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The Activist

Issue #229, 8-05-2017


In this issue:
Let's keep up the pressure for single payer in CA!
RPA backs United Teachers of Richmond on charters
The Nation: Dispatches from the urban resistance
RPA continues to spread the word - and progressive revolution
Act now to preserve prison reforms
A conversation with Ada Recinos
Trump budget would eliminate Chemical Safety Board
Our Revolution endorses Jovanka!
East Bay Express: Gayle Force
Next weekend: Our Power Festival

Let's keep up the pressure for single payer in CA!

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What ever happened to the single payer bill in California? Read on for this update from Healthy California (with thanks to RPA Steering Committee member Alyssa Kang, California Nurses Association, for passing this on):

On June 23rd Speaker Anthony Rendon chose to stall SB 562, the Healthy California Act, putting it on hold in the Assembly Rules Committee instead of moving it forward to a committee for a hearing, vote, and where amendments could be made. Friday, July 14th was the last day Speaker Rendon could move the bill forward under the regular Assembly timeline rules…and he didn’t. But we are far from done. Speaker Rendon still has the power to move the bill forward until mid-September by suspending the regular rules.


This means SB 562 is still alive and well but needs your help to make sure Speaker Rendon and our Assemblymembers choose guaranteeing healthcare and ending the suffering so many Californians experience from crushing medical debt and lack of access to healthcare.  Our incredible grassroots movement has the power to move this bill by moving our elected leaders.


Here are 2 ways you can help SB 562 move forward!


1. Call your Assemblymember Until They Join the Fight for SB 562!

Dial 1-855-271-8515 and enter your zip code to be connected directly to your Assemblymember. Here’s what you can say:  "Insurance companies continue to be a middleman profiting off healthcare as Californians suffer. The Healthy California Act (SB 562) would remove the insurance middleman and save $37 billion a year while guaranteeing medical, dental, vision and more. Do you support taking insurance companies out of healthcare? Will you co-author SB 562 and support moving the Healthy California Act forward this year so we can?”  


2. Get involved!  

Contact your local regional coordinator to find out how to get active locally (find them at healthycaliforniaact.org/find-regional-coordinator), and get social on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

[Photo credit: California Nurses Association/ NNU]

RPA backs United Teachers of Richmond on charters

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A few weeks ago, as demonstrators in Denver protested Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (in town for a meeting of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council), the RPA endorsed a recent resolution adopted by the United Teachers of Richmond on charter schools. The RPA Schools Action Team has noted that if the West Contra Costa Unified School District approves all its pending charter petitions, the subsidy to charter franchises will soon amount to $151 million, or half the total budget for the WCCUSD.


The UTR resolution reads, in part:

Whereas offering parents the "choice" of charter schools removes attention from the real problems facing our educational system – Poverty and inequitable funding.

Whereas charter schools do no better and often worse academically than traditional public schools.

Whereas charter schools take away funding from traditional public schools creating a wasteful parallel school system…

Whereas charter school choice is supported by special interests who seek to privatize and profit from our schools.

Be it resolved that the United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA opposes charter school expansion in the West Contra Costa Unified School District and the nation.


The UTR statement follows a similar resolution that the NAACP adopted in the wake of the 2016 election. It stated, in part, that the NAACP “supports a moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.” Conditions for lifting the moratorium include: (1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools, (2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system, (3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and (4) Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

The Nation: Dispatches from the Urban Resistance

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Check out a new article from The Nation, “These Cities Are Putting Our Fractious Federal Government to Shame,” with a great section about the RPA:

THINKING LOCALLY, ACTING STATEWIDE
 
Gayle McLaughlin led something of a revolution in the small, Bay Area city of Richmond, California. First elected to the mayor’s office there in 2006, McLaughlin and her leftist political organization the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) transformed the city from a de facto company town dominated by the local Chevron refinery into a leading example of the power of progressive municipal politics. Over the last decade, the RPA defeated Chevron-backed candidates at the ballot box, implemented a $15 dollar minimum wage, fought foreclosures during the financial crisis, and, most recently, in 2016, passed the first rent-control law in California in years, among other achievements. The story of this grassroots political movement is one of the gems of the progressive urban renaissance.
 
Now McLaughlin wants to take RPA’s model and message statewide by becoming California’s next lieutenant governor. On July 18, she stepped down from her seat on the Richmond City Council and embarked on a multi-week tour of Southern California, visiting local progressive groups and rallying them behind her. Unaffiliated with any political party and vociferously supportive of single-payer health care, sanctuary-city policies, and free public college, among other issues, McLaughlin’s campaign hopes to draw on the Sanders-inspired enthusiasm for social democracy that has electrified leftists across the country. The election will take place in 2018.
 
“This campaign will give me a larger stage and a louder megaphone to get out the message about building local political power,” says McLaughlin. “That is the core message of my campaign: Build local political power in your cities and communities, like the RPA did in Richmond. If we could do it there, if we could get Chevron off our back, we can do it anywhere.”

Read the whole article here.

[Photo: Demonstrators in Seattle show their support for a new city income tax on the wealthy approved by the City Council, July 10, 2017. (AP Photo / Elaine Thompson) From The Nation.]

RPA continues to spread the word - and the progressive revolution

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In the last few months, he RPA Outreach Team has been busy, making presentations up and down California, and to states as far flung as Texas, Connecticut and New York.  Most of these meetings are with volunteers who are inspired by the RPA story and interested starting their own progressive organizations.


In addition, the RPA is making connections with organizations such as “The Incorruptibles,” a newly-formed group dedicated to supporting corporate-free candidates running for local office. The Incorruptibles are assisting the RPA in the production of a video describing the RPA model and message, which will be used to further our outreach efforts. In turn, the RPA has provided input into The Incorruptibles’ excellent new Guide to running corporate-free political campaigns.


The Outreach Team is also gearing up for the Soil Not Oil conference in Richmond on September 7-9, and for the California Berniecrats Convention this fall. Also stay tuned for details about a visit with David Zuckermann, Lt. Governnor of Vermont and member of the Vermont Progressive Party, which will be coming up soon.


[Photo: Steve Early speaks in Cambridge, MA. February 2017. Photo from Beacon Press.]

Act now to protect prison reforms!

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In 2016, about two-thirds of California voters supported Proposition 57, which helps California reduce its costly overreliance on prisons through parole and sentencing reforms and incentives for rehabilitation. But now the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is proposing regulations that threaten to undercut Prop 57.


The faith community, led by PICO, a network for faith based organizations, is urging Californians to write to the CDCR to amend their regulations before they become final. According to PICO, the three main problems with the proposed regs are:

  • They do not apply new programming credits to people who have been dedicated to rehabilitation for years, or decades. There is no reason why benefits of Prop. 57 should not apply retroactively to cover genuine rehabilitation programming in the past.
  • They exclude young offenders eligible for parole under SB 260 and 261, two laws aimed at creating special parole hearings for young offenders. At its core, Prop. 57 promised to correct over incarceration of young offenders and encourage positive rehabilitative programming—there is no justifiable reason to undermine the positive reforms of SB 260 and 261.
  • They exclude people who are serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law for nonviolent crimes. Prop. 57 promised to apply to all nonviolent prisoners.


A sample letter can be found here.

[Graphic: Unequal Justice in America, by DonkeyHotey via Flickr]

A Conversation with Ada Recinos

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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 Ada Recinos. In her day job, she is the Advancement Manager for
Prospera, which partners with low-income Latina women so they can achieve economic prosperity through cooperative business ownership.


TA: Tell us about your background in progressive activism.


AR: I am a commissioner on the Human Rights and Human Relations commission. I have about 4 years of experience organizing and campaigning for progressive community issues in Oakland and my hometown of Torrance regarding rent control, immigrant reform, women's rights and have supported local campaigns.


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


AR: Change and progress occurs through education. Folks need to educate themselves on how to make progressive values accessible and in turn use education to support folks to claim progressive identities. In my experience, movements are by the people and for the people. Folks are accepted at every level of 'wokeness' with an understanding that compromise is not defeat if we keep pushing forward. I do not expect folks I approach to accept what I am teaching and sharing the first time. I anticipate hard discussions and disagreements. Change and progress occurs after gaining the trust of folks who then become ambassadors for the movement. When people become educate about the issue and feel included in the movement, it becomes theirs and a deep part of their identity.


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


AR: I am interested in bringing a challenging perspective, a commitment to bring more diversity in Richmond's leadership and passion for issues that affect folks of color. I also hope to bring a voice and support to Richmond during a Trump presidency.


TA: What are some of the issues you’re most passionate about in Richmond?


AR: I am particularly interested in supporting the enforcement of measure L, and to keep the police and sheriffs accountable to not cooperating with ICE. I hope the RPA is headed towards making Richmond residents more proactive about their rights and introducing legislation that is proactive about residents needs.

Trump budget would eliminate Chemical Safety Board

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Check out this new Opinion-Editorial in the New York Times, “A Dangerous Idea: Eliminating the Chemical Safety Board.” Steve Early points out one of the many ways in which Trump’s budget would be harmful for people and the planet.

RICHMOND, Calif. — The United States Chemical Safety Board is a federal watchdog with more bark than bite. It has five board members, a tiny staff of less than 50 and a budget of some $11 million a year. Its mission is to investigate fires and explosions in oil refineries and chemical plants…

Under President Trump’s 2018 fiscal year budget proposal, the agency, which opened in 1998, would be eliminated because its role is “largely duplicative” of efforts by other agencies, presumably the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. Both of those agencies would also experience cuts to reduce “over-regulation” of industry.

If the board is abolished, hundreds of thousands of people who live near chemical factories and refineries will be at greater risk. I came to appreciate the board five years ago, when its experts came here to my hometown to investigate a huge fire at the Chevron refinery at the end of my street.


To read the entire OpEd, click here.


[Photo: Jim Wilson, New York Times.]

Our Revolution endorses Jovanka!

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Last month, Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution group endorsed Jovanka Beckles for AD 15!

Says Beckles: “I sought the endorsement because of my respect for the organization that shares my values. Like Our Revolution, I believe we must put the needs of people first. . . Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign deeply inspired me because it echoed my own reasons for first running for office in 2008. I was committed then as I am now, to making sure our government works for families and individuals. Big corporations and moneyed interests have been running things for too long at the expense of those who do not have the influence that big money can buy."


While she was a City councilmember, she worked to pass policies such as minimum wage, municipal ID, and banning the box. Her critics argued that she was “going too far” and being “too progressive.”


“These progressive ideas all started out as radical ways in which we could help people in our community,” says Beckles. “Now they are simply seen as practical policies having a positive impact.”


Please save the date! Jovanka’s campaign kick off event will be held September 30th, 12pm-2pm
, location to be determined.

East Bay Express: Gayle Force

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Yes, even more good reads: hot off the presses is an excellent article on Gayle McLaughlin’s Lt. Governor campaign, in this week’s East Bay Express:

It was a bad year all around for Richmond. That May, the police department violently arrested two dozen people, nearly all of them Latino, who were celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Officers clubbed people with flashlights and batons and paraded them before the rest of the community in handcuffs.
To make matters worse, the city’s finances were falling apart. People were talking about municipal bankruptcy.

For McLaughlin, it was all a wake-up call. Appeals to reason and compassion fell on deaf ears. Other interests — raw, powerful “corporate” interests — prevailed. It convinced her that it wasn’t enough to just protest. At some point, you had to take power.

“We realized we needed to be the leaders we were waiting for,” McLaughlin explained.


Read the entire article
, “Lieutenant Governor Hopeful Gayle McLaughlin Wants to Take the East Bay’s Progressive Revolution to Sacramento”

[Photo credit: East Bay Express]

Our Power Festival: For a Just Transition

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The 3rd annual Our Power Festival is coming up August 12, 2017 from 12 PM - 3 PM at Nicholl Park (on Macdonald Ave near Richmond Civic Center).

This festival is organized around the anniversary of the 2012 Chevron Explosion as a reminder that despite more than 15,000 rushed to the hospital that day, and incidents still happen every year, Richmond is more than Chevron. The Our Power Festival celebrates our local health and wealth, and helps build our foundation for the future – one that is free of polluting fossil fuels.


This festival is a safe and open space to celebrate the way Richmond shines with a bike-powered concert, free food, community resources and fun.

So bring the family and friends out, learn how community organizations are transforming the way we think and live around clean air and water, locally sourced agriculture, clean renewable energy, bike-friendly city, meaningful work and sustainable living.

The festival is organized by the Our Power Coalition, which seeks to advance a Just Transition in Richmond to a regenerative, non-extractive economy, democratically governed by frontline community leadership, and grounded in racial justice. Members of the Coalition include groups like APEN, CBE, Urban Tilth and Rich City Rides.