The Activist

Issue #238, 12-17-2017

In this issue:
Melvin Willis to run for mayor!
City council discusses impact of charters on public schools
Protect your neighborhood public school: stop Rocketship!
Black women need more than thanks from Dems
Cooperation Richmond: winter pitch is on!
Richmond gives me hope

Melvin Willis to run for mayor!


On December 15, Richmond Councilmember Melvin Willis announced that he is running for mayor of the City of Richmond in the November 2018 election. The announcement was made at the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) holiday party, to a joyful crowd of supporters.

“Many people have contributed to Richmond’s transformation in recent years, and we are thankful to all. At the same time, many challenges remain, and a much better Richmond is possible!” said Willis.

Melvin Willis, a community organizer with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), made history in 2016 when at 26 he became the youngest councilmember ever elected in the City’s history. He received the highest number of votes in the race, and his success was crowned by the passage in Richmond of the first Fair Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction law in California in 30 years, a ballot initiative at the center of his campaign.

At the announcement, Willis was flanked by Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles and Councilmember Ada Recinos. In addition to Beckles and Recinos, Councilmembers Ben Choi, Eduardo Martinez and two-term former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin have all endorsed Willis’ candidacy.

“Melvin has the values, the vision and the commitment to lead Richmond to a higher level of progress and to make it a better city for all our residents. He thinks globally and organizes and mobilizes locally. He is thoughtful, caring, gentle and generous. People know him and love him. Melvin is the best of Richmond,” said former Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

During his announcement Willis stressed that the important achievements that have transformed Richmond over the past decade and are inspiring many other communities throughout the nation need to be defended against undermining measures at higher levels of government.

 “As Mayor I will lead all those in Richmond willing to work to make our city better. Together we will sustain our accomplishments and keep folks in their homes, fight pollution, defend immigrants’ rights, improve our schools and libraries, and continue our progress in reducing violent crime. I will promote a community participatory process for the city budget. I will respond to the needs of our youth, I will focus on the creation of affordable housing, and my doors will always be open to every resident of our community to hear their thoughts and ideas,” Willis added.

Willis affirmed that his campaign for Mayor will be based on peoplepower and neighborpower, and free of corporate donations. He rejects the corrupting influence of corporate money and invites all residents to support a one-person, one-vote true democratic election.

City council discusses impact of charters on public schools

On November 21, the Richmond City Council discussed a moratorium on all new school construction while the City prepares changes in zoning laws. Most of the discussion was about the functioning of charter schools and their effects on the public school system.

Eduardo.png“Considering the fact that charter schools are popping up like mushrooms and taking prime real estate that would bring in businesses and bring in higher sales taxes as well as property taxes, I find that we need to reconsider zoning so that we don’t go the way of some cities on the East Coast,” said Councilmember Eduardo Martinez, as he introduced the item. “Moody’s as well as S&P have downgraded or threatened to downgrade the credit ratings of cities because they have too many charter schools. It’s our fiscal responsibility and our responsibility to our residients to ensure that we don’t go the way of losing revenue.”

Carlos Taboada, part of the RPA Schools Action Team, in his public testimony, cited former school board member Todd Groves, who said that in approving the Voices charter school, the Board cemented a $10 million loss equivalent to the Measure T parcel tax.

Mike Parker, another member of the Schools Action Team, testified: The RPA believes the schools are an essential part of improving conditions in Richmond. People make their decisions about where to live based on the schools, people make their decisions on what the community is like based on the schools. And they are especially important for people who are trying to climb out of poverty, people who are trying to climb in a decent life. So when we see our public school system being destroyed by the charter schools we have to start taking a stand.

The well funded California Charter School Association is now conducting a petition drive as part of an attempt to get the Council to reverse its position.  

To view excerpts from this City Council meeting, click here

Protect your neighborhood public school: Stop Rocketship!


As we discussed a few issues ago, hundreds of community members turned out in force last month to strongly oppose the Rocketship charter application. Rocketship is an outside, corporate-run charter management company that has petitioned to take over one of WCCUSD’s neighborhood schools.

Rocketship’s plan is to close one of our neighborhood schools and replace it with their model. Activists believe that Lake, Dover, or Bayview are at risk of closing. Rocketship has not been shown to have a better program, outcomes, or offer the high-quality education that our children deserve. It also does not have a local, transparent, elected board, casting doubt on how they can be accountable to the public.

Please save the date and plan on attending the school board meeting on January 17, when the board is likely to vote on the application. Tell the Board to reject Rocketship’s application and instead invest our money in our current neighborhood schools so that ALL children in our community can benefit from high-quality, diverse, inclusive public schools. We need to keep our schools intact; every charter school that comes into WCCUSD diverts crucially needed funding out of our already-tight budget. 

Also, you can write to the members of the School Board and tell them you do not want Rocketship in San Pablo or in ANY part of our district.

Liz Block                                 

Val Cuevas                              

Tom Panas

Madeline Kronenberg                           

Mister Phillips

Black women need more than just thanks from Dems

As shown by this eye-popping graphic on the demographics behind Jones’s win in Alabama last week, it’s clear that Black voters – women particularly – were responsible for electing Doug Jones into the Senate.

Alabama voter demographics
In the days after Alabama's special election, there was an outpouring of appreciation in social media. But black women are pointing out that they deserve more than thanks.

“What [Tuesday] showed us is that progressive candidates and movements cannot win without black women as we firmly reject racism, sexism, and homophobia of any kind. Yet Black women shouldn’t have to carry the burden of saving communities from oppressive policies,” [Alencia Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund] said. “Any candidate or campaign looking to win an election must invest early — not just a few weeks before Election Day — in black women turnout, but also, and most importantly, leadership. Let black women lead on strategy and engagement; support black women candidates, resource campaigns geared toward our issues. And talk about the issues.”

The chart above also shows that 63 percent of white women voted for Moore, demonstrating, as Anna North points out, that "the idea of women as a unified voting bloc is sorely misguided. It also showed that the future of feminist politics in 2018 lies in recognizing the work of women of color, who have been leaders across feminist issues for a long time, often with little recognition from white Americans."

Cooperation Richmond: winter pitch is on!


Just another shout out for Cooperation Richmond, the new cooperative incubator dedicated to building community controlled wealth in Richmond. They offer education, coaching, financing and “matchmaking” for folks interested in starting/joining a cooperative.

Cooperation Richmond is currently in the process of looking for two more worker owned cooperative businesses to support on their pathway to profitability. If you are a Richmond resident and have a cooperative business or a cooperative business idea now (until March 8) is the time to let them know! Existing businesses who want to transition to a cooperative are also welcome to apply. Please spread the word and help Richmond become a thriving place for worker-owned cooperatives!

For more information please contact: puja [at] cooperationrichmond.org

To submit a formal intake form go to: https://cooperationrichmond.wordpress.com/intake-form/

Richmond gives me hope

The following is an excerpt of a November 2017 essay by Michelle Chan

It is all too easy to reflect on the past year as a series of hateful, racist policies – from a proposed Muslim ban to a border wall – and the emergence of white supremacists from the shadows. But this past year was equally about the spontaneous gathering of thousands at airports across the county, where Muslim faithful prayed between baggage carousels and parking lots. It was the story of Richmond.

In Richmond, a local man was arrested a few years ago after making threats to a mosque in my neighborhood. What followed was an outpouring of love, as people wrote notes of solidarity and well-wishes and gathered in the courtyard to support the congregation. And that gives me hope.

It is all too easy to look at this past year and view it as the epitome of corrupt politics and the corporate capture of our government. After all, Trump literally handed his pen to the CEO of Dow Chemical after signing an Executive Order to eliminate regulations. But to dwell on that is to miss the fact that an unprecedented number of people are now stepping up to run for public office, galvanized by the injustices they see and seeking candidate training by women’s groups, environmental organizations, progressive outfits and more. It is the story of Richmond.

In Richmond, it is said that Chevron once had its own desk at City Hall. But for the last ten years, a grassroots progressive movement has successfully put thrown Chevron out of our government and elected City Council candidates who have refused a dime of corporate money. And that gives me hope.

In Richmond, our city is committed to environmental sustainability, even while Trump pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.

In Richmond, we are cultivating worker-owned cooperatives and raising the minimum wage, even while the Republican-controlled Congress tries to pass tax reform on the backs of the poor and middle class.

In Richmond, we have a new law to allow people to stay in their homes, even while rents skyrocket astronomically in the Bay Area and cities around the country.

In Richmond, we are gradually working for a more just future. And that gives me hope.

Feeling hopeful? Please consider making a monthly donation to the Richmond Progressive Alliance today!