Confusing uniformity: Proving you are a tough air pollution cop can get trickier when you publicly display photos of yourself wearing Chevron oil refinery uniforms at the Richmond refinery.
That contradiction occurred last Monday at a Bay Area air pollution board meeting in San Francisco, where there was discussion of repairs to be made at the Richmond refinery after the Aug. 6 fire that sent 15,000 people to hospitals with respiratory problems.
Top air pollution district managers gave a detailed PowerPoint presentation in an attempt to show they will be vigilant and engaged in requiring low-emission equipment as part of the repairs.
Then they flashed a photo showing the pollution agency's top administrator and board president at the refinery wearing -- what else -- blue Chevron uniforms.
To the untrained EYE, at first glance, it suggested a potential close relationship between the board and Chevron.
"Just to clarify, we are not Chevron employees," interjected Jack Broadbent, chief executive of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. "I just wanted to point that out."
The board erupted in laughter in what was a tense meeting over the air pollution board's role in policing Chevron.
Board chairman John Gioia, a Contra Costa County supervisor from Richmond, also defended himself, "We were just borrowing the uniforms for the day."
As a safety measure, refineries do provide fire-resistant uniforms to visitors.
But other air board members wouldn't let the two off the hook, razzing them with a skeptical chorus of "Yeah. Yeah. Yeah."
"Glad to hear," one board member called out, "that you're not moonlighting, Jack."
The Jewelry of Downtown: The EYE also found laughter at the past week's Walnut Creek City Council meeting, where departing 12-year Councilman Gary Skrel injected a little humor into Tuesday's Council meeting, his last after three council terms.
"As I was reviewing this, in 12 years on the Council I've never heard the term 'future street line.' So could you explain the difference between 'future street line' and 'right of way'?" he asked the city's Senior Planner Ethan Bindernagel.
As Bindernagel outlined the difference between right of way and future street line, Skrel eventually revealed the real reason for his line of questioning. He was hoping, amid the city planning jargon, he'd be able to find a new source of revenue for the city.
"Does a right of way indicate that there is title to that property to the city of Walnut Creek?" he asked. "The right of way is where we constructed and maintain these streets and sidewalks."
"If you go back to the slide to where the future street line goes through (the jewelry store) Tiffany's, I was hoping that if we own that we can get some of the proceeds from Tiffany's. ... It doesn't work that way, huh?" said Skrel, amid laughter from the crowd and his fellow Council members.
For the record, Skrel was shot down on the Tiffany & Co. requisition attempt.
"Those properties that extend into the public right of way have either been dedicated or there has been an easement granted already," said Bindernagel, playing it straight.
Rumble in Richmond: Everybody knows Richmond is a tough town with a history of bare-knuckle politics. In the 1990s, Mayor George Livingston once wore a bulletproof vest beneath his suit jacket during a Council meeting (thankfully, it wasn't put to the test).
But the EYE watched as Tuesday's Council meeting erupted into excessive volatility, even by Richmond standards.
As usual, the main combatants were Corky Booze and Jeff Ritterman.
On issues such as changing the city's energy provider and overseeing work at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, former race car driver Booze and former cardiologist Ritterman were at each other's throats. Ritterman yelled at Booze when he spoke out of turn, saying that he didn't "have the floor," and Booze responded with "I'll get to you in a minute, Ritterman," while Mayor Gayle McLaughlin pounded her gavel and cried out for order.
The dueling councilmen sit next to one another because Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, Booze's former neighbor on the dais, requested to be moved away from him a few months ago.
Resident Don Gosney said he thought the meeting was on the verge of a donnybrook.
"Ritterman has a short fuse, and Corky gets under his skin," Gosney said. "And the divisiveness and anger was circulating in the crowd too."
Staff writers Denis Cuff and Robert Rogers and Correspondent Patrick Brown contributed to this column.