RPA New LogoThe Activist

Issue #210, 10-23-2016

In this issue:
Join our local heroes: volunteers who are at the heart of the RPA
RPA endorses Pam Mirabella for County School Board
Bernie, Gayle and the East Bay Express all agree: Elect Ben and Melvin
Vote Yes on Measure M!
Setting the record straight

Join our local heroes: volunteers who are at the heart of the RPA

There are only two weeks left until the election! As an all-volunteer organization, RPA has never been able to match the deep pockets of Chevron, the California Apartment Association, Big Soda and others. Our power comes from time, energy, commitment and contributions of ordinary folks who have a progressive vision of our city. One of these stalwart volunteers is Michael Beer, a former teacher who has been canvassing on the weekends. Read on, and be inspired:

When did you first start canvassing?

When I was young, I had a summer job selling magazines door to door. I wasn’t great at it because I didn’t believe in what I was selling.

What is it like canvassing in Richmond?

I like canvassing in Richmond. Almost all the voters are Democrats so already we have a certain level of agreement.  People are pleased you think they are important enough to volunteer your time to talk with them.

Do you feel you’ve made a difference?

Oh, yes. The most important thing is that people understand that I am volunteer and believe in what I am doing. If people have questions I can't answer I promise to get someone from the campaign to contact them. I know I have gained votes for candidates and measures, and in a small town like Richmond, elections can be won or lost by as little as 300 votes. I make sure they know their polling place and try to impress on them the importance of their going on November 8.

How was it the first time you canvassed?

I still get nervous before I knock on my first door, but after a while, I relax and just enjoy the day. My goal is to finish my walk sheet if possible, so I try to be succinct and confident and  not sound like a robot. Also, canvassing is a great opportunity to see parts of Richmond I don’t know, like May Valley or Hilltop.

How do you feel about the RPA’s campaign strategy?

Over the years, the Progressive Alliance captains have gotten quite proficient at organizing the materials we use. You get excellent campaign literature.  You get a map and the names and addresses of voters. Often you get notes that are helpful. You don’t want to visit an address if they are already supporters. And they only ask for a few hours.

Do you have advice that you could pass along to new canvassers?

When I come to a door, I want to relax the person opening it. I usually wear a shirt or hat covered with campaign buttons and have my clip board and pen prominent. This way I don’t look intimidating. I notice if someone’s working on the house or if there are shoes on the porch. Because I’m working on my garden, I might ask about the name of a plant in their yard. Because I like children, if there’s a child hiding, I might ask what school they attend, or their name. I always let them know that I’m a volunteer.          

Final comments?

I have a special thing I do. I take a wad of Post-Its with me on which I’ve handwritten, “Sorry I missed you. Your neighbor on S. 58th” or “A volunteer” and sign my first name. If I come back, they will remember me. In the end, I offer them the opportunity to do what I’m doing, to phone bank, or plant a lawn sign. By canvassing door to door, we have been able to create a lot of positive change.  I feel obliged to do what I can to keep Richmond progressive.

Inspired by Michael's true tale of making a difference through canvassing?

We need all hands on deck during the last weekends before the election! Come out to canvass on Saturdays from 10 am – 2 pm and Sundays 12 pm – 4 pm. This Saturday, we will have special guest speaker Councilmember and former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to cheer us on and send us on our way. Meet at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald); there will be food, drink, and great people!

Finally, if you can't make weekends, you can help phone bank for Measure L every Monday and Thursday from 6 - 8pm; bring your phone and a tablet or laptop if you have one.

County school board
RPA endorses Pam Mirabella for County School Board

This week the RPA steering committee voted to endorse Pam Mirabella for the Contra Costa County Board of Education. Pam is a long-time county school board member whose two daughters went to Richmond public schools. Like all RPA-endorsed candidates, she has affirmed that she will refuse to accept corporate political contributions.

Political independence is especially important this year as charter school interests are aggressively spending on political elections. A recent East Bay Times article notes that for the WCCUSB race (in which the RPA has endorsed Carlos Taboada, Mister Phillips and Antonio Medrano), “Pro-charter school groups have flooded the West Contra Costa Unified school board race with money, spending roughly $250,000 to help elect two candidates, an astonishing amount for a school board race… Their favored candidates now have nearly 100 times the resources of their opponents.”
Team Richmond 2016
Bernie, Gayle and the East Bay Express all agree: Elect Ben and Melvin

This week, the East Bay Express endorsed Ben Choi and Melvin Willis for City Council. The Express joins the likes of Bernie Sanders, former Mayor and current City councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, the SF Bay Guardian and many other progressive organizations in backing these two candidates.

The Express writes:

Choi and Willis are both running campaigns on the pledge of taking no corporate contributions. That might seem gimmicky, but in Richmond corporate giants like Chevron, the California Apartment Association, and Coke have literally spent millions to defeat progressive candidates and measures. So we’re endorsing Choi and Willis because they’ll be independent, indeed critical of these powerful outside interest groups. Plus they’re both pro-rent control and both want to find a way to keep a hospital open in West County, two crucial measures to keep Richmond affordable and healthy.

“A fair, equitable and virtually painless” way to raise revenue
Vote Yes on Measure M

The Richmond Progressive Alliance urges a YES vote on Measure M, which would be a fair, equitable and virtually painless way to raise over $5 million in much needed additional annual revenue for the City of Richmond.

Currently, whenever a house or other piece of property is sold, the City levies a one-time transfer tax of 0.7% of the sale price. Measure M would raise that rate in two tiers, such that this one-time transfer tax on properties sold for less than $400,000 would be 1% of the sale price, and on properties sold for more than $400,000 it would be 1.5% of the sale price. This would bring Richmond’s real estate transfer tax closer in line to that of other cities in the Bay Area and make it more progressive.

In the City’s budget discussions last spring, it was clear that property tax revenues are still lagging from the effects of the recent recession, yet costs are rising and the need for services to residents are great. In order to adopt a balanced budget, some painful cuts had to be made in important areas including library, recreation, public safety, and public works.

The entire City Council voted to put Measure M on the ballot, and we urge voters to support it.

--Marilyn Langlois, RPA co-coordinator
Another Re-buttal
Setting the record straight

You have probably noticed that Mayor Tom Butt really has it out for the RPA -- from painting the organization as irresponsible ideologues to blaming it for the demise of the Berkeley Global Campus. Just when you thought it could not go any further, in a recent e-forum, he reacted to a Facebook graphic by calling the RPA "the new Chevron." (NB: if the RPA had as much money as a $193 billion oil major, we would not have to pack out our own garbage after holding a meeting at the office!) At issue was the voting record of Jim Rogers, who is running for City Council again this year. For those of you who are interested in the he-said/he-said, check out Mike Parker's personal response to Butt:

So now Tom Butt rises to defend Jim Rogers  record with misstatements. Tom seems to think his main job as Mayor is trashing the RPA.  Here are the facts  along with Tom’s blog. Judge for yourself.

Minimum Wage
. Jim Rogers, along with Tom Butt, opposed the proposed minimum wage ordinance in 2014.  Rogers initially supported it, but when pressured by business interests he worked to weaken it significantly, proposing a number of amendments that essentially gutted it, The amendments  included excluding young people, tipped workers, and several Richmond companies (see council minutes of May 6, 2014).   Only when proponents began to act to put minimum wage on the ballot did he agree to a compromise to remove some of the gutting amendments. Tom opposed it outright.

Doctors Hospital
. Jim, like all Council members, did vote for a resolution that expressed the desire to keep Doctors Medical Center.  But where it counted,  Rogers who was on the self-appointed rump committee that negotiated the  Community Benefits Agreement  with Chevron, did not make it a priority issue and instead fought for funding for his pet project, Easy Go.

Rent Control.
In 2014  Vice-Mayor Beckles and  Mayor McLaughlin put forward a resolution to direct staff to prepare a study session  “on prospective policies to assist with maintaining affordable rental housing… including: forms of rent control, relocation assistance,  requirements for affordable housing as parts of projects….,”  Rogers, Butt and Bates made it clear that they would not approve this direction to staff if rent control was even among the possible policies to review (see video of  June 3, 2014 Council Meeting). 

Now, at the point that everybody concedes that rent control is likely to pass, Rogers puts his finger to the wind, announces his support at the same time he announces he will work to gut it of the most critical provisions.

Rogers represents the old politics of Richmond, rolling over for Chevron.

Signed articles are the opinion of the author. Official RPA positions are noted as Steering Committee decisions. Other content created by Michelle Chan, editor.