PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE DOLLAR?: The Eye's favorite literary polemicist/politician went on an epic writing bender this election season. Tom Butt -- architect, Richmond city councilman, prolific blogger and trenchant media critic -- took up his rapier pen in a big way, treating the thousands of readers who follow his e-forum to a blitz of online articles shilling for Measure H, the $270 million West Contra Costa school construction bond measure on the June 3 ballot.
On May 28, under a punch-to-the-gut headline, Butt took off the gloves and unleashed a barrage of haymakers on this newspaper's news and editorial coverage of the school district's massive school construction bond program.
The Eye was unable to confirm whether Butt put an extra scoop of grounds in his coffee before pounding his keyboard like a sentient jackhammer that fateful morning. Whatever his fuel, the blunt 70-year-old Arkansas native went on to savage this newspaper for recommending a no vote on the bond measure, the district's seventh since 1998, on its editorial page and producing news coverage about the growing criticism of the construction program and its costs.
The bond program does have its successes, namely replacing lots of aging schools with state-of-the-art facilities. But some of the numbers have built some backlash, too, including the revelation by a senior district official that the new Pinole Valley High School campus could cost a whopping $250 million.
Media criticism has become one of Butt's fortes in recent years, and the targets of his wrath include an eminent list of publications such as The New York Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting. The Eye feels almost honored to be singled out for an e-beating.
To his credit, Butt did divulge -- about 20 paragraphs from the top of a May 26 article -- that he had a financial interest in seeing Measure * pass and in the bond program generally.
"My firm, Interactive Resources, was singled out by the Contra Costa Times for donating to bond program campaigns as if there was something unseemly about it," he wrote.
Butt has donated more than $70,000 to various bond campaigns and received more than $9 million in work for the district over the years, and chipped in $10,000 in recent months to back Measure H, facts that were reported in these pages. Butt demurred from going into that level of detail in his e-forum.
Despite Butt's vigorous writing and wallet cracking in its defense, Measure * was trounced by voters on Tuesday. Sadly, all the literary pyrotechnics of a writer of such verve and pluck as Butt -- plus op-eds he published by top district officials defending the program -- couldn't save the moribund tax hike from the skepticism of local voters.
But before we bemoan the loss of influence wielded by a local writing dynamo, The Eye should point out -- as Butt did to The Eye -- that the rest of his slate of endorsements were electoral winners.
As for Measure H, Butt pointed to the failure of his money rather than his pen.
"However much money I put into the campaign, it wasn't a good investment," he grumbled.
SERVICE SELFIES: The Eye spotted an intriguing contest being promoted by Antioch's Environmental Resources division.
Participants are encouraged to take pictures of "you doing something earth friendly such as recycling at a city park, picking up litter, car pooling, walking or biking or on public transit."
The do-gooder selfies must then be posted to the EcoAntioch Facebook or Instagram pages. The ones with the most "likes" by 5 p.m. Wednesday wins.
The winner gets a Tri Delta summer youth transit pass, which is valued at $60.
The contest is for Antioch residents ages 17 and younger (which means The Eye isn't eligible, but it may to try to "photo bomb" some pics).
Staff writers Robert Rogers and Paul Burgarino contributed to this column.