Police Layoffs Are Not Happening

In recent weeks, a sudden preoccupation with police layoffs entered the public conversation around the Reimagine Public Safety Community Task Force proposals. The origins of this fear have been difficult to track, as the Task Force provided numerous sample budgets for city staff to refer to when implementing the proposals—none of which included layoffs. Instead, the four pillars of the public safety program were to be funded through such budgetary procedures as eliminating frozen police positions, staff vacancies, and unnecessary contracts with private firms. Eliminating the twelve police department vacancies, for example, would save the city $3 million dollars annually while maintaining the same level of police services from last year.

The budgetary process has also indicated that Richmond is working with a sizable surplus this year (roughly $15.6 million dollars). These noticeable increases in the City’s revenue streams came thanks to voters who passed Measure H, known as the Real Estate Transfer Tax, in 2018. Because of this surplus, we can afford to fund the Reimagine proposals and not take all the funds from the police. The availability of these funds, coupled with the money that can be trimmed from the police budget, makes layoffs unnecessary. 

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Beyond Policing: Richmond’s Successful Public Safety Policy

One recurring worry about the Reimagine Public Safety Community Task Force  proposals has been the accusation that the Task Force is recommending untested public safety practices. Critics and concerned residents both, particularly those with memories of Richmond’s violent crime rate through 2010, have expressed understandable anxiety about the return of rampant gun violence and indiscriminate shootings. But these fears and anxieties are unwarranted. Richmond already has a proven program in place—the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS). What ONS needs is adequate funding to expand and continue their groundbreaking work. 

Richmond began the work of reimagining policing in 2007, when it established ONS. At the time, Richmond was ranked the ninth most dangerous city in the country, and previous efforts to curb shootings and other violent crime yielded little discernible success. The ONS was not shy about taking a new approach: it would not be another arm of Richmond’s police force. Instead, the new program harnessed deep knowledge of our community, data aggregation, and cutting-edge theories about violence to craft its strategy. 


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Global Anti-Chevron Day 2021

Photo credit: Arthur Koch, Artist credit: David Solnit

Hundreds of Richmond residents participated in the 8th annual Global Anti-Chevron Day on May 21, 2021. Linking the struggles for justice in Richmond, Ecuador and Myanmar, communities damaged by Chevron shared their stories about the impact of the oil company’s environmental destruction and human rights violations. This annual action occurs in advance of Chevron’s annual shareholder’s meeting.

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Urgent Response Needed! Send public comment to DTSC by June 25!

The City of Richmond signed a Development Agreement last December allowing HRP Campus Bay Property, LLC to build 4,000 residential units on top of the old Stauffer Chemical waste site, currently owned by Astra-Zeneca. Before the Development Agreement can be finalized, however, the developer (HRP) and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), must sign off on a Prospective Purchaser Agreement allowing the transfer of the land from Zeneca (aka Cherokee Simeon LLC) to HRP. The Prospective Purchaser Agreement (PPA) is a legal document indemnifying both the DTSC and the purchaser (HRP) from lawsuits. The public has until June 25 to comment on this agreement, by emailing public comment letter to [email protected] and [email protected]

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2021 Richmond Rainbow Pride

Happy Pride Month! Richmond Progressive Alliance is a proud community partner of Richmond Rainbow Pride, a group of LGBTIQQ individuals who live, work and/or play in Richmond, CA, and who come together for the collective benefit of the LGBTIQQ community. They organize an annual pride event on the first Sunday in June, ordinarily in a Richmond park, however this year the ceremonies were conducted via zoom. This year's pride event, titled "Together We Rise" was hosted by Michelle Meow, featured panelists Amira Arov and Reverend Kamal Hasan and a range of performers. Richmond Rainbow Pride is active year round, check them out here.

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Richmond Small Business Support

In response to the needs of restaurants and this new available funding stream, Councilmembers Jimenez and Willis and a team of volunteers developed a plan and materials to perform outreach to small businesses (and the formalized systems that support them, such as the City of Richmond and local business organizations) in March 2021. The primary goals of this outreach effort was to administer a survey of COVID-19 impacts to Richmond eateries and spread awareness about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund within the American Rescue Plan.The team contacted over 100 restaurants and surveyed 41%. 

In addition to the devastating health and safety impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of United States workers have experienced significant economic repercussions. Many small businesses have suffered due to necessary Shelter in Place orders initiated by Contra Costa County and the State of California. 

This employment crisis has uniquely impacted people of color, women, young people, immigrants, and the formerly incarcerated that America’s restaurants and bars employ.  At least 110,000 restaurants and bars closed since the pandemic’s start. 

Passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 included a $28.6 billion grant program for struggling restaurants and bars, the first federal grant program available to help restaurants and bars since the pandemic began. 

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We are in Very Good Hands

By BK Williams, RPA Co-Chair

A few weeks ago, I logged onto a Zoom call with RPA colleagues and when I looked at the grid of friendly faces, something dawned on me. To my delight, I saw so much more than just the “old white retired people” that the classic stereotype might suggest.

Oh, they were there. Our veteran RPA members continue to fight the important battles they are bound to and believe in: the battle against Chevron, for Doctors’ Hospital, for the Richmond Municipal Identification program, for the Ban the Box ordinance and for the overturn of Costa Hawkins. Yes, our older members were still in the room. But all around them were fresh young faces that represent the next generation of progressives in Richmond.

Over the past several weeks, I took some time to connect one-on-one with these newer members. I wanted to understand what motivated them to get involved with our community and what would keep them motivated to stay involved.

What I found was that I myself was motivated by their vision, their boldness and their social awareness. They are the bright future of the RPA, and that future will be rooted in social justice.

Here are a few things I noticed about this next generation:

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Building Inclusive Leadership in Beloved Community

Here are event registration links for May 10 and May 17.

There are many ways to demonstrate leadership in a community, including but certainly beyond formal positions of power. This month, we are hosting two workshops to provide locals an opportunity to explore the power dynamics and imbalances in Richmond and find ways to engage. All are welcome.

How Should Richmond Spend Its Stimulus Money?

Richmond will receive at least $20.8 million in stimulus money under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  This is a one-time grant that the city must spend before the end of 2024. The money must be used for projects that address the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.

ARPA, which was signed into law by President Biden in March, will transfer more than $350 billion to state, county and city governments this year. The formula used to calculate each grant amount has not been made public, and the $20.8 million received by Richmond actually seems low compared to what other similarly-sized cities have received. The RPA Budget Action Team is seeking clarification from city, county and federal agencies about whether Richmond received its full and fair share of the money (see related article).

Though cities have a lot of leeway in how to use the ARPA stimulus money, the federal government has set some restrictions. More details will be provided to the city over time, but right now we know that the money can be used:

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Is Richmond not getting its fair-share of stimulus money?

The Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) Budget Action Team (BAT) has been meeting regularly to learn about the city budget process, consider new sources of revenue, and try to make sure money is spent in the best possible ways. At the March meeting, Richmond resident Jaime Perez looked over a list of cities receiving COVID-19-related stimulus money and raised a concern -- it really seems like Richmond is not getting its fair share.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that President Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021 includes $42.3 billion dollars in payments to city and county governments in California.  The money is paid to cities in two installments, and all of it must be spent by the end of 2024 on projects that help offset the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.  The amount allocated for Richmond is $20.8 million.  That sounded great to the RPA Budget Action Team, until Jaime looked at the list of what other cities are getting and saw that Berkeley is receiving 68.26 million dollars in ARPA stimulus money, despite having about the same-sized population as Richmond. 

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