Nat Bates. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, Black American Political Action Committee.
If one word describes Nat Bates and his time on the Richmond City Council, it is experience.
No other member of the council can claim to have as much experience and have as many long-standing relationships that have benefited the community. Over time, Bates has worked diligently and to utilize his experience to bring resources to Richmond and reshape the city for the better.
For more than 40 years, Councilmember Bates has worked hard for the people of Richmond. He grew up in Richmond and attended local schools. Prior to holding elected office, he worked as a probation officer and as field representative to the late Senator Daniel Boatwright.
First elected in 1967, at a time when there were nine members of the council serving terms of six years, he has worked on many issues like increased public safety, better access to health care, improved city services and smart land use.
His number one priority has always been attracting and retaining jobs. That’s why he worked hard to bring the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to Richmond.
It’s why he has always supported investing in the Port to bring auto warehousing and other jobs into the city, and why he supports job-training programs like Richmond BUILD.
Recently, Bates took a tough stand in favor of neighborhood businesses that are critical to the economic revitalization of Richmond. Bates says, “Small businesses are the first to employ new people, and they keep neighborhoods vibrant.”
That’s why he took a leadership position in opposing Measure N on the ballot in 2012, the harmful so-called “soda tax,” that put an additional burden on local business and customers.
“Bates is always looking out for the little guy, trying to support our local business community and create jobs,” said Rosa Lara, president of the 23rd Street Merchants Association. “His leadership was critical in the effort to defeat the proposed business license fee that would have been imposed on our small businesses had Measure N passed.”
When asked about the most important project he has worked on, one that has had the most impact in the city, Bates said, “It’s hard to say the most important. There are at least four major projects that have had a significant impact in Richmond that I have supported while serving on the Council.”
“Building the Hilltop Mall was very controversial,” said Bates. At the time, some in the community wanted to bring the project to the downtown area. The developer wanted to build with easy access to the highway. If the developer didn’t get his preferred location, he was prepared to build in Pinole, Hercules or the surrounding area.
Bates stepped up to the plate and, in fact, made the motion to build the development in Richmond. “My priority was making sure Richmond got those jobs and the tax revenue, so I decided to support the project. On the basis of my support, the developer chose to move forward with the project here in Richmond.”
Next week, Nat Bates, Part II