COUNCILMAN TURNS MEDIA CRITIC: Tom Butt is a lot of things to a lot of people in Richmond. A goat herder. An architect. A veteran. A powerful councilman. Some even call him a "gangsta," a playful moniker some use in describing Butt's perceived skill in besting his political rivals in the race for power and resources.
But now the irrepressible 68-year-old is donning a new hat: trenchant media critic.
On his wildly popular E-forum -- Butt says he has 2,000 subscribers and more than 3,000 page views daily -- the councilman with the rapier pen has been carving newspaper reports like Thanksgiving turkeys.
Now, the Eye knows that politicians criticizing media is not exactly a new trick, but Butt does it with it particular pluck.
When The New York Times in early January published a surface overview of the city's tribulations with Chevron, Butt pounced.
"This is an interesting article but has a number of factual errors and erroneous embellishments," Butt wrote, opening a multipart dissection of all the reporter's missteps. The post was received with delight by Butt's readers, some of whom praised him for his clinical approach toward taking the elite out-of-town paper behind the proverbial woodshed.
Butt doesn't discriminate in his criticism. He comes after local news as well, including newspapers and even student-run blogs. On Jan. 9, Butt took issue with the Times for characterizing City Councilman-elect Gary Bell's platform as "pro-business."
"I am taking on this overused, misused and erroneous characterization of council members' attitude toward business as one of my missions of 2013," Butt wrote.
When one resident sent Butt a chippy reply to a post, calling Butt's writing "self-serving," the Arkansas native wrote back and put his standard disclaimer at the bottom: "Of course my E-FORUM is self-serving. One of the reasons I do it is to express my opinions, as noted below."
BETTER WITH AGE: Tom Huey, a geriatric bodybuilder profiled in the Times in March, is getting better with age. One year ago, on Jan. 11, the 1985 AAU Mr. Northwest America titleholder did 101 pull-ups in 30 minutes at his local gym to celebrate his 78th birthday.
"It took me a week to get over that," he said, laughing.
He recently called to report that he topped himself this year. On Jan. 11, his 79th birthday, Huey did 110 pull-ups in 25 minutes.
Typically, the Eye doesn't like a showoff. But it makes an exception in this case.
FIRE MEETING GETS HEATED: Things got a little toasty during a meeting in Lafayette last week organized by the Contra Costa Fire District. Billed as a community meeting where residents in cities affected by fire station closures could ask questions of fire district staff and board members, the civil discussion took a decidedly hotter tone when a man expressed his frustration with Fire Chief Daryl Louder over the lack of talk about reopening Station 16, one of a handful of stations that closed Tuesday.
"With all due respect, it's a little smoky in here," the resident said, then offered a few ideas for bringing back the station.
Louder took the zinger in stride, and explained that the district had done what it could to control costs and use reserve funds in an effort to keep the fire stations open.
"This is a very difficult time for me as well," the chief said.
Later, while another official was addressing the crowd, the Eye spied Louder slipping out for what looked like a cooler one-on-one with the resident.
Staff writers Robert Rogers, Gary Peterson and Jennifer Modenessi contributed to this column.