RPA Activist Info Masthead
Issue: #165
4-8 -15   
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Richmond Progressive Alliance   

Reminder: Community Housing Workshops & RPA Group's Meeting
4/25: Whither the RPA? Membership Meeting
4/19: See & Support "Against Hate"
Jovanka Beckles on "Who killed DMC?"
4/18: 2015's First Refinery Corridor Healing Walk
Report on Task Force Safety Forum
"Future of Rail" Follow-up
Are district elections a solution for Richmond? Read Mike Parker's answer.
Photos from Recent Demonstrations
No to Open Pit Mines--Yes to Life!
4/17: The Potential Project for WCCUSD Students
Upcoming: Save these dates now.

Bobby Bowens Progressive Center
1021 Macdonald,


Since we don't take corporate money,  our success depends on our ability to use "people power" to promote activities and programs in Richmond. The RPA Activist is one tool we use to put out our ideas. One simple thing that YOU can do is to forward the RPA Activist to friends and acquaintances. Thanks.


Th. 4/9, 5-7pm, City Council Chambers ~and/or~
Tu. 4//14, 6-8, Bermuda Rm. of Aud. (Both in Civic Center Plaza)

Community Workshops on Housing Policy  

Come & give input as Richmond City staff work to update the Housing Element of the General Plan, as required by State law, and to draft recommendations for a "Just Cause for Eviction" measure intended to protect tenants, as directed unanimously by Richmond City Council last month.   


All stakeholders are invited, and if you live in Richmond, that's you.  The announcement says "help us craft the goals, policies and programs that will shape housing in our city," so let's show up and plan to do just that.

To help them plan seating, the workshop organizers are asking for RSVPs to www.RichmondHousing.eventbrite.com.  For more info,  check here.   


Sat. 4/11, 3pm, BBPC, RPA Housing Group   


You're also invited to the next meeting of the RPA Housing Group, working on strategies to use the coming development to retain and benefit Richmond's current residents.  


Sat. 4/25, 3-5:30pm, Meeting for members & friends at BBPC* 
Help build a robust, representative RPA!

Be part of the process as we tackle where to go --both literally and figuratively-- from here!


The RPA is looking for a new space.  We'll talk about that.


The RPA is looking to make itself more transparent and accountable, a better ally, a more diverse and representative group with meaningful membership, that's helping to build a better Richmond for us all.  Let's discuss how.


The RPA is looking to do more effective outreach, becoming better understood and developing more accurate and deeper understandings of the communities here.  Your ideas are wanted.  


The RPA is looking for you.  Be a part of this conversation, and see if you'd like to work with some of the groups emerging, whether they focus on issues or organizational support.  This meeting, we don't have the draw of a brand new Councilmember to meet, but we hope you'll be there anyway.  (We will have light refreshments!) There's a lot to be done, and some of it will be fun!   


[If you'd like to help plan the 4/25 meeting, come to the next Membership Committee meeting Tues. 4/14 at 5:30pm at BBPC.] 


On the 25th, new members can join at the door and current members can update their status.   


If you want to join now, follow this link to the membership form.  Print and complete the form and mail it in with a check for your dues, which start at $12/yr.  Or, to avoid printing and snail-mailing, you can:

  •  send an email to info@richmondprogressivealliance.net with the information requested on the form &
  • go to the RPA web page & press the "Donate" button in the left column and make a payment for dues. Any additional contribution helps us keep dues more affordable for those with low income and is welcomed.

*1021 Macdonald, RICHMOND.  Near Richmond BART. 

Help Wanted for the RPA:

RPA needs help maintaining its website and transitioning to a 21st century web presence, with social-media integration and interactivity. If you enjoy technical challenges and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, your help could be crucial to our ability to engage the next generation of activists. Please contact Daniel Goodwin at 510-527-4652 for further details.    
Sun. 4/19, 4-7pm, 747 Lobos Ave., Richmond :
Movie preview & benefit for "Against Hate"

Jovanka Beckles answers in Bay View article:
"Who killed DMC?" Richmond wants to know.

Just before the final vote.  Photo: Mike Parker.

In the end the main problem was that there were not enough political leaders willing to organize a campaign to force these institutions to save DMC.

"A quarter of a million people in Richmond and West Contra Costa County, a majority people of color community, will be without a community hospital as a result of the decision made last Thursday to phase down and finally close the doors of Doctors Medical Center (DMC) in San Pablo by April 21, 2015. To not provide a full service hospital in West Contra Costa County is an example of environmental and institutional racism as experienced by predominantly poor people of color.

"In large part due to the location of Chevron and other industries, West Contra Costa County has higher rates of cancer and asthma. These industries also pose a regular risk of explosion and release of dangerous chemicals. There should be a hospital nearby in case of an industrial accident, but the largest and most profitable industry, the Chevron Corp., refused to contribute to keep DMC open.


"The remaining hospital in the area, Kaiser Richmond, does not serve indigent patients, has an emergency room too small to handle the volume of the area, and does not have the capability to handle strokes and heart attacks. ... " Read the full article, from the April 5th S.F. Bay View.

Sat. 4/18, Connect the Dots from Pittsburg to Martinez
First Refinery Corridor Healing Walk
of 2015

For the second year, join these nonviolent walks led by Native American Elders in prayer as they "Connect the Dots" of the 5 oil refineries in the Northeast San Francisco Bay (& the proposed WestPak storage facility in Pittsburg).  Walk in prayer & conversation for:  
Clean Air, Water & Soil~Safe Jobs, Roads, Railroads & Waterways~A Vibrantly Healthy Future for All Children~A Just Transition to Safe & Sustainable Energy

The April 18th walk will start at 9:30am,
near the Pittsburg Marina at 3 Marina Blvd in the City of Pittsburg, California, following a water ceremony & registration from 8am.

Details about the route, transportation, logistical support, what to expect, & what to bring, are available from the website, http://www.refineryhealingwalks.com/walk1.html. 
2014 Walkers, from here. 
The next walks will be Sun. 5/17, Sat. 6/20, & Sun. 7/19.

A report from Rob Ham:
The 2nd No. Cal. Refinery Safety Forum

On March 26th, the Crockett Community Center

G. Schremp (R) fields questions. Photo: Rob Ham 
was filled with people who came to learn facts and express feelings in the matter of "Crude By Rail" (CBR) transport as well as refinery safety. The meeting was convened by the Governor's Interagency Task Force on Refinery Safety. Paul Penn of the California Environmental Protection Agency opened the session, outlining the focus and goals of the meeting, and he expressed a desire to "depoliticize" the issues. Gordon Schremp followed him. Schremp, an analyst for the California Energy Commission, gave a very technical briefing on the status of crude oil refining and transport infrastructure in the state. He then fielded a barrage of questions  that were sometimes emotional and heated, from community members.  


After sitting through the meeting for approximately two hours, I came away feeling like the forum seemed to be just a paper tiger with no real regulatory power. Although the information was good, I couldn't help feeling that as a vehicle for change, the forum wasn't effective. It just seems to be a big PR gimmick. I may be cynical but I think that when all is said and done, after the lawyers and lobbyists are done with it, there will be much more said than done.


The sad fact is that refinery regulation is conducted by a fragmented and jumbled group of agencies, all with limited enforcement power, limited jurisdictions and limits on punitive fines that make the entire process a joke. The oil companies control the process with teams of lawyers and near-constant access to regulators, as opposed to citizens who get to speak only at occasional community meetings that, at least in the two I attended recently, are not even recorded. Notes are taken by staff.  


As for Paul Penn's goal of "depoliticizing" the issue, the exact opposite needs to occur. As citizens at risk, we must hold our elected representatives' feet to the fire. That means electing people to office that are not beholden to big oil for campaign financing. It also means watching office holders closely to ensure that they appoint regulators who will do the job with vigor. Further, a fine and punishment structure with teeth must be created so that polluting communities and poisoning the environment will not be profitable. A massive restructuring is needed.

                                                                                                      --Rob Ham

Building the Labor-Community Alliance:
Two-Person Train Crew Bill Introduced in State!

One of the Railroad Workers United organizers for last month's conference here on "The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment" writes: "A 2 person crew bill is being introduced in the California Legislature.  The first hearing was this week. Those in opposition talk about collective bargaining, flexibility, and the free markets as a reason to defeat this bill, but engineers and conductors are federally licensed and under the Railway Labor Act.  At the first sign of a strike the free market crowd will run to the government to force these workers back to work.  These workers need protection by law and this is the first step in getting it.


"There will be many opportunities in the future to support this bill. If you wish to help, contact Tim Smith, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen California State Chairman at 530-823-7510 or 916-996-2967.  His email is  Tsmith@sbcglobal.net."

[And here's a link to an article about the National Transportation Safety Board's recognition of the urgent need for greater safety when we move crude by raill:    
Mike Parker asks:
Are District Elections a Solution?

Map of Richmond from City website.

The Richmond City Council determined that there was so little interest in district elections for the Council that it was not even worth paying staff to research it. At its meeting, March 24, all Council members voted to table the
item except Myrick who abstained.

In the past there has been considerable interest in district elections and there are Richmond activists who believe that district elections are required for diversity and democracy. While it is always easy to believe that a change will solve problems, there are a number of studies of district elections. A closer look at district elections reveals serious downsides:

1. Only increase diversity in special cases (highly segregated) and would have little impact on diversity on the Richmond Council. (Our School Board is a different question.)

2. Cause the emphasis of local politics to shift from city wide issues to local issues and tend to result in more pitting communities against each other.

3. Are actually more open to control by wealth than city-wide elections because city wide elections can be organized around issues that are publicly discussed and debated.

4. Require a very political and expensive process of drawing and redrawing districts as the population shifts.

For a much longer discussion and possible district maps please see  http://richmondprogressivealliance.net/docs/DistrictElections.pdf
                                                                                               --Mike Parker                               
[The RPA has no position on this issue, and this Newsletter welcomes different points of view.]  
In case you couldn't be there:
Photos from recent demos in S.F. & Richmond

Toxic Cocktails blended with water from Ecuador, contaminated by Texaco/Chevron, offered 4/2/15.  Top photos: Amazon Watch.  
At The Ritz in S.F., Richmond activists protest at Commonwealth Club gala honoring Chevron's CEO as "Outstanding Global Citizen." 

.               .              .              .              .   At the kick-off for CA Prop 13 corporate property tax reform, shown below, retired teacher and  Richmond City Councilmember Eduardo Martinez tells a crowd of about 60 outside the gates of Richmond's Chevron that our schools, public services, and infrastructure will all benefit once the loopholes benefitting corporations are closed.
Photo: Tarnell Abbott.
Photo: Janet Johnson. 
Marilyn Langlois's report from SOAWatch trip to El Salvador:
No a la Mineria--Si a la Vida

Last week, Marilyn wrote, "I just returned from a 9-day delegation to El Salvador with SOAWatch.  One of our activities was extremely relevant to our environmental justice work here in Richmond, so I'd like to encourage you to read the short article below."  Please do.
Patricia of MUFRAS 32 calling for solidarity.  
Hector of MUFRAS 32 with life-affirming mural.

Photos: Marilyn Langlois

Just outside the small town of San Isidro in north central El Salvador, anti-mining activists are starting to build agricultural cooperatives to show the impoverished local population some healthy employment alternatives to the prospect of low-wage mining jobs being dangled like carrots by international mining corporation Oceana Gold, which is seeking to build a massive open pit gold mine in this environmentally fragile region.
Mines would seriously pollute the rivers and poison the already stressed water system.  The government of El Salvador has held fast to a moratorium on mining for six years, but it came with a cost.  In 2009, after the moratorium was adopted, three leaders of the anti-mining movement were murdered and their homes ransacked, including Marcelo Rivera, who is memorialized on a mural in the center of town.

To add insult to injury, Oceana Gold is now suing the government of El Salvador for $300,000 in lost future profits if it doesn't get permits to build the mine.  This travesty is a result of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), promoted by the US neoliberal agenda, allowing corporations to completely undermine a country's sovereignty and claim rights to extract resources and make profits no matter what local lawmakers say.  The matter is now before a World Bank tribunal and the need for international solidarity is urgent.

Hector Berrios and his wife Zeneyda (pictured on the change.org petition) gave the delegation I was traveling with in late March a tour of the town of San Isidro with its many murals depicting the struggle for life.  Former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has also engaged in correspondence with them, expressing support for the efforts of their organization, Movimiento Unificado Francisco Sanchez 1932* (MUFRAS 32).

Please sign these two petitions [links below] now to support Salvadoran environmental activists who are in a struggle for the survival of their communities and ecosystems.



 https://secure2.oxfamamerica.org/page/s/tell-the-world-bank-stand-with-el-salvador   (includes short video!)


*The organization was named in honor of Francisco Sanchez, an indigenous leader and contemporary of Farabundo Marti both of whom were killed along with thousands of indigenous peasants in 1932 by the brutal Salvadoran dictator who represented the wealthy landowners.

                                                                                               --Marilyn Langlois   

April 17th deadline, WCCUSD students can apply for grants for:
The Potential Project: Advancing WCCUSD goals

Tell students you know about The Potential Project, for young people who are currently enrolled in a public school in West County.  Participants will:

1.     Form a team of students with a defined set of members, between 2 and 5 people.  Ask an adult advisor to work with your team.  The advisor could be a teacher, coach, mentor/youth leader, parent, pastor, etc.    

2.      Pick one of the goals from WCCUSD's "Local Control & Accountability Plan" to prioritize. 

3.     Create a plan to raise awareness, spark creative collaboration, and create measurable progress towards one of the goals contained within the plan.   

Get both the full vision for The Potential Project and all of the details students need to participate here. The vision page, student application, and parental waiver can all be downloaded from the site. 
Save these late April-early May dates now:
Health plan work, Toxics Tour, another World Premiere, Crude by Rail Town Hall: all coming up

Tues. 4/21, 8am Carpool from ACCE, 322 Harbour Way
County Supervisors' Meeting:
Speak out for Basic Health Plan for CCC.
ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) is organizing a group to go to the County Supervisors meeting in Martinez to speak out in support of a Countywide Basic Health Plan that would include undocumented residents, so we can get closer to having health for all in Contra Costa County. Meet at the ACCE office for carpools to Martinez. If you're able to go, please send Melvin an email.

Sat. 4/25, 10am-2pm, Meet at BBPC, 1021 Macdonald
Richmond Toxics Tour led by Andrés Soto, Richmond Organizer for CBE.
The tour combines environmental and social justice with a large dose of local history to provide a context to our lives in West County. We will visit several locations that highlight the challenges and the resilience of the people of Richmond as we turn from a legacy of industrial pollution to one of a renewable energy future. Seats fill up early. Reservations recommended. To reserve a seat contact Andrés Soto, 510.282.5363 or andres@cbecal.org

Wed., April 29th 7:30pm, El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, 540 Ashbury Av
World Premier of "Romeo is Bleeding": A Richmond Love Story...
Documentary film on genesis and production of the play "Te's Harmony."  Features playwright Donte Clark,a Richmond Poet Laureate, & local youth who developed, produced, & star in this modern re-imagining of Romeo & Juliet.

Sat. 5/9, 10-noon: Town Hall Forum on Crude By Rail. Location & details soon.
Some History and Understanding of the RPA
  Social Policy Article

Long article with pictures 

--have patience in downloading


RPA Activist Info

is for Richmond community members who want to be active in taking on the problems of the environment, racism, joblessness, housing, and crime to create a healthy Richmond. We believe that community involvement means more than voting every two years. It means regular communication with the candidates we elect, letting them know our issues and positions, supporting them as they try to take our issues forward. It means we attend meetings, use email, phone our neighbors, or go on marches building an organized movement to create real change.

Comments and columns are welcome. Articles and columns are the views of the authors, unsigned text  the views of the editor, Patsy Byers, and not necessarily those of the RPA. Send photos, articles, and comments to  RPAactivist@gmail.com or call  510-595-4661. Longer articles of analysis and archives of past newsletters can be found on our website.