Governor Brown recently signed into law AB 291 (Chiu), the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, which will go into effect on January 1, 2018. In the context of Trump’s election and the escalating housing crisis in the Bay Area, too many tenants found themselves having to choose between the risk of homelessness and the risk of deportation if they stood up for their rights. The law prohibits landlords from disclosing information about a tenant’s immigration status in order to pressure them to move, and also makes discrimination based on immigration status illegal.
Thanks to the efforts of the RPA and our allies we now have rent control and ‘just cause’ eviction in Richmond. The new 5-member Rent Board began work in April setting up what is, in essence, a housing court system. We approved a budget and hired a super-qualified Executive Director, Nicolas Traylor, who is a Richmond resident.
The Rent Board approved, and the City Council approved, a maximum rent increase limit, for rent-controlled units, of 3.4% for 2016 and 2017.
And we assessed a very reasonable fee of $97 per unit per year for those landlords subject to ‘just cause,’ saving many landlords money in the long run as they won’t need an attorney to evict a bad tenant.
But more hard work is ahead in the coming months. As the only tenant on the Rent Board, I need your voice. The Rent Board will be voting on these important issues that will decide the balance of power between landlords and tenants:
Banking in August: ‘Banking’ is defined as the ability of rental property owner to raise the rent up to the “Maximum Allowable Rent” level after deferring past cost-of-living increases. In other words, if the landlords do not take the cost-of-living rent increase that they would have otherwise had a right to take, can they “bank” the increase and add it on to the rent in later years? Should it be allowed? Should there be limits?
Pass-Through in September: Can landlords pass along some of the $97 annual fee to tenants? Many of the rent control programs in California allow half of the fee to be passed along to tenants. Who can better afford the fee? Who will make most use of the Rent Board?
Capital Improvements in October: Under what conditions can landlords raise rents to pay for capital improvements to the property? Where is the balance between keeping up the housing stock and losing affordable housing? This is an extremely complex regulatory question that will likely require a special session of the Rent Board.
If you care about one or more of these issues, please attend Rent Board meetings and speak during the public comment period. The Rent Board meets in the City Council Chambers on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at 4 P.M. (except the August, 2017 meeting has been moved to the 4th Wednesday, August 23rd). Here are the current meeting dates:
Wednesday, August 23rd
Wednesday, September 20th
Wednesday, October 18th
For more information about on the meeting agenda and any schedule changes check out the City of Richmond Rent Board web page.
In 1988, at the 70th convention of the American Federation of Teachers, its President, Albert Shanker, proposed to reform the public school system through the formation of community-based, teacher-run Charter Schools. In 1991, the first Charter School Law was enacted in Minnesota. California followed with the “1992 Charter School Act.” Today, in California there are approximately 1,200 schools serving half a million students. In 2016-2017, the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) enrolled 4,577 in 11 charter schools; in 2017-2018, charter school enrollment is expected to be around five thousand students or approximately 15% of the District’s student population.
Apparently, progressive teachers and community activists were not the only ones attracted to Shanker’s neoliberal utopia. Only six years after the initial call for reform, academic bureaucrats, philanthropic entrepreneurs and plain corporate scammers took over the popular movement for school reform. To his credit, Shanker was among the first to denounce the corporate-bureaucratic take over. In “Where We Stand”, his weekly column in the New York Times, July 3, 1994, he denounced the Detroit School District for “…giving $4 million—for starters—to a group of people who are eager for public funds but could care less about public education.”
Based on the legal fiction that charters are “public schools”, they receive public funds on a per pupil basis. In 2016-2017, charters received $46 million. In addition, out of the General Fund, Local Control Funding Formula and Title II monies, the WCCUSD paid an additional $48 million for, among other things, the salaries of charter teachers, administrators and staff, instructional materials, and professional development. Thus, in 20116-2017, the subsidy to the charters added to $94 million. If pending petitions for new charters or for the expansion of existing ones are approved by either the district, the county or the state, the subsidy to the corporate charter school “reform” movement could well gobble up more than half of our district’s annual budget.
The hemorrhage must stop!
Progressives: meet Ada Recinos, the recently appointed Richmond City Councilmember. Passionate Millennial, spiritual, and self-described introvert are a few ways to describe Ada. Ada met with RPA Steering Committee member, Peter Chau, to answer questions about herself and her future plans.
What drives your passion?
My family and I had very hard times when I was growing up. Yet my parents always had a big heart, they taught me the importance of generosity and community service. My mom showed me how to be a leader, she always followed up words with action. Its why I think about how I can help our community at every moment of the day. I have a journal were I write ideas or solutions down (it helps me focus) its important for me to put my dreams down on paper.
Where did you grow up? How did you end up in Richmond?
I grew up in and around LA, living half of my youth in Hawthorne and Torrance. I completed a fellowship with the Congressional Hunger Center and was living in Oakland. My partner and I could not afford to live there anymore, and honestly no one wanted to give us a place. It was really tough because I was searching for work at the time and I watched property managers write words “unemployed” on my housing applications in bright red letters. Fortunately, I found a great job at Prospera shortly after and a really great apartment. 2015 was a really hard year for me.
How did you become involved in Richmond issues?
A week after I moved to Richmond, I applied and was appointed to the Human Rights Commission in January 2016. In February 2017, I joined the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s Steering Committee. I was eager to set up roots here in Richmond and become civically engaged.
What was the most challenging moment for you on the Human Rights Commission?
We recently had three fantastic community leaders transition from the commission, change is hard. We lost some wisdom. Their presence can still be felt on the Commission. While it has felt as though the work on the commission has stalled, we have two new commissioners who are taking the helm. The Commission also has a new intern, so I’m excited about supporting her development as a young leader, even though I am no longer there.
What prompted you to apply for the Richmond City Council seat?
There is so much going on, like the uncertainty with DACA [Deferred Action for Children Act] and the fear that many immigrant families are experiencing. Our community is hurting and we must fight back. I know that politics are very personal, especially for us as RPA members. I wanted to act now. We’ve seen the damage 45 has caused months into his presidency. The time to act is now. We are the people and leaders we have been waiting for.
What are your plans as City Councilmember?
Richmond is a transformative place, and we are feeling the tech and housing pressure from Oakland and San Francisco. How can keep Richmond affordable and slow down gentrification? How can we get Richmond youth to stay in Richmond? With these kinds of questions, I want to learn the best practices from other progressive cities and listen to our community. The answers are here. Also, I want to make sure that we have natural and environmental disaster preparation.
And for those of you who want to learn more about Ada, check out an earlier interview with Ada that ran in a previous edition of The Activist as part of our ongoing series featuring new RPA Steering Committee members.
On September 12, the Richmond City Council unanimously voted in Ada Recinos as the newest member of the council, taking the seat that was vacated by Gayle McLaughlin, who resigned in order to focus on her race for California Lt. Governor.
Ada is a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance Steering Committee, and one of the three candidates that the RPA membership endorsed for the vacant seat.
Read on for reactions from Ada, former Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, and RPA Steering Committee member Marilyn Langlois:
My name is Ada Marisol Recinos; I am a daughter of immigrant parents from El Salvador, and I’m an older sister too. My family taught me kindness, compassion and most importantly, how to be a progressive, lead with vulnerability and celebrate life. It is what I would like to offer you and our city.
This is a difficult time for the most invisible and marginalized communities in our country. Now more than ever, we have to take care of each other. I am hopeful, because Richmond residents will not stand for the bigotry, corruption or lies. We know our local government has the responsibility and right to protect us from the action- or lack of action in the White House.
As your newest city Councilperson, I am committed to fostering that deep impact, right here. In the next few months, I look forward to leaning into solutions for the needs our our youth, exploring responsible development without displacement opportunities, supporting our entrepreneurs of color, and affirming the rights of our immigrant and black communities.
I was invigorated by the amount of candidates seeking appointment last Tuesday, as I am sure many of you were as well. We have a long list of leaders who care tremendously about our collective success. Let’s keep up that momentum. I’ll leave you with a core belief that a mentor shared with me a few years ago, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Thank you for the privilege of being able to move this work forward with all of you.
Former Richmond Mayor, Councilmember and RPA co-founder Gayle McLaughlin, had this to say:
On Tuesday, September 12, the Richmond City Council appointed Ada Recinos to fill the City Council seat that I vacated this past July to focus fully on my 2018 California Lt. Governor campaign.
Ada is a 26 year old Latina activist who has served on the Richmond Human Rights and Human Relations Commission and on the Richmond Progressive Alliance Steering Committee. Ada joins Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, Melvin Willis, and Ben Choi as the 5th RPA member serving currently on our City Council.
Ada will serve well the Richmond community with her progressive values and her commitment to continue the groundbreaking work of transforming Richmond for the benefit of its people.
I extend my personal best wishes to Ada as she embarks on this new endeavor and I also applaud the many members of the RPA who continue to lead by building local power and grassroots democracy!
Marilyn Langlois, RPA Steering Committee member, who the membership named as their preferred choice among its three endorsed candidates added:
I'd like to extend my hearty congratulations to fellow RPA Steering Committee member Ada Recinos on her appointment to the Richmond City Council! She brings excellent qualities to this task, and I look forward to working with her. The RPA is thus maintaining its five votes on the council, offering many opportunities to put our values of people first over corporate interests into practice. For those of you who weren't able to attend the Sept.12 city council meeting, when all the applicants presented themselves and the council voted on filling the vacancy, it can be viewed online from the City's website.
To everyone who encouraged me to apply for the vacancy, thank you for your support. I urge us all now to keep our sleeves rolled up, continue building our movement and keep working together in every way we can to promote our common progressive agenda.
Sure, it feels like Groundhog Day in September, déjà vu all over again. But, hey, climate justice activists are used to beating our heads against the wall. So when Jack Broadbent, Chief Executive Officer/Air Pollution Control Officer for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, tells us to abandon hope for capping refinery emissions because, well, the latest cap and trade bill -- we’re supposed to roll over and fade politely into the polluted Technicolor sunset, right?
For purposes of BAAQMD, the 2017-18 season opens on September 20th. Despite the questionable assertion Broadbent made at the August Board meeting—that everyone in Sacramento knows the general consensus was to remove “duplicative regulation” of greenhouse gases via the cap-and-trade extension bill (AB 398) -- we’ve been hearing the exact opposite. Highly placed friends in Sacramento wanted to make sure that BAAQMD’s cap on refinery emissions was protected under the new legislation.
Caps on refinery emissions prevent increases of emissions. They don’t actually reduce emissions. Therefore, they are not preempted by AB 398. The RPA will be working to get caps on criteria pollutants and carbon dioxide back on the BAAQMD agenda where they belong. The original version of Rule 12-16 addressed both criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases and is now more relevant than ever.
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.
In the early morning of July 31, for the second Monday in a row, protesters locked themselves in front of the gates of Kinder Morgan’s Richmond facility, leaving tanker trucks stranded for hours while police and firefighters figured out how to detach the blockaders.
Kinder Morgan, one of North America’s largest oil infrastructure companies, is now attempting to triple the size of its pipeline that runs from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Pacific Ocean. The planned pipeline runs through the land of several First Nations, who are fighting to stop it. If completed, the project would deliver tar sands crude oil to ships for transport to refineries in Asia and the US West Coast, including the Bay Area. Increasing the refining of tar sands crude oil would not only further endanger the climate, but increase health and safety dangers to already polluted communities.
The action for two consecutive Mondays, organized by Diablo Rising Tide, was a show of solidarity with the First Nations fighting the pipeline. It was also part of the Bay Area’s fight against an influx of tar sands oil to local refineries.
Earlier this month, the Governor and Leadership came together to announce their commitment to a package that included urgently needed affordable housing funding.
The Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB 2) was introduced by Senator Atkins (D-San Diego) to establish a permanent source of funding for affordable housing by imposing a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents, excluding residential and commercial property sales. It will build safe and affordable apartments and single-family homes for Californians in need, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in state investment and leverage significant additional funding in federal, local, and private investment.
The Affordable Housing Bond Act (SB 3) was introduced by Senator Beall (D-South Bay/Silicon Valley) and gives voters the opportunity to authorize an affordable housing bond at the November 2018 ballot to create more affordable housing across the state. The programs in this bond specifically fund construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of housing for those at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness and low-income earners, as well as create more homeownership opportunities for low and moderate-income earners. Polling shows that voters support increasing SB 3’s investment in our communities, with a $6 – $9 billion bond.
While Californians across the state have demonstrated strong support for action and many lawmakers agree that our state must tackle our housing crisis, these bills require a 2/3 majority vote -- a challenging threshold, no matter the issue.
Now is the time to make sure your voice has been heard. The Nonprofit Housing Association has made this easy online form, so that you can email, tweet, or send a Facebook message directly to your Assemblymember.