Chevron’s community initiative sparks debate at council meeting

Elly Faden and several members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance protested Chevron's

Elly Faden and several members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance protested Chevron's "Community Rejuvenation Initiative" at Tuesday's city council meeting. (Photo by Mark Andrew Boyer)

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If the name of Chevron is attached to an issue, it can incite controversy on the Richmond City Council.

City Council member Jim Rogers introduced a proclamation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting recognizing the oil company for launching a $15.5 million community revitalization initiative funds economic development and education. The program, which was launched in October, will spend $10 million on economic development in poor Richmond neighborhoods. The company will also invest $5.5 million in local schools.

Members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance voiced their opposition to the proclamation, charging that the program is just the latest chapter in the company’s public relations campaign. Before Tuesday’s meeting, RPA members distributed “I Love Richmond” signs that showed an image of the August 2012 refinery fire on the back.

“I think Chevron needs to be reminded that there are people who are offended by its policies,” said RPA member Elly Faden, who along with a handful of others held up the anti-Chevron signs during the proclamation discussion.

Several community members suggested that Chevron is trying to buy goodwill so that its favored politicians will be elected next year. Rogers rejected that notion: “I think that we’re doing our community a disservice when we say that when they give us money, they’re buying the system.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, the community health director at Richmond’s RYSE Center delivered a presentation on the organization’s youth center’s Listening Campaign Share Out and gave city officials tips on how to support Richmond youth. The Share Out, which was held on Nov. 12, was a forum for young people to share experiences of trauma, violence, coping and healing.

“Young people are crying out to us and yet…. we still don’t hear it,” said Council member Jovanka Beckles who sponsored the agenda item.

“We need to figure out what we can do as a council for the young people in our city.”

The council passed a motion to direct staff to appoint a city representative to RYSE’s Listening Campaign Advisory Group.

The meeting was adjourned in memory of Richmond’s Fausto Delgado, a junior at El Cerrito High School. The 16-year-old died Nov. 12 after being hit by a train at the El Cerrito del Norte BART Station.

5 Comments

  1. Lest your readers get the wrong impression, there were people in the audience that were grateful for whatever bounty our community was given–no matter who it came from.

    I’m always amazed at the lack of respect frequently shown when some people think that because a gift is given–or because support is shown–that the recipient turns stupid and can’t see the truth that’s in front of them.

    We all know what Chevron is and we all know why Chevron is trying to help our this community. Does the RPA really think that their neighbors are so goofy that they will forget what they know about Chevron just because Chevron is giving back to this community? Pleeezze. Give the people some credit.

    And for the RC reporters: tell the whole story. Tell your readers that there was more than the RPA people in attendance and that there was a diversity of opinions on this gift. Otherwise you might come across as learning from the Fox News School of Journalism where you’re redefining “Fair and Balanced”.

    • JS

      Don, I’ve never quite understood your animosity towards the RPA. Also, do you think or care if you seem a little curmudgeonly in general?

      But, on a more serious note:

      It is always good when resources can make their way to where they will do some good in the community. What is not good is that anyone in a position of leadership (moral, civic, political, etc.) muddy the waters of the influence purchasing.

      Many of us could say that if Chevron or whoever were to give us money it would not buy away our independence. For some of us, that might even be true. The damage of this thinking is that it allows elected officials to brazenly sell influence. The damage is that it does in fact keep community leaders from speaking truth to power to the detriment of their constituents.

      When you put the Chevron logo on your walls and on your banners and your fliers their are powerful meanings attached to these that if nothing else perpetuate the greatest lie of all: the lie is that their is a person named Chevron and he has good will towards the people. Chevron is NOT a person. It is not good or evil. It is a legal construct that obliges the employees of the company to increase shareholder wealth. The type and amount of charitable giving is completely the result of a logical, calculated function of the attempt to increase profits. And, since Chevron’s reputation in the our community (or any other) it is unreasonable to believe that they purchase good will for any other reason than to influence the electoral politics of Richmond. As you have brought up many times, they profit much more greatly from a friendly council than one that owes them no allegiance.

      • Whatever my thoughts on the RPA may be, it’s rare that you’ll ever hear me voice those thoughts in public or see those thoughts in writing.

        What you may see are my thoughts about specific positions that the RPA may foment or about specific members of the RPA. Even then, what you’ll hear me speak about or see me write about will be actions or words that come from those specific persons.

        I disagree with many of the things that the hard line Republicans say and do but you don’t hear/see me ranting about the Republican Party—just the words or actions that come from members of that party.

        It’s wrong to take any of this personally—except, of course, when someone threatens to hurt or kill you, when someone rises to go on record and tell the world that you don’t have a right to exist and when your home and car are vandalized almost immediately after saying something that conflicts with the organization (Republicans and/or RPA). Even when these things happened to me, I never took it as the official position of the RPA—just the rabid actions of individuals who happened to embrace what the RPA believes in.

        When people read my comments online, I try to stick to the issues and avoid personal comments.

  2. kf

    Just want to add 2 things:
    1) Chevron (as Standard Oil Co.) was here before the town was, so no fair talking as though it’s an invasive alien.
    2) Since at least the 1950s to my personal knowledge, and probably long before that, the company has contributed various amounts of money and various programs to the community. Back then it was called enrichment, not corruption.

  3. Why is it that when Chevron supports a candidate for Mayor or for the Council it’s seen as the big bad corporation trying to buy the Council but when the card clubs do the exact same thing these same people stick their heads in the sand and ask “What card clubs?”

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