TOM BUTT E-FORUM: Payback Time


Last night it was payback time, and the RPA-3, bolstered by a flip-flopping Vice-mayor Myrick, voted in the most rigorous form of rent control seen yet in the Bay Area. The measure will require a second reading on July 28, to actually become law. However, it will be retroactive to July 21, 2015.

Councilmember Jovanka Beckles set the tone of the action by declaring, “The light will shine on those greedy, selfish, arrogant landlords. Should they evict people to get back at the City, they will be seen for who they really are: evil."

I had assumed months ago that rent control was coming to Richmond, and although I have consistently opposed it, I was resigned to it. Vice-mayor Myrick had told me and others more than once that he would not support rent control but wanted some kind of measure to offer an opportunity for relief for renters whose rent had been raised unfairly. We heard what he was saying, but no one really trusted him to hang in there when the pressure was exerted. He has to run again in 2016, and the threat of an opponent from the RPA machine with backing from the Central Labor Council and other organizations was hanging heavily over him

A week ago, however, Vice-mayor Myrick informed me  and others that he would not support Option D (full rent control and just cause) but would support Option C (Mediation). I spent a lot of time researching the mediation ordinance in San Leandro, and unsure of what the City Staff version would look like, drafted my own version. Myrick contacted the press with his position on July 17, and the Contra Costa Times wrote, “It appears Richmond won't be joining the list of Bay Area cities that have enacted rent control after the swing City Council vote said Friday he would not support the proposal unless significant changes are made.

The presumption was that the RPA-3 would not blink and compromise, but they did.

On Tuesday, July 21, Myrick contacted me in the late afternoon to tell me that Gayle McLaughlin had agreed to changes and he would now be supporting Option D.

At that point, the testimony of 137 (less those who had left) speakers became irrelevant. The vote for Option D was a foregone conclusion.

As the 11:30 PM deadline approached, and after McLaughlin, Beckles and Martinez had spoken in support of the motion to approve Option D with various changes, McLaughlin moved to cut off debate, and Beckles seconded. Such a motion is not subject to debate. With minutes to spare , Option D passed without an opportunity for three Council members (Bates, Pimple and Butt) to speak on it at all.

Both McLaughlin and Beckles made it clear that this was payback for July 29, 2014, when a motion to end debate by Nat Bates during the Chevron Permit consideration was passed.

What actually happened on July 29, 2014, was as follows:

When public speakers concluded, McLaughlin spoke extensively on the item and asked many questions of staff. Bates then moved to adopt the staff recommendation.

McLaughlin made a substitute motion to uphold the Planning Commission recommendation. No City Council member, including the maker of the motion,  asked to speak on the motion, It failed.

Beckles moved to include $27 million for Doctors Medical Center. No City Council member, including the maker of the motion,  asked to speak on the motion, It failed.

McLaughlin moved to amend the original motion to include shore power. No City Council member, including the maker of the motion,  asked to speak on the motion, It failed.

Bates called for the question, and the motion passed. The vote was taken on the original motion, and it passed.

Although I am disappointed that rent control passed, I was prepared to live with it, even though it is a colossal mistake for Richmond. It is kind of like a lottery; every ticket purchaser (in this case, renter) sees themselves as a winner, although most renters will see no benefit, and as time goes on, the number of beneficiaries will dwindle as will the supply of low-rent units, while all other renters will be faced with rent increases that will exceed what they would have been without rent control. This is what has happened in San Francisco and other rent controlled cities.

What really peeved me was the arrogant and disrespectful way that the four Councilmembers shut off debate by the other three of us after they had their turn. They called it payback for July 29, 2014, but it was totally different. On July 29, 2014, no council member spoke on the item; they were all affected equally by the curtailment of debate. On July 21, 2015, supporters of the item had their turn then shut down the opponents. This is not the way to conduct a democracy.

Reposted from Mayor Tom Butt's "E-Forum"

Photo courtesy Richmond Confidential

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