California’s environmental and environmental justice communities are unanimously opposed to Proposition 70, which they are characterizing at a Big Oil attack on California’s climate policy.
According to the No on Prop 70 coalition, if passed Prop 70 “would seize funding that is currently used to fight pollution and improve community health. It would subject this funding to a two-thirds vote in 2024, and by doing so, it would hold these climate investments hostage to the lobbying of corporate interests. Prop 70 would lead to budget gridlock, undermine California’s progress on climate change and clean air, and increase the power of corporate interests.”
California decided to stop requiring a two-thirds vote for budgeting because it introduced gridlock and dysfunction. It also increased pork barrel projects because a minority of legislators were able to delay the process and extract compromises in exchange for their votes. By requiring a two-thirds vote over climate funding, Prop 70 would enable powerful lobbyists to block good climate programs and to fund wasteful projects that only benefit corporate interests.
Richmond has been battling Chevron’s refinery emissions for decades. But did you know that just north of us in Rodeo the Phillips 66 refinery is planning a huge expansion that would double the number of tankers bringing crude oil into the Bay? To make matters worse, according to Baykeeper:
“The oil arriving at the Phillips refinery will likely be dirty, heavy tar sands oil. This type of oil is difficult, if not impossible, to remove after a spill. In 2010, when tar sands oil spilled into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, response crews were unable to completely remove the oil from the riverbed, even after five years of cleanup efforts. If tar sands oil spilled in San Francisco Bay, it could irreparably smother bottom-dwelling life forms that are critical to the Bay’s food chain.
“The Phillips refinery also has a poor track record of oil spills. [In September 2016,] oil was spilled during the unloading of a tanker ship, causing large oil slicks in northern San Francisco Bay. Over 100 nearby residents sought treatment at hospital emergency rooms for exposure to unidentified fumes, and Vallejo officials urged community members to stay indoors with their windows closed. Until recently, the refinery denied any responsibility for the oil spill that is now linked to the nearby air quality complaints.
“More than doubling the number of oil tankers on their way to Phillips 66 via the Bay would increase the risk of spills. What’s more, the oil tankers will need to navigate through a San Francisco Bay shipping channel that is scheduled for less frequent dredging than in the past, due to new budget concerns raised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While the exact effects of reduced dredging on tanker traffic are unclear, it is possible that the risk of tankers running aground will increase."
Phillips is pushing this proposal because San Luis Obispo, concerned about oil spills and health impacts, recently quashed the company's efforts to bring more oil into their SLO refinery via train.
The Richmond City Council recently adopted a resolution in support of Freedom for Immigrants, a visiting program and hotline at the West County Detention Facility operated by nonprofit CIVIC. In February, Sheriff Livingston abruptly terminated this program following CIVIC’s public criticism of conditions at the facility.
In November, CIVIC published a letter last November detailing abuses at the jail. The abuses received widespread media coverage and calls for investigations, including from Representative Mark DeSaulnier.
According to CIVIC, “On February 15, ICE terminated CIVIC’s free hotline with no advance warning or subsequent explanation. CIVIC has been operating this hotline since 2011, and uses it to facilitate visits and legal representation. Shortly thereafter, on February 20, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office suspended CIVIC visitation program coordinator Rebecca Merton’s visitation clearance with no clear explanation. After pressing the Sheriff’s Office for a reason, CIVIC leadership received an email on Monday from Captain Kristi Butterfield of WCDF, explaining that the Sheriff’s Office was revoking access for all CIVIC volunteers and terminating the visitation program at WCDF."
CIVIC notes that “the visitation program ban came the day before Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a suit against California’s sanctuary laws, including AB 103, which CIVIC helped draft and provides the California state Attorney General with the power to monitor ICE detention facilities in the state. In Sessions’ complaint, he explicitly names the West County Detention Facility as a place he does not want the state monitoring.”
This week, the El Cerrito City Council will be considering a resolution similar to the one Richmond passed, expressing support for this program.
Last week, the West Contra Costa County Board of Education rejected an appeal by the corporate charter chain Rocketship to open a school in San Pablo! Rocketship’s application had been already turned down earlier this year by the West Contra Costa Unified School District. However, two rejections probably won’t be enough to deter Rocketship. They will likely appeal the decision again to the next highest body, the State Board of Education.
Below is an excerpt from our friends at PublicCore.net who provide a first-hand account of last week’s meeting:
Those opposing the petition from the WCCUSD, if they managed to get off work early enough to sit through an hour of rush hour traffic to attend the 5:00 pm meeting in Pleasant Hill, were greeted outside by a large private bus and a gauntlet of pizza boxes and stacks of purple T-shirts for Rocketship supporters. Inside, the billionaire-backed busload of people who had arrived earlier sat together on one side of the room wearing the matching T-shirts and waving signs they drew from a stack provided for them. The message on many of the signs read: “Parents deserve options. That’s democracy.” Considering that one of the concerns raised by BOE staff was that Rocketship only promised to “consider” holding public meetings once a year in the WCCUSD, the sentiment was not without irony.
Regardless of the obstacles, defenders of public education persisted. And this time, all of the money spent to defeat them was not enough. The final vote, not delivered until 10:20 p.m., denied the petition. One board member later said her vote to deny was based in large part on Rocketship’s inability to answer questions relating to Special Ed.
Voting in FAVOR of the petition:
Voting to DENY the petition:
In case you missed it, Richmond was recently honored by the Transnational Institute, a Dutch-based international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world.
Their Transformative Cities project stresses that the award “is not a process where we are going to judge social movements, civil society organizations, citizens platforms or other groups,” but rather a process to “extract lessons can bring unique insights about how to set up transformative political practices, from the strategic to the tactical level.”
Richmond was honored because of what it has been able to achieve in terms of environmental accountability over Chevron, raising its local minimum wage, passing rent control and “by appointing a visionary gay police chief, greatly reduced local crime rates, including homicides, through successful community policing."
The jury particularly noted that “The hybrid RPA has been central to all this. As a membership organization, a coalition of community groups, and a key coordinator of grassroots education and citizen mobilization, it works on issues such as labour, immigrant rights, environmental justice, rent, police accountability, fair taxation of business, community health and environmental protection.”
Jackson, MS was another US city that was honored for its progressive elected officials and growing network of worker-owned cooperatives. Other inspiring stories included efforts in Accra, Ghana to stop the installation of pre-paid water meters, and a successful campaign by mill workers in Mumbai, India to ensure that a portion of land slated for luxury real estate development was reserved for workers’ housing.
Public hold public dollars, such as taxes and fees, to keep money local so it serves the public interest, instead of giving it to Wall Street banks who charge high fees and interest rates. There is only one public bank so far in the United States, the Bank of North Dakota, which has been in operation for almost 100 years.
However, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the recent malfeasance of big banks like Wells Fargo, there is now a vibrant movement to create more public banks in the U.S. at the city and state level. Locally, Oakland is making serious strides by taking the lead on a public bank feasibility study, which should be out this year. Alameda County, Berkeley and Richmond have all chipped in to help Oakland fund this study. And last May, the Richmond City Council voted on a resolution to support Oakland’s efforts to create a public bank; direct the Richmond City Manager to investigate the possibility of forming a mutually beneficial partnership; and consider, if Oakland’s initial feasibility study yields positive results, providing funds for a future business plan.
Advocates around the country are getting galvanized around the idea public banks for different reasons – a way to take one’s money out of big banks that fund the fossil fuel industry, as a potential source for local business, as a money-saver for cities, or providing financial services to the legal (but difficult to bank) cannabis industry. Another big potential benefit: it could help to relieve the burden of student debt that so many of us are struggling with.
Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland, the RPA and others will be hosting a student debt forum on Monday, April 9. CA lieutenant governor candidate Gayle McLaughlin will be the featured speaker at this free event, which is open to all.
On March 31, the RPA membership voted in its new slate of Steering Committee members, and also amended the organization’s bylaws to have Steering Committee members serve two-year terms.
The new steering committee is comprised of (bios can be found here):
Jovanka Beckles, Richmond City Councilmember
Porschea Brown, RPA Rep, Lift Up Contra Costa Coalition
Michelle Chan, Recording Secretary
Ruscal Cayangyang, Finance and Governance committee
Chris Broglio, Office Committee Chair
Peter Chau, Schools Action Team
Millie Cleveland, SEIU Union Field Representative, Elections and Campaign Committee
Malia Everette, Co-Chair; Agenda Setting, Governance & Finance, Membership Committee
Michael Gliksohn, Treasurer, and Finance and Governance Committee Chair
Alyssa Kang, CNA Representative, Membership Standing Committee
Kabir Kapur, Membership Committee and The Sun
Marilyn Langlois, RPA representative on the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition and Reentry Solutions Group
Paul Larudee, Fundraising Committee
Mike Parker, Schools Action Team, Agenda Setting Committee, Elections and Campaign Committee, and Fundraising Committees
Juan Reardon, Sister Alliances Action Team
Ada Recinos, Richmond City Council
David Sharples, ACCE Representative, Fundraising Committee
Carlos Taboada, Schools Action Team
Diana Wear, Chair, SC Development Committee; Membership Committee
BK Williams, Co-chair, Agenda Committee, and Richmond Rainbow Pride
Melvin Willis, Richmond City Council
Sue Wilson, Chair, Communications
Big thanks to the Nominating Committee, which reviewed dozens of applications and conducted many interviews. The 2018-2020 RPA Steering Committee is comprised of an equal number of men and women, and 60 percent people of color.
On April 24th, the RPA Housing Action team will present a City Council Study Session on "Thinking Big about Richmond’s Housing Goals." Download the Report
Forces are coalescing at the state, county and city levels supporting the building of affordable housing. We are at a crossroads in terms of affordable housing; now is the time to build a community based on inclusiveness and diversity.
On the state level, the legislature passed several bills that would support affordable housing, including one last year that would impose a $75 fee on certain real estate transactions documents (such as deeds and notices, up to a cap of $225 per transaction). These fees are projected to generate between $200 to $300 million annually for support affordable housing. In addition, this November, there will be a statewide affordable housing bond on the ballot aimed to generate $4 billion for affordable housing programs, infill infrastructure projects and the veterans’ homeownership. On the county level, CCC Supervisor John Goia has been working on getting a countywide affordable housing bond on the ballot in 2020, similar to the ones that Alameda ($580 million) and Santa Clara ($950 million) counties passed last year.
With more affordable housing revenue on the horizon, it is imperative that Richmond be prepared and well-positioned to get its fair share. For example, revenue raised by any County affordable housing bond are slated to go to cities that demonstrate that they are ready and willing to build the housing. Unfortunately, the City currently does not have much staff expertise and capacity to attract or promote new affordable housing development -- and this is where we need all of you to make your voice heard. We need you to help us urge the City to think big, in tens of thousands of units, not just a few hundred.
Tentatively, the Housing Action Team will be presenting a study session before the City Council on Tuesday, April 24. Please mark your calendars and watch this space for more details!
Finally, the HAT is working on a number of other projects, including an effort to transform abandoned housing into affordable housing; pressuring the West Contra Costa Unified School District to stop dragging their feet on a teacher housing project; and studying ways to encourage homeowners to take advantage of new laws designed to make it easier for people to build Accessory Dwelling Units (in-law units, one of the cheapest ways to provide affordable housing). If you are interested in joining this Action Team, the HAT meets every third Saturday 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2450 MacDonald Way)
What happens with Pt. Molate may well determine what kind of city Richmond becomes. It is a remarkable shoreline property owned by all the people of Richmond. We are entitled to have the major say in what it becomes, and any decision about the destiny of Pt. Molate should go through the established public planning process, not be quietly decided behind closed doors.
Therefore, the RPA steering committee unanimously supports the city council proceeding with the promised community meetings on the future of Pt. Molate before further settlement negotiations with Jim Levine/Upstream, LLC. After the community meetings, if there are further settlement negotiations between the city and former Pt Molate casino developer, they will be in line with what the people of Richmond want for Pt Molate.
A City has a right to decide how it wants to develop, especially with an important public asset like Pt. Molate. Land use decisions should be determined publicly because they are critical to how a city develops, and for whom. In April, 2012, the City Council approved the 2030 General Plan under resolution 52-12 that included the provision that Pt. Molate’s future land uses be put to a public planning process so residents have the primary say in what happens there.
In September 2016, the city council voted to hold community meetings to fulfill this promise. They asked the Pt Molate Community Advisory Committee to work on the design of the community meetings with Planning Dept Director, Richard Mitchell, but Mayor Butt subsequently dissolved the citizen’s advisory committee.
To ensure that comprehensive and inclusive community meetings on Pt. Molate would occur, Council members Willis and Choi received a unanimous vote in November of last year to pursue the public meetings through another citizen’s advisory body, the Planning Commission. Willis and Choi’s agenda item directed the Commission to work with Mr. Mitchell to offer the scheduled community meetings to Richmond residents late this spring.
At the start of 2018, the Planning Commission took up the charge and held a public hearing to how to do effective community outreach and organize comprehensive and accessible public planning meetings for Pt. Molate. However, not long afterwards Mayor Butt announced in his email posting that the city had reached a settlement agreement “in principle” with Jim Levine/Upstream, LLC, the proposed Pt Molate casino developer.
Now, city council members are under intense pressure to approve a rushed settlement deal with Jim Levine, even though the strength of Levine’s lawsuit appears to be overblown. While there are various past studies on Pt. Molate to draw from, a publicly-vetted plan to fulfill the 2012 Council resolution has yet to be done.
Let the City Council members know that any further settlement negotiations with Jim Levine/Upstream, or any other private developer, must be guided by an open public planning process that involves the people of Richmond. The future of this magnificent 400-acre public land on the SF Bay should not be decided by any backroom deal. Pt. Molate deserves to be looked at within Richmond’s overall future direction, including the kinds of development and community benefits Richmond residents need now and in the decades ahead.