by Lynda Carson
On September 13, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, and Richmond City Councilmembers Nathaniel Bates and Vinay Pimplé blocked a proposed 45-day urgency moratorium on rent increases and no-cause evictions, that was proposed by Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, and supported by Councilmembers Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez and Jael Myrick.
Before Mayor Butt voted to block the proposed urgency moratorium on evictions and rent increases, he failed to disclose to the residents at the City Council meeting that he has been accepting political contributions from the California Apartment Association (CAA).
According to public records, on March 9, 2016, the California Apartment Association/Political Action Committee (CAA-PAC) gave $500 to Mayor Butt from its contributions account. Public records also reveal that on the same day CAA-PAC gave an additional $500 to Mayor Butt from its expenditures account.
In the run-up to the last Richmond City Council election, in November 2014, the CAA made even larger contributions to two other candidates: Nat Bates, who was running for mayor and lost to Tom Butt, but retained his City Council seat, and Corky Boozé, who lost his City Council seat.
Public records also reveal that on Oct. 10, 2014, the CAA-PAC donated $1,100 to Nat Bates for Mayor from its contributions account and another $1,100 from its expenditures account. On the same day, the CAA-PAC gave the Corky Boozé campaign $750 from its contributions account and an additional $750 from its expenditures account.
Aside from the contributions from the CAA, both Bates and Boozé were also heavily supported by Chevron, which ran Richmond as a “company town” until the 2014 progressive sweep. Chevron famously spent $3 million on the 2014 election and lost every race. And both men are running for City Council again in the November 2016 election.
The California Apartment Association is a wealthy organization representing the interests of landlords, not tenants. They have been meddling in the affairs of Richmond with big money to block renter protections from taking effect in 2015.
During that period, the CAA used signature gatherers that lied to the residents of Richmond to trick them into signing a petition that was used to block renter protections from going into effect. The signature gatherers misled many of the residents and told them the petition would strengthen renter protections. Presently, the City of Santa Rosa is hiring a special investigator to probe into voter fraud in a situation that appears very similar to what happened in Richmond in 2015.
Currently the California Apartment Association is running attack ads against the renter protection ballot measures in the cities of Richmond, Alameda, Mountain View, San Mateo and Burlingame.
The CAA attack ad against Measure L in Richmond uses lies and deceit by claiming that Measure L would require landlords to subsidize the renters. This is patently false. Measure L helps to stop the landlords from engaging in price gouging and blocks the landlords from engaging in the eviction-for-profit system. Measure L makes the landlords accountable for their actions when engaging in price gouging. If passed by voters in November, Measure L would help to stabilize families and communities in Richmond.
The CAA is using the same types of lies and deceit against other ballot measures in other Bay Area cities that offer renter protections.
At the Richmond City Council meeting on September 13, there were people literally begging the council members to vote for the urgency moratorium to save their families from unreasonable rent increases, evictions, and displacement from their homes and communities.
A day after this 45-day moratorium failed to pass, Councilwoman Gayle McLaughlin said, “I am troubled by the lack of humanity by some on our City Council. Even those who don’t support rent control should have had the decency to support the moratorium to stop these mass evictions in the interim period before the voters weigh-in on Measure L. I find this extremely disturbing and an affront to our democracy.”
Melvin Willis is running for a City Council seat in November with the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA). Willis said, “I am asking the council to support the moratorium because we have seen the news of what is happening at Creekview Condominiums, and more and more buildings are coming up where the tenants are claiming the evictions are hitting them, and they do not know where to go. It’s expensive, and people want to stay in Richmond. I am begging the council to pass this moratorium to protect the tenants they will be hearing from this evening.”
Richmond renter Jim Lynch said, “Well what do you know. The proposed 45-day moratorium on rent increases and evictions in Richmond was blocked by Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmembers Nathaniel Bates and Vinay Pimplé. Mayor Butt is a true friend to landlords by saying Trump-like things like ‘rent control is a lot like putting water on a grease fire.’ It’s going to take a lot more than our progressives on the council representing the interests of renters getting evicted and priced out of the poorest city in the Bay Area. We need more people like renter activists like Mike Parker of the RPA and Beyond Chron to get the voice of the people heard on this issue.”
People in Richmond had high hopes that the council would help them stay in their housing and communities, and were let down by the two council members who voted against the moratorium during their time of need, and a mayor who has been accepting political contributions from the California Apartment Association.
On September 17, in Jovanka’s Real Talk, Richmond Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles wrote: “My heart broke this past Tuesday night, September 13th. I became pained and angry as I watched centuries of oppression and injustices perpetrated against people of color and low-income people continue to be enacted. So much suffering could have been prevented had Mayor Butt and Councilmembers Bates and Pimple voted for the 45-day moratorium on no-cause evictions and rent increases above 3 percent.
“As Councilmember Myrick pointed out, this was not a radical measure. The Alameda City Council, also facing a rent control measure on the ballot this November, voted unanimously to pass such a moratorium to avoid the extreme hardships that many would face without it.”
The median price for a rental unit in Richmond has skyrocketed to $2,388 per month according to Zillow.
As part of the National Renters’ Day of Action, on September 22, thousands of renters rallied against rent increases and evictions in 46 cities or more, and demanded a freeze on all no-cause evictions and rent increases.
Renter protections will be on the ballot in six cities in November in the Bay Area. No matter how hard the landlords and the California Apartment Association are trying to stop the renters movement, tenant advocates across the Bay Area are urging renters to vote on strong renter protections during the upcoming November elections in the cities of Richmond, Oakland, Alameda, Burlingame, San Mateo, and Mountain View. Activists are urging people to vote “no” against any weak proposals placed on the ballot by the City Council in Alameda and Mountain View.
No one was available when I called Mayor Butt’s office seeking a comment.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org