Richmond mayor: RPA contributed to Berkeley Global Campus suspension


By Richmond Mayor Tom Butt,

Chancellor Dirks broke the news last night that the Berkeley Global Campus project in Richmond has been suspended (project site pictured). With 73 days to go in this City Council election season, this shocking turn of events should become a cautionary tale about what might happen in Richmond if the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) wins even a single additional seat and takes full control of the City of Richmond.

The RPA and their allied organizations have made it a political priority to use the Richmond Global Campus project to shake down UC Berkeley like an almond tree, but it has finally backfired. In the e-forum I wrote on April 24, “The Ambush of UC Berkeley in Richmond,” I cautioned:

‘I don’t have any problem with a community benefits agreement, and in fact, I even voted for a City Council resolution supporting an eventual agreement, but I do not believe the tactics and misinformation being used by ACCE, CCISCO, AFSCME, the Haas Institute and others are appropriate or productive. The University of California is not Chevron, and it is not a profit-driven wealthy real estate developer. We have no regulatory power over the University of California, and they need no permits or entitlements from the City of Richmond. They are, like us, a public agency. Our relationship with the University calls for collaboration, not confrontation.

Richmond, with its sympathetic and super-progressive majority City Council is increasingly being used as a laboratory for social activists, many from outside Richmond, to use Richmond as a venue to implement initiatives they are unable to move forward elsewhere, even though the underlying justification may be much greater elsewhere.

Chancellor Dirks has been the most enthusiastic supporter of the Richmond Global Campus, and he hoped to have its establishment as a key accomplishment of his administration, but he is now a lame duck, and his support has been fatally eroded by events largely triggered by those who most would most benefit.

Earlier this year, the RPA and ACCE (both represented by City Council candidate Marvin Willis) railed against UC Berkeley, and by inference, Chancellor Dirks, in a rally preceding the fateful working group meeting. The RPA is unbelievably skilled in their ability to turn a positive into a negative. Note McLaughlin’s statement, “ Richmond… will not allow residents to suffer from the campus’s arrival.” Suffer from the campus’s arrival? Well, we won’t have to worry about suffering any more, as ACCE and the RPA have put us out of our prospective misery.

The new campus is “something that can literally make Richmond or break Richmond,” Willis said.

According to Willis, the only way to ensure that Richmond residents benefit from the campus is if the campus commits to community improvements that the Richmond Bay Community Working Group has approved. He said that UC Berkeley has responded only when community members unite and put pressure on decision makers.

Gayle McLaughlin, a Richmond City Council member and former Richmond mayor, said at the rally that Richmond is prepared to stand up for “what we believe in” and will not allow residents to suffer from the campus’s arrival.

“We welcome them, but we welcome them to do the right thing for our community,” McLaughlin said.”

Last year, the RPA, ACCE and others took their protests to the Chancellor’s residence, pounding on the front door and vandalizing property. The fence that was later completed to provide a measure of privacy for the chancellor when he is home became part of a rallying cry for his dismissal. “The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a security fence built around the chancellor’s campus residence had ballooned into a $700,000 project,”  story here. Also see:

The Global campus concept has been increasingly fragile as interest groups fight for pieces of the inadequate UC Budget. Students are angry about tuition increases. Staff and faculty want raises. ACCE and the RPA want housing, jobs and other benefits for Richmond. There wasn’t enough to go around, and guess who ended up on the short end? We did.

The problem with organizations like the RPA and ACCE is that they understand only one way of achieving objectives – protests and vitriol. In delicate situations like the Global Campus, collaboration and diplomacy would have been more effective than ham handedness. Instead of playing a major role in crippling Chancellor Dirks, they should have been among his most ardent supporters. Instead of pounding on his door in the middle of the night, they should have been singing his praises and giving him awards for his vision.

Surprisingly, the RPA has also let their principles obstruct other opportunities. When the $90 million Chevron Environmental and Community Benefits Agreement was being negotiated, the RPA refused to participate in negotiations with Chevron on principle and then voted against it. If they had controlled the City Council at that time, we would not have $90 million to fund the Richmond Promise and millions of dollars of environmental programs.

Opportunities for both UC Berkeley and Richmond remain at the Richmond Field Station, but if they are to be nurtured, they beg for collaboration and cooperation rather than conflict. We need City Council members who know how to get things done rather than attacking every opportunity as an enemy to be vanquished.

This post was originally published in Mayor Butt’s e-forum newsletter.


  1. Very well stated Mayor Butt. I seriously hope Richmond voters think long and hard whether or not they want a pack of extreme leftist ideologes running our city into the ground. I say that as a very liberal Democrat. I cannot believe any sensible person would continue to vote for the RPA if they even watch one City Council meeting. I say that as one who did vote RPA in the last election.
    I will NOT be making that mistake ever again.

  2. What idiocy. The project is suspended because Dirks is resigning for his sexual harassment scandals, after not being able to raise any money for the project. Butt is obviously doing everything he can to smear his political opponents.

  3. The idiocy is your own.
    Mayor Butt is only saying what any intelligent person already knows. The RPA doesn’t seem to need any help demonstrating their incompetence.

  4. Well actually it was students that held the action at Dirks’ residence. We would’ve welcomed RPA and ACCE, though I’m not sure they even knew about it beforehand. I also don’t appreciate the patronizing mischaracterization of our action. And clearly you don’t understand the issue around his “security fence” at all.

  5. Sounds like the mayor is upset with his friends. Let us not forget that Butt was in bed with the RPA for years, ran and was elected on their ticket and now he’s upset. Please, give me a break. Their incompetence has been on display since being elected and they all need to go (Butt, Mclaughlin, Martinez, Beckles, and Myrick) if Richmond is to ever recover from this mess and move in positive direction.

  6. Mayor Butt is easily the most qualified person there on the council, hands down. Anyone watching the meetings can see he has by far more practical experience and knowledge than all the RPA members combined. He is upset about losing what’s been called the biggest development in Richmond since the shipyards, and the RPA’s helping hand in doing so. What the Mayor is saying about how to go about achieving your objectives in this case is spot on. The RPA were making ridiculous and foolish demands before they even had any funding in place for the project. I’ve heard business people familiar with the matter say so privately themselves.
    The real problem in Richmonds leadership right now is the extremist ideologes in the RPA who like their right wing version, the Tea Party, are hamstrung by their ideologies to the extent that they cannot make the sensible compromises and common sense necessary for effective government.

  7. Why is this no surprise? I’m a new Richmond resident, I just moved here in 2001, and I’ve seen the RPA destroy existing opportunities and frighten away many businesses and government organizations from ever setting up shop here. I’ve personally heard McLaughlin say “Black citizens cannot do anything without our (Whites) help”; which is soft bigotry of lower expectations.
    The City of Richmond is chomping at the bit, ready to become the next “hot spot” in the Bay Area, but the RPA keeps holding it down. How they keep fooling people into electing them is anyone’s guess.

  8. Spot on Bill. I suspect a lot of people who are reasonable liberal Democrats hear the word progressive and fill in the bubble without actually paying much attention to local politics. I know that described me the last election. And I think many just voted against Chevron insulting ad campaign last time as well. Hopefully by now many have awoken to the fact that the RPA though well meaning people perhaps, are an extreme left wing organization of ideologes who are by any reasonable measure too far to the left of common sense.

  9. So true that the RPA has only one tactic, like back in June when they terrorized an 82 year old woman in her own home and demanded she forgo her legal rights and immediately give in to their demands. Their members then refused to apologize and even denied it even happened. I suspect they will respond the same way to this disaster as well.

  10. Insightful diagnosis of the use of “Progressive” as a obfuscatory description. Frankly, from what I have observed, “Progressive” is a term for a fascist, authoritarian, totalitarian form of Left Of Center politics. A real “ends justify the means” ideology. I much prefer Liberals over “Progressives”, and wish they would take back the DNC.

  11. From the East Bay Times;
    “Reuben Lizardo, a spokesman for the Berkeley Global Campus, said he understood concerns about fair pay and using union labor but said the University of California already had many similar provisions in place, including a plan to pay even the lowest-skilled workers $15 an hour and use local workers. And he agreed with the mayor that negative comments about the project, including fears that it would hasten gentrification, had made it more difficult for the university to pursue this project.

    “When you have a lot of negative press about folks who are saying the project will have a negative impact, it sends a mixed message to potential investors and gives pause to any university interested in partnering with us,” Lizardo said.”

  12. RPA and surrogates created such a hostile environment for business in Richmond that is very doubtful that anybody would be interested in new developments in Richmond from now on.
    And God forbid, if even one of their candidates (Willis, Choi) is elected to City Council they will have majority on the City Council.
    If rent control Measure passes in this environment, Richmond could be assured of no new residential developments any time soon. And rents for everyone in uncontrolled units (over 50% in Richmond) will go through the roof due to subsequent housing shortages.

  13. It’s like Bizarro World, where “gentrification” is somehow a BAD thing! Why would anyone WANT to keep Richmond’s reputation as a crime-ridden, poverty-stricken, nightmare of a place to live and raise a family?! The only people that think this is “cool” are exactly the kind of people we can do without.

  14. Bill, the answer is simple. Gentrification is a BAD thing because it erodes the RPA electorate base, therefore threatens their grip on power.
    This is the ONLY thing they care about.

  15. The RPA is the worst thing to happen to Richmond since the downtown riots of the late 60’s that killed any chance of the redevelopement succeding. Now we have the RPA killing off the biggest development in Richmond since the shipyards of WW2. The Mayor is so right about this. We should have embraced this opportunity with wide open arms instead of taking up arms. What a shame.

  16. Richmond Resident; The mindset that sees hand-outs as a perfectly acceptable form of income could not bear to see all this money being spent without demanding some for themselves. Offering nothing in return, of course. The people with this mindset also think it’s perfectly fine to get grants, loans, and other hand-outs in order to pay the City Budget, and prefer that over getting revenues via bringing in businesses.

    As others have opined, until Richmond politics is purged of this so-called “Progressive Alliance” gang, the City has little to no chance of becoming self-sufficient or increasing the standard of living for Richmond residents.

  17. How do we get rid of RPA!?! I’m so sad that the Richmond global campus project has stopped. Richmond needs more business and definitely more funding. The RPA’s requests are stupid. Why don’t they focus on cleaning up the streets and the communities before asking for things that don’t exist? Having the campus around will attract more businesses and will help the city. Yes gentrification will eventually happen one way or the other once the city becomes a safer place. I don’t think it is a bad thing at all, it pushes people to work harder and to take care of their properties. If you look at the nicer neighborhoods, it is clean and well maintained. The poor neighborhoods are always dirty… What does that say? If gentrification doesn’t happen, this city will never clean itself up!

  18. First thing is to make sure no more RPA candidates get elected to the City Council. A RPA majority will certainly be a disaster for Richmond and will be a major disincentive for business and investment in our community.
    Then we can vote out the rest when their terms are up.
    I’m voting for Bates, Pimple, and newcomer Cesar Zepeda for City Council this election.
    I think Mr Zepeda has a lot of positive energy and could do much to bring the city together again after all the divisiveness and negativity brought about by the RPA.

  19. I always thought the left was supposed to be about loving one another. I still do. So I don’t think the RPA comes even close being idealistic or left leaning, let alone progressive. It’s a shame. I will consider my vote(s) carefully!

  20. Amy, Progressive is not the same as Liberal. For interesting reading, you should look into the history of the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century, and thus the origins of the current Progressive movement. I always found it shocking that any group would purposely tie itself, even just by name, to “Progressivism”, and even more shocking that others would accept that and join in! Liberals are different in that they are FOR Free Speech and AGAINST Authoritarianism.