Local Government

RPA Position on North Richmond Annexation - LET RESIDENTS DECIDE!

MOTION, that the RPA Steering Committee recommends that the Richmond City Council pass a resolution expressing that:

  • Recognizing that North Richmond was excluded from Richmond due to racist housing policies of the past, the City of Richmond is willing to annex unincorporated North Richmond, if that's what North Richmond residents want to do.
  • The City will initiate a process whereby North Richmond residents are asked if they want to be annexed.
  • Under all circumstances, the will of North Richmond residents must be determined by a vote.  The City of Richmond should not initiate the annexation process with LAFCO unless and until North Richmond votes in favor of it.
  • Prior to the vote, mailings and town hall meetings must be used to inform North Richmond residents, including non-voters, on all aspects of annexation and get their feedback.

To Annex or Not to Annex? That is the Question for North Richmond to Decide

The RPA is currently discussing the question about annexation of North Richmond, which was brought to the City Council on 9/26/17.  As an RPA member who has participated in many community activities in North Richmond over the past 15 years, I offer here some thoughts on this issue.

The Richmond city council should express its willingness in principle to annex unincorporated North Richmond, but only IF that's what the residents want.

The LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) annexation process can be initiated either by a petition of the unincorporated North Richmond voters, or by the City of Richmond.  If the residents themselves initiation the process, the City should cooperate with them and not stand in the way. 

Since a City initiated process with LAFCO would not guarantee a vote of the residents, the City should not initiate this process at this time.  It should first work with the County (which currently governs unincorporated North Richmond) to place an advisory measure on the June Ballot, to better ascertain the will of the residents, especially since annexation would result in tax increases.  This vote should include a ballot pamphlet listing all pertinent information and consequences of annexation (i.e. increases in property, sales, utility users taxes and business license fees, addition of rent control and just cause for eviction, addition of regulations allowing for cannabis businesses, potentially streamlined municipal services) and be preceded by an extensive community outreach and engagement campaign.  

North_Richmond.jpg 

Historical/geographical context:

The history of North Richmond is based on overtly racist housing policies and practices of the past.  Both North Richmond and Parchester Village were designated in the '40's and '50's as acceptable locations for African Americans, who were barred from living in most other parts of Richmond.  Both areas are isolated by train tracks, far from services and business districts, and downwind from industrial pollution.

Since then, Parchester Village has become part of the City of Richmond and over a third of North Richmond's residential areas are also in the City of Richmond (Shields Reid Neighborhood).  Both areas are home to many very low income people of color to this day.  The residents in both areas have actively and successfully advocated for improvements, via the North Richmond Municipal Advisory Council, or MAC, (for unincorporated areas), the Shields Reid Neighborhood Council, the North Richmond Mitigation Fund (a City/County run effort at blight removal and community engagement funded by the solid waste transfer station), and the Parchester Village Neighborhood Council.  The North Richmond MAC and West County Toxics Coalition successfully advocated for bringing the County Health Clinic in North Richmond after a toxic release incident at General Chemical in the '90's.

Ongoing issues plaguing the community of North Richmond, both City side and County side are poverty, environmental injustice, and economic racism. Annexation by itself won't necessarily address these big issues, which should be cause for concern and action at all levels, city, county, state and federal.  And North Richmond residents need to be partners in any decisions aimed at improving their conditions. 

Key stakeholders 

According to local and regional ordinances, the primary stakeholder is the body of registered voters in unincorporated North Richmond, who should be primary decision makers in this process.  Additional stakeholders who would be impacted by any change in status and whose input should be sought include: residents of unincorporated North Richmond who are not registered voters (i.e., non-US citizens, parolees and youth), non-residents who work in unincorporated North Richmond (incl. business, non-profit and government employees), non-resident property owners, and non-resident business owners.  It's not clear from the very skimpy report on community meetings to what extent any of these additional stakeholders have been reached out to.

Two more key stakeholders are Contra Costa County via its elected Board of Supervisors, that currently governs this area and provides all municipal services, and the City of Richmond via its elected City Council, that would be proposing to assume the responsibility for governing this area and providing municipal services.  Oddly, the fiscal impact report done for the City by Willdan Financial Services fails to analyze the impacts to the County (positive and negative) of annexing North Richmond to the City of Richmond, which would be helpful to have for comparison purposes.

Resident input:

The residents of unincorporated North Richmond should have a primary say in any decision about annexation to Richmond.  At the 9/26/17 city council meeting, in spite of Mayor Butt's extensive work on promoting this concept, not a single resident of unincorporated North Richmond came to speak in favor of annexation.  And none of the three speakers on this item currently live in unincorporated North Richmond.  

Additional questions to ask:  Of the 10-35 attendees at each of the 5 community meetings held thus far, as indicated in the fiscal impact report, how many current residents of unincorporated North Richmond?  Of the seven MAC members (appointed by Supervisor Gioia), how many are current residents of unincorporated North Richmond?  If the people Gioia has appointed to the MAC are seen as representing the views of residents, the vote of the MAC on annexation--3 against, 2 abstain, 1 in favor and 1 absent (allegedly having expressed views in favor)--is one indication of the community being unwilling to be annexed to Richmond at this time.  An advisory ballot measure preceded by extensive community engagement and information sharing could provide a more broader and deeper picture of the community’s views.  If the community clearly desires annexation, we should move forward with it.  If not, we should hold off.

Fiscal impact:

I have additional questions and concerns about some aspects of the fiscal impact report regarding how the annexation would actually be implemented, but that can wait until after the primary question is resolved of how resident input will be achieved.

Recommendation:

The Richmond City Council should pass a resolution expressing the following: 

  • Recognizing that North Richmond was excluded from Richmond due to racist housing policies of the past, the City of Richmond is willing to annex unincorporated North Richmond, if that's what North Richmond residents want to do.
  • The City will initiate a process whereby North Richmond residents are asked if they want to be annexed.  
  • Under all circumstances, the will of North Richmond residents must be determined by a vote.  The City of Richmond should not initiate the annexation process with LAFCO unless and until North Richmond votes in favor of it.
  • Prior to the vote, mailings and town hall meetings must be used to inform North Richmond residents, including non-voters, on all aspects of annexation and get their feedback.

[Photo: Doug Harris]

Stand Up To Mayor Butt's Abuse of Power

In previous Tom Butt e-forums, the Mayor tried to tear down Marilyn Langlois, a long-time progressive activist and one of the RPA's endorsed candidates for the vacant City Council seat.  It was hard to see a sitting mayor sling mud, but Marilyn rose above it, and many of us dismissed the incident as a distasteful but not totally unexpected example of what happens when a person seeks political office in Richmond.

Butt_Message_to_Haas.JPGThe e-forum Mayor Butt sent this past week was different. It shows that the Mayor will cross any line to further his political career. In his missive, he admits to running a campaign to discredit and destroy two more Richmond progressive activists, Claudia Jimenez and Eli Moore.  Supposedly acting on a tip from a neighbor, the Mayor himself began investigating whether Claudia and Eli were breaking Richmond rental law while away on sabbatical.  He went as far as to contact Eli's employer, supposedly to ask if UC Berkeley knew anything about Eli's rental practices! More likely, Mayor Butt was hoping Eli would be discredited, disciplined, or fired from his job.  When his e-forum describing all this went public, people began to criticize the Mayor on social media for misusing his power as an elected official to harass people for political gain.  Mayor Butt himself responded to say he was trying to "drain the swamp," invoking the words of Donald Trump.       

Eli and Claudia have both written public responses to Mayor Butt. 

Why is Mayor Butt so angry?  Claudia advocated for the Richmond rent control laws that Butt opposed.  And earlier in the week Eli had the audacity to express reservations about the economic impact of the ferry project that Butt has championed.  Those two things, plus the fact they are members of the RPA, were enough to earn them a spot on the mayor's enemy list. Butt is convinced that he must destroy the the Richmond progressive community in order to win the mayor's seat again.  In writing this, I am keenly aware that the Butt family is now pouring through my records looking for dirt on me and my family, googling the phone number of my employer, trying to decide if I am worthy of an e-forum attack -- it's an unpleasant feeling, and not one any of us should have.  

Let's tell Mayor Butt that his abuse of power has not gone unnoticed and will not be tolerated.  You can email him at tom.butt@intres.com, call him at 510-620-6581, or post a message on his Facebook page

Victory! Becton Appointed District Attorney!

On September 12, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors appointed Superior Court Judge Diana Becton as Interim District Attorney.  Judge Becton is filling the position vacated by Mark Peterson after he resigned amidst a campaign finance and ethics scandal.

The decision was met with enthusiasm by a coalition of racial justice and progressive organizations, which gave Becton highest marks on a community scorecard that ranked candidates on a range of issues, from bail reform to support for re-entry services. Although Becton’s current term only lasts until January 2019, as the incumbent she will have an advantage for the June 2018 elections.

As the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition points out, the DA is the most powerful elected official within our criminal justice system and can be an important force in reducing excessive sentences, ending mass incarceration, and reducing racial disparities.

District Attorney Town Hall

The two individuals who most set the tone for justice in Contra Costa County are the Sherriff and the District Attorney. For years we have been battling the Sheriff and the priority of building jails rather than providing the services needed to help people not in jail.


The other powerful individual is the County District Attorney. The previous DA, Mark Peterson, illegally diverted campaign money to his own use, was caught and had to step down. But he was also a District Attorney who was at odds with the values of our community.  He reinforced institutionalized racism, supported the unfair bail bond system, and directed his attention to petty crime instead of the crimes of corporations and the wealthy. He failed to investigate seriously the murder of Pedie Perez and was quick to exonerate the cop who shot the unarmed youth.


On Sept 12 The Board of Supervisors gets to select the temporary DA until the election next year.  But the temporary DA will be running as the incumbent which gives her/him a tremendous advantage in the elections. We need a DA for the people. Some members of the Board of Supervisors have already indicated support for a traditional DA who will carry on Peterson’s policies. 


We need to make it clear to the BOS that we want a different kind of DA -- one who not only gives lip service to community values but one who will lead the fight for them.  A coalition of progressive labor and community groups have been interviewing potential DA candidates and have published a scorecard showing the candidates’ stands on issues. (See candidates’ answers to community questionnaire here)


Unfortunately there has been a well-organized smear campaign against the top-ranked candidate, Judge Diana Beckton, who come closest to our values. 


To learn more, and to hear from the DA candidates directly, you can join a District Attorney Town Hall on Saturday, September 9 at 1pm at Miracle Temple, 2425 Cutting Blvd., Richmond.  We also need as many people as possible to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting on September 12, 9am at the County Building in Martinez. (Watch for announcements about carpooling and busses)


Members of the coalition include: ACLU of Northern California; Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE); Contra Costa AFL-CIO Central Labor Council; Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition (CCCRJC); Courage Campaign;  Democratic Party of Contra Costa County; East County NAACP; Healthy Richmond, Safe Return Project; and Smart Justice California.

RPA Announces Endorsements for City Council Seat

The Richmond Progressive Alliance is proud to endorse three strong candidates for the vacant City Council seat.  The three endorsed candidates are listed in order of preference.

1st and Preferred Recommendation: Marilyn Langlois
Based on her distinguished service to Richmond in a public capacity, for having the best list of qualifications for the position of City Councilmember, and on her 14+ years of progressive activism in Richmond, with the Richmond Progressive Alliance and beyond, we endorse and recommend Marilyn Langlois as our first and preferred choice to be appointed to the Richmond City Council.

2nd Recommendation: Ada Recinos
Based on her distinguished service to Richmond in a public capacity, for having a good list of qualifications for the position of City Councilmember, and on her two years of service on the Human Rights and Human Relations Commission, her recent activism with the Richmond Progressive Alliance and her work beyond Richmond, we endorse and recommend Ada Recinos as our second choice to be appointed to the Richmond City Council.

3rd Recommendation: Diego Garcia
Based on his distinguished service to Richmond in a public capacity, for having a good list of qualifications for the position of City Councilmember, and on his nine years of service on the Parks and Recreation Commission and two years in the Police Commission, and for his activism as an ally of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, although not a member, and his work beyond Richmond, we endorse and recommend Diego Garcia as our third choice to be appointed to the Richmond City Council.

The RPA opened the endorsement process to all Richmond residents in July.  Potential candidates submitted substantial written materials and sat for interviews with members of the RPA Steering Committee.  The full Steering Committee and the RPA membership voted in favor of these endorsements.  The RPA endorsements are separate and independent of any action taken by the Richmond City Council, who will vote to fill the seat on September 12th.  City Council Members who are also members of RPA were not part of the endorsement process.  Thanks to the many people who participated in this process.

Endorsement Requests Due August 15

Are you interested in filling Gayle McLaughlin’s vacant seat on the Richmond City Council?  If so, August 15th is the deadline to complete the City Clerk’s process for candidates.  It is also the deadline to request a Richmond Progressive Alliance endorsement.  See below for details.  

Richmond City Council members will vote to appoint Gayle’s replacement at their September 12th meeting.  The City Council will consider only those candidates who complete the City Clerk’s process by August 15th at 5 pm (see link below).  The RPA plans to endorse one or more candidates for the appointment and notify City Council members of the endorsement.  Our endorsement is separate and independent of any action taken by the Richmond City Council, and Council Members who are also members of RPA are not part of the endorsement process.


To be considered for an RPA endorsement, you must complete these three steps by 5 pm on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. 

  1. Use this form to write a 250 word statement and file it with the City Clerk’s office. In addition, statements must be e-mailed to statements@ci.richmond.ca.us prior to filing with the City Clerk.  Additional instructions can be read on the form itself. 
  2. Write your answers to the RPA Endorsement Questions and email those answers to RPA Co-chair Marcos Bañales at marcosbanales@yahoo.com.  RPA Endorsement Questions PDF Version.  RPA Endorsement Questions Word Version.
  3. Sign up for and attend a 1 hour interview with RPA Steering Committee Members.  Sign up here.   Interviews will take place between August 16th and 21st at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald Ave, Richmond, CA 94801) unless otherwise noted.

If you have any questions, please email RPA Co-chair Marcos Bañales at marcosbanales@yahoo.com.

Who's Next for CCC District Attorney?

Finally – Mark Peterson is out, having resigned after the California AG state charged him with 13 felonies associated with misusing campaign contributions. His plea deal allowed him to drop 12 charges in exchange for resigning and pleading no-contest to one count of perjury. (This is the man who refused to prosecute a Richmond police officer in the killing of Richard Pedie Perez, who was unarmed when he was shot three times)


So what is next? By the end of September, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors will appoint an interim District Attorney to serve out the remainder of Peterson’s term. And whoever gets this post will have an advantage in the 2018 election.


Applications are due on July 21, and so far four candidates have come forward. They include Patrick Vanier, a Deputy District Attorney in Santa Clara County who previously worked in the Contra Costa DA’s office; Paul Graves,  a Senior Deputy DA in Contra Costa County, where he worked under former DA Mark Peterson; Bill Green, a criminal defense attorney and former public defender; and District Attorney Kensak.


By the beginning of August, the Board of Supervisors will develop a short list of 3-5 applicants. Then the public gets a chance to weigh in at a public meeting on August 15. A special Board of Supervisors meeting has also been scheduled for September 12 to debate the candidates (another chance for the public to engage). Local criminal justice reform groups are tracking this process; folks can get plugged in by visiting www.eastbayactioncoalition.com

Vacant Seat on City Council

As you have probably heard, Richmond City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin has decided to step down from her seat on the City Council to focus on her campaign for California Lieutenant Governor (Statement from Gayle McLaughlin).  The RPA Steering Committee issued its own statement thanking Gayle for her many years of service to the City of Richmond, and encouraging her as she brings her progressive leadership to a larger community (Thank You to Gayle from the RPA Steering Committee).  

The City Council will vote to appoint a replacement for Gayle.  At its next meeting on July 19th at 6:30 pm, the RPA Steering Committee will discuss making an endorsement for that position.  Current members of the City Council will not take part in the endorsement discussion.   Those who would like to be considered for an endorsement, or want to recommend others for it, can email Steering Committee Co-Chairs Marcos Banales (marcosbanales@yahoo.com) and Sharron SK Williams (skwilliams@yurumeinlaw.com).  Please put the word ENDORSEMENT in the subject line of your email. 

Save the Richmond Post Office

Like so many other public services endangered by encroaching privatization, the main post office in Richmond at 1025 Nevin Ave. is being threatened with closure.

Richmond’s Mayor, Congressman DeSaulnier, and Supervisor Gioia have joined with the Richmond Main Street initiative to mount a campaign against the proposed closure, which follows the recent shuttering of Station A on Broadway.

The closure would pose significant hardship to seniors, those who rely on public transit, those with limited access to the Internet, as well as small businesses in the downtown area. As Supervisor Gioia said in a letter to the USPS, the Nevin post office is “central to the health of downtown.” Built during the New Deal, the location has historical value as well.

The main post office is located at the heart of a historically underserved and diverse community, and the alternative site on Chanslor is far from public transportation and has limited parking. Residents who rely on public transportation have voiced their concerns at public meetings, most recently at the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council last week. The Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council has said it will file a lawsuit against the USPS if the closure is approved.

Officials have also expressed concern over the effect the closure would have on the revitalization of Richmond downtown.  Over 1,000 new units of housing and 60,000 square feet of retail at 12th St. and Macdonald Ave. are in the pipeline and have been moving toward completion. These residents and businesses will need more services, not fewer.

The USPS has said that comments will be heavily weighted in the decision. Comment letters, not emails, are due before 6/30, so they need to be mailed no later than 6/26 so they arrive on time. You can download a comment letter and sign the petition here.