Richmond and Chevron Reach Agreement

Tom Butt
Monday, May 10, 2010
Negotiators for the city of Richmond and Chevron have reached an unprecedented agreement that settles several major tax issues. Chevron has agreed to pay millions of additional dollars to the city if the city will drop its appeal of Measure T and proposed changes in the Utility Users Tax. (See below for details.).The settlement goes to the city council next Tuesday where the Richmond Progressive Alliance expects and supports its adoption.

As in all settlement agreements, the city did not win everything it rightfully deserves. But we did win a substantial increase in financial support for the city from Chevron and we can move onto other issues that we need to deal with like crime, jobs, education, public health and the environment.

No one fought for this victory like the RPA. No one put the pressure on Chevron for fair taxation like we did. We receive this victory reaffirming our commitment to fairness, justice and health

for all Richmond residents and we expect our City to put a significant part of the income from this victory into programs our citizens need, determined by democratic process. Those were the goals of our succesful Measure T and of the End Chevron's Perks Campaign.

As Mayor Gayle McLaughlin says. "This agreement shows that the Richmond community can be successful in gaining more fairness when we stand strong and together. The people of Richmond organized and mobilized to pressure Chevron to do better. Chevron realized it could not defeat the people of Richmond. It gave in to many of our demands. Not everything we wanted, but this partial victory marks the beginning of a new phase in our ongoing struggle for a better, more just, and healthier Richmond."

This agreement does not resolve all issues with Chevron. Chevron has still not agreed to come to the table to resolve environmental protections on its expansion project and get workers back on the job on those projects.

We expect that the fifth-largest multi-national company whose bottom line is profits will be at odds with communities that its refining facilities dominate. Chevron is still attempting to get reductions in its county property tax. Chevron benefits from Proposition 13 loopholes for all corporations, and the failure of California to have an oil severance tax like other oil producing states.

Some of the lessons of recent events are:

It is possible to stand up against the power of a multi-national company. The additional money for vital city services comes in part from voters challenging Chevron's money, power,and public relations by passing measure T in 2008;

from the City Council's placing the End Chevron's Perk measure on the ballot for this fall; and from the community mobilization against Chevron's cynical plan to try to strangle the city with its own ballot measure to slash city income. It helped that the entire City Council on May 4th (Nat Bates was absent) strongly denounced Chevron's actions. Standing up and organizing makes the difference. It levels the playing field and makes possible settlements and outcomes that promote the community's wellbeing.

Councilman Jeff Ritterman:"This is a real advance for the City of Richmond. In the current economic downturn we have wonsignificant new financial support for the city, which will prevent layoffs of city workers. Itwill enable us to work harder on the many other problems that face us."

Jovanka Beckles, RPA endorsed candidate for City Council: "There is no power like the People's power! It does not quit. I'm proud of this step forward that we have achieved and even when I know that the road ahead is long today I am hopeful and joyful. How do we get justice for the Richmond residents? How do we change our City into paradise? One struggle, one victory at the time. I'm happy today with this progress"

Agreement Specifics:

The city had a negotiating team consisting of City Manager. Bill Lindsey; City Attorney, Randy Riddle; Finance Director, James Goins; and three council members Jeff Ritterman, Jim Rogers, and Tom Butt. They met with Chevron using professional mediation over a period of months.The agreement calls for Chevron to pay the city $114 million in revenue over the next 15 years on a "front-loaded" schedule. Chevron will guarantee its level of utility tax payments for the next 5 years. Chevron affirms certain CBA obligations like support for the Bay Trail and ground level air quality monitoring.Chevron agrees to drop its campaign for cutting the utility tax. The agreement calls for the city to drop its appeal of the Measure T decision, and withdraw the proposed End Chevron's Perks measure.