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.
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