Local Government

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.

RPA Thanks Gayle McLaughlin as She Steps Down as Councilmember

It is with utmost respect that the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) Steering Committee salutes Council Member Gayle McLaughlin as she steps down from the Richmond City Council to pursue her organizing electoral campaign as the next Lieutenant Governor of the State of California.  We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to her for 13 plus years serving as council member and mayor of the City of Richmond.

We will not be dismayed that our huge loss will be someone else’s gain, because who will gain when she succeeds?  “They” are us.  “We, the people” all stand to gain. Great things that need to be done on the state level can be moved forward: things like reforming proposition 13 so that local municipalities can thrive again.  Gayle is taking our RPA experience to cities and communities all over California and encouraging them to follow our example of creating progressive grassroots organizations that are corporate-free, inclusive, diverse and that run candidates for local office to gain political power for the people.

She will also be promoting and bringing people together for statewide policies badly needed such as single payer health care, split-roll Proposition 13 reform, no-fracking, oil severance tax, immigrants rights, affordable housing, defending public education and opposing its privatization and the charter schools expansion, campaign finance reform, opposing the privatization of jails and detention centers, aiding cities for sustainable development.…so many struggles, so many opportunities.

Gayle’s message of hope and reason that a “better world is possible”, will resonate with people who are in desperate need of hope right now in these frightening and terrible days of the current federal administration.  Hope is the life raft that gives us courage and strength to persevere against the odds.

The RPA membership has a proud history of participating in the tremendous struggle we have been engaged with here: particularly removing Chevron’s stranglehold on local politics and all the many other battles for health, justice and equity in which we continue to be engaged.  Through the platform of this state-wide campaign, let us share our success and inspire others.  May there be many Progressive Alliances throughout the state.

The RPA Steering Committee will discuss the issue of the seat vacated by Gayle McLaughlin without the participation of the Steering Committee members who are current councilmembers.

Sincerely,

Sharron SK Williams and Marcos Banales
RPA Steerting Committee Co-Chairs

RPA Elects New Steering Committee

RPA officers and a new steering committee were elected at a well attended and enthusiastic membership meeting on February 25. The new Committee consists of:


Co-coordinator - Sharron SK Williams
Co-coordinator - Marcos Bañales
Communications Chair - Sue Wilson
Membership Chair - Kabir Kapur
Office Chair - Tarnell Abbott
Treasurer - Shoji
Recording Secretary - Michelle Chan
Schools Action Team - Peter Chau


At-large members:

Jovanka Beckles, Nancy Combs, Ben Choi, Sung Ae Cho, Porschea Brown, Kelly Dugan, Malia Everette, Laura Garcia-Santiago,Marilyn Langlois, Paul Larudee, Juan Reardon, Ada Recinos, Carlos Taboada, Zak Wear, and Melvin Willis


Representatives of allied organizations:

Claudia Jimenez, CCC Racial Justice Coalition
Millie Cleveland, SEIU Local 1021
David Sharples, ACCE
Alyssa Kang, California Nurses Association.
Brenda Williams, Richmond Rainbow Pride

There was some momentary confusion over an error on the RPA website, which mistakenly included Eduardo Martinez as a member of the new Steering Committee. Mayor Butt cried foul in his E-Forum, citing potential violations of the Brown Act. He later published a note of clarification from Eduardo Martinez, which unfortunately was made to sound as if he stepped off the committee only after he was called out on it. In actuality, Eduardo, who had served on the previous RPA Steering Committee, immediately resigned after the November 2016 election, in order to comply with the Brown Act. He was not nominated to serve on the current Steering Committee, nor did he seek to. Current City council members serving on the RPA Steering Committee include Jovanka Beckles, Melvin Willis and Ben Choi.