A few weeks ago, as demonstrators in Denver protested Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (in town for a meeting of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council), the RPA endorsed a recent resolution adopted by the United Teachers of Richmond on charter schools. The RPA Schools Action Team has noted that if the West Contra Costa Unified School District approves all its pending charter petitions, the subsidy to charter franchises will soon amount to $151 million, or half the total budget for the WCCUSD.
The UTR resolution reads, in part:
Whereas charter schools take away funding from traditional public schools creating a wasteful parallel school system…
Whereas charter school choice is supported by special interests who seek to privatize and profit from our schools.
Be it resolved that the United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA opposes charter school expansion in the West Contra Costa Unified School District and the nation.
The UTR statement follows a similar resolution that the NAACP adopted in the wake of the 2016 election. It stated, in part, that the NAACP “supports a moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.” Conditions for lifting the moratorium include: (1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools, (2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system, (3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and (4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
On June 23rd Speaker Anthony Rendon chose to stall SB 562, the Healthy California Act, putting it on hold in the Assembly Rules Committee instead of moving it forward to a committee for a hearing, vote, and where amendments could be made. Friday, July 14th was the last day Speaker Rendon could move the bill forward under the regular Assembly timeline rules…and he didn’t. But we are far from done. Speaker Rendon still has the power to move the bill forward until mid-September by suspending the regular rules.
This means SB 562 is still alive and well but needs your help to make sure Speaker Rendon and our Assemblymembers choose guaranteeing healthcare and ending the suffering so many Californians experience from crushing medical debt and lack of access to healthcare. Our incredible grassroots movement has the power to move this bill by moving our elected leaders.
Here are 2 ways you can help SB 562 move forward!
1. Call your Assemblymember Until They Join the Fight for SB 562!
Dial 1-855-271-8515 and enter your zip code to be connected directly to your Assemblymember. Here’s what you can say: "Insurance companies continue to be a middleman profiting off healthcare as Californians suffer. The Healthy California Act (SB 562) would remove the insurance middleman and save $37 billion a year while guaranteeing medical, dental, vision and more. Do you support taking insurance companies out of healthcare? Will you co-author SB 562 and support moving the Healthy California Act forward this year so we can?”
2. Get involved!
Contact your local regional coordinator to find out how to get active locally (find them at healthycaliforniaact.org/find-regional-coordinator), and get social on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Are you interested in filling Gayle McLaughlin’s vacant seat on the Richmond City Council? If so, August 15th is the deadline to complete the City Clerk’s process for candidates. It is also the deadline to request a Richmond Progressive Alliance endorsement. See below for details.
Richmond City Council members will vote to appoint Gayle’s replacement at their September 12th meeting. The City Council will consider only those candidates who complete the City Clerk’s process by August 15th at 5 pm (see link below). The RPA plans to endorse one or more candidates for the appointment and notify City Council members of the endorsement. Our endorsement is separate and independent of any action taken by the Richmond City Council, and Council Members who are also members of RPA are not part of the endorsement process.
To be considered for an RPA endorsement, you must complete these three steps by 5 pm on Tuesday, August 15, 2017.
- Use this form to write a 250 word statement and file it with the City Clerk’s office. In addition, statements must be e-mailed to email@example.com prior to filing with the City Clerk. Additional instructions can be read on the form itself.
- Write your answers to the RPA Endorsement Questions and email those answers to RPA Co-chair Marcos Bañales at firstname.lastname@example.org. RPA Endorsement Questions PDF Version. RPA Endorsement Questions Word Version.
- Sign up for and attend a 1 hour interview with RPA Steering Committee Members. Sign up here. Interviews will take place between August 16th and 21st at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald Ave, Richmond, CA 94801) unless otherwise noted.
If you have any questions, please email RPA Co-chair Marcos Bañales at email@example.com.
The single payer health care bill, the Healthy California Act (SB 562), successfully made it through the State Senate but Speaker Anthony Rendon has prevented it from going to a floor vote in the Assembly. Rendon has called the bill “woefully inadequate,” even though here has not been one hearing on it in the Assembly, nor a chance to offer amendments. Redon’s move to scuttle the bill has been a blow, but the bill’s backers, particularly the California Nurses Association, have vowed to keep fighting, and are calling for the bill before the end of the legislative session in mid-September.
In a July 14 blog, National Nurses United Executive Director, RoseAnn DeMoro, wrote:
Despite efforts by the political establishment to shut it down, the quest for a state based, Medicare for all type system in California, based on patient need, not corporate profits, rolls on.
DeMoro cited an economic study led by Robert Pollin, which concluded that the Act "could deliver decent health care to all 39 million California residents while also lowering overall costs of health care by about 8 percent relative to the existing system." Under Pollin’s recommended approach virtually every California household and business would spend less on health care than they do today.
She also highlighted a point that Lydia O’Neil and David Sirota made: that "donors from the health services sector and major health insurers gave more than $16 million to Democratic candidates and the California Democratic Party in the 2014 election cycle." To read DeMoro’s full blog, see the NNU website.
Finally – Mark Peterson is out, having resigned after the California AG state charged him with 13 felonies associated with misusing campaign contributions. His plea deal allowed him to drop 12 charges in exchange for resigning and pleading no-contest to one count of perjury. (This is the man who refused to prosecute a Richmond police officer in the killing of Richard Pedie Perez, who was unarmed when he was shot three times)
So what is next? By the end of September, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors will appoint an interim District Attorney to serve out the remainder of Peterson’s term. And whoever gets this post will have an advantage in the 2018 election.
Applications are due on July 21, and so far four candidates have come forward. They include Patrick Vanier, a Deputy District Attorney in Santa Clara County who previously worked in the Contra Costa DA’s office; Paul Graves, a Senior Deputy DA in Contra Costa County, where he worked under former DA Mark Peterson; Bill Green, a criminal defense attorney and former public defender; and District Attorney Kensak.
By the beginning of August, the Board of Supervisors will develop a short list of 3-5 applicants. Then the public gets a chance to weigh in at a public meeting on August 15. A special Board of Supervisors meeting has also been scheduled for September 12 to debate the candidates (another chance for the public to engage). Local criminal justice reform groups are tracking this process; folks can get plugged in by visiting www.eastbayactioncoalition.com
Adult school teachers, students and supporters rallied and spoke during general public comment at school board meetings on both May 24 and June 14, demanding that the adult school not be removed from its flagship Serra site. Adult school supporters requested that the matter of Serra Adult School be placed on the agenda for the June 14 meeting, but because their request was ignored, they were only able to speak during general public comment. A request to put Serra on the agenda for the June 28 meeting was similarly ignored.
As reported in earlier editions of The Activist, the district decided to establish a Mandarin immersion elementary school at the Serra site without soliciting input from adult school students and teachers. After adult school supporters pointed out that displacement of the adult school would fragment the adult education program and negatively impact students—particularly immigrants, who are directly under attack by the Trump Administration—the district arranged for most adult school classes to stay at Serra for one more year, co-located with the Mandarin school kindergarten program. However, the adult school community is concerned about the future. Unless the district finds another site for the Mandarin school, adult school programs will have to leave Serra as the Mandarin school adds grades.
The Mandarin school has now taken over three classrooms, the multipurpose room, and the office at Serra, and the adult school programs that will remain will be in the remaining 10 classrooms for 2017-2018. The Mandarin school will have to move eventually, as Serra is too small to house the K-6 program that is envisioned for it. Adult school supporters will continue to fight to keep Serra, and keep pressure on the district to find another, more appropriate site for the Mandarin school going forward.
One immediate positive outcome of the protests around the jail expansion is that our activism put the final nail in the coffin for corrupt Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson. The San Francisco Chronicle pointed to the anger of protestors as part of what made his resignation "inevitable." The Chron reported that in "exchange for his resignation and his no-contest plea to one count of perjury for making false statements on state campaign disclosure forms, state prosecutors dropped the other 12 charges." The judge sentenced him to 250 hours of community service and three years of probation -- a light sentence for someone who caused so much harm in our community. We are a year and a half away from the next District Attorney election; in the meantime the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors will appoint a successor. Progressive organizations have called for a transparent appointment process and recommended that none of the announced candidates for the 2018 election be considered for appointment. The Supervisors have committed to hold a public forum to discuss the process, which is tentatively scheduled for August 15th.
During his term, DA Peterson refused to prosecute a Richmond police officer in the death of Richard “Pedie” Perez III, who was intoxicated and unarmed when he was shot three times by a police officer in Richmond. His family continues to organize in Pedie's memory, pushing for greater accountability for police who use force under questionable circumstances. Specifically they are organizing in favor of a bill that would require an independent investigation of any situation where a police officer kills or seriously harms a person.
On June 21st, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) staff tried to "grandfather in" exceptions to the first-in-nation rule to regulate local refinery-emitted greenhouse gases. But a coalition that includes Communities for a Better Environment, Sun flower Alliance, the RPA, Sierra Club, 350 Bay Area, Center for Biological Diversity, Asian Pacific Environmental Network and many other groups from around the Bay Area brought more than 200 supporters, as well as local print and TV media, to the meeting, making it impossible for the last-minute changes to take place.
As reported by CNA Community Organizer Alyssa Kang: Good news! The BAAQMD Board voted 13-6 to set aside the staff's eleventh hour proposed changes to Rule 12-16 (refinery emissions caps on greenhouse gases) that would have allowed increased refinery emissions by the oil industry and would result in pollution worse than current levels! We will need to mobilize again and continue to organize. The fight continues!
You can read more about this victory in this post from the Sunflower Alliance.
--Photo by Alyssa Kang
As you have probably heard, Richmond City Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin has decided to step down from her seat on the City Council to focus on her campaign for California Lieutenant Governor (Statement from Gayle McLaughlin). The RPA Steering Committee issued its own statement thanking Gayle for her many years of service to the City of Richmond, and encouraging her as she brings her progressive leadership to a larger community (Thank You to Gayle from the RPA Steering Committee).
The City Council will vote to appoint a replacement for Gayle. At its next meeting on July 19th at 6:30 pm, the RPA Steering Committee will discuss making an endorsement for that position. Current members of the City Council will not take part in the endorsement discussion. Those who would like to be considered for an endorsement, or want to recommend others for it, can email Steering Committee Co-Chairs Marcos Banales (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Sharron SK Williams (email@example.com). Please put the word ENDORSEMENT in the subject line of your email.
The Richmond City Council voted 6 to 1 (Tom Butt opposed) to direct staff to draft an ordinance increasing the Richmond Minimum wage in steps to $15.00/hr by January 2019. The ordinance also will remove several exemptions in our current ordinance. While this is still far below a “living wage” in the Bay Area it is a big improvement for low wage workers. The draft ordinance will be brought to the Council for a first reading on July 11. Council members felt it was important to move quickly to give businesses time to prepare for the first step increase in January 2018 and because low wage workers are hurting in this economy.