RPA Activist Info Masthead
Issue: #183
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Richmond Progressive Alliance   

Show up! Speak up Wed.12/16 for reduced emissions at BAAQMD hearing!
12/12: RPA talked politics & partied; Election coming 1/9
RPA Statement opposing "Richmond Riviera" ballot Item
COP21 Failure Noted; Just Transition our best hope
Recap of Open Letter to Tom Butt from RPA SC
Vallejo Progressives Organizing: Getting some help & more welcomed! .
Pittsburg Campaign has good news: WesPac vanquished!
Students: Apply for grants from Potential Project
Hundreds rally with Richmond Teachers for Salary & Respect.
More than 100 bears for kids to hug
$11.52/hr Minimum in Richmond in New Year

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.


Wed. 12/16, 9-noon, BAAQMD* Board Meeting, 939 Ellis St.
After Paris, San Francisco: the Air District

From the Sunflower Alliance: 

"After an intense two-year fight, Air District staff has finally agreed to consider our Community proposal for enforceable numeric caps on refinery emissions, including greenhouse gases (GHGs).  It's now on the table for possible adoption by the 22 electeds on the Board. (Details.)

"Staff's piecemeal proposals exclude GHGs and their toxic co-pollutants, leaving frontline communities still vulnerable to deadly particulate matter and other toxics, and the planet to increasing GHGs.  The staff says our own Community proposal goes too far, challenges state cap-and-trade policy and is legally indefensible! Now more than ever, climate and environmental justice activists need to make the case for effective local regulation of refinery emissions.

Keeping tar sands out of the Bay Area = KXL 2.0.

"Tar sands oil has already begun to enter the Bay Area via barge, tanker and train. The switch to 'price-advantaged' crude not only assures even greater refining profits but [also] serious threats to our health, safety and climate, with potentially huge increases in pollution and explosion hazards from oil trains and refineries. Our struggle for stringent emission limits is our own regional KXL 2.0.  Simply put: putting emission caps into place can prevent a tsunami of tar sands into our Bay Area refineries.  

"Please show up on 12/16, and at all subsequent Air District hearings until the new refinery emission regulations are adopted --which will occur during the 1st quarter of 2016.  

"This is a hugely important fight, so please spread the word to your networks."

There's a wealth of background materials and talking points, put together by the BAAQMD Coalition, to help you prepare comments; they are highly encouraged and will be limited, most likely, to 2 minutes.  There are general notes about the hearing and the rules to be considered, with guidelines for talking points, ranging from a basic overview to ones that focus on public health, environmental justice, pro-labor, legal precedents, and the need for local action.

Note: An RPA group will be traveling to the hearing together on BART. Please join us! Meet on Wednesday morning either at 8:05am on the Richmond BART platform or at 8:10am on the El Cerrito del Norte BART platform, and get in the last car (in case anyone has a bike). We'll catch a train directly to San Francisco, getting off at the Civic Center station, and then take a brisk 15 minute walk to the BAAQMD location. It'll be good exercise for those able to walk, and we can try to hail a taxi for those who need a ride within SF.

Please watch the time: The train will leave at 8:12am from Richmond BART and at 8:16 from El Cerrito del Norte BART.

And: A CBE (Communities for a Better Environment) vanpool will leave at 8am from the Bobby Bowens Community Center, 1021 Macdonald at Harbour Way, Richmond, a 7-minute walk from the Richmond BART station. Contact Andrés Soto, adcsoto@hotmail.com, to reserve a seat. Specific questions about talking points can be directed to Andrés as well.

*Bay Area Air Quality Management District

"How to Breathe Rocks in the East Bay: Part One" is an extraordinary cartoon strip by Abner Hauge that looks like the start of a graphic novel to me.  Go take a look at it, at a scale where it can be appreciated. This image is reproduced from the Sunflower Alliance website.

(Use the link above, rather than clicking on the image  to the left, as the fine print at the bottom instructs.)


Save the date: RPA Election Day is January 9th!
After the last 2015 RPA membership meeting, we all deserved a party!

Most of the 23 Steering Commttee candidates on the slate prepared by the Nominating Committee (NC) were introduced at the December 12th members meeting. As NC co-chair Kathleen Wimer noted, her team succeeded in creating a slate not only much more representative of Richmond ethnically, but probably also 15 years younger, on average, than the current Steering Committee.  (The NC sent out an email to all members last week --30 days before Election Day January 9th.-- announcing its slate and linking to a packet of candidate's statements and photos.) 

Any member can still be considered as a candidate, either by self nomination or the suggestion of another member, for any Steering Committee position, and candidates will qualify by submitting a face shot and a statement, following the guidelines in the email that introduced the slate, to rpanominations@gmail.com. The deadline for completing these requirements is Saturday, December 26, 2015.  This timing will enable all the candidates to be announced two weeks in advance of the election. There will be no nominations from the floor. All candidates will be included in a subsequent email to members, and all will have equal access to RPA media. 
Photos: Juan Reardon.

The issues of Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction were tackled by the membership for more than an hour.  Gayle McLaughlin gave a brief summary of the history of the ordinance and its recent repeal, the consequence of a successful signature-gathering campaign financed by the California Apartment Association. She outlined the options available to get a measure, either an ordinance or a charter amendment, on the ballot for voters in November.  Marilyn Langlois then facilitated a question-and-answer and comments session about provisions being considered by the coalition that is working to draft the strongest document possible.  Many strategical considerations and varying points of view were raised and recorded, and these will be considered as the coalition moves forward. The members present overwhelmingly supported the issue and expressed their willingness to work for its successful passage in the November election.

The membership also gave full approval to a statement of opposition to the "Richmond Riviera" project ballot measure, which qualified for a vote in June through another well-financed petition drive. This statement, printed in full in the next section of this newsletter, was drafted by the RPA Steering Committee after the Housing Action Team (HAT) urged the organization to oppose the ballot measure.

After the business meeting, we turned off the overhead lights, switched on the electric candles and the CDs, and enjoyed a delicious potluck dinner together. Good food, great folks, a festive setting.  What more is there to say? How about: Warm wishes for a happy and safe holiday season, however you celebrate the returning of the light.

Stop developers from buying bypasses & defend General Plan
RPA opposes "Richmond Riviera" ballot measure

The following statement was drafted and approved by the RPA Steering Committee and presented to and endorsed by the membership at the December meeting:

The Richmond Progressive Alliance strongly opposes the "Richmond Riviera" ballot measure scheduled to come before the voters next June.  We oppose this measure because it undermines the ability of our community to determine and realize our vision for our city. Over several years Richmond has developed a General Plan to expand housing here, to meet the needs of the community and at the same time improve the quality of our lives by paying attention to the air we breathe, transit and traffic, the shoreline and parks, and our tax base.  The General Plan should not be pushed aside simply to meet the desires of a developer of a particular area.

The "Richmond Riviera" item came to the City Council in November 2015 because developer Richard Poe had paid signature-gatherers to get a qualifying number of signatures on a petition for a revision of the General Plan.  The revision would allow his development company to build a specific project on Ford Point (next to the Craneway and forthcoming Ferry Terminal). There are many objections to the content of the proposal, including density, design, and setbacks.

Even more importantly, we have a process for approving specific projects that involves formal Design Review, the Planning Commission, and the City Council, as well as processes for making changes in our General Plan.  Just as we reject the idea of giving in to developers who buy lobbyists or special favors, we reject the idea that these community processes should be bypassed by developers who have the money to pay for signature gatherers and can thereby force the City to either agree to a project as they propose it or face the expense of putting it on the ballot. If the Richmond Riviera project were to succeed in the June primary, it would open the door for every developer who wanted to bypass Richmond's development approval process.

The initiative procedure is not appropriate for these kinds of complicated decisions.  Voters will be asked simply to vote yes/no on 12 pages of legal documents with modifications to the General Plan, zoning changes, and a development agreement with the City that would not be subject to any future modification or negotiation.  (See Item L2 of City Council agenda for 11/17/15, including the initiative and the staff's response to it at http://sireweb.ci.richmond.ca.us/sirepub/agdocs.aspx?doctype=agenda&itemid=51486.)

We ask Richmond voters to decisively turn down this initiative and to close one door that allows big money to control our politics.

We note that some of the support for Poe's project exists because some Richmond residents have lost confidence in the Richmond Planning Department. The planning function of the City is vital to our future and full democratic control must be restored.  But it will not be helped by turning over control of planning decisions to those who have enough money for signature-gathering and then running expensive PR campaigns. 
"A masquerade,"*  "extraordinarily dangerous"**, &"a fraud"***
COP21 copped out, & U.S. led the way.

*Via Campesina says: "There is nothing binding for states, national contributions lead us towards a global warming of over 3°C--and multinationals are the main beneficiaries... ."

**Naomi Klein predicted on the Dec 9th Democracy Now that "the deal that will be unveiled in less than a week, likely to much fanfare and self-congratulation from politicians, echoed by an overly deferential press, will not be enough to keep us safe," and recognized that "when we speak about dangerous warming as something that is far off in the distance, it is nothing less than, as my friend Kumi Naidoo put it yesterday, 'subliminal racism.'" 

***James Hansen, called by The Guardian "the father of global awareness of climate change," said after returning from Paris: "It's just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned."

Jill Stein, in Independent Political Report, noted that : "One area of progress in Paris was growing recognition of the need to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees centigrade, rather than 2.0 degrees. It is now clear that many countries will experience catastrophic damage from the higher target. Unfortunately, the current agreements won't even keep global warming below 3 degrees. However, the new international target of 1.5 degrees does provide a tool to push our local, state and national governments to accelerate the transition to 100% clean renewable energy as quickly as possible."

In the context of the failures from the Paris meetings, she says, "we must redouble our efforts for transformational solutions to build a world of peace, justice, and human rights."  This week, please attend the BAAQMD hearings if you can.

Recap of Open Letter to Tom Butt 
Not "either/or" - We need a just transition

The RPA Steering Committee sent an open letter to Tom Butt last week, in response to his comment from Paris that "at home, we are self-absorbed in what seems important right now," listing rent control and the fight for community benefits agreement for the Berkeley Global Campus, among other concerns. (See this link.)

RPA noted: "The people who lead the fight for rent control, decent jobs, a community hospital, and healthy food in Richmond are also among those most active in fighting climate change. And those who most oppose rent control and favor slashing the social safety net do nothing about, and often dismiss, the issues in climate change. The correlation is not perfect, but it is quite striking."

It concludes: "The struggles for rent control and a community benefits agreement are attempts to confront a system in which people gain enormous wealth at the expense of others --and the whole earth-- by claiming they are just letting the market work things out.

"Only by organizing together can we take on the so-called market forces --the power of huge corporations and concentrated wealth-- and change things. In reality, the struggles for rent control and community benefits are an essential part of the movement to make a just transition to a sustainable economy and a fair and livable world."

Tom Butt's response may be read here. [Due to technical issues, I am unable to link directly to the full RPA letter to Tom Butt, but it is re-printed at the end of his response.--PB] In it, he wrote, "I think at the end of the day, I am mostly on the same page with the RPA..." and as we said in the letter, we look forward to fighting climate change --and, hopefully, many other vital issues-- alongside him.
Campaign to stop Orcem Cement Plant
Vallejo Progressives Organizing, with a little help
Photo: Sandy Saeturn.

Earlier this month, three of RPA's cofounders --Juan Reardon, Marilyn Langlois, and Gayle McLaughlin (L to R, closest to windows in photo)-- met with members of Voices of Vallejo who wanted to learn about the RPA and our successes.  As described by Gayle, "It was a very productive and energetic meeting, where we shared much information with them about how RPA got started and encouraged them to keep building a  progressive coalition to make change in Vallejo along the lines of our alliance in Richmond."   

Voices of Vallejo and another group, "Vallejo 21st Century" [or possibly "21st Century Vallejo"--I couldn't find any internet presence for them, yet.--PB], are talking together about how to build a progressive grassroots movement in their city.

One of the major issues they are organizing around now is fighting a proposal by Orcem,  a multi-national based in Ireland, to build a cement plant on the south Vallejo waterfront. The company  claims it would be "green, " but in fact the operation would further pollute the area, while offering no significant income for the City.  As noted by Jeff Carlson in this article: "The trouble with all the environmental happy talk is that by the time the materials are brought to Vallejo for milling, the 'green' part of the process is all over, and we get stuck with the dirty part --the noise, truck traffic, trains, cement dust, and air pollution."  He outlines the industry's attempts to get what it wants by spinning the facts, a tactic painfully familiar to us here in Richmond: "What they're talking about means that once again Vallejo residents are asked to bear the burdens for the benefit of outside big money interests."  Please read the article and encourage friends and relatives residing in Vallejo to join the organizing efforts.

Photo: Juan Reardon.

Congratulations, Pittsburg Defense Council! 
WesPac is gone!

Congratulations to all who worked to protect Pittsburg and stop WesPac, a proposed oil storage and transport terminal that would have been huge!  Our neighbors to the east , too, are certainly inspiring!

Here's what the announcement from the Pittsburg Defense Council had to say:
WesPac has withdrawn their application due, they say, to business reasons. The price of oil has gone down and they don't have the demand to move forward. They are GONE!
This project was first proposed in 2011 and was to be completed the next year. For 4 long years we have fought to keep this Big Oil business from making Pittsburg its new home.
How did Pittsburg Win?
The residents of Pittsburg had nothing to do with the oil prices dropping but what we did was to take a stand against Big Oilo to stop them from ruining our town. We stood together as a neighbors to fight this project until we'd stalled it for so long that it was no longer viable. Here's how:
  • Through community meetings we educated the residents of Pittsburg on the WesPac project and what it meant to our health, safety, and way of life.
  • We collected over 5,200 petition signatures, knocked on thousands of doors, and left materials to educate the community on the dangers of the project.
  • We lobbied our city and county officials to educate them on the incorrect reports found in the EIR.
  • We spoke at countless planning commission and city council meetings and talked about our concerns and fears. We presented citizen air monitoring reports and demanded that we have the right to clean air. We demanded that we have a right to live in a safe and healthy environment and demanded that the city council stop this project.
  • We got the attention of the State Attorney General Kamala Harris who said this project presented numerous risks to the community, environment, was a matter of social injustice, and was legally questionable.
  • We spoke to the media and had numerous stories on TV and in the newspaper. We told the world what was being planned in our city.
We were not quiet!
Grants for WCCUSD student teams; deadline 2/12/16
The Potential Project recognizes student leaders

From the Vision Statement on the website for The Potential Project:  "Imagine the young people of West County leading us towards educational equity."

Again in 2016, The Potential Project will provide students in West County with an opportunity to act on their ideas to improve their schools (utilizing the goals laid out in the Local Control & Accountablity Plan [LCAP]).  Teams of students can apply for up to $500 of grant funding to launch their idea.

To take part in The Potential Project, young people who are currently enrolled in a public school in West County will, by or before Friday, February 12, 2016:
  1. Create a team. Form a team with a defined set of members, between 2 and 30 people.
  2. Pick a goal. Pick one of the goals from WCCUSD's LCAP, here (starting on page 13).
  3. Complete an application for a grant:  Develop a plan to raise awarenessspark creative collaboration, and create measurable progress towards one of the goals contained within the LCAP. All applications must be submitted via email in the form of a Word document or .pdf file to pastordave@lhnchurch.org by Friday, February 12. 
The winners of the grants will be selected and announced during the week of February 22. 

Potential Project 2015:
Potential Project 2015: "Active Verde Kids"

Crowds "Rally for Salary" with UTR
Lowest paid teachers in Bay Area

Wednesday, December 9th, more than 550 United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) members and their supporters rallied outside and then filled the WCCUSD School Board Meeting room, demanding that the District "Recruit, Retrain, & Respect" them as they fight for better pay under a new contract. Many, above, held flashlights in the cold dark "to shine a light on inequity in education."
Photos: Mike Parker.

Toy drive to help RPD in working with traumatized kids 
Hug-a-Bear dinner a HUGe success

L to R: Vernon Whitmore, Santa Fe Neighborhood Council President; Daryl Henline, Vice President of SFNC; Linda Whitmore, SFNC Business Outreach Coordinator and Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia. Photo: Jacqueline Majors.

The Santa Fe  Neighborhood Council annually holds a Hug-a-Bear dinner. This year more than a hundred people gathered at Hotel Mac on December 10 to donate stuffed bears and other animals to the Richmond Police Department. During the year, the toys  go to young kids police officers contact in traumatic situations.  

The festivities of the dinner were led by Santa Fe Neighborhood Council Officers Linda Whitmore, Vern Whitmore, Daryl Henline and Santa Hatchett  and by Michelle Milam from the Police Department. The neighboring councils in Pt Richmond and Coronado also supported the event. All attendees named the bears they were donating, and more than 100 were collected for kids to hug. 

--Margaret Jordan

Correction: From article on El Cerrito setting $15/hr for 2019:   
Richmond Min. wage/hr will go to $11.52 Jan. 1

The $11.92 figure given in the last issue was wrong.  However, the bad puns in this issue are not subject to retraction. --PB

Want to learn more about the RPA?
Here are some links, suggested by Mike Parker

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.


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