Issues

Councilmember Eduardo Martinez Responds to False Report by Police Department

From Eduardo: 

"Mark Gagan is an outstanding example of a community minded police officer. I have always known him to be hard working, open to the whole community and fair. I so much respected his work, I had suggested that he be considered as chief when the position was open. I also believe that Chief Brown is doing an excellent job under very trying budgetary
circumstances.

I have no information about the charges brought against Mark or his involvement in my case but from my experience with him, and until I have contrary information, I would think he may be the victim of internal police department politics."

Read Eduardo's full statement here.

RPA Continues to Inspire

Good bye, 2017. You were a real doozy. And we know that with an unhinged President and a Republican-controlled Congress bent on shredding the social safety net, there’s more drama and trauma ahead in 2018.

But here in Richmond, we have been long tilling the fertile fields of bottom-up, people-centered, progressive activism. And with five corporate-free city council members on the dais this year, our efforts continue to bear fruit.

As Melvin Willis pointed out when he announced he was running for mayor, in 2017 RPA-backed councilmembers:

  • Passed a $15 minimum wage
  • Established a ban on small pack cigarettes, menthols and flavored tobacco paraphernalia
  • After twenty years, got a 1 percent tax on development to support the arts in Richmond
  • Passed a balanced budget, and set up more transparency for budget setting in the future
  • Saw the successful implementation of Measure L, which is allowing renters to stay in their homes, instead of being forced out by excessive rent hikes

Looking ahead 2018, I see more exciting policy achievements in 2018. And I see the election of a young, hope-filled, African American mayor to lead our city – someone who will inspire, serve and work side by side with our diverse and dynamic residents.

Throughout California, I see us taking our positive vision of corporate-free progressive politics to the next level, with candidates like Jovanka Beckles running for Assembly District 15, and Gayle McLaughlin running for California Lt. Governor. If in 2017 #MeToo was the courageous rallying cry of women stepping out from the shadows of sexual harassment, next year I hope it represents the empowerment of more and more women as they run for political office – and win.

Nationally, I expect to see the progressive revolution continue to build as we head towards this fall. As Collier Meyerson pointed out in The Nation, this past November Bernie Sanders/ Our Revolution candidates won 27 of 59 races in which the organization made endorsements. So although one might say the Democrats did well during the off-year election, it’s more accurate to say that progressives did well.

And that makes me inspired and ready to fight in 2018.

Thank you for standing shoulder to shoulder with me me in the struggle! This is the year to step it up: to join an RPA Action Team, make a (more generous) donation, come to our upcoming membership meeting, or apply to serve on the Steering Committee. Together as one, we are making another Richmond possible!

Worth Reading: Chron on Gayle's Campaign

If you didn’t have a chance to check out John Wildermuth’s spread in the SF Chron article on Dec 29, Ex-Richmond mayor looks to bring a Bernie Sanders approach to Sacramento, it’s worth a read!

Ex-Richmond mayor looks to bring a Bernie Sanders approach to Sacramento

December 29, 2017

For former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, it’s time to take her city’s progressive politics on the road.

McLaughlin, a former Green Party member, is running for lieutenant governor in 2018 as an independent candidate, confident that California is ready for the type of all-in liberal politics that her Richmond Progressive Alliance brought to the East Bay city.

 “I decided that at a certain point I had to do a statewide race,” said the 65-year-old McLaughlin. “If I ran statewide we could spread the Progressive Alliance farther and move it to a larger stage.”

The Chicago-born McLaughlin was one of the founders of the Richmond group, which ran a slate of progressive outsiders in 2004 to replace City Council members they said were both ineffective and too closely tied to Chevron, the city’s most powerful business.

After two years on the council, McLaughlin beat an incumbent mayor by 242 votes in 2006. She held that office until 2014, when she was elected again to the council, where members of the alliance now hold five of the seven seats. She resigned her seat this year so she could campaign to replace termed-out Democrat Gavin Newsom as lieutenant governor.

“We want to show the rest of the state how we did it, how we reduced crime, raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour and put in new rent control rules,” she said. 

To read the whole article, click here.

Getting More Residents into Good Jobs

Improving conditions in Richmond means getting more residents into steady good-paying jobs with a future. It is great that warehouses are locating here with thousands of new jobs.  But we have to remember that the wages paid for unskilled jobs are not enough to support a family in Richmond.  We need more programs like Richmond Build which will help people to advance from seemingly dead-end jobs into skilled work.  In this and coming articles we will highlight some of the programs available to Richmond residents as well as discuss some new programs that can make a difference. 

Take advantage of programs that already exist like the one below. And spread the word to people you know.

Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 342 to open apprenticeship sign-ups

This is a great career that pays well. Apprentices start out at about $23.00/hour with raises every 6 months. After a probationary period, family benefits kick-in. After graduating, the pay is better than $60.00/hr.  It is a five year apprenticeship so the commitment has to be serious.

Requirements for applying are minimal: High school or GED, and ability to be on time every day, and pass a physical and drug test. Previous incarceration and spotty work record are not a barrier.

Applicants will then have to pass an initial test covering basic math and spatial relations. It’s worth applying even if you don’t pass this test the first time. You will have a better idea about what the tests are like and can take advantage of some of the special courses and books that help prepare people in these areas.

Applicants will have to apply in person at the training center in Concord February 5- 9. Email Don Gosney dongosney@comcast.net for an information packet including sample questions.

For more information: http://www.ua342.org/Training.html

Richmond Gives Me Hope

A reflection one year after Trump.

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I remember it clearly: it was a year ago, but it seems like a lifetime.

November 8, 2016 -- I had spent my day handing out progressive voting guides at a couple of polling stations. In the company of kind people, soaking up the November sun, talking with neighbors, and excited about the candidates and causes I was supporting. Afterwards, I gathered among friends at the RPA office to watch the returns on the big screen. My excitement gave way to horror, and sense that I was spiraling away from reality.

The next morning at work, we called an emergency staff meeting at Friends of the Earth; people were in shock and tears. I was able to offer some encouragement to my colleagues: We will get through this, we will resist, and I do have hope. I draw my from hope from Richmond.

It is all too easy to read the 2016 election as the triumph of a brutish, dangerous, reality television egomaniac. But that would be conferring far too much importance on Trump. The story of the 2016 election was equally about the meteoric rise of a social democrat and the blossoming of a inspiring, progressive movement. It was the story of grassroots change, and the story of Richmond.

In Richmond, we had just won a progressive majority on the City Council. Relying on the sweat of hundreds of volunteers, we had elected two first-time candidates who represented the future of progressive politics – young, diverse, and embedded in the movements for clean energy and the rights of poor and working class people. And that gives me hope.

It is all too easy to reflect on the past year as a series of hateful, racist policies – from a proposed Muslim ban to a border wall – and the emergence of white supremacists from the shadows. But this past year was equally about the spontaneous gathering of thousands at airports across the county, where Muslim faithful prayed between baggage carousels and parking lots. It was the story of tolerance and love, and the story of Richmond.

In Richmond, a local man was arrested a few years ago after making threats to a mosque in my neighborhood. What followed was an outpouring of fellowship, as people posted notes of solidarity and well-wishes on the mosque doors and gathered in the courtyard to support the congregation. That night still gives me hope.

It is all too easy to look at this past year and view it as the epitome of corrupt politics and the corporate capture of our government. After all, Trump literally handed his pen to the CEO of Dow Chemical after signing an Executive Order to eliminate regulations. But to dwell on that is to miss the fact that an unprecedented number of people are now stepping up to run for public office. Galvanized by the injustices perpetrated by this Administration, women’s groups, environmental organizations, and others are offering candidate trainings. It is the story of empowerment, and the story of Richmond.

In Richmond, it is said that Chevron once had its own desk at City Hall. But for the last ten years, a grassroots progressive movement has successfully thrown Chevron out of our government and elected City Council candidates who have refused a dime of corporate money. And that gives me hope.

In Richmond, our city is committed to environmental sustainability, even while Trump pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.

In Richmond, we are cultivating worker-owned cooperatives and raising the minimum wage, even while the Republican-controlled Congress tries to pass tax reform on the backs of the poor and middle class.

In Richmond, we have a new law to help people to stay in their homes, even while rents skyrocket astronomically in the Bay Area and cities around the country.

In Richmond, we are gradually creating a future that is more just, and doing it from the bottom up. And since that is the only way to ensure durable social change in our country, what we are doing in Richmond gives me hope far beyond.

Feeling hopeful? Keep it going through supporting the Richmond Progressive Alliance.

City Council Discusses Impact of Charters on Public Schools

On November 21, the Richmond City Council discussed a moratorium on all new school construction while the City prepares changes in zoning laws. Most of the discussion was about the functioning of charter schools and their effects on the public school system.

“Considering the fact that charter schools are popping up like mushrooms and taking prime real estate that would bring in businesses and bring in higher sales taxes as well as property taxes, I find that we need to reconsider zoning so that we don’t go the way of some cities on the East Coast,” said Councilmember Eduardo Martinez, as he introduced the item. “Moody’s as well as S&P have downgraded or threatened to downgrade the credit ratings of cities because they have too many charter schools. It’s our fiscal responsibility and our responsibility to our residents to ensure that we don’t go the way of losing revenue.”

Carlos Taboada, part of the RPA Schools Action Team, in his public testimony, cited former school board member Todd Groves, who said that in approving the Voices charter school, the Board cemented a $10 million loss equivalent to the Measure T parcel tax.

Mike Parker, another member of the Schools Action Team, testified: The RPA believes the schools are an essential part of improving conditions in Richmond. People make their decisions about where to live based on the schools, people make their decisions on what the community is like based on the schools. And they are especially important for people who are trying to climb out of poverty, people who are trying to climb in a decent life. So when we see our public school system being destroyed by the charter schools we have to start taking a stand.

The well funded California Charter School Association is now conducting a petition drive as part of an attempt to get the Council to reverse its position.  

To view excerpts from this City Council meeting, click here

Melvin Willis to Run for Mayor!

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On December 15, Richmond Councilmember Melvin Willis announced that he is running for mayor of the City of Richmond in the November 2018 election. The announcement was made at the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) holiday party, to a joyful crowd of supporters.

“Many people have contributed to Richmond’s transformation in recent years, and we are thankful to all. At the same time, many challenges remain, and a much better Richmond is possible!” said Willis.

Melvin Willis, a community organizer with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), made history in 2016 when at 26 he became the youngest councilmember ever elected in the City’s history. He received the highest number of votes in the race, and his success was crowned by the passage in Richmond of the first Fair Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction law in California in 30 years, a ballot initiative at the center of his campaign.

At the announcement, Willis was flanked by Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles and Councilmember Ada Recinos. In addition to Beckles and Recinos, Councilmembers Ben Choi, Eduardo Martinez and two-term former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin have all endorsed Willis’ candidacy.

“Melvin has the values, the vision and the commitment to lead Richmond to a higher level of progress and to make it a better city for all our residents. He thinks globally and organizes and mobilizes locally. He is thoughtful, caring, gentle and generous. People know him and love him. Melvin is the best of Richmond,” said former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

During his announcement Willis stressed that the important achievements that have transformed Richmond over the past decade and are inspiring many other communities throughout the nation need to be defended against undermining measures at higher levels of government.

 “As Mayor I will lead all those in Richmond willing to work to make our city better. Together we will sustain our accomplishments and keep folks in their homes, fight pollution, defend immigrants’ rights, improve our schools and libraries, and continue our progress in reducing violent crime. I will promote a community participatory process for the city budget. I will respond to the needs of our youth, I will focus on the creation of affordable housing, and my doors will always be open to every resident of our community to hear their thoughts and ideas,” Willis added.

Willis affirmed that his campaign for Mayor will be based on peoplepower and neighborpower, and free of corporate donations. He rejects the corrupting influence of corporate money and invites all residents to support a one-person, one-vote true democratic election.

Punishment Should End after Time Served

We were so moved after this recent OpEd by the amazing Tamisha Walker, Executive Director of the Safe Return Project, that we could not help re-publishing some of it.

The RPA partners with the Safe Return Project as part of the Contra Costa Racial Justice Alliance, which works to reduce racial inequalities in our criminal justice system. The coalition has successfully worked on many issues, including instituting “Ban the Box” in Richmond, and advocating for the appointment of Diana Becton for interim District Attorney.

San Francisco Chronicle:  Punishment should end after time served

By Tamisha Walker
November 14, 2017

Our system of criminal justice is built on a fundamental belief that those convicted of wrongdoing have a debt that should be paid to society, and then forgiven. But for many people with criminal records, the consequences of past mistakes continue to hamper our ability to thrive long after that debt has been paid.

I know these challenges firsthand. And I know the changes we as a society need to make to help people like me put their lives back together.

I have been one of the lucky ones. But for every success story like mine, there are dozens of people who continue to be shut out of society. There are nearly 5,000 different restrictions placed on people with felony convictions in California, making it difficult if not impossible for people to secure jobs, housing, student loans and other keys to achieving economic security and financial stability.

Federal, state and local laws on the books create obstacles for people trying to reassemble their lives after experiencing the trauma of incarceration.

The situation is particularly difficult for women, who face unique challenges and needs when they reintegrate into society. The majority of re-entry programs are geared toward men. Issues like access to housing, employment and public assistance become more dire for women, especially those with young children, as they try to put their lives back together.

When I was released from jail in 2009, my first priority was to regain custody of my kids. But in order to do that, I needed to have stable housing and a job. Time and time again, my applications for housing or employment were rejected simply because of my past mistakes. I remember going to the Burlington Coat Factory in Richmond, joining the hundreds of people standing in line for about 100 open positions.

I got through the first interview feeling really confident, leaving with a friendly handshake from the woman who conducted the interview. As I walked away, I saw her look at the application, and drop it in the trash. My heart sank. I knew I would never get a call back. More than 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed a year after their release, and when they are able to find a job, they often are paid less.

I had to check the box admitting to my past record. In a competitive hiring environment, I knew I didn’t stand a chance.

To read more, click here.

BAAQMD Opening Up Their Permitting Process

This is a big deal! For the first time in many years, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) will be considering revisions to their permitting process.  The Air District’s permitting track record is littered with examples of them rubber stamping projects that endanger community health and destabilize the climate.  Can that behavior be reformed?

With enough public pressure it can! Unfortunately, the Air District is claiming that AB 398—the recently passed cap and trade extension bill— prohibits them from directly regulating CO2 emissions.  Although the bill specifically restricts Air Districts from taking actions that produce CO2 reductions, BAAQMD legal staff insists that this also prohibits them from preventing future emission increases.  

As a result, staff’s proposed improvements to current permitting rules, Rules 2-X,  intentionally do nothing to control future CO2 emissions.  The result is that dangerous projects—like the proposed expansion of crude-by-ship into the Phillips 66 marina at the Rodeo refinery—will continue to be rubber stamped.  The “improvements” fail to prevent the increased emissions that inevitably follow from changes to dirtier, more GHG- and toxics- emitting crude sources.

Staff is using the same interpretation of AB 398 to argue that Rule 12-16, the proposed refinery emissions cap, can no longer be considered.

Gov. Brown: Not as Green as Meets the Eye

Brown_oil.pngGovernor Brown jetted to Bonn, Germany last month in an attempt to showcase California’s leadership on climate change. While there are indeed inspiring things happening in this state, savvy enviros and grassroots activists are not buying the Brown’s greenwash. When he was confronted with climate justice and indigenous peoples organizations chanting “Keep it in the ground!,” Brown retorted in Trumpian style, “Let’s put you in the ground.” (Ouch!)

A recent oped by Bill McKibben in The New Yorker, titled “Why Governor Jerry Brown was booed at the climate summit,” sums it up:

Brown has so far declined to curtail even fracking and urban drilling, the dirtiest and most dangerous kinds. In his Bonn speech, he offered the most tired of explanations: “If I could turn off the oil today, thirty-two million vehicles would stop, and ten million jobs would be destroyed overnight.” But, of course, no one is talking about turning off the flow of oil overnight. That’s the point of “managed decline”—an orderly retreat from the fossil-fuel precipice. And, in truth, no one is better situated than Brown to lead it. California doesn’t depend on oil and gas the way that, say, Russia or Saudi Arabia or Oklahoma does; the state is full of the world’s most vigorous entrepreneurs, many of them making fortunes on the energy transition.

And then there’s the fact that Brown is on the way out, term-limited and hence insulated from the political power of the fossil-fuel industry. He could do his successor—and the rest of the world—a huge favor by, for instance, announcing that California will no longer grant new permits for exploration or major infrastructure development. Such a commitment would shut down nothing except the petroleum industry’s scientifically and economically flawed assumption that it can maintain its business model indefinitely.

Brown may be captured by corporations like Chevron, which contribute millions to his campaigns, but real leadership is coming from the grassroots across California. Five counties have banned fracking (something that Brown is loathe to do). The most closely-watched ban is Monterey County’s Measure Z, which voters approved in a 2016 countywide ballot initiative. It calls for an end to fracking, new oil wells and a phaseout of wastewater injection in the county; and is being challenged in the courts by Chevron and other oil companies. A Monterey Superior Court judge is expected to rule soon on it.