July 30, 2010

Buttercup Grill: Scene of Scandal, Casualty of a Racially Charged Protests, Buttercupgate. Who knew?


I need to get back to Buttercup Grill and Bar. There's the one of Ygnacio Valley Road, next door to Walnut Creek's courthouse, and there's one on Clayton Road in Concord. The restaurant chain has been getting some interesting press lately.

The press is not related to Buttercup's own casual dining offerings or service, but over the controversy-making activities of recent customers at its Concord location and visitors to the parking lot and sidewalk outside its Walnut Creek location.

Of course, you know that old adage in public relations. There is no such thing as bad publicity--or something like that. But, again to be clear, Buttercup Griill has received no bad publicity itself. It was an innocent bystander to the headline-making activities of others.

I can't remember the last time I ate a full meal at Walnut Creek's Buttercup on Ygnacio Valley Road but I did meet some friends for dessert once a couple years ago, and had the most incredible, decadent piece of chocolate cake.

Actually, I had kind of hoped to hang out at the Buttercup Grill on the afternoon of July 19. I was thinking of grabbing some lunch there before covering a planned demonstration by people wanting to show support for former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. The demonstration was to start at 2 p.m. and take place in the parking lot in front of the courthouse--a parking lot shared by Buttercup Grill.

My plans for demonstration coverage included securing a table at the Buttercup, where I would keep my laptop and my Sprint mobile internet connection card.. I would get a friendly waitress--I'm sure they have friendly wait staff there--to keep an eye on my stuff. I'd and reward her with a big tip. Once I was done with lunch and the protest started, I'd pop in every once in a while to upload pictures and update my story on the protest.

But news had come in several days earlier that Oscar Grant supporters also planned to come to the Walnut Creek courthouse and stage a counter protest. The police at some point suggested that businesses in the area around the courthouse, including Buttercup Grill, close for the afternoon. Police were preparing for the worst: that the dueling protests would get really heated and out of hand, that fights might break out or that someone would take out their anger by smashing in the window of the courthouse, or the Valero gas station across Ygnacio Valley Road, or of Buttercup Grill..

So Buttercup Grill closed sometime after lunch in preparation for the demonstration's scheduled 2 p..m start time. The Oscar Grant folks showed up about an hour earlier--clever strategic move to get the jump on the pro-Mehserle people. Over the next several hours, some 500 people, on both sides of the racially charged issue, waved signs, yelled at motorists passing by along Ygnacio Valley Road--until the road was shut down--and yelled at each other.

During all that time, the Buttercup Grill was closed. I saw some guy who was either the manager or the owner sitting in a chair outside his shuttered business looking forlorn. It turns out that the Buttercup Grill lost several thousand dollars in business from being closed down that afternoon, according to the Contra Costa Times.

Actually, because the protests, although loud, turned out to be non-violent, with participants keeping things legal, the Buttercup Grill probably could have remained opened. And, it probably could have done a brisk business.

No one would have been able to drive in, because Ygnacio Valley Road was shut down for several hours during the event. But some of those protesters might have wanted to take a break from yelling at each other, and grab an ice tea or salad--or a big piece of chocolate cake. Also, there was plenty of media covering the event,including yours truly. After several hours of standing out in the hot sun that afternoon, taking notes as people yelled at each other, I would have loved to have stopped into the Buttercup for a Diet Coke and water. So would other reporters, some of whom would have also happily gone for a beer--even a cocktail.

The forlorn looking on the guy from the Buttercup? Maybe he looked so bummed because he too realized that he should have stayed open and earned some well-deserved money from this disruption outside his restaurant.

Within a week after Mehserle Situation pass, another Buttercup Grill, this one in Concord, wound in the news again: this time at the center of what one participant in this brewing political scandal is calling Buttercupgate.

The scandal, or controversy, or dispute--what have you--involves Mt. Diablo Unified School District's dealings with Chevron over a plan to install solar energy at 51 sites within the school district. The controversy erupted after the Contra Costa Times reported that the district backed away from plans to award a no-bid $70 million solar project to Chevron Energy Solutions after the Times raised questions about "secret meetings" between the district's superintendent and Chevron.

District Trustee Gary Eberhart was a participant in at least two of these so-called secret meetings and went on the Mt. Diablo Blog Thursday to dispute allegations that he and two other board members violated the Brown Act when they stopped by Concord's Buttercup Grill to have a bite to eat after a Community Advisory Meeting. (The photo here is of Eberhart, and snapped by his 7-year-old daughter).

In a post, titled "Buttercupgate," Eberhart writes:

"With all of the challenges that we face in our school district, astronomical budget cuts, serious reductions to student programs, and a requirement to find new ways to generate needed dollars to provide for our students, there is a guy that is running around telling anyone that will listen to him that Sherry [Whitmarsh], Paul [Strange] and I, along with the Superintendent [Steven Lawrence], had a secret meeting at the Buttercup restaurant in Concord."

Eberhart said this guy, who calls himself Dr. J, has likened Eberhart and his "friends" to "Nixon and Haldeman." "Nixon and Haldeman," Eberhart says. "And he claims that I'm paranoid.?" Dr. J accused Eberhart of participating in secret meetings that violate the Brown Act and of allowing Chevron to buy him lunch.

Eberhart said there was no violation under the Brown Act when he and other board members met at Buttercup restaurant or on at least one other occasion, at Eberhart's house for dinner, because the Brown Act exempts social events, "providing that legislative members do not discuss amongst themselves business of their legislative body."

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

MDUSD is in chaos. When these new board members were elected they promised transparency and accountability. Now we have one public relations disaster after another. The state will be taking over this mess sooner than you think, assuming California isn't bankrupt as well. What an embarrassment to our community. Shame...

Anonymous said...

Right. Things were great before that election with the Grand Jury investigation and Accounting mess.

Public relations disasters seem kind of tame by comparison.

Anonymous said...

What is funny is how can they be secret in such a public place like Buttercup Grill Restaurant? Doctor J is paranoid and continually comes off as a very disgruntled MDUSD employee or former MDEA President and the CC Times is out of control. My subscription was cancelled today and our family has been a CC Times reader for 30 years. Enough already!

Anonymous said...

SM,

Kind of a thin line when you compare two different Buttercup restaurants. What is the point of even mentioning the WC store so prominently when it has no correlation to the thrust of your article, which is the MDSUD tempest?

The general manager/owner of the WC site was taking direction from WCPD and therefore was totally innocent in the rally activities. To suggest by your headline that they had anything to do with a "racially charged protest" is inflammatory at best unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone verify that they didn't discuss any Board business at these "secret" meetings?

We are just supposed to take their word for it? I wouldn't trust these board members as far as I could throw them.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:58; This is definitely not funny. Gary Eberhart and the Board should focus on addressing the very significant issues raised by the CC Times and by Doctor J, rather than just characterizing these sources as "paranoid" and "out of control".

As a parent of a Mount Diablo student, I am shocked at the recent actions of the board. I am shocked that we will have to pay $1.87 billion dollars to cover the $383 million bond measure. I have not heard any justification for structuring the bond in such an expensive way. Also, much money would be saved if the Measure C work was subject to a competitive bidding process and not back-room dealing. These issues are laid out well by the CC Times in an editorial today: http://www.contracostatimes.com/opinion/ci_15632524.

Do not let Gary's smokescreen fool you, the CC Times is looking out for the public interest, and is not out to get the MDUSD board. Hopefully, Gary and the other board members will focus on addressing these important issues.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:30

I am in total agreement regarding the WC Butternut Restaurant. They are NOT responsible for the "racially charged protest"..., and that veiled suggestion is irresponsible journalism at best, inflammatory at worst. Lets focus on the real issue, the complete meltdown of the MDUSD. If I still had kids in the schools, I would lie about my address and send my kids wo Walnut Creek and Acalanes schools.

Anonymous said...

10:06- Come on. They were discussing board business in secret at the Buttercup restaurant?

Have you ever been to a restaurant and heard someone else's conversation?

Why the lauding of the Times? I am glad they are covering the MDUSD, but I know from past experience that those education reporters don't always get it right.

BTW, It was NO secret about the bond's financing. The Times came out against it, some Northgate parents came out against it, the CCTaxpayers Assn came out against it, and it STILL passed!

Let's move on people to more action, less drama!

Anonymous said...

10:06- Your comment about "back room dealing" shows that you really don't understand the law as it respects non-profits. Believe it or not, they don't HAVE to get bids for work.

They did nothing illegal in talking to Chevron and once the board decided to open up the bid process, Chevron dropped out.

So, what's your beef?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:43: My beef is that the board is wasting taxpayer money by not seeking out bids, but I did not claim it was illegal to do so.

Anonymous 10:41: The vast majority of voters were not aware of the bond structuring and total $1.87 billion cost when they voted. This information was not in the voter information pamphlets and the vast majority of voters simply voted yes to support the Mount Diablo schools, unaware of the total costs of the bonds. I am wondering how such a huge total cost (5.4 times the borrowed amount) could possibly be justified.

Architect said...

I don't feel too sorry for the Buttercup guy. I did some work several years ago to get him out of an ADA problem, an he stiffed me on the fee.

Anonymous said...

$1.87 billion when it is all said and done? Horrifying..., simply horrifying.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Anon 9:30 a.m. and 10:22 a.m.
The headline says "casualty of racially charged protests" AND the posts says that Buttercup Pantry is an innocent bystander to the activities of customers and visitors outside its two restaurants. It says the restaurant is getting publicity because of these two events, but again that the Buttercup Pantry is an "innocent bystander." I express sympathy for the owner/manager of the WC restaurant for the money the business lost. The post also says that the restaurant closed for the afternoon at the suggestion of police.

Anonymous said...

10:56am- Sorry, but most people I know don't even read the voter pamphlet and they vote anyway.

The issue of the bond financing was brought up over and over again in the Times--once in Daniel Borenstein's column and once as an editorial against the measure.

There was also letters to the editors from Linda and other people who were on the committee who didn't like the financing and letters by Kris Hunt and Jack Weir of the CCCTaxpayer group.

Linda waged her campaign against Measure C on the blogs, both on Claycord and on MDUSDParents. She made a very impassioned, and in depth, analysis of her opinion for everyone to read.

If people voted for the Measure without knowing all the facts, then I guess it's Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyer Beware).

Sadly, an uniformed public vote on issues all the time without knowing the facts. It's one of the main problems of our complicated Proposition system in CA.

It seems disingenuous to complain about the vote after the fact. If people wanted more information, it was out there.

Anonymous said...

eberheart and board cronis are guilty of "a gross lack of ethical belief"
Do you know what that means ??????

Anonymous said...

Seems as though Paul Strange is back to posting. Me thinks he doth protest too much.

Anonymous said...

God, I hate being lied to.

Tweet This! said...

I love this: Eberhart said there was no violation under the Brown Act when he and other board members met at Buttercup restaurant or on at least one other occasion, at Eberhart's house for dinner, because the Brown Act exempts social events, "providing that legislative members do not discuss amongst themselves business of their legislative body."

-I'm so sure there was no discussion of business. Yeah right. Who you fooling, foolio?

Well, you did fool us into spending about $300 for every home owner with a house valued at $500k, for the next 40 years! We the people got hosed! I'm pissed!

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Daniel Borenstein, Theresa Harrington and editorial staff of the CC Times for keeping the public informed. Their in depth reporting on measure C as well as pension abuses has been enlightening....it's too bad people don't take the time to read and educate themselves on the issues.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Borenstein can kiss my ass. That guy is the #1 douchebag in America!

Anonymous said...

Wow...

Anonymous said...

COME JOIN THE SUPPORT RALLY FOR JOHANNES MEHSERLE AND ALL L.E.O'S!!!!!
Hi all - just a reminder of the rally tomorrow! Come on out - bring a friend -and show your support! You can visit our website at www.justice4johannes.com

Date: Monday, August 2, 2010
Time: 2:00pm - 6:00pm
Address: San Jose City Hall
200 East Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA 95113

BUTTONS THAT SUPPORT JOHANNES MEHSERLE WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE RALLY FOR A SMALL FEE. ALL PROCEEDS GO TO HELP JOHANNES MEHSERLE.

Anonymous said...

Why is Daniel Borenstein a douchebag? He's just doing his job.

Miss Lisa said...

Hey, shouting Mehserle supporter: please start your own blog and stop hijacking the comments in this one. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

BREAKING NEWS!!!!

We have been told that Judge Robert Perry wants to hear from Johannes Mehserle supporters!!! He has requested letters from those in our community who support Johannes and he has stated he intends to read EVERY one of those letters!!! As Judge Perry will be on vacation for the entire month of October, we are on a time line to have them submitted to him as he will not have time upon his return date to read them pending Johannes November 5th court appearance. We need these letters written and mailed ASAP and BEFORE September 7, 2010. Please disregard any previous instructions and follow the instructions below and lets get these letters mailed out!

http://www.justice4johannes.com/products_6.html

Louisa said...

So, I do not really consider it may have effect.