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Fit For Life

Kids First Ballot Initiative

The Richmond Progressive Alliance strongly supports increasing funding and expanding programs for youth, children and families in Richmond. We have also been long-time supporters and allies of the organizations in the coalition that is promoting the Kids First initiative that will be on the ballot in November or a followign election.. RPA was not consulted on the wording of the initiative as it was being formulated, but sometime after the signature gathering process was underway, we did have multiple meetings with Kids First coalition members, including inviting them to make a presentation at the RPA Steering Committee.

Because many RPA Steering Committee members had concerns--not with the general spirit of the initiative, which was widely supported--but with the actual language, certain specific aspects and potential unintended consequences, we were unable to reach consensus and hence decided not to take a position as an organization on this initiative.

We received the letter below from one of our members, Mike Parker, who expressed his views as an individual. We welcome additional comments from our members.

Marcos Bañales and Marilyn Langlois
RPA co-coordinators

To the RPA Steering Committee

I understand that the RPA has taken no position on the Kids First ballot measure.

I acknowledge that groups that the RPA normally actively works with and supports like RYSE, East Bay Center are actively supporting this initiative and that at this time, the RPA is not supporting it nor is it opposing it.

But I would like to express my views on what is actually a big political issue in this country.

The fundamental motivation behind Kids First is great. There is no question but that priorities in this society are misplaced. We need to be spending more on kids and giving them a future and less on jails, police , and other means to deal with the results of an unjust society. It is far better to spend money to prevent a problem than to try to clean up afterwards.

There are two problems I see with the fine print of Kids First.

1. It does not deal with the priorities squarely. Instead it will end up pitting the needs of kids against the needs of seniors, poor families, recreation and education for adults, improving neighborhoods, roads, street lighting etc. Kids First will require an additional 3% of the general fund to be allocated for its designated activities. In Richmond 70-75% of the General Fund goes to Public Safety. Perhaps another 10% goes to expenditures that cannot be avoided -- insurance, settlements, electricity etc. or is just pass through (like building license processing). There is a general unwillingness to touch the amount budgeted to public safety. Unless this changes that means that 3% of the General Fund is actually more than 20% of the remaining that goes for senior services, recreation, parks, libraries. That the "Kids First" initiative avoids challenging the untouchability of Police and Fire appropriations therefore pits it against other badly needed services in the city. The initiative might still be of value because, if passed, it would force the city to look hard at priorities especially the "untouchable" ones, but the second problem is a deal-breaker for me.

2. Richmond Kids First essentially copies an ordinance from Oakland. But in Richmond's version someone added this paragraph:

"Entities eligible to receive funding shall be non-profit community-based organizations, including organizations with a non-profit fiscal agent; and public agencies, in partnership with non-profit organizations, that serve children, youth and disconnected transitional-aged young adults. In any fiscal year, public agencies shall not receive, in total, more than 20% of the funding awarded to applicants."

In other words, 70% plus the 10% for administration of this large portion of the budget will be taken from direct public use. Seventy percent of more than four million dollars of current city work will be outsourced. The services will be moved from public control to some form of private control, from union workers to nonunion workers. Services provided by the WCCUSD and Richmond Libraries are explicitly excluded from this money unless they are part of "collaborations" with non-profit organizations. This paragraph effectively privatizes a big proportion of the city budget. In turning over public money and control to non-public organizations, it is analogous to turning education over to charter schools. Unfortunately that may well be exactly what some of the Kids First backers want, --there is a national campaign to privatize and destroy public services. I emphasize "some" --I think most of the backers of Kids First can understand that it is important to strengthen and expand public services not undermine them.

So what is the answer. First, we can work to make sure that where we have options that kids prioritized. For example a big portion of the discretionary funds from the Chevron Community benefits Agreement went to kid oriented projects. Second we can focus on raising more funds for the city so we can expand kid oriented services like libraries, recreation etc. by joining campaigns to close Prop 13 loopholes and taxing the wealthy at the state level and taxing sugary drinks to benefit recreation programs at the local level.

Mike Parker 7/26/16


Study Session on Sale of Adams Middle School Tuesday, August 2, at 6 pm at DeJean Middle School

See the District website at


Decision Possibly at School Board Wed. 8/3, 6:30pm, WCCUSD Brd Mtg, 3400 Macdonald Ave.

Defend public assets from the push to privatize

The District will probably consider the sale of the Adams site to Caliber Charter at its next meeting, in Lovonya DeJean Middle School. For background, see the RPA Activist #196, available here in the Archives.. For more information, log on to

Many important issues need to be addressed.  As Richmond resident Deborah Bayer wrote in a recent letter to the Board: 
I also protest the process under which this serious decision is being made. The WCCUSD seems to be conceding to the demands of Beller and Moses with minimal notice to the public, and unreasonable speed. Please slow down this process to allow for more public involvement and thought.

Attend the meeting and make your voice heard! 

We made the big move to 2540 Macdonald: 

Lend a hand to get RPA's new office ready!

Photo: Patsy Byers.

Whether you are able to give one hour or several, regardless of your skill level, please get in touch with Tim Laidman by text: 510-260-9393. Let him know when you could work, and what construction skills you'd want to use, if any.  He's at the new site 9-5+ 'most every day.

We are moved. But there is still a lot to do. Drop by and see..

Weigh in with Council on your vision.

Pt. Molate: Getting Closer to a Deal?

In 2010, Richmond voters, with the backing of the RPA and many other community groups, voted down a proposal to build a Vegas-style casino at Point Molate. In response, Jim Levine, the casino proponent, sued Richmond; the City prevailed but Levine has appealed the ruling.
The City has since been debating alternate futures for Point Molate. Despite housing a Navy fuel yard for 50 years, Pt. Molate still has outstanding natural values, including significant native plant populations; it is also historically significant as the site of former Chinese shrimping camps, as well as the country's largest pre-Prohibition era winery.
Environmental advocates would like to have the site owned and managed by a public/private (non profit) trust, which could then develop a hotel, conference center, camping sites, and a park. An alternate proposal has come from Levine, who has proposed 1100 senior housing units. A recent statement issued by City Manager Bill Lindsay states that Levine has approached the City with a settlement proposal; the statement did not describe the offer (except to say that it does not include a casino) but reiterated that the Council is "at the earliest stages of any possible process" and that any settlement agreement would be subject to the "required public process for land use approvals." Stay tuned.

                                                                                            --Michelle Chan

NPS Ranger Betty Reid Soskin recovering after attack

Honor & help: donate to documentary film 

Photo credit: Wikipedia.
Richmond residents were shocked to learn that in late June, beloved NPS Ranger Betty Soskin was attacked in her home in Richmond by unknown intruders who beat her and stole some of her possessions, including a commemorative coin presented to her by President Obama. At 94, Soskin is the country's oldest serving Park Ranger, serving as an interpreter at the Rosie the Riveter National Park. She is reportedly doing better, and has vowed to return to work.

Those who want to help can make a donation to Betty's Fund. As the donation page states, "Beyond immediate needs, all funds raised here will be used, as Betty has asked, to complete a film in progress that contains vital documentary information about Betty's life and impact. This is the legacy that she wants to continue passing on to younger generations, and a remarkable testimonial to her strength of spirit."

Newsletter news

Welcome our new editor, Michelle Chan


RPA Steering Committee Recording Secretary Michelle Chan wrote most of the copy and chose the photos for this issue of the Activist, and she will soon be taking on the full editiorship.  The schedule will be more regular and less frequent, likely moving to a monthly edition. (If you're willing to help get it out more often, please send an email to!)  Look for changes in the layout and delivery, too.


Thanks to all who have contributed during the time I've worked on the newsletter and to all who have read it and offered words of appreciation and support.  I will truly miss much of it and this interaction with many of you.  I do look forward to reading the Activist here in Richmond in the second half of 2016.


Many thanks, Michelle, and best wishes!


                                                                                    --Patsy Byers


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