Saturday, October 4, 2014

"The Casino Five" Minus Tom Butt Equals "The Casino Four": Tom Butt's Sleight of Hand

2014 mayoral candidate, Councilmember Tom Butt

 As the 2014 Richmond, CA mayoral race starts revving up and political volleys are tossed at candidates from their respective opposition I would like to zoom the lens in on mayoral candidate Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt.

Although he likes to fashion himself as a "straight shooter", Tom Butt's decisions and "the calling out of his opponents and critics" at times make him appear more like "the man behind the curtain" in his own political Oz.

Butt has been on the council since 1995 (?!!!) and over the years
he has been involved in several controversial and politically-charged decisions (it is Richmond after all) not the least of which was to build a casino at Point Molate, an issue which has since failed and is now moot.

Place Your Bets

It started in 2004 when Tom Butt was a proponent and voted in favor of developing the casino at Point Molate.

From the Tom Butt e-mail forum
November 10, 2004

The Pomo Indians, who favored and would have benefited from the project, decided to place a wager on Butt and his support for the project when the group contributed to his 2008 re-election campaign.

A page from Tom Butt's 2008 campaign contribution statement
(click to enlarge)
An "Intuitive" Gambler

Tom Butt never wavered in his support for the casino project in the years to follow.  On December 14, 2009, he was interviewed by the Richmond Confidential, a hyper-local blog focusing on Richmond, as to why he supported a casino:

 

On Point Molate, Butt struggled at times to explain his support to build a casino at the waterfront site, but was firm in his belief that a casino project was the best iteration of the development proposals he’s seen. Butt said the project was probably a “net benefit” to the community.

When pressed to explain how he came to that conclusion, Butt paused for several seconds, then said, 

“You know, I’ve read a lot of stuff and talked to a lot of people, like everybody else has, and it’s mainly kind of come down to just intuition.”...“Everything’s a gamble,” Butt said.

(full article: Richmond Confidential, December 14, 2009)


Bumping His Head

Then, abruptly, in January 2010, Butt suddenly did an about-face and removed his support for the casino justifying his decision by saying the development had too many problems.  He expressed his frustration to the Richmond Confidential by stating,   

“I‘m just sort of tired of bumping my head against the wall,” Butt said. “It’s a lot easier for me to just bail out and say, ‘look, I’m just going to oppose it, period.’”

I would imagine that navigating the “red tape” with the snail’s pace of bureaucracy, not to mention the very vocal public opposition and outcry to the casino, would wear on even the most seasoned elected official’s psyche and have him cave in to the pressure.  Whether or not if it was a project he so adamantly supported for years. 

Sleight of Hand: “Five” Becomes “Four”

However, stepping back and graciously withdrawing his support was not enough and has never been Tom Butt's style.

Only four days later on January 10, 2010, with the sleight of hand of the best blackjack dealer in Vegas, Tom Butt writes not one, but two, posts in his Tom Butt e-mail forum, that called out the remaining members of the council who still supported the casino by branding them “The Casino Four”.   The post, “Who’s In In 2010?" was a summary of the 2010 Richmond election which he was not participating in since he was still fulfilling his term after being re-elected in 2008.

From the Tom Butt e-mail forum:
January 10, 2010
January 10, 2010

For those who missed the card trick, until Tom Butt removed his support for the Point Molate project it was “The Casino Five”.

It’s one thing to change one’s mind on an item that one publicly expressed ardent, albeit intuitive, support for only three weeks earlier.  It takes an entirely different individual and an unfathomable amount of sheer audacity to immediately start pointing the finger at the same folks you agreed with prior to your proclamation of frustration.
 
It’s similar to deciding one day to quit chain smoking after thirty years then immediately begin publicly chastising the people outside of a bar puffing away when just the day before you were walking around with a pack of Marlboros in your shirt pocket.

Tom Butt unabashedly continued using his audacious label, “The Casino Four”, in a post on the

California Tribal Business Alliance site, May 19, 2010

Butt Deals A Losing Hand

So, what about the Pomo Indians who did indeed “show him the money” and decided to ante up and contribute to Tom Butt’s 2008 re-election campaign? Apparently, Tom Butt dealt them a two-faced card.

I’m willing to bet a hefty sum that Tom Butt never returned the campaign contributions he took from the tribe. 

After all, “everything’s a gamble.”

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