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Richmond Sun

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Measure L implementation
We have a new Rent Board!

On Tuesday, March 21, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously to appoint a 5-member rent board. This board will be responsible for implementing rent control: setting a budget for the Richmond Rent Program, hiring an Executive Director and setting regulations.

The newly appointed members include Nancy Combs, a volunteer at Saffron Strand; real estate agent Virginia Finlay, former president of the Marina Bay Neighborhood Council and former Richmond Planning Commissioner; Emma Gerould, a former tenant advocate in the San Francisco Tenderloin; Lauren Maddock, an employee of Mercy Housing; and David Gray, former chief of staff to Mayor Butt who is currently with the San Francisco Public Utility Commission.

Mayor Butt does not support rent control, but after Measure L passed, he was given the authority to name Board members. Given that 2/3 of Richmond voters supported Measure L, the RPA vigorously advocated for at least three of the five members of the Board to be strong rent control proponents. As Cecilia Cissell Lucas and Jeff Shoji said at the March 7 Richmond City Council meeting, "We deserve a transparent process in which rent board appointees are publicly vetted and approved by those who actually support Measure L… This should not feel threatening to anyone who is not attempting to obstruct the fair and legal enforcement of an ordinance that passed with a vast majority of the vote. It's time to listen to the will of the people." Unfortunately, only two of the 5 members of the rent board are strong rent control supporters.

A statement from an RPA subcommittee (the RPA reps to the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition) explained its reasoning for agreeing to a compromise: They became convinced "that the rent board slate presented by Mayor Butt on March 21 is the best we can get from him, and it certainly could be worse. So, faced with the choice of a less than optimal rent board or no rent board at all for the remainder of his term as mayor, the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition (of which the RPA is a member) decided to support this slate and move forward with implementation as best we can."

Onward in the struggle for housing justice!

3/23 and 3/30, 6pm
Rent control workshops

Along with groups like Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, who are educating residents about Measure L, the City of Richmond is hosting a series of education workshops and computer lab sessions on the Rent Program and the Richmond Fair Rent, Just Cause for Eviction, and Homeowner Protection Ordinance.


The next two sessions will be March 23 and March 30 from 6-8pm at the Richmond City Hall computer lab. Attendees will receive computer lab assistance to access and complete online forms; learn more about the Richmond Rent Program; and explore resources for Tenants and Landlords.  Space is limited – RSVP at :
3/23, 11:30am, Oakland
Learn more about single payer health care in CA!

From our friends at the California Nurses Association

As you know, President Trump and Republican leaders are moving quickly to repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid - threatening the healthcare and lives of millions of low to moderate income Americans while handing huge tax cuts to the rich and big healthcare corporations. By mid-April, we could be living in the new world of Trumpcare nationally.


In California though, we have the opportunity to not only resist these extreme attacks on our healthcare and lives, but to expand and create the healthcare system we truly need – guaranteed, comprehensive, universal healthcare for all regardless of income or immigration status. Last month, the Healthy California Act (SB 562) was introduced by Senators Lara and Atkins as a key step towards creation of a single payer universal healthcare system for all Californians, and a broad-based statewide coalition, HealthyCA is coming together to advance this exciting, visionary campaign for healthcare justice.


Please join us for a lunchtime briefing about these important issues and to find out how your organization can get involved


Thurs, March 23rd 11:30am – 1:00pm, @ California Nurses Association, 155 Grand Avenue, 1st Floor Conference Room, Oakland


Lunch provided, and translation available upon request.


For more info and to RSVP, contact Carolyn Bowden at

[Photo credit: California Nurses Association]

The resistance is fertile
California, Richmond stand up to Trump! 

The California Values Act, SB 54, cleared an important hurdle on Monday, and is poised to move to a full Senate vote. The bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement from acting as federal immigration officers and bans immigration enforcement at public schools, hospitals and courthouses.


SB 54 has been met with staunch opposition from the California State Sheriffs' Association, including Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston. On Wednesday, local activists turned out in force at a Martinez rally to protest Livingston's active campaign against the bill. They also called for the release of Yazmin Elias, a mom and domestic violence survivor currently held in the West County Detention Facility under the Sheriff's multi-million dollar contract with ICE.


Meanwhile, the sanctuary city movement in California has continued to grow. On Tuesday, the El Cerrito city council unanimously voted to declare itself a sanctuary city by adopting a policy of not gathering or release information about the immigration status of residents to federal authorities. The council also called for Contra Costa supervisors to do the same, and passed a resolution in support of SB 54.

And on Wednesday, Richmond announced a lawsuit against Trump's executive order to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities. Richmond currently receives about $77 million per year in federal funding. "We will not allow intimidation to disrupt our commitment to our residents and their safety," said Mayor Butt at a press conference. San Francisco announced a similar lawsuit in January.


Finally, if this news is leaving you inspired, please consider joining the new RPA Immigration Action Team, which had its inaugural meeting this week. Contact Sharron SK Williams at

New leadership
RPA membership elects new Steering Committee

RPA officers and a new steering committee were elected at a well attended and enthusiastic membership meeting on February 25. The new Committee consists of:

Co-coordinator - Sharron SK Williams
Co-coordinator - Marcos Bañales
Communications Chair - Sue Wilson
Membership Chair - Kabir Kapur
Office Chair - Tarnell Abbott
Treasurer - Shoji
Recording Secretary - Michelle Chan
Schools Action Team - Peter Chau

At-large members:

Jovanka Beckles, Nancy Combs, Ben Choi, Sung Ae Cho, Porschea Brown, Kelly Dugan, Malia Everette, Laura Garcia-Santiago,Marilyn Langlois, Paul Larudee, Juan Reardon, Ada Recinos, Carlos Taboada, Zak Wear, and Melvin Willis

Representatives of allied organizations:

Claudia Jimenez, CCC Racial Justice Coalition
Millie Cleveland, SEIU Local 1021
David Sharples, ACCE
Alyssa Kang, California Nurses Association.
Brenda Williams, Richmond Rainbow Pride

There was some momentary confusion over an error on the RPA website, which mistakenly included Eduardo Martinez as a member of the new Steering Committee. Mayor Butt cried foul in his E-Forum, citing potential violations of the Brown Act. He later published a note of clarification from Eduardo Martinez, which unfortunately was made to sound as if he stepped off the committee only after he was called out on it. In actuality, Eduardo, who had served on the previous RPA Steering Committee, immediately resigned after the November 2016 election, in order to comply with the Brown Act. He was not nominated to serve on the current Steering Committee, nor did he seek to. Current City council members serving on the RPA Steering Committee include Jovanka Beckles, Melvin Willis and Ben Choi.

[Photo credit: Gail Eierweiss]

Another oil train victory!
San Luis Obispo denies oil trains project

From our friends at Stand and Center for Biological Diversity:


Months after Benecia rejected Valero's oil trains project, the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors voted this month to reject Phillips 66's proposed oil train offloading terminal. The project was denied with a 3-1 vote, with one supervisor recusing himself in a conflict of interest.


If built, the Phillips 66 oil trains terminal would have allowed more than 7 million gallons of crude oil to be shipped via rail to its local refinery each week, and made it possible for Phillips 66 to refine volatile and carbon-intensive tar sands crude from Canada. Tar sands crude, when prepared for transport, is thinned with an unstable blend of chemicals that have been known to explode in derailment incidents, which have become increasingly frequent in recent years.


Trains servicing the Phillips 66 project would have traveled from the north and south through hundreds of major California cities and smaller communities, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose. These trains also would have jeopardized numerous ecologically sensitive areas including the San Francisco Bay and California's iconic central coast.

[Graphics credit: Stand]

The political revolution continues
Progressive Alliances take off across the Bay

The RPA Outreach Team continues to respond to requests from groups of activists interested in starting progressive organizations in their own cities. March was as busy as ever. On March 10, Gayle McLaughlin and Juan Reardon made a presentation to a local group of progressives organizing Our Revolution San Leandro, which attracted some 10 people present from San Leandro, San Lorenzo and City of Alameda. The Team also shared the RPA story at the first meeting of the Pinole Progressive Alliance, which has a huge opportunity to elect progressives onto the Pinole City Council. The Outreach team has also continued to support the South Bay Progressive Alliance (which meets in San Jose). If you know of groups who may be interested in a presentation, please have them contact:

Finally, Steve Early continues to spread the word about the history and work of the RPA through his Refinery Town book tour. If you have not already heard his interview on KQED's Forum, it's worth a listen!

5/6 and 5/7, 6pm
Richmond Renaissance: An original RYSE play

The youth at RYSE Center is producing another play this year!

Richmond Renaissance
is set in AnnaBelle's, a Black-owned juke joint in 1940's North Richmond, where history's Blues and roots of love inspire communal growth. The multimedia theatrical performance will counter the traditional Richmond narrative of poverty and violence by highlighting the community's wealthy cultural past as an epicenter for blues, jazz, and zydeco. Please come and support this youth-led ode to the City of Pride and Purpose!

6-8pm, May 6th & 7th, 2017

El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater

540 Ashbury Ave, El Cerrito

Buy tickets here
. (And come on, spring for the VIP tickets if you can afford it!)

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 . 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: 

[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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Schools Action Team: This Action Team works to strengthen and improve neighborhood public schools in Richmond. Contact Peter Chau at

  • 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

  • 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

[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

Recommended Readings
About the Richmond Progressive Alliance

The origins of the Richmond Progressive Alliance,
by Juan Reardon

Richmond Progressive Alliance, Communities Fight for Community Control Over Corporate Power,      by Mike Parker. Social Policy, Summer 2013, Volume 43 #2.

Chevron Hit With One-Two Punch in Richmond, California. Huffington Post
by Steve Early & Susan Gordon 08/06/2013 ;Updated Oct 06, 2013

A Social Policy Case Study and Follow-up on Richmond Progressive Alliance Two Years Later: Richmond Progressive Alliance: Defeating Big Money in Politics
by Mike Parker. Social Policy, Winter 2016.

Early bookRefinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City
by Steve Early Cloth ISBN: 978-080709426-6
Price:  $27.95 
Order at:


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