Mayor Tom Butt slams commentary on Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay

UC Berkeley chancellor pens open letter to Richmond community on Berkeley Global Campus

by Mayor Tom Butt,

The Guest Commentary on May 17, 2015, “How Richmond could become Baltimore or not,” by Alice Huffman (see commentary in Contra Costa Times here) is grossly and embarrassingly inaccurate and is a disservice to both the City of Richmond and UC Berkeley. Trying to make a case that Richmond will be the next Baltimore unless a Community Benefits Agreement is executed right now with UC Berkeley for the proposed Berkeley Global Campus is outrageous.

Her attempts to compare Richmond to Baltimore are factually inaccurate. Baltimore unemployment is 8.4% while Richmond’s is 5.4%, lower than both the national average and the California average. In 2014, Richmond had its lowest homicide rate in 33 years while  Baltimore had the fifth-highest murder rate last year among major U.S. cities — 37.4 per 100,000 people, according FBI statistics.

She goes on to characterize the Global Campus as a “Richmond … development project,” when in fact it is a UC Berkeley project. She writes that UC Berkeley has “asked for $100 million in investment from local taxpayers,” which has no basis in fact.

Finally, Huffman criticizes a “handpicked … so called ‘working group’ to pay lip service to the community’s demands, without offering any concrete commitments.” The Working Group she inaccurately describes consists of 21 people, seventeen of whom represent Richmond and/or West Contra Costa County. All are recognized and credible community leaders. Only four seats on the Working Group are affiliated with UC Berkeley.

Working Group members representing the community are as follows:

  • City of Richmond (1 seat): Bill Lindsay, City Manager
  • Community-based Non-profit Organizations engaged in Education, Workforce Training, Business Development, Economic Development (4 seats): Amanda Elliott, Executive Director, Richmond Main Street; Joel Mackey, Executive Director, West Contra Costa Education Fund; Jane Fishberg, Executive Director, Rubicon; Tamisha Walker, Community Organizer, Safe Return Project
  • Faith-based Organizations (1 seat): Cristina Hernandez, Executive Director, Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO)
  • Business (2 seats): Joshua Genser, business owner, member of Richmond Chamber of Commerce and Council of Industries; Richmond Chamber of Commerce: Kyra Worthy, CEO of 4 Richmond.
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District (1 seat): Marcus Walton, Director, Communications, WCCUSD
  • Contra Costa College (1 seat): Tammeil Gilkerson, Vice-president of Academic and Student Affairs, CCC
  • Youth (2 seats): Currently being recruited
  • Philanthropy (2 seats): Jim Becker, President and CEO, Richmond Community Foundation; Diane Aranda, Program manager, The California Endowment
  • Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council (1 seat): Donald Woodrow, President, Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council
  • Labor (2 seats): Margaret Hanlon, Executive Director, Contra Costa Labor Council, AFL-CIO: Greg Feere, CEO and Vice-president, Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council (Alternate – Aram Hodess)

Richmond is no Baltimore for many reasons, including the fact that Richmond’s police department has received nationwide recognition for community relations and minimal violent outcomes.

The Working Group has been meeting for only a few months, and any tangible development of the Global Campus is still years off. Currently, there is no funding, and no buildings have been designed — much less under construction. There are no employees and no scramble to displace Richmond residents.

Huffman’s commentary is part of a series of demonstrations and editorial attempts to hijack a worthy project that will bring much to Richmond by groups with unrelated agendas, including AFCSME, which has labor issues with UC Berkeley, and ACCE, which is pushing rent control in Richmond.

We need to focus on making the Global Campus a reality, not on using it as a political football. A Community benefits Agreement may well be an outcome, but it is premature to force the issue right now.

In fact, the Minutes of the April 23, 2015, Working Group meeting state:

In response the question: “Will UC Berkeley enter into legally binding agreements?” The answer is YES. As indicated throughout the life of the Working Group and stated clearly in the Joint Letter of Commitment to Strengthen Community Partnerships Between UCB, LBNL, and the Richmond Community, signed by Chancellor Dirks and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab on April 22, 2014.