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Letter to the editor: City Councilman Nat Bates

on February 27, 2012

A Note From the Editor: The letter contained below was submitted to by Richmond City Councilman Nat Bates. In the interest of fulfilling our role as a source for information and perspectives for the benefit of Richmond community members, we agreed to publish it. is always open to written submissions from the community, and its elected leaders, regarding matters of public importance.



I wish to apologize to the citizen of Richmond for my combative behavior with Mr. Jerome Smith during the past city council meeting on February 7, 2012.

What was intended to be a positive and collective direction by the city council to City Manager Bill Lindsay regarding an appreciation ceremony toward the University of California and other parties that contributed to Richmond being awarded the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), wound up being an ugly encounter.

I recognize the mayor has the ultimate responsibility in controlling the council meetings but when Mr. Smith, a Progressive Alliance member and close associate of the mayor, was allowed to read a sexual pornographic poem by Edward Estlin Cummings, “I like my body when it is with your”, I felt compelled to intervene because we have young children, senior citizen and others watching the council meetings that should not be subjected to this type of language that was totally inappropriate.

Failure by the mayor to intercede was my primary purpose in challenging Mr. Smith, which as most of you witnessed, became embarrassing. The city council, city manager and his staff along with various community groups worked diligently as a team in landing this outstanding project for the City of Richmond.

I had an opportunity to spend several minutes with UC officials prior to the press conference announcing the LBNL second campus to Richmond. I wish to share with the community some additional individuals and companies whose involvement few of us were aware of.  One such company was Global energy BP whose chairman Robert Malone announced (Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007) that it had selected the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to lead an unprecedented $500 million research effort to develop new sources of energy and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.

This was an important financial contribution that initially provided revenues for the project. Our own Chevron/Texaco USA, who meets on a regular basis with UC leaders on other related business, was also encouraging the City of Richmond site.

A project of this magnitude usually requires government financial support and Congressman George Miller, as always, was out in front from the start supporting the Richmond Site, as was the U.S. Department of Energy which will be working closely with LBNL.

Finally in speaking with UC Officials, most if not all indicate Richmond was by far the most impressive community in welcoming the second campus and we collectively should be proud of our accomplishments. It is now imperative and important that the city council, city staff and community work expediently to assure this project meet the EIR requirements so we can began to benefit with construction jobs and other employment opportunities for our community.  To that end as one councilmember, I am totally committed.

Nathaniel Bates,  Richmond City Councilman



  1. Felix Hunziker on February 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    I don’t think Councilman Bates needs to apologize for anything. Jerome’s poem was inappropriate and the Mayor should have shut him down just like she does her former ally Rev. Ken Davis.

    • Ellen Seskin on February 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      I think anytime one of our elected officials becomes “combative” in a public setting, an apology is in order. However, while I don’t necessarily consider the poem pornographic, I can see how some could be offended by it, and it has no relevance to either the LBNL or the city, and really shouldn’t have been read.

      • Felix Hunziker on February 28, 2012 at 6:47 am

        Ellen, my dear, have you seen the video from the Council meeting?

  2. Ginger Grant, Richmond mother on February 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    We home viewers of Richmond City Council meetings welcome Mr. Bates’ apology for his combative behavior toward residents who speak at the podium. I would gladly have my young daughter and my senior mother hear a poem by e.e. cummings. There is nothing pornographic about this renowned poet. Belligerance from an elected official is far more offensive.

  3. Betty Soskin on March 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    e.e. cummings is one of my favorite poets, however, I cannot imagine this particular poem being relevant to a council meeting. Mr. Smith might have chosen a more fitting audience and venue for this particular reading. Mr. Bates’ apology is appreciated, however, the environment of the city’s council meetings have become so toxic that it may go unheard until we reestablish a better climate in which to conduct them.

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