Richmond extortion of Chevron creates slush funds for more West County dysfunction

Representing a Countywide group I attended the City of Richmond City Council meetings on July 22 and July 29, regarding the approval of the Chevron Richmond Refinery Modernization project. The meeting reminded me of an old joke whose punchline is “we’ve already agreed you are a whore, we are just negotiating the price.”

richmond-city-councilUltimately, approval of the project was not about the safety of the refinery or the health of the workers and residents of the city. Those issues have been agreed upon and validated by environmental organizations such as the BAAQMD. When the project is completed more air pollution will come from the I-80 Freeway than the refinery.

Then why was the project stalled?

The contentious portion of the “deal” is the bribery payments that were demanded by the city and community groups and finally agreed to by Chevron. At the July 22nd meeting an attorney for the City presented a PowerPoint presentation showing the agreed upon framework for the City’s demands was in-place with the city’s extortion demand more than $300 million, in three categories.

The first two programs include

1) a “Direct Funding” program to fund scholarships, job training, free internet, Public Safety, a branding study, a community health center and a family justice center;

2) a second program, the “Community GHG Reduction Fund” would fund four climate change elements in the City, including Transportation, a Climate Action Plan, Urban Forestry, and roof-top solar, energy retrofits, a City of Richmond Ordinance update and “additional programs.”

These two programs were projected to exist for 10 years and cost Chevron $60 million. City Council members and community organizations complained that $60 million was not enough and demanded $90 million.

The remaining approximately $240 million in was in the form of an $8 million bribery slush fund (should be its actual name) provided annually to the city between 2015 and 2050 by Chevron, supposedly for “green jobs”, but actually for whatever the city wanted to do.

At the July 29th City of Richmond meeting the Council granted Chevron’s request for the modernization project. Before the session the city and Chevron agreed to the demand for the $90 million bribery fund. Gone was the demand for $8 million per year until 2050; added was the City of Richmond demand that Chevron fund Doctor’s hospital for $27 million. Ultimately, this demand was dropped by the city.

If one wants to see what will happen to the money “donated” by Chevron, one should look at Newark, New Jersey. In 2011, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the Newark school system. Other charities matched some of the Zuckerburg $100 million. Announced on the Oprah Winfrey show, Newark Democratic Mayor, Cory Booker, described how the funding would change the lives of thousands of low income students and families. He talked about education being the cornerstone of rising out of poverty to quality middle class jobs and lives.

It is now 2014. Cory Booker is a Senator from New Jersey (he was right, it changed his life). The entire $100 million from Zuckerburg and all the matching dollars have been spent. According to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker magazine, and other national news media, few, if any, dollars have found its way into a classroom. The money was spent on consultants, community organizations, a new school superintendent, employee (union) compensation, and attorneys; in other words, all the same people that will benefit in Richmond. Or, as Vivian Cox Fraser, the president of the Urban League of Essex County said when asked about the $100 million, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”

According to the Contra Costa Times, Chevron already pays approximately one-third of the taxes in the city and funds about $5 million annually in community grants for education and workforce development. Indeed, the City of Richmond already has the power to tax and the power to implement or increase fees for services performed.

The city’s demands of Chevron are neither, but can only be classified as extortion and a perfect example how the city and community groups have and continue to fail within the city.

Note well, as you read below all the programs that are already in-place; the Chevron “donations” will not change this failure; they will only enlarge it.

Let’s take a quick look at the breakdown of some of the significant funding agreed to by Chevron:

Guaranteed Payments: $5 million

Chevron agreed to $5 million in payments over five years to “help with the city’s $6 million budget deficit.”

Yeah, this will cut the budget deficit. California governments are known for immediately spending any windfall they receive.

There will be raises everywhere in City Hall, expenditures for every program will rise (the city council discussed one on the same July 29 meeting the Modernization plan was approved), city paid meals will appear at every meeting. The number of employees with car allowances will rise; departments will get dozens of new employees. Then in five years the money will be gone and the city’s deficit will be bigger than it is today.

For right now, however, “Joy to the World” is blaring from every room in City Hall.

Scholarship money for Richmond High school students: $35 Million

Chevron and the City will establish a non-profit foundation to run this program. The program will “guarantee the ability of Richmond residents to pursue higher education and secure meaningful employment, including pursuing careers in research and development, engineering, and renewable energy fields.”

I feel better about this program knowing that Chevron will be actively involved in it and, it appears, the funding will pay for hard science and business programs, not programs like sociology, women’s or ethnic studies or, in other words, jobs that qualify one to be a barista or sit in Starbuck’s and debate social justice issues.

Yea, STEM, education and training related to refinery operations and business programs. Want to bet how long it will take for this program to “pivot” and fund soft skills and wacko subjects? One year? Two?

Then again, the State already provides $1.2 billion in CalGrant scholarships annually for most high school graduates in California, and $500 million in middle Class grants. The federal government has multiple education grant programs and the U.C. system has several scholarship programs, the result being that U.C. students whose families make less than $80,000 per year pay no tuition or fees. The Community College system in California waives fees and tuition for 300,000+ students annually and 350,000 CSU students pay no fees or tuition.

One has to wonder why a separate Richmond program is necessary. Richmond residents will, in effect, be “tripling down” on education money.

Programs relating to skills, Job Training, and readiness, and Job transition training: $6 million

The city will fund “programs relating to skills, job training and readiness, and job transition training in the trades related to project construction, or operations, in technical and services fields that support the refinery and in the emerging field of renewable energy, as well as to promote local hiring.”

Funding will be allocated in amounts determined by the City and will fund apprenticeship programs in conjunction with various unions. Training includes, but is not limited to, carpentry, forms and concrete, hazardous materials, lead, asbestos, energy efficiency and solar installation.

The program will also fund a “Business Assistance and Capacity Building Program” (having a business degree and forty years in business, this term was unfamiliar to me. So I did a search and, sure enough, this moniker is new fuzzy term attributed to the United Nations, the National Council for Non-profits (and other non-productive groups), or to support existing business assistance and capacity building programs administered by other organizations.

The fund will also augment On The Job Training (OTJT) programs to provide wage subsidies for businesses that hire Richmond residents, fund Adult Education and Skill building programs such as RichmondWORKS and Literacy for Every Adult Program (LEAP) and fund expansion of the Youth Employment and Skill Building programs that “enhances the readiness of Richmond youth for employment in petro-chemical or renewable energy related fields.”

This bucket of money will also fund job transition training, target the “re-entry” population for employment and support entrepreneurship for youth, women and disadvantaged groups.

Whew. Sounds like every single living being in Richmond will be so busy transitioning, training and capacity building that no one will have time to work. Richmond will be a bee hive of activity, but employment will stay at the same level.

Public Safety Programs: $2 million

Richmond already, as pointed out by the Contra Costa Times, has twice as many policemen as other cities in the County of the same size. The Fire Department is, if not the highest paid fire department in the County, one of the highest paid, so it could be interesting to see where this money goes. Maybe to “transitioning”?

The pool of funds will also be used to pay for finishing the Family Justice Center.

Free Internet Access: $1 million

Sure. It would be un-Progressive to not include free internet access for someone.

Competitive Grant Program: $6 million over the first seven years

A full complement of programs to basically make up for the breakdown in families in our society and for the failure of the West Contra Costa school district. These programs include non-academic resources to the schools, and the implementation of the currently in vogue “Restorative Justice” practices within the schools.

The money will also fund summer camps and provide for “culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate” student and parent engagement and education in academic and career pathways (more transitioning).

The programs within the set of grants will be coordinated with the WCCUSD Local Control Accountability Plan (the Governor’s infusion of cash into low income schools) and the WCCUSD Strategic Plan. This funding will focus on building “a range of skills for infants, children and youth, including personal, academic and technical skills.” You can never be too young to be transitioning and pathwaying your way around the city of Richmond.

In other words, this set of programs used to be called PARENTS.

Finally, the money from these grants will be used to plan, build, and deliver care services by Community Health Centers and fund in-home community-based asthma prevention programs. This is otherwise known as the failure of ObamaCare.

Community Based Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs $30 million over ten years

With a few exceptions, these programs are basically enhancements to the city’s budget, proposed under politically correct names.

Electric City and EasyGo is a transportation program, funded with $18 of the $30 million that “may” (or not) include a “City bike sharing program, vehicle purchases by the city, charging stations for the city’s vehicles, electricity costs for the City’s vehicle fleet and to cover the city’s costs of converting to zero emission vehicles.”

This fund is also meant to “improve mobility” for Richmond residents through improvements in “walkability,” BART alternatives, public transit, reduced price transit passes, bike paths, bike share and shuttle service and to support the existing “EasyGo” program.

My favorite within the potpourri of items is to “promote shared use of specialty vacation vehicles such as SUVs.”
Then we have budget items of $1 million to help the city develop its Climate Action Plan, $2 million allocated to “Urban Forestry” (park improvements), $2,270,000 for “transportation and Transit Programs” which reads like the above Electric City and Easy Go.

Then there is $6,250,000 for “roof-top Solar, Energy retrofit, city of Richmond Zoning Ordinance update and “additional programs”. Although not clear, this looks like solar for city buildings (not resident homes and buildings) and a lot of new staff or consultant work to be doled out to re-write those pesky zoning ordinances.

Finally, and it is a big finally, Chevron “will provide” 60 acres of Chevron land adjacent to Richmond Parkway for the development of a utility-scale photovoltaic solar farm by Marin Clean Energy. The land is valued at $10 million and will be leased to MCE for $1 per year. MCE will then use its “best effort” to employ a labor force composed of minimally 50% Richmond residents.

Expect a bevy of new laws, ordinances, environmental and other regulations to be enacted to help this monster get become operational. I can only hope the news media will provide extensive coverage of every aspect of the project. My prayers go out to the Chevron folks who must be associated with the project.

Richmond in 2025

What will Richmond look like in ten years from all this funding and social justice program building. I am sure it is clear my vision is very different than the vision of the city council and Richmond community groups.

I see a community where a bribery slush fund intersecting with a poverty apprenticeship program will create total dysfunction, ten years of chaos and fighting, misallocation, and the disappearance of funds, the growth of dependency, and the decline of responsibility.

I have little faith (actually none) that government can teach self-reliance, self-respect, independence, industriousness, and entrepreneurship. Just as you cannot, for example, get someone out of the criminal justice system by putting them on probation, you can’t put someone in a massive entitlement world and expect positive self-supporting behavior.

I have begun thinking of all the programs listed in the agreement as a dream today, becoming nothing more than a nightmare in the future and a corrupting influence on the city and its budget. You do not want to be in Richmond when the teat of entitlement ends in ten years and “Raheem still can’t read.”

I have one final forecast and suggestion: unless prohibited, look for the Mayor, city council members and other city employees to go to work as lobbyists or employees in the groups they agree to fund, or as contractors for them. Instead, all should be required to sign agreements that they will not and cannot work for any group, sub-contractors, or suppliers to groups funded by the city under this agreement.

Ultimately, the Richmond-Chevron agreement is an ages old morality play with insanity, greed, folly, and corruption on full display.

If you are worried about the corrupting power of government, the growth of entitlements and wondering where American jobs have gone since the recession started, I urge you to follow this plan over the next ten years. I also encourage people to attend future Richmond City Council meetings to watch what will be gripping on-going sessions on this agreement.

Richmond’s extortion of Chevron may be one of the greatest examples of the insatiable greed, raw power, and incompetence of government exhibited in the country for years and the open viewing of the corrupt nature of the Progressive movement.

It is sad, but one hell of a show.

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