The Activist

Issue #255, 10-01-2018

In this issue:
Mayor Butt's Planning Commission shenanigans
Vote on Pt. Molate pulled!
Victory: Another step towards housing justice
10/7: The big canvass
Our hero: volunteer Marilyn Albert!
10/10: No coal through Richmond!

Mayor Butt's Planning Commission shenanigans

As you may know, a few weeks ago Mayor Butt abruptly decided to not reappoint longtime RPA leader Marilyn Langlois to the Planning Commission. Langlois was elected Chair of the Commission by her fellow Commissioners, and has served on Planning Commission for 6 years. Butt decided to reappoint the other 5 commission members whose terms are up, but not Langlois. By singling her out, he gave the appearance of being more interested in political retaliation, rather than the best interests of the City.

To make appearances worse, the Mayor then put this questionable decision on the City Council consent calendar. (Consent calendar items are routine, noncontroversial topics that are grouped into a single agenda item that be can be passed with little to no discussion and with a single motion and vote.) But as soon as someone requested to remove the Planning Commission item from the consent calendar, in order to allow for discussion, the Mayor abruptly withdrew the item. It was the second week in a row he did that.

This move was most perplexing; why would the mayor want to prevent the City Councilmembers from exercising their right and duty to consider appointments? And since all five Planning Commissioners are only authorized to serve until September 30, why would he want a non-functioning Planning Commission?

Things became a little clearer on Friday, when the agenda was posted for the October 4 Planning Commission meeting. There was a single item on the agenda: Pt. Molate land use vision. Ah, it all seems to be making sense now: Butt is probably trying to stack the Commission with pro-developer folks to get lots of high-end housing at Pt. Molate, just like he wants.

The Planning Commission decision is back on Tuesday's City Council meeting. We'll see if the Mayor actually allows a public discussion on this, or tries to ram it through.

Agree with him or not, you gotta hand it to Mayor Butt for shrewd and underhanded political maneuvering. As for me, I would rather have a Mayor who is honest, open and earnest about serving everyone in Richmond – especially those in our community who are in the greatest need.

- Michelle Chan

Vote on Pt. Molate settlement pulled!

Thanks to the dozens of people who came out to the City Council last week to show their support for a community-driven process to decide the fate of Pt. Molate. It was great to see so many people turn out, including young people and a much more diverse set of folks than we have previously seen engage on Pt. Molate debates.

Because of the growing public outcry about Pt. Molate, Mayor Butt pulled the agenda item which would have called for a City Council vote to approve the Pt. Molate settlement. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, which Mayor Butt pushed for, Pt. Molate is slated to become a multi-level housing development for a privileged few, with half the profits going to a failed casino developer. But a federal judge recently ruled that the settlement cannot be used to avoid the normal public process for planning and zoning, and allowed a Brown Act lawsuit to move forward. The scheduled vote on Tuesday was a way for the Mayor to buttress the court case, by bringing into the open that which was done behind closed doors.

But the mayor didn’t have sufficient support to push it through, forcing him to withdraw the item. After all, everyone now knows that the settlement agreement might have been illegal. And people can see that the public input process that Councilmembers Willis, Recinos and Martinez so valiantly put in place unfortunately ended up not delivering. 

Communities of color were particularly not well represented in the process. As the Richmond Community-owned Development Enterprise pointed out,  

The major attempts to build racial and economic equity into the [Pt. Molate] planning process have come through parallel, independent efforts by us and others, rather than work by the City. This process has already seriously eroded trust and/or confirmed a feeling of othering and exclusion through the City's development processes. This is in line with histories of racial segregation and public processes that prevent wealth building in communities of color. As public land, Point Molate provides an excellent opportunity to reverse this and implement new planning processes that can create a city rooted in equity, and serve as a model of equitable economic development for the Bay Area. 

More people are realizing that Pt. Molate does not have to be an enclave for the wealthy. Think of what it could mean if the development of Pt. Molate centered racial justice, partnered with community groups, and promoted community ownership. That’s a vision worth putting your heart into!

Victory! Another step towards housing justice

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the Council passed two tenant protection ordinances: one prohibits discrimination based on a tenant's source of income, including Section 8 housing vouchers, and the other reduces costly rental application fees.

Thanks to everyone who showed up to support these ordinances, and to the members of the RPA Housing Action Team and others who worked hard to advocate for these important measures. 

Melvin Willis, a leading voice for housing rights on the City Council, said that votes for housing justice are votes for racial justice. “Section 8 discrimination can be a version of racial prejudice, as some landlords use income source as a proxy for race.” 

The City Council also voted to require landlords to accept a reusable tenant screening that is good for 30 days. Willis explained, “When tenants are looking for housing, they may have to pay $50 application fees -- multiple times. This is simply untenable for low-income families, who may be under a time crunch, and are having a hard enough time given rising rents.”

10/7: The big canvass

Okay, for all of you who have not yet canvassed for Team Richmond, Sunday October 7 is going to be THE time to sign up. (It’s like getting into a pool after sitting on the deck for the last couple of years – you just have to jump it and you’ll be reinvigorated!) 

Absentee voter ballots will hit mailboxes the day after, so you know why this canvass day is important. And with just one month to go, it unofficially marks the beginning of “high gear” campaigning. Please sign up now and bring a friend or two (or three!) 

Afterwards, a bunch of people will be heading to Steve Early’s house for food, drink and merriment at a  Houseparty for Melvin for Mayor.

Finally, mark your calendars for October 20 from 9:30-2pm. We will be heading out to Pinole with our peeps from Lift Up Contra Costa to canvass for Jovanka and Prop 10. Please contact Jon to sign up!

Our hero: volunteer Marilyn Albert!

In this series, we will be profiling some of our RPA heroes -- the volunteers who are the engine behind getting our progressive, corporate-free candidates elected into office. This week we talked with Marilyn Albert, who is on staff at the National Union of Healthcare Workers, and moved to Richmond about a year ago.

What’s at stake for you and for your union in this election?

NUHW is the National Union of Healthcare workers, and we represent a lot of workers at Kaiser Permanente. What I work on, and what our union is very focused on, is health care and winning Medicare for All in California. The state legislature is critical in the next few years to winning a single payer type system. We believe it’s possible, but it’s very important that we have the right candidates in office. A voice like Jovanka’s, who understands health care and has advocated for the kind of health care reforms that we have advocated for, is very important.

The next big issue is affordable housing, which is critical for our union because we have many members who work in hospitals in urban centers in the Bay Area. They have very long commutes because they are having to move further and further away due to the price of housing.

Tell us about NUHW and its endorsement of Team Richmond.

We have a tradition of democratically deciding our political endorsements, rather than just the leaders of the union [making the decision]. We hold endorsement meetings prior to each election which are open to all our members. This year the Team Richmond candidates, Melvin, Eduardo and Ada came to our endorsement meeting, as well as other candidates.  We voted to endorse Jovanka as well as the Team Richmond candidates.

Tell us about why you are phone banking today.

I moved to Richmond a year ago. As someone who is new to Richmond, but who knew about RPA and its work before I moved here, I wanted to get involved in RPA’s election work.

What is phone banking like?

This is my first weekend I am volunteering for Team Richmond, but I have done phone banking for decades.

I always feel a little bit anxious about it, but once you reach people, it’s very enjoyable. You feel you are making an impact and it’s fun, even if you run into someone who is in opposition to your candidate.

It’s frustrating when you can’t reach people, but so much easier with the predictive dialer [the technology the RPA is using] because you get talk to so many more voters.

10/10: No coal through Richmond!

Another big issue in Richmond: the increased shipment of coal and continued shipment of petcoke through the Richmond Levin Terminal.  

Last year, as U.S. coal exports to Asia skyrocketed from 10 to nearly 24 million tons, exports through Richmond Levin terminal jumped to over 1 million tons, more than triple the volume of earlier in the decade.  Visible coal dust on our windows and cars suggest that dangerous toxic particles are also reaching our lungs. A group of Richmond residents has been meeting to consider how the city can reduce or even eliminate the use of the terminal for coal and petcoke.

No Coal in Richmond meets monthly to discuss this issue and welcomes new participants. They meet the second Wednesday of the month from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at the Bobby Bowen Progressive Center, 2540 MacDonald Avenue, Richmond. All are welcome so please join! For more information contact