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The Activist

Issue #203, 9-5-2016

In this issue:

Team Richmond: Our Revolution, Right here!

RPA stands up for tenants being evicted, 9/13 City Council meeting at 6:30pm

Essay: Rent control is not a subsidy

RPA and Nurses urge Alta Bates to stay open, 9/20 City Council meeting at 6:30pm

RPA and Team Richmond advocate for full clean up for toxic Zeneca site

RPA announces endorsements for WCCUSD school board

Better choices than privatizing Adams Middle School, 9/7 school board meeting at 4:45pm

RPA calls for Community Working Group to forge new chapter for Richmond Field Station

Special event: Frackopoly book talk, 9/15 at 6:30

Team Richmond 2016:
Our Revolution, Right here!

Our Revolution, the grassroots-driven political organization established by Bernie Sanders, kicked off on August 24 with a series of local meetings across the country, including several in and around Richmond. According to RPA members who hosted or attended local Our Revolution kick-off events, many Bernie supporters are eager to connect with the RPA. There is even interest in creating a similar organization in El Cerrito!

One of Our Revolution’s key activities is to “empower the next generation of progressive leaders by inspiring and recruiting progressive candidates to run for offices across the entire spectrum of government.” Team Richmond’s own Ben Choi and Melvin Willis, who have pledged to not take a penny in corporate contributions, were one of the first political candidates endorsed by Our Revolution.

Of course, not taking corporate money means that RPA candidates win through grassroots power, not through big political spending and a barrage of mailers and ads (...although have you checked out the Richmond Sun? Looks great!) Ben and Melvin’s campaigns are continuing full steam ahead; they are engaging seriously with voters from many different areas of our city through candidate nights, meet and greet events, town hall meetings, and of course by going door to door. Don’t miss your opportunity to support them and to help secure a progressive majority on the Richmond City Council!

Meet at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald Ave.) at 10am every Saturday and noon every Sunday to canvass for Ben, Melvin and Measure L (rent control and just cause evictions).

City Council meeting, 9/13 at 6:30pm
RPA Stands up for tenants being evicted


On September 1, the RPA, along with renters and other organizations, stood shoulder to shoulder with over 100 Richmond residents from the Creek View Condominiums who are facing eviction. (See a CBS news video of the rally). The owner, PMI, has ordered residents out of their homes to do repair work, and has given renters a deadline of October 15. Although repairs are needed, the timing seems all too exquisite for rent control advocates, who point out that tenants will be forced out just before Richmond voters have a chance to decide on Measure L.

If passed, Measure L (rent control and just cause for evictions) would ensure that renters who are evicted for repairs have the right to move back home at the same base rent after repairs are finished. PMI denies its timing has anything to do with the vote, but as Zak Wear points out, PMI’s own website provides some insight into the company’s strategy: "Currently, PMI is purchasing single family homes, duplexes, triplexes and small apartment buildings in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Targeting gentrifying urban areas, PMI is renovating obsolete properties into hip, ‘creative multifamily’ apartments that appeal to Gen Y, knowledge workers, the creative class, and urbanites.”

In addition, tenants in other areas of Richmond have also gotten notices. Councilmember McLaughlin will be placing an urgency ordinance on the September 13th City Council agenda that, if approved, will impose a temporary moratorium on certain residential evictions and rent increases. The public is invited to come speak on the item (6:30 pm at City Hall); look for a Key List notice for more information.

Also, if you or a renter you know is in trouble, Tenants Together has reminded us that their Hotline (888-495-8020) can serve as a resource in the period before rent control (hopefully!) gets passed. Renters can call the line to get information about how the new law would affect them, to strategize if they have received 60-day notices, and ask any other tenants’ rights questions they may have. It typically takes 1-3 business days for calls to be returned. Tenants Together requests that callers become members if they want hotline support ($25-50), but no one is turned away for lack of funds.

Finally, please consider joining the effort to make Richmond fair and affordable for renters. We have upcoming phone banks on Monday 9/4 from 6pm-8pm and Thursday 9/8 6pm-8pm at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald Ave.). Bring your phone and laptop/tablet if you have one. If you cannot make one of those times, call (510) 621-7566 to get involved.

Rent Control is not a subsidy!

Last weekend the anti-rent control forces did a very expensive phone survey testing out their messages. To defeat rent control they will try to argue that it will force landlords to “SUBSIDIZE” renters including some who are better off. (Please note the Apartment Association concern about benefits for the rich)

It is not really a subsidy. Good landlords are not affected. Rent control simply stops greedy landlords from taking advantage of people to make “windfall profits” That is an economics term which says that some profits are not really earned by work and investment but by charging more because of a problem in the market place. In this case the problem is that housing is desperately needed but it is short supply. Limiting those kind of profits is not a subsidy--it is stopping a rip-off.

It is not a “subsidy’ to limit the interest rate that can be charged for credit cards, bank fees, and “Pay-Day” loans. And it is not a subsidy to regulate the pharmaceutical industry to prevent atrocities like the current case where the Manufactures of EPI Pens can get away with charging $500 for a life-saving pen that contains 60 cents worth of medicine.

And outlawing “price gouging” or raising prices after a hurricane or earthquake is not a “subsidy.” It is fairness and common sense.

Again, fair landlords barely be affected. They can set rents on vacant apartments and the rents can go up with inflation. It is only the greedy landlords that will be stopped from ripping off their tenants.

--Mike Parker
(Cartoon courtesy of David Moore)

City Council meeting, 9/20 at 6:30pm
RPA and Nurses urge Alta Bates to stay open

The California Nurses Association, National Nurses United, the RPA and others are urging Sutter Health to reconsider its plans to shutter Berkeley’s Alta Bates Hospital, which could begin closing as early as 2018. Since its merger with Summit in 2000, Alta Bates has had over 1.3 million days of patients and delivered over 110,000 babies.

The closure could have significant impacts on Richmond. At an August 31 event on the state of health care in Richmond and West Contra Costa, which focused on the 2015 closure of Doctors Hospital, one participant called West County “health care desert.” And with the shuttering of Alta Bates, access to health care could get more precarious. “We have already seen an increase in patients since the closure of Doctor’s San Pablo,” said Alta Bates ER RN Bipin Walia. “If patients have to travel further to Oakland, 6, 8, and 10-hour waits will be the norm.” Sutter states that seismic safety requirements are prompting it to close Alta Bates and consolidate inpatient and emergency services at Summit in Oakland. Summit hospital is three miles away but can take an additional 24 minutes to reach, according to Berkeley fire officials.

The City of Berkeley has passed a resolution opposing the closure of Alta Bates, and Richmond City Council is scheduled to take one up on September 20. RPA members are encouraged to come down to City Hall at 6:30pm and speak in support of the resolution.

(Photo: National Nurses United)

Hold Zeneca to a higher standard
RPA, Team Richmond call for full cleanup of toxic Zeneca site

On August 24, RPA members as well as Team Richmond City Council candidates Ben Choi and Melvin Willis offered testimony at a California State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) hearing on the clean up of the toxic Zeneca site. Located on the Richmond shoreline, the site was formerly a chemical factory which was first owned by Stauffer Chemical and later by Zeneca Inc. Over its 100 years of operation, the plant produced toxic byproducts, including benzene, arsenic and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Remediation efforts have been going on for years, but DTSC is poised to allow Astrazeneca to do only a partial cleanup. Activists called on the agency to hold the company to a higher standard.

In a written submission, Ben Choi and Melvin Willis stated, “Thousands of South Richmond residents live near the area where arsenic and pesticides were dumped by Stauffer Chemical & Zeneca Inc. and they continue to leach into the groundwater and the Bay, where rising sea levels make the potential damage even worst…DTSC, as the regulatory agency working to protect Richmond residents must not do an incomplete job that leaves us at risk. Stauffer Chemical and AstraZeneca and other parties saved hundreds of millions of dollars by illegally and immorally dumping toxic waste in Richmond and it is time for you DTSC to do your job and demand that they clean the place up completely to protect our health.”

Vote Taboada, Phillips, Medrano:
RPA announces endorsements for WCCUSD Board


After interviewing several candidates for West Contra Costa County Unified School District Board, the RPA has endorsed three candidates for the November 2016 elections: Carlos Taboada, Mister Phillips, and Antonio Medrano. All candidates affirmed that they will refuse to accept corporate and charter PAC contributions and will move away from the charter agenda.

The RPA and its Schools Action Team believes the main issue in this November’s WCCUSD School Board election is whether the district will prioritize strengthening our neighborhood public schools or continue privatizing our public education through charter schools. As United Teachers of Richmond points out, “charter schools are allowed to choose how students are admitted and can kick out students that are more difficult to teach, leading to ‘cherry picking’ and creating a two-tiered educational system.”

The city of Richmond cannot become safer, more prosperous and more together until the public school system improves. With two school board seats up for election, the RPA urges voters to support Carlos Taboada, Mister Phillips, and/or Antonio Medrano.

(Photo: Fibonacci Blue, flickr, cc)

School board meeting, Weds 7/9 at 4:45pm
Better choices than privatizing Adams Middle School


The RPA Schools Action Team invites the public to come to the West County School Board this Wednesday, 4:45PM in solidarity with East Richmond Heights neighborhood. With a unified voice, we will send a message to the elected school board that there are better choices than selling Adams Middle School to Caliber Public Schools (a charter management organization). 

At issue is whether the school board will sell Adams Middle School in lieu of the school district's obligation to provide "reasonably equivalent" facilities (Prop. 39). However, the school district's legal counsel admitted at the latest public session that West Contra Costa would be the first public school district in California to proceed with such a transaction. Many other residents noted the "forever" consequences of selling public real property to privately-controlled Caliber.

Will the Board vote to sell Adams to a corporate charter company? Or are there better choices for the board? Come to Lovonya DeJean Middle School (3400 Macdonald Ave., Multi-purpose Room) @ 4:45PM, this Wednesday, Sept. 7 and stand in solidarity!

(Photo: 2015 sunset from Adams Middle School, which may be sold for $60,000 to Caliber. Courtesy of Peter Chau.)

RPA calls for Community Working Group to reconvene
Forge new chapter for Richmond Field Station


On August 26, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced that “due to the continued need to address significant budgetary challenges confronting the University, UC Berkeley is indefinitely suspending plans to build the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay.” The university is facing a budget deficit of almost $150 million.

The Richmond Progressive Alliance is dismayed at the news, but is encouraged that City Manager Bill Lindsay is confident that this suspension is by no means a death sentence for the project. In his recent report to the City Council, Lindsay maintained, “UC Berkeley is still indicating that it will ‘continue to explore options for the site.’ Because of that statement, I believe that Richmond should view this ‘suspension’ as a new chapter [emphasis his] for ultimate development of this underutilized site that is the Richmond Field Station—not the end of an aspiration to see development of the Richmond Field Station as the Global Campus.”

In his statement, Chancellor Dirks specifically noted that “the work of the Community Working Group has provided an invaluable foundation for all future projects on the Richmond Bay Campus when we are able to launch them.” The CWG was created as a result of pressure brought by ACCE, CCISCO, and other organizations. Over 18 months, the CWG (which included representatives from government, non-profit, business and philanthropy sectors) negotiated a community benefits agreement, covering issues like affordable housing, and training for local workers to get jobs at the campus. The RPA calls on the Working Group to reconvene to determine next steps and possible alternatives for the site.

(Photo: Alice Cantor, Richmond Confidential)

Thurs 9/15 at 6:30pm
Special event - Frackopoly

Join us for a special event with Frackopoly author Wenonah Hauter. A true tale of corruption and greed, Frackopoly exposes how a century of political meddling facilitated the control of our energy system by a handful of giant corporations and financial institutions. The book also examines the powerful and sometimes unlikely interests that have supported fracking.

But even amid such dire circumstances, author Wenonah Hauter is hopeful. Now more than ever, people are standing up to the fossil fuel industry and forcing action from elected leaders. Frackopoly chronicles the power generated by a growing grassroots movement that is not just fighting fracking, but re-claiming our democracy.

The events will take place Thursday, September 15th from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald Ave.)