RPA New LogoThe Activist

Issue #214, 11-21-2016

In this issue:
A progressive majority on the Richmond City Council!
Election round-up California
What's next for rent control and just cause for eviction
Standing up for all who live in Richmond
The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy
Save the Dates: RPA Steering Committee, Richmond Anthology of Poetry, and more

Rising to the Occasion
A progressive majority on the Richmond City Council!

Thanks to the hundreds of people who volunteered their time and energy to elect Ben Choi and Melvin Willis to Richmond City Council! Not only did these first-time progressive candidates win, but they also were the top vote-getters for the City Council race -- a truly remarkable feat!

Following the election of Ben Choi and Melvin Willis to Richmond City Council last night, the RPA steering committee, Vice-Mayor Eduardo Martinez, Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, Councilmember-Elect Ben Choi, Councilmember-Elect Melvin Willis issued the following statement. We're reprinting it because it got such a positive reaction:

Rising to the Occasion

We, the Richmond Progressive Alliance Steering Committee, and incumbent and elected members of the City Council extend congratulations to the newly elected Richmond City Councilmembers: Melvin Willis, Ben Choi and Jael Myrick.

We also applaud the voters’ decision to pass Measure L: Fair and Affordable Richmond for rent control and tenant protections. As Measure L advocates have said from the start, this measure alone will not solve our community’s housing crisis, but it constitutes an important step to help seniors and working people stay in their homes and to prevent evictions without just cause. Moving forward, Richmond must redouble its efforts to develop more affordable housing.

We appreciate the democratic participation of all candidates who ran for city council seats. We acknowledge outgoing Councilmembers Nat Bates, who deserves recognition for his decades of participation on the council, and Vinay Pimplé, for their dedicated service to our city. We know it is a very difficult job.

These progressive victories in our city belong to all those in the progressive movement in Richmond and beyond, who supported the electoral struggle for progressive measures and corporate-free candidates. To each and every one of them, our most sincere gratitude and celebration.

In recent years, voters have elected several corporate-free council representatives who brought new progressive approaches to the problems that our city faces. The grassroots movement that propelled their victories upset the political status quo. As a result, the differences among councilmembers often receive more attention than their many shared values.

It is now incumbent for the entire Council to focus on its primary mutual interest: the betterment of Richmond. The needs facing our community are too urgent for us to be distracted by past disagreements or personal grievances.

At times, the members of the Council will surely disagree with each other about the best ways to solve Richmond’s many challenges. Our city will be well-served when decisions are debated with rigor, passion, and civility. Given the extreme challenges from the outcome of the presidential election, our national government may be wracked by division and malice, but in Richmond, let our Council demonstrate how dissent and decency can co-exist.

RPA-supported councilmembers will also disagree with one another at times, and have amply shown they do not share a single mindset for casting votes. Faithfully adhering to requirements of the Brown Act, they will not conspire behind closed doors about how to vote, and welcome input and open discussion from all sectors of the community.

One conviction we do share deeply is that corporate money corrupts our democracy, a belief shared by the Bernie Sanders revolution. When Bernie Sanders urged supporters to run for local office, Ben Choi and Melvin Willis heeded his call. Their campaigns for City Council seats (and the Measure L effort) were fueled by hundreds of small donations and thousands of volunteer hours.

We look forward to working with Mayor Tom Butt and Councilmember Jael Myrick in a spirit of constructive collaboration. There is common ground in many areas and it is land worth cultivating. Let us all bring our best selves to the table and rise to this occasion.

- Co-coordinators Marcos Bañales & Marilyn Langlois for the RPA Steering Committee

- Vice-Mayor Eduardo Martinez
- Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin
- Councilmember Jovanka Beckles
- Councilmember-Elect Ben Choi
- Councilmember-Elect Melvin Willis

This statement drew many enthusiastic comments, and we share a few of them here:

  • Just the message I wanted to hear. Not divisive, elitist, or assuming you have all the answers. Let's go forward in a spirit of humility.

  • RPA embodies the slogan:  Think globally, act locally, and all politics IS LOCAL!  Richmond is the test-pilot for the Bernie Revolution 2020!  Thank you RPA people for all that you do and will do. You are what I love about living in Richmond!

  • Congratulations on the ongoing accomplishments of RPA, and during these dismal times, I thank you for the ongoing inspiration you provide both here in the Bay Area but also nationally!

[Photo credit: Melvin Willis]
Environmental and social justice victories
Election round-up California

Although the results of our national election were devastating for those working for environmental and social justice, across California, we saw some heartening victories. In addition to the hard-won victories here in Richmond, here are a smattering of victories up and down our state:
  • Several new progressives were elected to the Assembly, including Eloise Gomez Reyes, who defeated a Big Oil-backed moderate Cheryl Brown; and Ash Kalra who defeated a pro-business candidate. With these victories and others, Democrats have secured a super-majority in the Assembly.
  • Voters passed Proposition 55, which extends the income tax on the wealthiest Californians
  • Proposition 56 passed, increasing the cigarette tax by $2 per pack
  • Proposition 57 passed, increasing the number of non-violent criminals eligible for parole
  • Voters passed Proposition 58, overturning a policy that restricted bilingual education in public schools
  • Voters passed Proposition 63, which among other things, bans high-capacity ammunition magazines
  • Proposition 67 was defeated, upholding California's plastic bag ban
  • Voters in Monterrey County passed Measure Z, which bans new fracking
  • In the Bay Area, rent control measures passed in Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, Mountain View, and Palo Alto (in addition to Richmond!) 

And in the wake Trump's election, California leadership issued this statement, standing up for the values of tolerance and social inclusion.

Joint Statement from California Legislative Leaders on Result of Presidential Election

 California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) released the following statement on the results of the President election:


Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.


We have never been more proud to be Californians.


By a margin in the millions, Californians overwhelmingly rejected politics fueled by resentment, bigotry, and misogyny.


The largest state of the union and the strongest driver of our nation’s economy has shown it has its surest conscience as well.


California is – and must always be – a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love. 


California has long set an example for other states to follow. And California will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.


We will be reaching out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how a Trump Presidency will potentially impact federal funding of ongoing state programs, job-creating investments reliant on foreign trade, and federal enforcement of laws affecting the rights of people living in our state. We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal.


While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.


California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.

[Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr]

L-OVE wins out!
What's next for rent control and just cause for eviction

Now that Measure L has passed (by a huge margin!), here's a practical run-down of what's next from our friends at Fair and Affordable Richmond:

Measure L will go into effect 10 days after the election results are certified. Contra Costa County Board of Elections must certify by December 8th, 2016. It is possible Measure L will go into effect earlier if the County certifies earlier.


The rent rollback will go into effect immediately with Measure L. Tenants will pay as their new base rent whatever was charged as of July 21st, 2015. If you started your tenancy after July 21st 2015, the base rent shall be the rent that was charged on the first date of the tenancy. If you paid $1250/mo for your apartment on July 21st 2015, and now pay $1600/mo, as of December 18th (or when the ordinance goes into effect) you will return to owing $1250/mo plus adjustment for inflation as determined by the Richmond Rent Board.


If you have been issued a notice of eviction, do not ignore it because Measure L passed. You still need to respond. The courts will be notified when rent control and just cause is in effect and most no-fault evictions will be immediately dismissed. If you need legal consultation, you can reach out to Tenants Together’s hotline: 1-888-495-8020 or visit Bay Area Legal Aid at 1025 Macdonald Ave. Richmond, CA 94801. If you are 62 or older, Contra Costa County Senior Legal Services at (925) 609-7900 is also a great resource. Refrain from calling the Measure L campaign line for legal assistance, it will only be answered periodically and the campaign volunteers will only reference to the above organizations.


Watch out for cash for keys deals. Some landlords might try to trick tenants into thinking they are being evicted, and offer a sum of $5k-10k to entice them to vacate. Often it’s a ploy and you should seek legal help before agreeing to or even discussing such a deal with your landlord.


The City of Richmond will now be working to implement rent control. We will take care to disseminate notices issued by the City regarding rules and logistics around implementation. The goal now is to build a rent board that is effective, efficient and responsive to the community’s needs. If you have the skill and spirit to support that goal, consider applying for the Richmond Rent Board through the City of Richmond Boards and Commissions webpage here. 

[Photo credit: Fair and Affordable Richmond]

Trump threatens to withhold federal funding from Sanctuary Cities
Standing up for all who live in Richmond

One of Trump's pledges in his First 100 Days in office is to withdraw federal funding for Sanctuary Cities, cities which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities on detainee requests. But from New York to San Francisco, from Chicago to San Jose, cities are standing their ground.

Richmond, where almost 40 percent of the city are immigrants, has been a Sanctuary City since 1990. In 2007, in the wake of immigration raids in Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin took the lead in passing a City Council resolution "ordering all officers and employees of this City not to inform, assist or cooperate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) formerly known as Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), without the specific authorization of the Richmond city manager or the chief of police." 

Mayor Tom Butt recently issued a statement describing the City's policy of non-cooperation, saying that "If there are changes in federal polices after [Trump takes office], we will monitor them and take appropriate actions to protect our residents."

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin plans to introduce another resolution reaffirming the City Council's commitment to protect undocumented immigrants at the December 6, 2017 City Council meeting. In an email, she states "We will not be cowed into silence by threats to revoke federal funding.  Instead, we stand in solidarity with other cities and communities nationwide and globally who share our values and determination to overcome all forms of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and discrimination."

Finally, given the increase in hate crimes, as well as Trump's various anti-immigrant plans, the RPA will likely be forming an Action Team on immigration; stay tuned for more information on how to get involved!

[Photo credit: Michael Righi, via Flickr]
New report details Chevron's political spending
The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy

While Chevron largely sat out during the 2016 Richmond City Council elections, the company is still a major political spender in the state. A report released by the International Transport Workers Federation, with Greenpeace, the Courage Campaign, Communities for a Better Environment and others, reveals that massive political spending by Chevron - the state’s largest polluter - seeks to stunt environmental protection, gouge consumers and reduces funds available for schools and other essential public services.

The report, The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy, details how since 2009, Chevron has spent $61 million dollars on political candidates, committees and lobbying in California, far more than any other oil company. In this election, in State Assembly and State Senate races, candidates heavily backed by Chevron lost their races. In Monterey County, Chevron gave $1.5 million to oppose a local measure to ban fracking and expanded oil drilling. Despite being outspent 33 to 1, the measure passed.

The report also points out that although Chevron makes billions in profits from its huge retail and refining business in California, it has aggressively cut tax payments to federal, state and local governments. In 2015, the company paid no net income tax in the US, but instead banked nearly $1.7 billion in tax credits. In 2015, Chevron had over $45 billion stashed in offshore accounts, including the company’s 211 active Bermuda subsidiaries, and the company’s global effective tax rate fell to below 3%. 

Save the dates
Poetry book launch, RPA Steering Committee, and more

Please save the dates for these upcoming events:
  • RPA Steering Committee meeting, Monday, November 28 at 6:30pm at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center at 2540 Macdonald Ave. All members are welcome to come and observe, as well as raise issues during the members' session.

  • Release of the first annual Richmond Anthology of Poetry. This anthology brings together the work of 62 poets who live in Richmond, California, or have ties with the city. It will be released Saturday, December 10 from 7-9pm at Kaleidoscope Coffee (109 Park Place, Point Richmond) and Thursday December 15 from 7-9pm at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center (2540 Macdonald). For pre-orders and info please contact richmondpoetry@sonic.net

  • Celebration of Life for RPA member Marion Fay, January 8, 2017 at 2pm at Northbrae Church in Berkeley (941 The Alameda). Please stay tuned for more on Marion's inspiring life in a December issue of The Activist.

  • Richmond's 10th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway will be on January 16, 2017. Details and more info to follow.  Please spread the word and mark your calendars now!

Signed articles are the opinion of the author. Official RPA positions are noted as Steering Committee decisions. Other content created by Michelle Chan, editor.