Issues

Something stinks: Richmond compost facility

As environmentally conscious folks, many of us gladly fill up our green bin every week, and giddily anticipate free compost giveaways at Richmond's Earth Day celebrations. But what if our city’s compost facility is not that green?

At the beginning of this year, Contra Costa County health officials issued a cease and desist letter to Republic Services’ Richmond composting facility. City and County agencies had received some 400 calls about foul smells emanating from the site, including some people reporting nausea, headaches and throat irritations. When county health officials visited the site, they saw seven fires burning – not a good sign. Also, it turned out that Republic Services was handling 350,000 tons of materials when they were only permitted for 1/10 that amount.

A few months later, the California Water Board found that the facility was in violation of other regulations; one of the slopes on the landfill had failed, threatening local water resources. Then in September, Cal Recycle (the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery) notified the City Council that because of the fire problems at the facility, the landfill had been put on a list of facilities that chronically violate state minimum standards for solid waste handling. And as a result, the CCC Health Services Department was going to put the facility under a strict compliance schedule.

The landfill’s Land Use permit is apparently expiring soon, and needs to be re-permitted; the City should take this opportunity to ensure that Republic addresses these issues, for the sake of our environment, residents and facility workers.

Contra Costa Community Defense Network

Exciting news from our allies at the Safe Return Project (which supports formerly incarcerated individuals): SRP is launching a Participatory Defense Network for Contra Costa County!

What is participatory defense? According to the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, the San Jose-based organization which pioneered this model, it means bringing a “community organizing ethic to the court process; encouraging the active engagement of families and communities in the defense of a loved one who has had contact with the criminal justice system; holding the public agencies that make up the criminal justice system accountable; and bringing a community presence to what is usually an isolating court process.” Ultimately, participatory defense is aimed at equipping impacted communities with the tools and information needed to meaningfully impact their local criminal justice system.

Steering Committee Nominations

APPLICATION DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL 2/2/18

RPA is now recruiting for Steering Committee (SC) members to serve a two year term between April 2018-March 2020.  This is an exciting leadership opportunity and a chance to work alongside other Richmond activists committed to progressive and corporate-free politics.  The RPA is growing and can also use expertise of those knowledgeable in organizational development and operations, including finance, fundraising, human resources, technology and the law.  Please review the documents below and consider applying yourself or nominating someone else.  Due date for nominations is 1/15/18; applications are now due 2/2/18 (extended from 1/26/17).  Thanks so much and please email rpascnominations@gmail.com with any questions. 

Letter from Nomination Committee (PDF)

Steering Committee Role Description (PDF)

Steering Committee Application (PDF)

Nominate Someone for Steering Committee (PDF)

Melvin Willis to Run for Mayor!

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On December 15, Richmond Councilmember Melvin Willis announced that he is running for mayor of the City of Richmond in the November 2018 election. The announcement was made at the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) holiday party, to a joyful crowd of supporters.

“Many people have contributed to Richmond’s transformation in recent years, and we are thankful to all. At the same time, many challenges remain, and a much better Richmond is possible!” said Willis.

Melvin Willis, a community organizer with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), made history in 2016 when at 26 he became the youngest councilmember ever elected in the City’s history. He received the highest number of votes in the race, and his success was crowned by the passage in Richmond of the first Fair Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction law in California in 30 years, a ballot initiative at the center of his campaign.

At the announcement, Willis was flanked by Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles and Councilmember Ada Recinos. In addition to Beckles and Recinos, Councilmembers Ben Choi, Eduardo Martinez and two-term former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin have all endorsed Willis’ candidacy.

“Melvin has the values, the vision and the commitment to lead Richmond to a higher level of progress and to make it a better city for all our residents. He thinks globally and organizes and mobilizes locally. He is thoughtful, caring, gentle and generous. People know him and love him. Melvin is the best of Richmond,” said former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

During his announcement Willis stressed that the important achievements that have transformed Richmond over the past decade and are inspiring many other communities throughout the nation need to be defended against undermining measures at higher levels of government.

 “As Mayor I will lead all those in Richmond willing to work to make our city better. Together we will sustain our accomplishments and keep folks in their homes, fight pollution, defend immigrants’ rights, improve our schools and libraries, and continue our progress in reducing violent crime. I will promote a community participatory process for the city budget. I will respond to the needs of our youth, I will focus on the creation of affordable housing, and my doors will always be open to every resident of our community to hear their thoughts and ideas,” Willis added.

Willis affirmed that his campaign for Mayor will be based on peoplepower and neighborpower, and free of corporate donations. He rejects the corrupting influence of corporate money and invites all residents to support a one-person, one-vote true democratic election.

Richmond's Family Justice Center

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While cases of family violence have traditionally been viewed as isolated incidents, studies are now showing the link between domestic violence and other forms of violence in communities. For instance, a majority of mass shootings (54%) are related to domestic or family violence. In one study examining 10 officer-involved critical incidents in ten years, the suspects had a history of violence against women in 80% of these cases. Research also shows that domestic violence and child abuse often occur in the same families and children living in violent families are more likely to engage in violent activities when they are older.

When a community focuses on reducing the incidents of family and domestic abuse, this effort can provide a measurable benefit to reducing overall crime while promoting overall community health. The Family Justice Center (the “Center”) is a warm and welcoming one-stop center for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking. We bring resources to meet the needs of children, youth and families impacted by interpersonal violence.

The Family Justice Center model has been identified as a best practice in the field of domestic violence by the United States Department of Justice, and is employed in over 100 communities worldwide. The West Center in Richmond opened its pilot site in 2011 and moved to its permanent location in June of 2015. In 2016, the West Center assisted 986 clients, and we expect to serve over 1,000 clients in 2017.

The West Family Justice Center currently has 19 on-site partners, including community based victim advocates, mental health counselors, detectives from the Richmond PD, a Deputy District Attorney, DA victim advocates, attorneys and County public benefits staff. Our programs and services fall under three categories: crisis support, long term safety, and community building and education. The Family Justice Institute offers free workshops on substantive topics, such as “trauma 101” and “Interpersonal violence 101.”

The Family Justice Community Fellows program offers a 10-month long fellowship opportunity in which survivors of violence develop their leadership skills while creating their own projects to support others in their community. On December 8, 2017, the second cohort of nine fellows graduated and and showcased their achievements.  Each fellow completed a project on a range of topics with which they have personal experience, including reducing bullying in schools, supporting foster youth in transition, connecting abuse survivors with pets, and offering art classes to urban youth.

Councilmember Eduardo Martinez Responds to False Report by Police Department

From Eduardo: 

"Mark Gagan is an outstanding example of a community minded police officer. I have always known him to be hard working, open to the whole community and fair. I so much respected his work, I had suggested that he be considered as chief when the position was open. I also believe that Chief Brown is doing an excellent job under very trying budgetary
circumstances.

I have no information about the charges brought against Mark or his involvement in my case but from my experience with him, and until I have contrary information, I would think he may be the victim of internal police department politics."

Read Eduardo's full statement here.

RPA Continues to Inspire

Good bye, 2017. You were a real doozy. And we know that with an unhinged President and a Republican-controlled Congress bent on shredding the social safety net, there’s more drama and trauma ahead in 2018.

But here in Richmond, we have been long tilling the fertile fields of bottom-up, people-centered, progressive activism. And with five corporate-free city council members on the dais this year, our efforts continue to bear fruit.

As Melvin Willis pointed out when he announced he was running for mayor, in 2017 RPA-backed councilmembers:

  • Passed a $15 minimum wage
  • Established a ban on small pack cigarettes, menthols and flavored tobacco paraphernalia
  • After twenty years, got a 1 percent tax on development to support the arts in Richmond
  • Passed a balanced budget, and set up more transparency for budget setting in the future
  • Saw the successful implementation of Measure L, which is allowing renters to stay in their homes, instead of being forced out by excessive rent hikes

Looking ahead 2018, I see more exciting policy achievements in 2018. And I see the election of a young, hope-filled, African American mayor to lead our city – someone who will inspire, serve and work side by side with our diverse and dynamic residents.

Throughout California, I see us taking our positive vision of corporate-free progressive politics to the next level, with candidates like Jovanka Beckles running for Assembly District 15, and Gayle McLaughlin running for California Lt. Governor. If in 2017 #MeToo was the courageous rallying cry of women stepping out from the shadows of sexual harassment, next year I hope it represents the empowerment of more and more women as they run for political office – and win.

Nationally, I expect to see the progressive revolution continue to build as we head towards this fall. As Collier Meyerson pointed out in The Nation, this past November Bernie Sanders/ Our Revolution candidates won 27 of 59 races in which the organization made endorsements. So although one might say the Democrats did well during the off-year election, it’s more accurate to say that progressives did well.

And that makes me inspired and ready to fight in 2018.

Thank you for standing shoulder to shoulder with me me in the struggle! This is the year to step it up: to join an RPA Action Team, make a (more generous) donation, come to our upcoming membership meeting, or apply to serve on the Steering Committee. Together as one, we are making another Richmond possible!

Worth Reading: Chron on Gayle's Campaign

If you didn’t have a chance to check out John Wildermuth’s spread in the SF Chron article on Dec 29, Ex-Richmond mayor looks to bring a Bernie Sanders approach to Sacramento, it’s worth a read!

Ex-Richmond mayor looks to bring a Bernie Sanders approach to Sacramento

December 29, 2017

For former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, it’s time to take her city’s progressive politics on the road.

McLaughlin, a former Green Party member, is running for lieutenant governor in 2018 as an independent candidate, confident that California is ready for the type of all-in liberal politics that her Richmond Progressive Alliance brought to the East Bay city.

 “I decided that at a certain point I had to do a statewide race,” said the 65-year-old McLaughlin. “If I ran statewide we could spread the Progressive Alliance farther and move it to a larger stage.”

The Chicago-born McLaughlin was one of the founders of the Richmond group, which ran a slate of progressive outsiders in 2004 to replace City Council members they said were both ineffective and too closely tied to Chevron, the city’s most powerful business.

After two years on the council, McLaughlin beat an incumbent mayor by 242 votes in 2006. She held that office until 2014, when she was elected again to the council, where members of the alliance now hold five of the seven seats. She resigned her seat this year so she could campaign to replace termed-out Democrat Gavin Newsom as lieutenant governor.

“We want to show the rest of the state how we did it, how we reduced crime, raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour and put in new rent control rules,” she said. 

To read the whole article, click here.

Getting More Residents into Good Jobs

Improving conditions in Richmond means getting more residents into steady good-paying jobs with a future. It is great that warehouses are locating here with thousands of new jobs.  But we have to remember that the wages paid for unskilled jobs are not enough to support a family in Richmond.  We need more programs like Richmond Build which will help people to advance from seemingly dead-end jobs into skilled work.  In this and coming articles we will highlight some of the programs available to Richmond residents as well as discuss some new programs that can make a difference. 

Take advantage of programs that already exist like the one below. And spread the word to people you know.

Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 342 to open apprenticeship sign-ups

This is a great career that pays well. Apprentices start out at about $23.00/hour with raises every 6 months. After a probationary period, family benefits kick-in. After graduating, the pay is better than $60.00/hr.  It is a five year apprenticeship so the commitment has to be serious.

Requirements for applying are minimal: High school or GED, and ability to be on time every day, and pass a physical and drug test. Previous incarceration and spotty work record are not a barrier.

Applicants will then have to pass an initial test covering basic math and spatial relations. It’s worth applying even if you don’t pass this test the first time. You will have a better idea about what the tests are like and can take advantage of some of the special courses and books that help prepare people in these areas.

Applicants will have to apply in person at the training center in Concord February 5- 9. Email Don Gosney dongosney@comcast.net for an information packet including sample questions.

For more information: http://www.ua342.org/Training.html

Richmond Gives Me Hope

A reflection one year after Trump.

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I remember it clearly: it was a year ago, but it seems like a lifetime.

November 8, 2016 -- I had spent my day handing out progressive voting guides at a couple of polling stations. In the company of kind people, soaking up the November sun, talking with neighbors, and excited about the candidates and causes I was supporting. Afterwards, I gathered among friends at the RPA office to watch the returns on the big screen. My excitement gave way to horror, and sense that I was spiraling away from reality.

The next morning at work, we called an emergency staff meeting at Friends of the Earth; people were in shock and tears. I was able to offer some encouragement to my colleagues: We will get through this, we will resist, and I do have hope. I draw my from hope from Richmond.

It is all too easy to read the 2016 election as the triumph of a brutish, dangerous, reality television egomaniac. But that would be conferring far too much importance on Trump. The story of the 2016 election was equally about the meteoric rise of a social democrat and the blossoming of a inspiring, progressive movement. It was the story of grassroots change, and the story of Richmond.

In Richmond, we had just won a progressive majority on the City Council. Relying on the sweat of hundreds of volunteers, we had elected two first-time candidates who represented the future of progressive politics – young, diverse, and embedded in the movements for clean energy and the rights of poor and working class people. And that gives me hope.

It is all too easy to reflect on the past year as a series of hateful, racist policies – from a proposed Muslim ban to a border wall – and the emergence of white supremacists from the shadows. But this past year was equally about the spontaneous gathering of thousands at airports across the county, where Muslim faithful prayed between baggage carousels and parking lots. It was the story of tolerance and love, and the story of Richmond.

In Richmond, a local man was arrested a few years ago after making threats to a mosque in my neighborhood. What followed was an outpouring of fellowship, as people posted notes of solidarity and well-wishes on the mosque doors and gathered in the courtyard to support the congregation. That night still gives me hope.

It is all too easy to look at this past year and view it as the epitome of corrupt politics and the corporate capture of our government. After all, Trump literally handed his pen to the CEO of Dow Chemical after signing an Executive Order to eliminate regulations. But to dwell on that is to miss the fact that an unprecedented number of people are now stepping up to run for public office. Galvanized by the injustices perpetrated by this Administration, women’s groups, environmental organizations, and others are offering candidate trainings. It is the story of empowerment, and the story of Richmond.

In Richmond, it is said that Chevron once had its own desk at City Hall. But for the last ten years, a grassroots progressive movement has successfully thrown Chevron out of our government and elected City Council candidates who have refused a dime of corporate money. And that gives me hope.

In Richmond, our city is committed to environmental sustainability, even while Trump pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.

In Richmond, we are cultivating worker-owned cooperatives and raising the minimum wage, even while the Republican-controlled Congress tries to pass tax reform on the backs of the poor and middle class.

In Richmond, we have a new law to help people to stay in their homes, even while rents skyrocket astronomically in the Bay Area and cities around the country.

In Richmond, we are gradually creating a future that is more just, and doing it from the bottom up. And since that is the only way to ensure durable social change in our country, what we are doing in Richmond gives me hope far beyond.

Feeling hopeful? Keep it going through supporting the Richmond Progressive Alliance.