The Activist

Issue #249, 06-17-2018


In this issue:
Jovanka to face off against Wicks!
Becton is the new CoCoCo DA!
Gayle's campaign united progressives
Voters reject Oil-backed Prop 70
Livingston still Sheriff, but accountability goes on
Voters pass E&K - now onto soda tax in November

Jovanka to face off against Wicks!

Keep those yard signs up and campaign buttons on – Jovanka is heading to the general election!

On Thursday June 14, Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb called Jovanka Beckles to concede the second spot for Assembly District 15, ending a nail-biting nine days in which the votes see-sawed between the two candidates in this too-close-to-call race.

As of Thursday, Beckles had won 15.7% of the votes, compared to Kalb’s 15.4% -- a margin of only a few hundred votes. But while Alameda County had finished counting its ballots, Contra Costa County had about 10,000 provisional ballots to count. This made it unlikely that Kalb would pull ahead, prompting him to concede.

The Beckles campaign, which had volunteers conducting independent election monitoring earlier in the week, issued this statement (partial):

I’m enormously grateful for the fabulous support, team spirit, hard work – and fun! – of my volunteer campaigners in the primary. They showed what genuine people power can do. Dan Kalb ran a strong campaign and I appreciate his gracious concession statement Thursday.

I’m excited, looking forward to campaigning for November’s general election to represent the people of Assembly District 15 in Sacramento.

The State Assembly is vital to Californians’ lives. The state government manages a huge budget – about $266 billion dollars – more crucial to people’s daily lives than the federal government, managing and shaping education, justice and prisons, housing, delivery of healthcare, protecting our environment and our working conditions.

I’m determined to engage with the broadest range of Assembly District 15 residents to think through how best I can represent all of us in Sacramento.

The contest against Wicks this November will be tough – no doubt about it. As a 48hills article points out, Wicks is backed by big money, including the Govern for California PAC, which includes wealthy charter school and anti-tax activists. Time to get our corporate-free candidate into office! To get involved visit http://www.jovanka.org/.

Diana Becton is the new CoCoCo DA!

In another very closely-contested, nail-biting race, Diana Becton has emerged victorious as the first female African American DA ever elected in Contra Costa County.

Paul Graves, Contra Costa County Senior Deputy District Attorney, who was running against Becton, called her concede on Thursday. Becton had needed to over 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid a run-off in November. As of Wednesday, the CCC Clerk-Recorder-Elections Department showed Becton with 94,663 votes, 921 more than she needed to win a majority. Graves was at about 42 percent.

In a statement released Thursday, Becton pledged to serve “proudly, with integrity, and with a strong commitment to fairness and justice for all.”

Becton is a retired judge of 22 years, was the clear choice for progressives and racial justice advocates in Contra Costa. Groups such as Safe Return Action, the Contra Costa Labor Council, ACCE and others actively worked to educate people across the county about what was at stake and why Becton was the right choice.

“People  directly impacted by criminalization have always known the power that prosecutors has and the major role this office plays when it comes to mass incarceration," said Tamisha Walker, Executive Director of Safe Return Action. “Safe Return Action joined the fight for a progressive DA, because it was and is important that those who have experienced what it’s like to be disproportionately disenfranchised and excessively sentenced are leading the movement for progressive political power building, the restoration of democracy, and criminal justice reform”.

Laphonza Butler, President of SEIU Local 2015, added: “SEIU Local 2015 members are committed to fixing our broken criminal justice system. DA Elect Diana Becton’s commitment to pursuing restorative justice through the use of diversion programs, ending mass incarceration, and providing treatment to those with mental health and substance use issues, was key to earning the support of our members. We congratulate Diana Becton on her victory and look forward to working with her in Contra Costa!”

Gayle's campaign united progressives

Although Gayle McLaughlin did not prevail in her campaign for Lt. Governor, her campaign united progressives up and down the state in a way that inspired so many of us. And, her campaign was always about so much more than who occupied one particular office. Gayle's next project: launching a California Progressive Alliance.

As Gayle said on Facebook,

While Tuesday’s electoral defeat was a disappointment, all of the foundational work we’ve done together on this campaign lives on...

If our movement is to grow and flourish and effect real change, we need to keep coming together, regardless of party affiliation, to gain progress for our shared goals...

In setting a platform and agenda, the California Progressive Alliance will draw from my platform, Bernie’s platform, the platform of the Movement for Black Lives, and those of other strong progressive organizations. We envision a delegate system where every aligned organization - particularly community chapter organizations and regional unions - will have a vote and a voice in the Alliance’s endorsements and priorities, as well as in its founding principles.

Organizing the new California Progressive Alliance will take our combined efforts - I am committed to fundraising and traveling the state to support this new organization and training and educating new local progressive alliances. ]

Indeed, buoyed by Gayle's campaign, local progressive alliances, based on the RPA model, are starting to sprout up in the state -- including a new one in Los Angeles! To join her in starting a state-wide progressive alliance, sign up here.

Voters reject Oil-backed Prop 70

By a 2-1 margin, California voters roundly rejected Proposition 70. Defeating Prop 70 was the biggest priority on the June ballot for the state’s environmental justice community.

Last year, the top three Big Oil lobbyists spent more than $17.6 million to weaken California’s climate action, including putting Proposition 70 on the ballot. Prop 70 was a product of the oil-friendly cap-and-trade extension bill that passed the California legislature earlier. As part of that political deal, voters had to ratify a measure requiring that all climate investments (funded through cap-and-trade auction revenues) be subject to a 2/3 vote. That would have handed a win to Big Oil and other polluters by allowing them to more easily tap climate funds, while undermining policies aimed at ensuring that environmental justice communities -- who have historically suffered from most from cap-and-trade – benefit from these investments.

Environmental justice advocates are hailing the defeat as a strong signal to decision-makers that they can’t make bad deals with Big Oil.

“We fought back against Big Oil and said NO to a political deal cut to benefit industry, and not meant to benefit Californians nor the climate,” said Strela Cervas, Interim Co-Director, California Environmental Justice Alliance Action. “We have what Big Oil and corporate interests don’t: people power.”

Livingston still Sheriff, but accountability goes on

Sheriff Livingston ran unopposed this month, but many voters registered their objection to him by writing in “no confidence” or “other” on their ballots.

Although racial justice advocates were not able hold Livingston accountable at the ballot box this month, they are continuing the pressure – and it seems to be bearing fruit. The latest news is that Sheriff's Office has tentatively agreed to reinstate visitation rights for Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC). According to a Freedom for Immigrants statement,

On May 7, 2018, over two months after the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office (CCCSO) banned Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC) volunteers from visiting people in Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention at West County Detention Facility (WCDF) and shut down our free and unmonitored hotline, the CCCSO has tentatively agreed to reinstate our visitation clearance upon completion of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA).

Activists also continue to pressure California Attorney General Becerra on his investigation of the West County Detention Facility, which has a contract with ICE. Becerra initiated this investigation after abuses described by women detained at West County Detention Facility became public last fall and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and Senator Dianne Feinstein — as well as other elected officials — urged him to begin an independent investigation. That investigation is underway and is, apparently, looking into all jails in California with ICE contracts. However, that the results of that investigation have not yet been released and the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition is urging the AG to conclude that investigation promptly.

Voters pass E&K - now onto soda tax in November

Richmond voters handily passed Measures E and K earlier this month. This creates a Kids First creates a dedicated funding source from the City’s general fund to support expanded services for youth and establishes a City operated Department of Children and Youth. The details:

The charter amendment revising Kids First, which also passed, is critical because it:

Now, it will be up to voters in November to pass a sugar-sweetened beverage distribution tax of one cent per ounce, which is similar to what Albany, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco have.

Richmond voters rejected a soda tax measure in 2012, but this one is different. The 2012 tax would have been a business license fee on retailers, while the tax voters will consider in November would be levied on the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages.  

Moreover, the tax would not apply to baby formula, milk products (like chocolate milk), 100% natural fruit and vegetable juices (including aqua fresca), medical beverages, weight reduction beverages, and alcoholic beverages. The tax would also not apply to distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages to small retailers. All three measures need to pass as a package for the Kids First initiative to work without compromising others city priorities.