During her recent visit to California, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, Haiti's elegant and humble presidential candidate of the Fanmi Lavalas party (the party of Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide), was welcomed to Richmond by progressive councilmember and former mayor Gayle McLaughlin and guests. Dr. Narcisse shared some of her experiences as a Haitian doctor and presidential candidate.
Dr. Narcisse advocates for community-based health care and education in a country where government is notorious for not working for the people, and economic conditions are the worst in the region.
With a population of 10.5 million people, 1% of the Haitian population has 45% of its wealth. Unemployment is reported at 45%, (more likely closer to 80%) and a continuous stream of Haitians flee out of the country on a path to Mexico headed to the US in search of employment.
To be a political organizer in Haiti comes at a price; no one hires you. Dr Narcisse, a highly trained public health medical doctor and a political organizer and coordinator of the Fanmi Lavalas party is excluded from working at medical institutions run by the corrupt government and the international charity organizations.
On Wednesday, California’s single payer health care bill cleared its first hurdle, moving out of the Senate Health Committee with a 5-2 vote. The Healthy California Act (SB 562) would establish a publicly run healthcare system that would cover all Californians regardless of immigration status.
The bill has significant public support and is endorsed by dozens of organizations who are part of the Healthy California Coalition (the RPA joined in January 2017); as well as California cities such as Richmond, whose City Council unanimously voted on April 18 to adopt a resolution supporting SB 562.
Among Senate and Assembly members, there is support for the single payer concept but significant reservations around how to pay for such a program. Currently economist Robert Pollin of University of Massachusetts - Amherst is preparing a financial study which should be completed in May.
Wednesday’s Committee vote was preceded by a large rally, where Senator Ricardo Lara, one of the bill’s co-authors, stated: “We want to insure that everyone has care, because this is who we are as a society. California has the courage to say it’s finally time to remove the insurance companies from the decision-making on how we get care in this country. It is time to say once and for all, that healthcare is a right, not a privilege only for those who can afford it.”
Senator Toni Atkins, co-author of SB 562, said, “California will not go back. We are not standing still. We are going forward.”
Forward and onward!
Let’s have some fun on Cinco de Mayo and bring our RPA solidarity to the Latino community.
This is an invitation to ALL MEMBERS of the RPA to march together on this special Cinco de Mayo celebration, held in Richmond on Saturday, May 6th. We will march behind an RPA sign reading:
RICHMOND SAYS NO TO TRUMP
Last month, Action Team member Gayle McLaughlin made a presentation in San Jose, where activists agreed to start a South Bay Progressive Alliance. By 2018, the group hopes to launch several local city-based alliances in the area. The group is borrowing some tips from the RPA, including staying party neutral and supporting corporate-free progressive candidates running for local office. Gayle McLaughlin will also be making presentations in San Diego, CA; Vallejo, CA; El Cerrito, CA; and Oakland, CA. If you have friends and allies in those cities who may be interested in attending these presentations (or who may want to schedule one in their city), please email Juan at JuanReardon@sbcglobal.net . The Action Team will accommodate speaking requests as much as possible given time and money constraints.
Finally, the Sister Progressive Alliance Action Team is looking for volunteers to help present the story and the ideas that made the RPA successful. While the speakers in the Speakers Bureau are carefully selected, there are other important tasks that need to be covered – in particular, a volunteer videographer is specially needed at this time. Please contact Juan Reardon for more information: JuanReardon@sbcglobal.net
The RPA Outreach Team continues to respond to requests from groups of activists interested in starting progressive organizations in their own cities. March was as busy as ever. On March 10, Gayle McLaughlin and Juan Reardon made a presentation to a local group of progressives organizing Our Revolution San Leandro, which attracted some 10 people present from San Leandro, San Lorenzo and City of Alameda. The Team also shared the RPA story at the first meeting of the Pinole Progressive Alliance, which has a huge opportunity to elect progressives onto the Pinole City Council. The Outreach team has also continued to support the South Bay Progressive Alliance (which meets in San Jose). If you know of groups who may be interested in a presentation, please have them contact: outreachteamRPA@gmail.com.
RPA officers and a new steering committee were elected at a well attended and enthusiastic membership meeting on February 25. The new Committee consists of:
Co-coordinator - Sharron SK Williams
Co-coordinator - Marcos Bañales
Communications Chair - Sue Wilson
Membership Chair - Kabir Kapur
Office Chair - Tarnell Abbott
Treasurer - Shoji
Recording Secretary - Michelle Chan
Schools Action Team - Peter Chau
Jovanka Beckles, Nancy Combs, Ben Choi, Sung Ae Cho, Porschea Brown, Kelly Dugan, Malia Everette, Laura Garcia-Santiago,Marilyn Langlois, Paul Larudee, Juan Reardon, Ada Recinos, Carlos Taboada, Zak Wear, and Melvin Willis
Representatives of allied organizations:
Claudia Jimenez, CCC Racial Justice Coalition
Millie Cleveland, SEIU Local 1021
David Sharples, ACCE
Alyssa Kang, California Nurses Association.
Brenda Williams, Richmond Rainbow Pride
There was some momentary confusion over an error on the RPA website, which mistakenly included Eduardo Martinez as a member of the new Steering Committee. Mayor Butt cried foul in his E-Forum, citing potential violations of the Brown Act. He later published a note of clarification from Eduardo Martinez, which unfortunately was made to sound as if he stepped off the committee only after he was called out on it. In actuality, Eduardo, who had served on the previous RPA Steering Committee, immediately resigned after the November 2016 election, in order to comply with the Brown Act. He was not nominated to serve on the current Steering Committee, nor did he seek to. Current City council members serving on the RPA Steering Committee include Jovanka Beckles, Melvin Willis and Ben Choi.
Tom Butt brought up a Brown Act issue when reading the RPA’s announcement of it’s new member-elected Steering Committee. The RPA Steering Committee has known since its inception that it could never have more than three council members on it. There was an error on our website with Eduardo Martinez' name mistakenly included on the 2017 RPA Steering Committee that has since been corrected. Eduardo had been on the RPA Steering Committee prior to the 2016 election, and right after the election in November 2016, he resigned in order to comply with the Brown Act, since we now had Jovanka and two council members elect (Melvin and Ben) on it. Jovanka, Melvin and Ben were also on the nominated slate for the 2017 RPA Steering Committee. Eduardo was not.
The grand jury verdict is still fresh, and we are still processing our emotional reactions to it. Immediately, although we are not surprised, we are outraged by the decision of the grand jury in failing to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri.
We are outraged that Prosecutor Robert McCullough could still bring a case against Darren Wilson, but he has said that he would not. We are outraged that while the protesters and sympathizers are being asked publicly to be peaceful, to remain calm, and to practice restraint and tolerance, there was no such restraint and good judgment on the part of Darren Wilson when Michael Brown attempted to surrender and was killed, allegedly in cold blood.
US Attorney General Eric Holder is quoted as saying "It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting." We say, it does not honor the memory of Michael Brown to let his killer go free without any serious repercussions or legal consequences. What happened in Ferguson tonight is a travesty of justice to say the least.
Black lives matter. Black lives matter in Ferguson, Missouri. Black lives matter in Richmond, California. Black lives matter everywhere.
On June 3, 2014, the Richmond City Council unanimously passed a first reading of our Minimum Wage Increase Ordinance. The second reading will take place on June 17th and is expected to pass again with unanimous support. This great victory for Richmond is long overdue!
This ordinance mandates a phased-in approach to raising the minimum hourly wage in Richmond in the following way:
Jan 2015 $ 9.60
Jan 2016 $11.52
Jan 2017 $12.30
Jan 2018 $13.00
Cost of living increases every year thereafter.
We are on our way to providing a wage that will help more families live with dignity. We are also helping our business community; when residents have more money to spend, our local economy has an opportunity to thrive and expand, and to create more jobs.
Make no mistake: the new wage level still leaves workers below the “living wage,” and we must do more. But the ordinance represents a significant and continuous increase in the wages of low-paid workers.
This successful initiative is also a prime example of the grassroots model to produce change, from the bottom up. Local communities like Richmond can spur change at the state and—eventually—the federal level by creating a multi-city, multi-state insurgence of demands. Richmond benefited from the small steps taken by other California cities, by the example of fast-food workers all over the nation who mobilized and went on strike for “$15 and a union.” Our local mobilization influenced other communities in the East Bay and elsewhere who joined in with their own initiatives, ordinances and ballot measures. Now the State of California is proposing measures similar to what we proposed and gained in Richmond.
The fact that this first reading, introduced by myself, Vice Mayor Beckles and Councilmember Myrick, passed unanimously is especially noteworthy given the recent history of this ordinance. At a previous meeting, several odious amendments were proposed by councilmembers in response to pressures from some businesses. We were able to get the Council to back away from exempting youth, nonprofits, tipped workers, and other unfair exemptions, which would have made the ordinance unworkable. A lot of credit goes to the Labor movement, especially to SEIU, for filing a ballot measure without carve-outs and with a faster phased-in approach. The filing of this ballot measure put pressure on the councilmembers who favored these amendments. The current ordinance still has a few carve-outs that may make it somewhat hard to implement. We accept these for now in order to get this ordinance on the books and enacted. With the victory of Team Richmond in November 2014, the Council will change, and we can improve the ordinance.
This is a time to celebrate our progressive journey in Richmond. With the support of labor and our working families, we put the needed pressure on the City Council and showed once again that we are building on a decade of progress and leading the way to a just future for all!