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Below the Fold:

Green Groups Back Oil Worker Strike

Revoke Kinder Morgan Crude-by-Rail Permit

Hazardous Pet Coke Transported through Richmond

CSB Report Faults Chevron

Don't Miss:

Building Bridges Between Black and Brown

Fred Jackson

Challenging Chevron's Tax Theft

North Shore Development

Finish for Pt. Molate Casino

2013 State of City

New Approach to Homelessness

Article by Jeff Ritterman in American Journal of Medicine

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Eduardo Martinez
Gayle McLaughlin
Jovanka Beckles

Newsletter Archives

Fit For Life

Tues. 3/3, Richmond City Council

Hilltop Needs a New Sign

by Cesar Zepeda, President, Hilltop District Neighborhood Association

On March 3rd, 2015 the City Council will take up the Sign Ordinance Zoning Text Amendment (PLN14-023): A zoning text amendment to allow and regulate digital signs and digital advertising billboard signs.

This Ordinance was brought forward because the Hilltop District needs a new sign to replace the old, oxidized, broken, light-polluting, and outdated pylon sign currently in place. The sign is the only way that the 300+ thousand daily motorists on Highway I-80 know that Hilltop is a shopping/business district. Our district contributes a large amount of revenue to the City; we have car dealerships, restaurants, hotels, a movie theater, a mall, and in excess of 100 additional businesses elsewhere in the District.

Continue to the full letter.

For more information, visit www.hdhsa.com.

Also see Marilyn Langlois' response, below.

A Response to Cesar’s Letter

Clearing the Air on Digital Billboards

by Marilyn Langlois, Richmond Planning Commissioner

As a Planning Commissioner and member of a special ad hoc committee of Planning Commissioners and Design Review Board members, I have been studying this issue for over a year. In addition to multiple discussions at Planning Commission meetings, I’ve had numerous in-depth conversations with Richmond residents, business owners and City staff, hearing arguments both in favor and opposed to allowing digital billboards in Richmond. Those in favor generally believe they will help revitalize the Hilltop Mall, and those opposed generally find them unsafe and unsightly.

I appreciate that there are differing points of view within the RPA on this issue, and would like to correct some misinformation contained in the opinion piece submitted by Cesar Zepeda on the RPA website, with regard to the following two claims of potential benefits to the City.

Continue to the full letter.

Sat. 3/7, 10am-3pm, Nystrom Elementary, 230 Harbor Way

Sisters in Solidarity: Women Make It Happen

In honor of International Women's Day, the City of Richmond is hosting its 8th annual Sisters in Solidarity Celebration. Captain Bisa French, Richmond Police Department, will be the keynote speaker. The celebration will include speakers, group discussions, interactive activities, lunch and a call to action. Sponsorship of the event, which draws over 200 attendees and supports over 30 local organizations, started under Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, and has moved to the Richmond City Council this year. Everyone in Richmond is invited to participate.

Tues. 3/17, 5:30-7pm, Whittlesley Room, Richmond Library

Improve Refinery Emissions Rules

2015's the year! The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) is hosting a town hall meeting to receive input on their proposed Bay Area Refinery Emissions Rule. We need to be there in numbers, asking for everything we want. We should be as specific as possible and think about the best language for rules that everyone can understand.

Later in the spring, we hope to also pass a resolution at the Richmond City Council establishing the City of Richmond's view of what should be addressed in the rule changes based on our experience with the data in the Chevron Modernization Project EIR.

The Air District's flyer is available in English and in Spanish.

In Honor of Gayle McLaughlin's 8 Years as Mayor

Celebrating Grassroots Democracy

A crowd of supporters and friends gathered at the Grace Lutheran Church Hall on Sunday, 2/22, in celebration and thanks for Gayle McLaughlin's 8 years of service as the Mayor of Richmond.

Gayle and her husband Paul Kilkenny were honored with a Laotian Baci ceremony for good fortune, connection, and appreciation. Saffron Strand's crew provided a delicious light supper and wonderful service. And Sonidos Progresivos (Progressive Sounds) made music before and after the program. Much of the success of the event is due to the great planning of Marilyn Langlois and her helpers.

The speakers all noted how much Gayle's steadfast courage, her willingness "to be there for them"—whether or not the press was present—and her sustained encouragement and support had enabled them to contribute to making Richmond better in a multitude of ways.

The event was also a fundraiser to support Gayle as she writes her book, Against All Odds: A Decade of Progress in Richmond. There's no big advance for this work, which Gayle envisions as a handbook for those in other communities, working to restore grassroots democracy. If you'd like to make a (tax deductible) contribution, please write checks to Gayle's fiscal sponsor: Praxis Peace Institute (include "Book Project" in the memo section of the check), and mail them to: Richmond Book Project / PO Box 5284 / Richmond, CA 94805.

Northern California Society of Professional Journalists

Staci Plummer Wins Whistleblower Award

Stacie Plummer On Bullying, Corruption And The City Of Richmond, from a 2013 Conference

Earlier in February, the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee announced the winners for its 2015 James Madison Freedom of Information Award. Staci Plummer, a Richmond city employee now at the Library, is one of two recipients of the Whistleblower Award. She exposed wrongdoing in her city government, publicly revealing in 2013 that Richmond's Assistant Manager was running a gift-basket business from city hall and otherwise abusing her position. Eventually, Leslie Knight was forced to accept retirement, and Plummer has remained an advocate for more transparency in Richmond. In fact, she was at last Tuesday's council meeting, speaking out against bond funding and in support of city union jobs as street repair choices are debated.

The award will be presented at 30th Annual awards dinner on March 12, 2015 at the San Francisco City Club. Congratulations and thanks, Staci!

Sat. 3/28.3-6pm, Whittlesey Room, Richmond Library

Race & Social Justice: Whose world is it?

From the Meetup page for the event: "This public open forum is designed and intended to address race and social justice, and to begin to make needed changes in our city and world, in our relationships, as well as within ourselves.

"The facilitator: Bill Say, works at the intersection of diversity, conflict resolution and community building as a consultant, trainer and facilitator. ...Bill's Korean father was a child slave in Japan and brought some of the harsh realities of this abuse into their home; it is partially this background that has motivated Bill to work with relationships, community and our own bodies and minds as ways to become more whole and aware. His website is: www.billsay.com."

RPA Steering Committee Statement, 2/13

City Council Appointment

The Richmond Progressive Alliance takes the matter of filling the Richmond City Council vacancy very seriously and has given a lot of time to interviewing candidates and discussion. While there are many fine people who have put themselves forward for this office, only one can be selected. Our preference is based on several considerations, which we will outline below.

Clearing the Air

Before we outline these considerations, we feel that it is important to comment on the current discussion that is taking place. We regret that the discussion has turned from a serious discussion of who will best meet the needs of Richmond into a debate about the Richmond Progressive Alliance. We feel it is important to respond to some of these issues.

Continue to the full article.

Letter to the SF Chronicle

RPA Requests Retraction

by Mike Parker, for the RPA

Chip Johnson's column of February 9 is built around a completely false statement: "Richmond Progressive Alliance members, who carry forward decisions made by a steering committee, don't have the authority to compromise on proposals without checking with their membership first."

His source for this non-fact is not stated, but we know he has consulted none of the Council members who belong to the Progressive Alliance nor any member of the RPA Steering Committee. This non-fact is being circulated widely in Richmond by people who oppose the RPA.

The reality is that the Progressive Alliance discusses very few matters that come to the Council. Discussions focus largely on big issues, such as affordable housing or the minimum wage, and on how we can work with the city council and other groups in the city to bring about change in these areas. Our positions on these issues are made public. Council members supported by the RPA make their own decisions after getting input from a wide number of sources.

Continue to the full letter.

Update: The Chronicle printed this retraction on Feb. 18: "Chip Johnson's On the East Bay column on politics in Richmond mischaracterized the Richmond Progressive Alliance. The political group has no rule requiring its members on the City Council to clear their votes with the broader membership."

Analysis from an RPA Stalwart

On the Vacant Council Seat

by Tarnel Abbott

At the City Council meeting of Tuesday, February 10, 2013 there was no resolution as to who would win appointment to fill the council seat vacated when Tom Butt became Mayor. Four members of the City Council are required to make the appointment by March 13, 2015 or a special election must be held (probably in November of this year).

Of the field of 18 applicants those nominated and receiving a second were: Ben Choi, Rosemary Corbin, Raquel Donoso, Claudia Jimenez, Sheryl Lane, Marilyn Langlois and Kate Sibley. Although none of them received enough votes to be appointed, this is only round one in a process that will make everyone uncomfortable for its duration.

In a factually inaccurate and provocative editorial in the SF Chronicle of 2/10/15, Chip Johnson attempted to sully the name of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), council members Beckles, McLaughlin, Martinez and candidate Marilyn Langlois. Mayor Butt proceeded to promulgate this misinformation by sending it out on his widely read e-Forum.

Continue to the full article.

Letter to the Editor

SF Chronicle Distorts Vacant Seat Debate

by Daniel Goodwin

Chip Johnson's column ("Vacant seat divides Richmond council," 2/10) bends the facts in portraying the issue of the vacant council seat as a contest between RPA members and three "independent" councilmembers. It's the RPA councilmembers who are truly independent, accepting no corporate contributions.

Anybody who thinks you can tell councilmembers McLaughlin, Beckles, and Martinez what to do hasn't spent much time talking with them. Johnson falsely alleges that they get their marching orders from the RPA steering committee. RPA councilmembers make decisions based on their own understanding of community values. The record shows they do not "vote as a bloc."

I have served on the RPA steering committee since the election. We routinely avoid votes on council business, to eschew any possibility that our deliberations might be construed as constraints on the decisions and negotiations of elected officials. Johnson has it completely backwards. The RPA is explicitly committed to open decision-making and community input.

Update: The Chronicle has not printed this, or any other letter challenging Johnson's smears.

Options for Funding Street Repairs

To Borrow or Not to Borrow?

by Marilyn Langlois

Massive street repair program in Richmond over the next five years? Who wouldn't want that?! But, as is often the case, the devil is in the details.

In November, Richmond voters approved Measure U, a ½% sales tax increase that is estimated to bring an additional $7.5 million in revenue each year to the City. The City Council has indicated that it would like to dedicate half of that—$3.75 million—towards street repair each year. Staff had done some study about the possibility of issuing 30 year bonds (i.e., borrowing money) to do much-needed street repair now and use half of the Measure U revenues to make the annual principal-plus-interest payments on the debt. In the short term, it seemed like a real win-win solution, but following public requests for a longer-term analysis that was presented to the City Council on Jan. 27, a lurking poison pill emerged.

Continue to the full article.

The ACLU is Smart about Surveillance

Momentum Builds for Local Privacy Laws

Gene Hackman in The Conversation

by Daniel Goodwin

Super-secret Stingrays, which masquerade as cell-phone towers to scoop up all mobile communications, hundreds of thousands of automated license-plate readings to recover just one stolen vehicle, and security spooks surveilling their girlfriends—these are just a few of the abuses and follies we suffer in the Mass Surveillance State. Nationwide, untold billions are wasted on ineffective technologies, while our "right to be left alone" is shattered.

The ACLU has devised a brilliant strategy to restore democracy, one city or county at a time. Their plan is outlined in a new report, with model legislation to require community approval and yearly audits of all local surveillance programs. From the report's conclusion:

"Communities increasingly understand the need to make smart choices about surveillance technology and ensure that time, energy, and resources are not spent on systems that cost more, do less, and have a greater impact on the rights of community members than you expect. And following public outcry about NSA spying and the use of military equipment by local police, community members demand—and deserve—both a voice in any decision to deploy surveillance technology and reassurance that robust safeguards and public oversight will be in place if surveillance is going to be used."

The Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, and the RPA have endorsed this local approach to surveillance oversight.

For more information, see the ACLU's Smart About Surveillance webpage. Also see Oakland Poised to Lead in Protecting Privacy in the current East Bay Express.

Solidarity for the Steelworkers, from CommonDreams

In Stand for People and Planet Over Profit, Green Groups Back Oil Worker Strike

by Lauren McCauley

In what may seem like an unlikely alliance, environmental groups are throwing their full support behind oil industry workers who on Sunday announced a widespread work stoppage over complaints that Big Oil companies "value production and profit over health and safety."

The strike, which marks the largest national strike of oil workers since 1980, was called by the United Steelworkers Union (USW) after negotiations with Royal Dutch Shell, which is leading the industry-wide bargaining effort, broke down.

"The oil companies do not want to work with us to improve the workplace and safety at oil refineries and facilities," said USW International vice president of administration Tom Conway in a statement announcing the strike. Conway said the problem is that oil companies "are too greedy to make a positive change in the workplace and they continue to value production and profit over health and safety, workers and the community."

Continue to the full CommonDreams story.

Richmond Chevron Update

USW Union Steward Robert Watts tells us that Chevron's Richmond plant could be running with replacement workers. "If USW workers go on strike the community will be at risk with the replacement workers. The Chevron fire department will lose their coverage because Chevron relies on volunteer firefighters who are USW workers. They cannot put a fire out without them and will be risking the community again by not having adequate coverage." Email Refinery Manager Kory Judd and Mayor Tom Butt to voice your concerns.

Pressure Building on BAAQMD

Revoke Kinder Morgan Crude-by-Rail Richmond Terminal Permit

by Jeff Kilbreth

The more you know about the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) staff's permitting of Kinder Morgan's shift into storing and distributing rail shipments of North Dakota Bakken crude oil, the more upset you should get. And not surprisingly, some of the issues are similar to ones we saw in the Environmental Impact Report for the Chevron Modernization Project. Simply put, the data used by our regulators is often seriously incomplete and sometimes shockingly biased. It's almost as if they work for Chevron and Kinder Morgan. This is what has to stop. We need to insist on complete, honest and conservative data—our health and safety is at stake. Fortunately, pressure is now building on the BAAQMD Board to set higher standards for staff work and to revoke the flawed Kinder Morgan permit.

Continue to the full article.

Public pressure may help move BAAQMD to revoke the permit. Email Jack Broadbent, BAAQMD Executive Officer, and John Gioia, Contra Costa County Supervisor and BAAQMD Director.

DeSmogBlog Report on Federal Court Order

Explosive DOT-111 Bomb Train Oil Tank Cars Can Continue to Roll

by Steve Horn

A U.S. federal court has ordered a halt in proceedings until May in a case centering around oil-by-rail tankers pitting the Sierra Club and ForestEthics against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). As a result, potentially explosive DOT-111 oil tank cars, dubbed "bomb trains" by activists, can continue to roll through towns and cities across the U.S. indefinitely.  

"The briefing schedule previously established by the court is vacated,” wrote Chris Goelz, a mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “This appeal is stayed until May 12, 2015, or pending publication in the Federal Register of the final tank car standards and phase out of DOT-111 tank cars, whichever occurs first."

Filing its initial petition for review on December 2, the Sierra Club/ForestEthics lawsuit had barely gotten off the ground before being delayed.

Continue to the full DeSmogBlog story.

Letter to the City Council

Hazardous Pet Coke Transported through Richmond in Open Rail Cars

by Karen Juster Hecht

Over the last few months I have learned that pet coke is being transported in open rail cars through Richmond. It is apparently being gathered from the area refineries and shipped to China from the Levin Richmond terminal and the Sims Metal facility. Disturbingly, China has been burning this material, which is banned in the U.S.—obviously a major health hazard worldwide.

At these facilities, prior to shipment, these huge piles of pet coke sit waiting to be loaded, totally uncovered. It is a shocking sight to encounter the enormous piles and to see the huge transports of open rail cars, loaded to overflowing, traveling within yards of Marina Bay and other residences. The black pet coke dust, of course, travels from these piles into our homes and businesses... and into our lungs.

Continue to the full letter.

Final Report Released by Chemical Safety Board

Report Faults Chevron

by Robert Rogers

The fire that stemmed from a corroded pipe at Chevron’s Richmond refinery in August 2012 resulted from regulatory shortcomings and a flawed safety culture within the company and was compounded by an inadequate emergency response by company crews, according to a final draft report released Thursday by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

The CSB, a federal investigatory body that has released numerous reports on the fire over the past two years, will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday [Jan. 28] in the Richmond City Council chamber.

Continue to the full Contra Costa Times story.