Richmond Progressive Alliance

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The Activist

Issue #225, 6-4-2017


In this issue:
Landmark Single Payer Bill Passes Senate!
Charter Schools Set to Expand in Contra Costa
Victory for Refinery Caps!
No Jail Expansion in Our Town -- Services not cells!
Why Not Us? (Op-Ed)
Special Investigator Hired to Look into Perez Shooting
Coming up: Membership Meeting and Solstice Party
This is What Democracy Could Look Like: A presentation on proportional representation
How to Talk to Trump Supporters
A Conversation with Kabir Kapur

Landmark Single Payer Healthcare Passes the Senate!

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From our friends at California Nurses Association:

With a critical vote from the California State Senate on June 1, the universal healthcare train is moving forward in California.

On a 23 to 14 vote, the California Senate put their stamp of approval on SB 562, a Medicare for all-type/single payer bill that would bring the dream of guaranteeing health care to all Californians – without the devastating out of pocket costs that force millions to skip needed care even if they are already paying premiums to insurance companies.

Next SB 562 heads to the California Assembly where some eight Assembly members are already co-sponsors of the bill which is authored by Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins. If amended in the Assembly, the bill would return to the Senate for final approval before going to Gov. Jerry Brown…

Momentum to pass the bill escalated Wednesday with the release of a major research study documenting that SB 562 would produce substantial savings for households in healthcare costs as a share of their income, and California businesses, which would also see reduced payroll costs for health care expenditures.

Significantly, the proposed plan would sharply reduce what middle-income California families now spend out of pocket for health care costs as a share of their income by up to 9 percent, effectively a 9 percent raise for California workers.

California businesses who currently provide health benefits for employees would also see a decline in their payroll costs by up to 22 percent for small businesses and up to 13 percent for medium size businesses – with the added benefit of a healthier, more productive population.

Read more here.

[Photo credit: California Nurses Association]

Charter Schools set to expand in Contra Costa

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When Betsy Devos was confirmed in February as Secretary of Education, it was one of the most contentious confirmations in history – with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. At issue: her zealous support of charter schools and agenda to privatize of our educational system. As Devos pushes her charter school agenda nationally, charters are also gaining ground in Contra Costa County, thanks to their years of political spending and backing of pro-charter school board members.

On April 12, the Governing Board of West Contra Costa Unified School District approved the charter petition for Voices College-Bound Language Academies, a California corporation operating as a charter management organization.  The Board approved the charter less than three months after Voices submitted its application, and despite the fact that a staff report concluded that “substantive deficiencies have been identified in the petition itself, related to the charter school’s anticipated educational and operational performance during the proposed charter term. District staff has concluded that these deficiencies and concerns are sufficient to warrant a recommendation to deny the petition.”  

The subsidy approved for the Voices charter school amounts to $10 million per year. Five more petitions from other charter franchises are waiting to be considered by the staff, amounting to a subsidy of $72 million, if all are approved. Combined with the funds already given to the District’s 12 existing charters, WCCUSD’s subsidy to charters will amount to $120 million, or one third of the district’s annual budget – without serving 1/3 of the student population.

For more on charter schools, see www.defendpubliceducationnow.org or https://www.facebook.com/DefendPublicEducationNOW

To join the RPA Schools Action Team, contact Carlos Taboada.

Victory for refinery caps!

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On May 31, 2017, Bay Area refinery communities won a crucial battle in a long struggle to cap pollution refineries emit when they refine dirtier oil. At the urging of health experts and communities, the Board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District advanced the urgently needed "cap" on increases of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the biggest local industrial source. It is estimated that the cap could save 800–3,000 lives regionally over 40 years, and without the cap, fence line communities would face an 8–12 times worse per capita mortality impact. The cap will now move to its final phase: an adoption hearing scheduled for June 21, 2017.

From our friends at the Sunflower Alliance:

The day before Trump announced the U.S. retreat from the Paris climate accord, the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District made far better history of its own by advancing a greenhouse gas cap on Bay Area refineries, effectively preventing a large-scale influx of dirtier crudes like tar sands oil.  The final approval of Rule 12-16 takes place on June 21st.  When this rule is adopted, the Air District will be the very first agency in the state and the nation to set a local cap on GHG emissions. Even as the 45th leads us resolutely back into the nineteenth-century, the Bay Area is demonstrating what enlightened, twenty-first-century climate policy looks like.

The stage for this remarkable turn of events was set in 2016 when the legislature passed AB197, which places equity at the center of California’s approach to carbon pollution reduction goals.  AB197, along with SB32, the extension of the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, require that the state “achieve the more stringent GHG emission reductions in a manner that benefits the state’s most disadvantaged communities.”  AB197 causes regulators to address the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions. With AB197, years of environmental justice arguments had finally been validated:  cap-and-trade had left in place the extraordinary pollution burden carried by frontline communities.  From now on, we would need direct regulation of polluting sources in order to mitigate local health impacts.

[Photo credit: community activists celebrate after the BAAQMD vote on May 31, 2017.  Courtesy of Communities for a Better Environment.]

No Jail Expansion in Our Town – Services Not Cells!

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CCC Sheriff David Livingston is continuing his attempts to expand the West Contra Costa County Detention Facility. His latest effort: to apply for construction funds under SB44, a program to remove and remediate legacy oil and gas wells in coastal areas.

Livingston is already making headway in his efforts to secure funding for the expansion. On May 17, a committee of the Board of State and Community Corrections approved the sheriff's $70 million grant application. It will be brought before the entire board for a final vote on June 8.

There is overwhelming opposition to the jail expansion in Contra Costa County, with 48% of county voters opposing an expansion of West County Jail and 34% strongly opposing it.  The cities of Richmond, San Pablo and El Cerrito all passed resolutions opposing the jail, and many electeds have also expressed their opposition. In particular, State Assembly Member Nancy Skinner has introduced a budget resolution that would transfer $85 million for jail expenditures to build mental health treatment facilities instead. The Services Not Cells coalition, comprised of the Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition, ACCE, and others, are asking CCC Supervisors to support Skinner’s alternate proposal.

The coalition also have a comprehensive set of demands to reduce the jail population and increase services, including reducing the numbers of pre-sentenced prisoners in jails, investing in community mental health resources -- particularly inpatient facilities, and ending the contract with ICE, which would free up 19 percent or 200 beds of West County Facility.

The coalition effort to resist the jail expansion continues: on June 6th 9 am, the Services Not Cells coalition is inviting community members to tell the County Supervisors to say NO to this jail expansion. (651 Pine Street, Martinez)

[Photo credit: At the Contra Costa County Racial Justice Forum, April 15, 2017. Courtesy of Rose Ann De Moro via twitter]

Why not us?

By Juan Reardon

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The people of Richmond and other cities have dreamed for decades of truly affordable housing, expanded housing ownership, top in the nation public schools, local well-paid jobs, free tuition colleges, cleaner air, a lesser polluted environment, a single-payer universal healthcare coverage with a local public community hospital, and worker-owned cooperatives  just to name a few goals.

However, our most important goal should be to understand why we don’t already have what we need and want. Why not? Other countries have it!

The reason is that our society is rigged against us by corporate power and greed. These corporations are never satisfied. They want it all. They have been taking from working families for at least one hundred years, facilitated by both Republican and Democratic governments.

With their money power they impose on the electorate guys who will do their betting and write more laws in their favor. With corporate money flowing into both the Clinton and the Republican campaigns the corporations managed to get a scam artist in the White House and now they are on a grabbing -spree, taking everything they see, dismantling the few gains of the Affordable Care Act, eliminating  rights, protections, safety rules, any limitation to their greed. Public moneys are being transferred to private hands, and Richmond and all other working family cities are losing.

Corporate money in elections is at the center of all our troubles. Whenever we vote for candidates who accept corporate money we are helping to kill our own dreams and goals. There is no way around it. That is why Richmond Progressive Alliance does not endorse any candidates who accept money from corporations. If our democracy is to work for our goals, corporate money must become toxic.  Know it, act on it, share it!

[Photo credit: People for Bernie via Twitter]

Special Investigator Hired to Look into Perez Shooting

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From our friends at Justice4Pedie:


The City of Richmond has hired Mr. Lucky Narain, for the part-time position as special investigator for the Richmond Citizens Police Review Commission. Relatively unknown to the Richmond community, Mr. Narian was a candidate for Oakland School Board in 2016, when he listed his occupation as “Military Lawyer.”

Narain’s first assignment, we understand, will be a full and independent investigation of the police shooting of Richard “Pedie" Perez III, shot and killed by Richmond Police Officer Wallace Jensen just minutes after midnight on September 14, 2014. The shooting -- and subsequent efforts by the Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus and Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson to justify the shooting and blame Pedie for being shot -- have raised serious concerns within the Richmond community, concerns which led to changes in the City code on the police commission and the hiring of a Special Investigator.

In February 2016, responding to public concern following exposure of law enforcement’s cover-up in the shooting of Perez, the Richmond City Council voted 4-3 to instruct the police commission to hire an independent investigator not connected to the police department to investigate the Perez murder. At the same time, the name of the Richmond Police commission was changed to “Richmond Citizens Police Review Commission.” The City Council also voted to require the Police Commission to automatically investigate any future police shootings and/or use of physical force resulting in serious injuries.

Members of the Oscar Grant Committee, the Perez family, the RPA and others are organizing a special community meeting to review this case and discuss how we can ensure justice is done.

Justice4Pedie Community Meeting
Saturday, June 24, 2017 4-6 PM
(Doors open at 3:30, forum starts promptly at 4 pm)
Richmond Public Library, Whittlesey Community Room
325 Civic Center Plaza. Richmond, CA  94804

[Photo credit: Justice4Pedie.com]

Coming up! RPA Quarterly Membership Meeting, and Summer Solstice Party

Two great opportunities to gather with your fellow RPA members in June!

First, please plan on coming out to our quarterly membership meeting June 17, 2017 at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center. Details to come! If you are a member in good standing, you should receive a separate invitation – if not, please email Membership Chair Kabir Kapur. You can always re-up your dues at the door.

A few days later, we hope you will come celebrate with us as we mark the official start of summer. Tuesday, June 20 is the longest day of the year and we will be partying till sundown (9:24 pm to be precise!) The fun starts at 6pm; please bring yourselves, your friends, your good cheer and some food or drink to share. 

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What Democracy Could Look Like: Presentation on Proportional Representation

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In the wake of the 2016 Presidential elections, where for the second time in recent history a Republican won the electoral college while losing the popular vote, there has been a surge of public interest in electoral reform. Fundamentally changing the way we run elections seems both obviously needed and an uphill battle at the same time.

As our friends at FairVote point out: “We in the United States are used to single-member district, winner-take-all style of elections. We've all grown up with a system where we elect members of our legislatures one at a time in small districts, with the winner being the candidate with the most votes. This system seems so "natural" that proportional representation (PR) elections may at first appear strange to us.”

Proportional representation describes electoral systems by which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. So for example, if 20 percent of the electorate support a particular political party, then roughly 20 percent of seats will be won by that party. There are many ways in which PR can be done.

Join the RPA in an interactive presentation which will provide an overview of local election systems, and discuss possible reforms, including ranked choice voting and forms of proportional representation.  Speakers will include Pedro Hernandez, Deputy Director of FairVote California; Steve Chessin, President of Californians for Electoral Reform (CfER); and Joan Strasser, Board Member of CfER, and a teacher at Richmond High School. 

There will be plenty of time for questions and answers.

Wednesday, June 21 from 7-9 p.m.
Bobby Bowens Progressive Center
2540 Macdonald Ave. (near Civic Center)

[Photo: Theresa Johnson via Flickr]

How to Talk to Trump Supporters

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Yeah, remember last Thanksgiving when the conversation turned to politics and you tried everything you could to de-escalate that conversation with Uncle Mark, one which was quickly spiraling out of control?

Or when you found yourself “un-friending” (or getting “un-friended” by) longtime buddies when you just couldn’t take their political views anymore on Facebook?

Or the last time you tried to have an open conversation with a Trump supporter, only to find yourself starting to sound like a superior Bay Area, latte sipping liberal (who reads a rag like The Activist)?

How can we engage in productive, respectful dialogue with people who don’t share our political views?

Indivisible East Bay Outreach Team and Sister District CA-13 present "How to Talk to Trump supporters" on June 17 in Berkeley. This is a daylong workshop with Sharon Strand Ellison that teaches people how to use Powerful Non-Defensive Communication when conversing with Trump supporters or swing voters. If you want to help flip swing districts in 2018 and dump Trump in 2020 or if you have a Trump-sympathizing family member you've been avoiding, this workshop is for you. Reserve your seat here.

A Conversation with Kabir Kapur

Who is the RPA? It’s made up of volunteers with passion, progressive values, and who love Richmond. In this series, we get to know the new faces on the RPA Steering Committee. This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Kabir Kapur, who came to the RPA after volunteering with the Bernie Sanders campaign.

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TA: Please tell us about your involvement progressive politics.

KK: I was involved with Occupy UC Davis in November of 2011, when the infamous Pepper Spraying incident occurred. The following quarter I was elected to the ASUCD Senate, the student government at UC Davis, running on a platform to “Empower Student Advocacy” by increasing student involved in lobbying on higher education issues in the Capitol in Sacramento and in administrative decisions made on campus.

I then interned for Assemblymember Roger Dickinson in the California State Assembly. I was also involved in the initial organization of both the UC Davis for Bernie Sanders and Davis for Bernie Sanders groups, and traveled to Iowa for a couple weeks to volunteer for the Sanders campaign. Currently I am involved with organizing the Richmond chapter of Our Revolution.

TA: What are your ideas about how change and progress occur? 

KK: I believe that change and progress occur through coalition building and working with people that you may not agree on every political issue on but are willing to find common ground to accomplish a collective mission.

I agree with Bernie Sanders when he says “Change takes place because people struggle” and “​Change never takes place from the top down. It always takes place from the bottom up.” I also believe progress takes place we people are honest and genuine with each other, and are transparent about public affairs. 

TA: What are you interested in bringing to the RPA?

KK: I am interested in bringing a millennial perspective to the Richmond Progressive Alliance. I believe the future of our society and species depends on the actions of my generation, and that we must act swiftly and steadfastly to save the future of both our planet and species and evolve into a democratic socialist and humanist society.