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Nat Bates and Mike Coyle

City Council praises refinery’s general manager but criticizes Chevron

on October 6, 2011

The City Council acknowledged Mike Coyle, the former general manager of Chevron’s Richmond refinery who recently was promoted to the company’s San Ramon headquarters, with a proclamation Tuesday night.

While many speakers from the community and council members spoke highly of Coyle’s character, some were extremely critical of Chevron as a company and its role in Richmond.

“He is a human being that puts a face to the corporation that is Chevron,” Councilmember Jovanka Beckles said after congratulating Coyle on his promotion.

A displeased crowd repeatedly mentioned Chevron’s property tax lawsuit against the city. Chevron disagrees with the assessor’s evaluation of the refinery property and has been in a legal battle for years to take its property taxes back from the city.

“There is somewhat of a contradiction to say that the corporation that you work for demonstrates a certain amount of caring for the city, money to nonprofits and to schools … and yet at the same time, demands back the very money that this corporation is doling out and plus some,” Beckles said.

After the meeting, Coyle said, “In our view, we want to pay our fair share of taxes, but they need to be something that is competitive with other local refineries.”

The lawsuit would bankrupt the city, Beckles said. She then listed the people, including fire and police personnel, who would need to be laid off if the lawsuit is successful.

Other community speakers mirrored Beckles’s sentiments. Tarnel Abbott of the Richmond Progressive Alliance pleaded with Coyle to “humanize the corporation” in his new role by hiring Richmond youth and dropping the property tax lawsuit.

But Councilmember Corky Booze said it was futile asking Coyle for favors.

“If you think for one minute that Mike Coyle can get Chevron USA to change anything that they are doing on the corporate level, you are kidding yourself,” Booze said. “You might as well join them dudes on the street trying to get a job, because it won’t happen.”

Other councilmembers said they did not see the proclamation honoring Coyle as the proper forum for a debate.

“There is going to be criticism of Chevron, and I have my criticism of Chevron and I don’t think tonight is the time to emphasize those criticisms,” Councilmember Jim Rogers said.

Rogers went on to applaud Coyle for his efforts to reach out to the Richmond community.

Other Richmond citizens stood up to also laud Coyle, including the National Brotherhood Alliance, which presented him an award of appreciation.

According to a study conducted by Chevron, the favorability of Chevron went from 38 percent when Coyle stepped into the general manager role to 54 percent in 2011.

The positive turn has been accomplished through transparency and accessibility, Booze said, as he reminded the City Council that Coyle had donated $100,000 to Richmond youth to get their GEDs.

The proclamation also noted that Chevron donated $9 million to Richmond community programs over the last 4 years, and $3.7 million in 2010, as reported by Chevron.

But even the donation numbers were met with cynicism. “They give crumbs in one hand and take away millions with the other,” Abbott said.


  1. Eduardo Martinez on October 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm
    It is not only a few of Richmond residents who are upset by Chevron.

  2. Don Gosney on October 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    It was embarrassing to see so many representatives of the Richmond Progressive Alliance rise to speak in such a negative manner when the City—with the RPA Mayor actually making the presentation—has chosen to honor someone.

    It shouldn’t matter what any of us might think about the company Mike Coyle works for—this was a time to honor the man. He was the REFINERY MANAGER—not the nefarious head of Chevron’s world-wide evil empire.

    Does anyone really believe that before making corporate decisions the Chevron CEO calls up Mike Coyle to ask his advice? Do they think that Mike Coyle has any influence over what happens in Ecuador? Do they think that he is even the one making the decisions over the property tax issues? What planet are these people living on?

    Had these naysayers chosen to speak during Public Forum it still would have been inappropriate but at least it wouldn’t have been the height of rudeness.

    With Mike Coyle’s friends, family and associates gathered around him to witness this presentation, the City of Richmond showed once again that there is little sincerity to their words. They couldn’t have been any more rude had they walked up to his daughter and spit in her face.

    Two long time members of the RPA sitting on the Council (and Dr. Ritterman was not one of them) even joined their compatriots in badmouthing Mr. Coyle. They will both rise to denounce what I’ve just written but the way they spoke, their tone, and the words they used made it clear that they were in league with the party line. They certainly said or did nothing to denounce the actions of their associates. One couched her words by suggesting that she didn’t really know Mr. Coyle yet she could make statements that suggested that she didn’t really approve of some of the actions his employer may have made. This begs the question: as a member of the Council, WHY didn’t you get to know him and if you really didn’t know that much, why open your mouth?

    These are the very same people who want to shout out to the world that THEY ARE RICHMOND and speak for all of us.

    The RPA regularly pulls stunts like this. The bad part is that they walk away feeling proud of their actions. Until they come to understand the meaning of “appropriateness” and “propriety” they will never feel any shame in their actions. And because no one stands up to them to tell them how wrong they are, they gather in their RPA meetings patting each other on the back congratulating themselves on the “good” deeds they’ve done. They embolden themselves with their actions.

    The message they send out on a regular basis, though, is that they are not people of honor, they’re not to be trusted and have no understanding of how to behave in polite society.

    In case you may think otherwise, Mr. Coyle, for the good things you have done for my community, I thank you.

  3. Michael on October 17, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Tell you what Don, I’ll apologize for being inappropriate, if you admit that what Chevron is doing is obscene.
    In case you may think otherwise, I spoke with Mr. Coyle afterwards and he understood perfectly well that nobody was “bashing” him at all.
    For all you and I know, Mike may have enjoyed this display of “rudeness” which you equate with a spit in the face of his daughter (you do have a way with hyperbole).
    If he is the good man that we believe than he knows the evil Chevron does around the world and here and may have relished hearing the respectfully spoken, difficult but true comments that he might then relay to his superiors (no spitting allowed). Maybe they’ll up their charity as they did when RPA began to challenge them to do better.
    I was told I couldn’t speak at Open Forum since my subject was on the agenda.
    Since I don’t know Mr. Coyle personally and he is leaving, when else would I address Chevron through him?
    But why do I feel that somehow you would never find a time you didn’t think was inappropriate?

    • Don Gosney on October 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm

      Actually, had you chose to speak about Chevron during Public Forum you would have been allowed since there was nothing on the agenda about Chevron.

      What was on the agenda was a presentation to Mr. Coyle and these comments were a mix of Chevron/Coyle comments making it difficult to understand where the line was drawn between the praise for Mr. Coyle and the damning of his employer.

      Since there was an agenda item about Mr. Coyle, public forum speeches could not be about him or the presentation.

      I feel that it’s usually inappropriate to use the Public Forum to crucify a PERSON–a forum where a speaker can say what they want and the target isn’t allowed to rise in defense. Do you really think that’s fair?

      I know how I felt last December when one of your associates rose, after a City presentation honoring the 16 years I had spent to clean up Point Molate, to say that I didn’t have a right to exist or another time when another of your associates accused me of having bribed a member of the City Council. Because I had not signed up to speak BEFORE the agenda item was called, I was not allowed to rise and defend myself. Was that an appropriate use of Public Forum?

      Rising to speak against Mr. Coyle’s employer is one thing but rising to speak about the City’s presentation honoring Mr. Coyle to castigate his employer was, in my opinion, inappropriate. Since so many of your associates use Public Forum to push their agenda against individuals, I’m guessing you don’t see the inappropriateness–but I could be wrong. I can’t recall hearing you speak against the actions of your friends.

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