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The Activist

Issue #246 04-30-2018


In this issue:
5/19: Get ready for the Richmond People's Assembly!
Housing Action Team shows how it's done!
Richmond updates Sanctuary Cities ordinance
5/9: Racial Justice Task Force coming to town
New refinery monitoring tool
RPA on Pt. Molate
Listen up/ Read all about it!

5/19: Get ready for the Richmond People's Assembly!

Get ready for the Richmond People’s Assembly!

Inspired by the Richmond People’s Convention of 2004 (organized by Richmond Progressive Alliance, Just Cause Richmond, ACORN, and others) which drew over 300 people, the 2018 Richmond People’s Assembly aims to gather neighborhoods together to organize for collective power, bring a voice to the community, and empower residents to engage in political activities to create the change and solutions we need as a community.

The Richmond People’s Assembly will take place on May 19th at Richmond High School from 9:30 - 3pm.

It’s being led by the Richmond Our Power Coalition, a collection of local community organizations including the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Urban Tilth.

In the weeks leading up to the Assembly, coalition canvassers will go door to door to listen to and take inventory our community members needs. Maybe you've already been approached! Please mark you calendars and watch this space for more information!

Housing Action Team shows how it is done!

Did you miss it? The RPA Housing Action Team did a superb job in their presentation to the Richmond City Council at an affordable housing study session.

For over a year, the HAT has been researching best practices in other Bay Area cities and counties to promote affordable housing. The HAT’s presentation this month was the culmination of that research, and featured three affordable housing developers.

One of the most notable aspects of HAT’s presentation was the ambition of its vision for affordable housing. Noting that the Association of Bay Area Governments has set a goal of constructing 700,000 new units by 2040 (50% affordable), the HAT pointed out that there aren’t many cities in the Bay Area able to or willing to contribute 5% of the total. However, in Richmond, where we have more vacant land and abandoned or underutilized properties with low market values, we could probably fit 30-40,000 units of housing.

The HAT also urged the City to stop worrying so much about attracting high end developers, who are very cautious about Richmond because upper middle class projects here can’t command the selling prices needed to make expected returns. (Meaning: no “trickle down” model of attracting market rate housing to generate in lieu fees to subsidize affordable housing). Rather, the HAT called on Richmond to work hard to facilitate the construction of 1,500 units per year, including 15,000 housing units at Hilltop and the South Shore, and 15,000 housing units in the Macdonald corridor, 23rd St and on San Pablo Ave

Finally, the Team also pointed out Richmond needs to staff up to ensure that we are well poised to take advantage of affordable housing development opportunities. It noted that we have 3.8 people in our Housing Department, while Oakland has 41.5 people.

One observer called the presentation “a model of what community involvement in the city can be” (not withstanding Mayor Butt’s hostility and arguments with guest panelists). If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, watch the video of the study session - it's around 1hr 14 min mark.

City updates Sanctuary City Ordinance

Thank you to our progressive city council!

On April 3, Richmond amended its 1990 Sanctuary Cities ordinance, which bars the police from using city funds to collaborate with ICE. Read more below:

Due to the escalating immigration enforcement, Ordinance 29-90 should be amended to address the threats from the DOJ and the fears of the immigrant and refugee community.

The immigrant and refugee community in Richmond make up more than half of its population, 33.7 % are foreign born and 62.7% are non-citizens (per the 2015 U.S Bureau Census 2011-2015). The following recommendations will assist with educating the residents and departments of the City of Richmond protocols, and inform the public officials.

- Provide information to the general public about this City Council policy in the top three spoken languages in Richmond, such as in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Disseminate information to the community about available resources in English, Spanish, Mandarin.

- Provide a report to the Richmond City Council regarding the threats by the DOJ of incarcerating public officials of Sanctuary Cities

- Provide a report to the Richmond City Council on how the Richmond Police Department is dealing with the escalating immigration enforcement and fear tactics by ICE.

5/9: Racial Task Force coming to town

The Contra Costa County Racial Justice Task Force (created as a result of excellent campaign work by the CCC Racial Justice Coalition) has recently come out with a set of thirty recommendations for ensuring racial equality within the county’s criminal justice system. Recommendations range from providing resources to incentivize school districts to explore, evaluate, implement or expand existing non-punitive discipline practices; to establishing a community capacity fund to build the capacity of community based organizations - especially those staffed by formerly incarcerated individuals - to provide services to reentry clients.

Interested in learning more? The Task Force will be holding community fora to present and discuss these recommendations. Please consider coming out on May 9 to the one in Richmond.

Wednesday, May 9, 6-8 PM 
Catholic Charities, West County Service Center
217 Harbour Way Richmond

New refinery monitoring tool

Big thanks to all the presenters who inspired us at the RPA’s Earth Day event, Activating Environmental Justice.               

And many thanks to panelist Cheryl Holzmeyer who just introduced us to the Refinery Monitoring Tool.

Produced by Air Watch Bay Area this new, online, interactive tool allows you to see current data on air pollution in Richmond, Crockett, Rodeo, and Benicia. You can also sign up for daily air quality alerts or use the website (or a downloadable app) to report smells and pollution events to the Air Watch Bay Area website and/or to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

This tool was created by the The Fair Tech Collective at Drexel University in Philadelphia in collaboration with the Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Empowerment Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.

Check it out!

RPA on Pt. Molate

As many of you know, the recent Pt. Molate settlement has caused some controversy. In case you missed it, the RPA published a short statement. It reads in part:

The recently announced settlement of the Point Molate litigation is a far cry from what the RPA has been firmly advocating for many years, namely maximizing public involvement in determining the future of this precious and unique resource owned by the City. We had no position on any particular use or project but we felt it crucial that we make it possible to hear all proposals for development so that the public could weigh-in with full information.

We believe that the settlement itself is greatly unbalanced. Upstream and its partners get a significant sum of money (in the tens of millions) from the City in a relatively short time, and no public review of settlement terms before they were finalized.  All the City gets is an end to the litigation, yet it is losing not only a lot of money, but also any opportunity for a comprehensive and inclusive public process on what the future of Point Molate should look like…

[The settlement] did not even require that the development include affordable housing units (inclusionary housing). It specifically allowed the far-too-low current in-lieu fee.   This means that if housing is built under the terms of the settlement (market rate sales) it will almost certainly be all luxury housing.

Read the full statement here.

Also, Gayle McLaughlin issued a statement on Pt. Molate in response to one of Mayor Butt’s E-forums, in which he basically claimed that she forced the City into this spot. McLaughlin states that the City should have continued pressing its case with the District Court (where we had won before) instead of settling. In particular, she explains that she sought and followed legal advice before personally advocating against Upstream’s casino proposal.

The plaintiffs (Upstream) alleged in their 9th Circuit Court petition that I, as mayor of Richmond, acted inappropriately when writing letters to federal officials on the issue of Pt. Molate stating my opposition to urban casinos. Butt proceeds to state that my letters to these federal officials is why the City HAD to settle this case. He falsely draws the conclusion (siding with the plaintiffs) that my communications were done on behalf of the City Council and/or the City of Richmond. He attempts to "prove" this by saying my communications with federal officials were done on Office of the Mayor letterhead. My follow up question to him is "and that proves what?" I communicated my opposition to the casino as an individual. I was identified as the Mayor but at no time did I imply or state that this was the current position of the City of Richmond.

[Photo: Citizens for a Sustainable Pt. Molate]

Listen up/ Read all about it

Our movement is in the news again!

Hot off the "presses" is a wonderful podcast from Stepping Up, titled Smackdown: City Hall v. Big Oil. Produced by Claire Schoen, this podcast focuses on “surprising stories from climate activists” and features our favorite Communities for a Better Environment rep, Andres Soto. Well worth a listen!

And if you haven’t already checked it out, read a Counterpunch article penned by Ralph Nader titled Citizen-Mayor Gayle Roars through Richmond California. It chronicles the history of the RPA and Gayle’s bid for Lt. Governor. An excerpt is below:

[In Richmond], McLaughlin found a few like-minded progressives and started the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA). (Gayle had volunteered in the Green Party’s 2000 Presidential Campaign)

With very little money, but many long overdue proposals for the betterment of the city, the RPA went to work. They had three public assets—a set of progressive policy changes, support of a large silent majority of residents, and a dedicated core of thirty no-nonsense local champions for a just community.

RPA ran a slate of candidates for City Council in 2004, with some success. This was followed by a victory in 2006 that made McLaughlin mayor—a post she held until 2014 when she was termed out and then successfully ran for city council. RPA now controls five of the seven seats—overcoming the Chevron Company’s longtime political boosters…

Because of McLaughlin and the RPA, Richmond has a higher minimum wage of $15 an hour, a police department that has curbed police misconduct, a major drop in serious street crime, an increase in Chevron’s tax payments, a decrease in toxic pollution by Chevron, and Solar Richmond, a program demonstrating a greener local economy, more energy self-reliance and jobs.

[Image: courtesy of Stepping Up]