RPA Voter Guide for March 3, 2020 Primary

RPA Voter Guide for March 3, 2020 Primary

Vote for: Bernie Sanders

For many folks, voting for Bernie for the Democratic nomination may be the most exciting vote you’ll cast this March.

Months ago, the RPA membership voted to endorse Bernie Sanders (for those voting in the Democratic primary), for all the reasons you know: he is the strongest progressive in the field, and is also the only person running for President who is a real movement candidate.

What does this mean? It means that Bernie knows we need to build a real multiracial, working class movement for the long term. And that change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. His Presidential bids have never been about himself and his ego. They haven’t even been about winning an election. His campaigns have been about winning a political revolution through mass mobilization and long-term organizing.

That’s why many of us still count his 2016 Democratic presidential bid as a victory – because of the spark it lit for progressive politics across this country. This spark gave us inspiring progressive leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, The Squad, and the dozens of electeds endorsed by Our Revolution (of which the RPA is an affiliate).

Vote yes: Proposition 13

Proposition 13 (don’t get confused, it’s not that Prop 13) would authorize the issuance of up to $15 billion in state school bonds for facility repair, construction and modernization.

About $9 billion would go to K-12 schools, with most of that going toward repairing and renovating schools rather than building new ones.

Funds from state school bonds, such as the ones that would be approved by this measure, are used to provide matching funds to individual school districts to construct or upgrade school buildings. In the past, some larger wealthier school districts were able to raise funds faster (via issuing their own local bonds), thus taking a disproportionate share of the state monies.

In contrast, this ballot measure would make it a priority for low-income school districts (such as West Contra Costa) to get access to the funds. It creates a sliding scale for fund-matching, so that disadvantaged schools would receive a higher percentage of state money.

According to an OpEd by California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, funds would also prioritize those school facilities that are in serious disrepair or suffer from unsafe contamination – including lead contamination, mold and asbestos.

Vote yes: Measure R

Measure R is a West Contra Costa Unified School District $575 million bond measure for classroom modernization and safety updates. Past WCCUSD bond measures have benefited schools throughout the district, but unfortunately many of our Richmond schools have been among the last on the list. Richmond voters need to really get behind this measure to receive our share.

The maximum estimated property tax is $.06 per $100 assessed value (which comes out to $240 annually for a house with a $400,000 assessed value).

The following are excerpts from an Op-Ed signed by Consuelo Lara, West Contra Costa Trustee; Leslie Reckler, President Bayside Council PTA’s; Jose De Leon, Principal Richmond High School; and Demetrio Gonzalez, President United Teachers of Richmond.

Over the last 20-plus years, our community has been generous and has made incredible investments in WCCUSD. The District has used previous bonds to rebuild and modernize many of the schools in our neighborhoods – 44 of 53 schools in the District have been rebuilt or had some renovation – but the work is unfinished…

Independent experts have indicated that over $1 billion in improvements are required at District schools. And, many of these schools are located in very underserved areas – especially Richmond. In our diverse district, this is a major equity issue. Now, it is time for schools like Stege, Fairmont, Valley View, Kennedy High and Richmond High (which are on the priority list) to be rebuilt…

The effects of climate change can be seen on a regular basis with more hot days causing the need for air conditioning in places where it wasn’t previously needed. Measure R could provide air conditioning to our hottest schools where the need is serious. Every year, we see a growing number of students, teachers, and staff hurt by the dangerously hot temperatures in their classrooms to the level where this year alone three teachers had to go to the hospital over heat exhaustion. Technology has advanced, so school buildings need robust wireless infrastructure to support the devices students and teachers need for instruction. These things are expensive and cannot be paid for out of the normal school district budget…

This year we are also asked to support a complementary bond (Prop 13) for statewide facilities funds.  The passage of Prop 13 will increase available matching funds from the state for school construction. Over the years, because of voter support of our building program, West Contra Costa taxpayers have received over $166 Million Dollars in matching state funds — the passage of both Prop 13 and Measure R will ensure that our partnership with the state for school building funds will continue.  If Measure R fails, we will be leaving potential matching funds on the table – forfeiting our share.

Vote yes: Measure J

Measure J is a transportation plan that would raise $103 million annually through a ½ cent sales tax for 35 years. It ultimately would provide $1.9 billion dollars of new transit operations funding, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and programs, and investments in sustainable travel modes.

Our friends at TransForm, a local transportation justice organization, calls Measure J “the most equitable and sustainable transportation funding measure the county has ever seen.”

An excerpt from their blog post follows:

Unlike most transportation funding schemes, Measure J is not a grab-bag of pet projects. It lays out the goals and outcomes by which potential projects will be judged in order to receive funding, like emissions reductions, benefits for low-income residents and underserved communities, open space protection, and congestion reduction. 

The measure will help some of the most vulnerable residents of the County by:

  • Ensuring that investments provide a disproportionately greater benefit for low-income residents and Communities of Concern;
  • Requiring cities to adopt anti-displacement and affordable housing policies in order to receive measure money, tying housing production and tenants rights to transportation funding (we hope this can be a model for other measures);
  • Providing more free and reduced fares for students, seniors, and people with disabilities;

There’s even more to like about the substance of Measure J. It will:

  • Prioritize projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) in accordance with state climate mandates;
  • Establish an exciting new program for reducing driving, called a “VMT mitigation bank” — the first of its kind in California. Any measure-funded project that does not decrease VMT will have to offset its impacts by funding VMT-reducing projects such as transit, walking, and biking improvements. If this passes in Contra Costa, we believe it will help spur other similar programs across the state;
  • Prioritize safety and access for people who walk, bike, and use public transportation by requiring all roadway funding to abide by new transit, Complete Streets and road safety policies;
  • Create a strong Public Oversight Committee to ensure more accountability and public involvement in the measure’s implementation, including adding four seats for representatives of people with disabilities, transit riders, low-income communities, and climate advocates;
  • Allow Contra Costa County to participate in a state program that will direct millions of dollars in development impact fees to priority conservation projects.