Issues

Richmond is Covered in Coal

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.

An excerpt:

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.

Coming Together for Richmond Youth

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.

Supreme Court to Decide Critical Union Case

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.

Richmond Reads

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.

In Memory of Richard Boyd

Richard Boyd was a treasure in our community. Born in San Francisco, Richard and his wife Denise Abersold, a teacher in Richmond, moved to Atchison Village in 2006 and made Richmond their home. Richard had empathy toward our community and an unwavering belief that every neighborhood in Richmond can and deserves to be a healthy, livable space. One of his first projects was to rid his neighborhood at the bottom of Macdonald of drug dealing and loitering. Richard was not contemptuous of those dealing drugs, but believed deeply that acceptance of these behaviors, resignation and turning a blind eye was the recipe for continued unhappy and wasted lives.

Richard’s most remarkable attribute was his acceptance of each individual and his ability to help those around him become better for having known him. He held his friends and mentees to the highest standards. He was always looking for ways for individuals or groups of people who felt estranged to find areas of commonality.

He was most proud of his role as a mentor of young people in Richmond. In his work with members of Safe Return he projected a confidence, that no matter the individual’s past, a productive and satisfying life was a possibility. With his endless patience, common sense approach and unwavering belief in each person he mentored, he helped many young people go places (literally and figuratively) that they never imagined for themselves.

Richard was a committed friend of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. He supported our campaigns and our councilmembers. While he had no hesitation to express differences, he was always available to us and toward the end of his life had committed himself to helping us become an even stronger, more diverse organization.

Richard was an extraordinary friend—available for any need—a ride to the airport, to the hospital, or just an ear when things were going wrong.

Richard led a meaningful life. In his own unique, understated and gifted way he left a living legacy. Our challenge is to continue his mission--to strengthen community by helping our young people to grow and continue the struggle. We will miss him.

Support Jovanka!

Jovanka Beckles is the only candidate in all of the nine Assembly District 15 candidates who refuses corporate money and has a political track record to prove that she fights for the issues while holding elected office. Now, we need your help to ensure that Jovanka emerges from the June 5th primary as one of two candidates who will face off in the November election to represent us in Sacramento.

In June of last year, one mainstream candidate considered to be a frontrunner for AD 15 reported $200,000 in her coffers. She worked on Obama’s campaign and led Hillary’s California primary campaign. Not surprisingly most of her treasury came from consultants, PR firms, politicians - the political establishment. Her list of endorsements begins with Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, and Howard Dean.

That same June, Jovanka had just under $50,000 – all from individual supporters. Jovanka’s list of endorsements reflects the coalitions she has worked with to get things done over the years: union members, city employees, transit workers, students, Teachers, environmentalists, housing rights activists, criminal justice advocates, and many more.

Jovanka’s campaign, made up of tireless dedicated individuals needs you. We have a strong people powered campaign. Join us to phone bank, to walk precincts. We need you to promote Jovanka as your favored candidate. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Kabir Kapur at (510) 915-1557.

Also, please donate as much and as you can as often as you can. Your donation will pay for lawn signs, literature and other campaign essentials. Together we can win  our people powered, corporate money-free campaign.

Victory! Rocketship charter application rejected!

Call it a small victory against Betsy Devos and the charter school agenda: At the January 17 West Contra Costa County School Board meeting, the Rocketship charter application was voted down!

Thanks to everyone who turned out in the last few months to show their support. After hearing from the staff analysis about Rocketship application, it would have been incredible if the board had approved it. School district staff pointed out several severe shortcomings with the application, including a significant proportion of unverifiable signatures in Rocketship’s petition. They also pointed out that Rocketship had a shocking history of five abandoned or closed schools in the Bay Area (Rocketship currently has thirteen).

But the battle is not over; Rocketship will probably petition to the county. The Invictus Charter application, which was rejected by the WCCUSD Board in July, was later approved unanimously by the County Board on September 6 in Pleasanton.

Recognizing Black Women

Strong black women have always been beacons for all women’s liberation.

Because they have been faced with hatred, resistance, and insult (subtly, and not so), they talk back, act back. And then they tower. A short list of examples include:

Rosa Parks, and before her Claudette Colvin.

Barbara Jordan.

Shirley Chisholm.

Anita Hill—coming to talk in Oakland March 10 about her #MeToo moment decades before there was a #MeToo campaign.

Barbara Lee—Oakland’s representative in the U.S. Congress

Nina Turner, former Senator from Ohio and Our Revolution president -- her grandma told her she has three strategic bones in her body: her wishbone, her jawbone, and her backbone.

Jovanka Beckles -- she’s got those bones too, because she’s had to, being a black Latina lesbian who endured hate speech on the Richmond City Council and successfully fought Chevron’s attempt to buy the Richmond City Council. Jovanka also helped pass the first local rent control measure in 30 years. She helped raise the minimum wage in Richmond. She supports single payer health care for all. She’s fighting to close corporate tax loopholes to help fund public schools and tuition-free college.

If you don’t know these strong black women, you should. Look them up -- be inspired and awed.

Also, consider coming out to the Sisters in Solidarity International Women’s Day Celebration, which will include speakers like Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton (CCC’s first black woman DA) and will be emceed by Councilmember Jovanka Beckles.

Gayle: Never Stop Fighting for Justice

In honor of Black History month, below is a beautiful essay penned by former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. Gayle, who is running for California Lt. Governor, was recently endorsed by Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution! Please volunteer with Gayle’s campaign or make a donation today! 

Frederick Douglas said: "I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs". He escaped slavery and became a resistance leader. Harriet Tubman told us: "Don't ever stop. If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going". Frederick and Harriet reached freedom and helped many others reach it. They took action.

There were also those who turned around to fight their oppressors. During my first year as Mayor of Richmond in 2007, I introduced a proclamation honoring the Black heroes of Harper’s Ferry (1859) and all those who fought against slavery and all those still struggling for liberation. African-Americans Osborn P. Anderson, Dangerfield Newby, Lewis Leary, John Copeland, and Shields Green joined the military invasion of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, led by John Brown and a small group of radical abolitionists, calling for slave insurrection, the end of slavery, and full control of their own destinies.

The actions of these brave freedom fighters became one of the most moving arguments for the end of slavery. Most of them died in the insurrection, except for O.P. Anderson, who escaped and later joined the Union Army as an officer.

Lucy Parsons was a 6-year-old slave girl in Texas at the time of Harper’s Ferry. She grew up to become an amazing American labor organizer. Lucy and her husband Albert were leaders in campaigning for the eight-hour work day. Although Albert was tried and executed in 1887, Lucy never stopped organizing, speaking, denouncing, writing, and demanding justice for working folks.

These true heroes are often excluded or erased from our history, yet their stories connect well with many subsequent struggles, all the way to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. During Black History Month I honor those brave Black men and women who rose up and fought oppression. I invite you to do the same. Let us be Californians of action against all injustice. “Don’t ever stop,” as Harriet said.                                                                                                                                 

Learning from Danica Roem

When I look back at how progressives won so many races last November, one victory particularly stands out: Danica Roem, who became the first transgender woman to win state-wide office in the U.S. Roem's victory was not only striking because of the barriers she broke, but because she had defeated longtime incumbent Robert G. Marshall.

Marshall, who authored the Virginia bathroom bill, proudly referred to himself as the state’s "chief homophobe,” and ran a campaign filled with bigoted personal attacks. After she won, dozens of news outlets rushed to interview Roem and ask her about her what it was like to emerge victorious after such a hostile campaign. She simply said, "I don't attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now."

It was a beautiful, moving, and gracious gesture which reminded me that in politics, vitriol does not have to be answered in kind. And that reminder came just in time. A month before, Mayor Tom Butt politically attacked my friends and neighbors Eli and Claudia.

I don’t know what Mayor Butt thought when he received that menacing email about Moore and Jimenez “deserving the death penalty or worse.” Hopefully he was shocked (because hopefully that message was out of the ordinary). And I don’t know what he did in response – whether he ignored it, or replied in an effort to tamp down that kind of talk.

But I do know that in October, he crossed a line. Mayor Butt had already started tearing down individuals in an effort to tear down the RPA. But this time, he went from going after someone’s character to going after their employment. He went from creating online controversy to creating risks for people’s personal security.

It was not election season negativity, nor was it a rant against a public official (e.g. part of openly criticizing our government). It was an attack against a constituent.

Claudia Jimenez puts it well: “As we repudiate this kind of hateful leadership at the federal level, we must not allow it in Richmond. Richmond residents cannot be in fear that their private conversations, their home address or other private information would be blasted out publicly by their mayor.  We need a mayor who focuses on Richmond’s real issues, not attacking constituents for disagreeing with him.”

We could all do well to learn from Danica Roem.