Below the Fold:

Update on Crude-by-Rail in Richmond

Sugar Kills! How Do We Decrease Consumption?

Why the Minimum Wage is Good for Richmond

Update on Richmond Housing Authority Issues

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

Get the
RPA Activist Info email newsletter.

Eduardo Martinez
Gayle McLaughlin
Jeff Ritterman
Jovanka Beckles
Fit For Life

Newsletter Archives

From the Planning Commission Hearing April 17th

Public Weighs In on Chevron DEIR

The Richmond City Council chambers were packed to capacity last Thursday for the Richmond Planning Commission’s Public Comment Hearing on the Chevron Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for its proposed project. By the Chair’s count, 63 people spoke, and by an informal tally those with critical questions and concerns outnumbered the “rubber stamp” advocates by 3-to-1.

At the pre-hearing rally, Andres Soto from Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) noted how great it was to see members of the California Nurses Association (CNA) in their red, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) folks in their green, and the people of Richmond and neighboring communities in all their diversity. The energy and color carried over into the hearing, where a relatively small group sported blue and white jerseys for Chevron’s PR effort, “Richmond Proud.” Relatively few in number, they took up prominent seats behind the speaker’s podium and were loud clappers.

Nurses, who handled the front-line emergency treatment following the August 2012 fire and explosion, and who noted the high incidence of chronic respiratory diseases, reproductive problems, and cancers among their patients in Richmond, spoke with credibility and passion. Many long-term Richmond residents testified about the losses they had suffered among their friends, co-workers, and family members, and they made a plea for cleaner and safer operations, with no local increase in toxic emissions. Other speakers wanted more details about the 29 new jobs claimed for the completed project, as well as a better understanding of the scope and nature of the temporary employment the construction phase would offer.

More technical comments addressed a broad range of issues, from calls for more just and effective mitigation measures (including more intense and sustained funding of local alternative energy projects and renewable energy sourcing for Chevron’s operational needs) to a suggestion that any increase in CAPs and TACs (Criteria Air Pollutants and Toxic Air Contaminants) may violate the intent of AB 32. Several speakers questioned the validity of the baseline statistics used to set the “no net increase” goals. The relatively narrow scope of the proposed project also came under scrutiny, with recommendations that Chevron undertake a full and effective modernization of its whole Richmond facility. As one APEN member so clearly said of Chevron (in translation): “If they continue making money, they can continue to change!”

Public comments are now accepted until May 2. (See the section below for details.) They all will be incorporated into the EIR and addressed in the revision process, and then the modified draft will be circulated for a 10-day review before it comes back to the Planning Commission for action, tentatively on June 19th.

Fresh from its Premier in Ankara, Turkey

Save the Date: The Iron Heel, a Theatrical Benefit for Team Richmond, May 18th at 7pm

To download the flyer, click here. For a copy of the press release, use this link.

Saturday April 26 10am-4pm 3511 Barrett Ave (near 35th St)

Grand Garage Sale Grand

Benefit for the campaign “VOTA LATINO” in Richmond.
(Promoting Latino Voting and Democratic Participation)

Donations of items appreciated.
Call Marcos at 510-621-8738 to arrange bringing over items for the garage sale.

Sunday, April 27, 1021 Macdonald Avenue, 10am-1pm

Take It to the Streets with Team Richmond

More than 20 people have already volunteered to join the team of Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, and Gayle McLaughlin for City Council and Mike Parker for Mayor—to walk their neighborhoods and talk with residents about our fair city and the upcoming elections. You can swell the number of volunteers eager to help.

In addition, as candidates themselves walk door-to-door throughout the week, it’s great to walk along with them. Let us know the days of the week and times of day when you can walk with Team Richmond candidates. We will schedule you ahead of time.

If you are interested in canvassing, please email Alex Early at or call the RPA office and leave a message if no one is there, 510-412-2260.

Make a Call & Send Email by 4/28 for Clean Green Energy Options

Protect Our Communities’ Power to Choose

by Gayle McLaughlin

As we celebrate Earth Day this week, we in Richmond can feel proud of the positive steps our community has taken to support clean, sustainable policies that improve our lives and health.

Among our many achievements was the implementation in 2013 of “Community Choice Aggregation” (CCA), a plan that enabled Richmond residents to choose cleaner sources of electricity through the Marin Clean Energy (MCE) program. I applaud Councilmember Tom Butt’s leadership in bringing this program to Richmond, and his ongoing advocacy as the Council’s MCE representative.

This important program enables cities like Richmond to promote local decision-making and provide consumer energy choice. Through our CCA, our residents choose renewable energy sources that help achieve local environmental goals and greenhouse gas reduction targets.

One essential element to the CCA plan’s success is the “opt-out” feature. This means that all residents are included in the clean energy program unless they specifically choose to “opt out.” Every other CCA state in the country uses an opt-out process for electricity aggregation.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2145, the “Monopoly Protection Bill,” would severely limit CCAs in California. If passed, it will require individuals within an area to “opt-in” vs. “opt-out” of the program. AB 2145 is pro-monopoly and protects the status quo by returning market power to shareholder-controlled utilities.

AB 2145 is being considered in Sacramento on Monday, April 28, by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. Please join me, Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles, Councilmember Tom Butt, and many others* in voicing your opposition to AB 2145. Contact Committee Chair Steven Bradford (c/o his staffer, phone 916-319-2062) and let him know that you support consumer choice, local decision-making, and clean energy.

The positive transformation of Richmond has been built on collaborative efforts among City officials, community-based organizations, and individuals to define our own destiny, to make healthy choices that serve our community, not the needs of utility monopolies.

On Earth Day and every day, let us celebrate the advances we’ve achieved together, defend our progress, and recommit ourselves to building not only a Better Richmond, but a cleaner state and a healthy planet.

*Organizations opposing AB 2145 include the California State Association of Counties, League of California Cities, Sierra Club CA, World Wildlife Fund US, Greenlining Institute, California Solar Energy Industries Association, the Center for Climate Protection, Local Clean Energy Alliance, and Green Cities CA.

“Special Meeting” Didn’t Have Time

BAAQMD Board Delays Review of its Permit for Crude-by-Rail

Now postponed until May 1, 9:30-12:20, at 939 Ellis, in SF, 7th floor.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Superior Court hearing on the BAAQMD/Kinder Morgan lawsuit for the Richmond Crude-by-Rail permit is Monday, April 28 at 400 McAllister St., Rm. #302, San Francisco.

Help Wanted: Team Richmond is Looking for

Photographers, Calendar & Housing Coordinators

Join our team of photographers. We could publish a list of events we know candidates will attend from which team photographers could choose according to their own schedules. That way we could capture the candidates in action for publication in print and social media.

Point and shoot, camera phone, high tech expensive camera? No matter. They all take fine photographs for our purposes. Then, all you would do is email the photos in. Photo credits given, if you like.

If interested, please contact

Calendar coordinator: We need someone who will keep track of events where our candidates and campaign volunteers need to speak or hand out literature. The work can be done from home, largely through email.

Housing coordinator: Help place out-of-area campaign volunteers with volunteer hosts.

If you’re interested in either coordinator job, please call Mike Parker at 510-334-3001, or email him at

A Better Richmond is Happening

From Point Molate to the Youth Summit

by Nicole Valentino

Saturday, April 19th, while many adults and families of the Richmond community were celebrating the grand reopening of Point Molate Beach, young people of the city gathered for the 2014 Richmond Youth Summit at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin hosted the event to bring young people of diverse backgrounds together to provide direction and make clear their priorities for the City of Richmond from a youth perspective. Building on the efforts of youth and youth advocacy groups in Richmond, the event focused on identifying and supporting youth leadership, creating a youth council, and introducing a form of democratic budgeting called participatory budgeting. In addition to dynamic workshops, the Summit also included inspiring speakers, live entertainment, delicious food, a raffle, and lots of fun. Learn more here.

Signed Commentary: Why I Support Measure C

Save Doctors Medical Center

The problem with “crying wolf,” the fable tells us, is that when the wolf really is at the door, nobody will believe you. In the case of Doctors Hospital there is a good chance that this time if we do not get short-term funding, Doctors will actually close, and with it the emergency room that provides around 2/3 of the emergency care in the region.

Even those who have Kaiser coverage will suffer, since its small emergency room will be hugely overcrowded and overwhelmed. The choice of really long waits or traveling to Martinez for emergency service should not be acceptable for anyone. Consider the chaos if there is a major refinery accident, or earthquake injuries. Timely treatment is essential for a heart attack, stroke or a ruptured appendix—even on a busy night.

It is true that the parcel tax method of financing medical care for the West County is an unfair system and burdensome. We need to find an alternative, including demanding that the whole County take over more responsibility. The pollution from the refinery and the threat of serious accidents means that Chevron should also have an obligation to maintain adequate medical care in West County. While we are working on these alternative and sustainable means of funding, we cannot afford to lose these emergency services.

I urge a Yes vote on C and a new campaign to find ways that offer a fair and sustainable funding support for DMC. Completed ballots for this mail-in-only election must be returned by May 6.

Mike Parker

Editor’s note: The RPA has not adopted a position on Measure C.

Quick, Easy and Free!

Endorse Team Richmond Now

As you know, 2014 is going to be a super important election here in Richmond, if we want to keep the progressive momentum going and keep building on the good things happening in recent years. You’ve probably noticed how Chevron is already spending tons of money on PR…

Here’s a free and easy way to show support for Team Richmond. Your endorsement is valuable and will make a difference! Please let us know if you endorse the Team Richmond candidates: Mike Parker for Mayor and Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez and Gayle McLaughlin for City Council.

Simply send a brief email to, with “endorse Team Richmond” in the subject line. Include your full name, city of residence, and any affiliation or title you would like to include (affiliation is for identification purposes only).

Thank you. It only takes a moment and will be greatly appreciated!

Graphic by Michael Beer

If You Want to Comment on the Chevron DEIR

Click here to download the full EIR or sections.

Hard copies of the Draft EIR and Appendices are available for review at:

  • Richmond Public Library—Main Branch, 325 Civic Center Plaza
  • Richmond Public Library—Bayview Branch, 5100 Hartnett Ave.
  • City of Richmond, Planning and Building Services Department, City Hall, 450 Civic Center Plaza

Written comments to the Planning Division must be received before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 2, 2014. Address comments to: Lina Velasco, City of Richmond Planning Division, 450 Civic Center Plaza, PO Box 4046, Richmond, CA 94804, or send via email to

From Mike Parker, Candidate for Mayor

Statement on the Chevron Draft EIR

Photo by Michael Beer

1. Almost everybody in Richmond favors a “Newer, Safer, Cleaner” refinery. We have to work to make sure that such a project does go forward.

2. The Draft EIR is a real victory in terms of accountability and transparency. City staff, consultants and Chevron did excellent work on the Draft EIR. It provides a lot of information and allows a careful reader to understand most of what they need to know. There are still some questions to be answered and some additional scenarios that need to be run, but we’re right on schedule. We never got this much information in the past, so the report is a big step forward. Everyone should celebrate this document as a victory for good government and thank the organizations who forced the disclosure of so much information—CBE, APEN, the RPA and the West County Toxics Coalition.

3. The Draft EIR misses important scenarios. The Draft EIR provides us with an assessment of the likely and possible impacts on the community from this project under different project scenarios. Under CEQA, it is up to the city planning commission and ultimately the Richmond City Council to determine the final set of “reasonable alternatives” that should be considered and to determine what conditions to set, if any, in permitting a specific project. This is a negotiation.

4. Chevron places higher profits above controlling emissions. Despite being the 3rd most profitable company in America, Chevron has proposed a project that increases both local toxic emissions that damage our health and greenhouse gas emissions that damage our planet. Couldn’t they do better?

To read the full statement, click here.

Before Council Again on May 6

Minimum Wage Delayed for More Info

by Marilyn Langlois & Mike Parker

Richmond’s minimum wage ordinance was delayed by the February 15th Council meeting.

The second reading of the ordinance was on the consent calendar and was pulled by a business owner who said he’d have to fire everyone and move his business (28 employees, about half of whom are paid minimum wage) if this ordinance is adopted. (Considering that he’ll have to raise the wage from $8 to $9 in July anyway when the state minimum wage goes up, it is hard to believe he won’t be able to raise his workers’ wage from $9 to $9.60 in Jan. 2015.) A number of businesses in Richmond recognize the poverty level of minimum wage and support its increase. Many already pay well more than the minimum wage.

A majority of the Council (Bates, Booze, Rogers, and Butt) felt that the vote should be delayed some to allow more people, especially in the business community, to be heard and to get the city report on the impact of the proposal. All said they favored an increase in the minimum wage.

There was an additional wrinkle, when Tom noticed an error in the wording of the proposed ordinance which would cause confusion about when the $9/hr wage would first come into effect. Because the ordinance would need to be corrected for this, when it comes back to the Council on May 6, that will be its first reading.

What seems to get lost in the technicalities discussion is that it is not right that people work at a wage where even with full-time work they cannot get out of poverty. Even if a few jobs are lost (most studies find very little job loss) minimum wage workers as a whole benefit from the increase. Further, the increase provides a stimulus to the local area economy, thus increasing the number of available jobs.

Have You Seen This? Cynthia Burke’s Guest Commentary

“Foreclosure Prevention Program Will Improve Richmond’s Financial Health”

From the Contra Costa Times of Saturday, April 19th. Read it now, here.

Thank you for your wisdom and your courage, Cynthia!

Connect the Dots’ Second Leg: Martinez to Benicia May 17th

Photo from the Sunflower Alliance

Join in the Refinery Corridor Healing Walk

Before you sit down at 7 pm on Sunday May 18th to enjoy The Iron Heel, wear off a bit of your own shoe leather—or your vegan alternative—the day before, on the second Connect the Dots Refinery Corridor Healing Walk, going from Martinez to Benicia this time. Organized by Idle No More SF Bay, the Sunflower Alliance, and others, this walk is the second of 4 planned monthly through July to bring attention to the northeast San Francisco Bay refinery corridor and the 5 refineries in 4 cities.

For details and updates, check this link.

Workshops Offered by WCC Family Justice Center Start May 6th

WINGS: Women Inspired to Grow and Succeed

Coming June 16-17, Saffron Strand’s Fifth Annual

Homeless Workforce Conference: Policy, Programs, At-Risk Youth

Dynamic and evolving—that’s the job market, with or without recession. For anybody who has been out of work 2 years or more, getting back into the job market is tough, especially when their skills no longer match the skills employers need.

Dr. Helen Benjamin, Chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District, knows how to optimize college opportunities the long-term unemployed, including the hard-to-employ and the homeless. She’s speaking during the Monday and Tuesday plenaries, June 16-17, at Saffron Strand’s Fifth Annual Homeless Workforce Conference at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium.

The conference provides specialized training for professionals, case workers, and others in employment services as well as health care and housing services. It also promotes increased knowledge and new perspectives among community leaders, local businesses, agency directors, and elected officials.

Click here for conference preview and a list of workshops.

Misinformation from Chevron Canvassers

by Daniel Goodwin

Open Letter to Chevron


I'm a longtime homeowner, here in Richmond. On Monday afternoon, a canvasser wearing a Richmond Proud t-shirt and distributing cards bearing your email address introduced himself by saying he's working for FieldWorks "under a joint contract from the City of Richmond and Chevron" to educate voters about the refinery modernization project.

It seems unlikely that the City would be co-sponsoring a Chevron canvasser, so I immediately pressed him on this joint-contract claim: "You mean the City of Richmond is financially supporting this?"

"That's what they told us," the canvasser replied. This wasn't an offhand claim: it was the first thing he said, and he clarified that he was told to say it.

On Monday evening, I emailed inquiries about this to you, and to Lina Velasco, Senior Planner with the City of Richmond Planning Division. I've heard nothing back from you, but Velasco's response was quite prompt and informative: "The City of Richmond is not sponsoring Richmond Proud. I have followed up with Chevron and have asked them to investigate this issue so that misinformation is not being given."

The Richmond Proud website says "Almost everyone we’ve talked to has underscored the importance of sharing all the refinery modernization facts... All questions and comments are welcome." But the City is concerned about Chevron spreading "misinformation," not facts, and you ignore my questions.

Mike Parker, the mayoral candidate on the Team Richmond slate, has asked me to post an account of this incident online. So this is an open letter, and you have another chance to either answer or ignore my questions. Surely the canvassing firm Chevron hired knows with whom they signed a contract. Why would they deliberately mislead voters about this, on Chevron's behalf?


Appeal to Richmond Residents

Have you experienced similar encounters with Chevron's Richmond Proud or 4Richmond neighborhood or telephone canvassers? Please don't get frustrated with the canvassers; they're bright young folks just trying to make a living, and someday they'll be on our side. You can help by sharing your story with your neighbors. Call us at 510-412-2260 or write to to tell us about it.

Update on Crude-by-Rail in Richmond

Stop! In the Name of Life

DOT Statistics

by Patsy Byers

Richmond and neighboring East Bay communities are acting to halt the dangerous rail transport of fracked Bakken and other crude oils. Two approaches were implemented this week: Council resolutions calling for Federal regulation and a lawsuit demanding environmental review. Both tactics say: Stop shipments until safety is adequately addressed.

First, on Tuesday, March 27, the Richmond City Council unanimously adopted a resolution, introduced by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, calling on Congress to halt the movement of crude oil by rail until it develops effective safety regulations. The Mayor's resolution [click here for the full text] was augmented by a friendly amendment from Tom Butt, instructing staff to research the feasibility of a moratorium on tanker trucks carrying crude on Richmond city streets.

The same night, Berkeley City Council passed a similar resolution opposing a plan to transport crude through West Berkeley, along the tracks used by Amtrak's Capitol Corridor and coastal passenger trains.

The lawsuit, filed March 28 by Earthjustice, seeks to immediately stop crude-by-rail into Richmond until the project withstands a "full and transparent review" under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Brought on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the complaint and injunction are directed against Kinder Morgan, the transporter and rail yard leaser, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), whose staff issued permits without public notice or environmental and health review.

Sandy Saeteurn, an APEN organizer in Richmond, said: "The idea of trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil in and out of our neighborhoods is outrageous. It's like BAAQMD just pulled the pin off a bomb, allowing it to roll all around town, knowing it's only a matter of time before it stops ticking, and explodes on all of us."

Tuesday's Richmond vote was preceded by a presentation on the dangers of crude-by-rail, given by oil industry analyst and author Antonia Juhasz, who contributed significantly to getting full council support. In response to skepticism about the value of the Mayor's proposed resolution, she replied: "It wouldn't just be an exercise. It would be a community - that's actually experiencing it - saying to the Federal government: You need to actually start regulating, and we're a community that's demanding that you do that, adding to the cacophony of voices that are making that demand."

See the Daily Show on Fracking and Chevron's solution to accidents.

Community and Council Pressure on
"Maximum" vs "Average"

Mitchell Rescinds
Controversial Memo

Planning director Richard Mitchell has withdrawn his ruling that maximum building height really means the average height of all the buildings in the project. Since every building counts the same, the ruling would mean that "maximum" height of 35 ft in medium density residential areas would actually allow four small 15 ft buildings and a 115 ft building with a massive footprint.

Although apparently Mitchell made this ruling to benefit a specific development, community members argued that this would affect all of Richmond. Community members tried to appeal Mitchell's ruling but were told there could not be an appeal except for the Council to overturn the memo. The community members led by Kathryn Dienst, a retired urban planner, circulated well reasoned documents about how Mitchell's interpretation would destroy or muddle many critical areas of the general plan.

Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles put an item calling for overruling the memo on the Council agenda. Shortly after that Richard Mitchell issued a letter saying that the memo was withdrawn and that the issue would be dealt with in another fashion more specific to the area of the initial project although this might involve an amendment to the General Plan.

Sugar Kills! How Do We Decrease Consumption?

Jeff Ritterman

by Jeff Ritterman, MD

That was the question 12 of us pondered for three hours. We were from the public health, medical, research, academic, advertising and philanthropic communities and had come together to brainstorm.

Each of us was convinced by the accumulating science that sugar was bad, really bad. A change in our thinking had occurred. The old paradigm was that sugar could be bad if you didn't burn off the excess calories. You would become fat, and being fat would make you prone to a host of medical illnesses like diabetes, and heart disease.

We now know that consumption of sugar can kill by causing heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. Sugar has also been implicated in fatty liver disease, obesity and dementia. You don't need to get fat to be adversely impacted. Forty per cent of normal weight individuals are metabolically abnormal and at risk. Sugar can kill without us being forewarned by the accumulation of fat around our waistlines.

This is a major paradigm change, in essence, a scientific revolution. I spent thirty years working as a cardiologist without ever once wondering what impact sugar had on the heart. I wasn't alone in that.

How do we prevent the future deluge of chronic diseases? What are the best strategies for lowering sugar consumption? What models are there to learn from?

Our group came up with an impressive list of strategies to reduce sugar consumption.

See full article in Huffington Post.

Why the Minimum Wage is Good for Richmond


by Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles

The first reading of the new minimum wage ordinance passed at the City Council March 18. The final vote is scheduled for the meeting tomorrow, April 1. The ordinance will phase in a minimum wage of $12.30/hr. [See article below.]

Richmond is attempting to solve several issues at the same time. One, we are helping residents by providing a wage that will help more families live with dignity. Two, we are helping businesses. When residents have more to spend, more disposable income, they spend it. When they spend it, demand increases. When demand increases, business improves; businesses thrive. When business improves and thrive, more people get hired. When those who want to work work, we create a healthy thriving city.

Minimum wage increases have been shown to act as a stimulus to those cities where it was raised. A recent article in the San Jose Mercury stated, "A year later, it is clear that raising San Jose's minimum wage has been an incredible success. The data shows that under San Jose's minimum wage, unemployment was reduced, the number of businesses grew, the number of minimum wage jobs expanded, average employee hours remained constant and the economy was stimulated."

In fact, I know several Richmond employers who already pay their employees at least $12 an hour and they are quite successful. They shared with me that when employees make a wage that they can live on, turn over is low thus allowing for stability in their business.

There are some who say Richmond isn't in a bubble. We can't just raise it in Richmond and not have it affect businesses negatively because people can shop in the nearby cities. We are not in a bubble. But when other cities see the difference that it makes here in Richmond, the people will demand change in their cities as well.

FDR once said, "The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Saturday, April 19, 10am - 2pm

Grand Opening of Point Molate Beach Park

Point Molate Beach Park
Point Molate Beach Park

Click here for more information and history.

BeyondChron comments on "Oil-Backed Race Baiting"

Chevron Provides "Community News" to Richmond

Richmond Standard
Funded By Chevron

by Randy Shaw

BeyondChron, San Francisco's popular online daily, took note of Chevron's role in shaping the news here in Richmond.

As many get their news from local websites like BeyondChron, Chevron has gotten into the act: its Richmond Standard provides "community news" to Richmond.... from the oil company's perspective.

If you come across the website for the Richmond Standard, you'll find stories about local coffee shops, a skateboarding vandal, the performance of the local high school basketball team, and what's playing in local theaters. It looks very much like sites like Berkeleyside with one key difference: it is funded and controlled by a powerful corporation whose political donations seek to dominate Richmond politics.

The site states on its front page: "This news website is brought to you by Chevron Richmond. We aim to provide Richmond residents with important information about what's going on in the community, and to provide a voice for Chevron Richmond on civic issues."

What "important information" is Chevron conveying?

See full article in BeyondChron.

4500 Page Chevron Report Released

Paid Supporters Welcome EIR at Council

by Mike Parker

The crowd at Tuesday's Council meeting was remarkable.

Most of the crowd was apparently paid to attend. Several in attendance reported that Building Trades members -most of whom do not live in Richmond-- were paid. A group of Richmond residents who were wearing the pro-Chevron shirts said they worked for Chevron. When asked where they work within the refinery, they explained that they were hired by Chevron to do door-to-door work.

The action was clearly jointly organized by the Building Trades and Chevron's PR firm Whitehurst-Mosher, whose Richmond operatives were also wearing the Chevron shirts.

The main spokespersons for the building trades were very careful to say the right and reasonable things: It is the job of the city to examine the Environmental Impact Report carefully.

But the main message of the paid supporters was that the 4500-page report, just released, "was perfect," as one said. There were thunderous denunciations of the city council for supposedly having stopped the project two years earlier and threats to make sure it would not happen again.

For full article click here.

Council Acts

Raising the Minimum Wage $12.30/hr

by Patsy Byers

Our effort to boost the minimum wage took a big step forward Tuesday March 18th, when the Richmond City Council voted 6-1 for $12.30/hr, to be phased in by 2017. Mayor McLaughlin, who co-sponsored the initial resolution with Vice Mayor Beckles and Councilmember Myrick, moved to accelerate the process from a November ballot initiative to a council vote, saying: "Why not sooner rather than later?" The measure still must pass a second reading next month.

City staff and advisers developed a plan to limit the raise to no more than 20%/yr, consistent with research that showed this incremental change does not adversely impact the number of jobs. Businesses with less than 10 employees will be exempted, as will some summer job and training programs. After reaching the $12.30/hr rate, an annual cost of living raise would follow. The chair of Richmond's Chamber of Commerce, Michael Davenport, said his organization recognized the need for a wage increase.

Kudos to all those who called, emailed, held signs, spoke to the Council, and - yes - applauded in support.

While the wage increase will undoubtedly help the lowest paid workers, their families, and the local economy, it is still well below the current Living Wage for an adult working full-time supporting a family. [Click here for MIT study.] Richmond is part of a regional economy and getting too far ahead of the surrounding area could end up damaging city efforts. But by passing this measure Richmond is leading the way and encouraging the surrounding cities to move ahead and hopefully start a "virtuous cycle" or a race to a true living wage for our residents.

Not in Our Back Yards (or Anyone's)

More on Deadly Trains in Richmond

Oil Train in Lac-M├ęgantic   photo: Montreal Gazette

by Patsy Byers

You read it here first, if you read the RPA Activist #131 (3/5/14): "Deadly Trains in Richmond." After this newsletter broke the story, other Bay Area television, internet, and print media have added detail: Mile long 100-car trains loaded with crude oil are rolling in to Richmond. In mid-March, KPIX showed video of the crude at Richmond's BNSF rail yards (leased by Kinder Morgan) being transferred from rail cars to tanker trucks for the drive to a local refinery. (In this case it was Tesoro in Martinez.) We don't know the type or source of the crude: Canadian tar sands or fracked Bakken shale? Commercial confidentiality agreements trump the public's need to know that information.

The rapidly rising quantities of crude crossing the state by rail prompted joint hearings on emergency response to rail accidents by the California Senate's Environmental Quality and Natural Resources and Water Committees on Wednesday. They revealed that our state is woefully ill-prepared to cope with possible accidents. Local firefighters and emergency responders lack the numbers, training, equipment, and other resources to be effective in the event of a raging crude fire, explosion or spill. California's current reserve for clean-up of inland oil spills stands at a whopping $13,000. The true public costs to support private profits are staggering.

For full article click here.

RPA Statement

We Applaud Applause

RPA Steering Committee 3/23/14

We believe that members of the public at political events like city council meetings should be able to express agreement with speakers through applause. We are proud that the RPA has attracted increased attendance and participation at city council meetings. We believe that the decisions that the Council makes are important and that citizen involvement in these issues is crucial.

One reason that city council meetings take longer now is because the Council is more open, so people come to the Council with their issues. It is true that in cities that are run by powerful interests where the residents feel shut out, the meetings usually proceed more smoothly and with fewer surprises. Democracy takes a bit longer and may be bumpy, but it is the far superior system. If applause could in fact be prohibited, the only way that people attending council meetings could express themselves would be by signing up to speak. This would take much longer than the few extra seconds for applause when people finish speaking.

We believe that Councilman Butt is mistaken in trying to prevent applause. Googling "clapping, applause, and city councils" show only that attempts by city councils to limit applause cause still greater controversy and generate rules that are often ignored and violated.

Applause is normally positive. As such, it is different from acts of disrespect and verbal disruption. Disrespect and disrutption should not be tolerated at council meetings, especially not when someone is speaking at odds with the majority sentiment of the Council or those present in the Council Chambers.

As a community-based organization, the RPA strongly disagrees with a current practice in which special interest groups pay money to persons to attend city council meetings to effect a pretense of citizen support. We find this practice disrespectful to Richmond and a mockery of the democratic process.

Planning Commission to Consider

LED Advertising Signs in Richmond?

Proposed LED Sign, 132 ft tall

by Marilyn Langlois, Richmond Planning Commissioner

Richmond's Planning Department staff are currently working on a proposed modification in the sign ordinance to allow for LED advertising signs with changing images under certain circumstances. The proposal will first be presented to the Planning Commission to make a recommendation to the City Council, possibly at the May 1 Planning Commission meeting. We'll keep you informed if this date changes.

After participating on an ad hoc committee of Planning Commissioners and Design Review Board members, I continue to have serious concerns about the advisability of allowing LED signs in Richmond. It would set us down a slippery slope of ever-increasing and constantly changing garish visual images advertising mostly products for big corporations.

These types of LED signs are extremely distracting to drivers. They are designed to try and keep drivers' eyes looking at them and their contents for a longer period of time than stationary signs, and that's what the advertisers want too. I want drivers focusing their attention on the road.

The proposed ordinance changes would allow for large, billboard sized LED signs at major shopping areas such as Hilltop and Macdonald/I-80, after going through the DRB and getting a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission. Depending on design requirements these could be either horizontal (what the advertising companies prefer) or vertical (as recommended by DRB member Mike Woldemar). Another provision would allow for sign companies like Clear Channel and CBE Outdoors to get a permit for LED billboards at major shopping areas if they agree to permanently remove some of their other stationary billboards in other parts of Richmond.

There is currently a somewhat smaller LED sign with changing images at Pacific East Mall, which was installed during a time when such signs were allowed only after following a specific approval process (including noticing the neighbors and vetting through DRB), In that case, the required process was not followed, however, and the legality of that sign has been questioned. Since then, the ordinance was modified to prohibit LED signs.

The big sign companies are garnering support from businesses at Hilltop with the promise of erecting a big sign to advertise the Mall free of charge, but at what price? I doubt people will be any more likely to go to Hilltop Mall if LED signs are introduced there. A big billboard with changing images will draw attention to the various products advertised on those LED images, and not to the stationary listing of businesses affixed to part of the sign. Besides, there are other reasons why Hilltop businesses are struggling. Could it be that the presence of Walmart has caused many of them to fold, as has happened in other cities? Why doesn't Walmart (one of the world's wealthiest corporations) pay to erect a visible, attractive stationary sign that lists all of its Hilltop neighbors?

If the proposed ordinance is adopted, what if Hilltop businesses still don't do any better after the LED sign is in place? We'd be stuck with the constantly changing advertising slide show there and most elsewhere in the city.

Update on Richmond Housing Authority Issues

by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin

The City of Richmond has the responsibility to provide clean, quality housing in all our Public Housing Agency facilities. In some of our public housing areas we have clearly failed.

What to do

Solve the most immediate problems now.

The Housing Authority is now doing this, reaching out to each unit to resolve current and past problems. Staff is compiling the data on these unit by unit inspections and repair and remediation efforts to present to the Board of Commissioners at our special meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, at 6:30 pm in the City Council Chambers.

Determine the future of Hacienda.

Meeting at Hacienda to hear residents   photo: Eduardo Martinez

The main question at this point in time is whether to renovate or demolish this aging building. This decision must be based on the clear-cut needs of our tenant residents for quality housing and also based on how quickly we can force HUD to pay for the right solution. I have demanded that HUD complete the paperwork process and provide a timeline in writing so that we can convey to residents what they can expect.

A large number of our public housing residents, especially in Hacienda, are individuals with disabilities, many in wheelchairs. This is an issue of disability rights along with an issue of quality housing rights in general, which is why we call on HUD to prioritize the needs of Hacienda.

Determine the root cause of the problems.

I have initiated and the Housing Authority Board has passed a directive to staff to begin the process of identifying an independent management auditor. After this audit is completed, we can consider the question of what changes need to occur in our Housing Authority management and management procedures.

We do our public housing residents a disservice if we get sidetracked into a bloodletting session rather than going after the real problems. We expect our staff to treat our residents with full respect and dignity. Likewise we treat our staff. We do not decide to call for terminating staff based on rumors or even public outcry. We take all complaints about staff extremely seriously and look fully into all complaints, but that is the starting point for an investigation where the staff member also has an opportunity to explain.

I am taking responsibility for assuring things continue to move forward without delay on all levels of review and action in regard to these Housing Authority issues. Like so many other public housing facilities nationwide, Richmond facilities have been neglected by HUD for too long, amid Congressional budget cuts to HUD that have left cities with great challenges. Things are coming to a head nationwide. It is up to us to make it 100 percent clear to HUD and our elected Congressional representatives that our public housing residents are tired of waiting.

Please join me at the special meeting we are having tomorrow, Wednesday 3/12, at 6:30 pm., at which we will analyze the data from recent unit-to-unit inspections and determine next steps we need to take on behalf of our residents' health and well-being.