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2/25, 3pm - Bobby Bowens Progressive Center
Vote for the new RPA Steering Committee!

We hope to see you at the upcoming RPA General Membership Meeting on Saturday, Feb. 25, 3:00-5:30 pm at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald). At the meeting, we will be conducting important business, including electing a new Steering Committee. All members in good standing should have already received two email announcements with candidate information, as well as an agenda.


If you have not yet received these emails, it may be because your membership has expired or you are not on our official membership roster. But never fear! You can email Michelle for meeting/ election materials, and show up a few minutes early on Saturday the 25th to refresh your membership at the door. Please bring a check or cash to cover membership dues, which are $12/year minimum.

We thank you for your ongoing involvement!

[Photo: 2016 Steering Committee, courtesy of Juan Reardon]
2/25, 9am - Nevin Community Center
Join CCISCO in building unity and resistance

There are no shortage of excellent opportunities in Richmond to build unity and grassroots resistance against the Trump agenda! Please join the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization for a community summit on Saturday, February 25, 9am - 1pm (lunch provided) at the Nevin Community Center, 598 Nevin Ave.

For more info, contact Nancy Ybarra: 510-334-8821, nancy@ccisco.org


3/4, 10am - City Hall and Lavonya Dejean
Sisters in Solidarity event

Commemorating International Women's Day, we invite women of all ages and male allies to #beboldforchange by participating in the 2017 Sisters in Solidarity celebration to affirm our shared values of peace, justice, equity, inclusion, caring for future generations and the community.

The day will begin with a rally on the steps of City Hall at 10am, followed by a march to LaVonya Dejean where we will enjoy entertainment, lunch, roundtable discussions and inspirational speakers. Community Violence Solutions Executive Director Cynthia Peterson will be our keynote speaker. Ms. Peterson is a tireless West County advocate for eliminating all forms of violence against women. Don't miss this wonderful event and opportunity to Be Bold for Change! For more information, contact Trina Jackson at 510 620 6581 or Trina_Jackson@ci.richmond.ca.us

California Apartment Association takes Richmond to court
Measure L still needs your support!



From our friends at Fair and Affordable Richmond...

In November, 65% of Richmond voters voted yes on Measure L to establish rent control and just cause eviction protection in the City of Richmond. Now, these protections are under attack from the California Apartment Association (CAA).

A Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge will decide whether to pause the implementation of rent control and just cause eviction protections after the CAA sued the City of Richmond claiming Measure L violates federal and state laws.

This is not the only assault on rent control; several opponents for Measure L are being considered to serve on the rent board. This body is crucial to the implementation of Measure L and opponents of rent control on the board could hurt efforts to create a fair and affordable Richmond.


As Measure L continues to come under attack, we need your support. Like our Facebook page to stay up to date on the CAA vs. City of Richmond court case, and how you can make your voice heard on rent control.


Learn more about the battle over Measure L in The East Bay Times.

[Photo: Fair and Affordable Richmond]

2/16, 6pm - Catholic Charities
RYSE Love and Rage series

In response to incidents of hatred in our community, and to defend and strengthen our rights and resources, the RYSE Center, in collaboration with Catholic Charities of the East Bay, the RPA and other organizations, are presenting the latest in the Love and Rage in Action series!

This series is aimed at creating community spaces focused on unity, safety, and empowerment to help continue the tradition of our youth and adult residents cultivating beautiful things in Richmond.

Thursday, February 16th, 6-8:30pm
Catholic Charities of the East Bay
217 Harbour Way, Richmond CA 94801

Panelists:
David Brazil, EBASE - Bay Resistance, Rapid Response Network
Jess Heaney, Critical Resistance - Oakland Power Project
Fei-Fei Chang, Girl Army
Soo Hyun Han, Self-Defense Instructor & Advocate

In addition to the panelists, two of our partners will share information on local efforts:
Claudia Jimenez, Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition
Cat Willett, Catholic Charities of the East Bay

For more information please contact: jamileh@rysecenter.org

Steering committee spotlight
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

As the RPA membership heads into Steering Committee elections, we wrap up a series featuring organizational representatives on the current RPA Steering Committee. We encourage all those who are interested in the work of these organizations to get involved and join them!
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action is a grassroots, member-led, statewide community organization working with more than 10,000 members across California. ACCE is dedicated to raising the voices of everyday Californians, neighborhood by neighborhood, to fight for the policies and programs we need to improve our communities and create a brighter future.

ACCE runs several campaigns around issues such as worker justice and sustainable communities. In Richmond, they are known for their housing justice work, most recently through their leadership in Fair and Affordable Richmond and the campaign to pass Measure L (rent control and just cause for eviction).


ACCE also leads ReFund California, a coalition of more than thirty organizations working to advance corporate accountability campaigns that raise needed revenue, preserve and expand affordable housing and raise the floor on wages and benefits. As part of this campaign, they are advocating for commercial property tax reform, which can raise an additional $6-8 billion in revenue to support a strong and healthy California; and working to raise the minimum wage in multiple cities across the state. They also helped passed laws in three cities to fine banks $1,000 per day for vacant, blighted properties. In Oakland this led to a massive clean-up of blight and has generated more than $2 million so far, which has funded the new Housing Assistance Center to help struggling homeowners and tenants.


Dave Sharples represents ACCE on the RPA Steering Committee.


[Photo: ACCE]
More prevention, not more jails!
Board of Supervisors votes for jail expansion


Earlier this month, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors voted to expand jail services at the West County Detention Facility. This decision was made despite the strenuous objection of many community organizations. 

Supervisor John Gioia was the lone dissenting vote on the five-member panel. He explained his decision in a  recent Opinion-Editorial, penned with Jane Fischberg of Rubicon Programs and Claudia Jimenez of Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition. An excerpt of the Op-Ed follows:

Contra Costa County needs greater investment in mental health treatment, job training, affordable housing, and youth services to help keep people from becoming incarcerated, not a larger West County jail.

Approving expensive new jail construction runs counter to the more fiscally responsible and humane strategy of investing greater resources in prevention and rehabilitation services. These cost-effective measures help keep people out of jail, reduce reoffending and improve public safety.

The recent 4-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors to spend $25 million in county funds and apply for $70 million from the state to add 416 high-security beds at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond comes at a time of budgetary uncertainty, with the county facing possible federal funding cutbacks from the new presidential administration.


The Prison Law Office, a well-respected nonprofit public interest law firm specializing in jail system reform, wrote to the Board of Supervisors  that "The county would better serve its population by expanding efforts to reduce the jail population instead of expanding the capacity of its jails."


We could not agree more.


For the full OpEd, see the East Bay Times.

Wednesday, 3/8, 6:30pm - Bobby Bowens Progressive Center
Free Screening: The Healthcare Movie


With the future of the Affordable Care Act in serious doubt, millions may lose their health insurance.  Medicare and Medi-Cal are under attack.

Please join the RPA and Healthcare for All - Contra Costa for a free screening of "The Healthcare Movie" at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald Ave.) on Wednesday, March 8 from 6:30 - 8:30pm. This documentary explains what single-payer healthcare is and how it saves money.  It shows what behind-the-scenes heroes are doing to clear the fog of misconceptions that has kept us from moving forward.
Now in effect
Rent Control and Just Cause ordinance


On December 30, 2016 the Rent Control/Just Cause law we worked so hard to win went into effect.  Even though the Rent Board is not set up and some of the rules and regulations are not yet established, certain parts of the law are active now. Most importantly:

  1. Starting January 1, rents in covered units (multi-family, built before 1995) must be rolled back to what it was on July 21, 2015  or whenever you first started paying rent  (whichever date is later).  A landlord may notify you of an increase of up to 3%.
  2. You cannot be evicted except for one of the reasons listed in the law.  If a landlord has recently notified you of an eviction, it may be invalid.

Mayor Tom Butt is expected to make nominations for the Rent Board soon and this Rent Board will get to work setting up the permanent structures and procedures for making rent control and just cause work in Richmond. In the meantime the city staff is taking care of interim activities.  They have set up a website and a  city office  where you can get more information:

440 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, CA 94804
Monday - Friday
9:00 am -12:00 pm
1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

www.richmondrent.org
rent@ci.richmond.ca.us
510-620-6576 

You can read the ordinance here

The first city sponsored workshop will be on January 18 , 2017 6:00 pm at City Council chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza. If you need legal consultation, you can call Tenants Together's hotline: (888) 495-8020 or visit Bay Area Legal Aid at 1025 Macdonald Ave. If you are 62 or older, Contra Costa County Senior Legal Services at (925) 609-7900 is also a great resource.

Organize! 
New ordinance protects renters' right to organize 

One feature of the new rent control law is that it protects the right of tenants to organize together.  The law provides that:

  • Tenants have the right to organize. It is illegal for landlords to retaliate;
  • Landlords must recognize and deal with an organization designated by the tenant as the representative of the tenant;
  • Tenants organizations have standing before the Rent Board.

These provisions apply to building-based tenants organizations, landlord-based tenants organizations (that may include tenants from multiple buildings owned by a single landlord), or to long-standing tenants organizations like Tenants Together.

Why is this so important?  Even though the new law protects tenants and gives them new rights, landlords typically still have much more power than individual tenants.  Landlords usually have an edge in knowledge, legal support, and resources to engage in prolonged legal disputes.  It is easier for a landlord to win in court even when the facts point the other way.  Often the only way to successfully take on a bad landlord is by organizing together, pooling resources for legal help, and bringing public and political pressure on landlords to settle. Rights are fine, but you have to organize and take action to make them real.

-  Mike Parker

[Photo from Fair and Affordable Richmond]

Report from Sister Progressive Alliances Action Team
South Bay Progressive Alliance launches!

As reported previously, the RPA has created an Action Team to help progressives in other cities create similar grassroots advocacy and political organizations.

Last month, Action Team member Gayle McLaughlin made a presentation in San Jose, where activists agreed to start a South Bay Progressive Alliance. By 2018, the group hopes to launch several local city-based alliances in the area. The group is borrowing some tips from the RPA, including staying party neutral and supporting corporate-free progressive candidates running for local office. Gayle McLaughlin will also be making presentations in San Diego, CA; Vallejo, CA; El Cerrito, CA; and Oakland, CA. If you have friends and allies in those cities who may be interested in attending these presentations (or who may want to schedule one in their city), please email Juan at JuanReardon@sbcglobal.net . The Action Team will accommodate speaking requests as much as possible given time and money constraints. 

Finally, the Sister Progressive Alliance Action Team is looking for volunteers to help present the story and the ideas that made the RPA successful. While the speakers in the Speakers Bureau are carefully selected, there are other important tasks that need to be covered – in particular, a volunteer videographer is specially needed at this time. Please contact Juan Reardon for more information: JuanReardon@sbcglobal.net 

[With thanks to Juan Reardon for this report] 


Get involved!
Action Teams are where the action is

In the wake of the national elections, many people are interested in getting more involved at the local level. Although monthly Steering Committee meetings and quarterly membership meetings are a good place to start, the real place to get involved is through Action Teams. The leadership of some of the Action Teams are in flux right now, but please contact the following people to get involved:

  • Communications: The CAT is responsible for various RPA communications, including the newsletter, keylist, social and traditional media, etc. This team needs to be jump-started again with fresh leadership and new blood. If you are interested, please contact Michelle Chan at michellechansf@yahoo.com

  • Membership: This committee helps develop the RPA membership and provide outreach to constituencies across the city. This is a powerful committee with a lot of potential to increase the capacity of the RPA to work with, serve and support allied groups and causes across Richmond. Contact Zak Wear, zakwear@gmail.

  • Office: The RPA strives to be the heartbeat of the grassroots progressive movement in Richmond; part of that is providing a hospitable and functional hub for grassroots organizations in the area. Volunteers staff the office every weekday, help with events, and keep the office running. Contact Tarnel Abbot at tarnelabbott@comcast.net

  • Treasurer: Have a head for numbers, or have a knack for fundraising? We know how important these functions are to keeping our organization healthy and accountable. Contact current RPA Treasurer Shoji at jeffshoji@gmail.com

  • Housing Action Team: Ensuring that Richmond has quality and affordable housing is a key priority for the RPA. This team not only will be making sure that Measure L is successfully implemented, but it also is developing creative proposals for creating new low income/ affordable housing stock in the city. Contact Melvin Willis at mrmelvinwillis@gmail.com

  • Arts and Culture: We know that music, poetry, art, and community help nourish our spirit, strengthen our bonds and inspire our hearts. The Arts and Culture committee plans events, organizes parties, adds creative element to our advocacy and political work. Contact Tarnel Abbot at tarnelabbott@comcast.net

  • Schools Action Team: This Action Team works to strengthen and improve neighborhood public schools in Richmond. Contact Peter Chau at peter.n.chau@gmail.com

  • Sister Progressive Alliances Action Team: This new team supports activists and groups around the country establish progressive advocacy and political organizations in their communities. Contact Juan Reardon at juanreardon@sbcglobal.net

  • Immigration Action Team: This new Action Team that has been formed to address the needs of immigrants in our city, especially in the wake of the national election. Among its early activities: hosting a meeting on responding to hate crimes in our area, and cosponsoring an know-you-rights immigration workshop with JINA Immigration Legal Services. Contact Claudia Jimenez at jimenez.claudia78@gmail.com

[Photo: Community forum on responding to hate crimes in Richmond, organized by Immigration Action Team. Photo credit: Michelle Chan.]
Four lessons for Richmond
City responses in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire

In the following article, Mike Parker offers four observations for the City as it contemplates how to respond in the wake of Oakland's Ghost Ship fire.

1.  When there is not a sufficient supply of cheap housing or when wages are not sufficient to support what housing is available, it is predictable that many will become homeless and others will look for inexpensive ways to live -- often in buildings not really suitable or safe for housing.  The campaigns we have had in Richmond to develop more affordable housing and protect the affordability of the housing we have through rent control are critical first steps -- but we need much more.

2. Young people need and will find venues to engage in social and artistic activities.  Ghost Ship provided something more than just cheap places for living -- a supportive community culture.  We must develop more inexpensive venues for holding events and exhibitions.

3.  We need better, more effective, and fairer enforcement of local safety requirements. A flurry of "cover-your-ass" activities after disasters like Ghost Ship are not a substitute for a regular enforcement program that helps people meet safety requirements. Simply closing a place and making people homeless transfers a problem without solving it. And we must develop ways to help people stay in their places or continue their work while improvements are made.

A knee-jerk reaction to greatly increase the number of inspectors is not the answer.  First, it is expensive and will take funds away from other needed city services. Second, when tenants fear retaliation from a landlord or fear that they will lose their housing if an inspector finds code violations, their refusal to open doors, cooperate, or report violations makes inspection programs ineffective.

4. The key to tenant safety is most of all tenant involvement: tenants knowing and demanding removal of dangerous living conditions; tenants reporting landlords who maintain unsafe housing conditions.  One of the important features of the recently adopted rent control ballot measure helps make this possible.  The new law prohibits landlords from evicting or otherwise penalizing any tenant who reports safety problems or demands that landlords correct dangerous conditions.  It also protects tenants who are forced to leave because a landlord has not complied with building codes.  Whether or not the landlord is operating legally, the landlord is still subject to providing relocation assistance in these cases.

-  Mike Parker

[Photo: Council chambers during a recent discussion of city responses to the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. Credit: Mike Parker.]

Important Rent Control /Just Cause Documents

 
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