RPA Activist Info Masthead
Issue: #126November 18, 2013
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IN THIS ISSUE
Chevron's Property Tax Deal
New Developments in CARES Housing Program
Radiation on Shoreline
Rally at BAAQMD on December 4
Phillipines and Climate Change
RPA Membership Meeting
Upset in Seattle Council Race
More Booze Conflict of Interest
RPA Membership Drive
Some History of RPA
 To have an item listed send it to
 info@RichmondProgressiveAlliance.net

Progressive Office
1021 Macdonald, 510-412-2260

PASS IT ON!!  

Since we don't take corporate money,  our success depends on our ability to use "people power" to promote activities and programs in Richmond. The RPA Activist is one tool we use to put out our ideas. One simple thing that YOU can do is to forward the RPA Activist to friends and acquaintances. Thanks.

 

How Chevron Got a Good Deal

Settlement of Chevron's Property Tax Appeals

 

The details of the property tax settlement will never be fully understood because the important information is "proprietary" to Chevron, but based on the limited information made public at the Assessment Appeals Board hearing that finalized the deal, we can report that the deal had three main components:

 

  • Continued low assessment of the land under the refinery - only $94 mil for 41.6 mil sq ft of prime coastal land. If they were assessed at even half the average rate of residential property, their assessment would be at least $600 mil greater.
  • Net additions & improvements of only $1.2 bil over 35 years - we know they've spent a lot more than this - but we'll never know what would have been fair in terms of an increased tax assessment.
  • $800 mil in Prop 13 allowed 2% annual assessment increases - this is the number that none of the people involved in the deal want to talk about. This number should have been around $1 bil higher. If you took 1978 assessment values and simply increased them by 2% for 35 years, you would have doubled the original assessment. If the weighted average additions and improvements were made 18 years ago, those assessments should have gone up 50%. The total comes out to $1.8 bil not $800 mil.

What lessons can we learn from all of this?

 

  • We need more elected officials with backbone- as a County, we've just given Chevron a gift of $10-17 mil/yr in reduced taxes forever. We didn't need to give them this deal. We could have fought them and won in Superior Court. Instead, we are receiving $3 mil/yr via Chevron's new Community Revitalization Initiative and being manipulated into feeling in Chevron's debt.
  • It's an unequal battle - Chevron has the deep pockets to wear people down. When they compromise or settle, they are usually getting a good deal
  • Prop 13 sets us up for failure in terms of property tax fairness - only by reforming Prop 13 can we really level the playing field and make people like Chevron pay their fair share. Part of this is allowing annual assessment increases to keep up with inflation and part of it is to allow large commercial and industrial land parcels to be re-assessed based on market value.

 -Jeff Kilbreth 

Please Read the Full Article Here

 

Fighting Blight by Keeping People in their Homes
More Cities looking at Richmond's Plan to Reduce Mortgages
More cities in the US are looking to head off foreclosures, keep people in their homes, and reduce the spread of blight using the Richmond model. The spread of this idea is very important. This means more political support for Richmond and opposition to the threats of the banks. It also gives Richmond opportunities to find partners to set up  Joint Powers Authorities to enact . See the article in last Saturday's New York Times.

Cost to City Bond Sales
The banks have been trying to use their economic power to intimidate the city to drop its CARES Mortgage Principle Reduction Program  with the possible use of eminent domain.  Booze and Bates have been amplifying these threats with warnings of huge costs to the city in the bond market.  City staff have reported that they believe city bonds will sell although the city may have to pay an extra 1/2 percent interest because of the bad business press about the CARES program. This will amount to a cost to the city of about $30,000 per year--a small cost compared to the cost of blight. It may be reduced with better information to bond sellers and when more cities start similar programs.

Liability
City Lawyers and Mortgage Resolution Partners have been working together on ways to reduce and eliminate any of the city's liability ion carrying out the CARES program. They have made considerable progress. More information will be out later this week.

Congressmen Send Letter Federal Housing Finance Agency

Ten Members of Congress have urged the FHFA to drop its support of the banks in their threats against Richmond or any city that considers eminent domain to help underwater homeowners. The letter concludes:

Communities that are struggling to stabilize their economies and respond to the needs of struggling families must be able to take advantage of all options. We urge FHFA to ensure that the current GSE investments will not discriminate against low-income borrowers, including Latinos and African Americans, who seek short refinances of toxic underwater loans that American cities acquire through their powers of eminent domain. Refusal by the Federal Housing Finance Agency to insure loans that were changed by eminent domain would violate existing rules that prohibit discrimination to qualified borrowers and do further harm to the economy.

 

The members  who signed the letter were Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler, Alan Grayson, Barbara Lee, Betty McCollum, Charles Rangel, and Hakeem Jeffries.

  

Noticeably absent was our Congressman George Miller.  You might want to call him and ask him "Why Not?" Congressman Miller's Phone Number is (510) 262-6500.  We will be glad to publish his answer here. 

 

Chevron Notes:
Chevron Holding Town Hall Meetings
carrot and stick
In case you refuse to open all the mail and email Chevron is putting out, you should know that Chevron is promoting itself with its $3 million per year for five years "Community Revitalization Effort." 

It is no surprise that Chevron is piling on the money  A few points stand out:

  • The funds will make many of our non-profit organizations dependent on grants from Chevron and less likely to support standing up to Chevron on critical issues such as safety and emissions reduction in the future.

  • The money is small change compared to the over $2 billion per year profits from the refinery.

  • Chevron's handouts are more than funded by the recent property tax settlement with the County, which saved Chevron far more in taxes than its entire local charitable "giving." (See article above.) Chevron used its legal bully power to threaten the county with years of law suits unless it got a break. That's a break that the rest of us don't get and it means we either pay more, or lose vital city services from libraries to police to street repair.

  • $3 million per year to good causes is cheap protection money for Chevron. And even that amount is due to Chevron responding to a few officials brave enough to stand up to Chevron.

The meetings are at 5:30pm: Wednesday, 11/20 at 1555 Fred Jackson Way;  Thursday, 11/21, DeAnza High, 5000 Valley View Rd., El Sobrante; and Tuesday, 12/3 at the Richmond Auditorium.

 

"Chevron is having a Very Bad Week" 

is the headline of a Wall Street Journal Blog 
 
On Friday, Chevron's Pascagoula, Mississippi refinery had an explosion killing one worker and sending hundreds for medical treatment.  On Thursday a a Chevron pipeline exploded  forcing the evacuation of a community near Dallas Texas.
Richmond Shoreline Advisory Group:

Radioactive Material on Richmond Shoreline

 

Radioactive Shoreline
"Radioactive materials at the prior Blair Landfill, some with 100-times higher than background levels at/along the SF Bay Trail South 51st
 
Street Access Path, have been confirmed by State regulators. 

 

The Department of Toxic Substances Control regulators have known about samples confirming radioactive material for more than three years. Last week's, Richmond Southeast Shoreline Area Community Advisory Group (RSSA CAG) monthly meeting was the first time the public heard a first-hand description of partial site conditions.

 

Radioactive materials confirmed in the surface soil and below surface soil include bismuth-214, lead-212, radium-226, thorium-228, thorium-232, uranium-233, uranium-235 and uranium-238." From an open letter by Jefferson Award winner Sherry Padgett.

 

The likely source of the radioactive material is the former Stauffer Chemical or Stauffer Metals, which had multiple secret military contracts in the 1950s and 1960s.  Zeneca, a multinational corporation, became the responsible party when they obtained the property.

 

The all-volunteer RSSA CAG which was formed 10 years ago, urged immediate posting of warning signs and wider testing until the scope of the contamination can be determined.  The public has a right to know what sort of hazards they may encounter, and while the levels may be minor for a healthy individual, the hazard of exposure to children, pregnant women and people with compromised health is unclear.   The scientific community is agreed that there is no safe dose of radiation, which accumulates in the body.  Environmental activists from around the state have challenged DTSC's lackadaisical handling of toxic sites and their lack of enforcement. A public hearing in Sacramento on December 16 is scheduled to address these concerns. (See next issue for more information on hearing.)   

Tarnel Abbott 

Click here for more information.

Click here to email CAG 

Wednesday,  December 4,  9am
Richmond folks will meet at  Richmond BART at 8 am.

Important Bay Area Air Quality Management District  Meeting

This is our chance to get a strong regional Air Quality and Green House Gas  standards covering all the refineries in the Bay Area

CBE, the Sunflower Alliance, the Richmond Environmental Justice Coalition, Idle No More and many others
  will rally at 9:00 a.m at 939 Ellis St. in San Francisco, and then go inside for the Board meeting at 9:45 a.m.

Contact Andrés Soto (andres@cbecal.org,  510.282.5363) if you would like to help plan the rally.  

Tragedy in the Philippines  

Climate Change is Not Theory 

Phillipines We salute the many people who are volunteering to assist in the Philippines. Thousands of nurses -many Filipina-- have volunteered(more info). Many more Americans are working hard to raise the money for the food and materials needed to rebuild devastated areas.

 

Providing aid to victims of climate weather catastrophes is not enough. If we don't want tragedies like this one to recur regularly then we have to do something about climate change. Sure there will always be exceptional weather. But science agrees the contributions of human activity to warming the planet will also produce greater weather extremes.

 

Chevron is not the only cause of global warming. Sources of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) come from driving, cooking, coal, and cows. We have to do something about all of these. But Chevron is the largest single producer of GHGs in California. Given the clear climate crisis, it is not too much to ask that Chevron use new technology and make it a priority to substantially reduce GHG in any new equipment it installs or processes it puts on line. As the pictures from the Philippines prove, just doing the same as what we are doing now (what Chevron calls "Net 0") already produces too much misery.

-Mike Parker

 

Join and be part of the discussion

RPA Membership discusses issues and election

  Membership Mtg

The RPA held a membership meeting Friday to discuss the main issues facing Richmond in the coming year and how we should approach the elections. Issues discussed included the best approach to getting people jobs,  immigration rights, mortgages, renter rights, climate change, health and sugary drinks, and Chevron's role in polluting our air and our politics.  The November 2014 election will determine the direction of the city on all these issues.  Five of the seven Council seats (including the Mayor) will be up for election.
Upset in Race for Seattle Council Seat in Seattle
Sawant
Victory Rally

The Seattle Council race produced a stunning upset of a well-funded, well entrenched, councilman, by a campaign that focused on the shift of wealth to the already wealthy. The votes are still being counted but it looks like Kshama Sawant, running as a socialist, has won a city wide-race for a  Seattle City Council seat. Her campaign emphasized a call for a $15.00/hr minimum wage, a Tax the Rich program to provide needed social services, and rent control. 

The Seattle Council pays itself $120,000/year. Sawant pledged to take the average Seattle working wage and donate the rest to social movements.

More Booze Conflict of Interest?

Corky Booze has put an item on the Safety Committee Agenda for Thursday's meeting asking for consideration of waiving Code violation fees for a property at 801 Hoffman filled with junk.

Turns out the tax bill lists Laura Baker of Fairfield, sometimes described as Booze's former wife, and the owner of Booze's property that was recently cited for Code violations.

As with many of Booze's agenda items for Council, it is put on the agenda with no report or explanation--perhaps in the hope that nobody would notice.   
November-December RPA Membership Drive

RPA Bag
Become an RPA member
Under the leadership of Mayor McLaughlin and her progressive colleagues on the City Council, 
Richmond has drawn local, national and international attention with its innovative solutions to persistent problems.  Let's keep the momentum going!  As we gear up for the coming election year in 2014, RPA needs your support more than ever. Join now and be part of history in the making.
 
Dues are just $12 per year (or more if you are able), and go towards paying our share of rent at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, 1021 Macdonald Ave--a space that is used by RPA and other organizations for educational forums, town hall meetings, strategy sessions, campaign organizing, celebrations and many other events open to the community.
 
By joining now you'll get our e-newsletter and action alerts, and opportunities to participate in building a better Richmond.  We'll also give you a large, attractive tote bag--ideal for grocery shopping, now that Richmond has enacted a plastic bag ban as another step toward protecting our precious environment. 
 
Don't put it off--  write, call or e-mail us now!

Join the RPA

RPA Symbol

We can only keep this city moving forward, protect our health and safety, and resist corporate domination of our politics if enough of us join together. We are asking you to take sides--to join the RPA.     

 

 

RPA BELIEFS:

UNITY - One Richmond: African-American, Asian, Latino/a, Native Americans, white, united for the good of all.

DEMOCRACY- Government of, for, by the people; all the people, not just those rich enough to buy influence.

DIVERSITY - of ideas: Democrats, Greens, independents, or other. We sometimes disagree but respect each other enough to keep working for a better Richmond together.

WHAT RPA MEMBER VOLUNTEERS DO:

  • participate in periodic RPA discussions and events of community interest;
  • staff the office, make phone calls, meet in committees, arrange events and parties;
  • work on campaigns of RPA-endorsed candidates for city council;
  • engage with neighbors;
  • help shape RPA and its priorities;
  • join in support of other allied organizations working to make a difference in Richmond;
  • read the newsletter at www.richmondprogressivealliance.net for what REALLY goes on in Richmond;
  • eat; have fun.

Download the membership form and mail it in with dues.

OR

Send us an email at info@richmondprogressivealliance.net with the information requested on the form.  And go to the RPA web page. Press the "Donate" button in the left column and make a dues contribution. An additional contribution is greatly appreciated and helps us keep dues low for those with low income.

 

Some History and Understanding of the RPA
  Social Policy Article









Long article with pictures 

--have patience in downloading

 

RPA Activist Info

is for Richmond community members who want to be active in taking on the problems of the environment, racism, joblessness, housing, and crime to create a healthy Richmond. We believe that community involvement means more than voting every two years. It means regular communication with the candidates we elect, letting them know our issues and positions, supporting them as they try to take our issues forward. It means we attend meetings, use email, phone our neighbors, or go on marches building an organized movement to create real change.

Comments and columns are welcome. Articles and columns are the views of the author, unsigned text  the views of the editor, Mike Parker, and not necessarily those of the RPA. Send photos, articles, and comments to  RPAactivist@gmail.com or call  510-595-4661. Longer articles of analysis and archives of past newsletters can be found on our website.