Remember that huge problem with Republic Services’ West County landfill and composting facility? In early 2017 Republic got a cease and desist order from Contra Costa County health officials after the City and County received some 400 calls in 2016 about foul smells emanating from the site. People reported nausea, headaches and throat irritations, and when county health officials visited the site, they saw seven fires burning. It turned out that Republic Services was not only grossly mishandling the waste, but they were handling 350,000 tons of materials when they were only permitted for 1/10 that amount.
The facility has been under intense scrutiny by various agencies, including the California Water Board (which found the facility was endangering water quality) and the CCC Solid Waste Authority. The latest development is that a new report commissioned by the Solid Waste Authority found that the problems are continuing into 2018. The facility continues to process far too much waste than their permits allow, which contributes to dangerously elevated temperatures in the compost piles and ponded water. To date, the composting facility has been noticed 103 times for standard violations and noticed with 7 areas of concern.
Richmond deserves better!
Just as ICE was in the middle of last week’s 4-day raid in the Bay Area, in which over 230 people were arrested, Contra Costa County launched its rapid-response deportation defense initiative.
One of the centerpieces of this program is a free hotline which can be accessed 24 hours per day. People can call the hotline to report ICE activity, or if someone they know has been detained by ICE. Dispatchers will be on call to verify raids or dispel rumors, provide legal observation and accompaniment to family members left behind, work with family to gather information to support legal defense due process services and coordinate with assigned attorneys for individuals in bond and removal proceedings.
The hotline comes from Stand Together Contra Costa, a coalition effort with the County to ensure that all families, regardless of immigration status, are afforded the due-process rights established by the U.S. Constitution. The program was approved by the Board of Supervisors last year in response to the growing hate and discrimination toward immigrant families.
The free, 24-hour hotline number is: 925-900-5151
The program's website, StandTogetherContraCosta.org, provides services in 10 different languages. Please share these resources with those you think may need assistance.
Other free services provided by Stand Together Contra Costa include legal help, trainings, and workshops. Those interested in being trained as a legal observer can attend Stand Together’s training tonight, March 6 from 6:30 – 9pm at Catholic Charities of the East Bay – Family Services Center (3540 Chestnut Ave, Concord).
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!
The RPA may be gearing up for Richmond citywide races, but one race that may go unopposed is the Contra Costa Sheriff’s race.
Judith Tannenbaum’s OpEd in the East Bay Times points out, “March 9 is a few weeks away, so there’s still hope that someone who better represents Contra Costa will file to run against the sheriff. However, even if Livingston runs unopposed, we must speak out against his record and speak out for a vision of public safety and justice that is more consistent with our values.” And excerpt of her OpEd is below:
My Word: Where are the candidates to oppose Contra Costa Sheriff Livingston?
Where is the sheriff Contra Costa County needs? Candidates have until March 9 to file for the June 5 election but, so far, only Sheriff David Livingston has signed up.
A sheriff, of course, runs the county jail system and decides how that system will operate. A sheriff can create a system based on the awareness that criminal acts are often a consequence of the racial and economic inequities that shape every aspect of life — from health care to education to workplaces to housing to transportation. A sheriff can learn from the people most affected by these inequities, listening to the personal stories that illuminate shared circumstances. And a sheriff can not only listen but also respond by providing alternatives to imprisonment, by recognizing that jail is no place for the mentally ill, and by offering the deep and substantive programming that encourages rehabilitation.
Or a sheriff can operate as David O. Livingston has, running our county jail system with the wrong-headed ideas and practices similar to those that resulted in three decades of nationwide mass incarceration.
For example, Sheriff Livingston contracts with ICE to hold immigrant detainees in the West County Detention Facility. At a time when SB54 is law and California a sanctuary state, this contract is a clear sign of how out of step our sheriff is with county and statewide values.
Click here to read the full OpEd.
This November, Richmond voters will be choosing its next Mayor, and as well as three City Councilmembers (Ada Recino’s, Eduardo Martinez’s and Jovanka Beckles’s seats are all up this year). The RPA membership has not yet made any 2018 endorsements for citywide races, but is gearing up now. At the end of the month, the RPA elections committee will make candidate questionnaires available to any candidates interested in seeking the organization's endorsement. As always, the RPA will not endorse candidates who accept corporate political donations.
In mid-March, the Richmond Progressive Alliance will hold a Candidates’ Night for members and the public to meet those running for citywide office. After a vetting process, the elections committee and Steering Committee will present a slate of candidates to RPA members at the March 31 membership meeting for vote. Stay tuned for more details!
Last month Richmond became the ninth city to sue fossil fuel companies such as Chevron for the costs of adapting to climate change impacts. Such impacts include droughts, heatwaves and sea level rise. For example, the complaint asserts:
"Sea level rise endangers City property and infrastructure, causing coastal flooding of low-lying areas, erosion, salinity intrusion, higher risk of liquefaction during seismic events, and storm surges. Several critical City facilities, existing roadways, wastewater treatment facilities, residential neighborhoods, industrial areas including the Port of Richmond and the Chevron Refinery, highways, rail lines, emergency response facilities, and parks have suffered and/or will suffer injuries due to sea level rise expected by the end of this century …"
According to the complaint, the city “has already spent significant funds to study, mitigate, and adapt to the effects of global warming.”
Richmond’s suit is similar one filed earlier by Santz Cruz, Oakland and San Francisco. It suit does not seek a particular sum of money, but seeks to shift the cost of future damages away from taxpayers and onto the fossil fuel companies. These climate lawsuits follow the same legal strategies that were used to hold tobacco companies accountable for the effects of smoking.
In case you missed it, the East Bay Express recently ran an article about the local public health impacts of the Levin-Richmond terminal in Richmond.
In October 2014, Sylvia Hopkins first noticed the line of coal cars sitting on tracks close to her home in Richmond's Atchison Village. Shortly thereafter, she began to discover black, greasy deposits on her windowsills. "I went on the 'Toxic Tour' of Richmond in 2015," she said. "I saw the uncovered coal piles directly in the line of winds blowing from the bay."
Her lungs, she said, "are not what they were," and she lays blame directly on the coal and petcoke shipments going through the Levin-Richmond Terminal, a privately owned marine terminal that began exporting coal in 2013 and has been exporting petroleum coke, the byproduct of oil refining known as "petcoke," for decades. Records show the terminal has ramped up its coal and petcoke shipments during the last three years.
Hopkins was not the only one who noticed. Andres Soto, a longtime community activist who now is with Communities for a Better Environment, began seeing multi-car coal trains sitting on the tracks next to the BART station in Richmond four years ago. "And the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo is producing huge amounts of petcoke for export to Asia and Latin America," he said.
To read more, click here.
Richmond’s children, youth and young adults have long needed more life-changing services and opportunities. Now, local community based organizations, labor unions, and political leaders have come together and agreed to establish a Richmond Fund for Children and Youth in order to more effectively invest in our youth.
A diverse coalition including RYSE, SEIU Local 1021, APEN, ACCE and elected leaders including County Supervisor John Gioia and Richmond Vice-Mayor Melvin Willis have joined together to support two measures which will be on the June 2018 ballot:
- The Richmond Kids First Initiative and
- A charter amendment revising Richmond Kids First
The goal of Kids First is to ensure that Richmond’s youth are physically, emotionally, mentally and socially healthy, educated, and live in stable, safe and supported families and communities.
The coalition has also explored how to raise additional revenue for the City to offset the costs of funding youth services under the Kids First Initiative.
What is the Richmond Kids First Initiative and the charter amendment revising Kids First?
The Kids First Initiative was drafted with input from local youth and youth-serving organizations and modeled after similar funds in San Francisco and Oakland. Youth and adult allies went door-to-door and collected about 14,000 signatures to put this measure on the ballot.
Kids First creates a dedicated funding source from the City’s general fund to support expanded services for youth and establishes a City operated Department of Children and Youth.
The charter amendment revising Kids First would do three things:
- Removes the restriction on how much funding the City of Richmond can receive as well as the requirement that the City must partner with a non-profit
- Adds a new requirement that the dedicated funding set aside only occurs after the passage of a general tax measure which increases revenues to the City
- Delays the start date for the funding set aside until July 2021, or one fiscal year after the passage of a general tax measure, if no tax measure is passed by December 2020.
How will youth programs and services be funded?
After discussions with local residents and studying what nearby cities have done, the coalition is currently recommending that a sugar-sweetened beverage distribution tax of one cent per ounce be placed on the November 2018 ballot. Albany, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco have recently passed a similar one cent per ounce tax.
This tax is different from Richmond’s previous 2012 soda tax measure which was a business license fee on retailers. Instead, the tax would be levied on the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages.
The tax would not apply to baby formula, milk products (like chocolate milk), 100% natural fruit and vegetable juices (including aqua fresca), medical beverages, weight reduction beverages, and alcoholic beverages. The tax would also not apply to distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages to small retailers.
The RPA commends the coalition for finding a solution that supports kids, protects the integrity of the city budget and workers, and promotes health. The RPA Steering Committee voted to endorse the Kids First policy package (the Kids First Initiative, the charter amendment and the sugary beverage tax) in February.
In less than two weeks, the Supreme Court will rule on a case that is hugely critical for public sector unions, and government itself. The following article (excerpt, May 2017) by Naomi Walker of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees explains the ramifications of Janus v. AFSCME.
The Entire Public Sector Is About to Be Put on Trial
The Right’s assault on public-sector workers is an assault on the public sector itself.
Within the next year, the Supreme Court is likely to rule on the latest existential threat to workers and their unions: Janus v. AFSCME. Like last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA—a bullet dodged with Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death—the Janus case is a blatant attack on working people by right-wing, moneyed special interests who want to take away workers’ freedom to come together and negotiate for a better life.
For years, the Right has been hammering through state-level “right-to-work” laws in an effort to kill public sector unionism; it would see victory in the Janus case as the coup de grace.
Right-to-work laws allow union “free riders,” or workers who refuse to pay union dues but still enjoy the wages, benefits and protections the union negotiates. Not only does this policy drain unions of resources to fight on behalf of workers, but having fewer dues-paying members also spells less clout at the bargaining table. It becomes much more difficult for workers to come together, speak up and get ahead. In the end, right-to-work hits workers squarely in the paycheck. Workers in right-to-work states earn less and are less likely to have employer-sponsored healthcare and pensions.
As a judge, Neil Gorsuch, Scalia’s replacement, sided with corporations 91 percent of the time in pension disputes and 66 percent of the time in employment and labor cases. If the court rules in favor of the Janus plaintiff—an Illinois public sector worker whose case not to pay union dues is being argued by the right-wing Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Foundation—then right to work could become the law of the land in the public sector, weakening unions and dramatically reducing living standards for millions of workers across the country.
To read the full article, click here.
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.