Here's a political dirty trick we haven’t seen before, though now it’s drawing comparisons to Ron DeSantis’s Martha’s Vineyard stunt; the mayor of Richmond revealed the home addresses of city councilmembers, and told RV dwellers to set up camp in front of those officials’ houses.
The controversial clearing of West Oakland's Wood Street encampment has been generating a ton of headlines since it started in June (and stopped, and started again). But many other Bay Area communities are also struggling to find solutions to their own increasingly large encampments. The Chronicle reported last month that the East Bay city of Richmond has seen its homeless population nearly double over the last three years, from 333 people in 2019 to 632 people today, which has led to an RV and vehicle encampment on the city’s Rydin Road.
Cement barriers and flyers began to appear on Richmond’s Rydin Road recently, an attempt to gain control of the encampment which has been there for several years. #RichmondCA pic.twitter.com/dEznNf4s0x— Linda Hemmila (@lldo000) September 28, 2022
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt proposed establishing a sanctioned, safe RV sleeping site, and moving the residents there. His city council felt otherwise, and proposed clearing the encampment and giving incentives starting at $1,700 to leave. So yes, we have a policy disagreement here. But Mayor Butt went ahead with an unconventional dirty trick, as the Chronicle reports he sent homeless people councilmembers' addresses and told them to camp in front of city councilmembers’ houses.
Part of that email is seen above, with addresses redacted, courtesy of Richmond Confidential. And the move is drawing comparisons to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s shipping migrants to Martha’s Vineyard and Texas Governor Greg Abbott's earlier gambit shipping migrants to D.C., because the unsheltered people who received the email were genuinely led to believe there would be support services available at these locations.
The Chronicle reports that ”Butt said he shared the addresses by email, but said he can’t remember to whom he sent them.” Richmond Confidential has some reporting that might help jog his memory.
“On Sept. 19, Darcy Crosman, a member of the Alliance for Action on Homelessness and Fire Safety, emailed Butt and other council members for alternative locations that residents who wanted to live in their RVs could go to after the Rydin Road RV encampment is closed at the end of the month,” that publication reports. “Within five minutes, Butt replied with an attachment and four words: “Maybe this will help.” The attachment was a flyer headlined ‘RV-Friendly Parking Spots in Richmond,’ with four addresses listed below the picture of a recreational vehicle. The addresses belong to council members Gayle McLaughlin, Claudia Jimenez, Melvin Willis and Eduardo Martinez, all of whom are affiliated with the Richmond Progressive Alliance.”
“I thought Tom Butt was trying to help,” Crosman told Richmond Confidential.
So Crosman shared the list with RV dwellers. One of them thought it looked a little suspect, so they asked Councilmember Martinez to verify it. “Martinez, of course, recognized his own address on the list,” Richmond Confidential adds.
Butt is without remorse. “I worked for months trying to establish a transitional parking area for RVs, but the RPA City Council members voted down every single proposal because of opposition from neighbors,” he told Richmond Confidential. “Maybe they should experience an RV in front of their homes to better understand the situation.”
The deadline for some of the Rydin Road residents to leave has been extended to October 21, though many have already left. Mayor Butt’s audacity may be attributed to the fact that he has only three more months left in office.
Image: Matthew LeJune via Unsplash