Our movement is in the news again!
Hot off the "presses" is a wonderful podcast from Stepping Up, titled Smackdown: City Hall v. Big Oil. Produced by Claire Schoen, this podcast focuses on “surprising stories from climate activists” and features our favorite Communities for a Better Environment rep, Andres Soto. Well worth a listen!
And if you haven’t already checked it out, read a Counterpunch article penned by Ralph Nader titled Citizen-Mayor Gayle Roars through Richmond California. It chronicles the history of the RPA and Gayle’s bid for Lt. Governor. An excerpt is below:
[In Richmond], McLaughlin found a few like-minded progressives and started the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA). (Gayle had volunteered in the Green Party’s 2000 Presidential Campaign)
With very little money, but many long overdue proposals for the betterment of the city, the RPA went to work. They had three public assets—a set of progressive policy changes, support of a large silent majority of residents, and a dedicated core of thirty no-nonsense local champions for a just community.
RPA ran a slate of candidates for City Council in 2004, with some success. This was followed by a victory in 2006 that made McLaughlin mayor—a post she held until 2014 when she was termed out and then successfully ran for city council. RPA now controls five of the seven seats—overcoming the Chevron Company’s longtime political boosters…
Because of McLaughlin and the RPA, Richmond has a higher minimum wage of $15 an hour, a police department that has curbed police misconduct, a major drop in serious street crime, an increase in Chevron’s tax payments, a decrease in toxic pollution by Chevron, and Solar Richmond, a program demonstrating a greener local economy, more energy self-reliance and jobs.
In case you missed it, Richmond was recently honored by the Transnational Institute, a Dutch-based international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world.
Their Transformative Cities project stresses that the award “is not a process where we are going to judge social movements, civil society organizations, citizens platforms or other groups,” but rather a process to “extract lessons can bring unique insights about how to set up transformative political practices, from the strategic to the tactical level.”
Richmond was honored because of what it has been able to achieve in terms of environmental accountability over Chevron, raising its local minimum wage, passing rent control and “by appointing a visionary gay police chief, greatly reduced local crime rates, including homicides, through successful community policing."
The jury particularly noted that “The hybrid RPA has been central to all this. As a membership organization, a coalition of community groups, and a key coordinator of grassroots education and citizen mobilization, it works on issues such as labour, immigrant rights, environmental justice, rent, police accountability, fair taxation of business, community health and environmental protection.”
Jackson, MS was another US city that was honored for its progressive elected officials and growing network of worker-owned cooperatives. Other inspiring stories included efforts in Accra, Ghana to stop the installation of pre-paid water meters, and a successful campaign by mill workers in Mumbai, India to ensure that a portion of land slated for luxury real estate development was reserved for workers’ housing.
On March 31, the RPA membership voted in its new slate of Steering Committee members, and also amended the organization’s bylaws to have Steering Committee members serve two-year terms.
The new steering committee is comprised of (bios can be found here):
Jovanka Beckles, Richmond City Councilmember
Porschea Brown, RPA Rep, Lift Up Contra Costa Coalition
Michelle Chan, Recording Secretary
Ruscal Cayangyang, Finance and Governance committee
Chris Broglio, Office Committee Chair
Peter Chau, Schools Action Team
Millie Cleveland, SEIU Union Field Representative, Elections and Campaign Committee
Malia Everette, Co-Chair; Agenda Setting, Governance & Finance, Membership Committee
Michael Gliksohn, Treasurer, and Finance and Governance Committee Chair
Alyssa Kang, CNA Representative, Membership Standing Committee
Kabir Kapur, Membership Committee and The Sun
Marilyn Langlois, RPA representative on the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition and Reentry Solutions Group
Paul Larudee, Fundraising Committee
Mike Parker, Schools Action Team, Agenda Setting Committee, Elections and Campaign Committee, and Fundraising Committees
Juan Reardon, Sister Alliances Action Team
Ada Recinos, Richmond City Council
David Sharples, ACCE Representative, Fundraising Committee
Carlos Taboada, Schools Action Team
Diana Wear, Chair, SC Development Committee; Membership Committee
BK Williams, Co-chair, Agenda Committee, and Richmond Rainbow Pride
Melvin Willis, Richmond City Council
Sue Wilson, Chair, Communications
Big thanks to the Nominating Committee, which reviewed dozens of applications and conducted many interviews. The 2018-2020 RPA Steering Committee is comprised of an equal number of men and women, and 60 percent people of color.
2018 is off to an inspiring start: here in Richmond we are resisting the pernicious spread of charters and defending our neighborhood public schools. In January we became the latest city to sue oil majors such as Chevron for the local climate impacts they are causing. And although our residents are suffering from coal dust, we are fighting back.
Our work is done through the energy, passion and contributions of volunteers and activists like yourself. Please renew your membership today (at the last membership meeting, we voted to raise dues to $5/month). And if you can afford more please support us. THANK YOU!
Steve Early’s book, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money and the Remaking of an American City is now out in paperback! Many of you probably have purchased the hardback when it originally came out, but the affordable $18 version means that you can gift more of them to friends.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein, a Senior Fellow at the Hass Institute discusses the impact of government policies that created racially explicit inequalities in the development of housing communities in Richmond, the Bay Area and nationally.
On New Terrain: How Capital is Reshaping the Battleground of Class War by Kim Moody analyzes how changes in global capitalism have altered both the composition of the working class and the economic and political ground on which it struggles. Mentions the RPA as an example of how local unions can be critical to local level, third-party candidates.
When I look back at how progressives won so many races last November, one victory particularly stands out: Danica Roem, who became the first transgender woman to win state-wide office in the U.S. Roem's victory was not only striking because of the barriers she broke, but because she had defeated longtime incumbent Robert G. Marshall.
Marshall, who authored the Virginia bathroom bill, proudly referred to himself as the state’s "chief homophobe,” and ran a campaign filled with bigoted personal attacks. After she won, dozens of news outlets rushed to interview Roem and ask her about her what it was like to emerge victorious after such a hostile campaign. She simply said, "I don't attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now."
It was a beautiful, moving, and gracious gesture which reminded me that in politics, vitriol does not have to be answered in kind. And that reminder came just in time. A month before, Mayor Tom Butt politically attacked my friends and neighbors Eli and Claudia.
I don’t know what Mayor Butt thought when he received that menacing email about Moore and Jimenez “deserving the death penalty or worse.” Hopefully he was shocked (because hopefully that message was out of the ordinary). And I don’t know what he did in response – whether he ignored it, or replied in an effort to tamp down that kind of talk.
But I do know that in October, he crossed a line. Mayor Butt had already started tearing down individuals in an effort to tear down the RPA. But this time, he went from going after someone’s character to going after their employment. He went from creating online controversy to creating risks for people’s personal security.
It was not election season negativity, nor was it a rant against a public official (e.g. part of openly criticizing our government). It was an attack against a constituent.
Claudia Jimenez puts it well: “As we repudiate this kind of hateful leadership at the federal level, we must not allow it in Richmond. Richmond residents cannot be in fear that their private conversations, their home address or other private information would be blasted out publicly by their mayor. We need a mayor who focuses on Richmond’s real issues, not attacking constituents for disagreeing with him.”
We could all do well to learn from Danica Roem.
Who is the RPA? It’s made up of volunteers with passion, progressive values, and who love Richmond. In this series, we get to know the new faces on the RPA Steering Committee. This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Porschea Brown. In her day job, she works as a financial coach and social worker with Rubicon programs, a nationally recognized non-profit that helps people break the cycle of poverty.
Please tell us about your involvement in the RPA and in progressive causes.
In 2014 I had the pleasure of meeting Melvin Willis and Juan Reardon out in the community and they introduced me to Richmond Progressive Alliance. During this time my grandmother like many home owners in the city had issues with Bank of America regarding their home loans and Melvin introduced us to a program called NACA (Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America). Juan also introduced me to Jovanka Beckles and BMOER (Black Mobilization Organization Education Richmond.) Over the years, I have been a supporter of BMOER, RPA and I have supported a few members at the polls in addition to many of the campaigns and initiatives. I am responsible for leading a restorative healing circle, a women's empowerment group and for overseeing a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program where we returned over $700,000 in federal and state refunds back to the community.
What are your ideas about how change and progress occur?
My idea of change and progress begins with an awareness of self and systems. Change and progress requires a desire to want to experience something new. When new ideas begin to surface for me I have to set a goal(s), create a plan, followed by action.
What are you interested in bringing to the RPA?
It is my understanding that RPA is seeking to include more African American women and men. I would like to bring that diversity to RPA and collectively build an alliance with other promising young women and men of color, create mentorship opportunities, and opportunities for upward social mobility.
What would you like the RPA to accomplish? What is your vision of where the RPA is headed?
I would like to see RPA tackle race relations issues and develop county-wide activities for our youth and young adults. I would also like to see RPA develop a social enterprise that the residents can benefit from.
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 email@example.com with any questions.
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!
A reflection one year after Trump.
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.