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Richmond, CA 94805

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State of the City Address – 2012
Message from Mayor McLaughlin
January 30, 2012


2011 was a dynamic year in the City of Richmond and we moved forward in so many ways! Whether it be in the realm of economics, social and recreation programs, community mobilizing, infrastructure development, environmental initiatives or new capital projects, we have made remarkable progress.

As always, it’s important we analyze the state of our city in terms of our successes and, of course, in terms of our ongoing challenges. It is also important that we analyze our city challenges in the context of the overall challenges faced by the state, the nation and the global community. Throughout this state of the city address, I will focus on the many positive steps we have taken throughout the year which have profoundly moved us along in our journey to revitalize and transform our city. I will share also the areas of ongoing concern .

Crime and Violence Prevention

Violence Prevention continues to be our highest priority and we continued on our downward trend of reducing violence throughout 2011.

Violent crime in Richmond decreased 14% compared to 2010. Some of the biggest decreases involved reductions in Armed Robberies and Carjackings.

It is very good news that efforts to reduce stolen vehicles, including the use of License Plate Readers (LPRs) – a proposal I brought to the City Council in 2007 – have been successful. Thanks to this technology, along with an intense public education campaign, and other efforts, stolen cars have been reduced for the first time in several years (- 13%).

Although we ended the year with an increase of 5 homicides over 2010, we have not gone back to higher numbers of homicides as witnessed in years prior. As we all know, one homicide and one shooting is a tragedy beyond words. Let us always remember that these statistics represent real human lives and people loved, and mourned, by many.

My office continues to participate in Frontline Richmond’s Wreath laying vigils for homicide victims. Healing is part of the human process, without which anger and pain only continue to fester.

So while the violent crime in our city overall is down, we must continue all efforts and work on more efforts to bring about the kind of peace and well-being that every resident of Richmond deserves. With a new state law enforcement realignment, even more burden falls on us locally to provide solutions. Toward that end, we have many new projects in process that represent a collective effort by community, police, and Office of Neighborhood (ONS) staff. Project Ceasefire (organized primarily by our faith-based community with the support of the police department) is one of these innovative programs. Ceasefire is a four-pronged program, relying on night walks, rapid responses, small group meetings and call-ins, the latter of which serves as an intervention for young people at risk.

The purpose of the call-in is to have serious conversations with the persons in our community who are most likely to be the perpetrators or the victims of gun violence. It’s about helping them stay away from violence and also letting them know that the crime they’re committing in our communities will not be tolerated.

The Safe Return Project is a participatory research and action initiative led by a group of formerly incarcerated Richmond residents carrying out research, community organizing, and policy advocacy to improve reintegration after incarceration. In partnership with Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO) and the Richmond Office of Neighborhood Safety, the Pacific Institute has led trainings and planning meetings for Community Researchers, ten of whom have planned and carried out primary research in an effort to improve service provision and employment opportunities in the Richmond community.

Thanks to the advocacy of community groups, such as Project Safe Return and CCISCO, we have "Banned the Box" on City employment applications so that applicants no longer have to check a box stating whether they have ever been convicted of a crime, thus providing real second chances and setting an example for private employers.

The key to moving in a peaceful direction is people reaching out to one another, and that is indeed what the many community groups in Richmond did in 2011 and continue doing in 2012.

Public Works, Engineering and City Development Projects

Phenomenal work was done by our Public Works and Engineering Departments, and many City Development and Capital Improvement projects were completed. Even with reduced staffing levels, due to early retirements, we have accomplished so much.

Some of the completed City development projects are listed below:

Nevin Avenue Bicycle Linkages and Pedestrian Improvements

Prominent Bay Trail Improvements and Construction

Historic Downtown Carquinez Building rehabilitation, providing 36 affordable apartments for very low-income seniors

Lillie Mae Jones Plaza Affordable Housing Project completion on lower Macdonald in the Iron Triangle

Winters Building Renovation in our beautiful re-emerging downtown Martin Luther King Park renovation (phase 1) and the Maritime Center were completed as part of the Nystrom Urban Re-Vitalization Effort on the south side of Richmond

Ongoing development projects include the BART garage and Ford Building Oil House, which includes improvements for the Rosie the Riveter Visitor and Education Center.

In terms of infrastructure development, we also continue to see progress.

After a long period of construction, Carlson Avenue is finally completed!! With the exception of some additional landscaping needed, this wonderful and complex project is finalized bringing forth a safer and smoother road experience for all!

Some examples of our public works accomplishments include paving 15,000 tons of asphalt in various street maintenance efforts, working on the renovation of Elm Play lot, improvements to sports fields in North Richmond, Shields-Reid, Booker T. Anderson and MLK field, enhanced maintenance of Community Centers, and planting 750 trees throughout the City.

A special kudos to our Public Works staff for replacement of the Civic Center Marquee, which now electronically highlights so many of our wonderful activities in the City of Richmond.

Our Pavement Rehab Program was extremely successful this year in completing 23.5 lane miles of pavement overlay….thank you to Engineering and Public Works for this accomplishment!

Our Engineering staff made great strides with our Sewer Pipeline Rehab Program, Sidewalk & Curb Ramp Program, and Stormwater Improvement, as well as Railroad Crossing Improvements, with 2 quiet zones established (one at S. 2nd St. and another at S. 3rd St.). Engineering also completed the Park Plaza Series Streetlight Conversion which replaced 79 antiquated series streetlights with LED lighting that is 4 times brighter with lower power consumption and energy cost savings.

Kudos also to our Engineering Dept. for utilizing the reclamation technology and other recycling practices in their projects, such as the state-of-the-art track at MLK Jr. Park made of recycled tires.

Economic Development and Jobs

Richmond saw 330 new businesses started in 2011 which generated 551 jobs.

An example of one of these new businesses is Restaurante La Revolución Latin Fusion Bar & Grill that started operating at the end of last year in the Hilltop area.

To add to our transformation underfoot already in Richmond, we just got word that Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has chosen Richmond for its 2nd campus! It’s exciting to have this opportunity coming forth that offers us much-needed construction jobs as well as positive research and development for a green and healthier planet. A healthier and safer planet means that collaboration is necessary, including looking at all areas of research to come up with the safest and most viable 21st Century solutions. We look forward to working with LBNL to provide opportunities for our residents to learn, grow and benefit both educationally and in terms of career pathways. Richmond held an event earlier last year with community coming together to show support and encouragement to LBNL to “choose Richmond.” I guess they heard us loud and clear!

As a follow up to my 2010 trip to Mondragon, Spain (which has spurred 120 worker-owned cooperatives and has created 100,000 jobs over 50 years of operation), this past year marked the beginning of the City of Richmond’s efforts to promote and move forward Richmond worker-owned cooperatives. This style of economic development has a three-pronged benefit. Worker co-ops are 1. a source of job creation, 2. a source of local wealth-building, and 3. a source of workplace democracy.

Our first worker co-op has emerged in Richmond: The Liberty Ship Café. This is a food vendor that offers healthy food at reasonable prices and is operating currently every Friday at the Richmond Farmer’s Market. The Richmond Solar for All co-operative (a co-op of solar installers trained by Solar Richmond) is in the process of formation, as well as a bike co-op emerging from the efforts of our first Richmond Bicycle Shop – Richmond Spokes.

These co-ops are coming into fruition thanks first and foremost to the individuals involved in the co-op itself, but also with much promotion and advice from my office and Terry Baird, the co-operative consultant, we hired last summer. We are very excited to be encouraging and promoting the current co-ops underway and many others that are in the exploratory stage.

In addition, the Richmond Port added another component of automobile warehousing by contracting with Subaru. We are happy to have our Port operating in this capacity. Currently, we are pursuing opportunities to renovate the historic buildings at the Port, and ideas for an Arts Center at the Port are being explored. Our Port has the potential to attract visitors in great numbers by way of how we showcase both our history and demonstrate creatively our yearning for a just and equitable future.

We must keep in mind that federal funding has shrunk considerably for some of our job programs. For example, our Summer Youth Employment Program went down to 291, but measured on a per capita basis we’re still the largest community supported program in the state, and among the largest in the country!

RichmondBUILD and YouthBUILD, of course, continue to be star programs in the City as we train and steer our residents toward jobs in the new green economy, having graduated our 16th RichmondBUILD Green Academy cohort in 2011.

As the City Manager noted in one of his weekly reports late last year, a new innovative business -- Ekso Bionics – will soon be moving to Richmond. Ekso Bionics is a pioneer in the field of exoskeletons creating solutions for people looking to augment mobility and rethink current physical limitations. They were named by San Francisco Business Times as number 24 of the “Fastest Growing Bay Area Private Companies of 2011,” and by Time Magazine as “One of the 50 Best Innovations in 2010.”

As we have said to LBNL, we say to all innovative companies: “Welcome to the innovative City of Richmond!”


While the City of Richmond gave 3 million dollars to the WCCUSD, we are highly aware that state funding for education is sorely lacking and the essential education of our young people is at risk. As a City, we continue to provide support whenever and however we can.

We were able to find grant funding with matching city funds to keep in place a wonderful Academic Program that served 85 in-school youth last year. A service learning component to the Academic Program was added and young people will be partnering with the National Park Service for an event on the Greenway in the Spring where the program participants will plant a large number of fruit trees.

Our stellar LEAP program with its excellent staff, instructors and volunteers continues to provide intense learning opportunities through literacy instruction and preparation for acquiring GED certification, and LEAP graduates are rising to the challenge. I am always overwhelmed with joy as I see more and more of our residents gaining self-confidence and recognizing that they have within them the great capacity to educationally succeed.

We also recognize the importance of Adult Education and the efforts of great groups like COSAS (Communities Organized to Support Adult Education) have led the rallying cry for saving adult education, expressing over and over again the necessity of adult education, highlighting the importance of essential classes such as ESL that are desperately needed so that adults they can lift themselves and their families up out of despairing situations.

Environmental Initiatives

We have furthered our health and environmental initiatives throughout the year in many ways. For example, we held a West County Energy Workshop, in which we launched the Richmond Recovery Solar Rebate (R3) program, which offers solar and energy efficiency rebates to homeowners, and provides jobs for local graduates of our green job training academy. We also held a Climate Action Plan workshop and a community meeting discussing the benefits of a Community Choice Aggregation Program. In addition to all this, we held a Federal Interagency meeting in the City of Richmond focused on Environmental Justice.

In conjunction with our green efforts, we are improving our community health, education, and overall well-being. Our Health and Wellness activities continue to improve key neighborhoods in the city which are needing immediate improvements such as our historic Iron Triangle and North Richmond.

The City Council approved our Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan which is now getting further input from neighborhoods on its implementation. We want to continue to showcase Richmond as a livable, bikeable, walkable city that encourages people to get out of their cars - we can enjoy the outdoors and simultaneously create a healthier planet by reducing the number of cars on the road! We also launched our free Richmond Shuttle in 2011 and have just kicked off our “Easy Go Richmond” project which is providing opportunities for car-sharing, bike sharing, and electric and hybrid vehicle usage, as well as discounted public transportation passes.

Groundwork Richmond continues to promote and work on various environmental health and urban renewal projects, such as creek cleanups, urban forests, community gardens, and blight removal.

Community groups have helped us beautify our neighborhoods and promote a healthier Richmond with the planting of new trees and growing of community gardens, and we held our first Urban Agriculture Summit, which has led to the creation of a Richmond Food Policy Council to explore ways of accessing healthier food for our community.

One effort toward making available more accessible healthy food is the work being done on a Healthy Vendors Ordinance which will address economic development, location, design, compatibility, public health and safety, permitting and enforcement and healthy food vendor incentives.

Other environmental and health initiatives included our 2011 MLK Day on the Greenway, our Compost Giveaway in April, Bike to Work Day events, the Lincoln Elementary Bike Fiesta, our City staff Nutrition Forum, our Arbor Day celebration, and our ongoing Green Tours for students educating them on the many green projects in place in the City of Richmond.

I want to thank our Environmental Initiatives Team for their tireless work throughout this past year helping us break new ground in the City of Richmond.


Our values continue to lead the way in how we move the city forward. Social, environmental and economic justice must continue to be our compass. With our values and commitment to the people of Richmond in our vision, we have passed many cutting edge resolutions that make powerful statements about the issues of our times such as:

  • Opposing corporate personhood
  • Supporting the Precautionary Principle
  • Demanding that EPA enforce the Clean Air Act
  • Showing solidarity with the public workers in Wisconsin
  • Looking into disinvestment from banks that pay no taxes
  • Calling on Chevron to drop its property tax appeal

Community empowerment

As always, the real way to success in Richmond is through the community.

One of the most amazing community-driven efforts that occurred early in 2011 was the rejection of the casino for Pt. Molate. The City Council voted to discontinue the casino as an option for Pt. Molate last April, as was the desire of the majority of Richmond voters who made their opposition clear in a 2010 advisory ballot measure. Thank you to all who displayed unbelievable vigilance in saying “Richmond can do better than a casino” for Pt. Molate throughout this six-year debate. And I might add that this struggle gives further credence to the brilliant words of Frederick Douglass who said: “No Progress without Struggle.” We struggled, we prevailed, and now we have a Community Advisory Committee set up to review and make recommendations on a better future for Pt. Molate.

But there were many other community empowerment efforts afoot throughout 2011 as well.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) has worked non-stop through their rallies, forums, neighborhood tours and meetings, highlighting the impact on our community of the housing crisis brought on by the banking establishment.

Organizing work around youth sports, activities, and education have taken a big step forward this year. Our youth, with adult mentors, have shown that yes, they can advocate on their own behalf for more sports fields and more education and youth activities. We need this to continue. New community groups like the SAFE (Safe Athletic Fields for Education) Coalition and Richmond Pulse (a new youth-run newspaper focused on positive happenings in Richmond) have emerged on the scene with the determination of “getting things done.” I’m thrilled that my office has worked with these groups to help them move their efforts forward and we will continue to do so. We continue to work also with the RYSE Center as we explore concrete ways to make sure the City sets the highest priority for youth needs in every decision made, including and especially funding decisions.

Immigration support

We value all our residents in Richmond, including our immigrant population, which too often suffers from injustices based on flawed state and national policies. Through a unanimous approval of a Municipal ID for all Richmond residents, the City Council displayed unity in our understanding of the importance of providing services and protection to all people in our city, including those who lack other forms of identification, such as our immigrant and homeless communities.

My office works closely with immigrant rights groups and just causes like providing solidarity and support for the workers who were terminated from their jobs at Pacific Steel Foundry due to I-9 audits (often called silent ICE raids). All our working class families in Richmond deserve their rights protected, including their right to a decent job and opportunities to provide a quality life for their families.

Arts/Culture/Festivals/Special events

Arts and culture continue to thrive in Richmond. Festivals and events are a reflection of our diversity and our outlook as a community and we had a flowering of such activities last year. In addition to some of our now long-standing festivals such as Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth, the Homefront Festival, National Night Out, and the North Shoreline festival, we had the joy of experiencing our 2nd Annual Native American Pow-Wow last summer. Please note that we also began a tradition last November of honoring Native American Heritage Month in the City of Richmond to show our appreciation and respect for those who were the first inhabitants of this land that so many of us call home today.

Other new traditions, including the North Richmond Blues Festival and the North Richmond Green Festival, have continued to build community spirit and empowerment throughout North Richmond, while showcasing local talent. And our downtown Music on the Main concerts and Pt Richmond’s various music and arts festivals, have shown that we have no shortage of talent in the City of Richmond!

We are now also becoming known for our summits and conferences. Last year we held our 1st Urban Agriculture Summit, our 2nd Annual Homelessness Conference, the Youth Stopping Violence Summit, the Northern California Summit on Children and Youth, and the 2nd Annual Economic Summit Conference.

I am most proud of the continued success by my office and the community in organizing our International Women’s Day event. Last year was our 4th Annual Sisters in Solidarity event which brought together more women than ever, who demonstrate by their solidarity the kind of Richmond that we are becoming! Based on networking and discussion at the last two Women’s Day events, four community groups (Neighborhood House of North Richmond, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Black Women Organized for Political Action and The Latina Center) partnered to establish the Building Bridges Between Black and Brown Communities Dialogues. We recently honored their dedication to building unity and strengthening interracial and interethnic solidarity with the Richmond Martin Luther King Jr. Community Leadership and Service Award.

Our Arts Division continues to work with commissioners and committee members to highlight and promote beauty, truth and justice throughout Richmond, working especially closely with the talents of our young people through poetry and essay contests, as well as neighborhood arts projects.

Public arts murals took center stage in Richmond in 2011 as we rallied to support the young artists of Gompers High School, supporting their rights to free and creative expression.

As icing on the cake, in October of 2011, the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts held a month-long series of community events to celebrate the re-opening of the historic Winters Building. Among all the extraordinary events was an international performance of the Cuban Children’s Theater group - La Colmentia – who gave an outstanding, enriching, and educational performance. It was exciting to help cultivate artistic connections between our East Bay Center youth and the Cuban youth.

Another empowering launch in 2011 was the start-up of Richmond’s very own professional basketball team, the Richmond Rockets. Not only do the Rockets inspire us on the court, but they are mentoring our youth and encouraging them to reach high in all areas of their lives.


Last year brought us some deep and painful losses as well. We lost a great man and community leader whose heart was ever fixated on making Richmond a better and more beautiful community place to live, work and play . That man was Fred Jackson. We all knew and loved Fred for his boundless spirit, creativity, and endless energy. The many contributions of this larger-than-life community activist, singer/songwriter, author, and mobilizer of the Richmond and North Richmond community will never be forgotten!

We also lost another dearly loved member of our City family, and that person was Demitrea Foster. Demitrea was a long-time city employee in the Employment and Training Department providing that department and all city departments with the kind of dedication and love of her work that spilled over onto everyone around her. Losing Demitrea was a big loss to us all, but her depth of spirit lives on in all of us who were touched and inspired by her constant dedication to creating more opportunities for our residents, especially our youth.

Of course, we mourn the lives of all those we lost to violence this past year, knowing we must continue to address the roots of this violence which lies in the injustices of a society riddled with inequities and injustices that impacts urban communities like Richmond in a profound way.

Occupy Movement

In the midst of Richmond’s transformation, a new movement that extends way beyond Richmond was born in 2011. The Occupy Wall Street movement has burst onto the scene, calling for an end to corporate domination all over the globe. We, in Richmond, are part of this movement and have everything to gain from it.

We continue to be a city that has an ever-growing disproportionate number of our residents living at or below the poverty level, while at the same time, we have a multi-billion dollar oil corporation, whose 2011 profits were $26.9 billion (a 41 percent increase over 2010), operating their refinery in our backyard. We continue to call on Chevron to drop its property tax refund appeal of approximately 100 million dollars from Richmond and Contra Costa County, which would leave our city and county in desperate straits. This is a reflection of an obscene economic inequity that threatens to get far worse.

As Dr. King said in 1967: "We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now." His words are more true today than ever. It is clear the Occupy Movement provides an open-doorway to further our dialogue in Richmond.

Our local Occupy Movement has held wonderful activities in Richmond in which some of us, as elected officials, participated. Continuing this pattern of collaboration will strengthen our mutual goals of bringing about a better and more equitable Richmond.

The year ahead

There is much to be done in 2012. While there will be many surprises, I’m sure, here are a few interesting projects on the horizon:

  • In spite of many false starts, we expect to have an approved new General Plan in 2012. While we are anxious to finalize this new plan, we still need to fill some gaping holes that need our attention. This document will help us transition to a new healthy and vital urban landscape for years to come. Let’s make sure we do it right!
  • In April, we expect to be establishing a Richmond Poet Laureate program and announcing Richmond’s first Poet Laureate.
  • We hope to have a modified policy in place in 2012 to protect murals.
  • Community members in North Richmond are working to create a North Richmond Main Street (modeled after Richmond Main Street) that will help elevate Fred Jackson Way to a “Main Street” filled with vitality and excitement!
  • The Liberty Ship Café (Richmond’s 1st worker co-operative) has hit the ground running and we expect to see the start-up of a solar installation co-operative.
  • On the 2012 November ballot, our residents have the opportunity to help reduce obesity and other health problems that come from sugary drinks by voting for a soda tax.
  • We are exploring the idea of a Youth and Children’s Office for the City of Richmond that prioritizes youth needs, and we look forward to making headway on this throughout the year.


In conclusion, these are difficult, but very interesting times we live in. The complexity of our times should not deter us at all, but we should expect to have to work hard to tease away false solutions to our problems from the real, long-lasting resolutions that are needed.

I expect the City Council will continue to have different points of view. I call on every member of the City Council to seek respectful ways to express these differences.

The future of Richmond rests in many hands shaped by the participation of the community, its elected representatives and our City staff. I look forward to an engaging 2012 with more mountains to climb and more doorways to open, even as these hard economic times continue. Equity for each and every Richmonder must continue to be the driving force of all our actions. With this in mind, we will rise even higher in 2012!

Contact Information:

Gayle McLaughlin for Mayor 2010
PO Box 5284
Richmond CA 94805
Phone: (510) 237-1456
317 11th Street (must access 11th Street from Nevin)

A Better Richmond is Possible!

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PO Box 5284,  Richmond, CA 94805
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