2014
by David Helvarg
If the Supreme Court is right that corporations are people and money is free speech, then Chevron is the biggest loudmouth in Richmond, where I live.
When people think of unlimited campaign spending, they tend to think of national elections, but the most insidious impacts may be taking place at the state and municipal levels. I know Chevron contributes to our local economy because it disbursed more than $2 million in city election campaign money since 2010, or roughly $50 each on me and every other registered voter in our small city of 106,000. The company provides jobs not only at its sprawling Richmond oil refinery but also for public relations, printers and a private detective who was hired a few years ago to smear the mayor.
Chevron wants to get rid of our Green Party mayor and progressive City Council majority because they've challenged the company on property taxes and pollution. That's why in 2012 Chevron spent $422,000 backing a single candidate for one of the seven council seats that pays $16,830 a year. The company wants to return to the days when the council majority was known as the "Chevron 5."
From The Nation, May 20, 2014
by Steve Early
On a weekday evening in mid-April, retired autoworker Mike Parker, a community organizer in Richmond, California, was among the concerned citizens signing up to speak at a local planning board hearing. The topic was a much-delayed refinery “modernization plan” that the city’s largest employer, Chevron, claims will make its 112-year-old facility cleaner and safer.
Local critics of Chevron, including Parker, rallied before the meeting under the banner of grassroots groups like Communities for a Better Environment. Also on hand, but in smaller numbers, were representatives of Contra Costa County building-trades unions who support the company. They want Richmond to approve the $1 billion project, with few questions asked and no conditions attached, so that 1,000 new construction jobs will be created as soon as possible.
This being an election year, the Chevron officials in attendance paid close attention to what Parker had to say. That’s because, several months ago, Parker announced his own plan: to run for mayor as part of a citywide slate of progressive candidates that includes Gayle McLaughlin, the current mayor and nationally known California Green, who is prevented by term limits from running for re-election as mayor and will run for City Council instead.