Tuesday’s City Council meeting was disappointing, to say the least. Once again, people from outside our community came into our city council meeting to speak on local issues. The worst part is that they were given preferential treatment by our mayor as usual.
The special City Council meeting included discussion of a possible extension of the Chevron Modernization Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) review period by an additional 45 days. This would double the overall time granted under law for review. It failed to gain approval from the Council, but not before several people, who are not residents of Richmond, stood up to urge approval of the extension - once again trying to influence the residents of Richmond. The DEIR was prepared by the City, and the City chose the experts that did the exhaustive research to make sure that it encompasses all the information needed to make a decision. The City Manager recommended that we not extend the review period, so that it can be heard before the recess of City Council in the month of August. If most of the City Council has to understand it, it could take years, as none are engineers, metallurgists, or refinery experts.
Members of the group Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) showed up – as usual – to denounce Chevron for no good reason. They claimed they discovered flaws in the DEIR, but were unable to actually identify any such flaws when pressed by the council members to do so. They insisted that Chevron is trying to pull a fast one; but where is the evidence? They have none. It is clear that they want more time to concoct more ridiculous claims against a company that has been a benevolent presence in the Richmond community over the years.
The CBE members know they can simply waltz into Richmond City Council meetings – even though most of them do not actually live in Richmond – and receive special treatment from certain council members, particularly the mayor and vice mayor. It is outrageous that the Richmond Progressive Alliance showers favoritism upon these out-of-towners.
I watched disheartened as the mayor waived the rules to give extra time during the public comment portion of the agenda item to a representative from CBE so that he could present more slides about toxic emissions. No one else is offered the time to present a PowerPoint. His time was up and yet the mayor said she was interested in what his last slide showed, so she gave him 150% of the total time allotted for any other members of the community who want to speak before the Council. However those of us who attend council meetings know better that to expect fair and democratic treatment by the mayor. She interrupts you if your opinion does not go along with hers and cannot keep from answering back that she doesn’t agree with you. She seems to have no self-control.
It is simply unfair and unconscionable that a company like Chevron, which has sponsored many events in our community, large and small neighborhood events as well and paid for many infrastructure improvements has to suffer because of the RPA agenda promoted by the mayor and her cohorts. If anyone is trying to “pull a fast one” on our community, it is CBE and their people. It seems that they don’t really want answers to their allegations, they just want to make accusations in the press and to the public, (hopefully to embarrass Chevron) so that anyone who doesn’t really know how they work, might believe that there is some basis for their claims. It is especially strange that CBE comes to our town and works with the RPA to sabotage the modernization project when even RPA figurehead Mike Parker has stood before the Richmond Planning Commission and declared that this DEIR is “an extremely good EIR.” Why do the RPA members on the Council still insist on siding with the CBE reps against Chevron when it is clear that Chevron is doing its best to be a good citizen of Richmond? The RPA members say in public that they want the project to go ahead, but they are working behind the scenes to see that it doesn’t have a chance.
Could the answer to that question be that a 45-day extension of the review period would push the final approval date for the modernization project to a time after the upcoming elections in Richmond? I’ll let you be the judge….