Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness Without a Job?
|Martin Luther King on Economic and Social Justice|
Is it their Skills, Values, or Money
Is Chevron Branding Our Schools?
Has everybody noticed how Chevron is all over Richmond? It used to be just at the corner gas station. Chevron today is partnered with Safeway, stares from billboards, fills our mail boxes, pops up on our computers, and has a finger in almost every NGO and business in the city.
And now Chevron is flexing its Human Energy into yet another part of our life.
A vibrant school system is the backbone of any community's economic and social prosperity. If Chevron ("your neighbor for 104 years") had really cared, Richmond wouldn't need a "revitalization" initiative, we would have been vitalized a long time ago, and our school system would be the envy of the nation.
Because I taught elementary school for twenty-five years, I know a thing or two and disagree with the way Chevron is skewing our educational establishment, the West Contra Costa Unified School District.For full article click here
Mitchell Throws Out General Plan?
When "Maximum" is not Maximum
The Richmond General Plan 2030, adopted after years of intensive discussion and review, provides among many other things, that the height of buildings in "Medium-Density Residential" areas shall be "Up to 35 ft."
But Shea Homes wants to build a development that includes buildings up to 46 feet in height. In order to accommodate Shea Homes, Planning Director Richard Mitchell has interpreted the General Plan to say that the 35 ft. height limit in Medium-Density Residential areas is really the "average" height of all the buildings in the project. Thus even though over half the buildings in the planned project are at least 46' in height, when averaged with other buildings, the entire project meets the 35' height limit.
If this interpretation stands there is really no effective height limit on buildings in these areas, potentially making every limit in the General Plan meaningless.
On the good side. If Richmond lets this interpretation go through then the next time the police stop you from exceeding the speed limit of 35 miles an hour, you can point out that your average speed since you left home (maybe including stops at red lights) was really much less.
This issue will undoubtedly make its way to the Planning Commission and City Council.
Remembering Nelson Mandela
that those who tell us we cannot win against a powerful oppressor serve that oppressor.
Richmond residents ares proud of our actions to oppose apartheid.
US Chemical Safety Board Hearing in Richmond
Why CSB Postponed Vote on Report
To the surprise of many, the US Chemical Safety Board voted to postpone approving the Staff's report and proposals for up to 120 days. The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is the nation's preeminent chemical disaster investigative agency. Its members are all Presidential appointees and confirmed by the US Senate.
The report had two major findings:
- The explosion and fire was due to a pipe rupture, but the pipe ruptured due to a Chevron management culture of neglect and a pattern of failing to adhere to regulatory agency safety standards or its own safety standards.
- The solution to prevent future catastrophic disasters is to have Richmond, Contra Costa County and the State of California adopt the "Safety Case" regime for regulating refineries.
There was no spoken disagreement about the findings of Chevron's negligence and, had it been voted on separately, that part of the report would have certainly passed.
Get Answers to your Questions
With the realtors and Bates/Booze trying to sow confusion there are bound to be questions.
For indepth understanding of the legal and economic thinking behind this program see the Report by Prof. Robert Hockett for the Seattle City Council. Click here.
|Eduardo Martinez Explains Richmond CARES|
"Heart Attacks, Depression and Suicide: The Toxic Fallout From the Foreclosure Epidemic and a Prevention Strategy That Just Might Work"
Click here for the Huffington Post article
Richmond Cares Fact Sheet
Richmond Shoreline Advisory Group:
Radioactive Material on Richmond Shoreline
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.)
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.
5 to 2 for Respect
Video: Respect at Richmond Council Retreat
The Richmond Council and senior city staff held their long-planned daylong retreat on Friday at the Marriott to discuss how to improve the functioning and perception of the City Council.
Organized and run by a facilitator selected by City Manager Bill Lindsay, there seemed to be agreement that despite different value systems that produced differences on what was important and how the city should respond, it should be possible for there to be agreement on a number of policy and procedural issues.
Many useful ideas were generated during the discussions. Some activities the Council could work on as united body included plans to assist the struggling Hilltop commercial area, implementing the General Plan, and passing a small tax increase to pay for a program that will repair the streets.
There were also a number of ideas to make Council meetings go more smoothly. One suggestion that had support was that City Clerk Diane Holmes be empowered to examine items placed on the agenda and talk to Council members about placing non-action items as study sessions during the third Council meeting. Another was to allow the Mayor and City Manager to recommend an agenda based on city priorities and expectations about how many people would be attending the Council meeting for that item. A third was to not allow a council member or public member to pull an item from the Consent Calendar unless he or she first talked to the staff person in charge of the item. A fourth proposal that had broad support was to limit the time each Council speaker could speak each time to three-to five minutes. (After a round, Council members would get additional chances to speak.) But no votes or even polls were taken on these items.
As the meeting was drawing to a close, Bill Lindsay noted with disappointment that they never reached the point on the agenda about what people would do differently as a result of the retreat. The facilitator started a discussion on this. Jovanka Beckles proposed that they could all agree that each would treat each other with respect at Council meetings. The facilitator said this was important and added "demand respect from others and for my colleagues." Lindsay said that even if respect wasn't defined, the commitment to do this was important. Each Council person was asked, and five Council members (McLaughlin, Beckles, Butt, Rogers, and Myrick) made that commitment. Corky Booze said he could not make that commitment because he had to stay true to his principles. Nat Bates, the Councilmember who pressed for this retreat, but missed half of it to attend a funeral said he could not commit to respecting other council members at this time.
Dedication of Bobby Bowens Progressive Center
Larisa Sanders, Bobby's daughter, leads the ribbon cutting marking the formal opening of the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, August 11, 2013
Speakers at the ceremony included:
- Jovanka Beckles, Richmond Councilmember
- Trevaj Siller, Bobby's Youth Groups
- Dr Edwina Perez-Santiago,North Richmond activist
- Dr. Jeff Ritterman, Activist Health Professional
- Bill Jennings, Friend, neighbor, fellow BPP alumnus
- Elaine Brown Black Panther Party
- Eduardo Martinez, RPA
- Millie Cleveland, SEIU 1021
- Andrés Soto, Communities for a Better Environment
- Najari Smith, Spoken Word Contest
- Leann Bowen, Bobby's daughter
- Gayle McLaughlin Mayor of Richmond
- Damion King, M.C., BMOER
- Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA)
- Black Mobilization, Organization, Education Richmond (BMOER)
- Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)
- SEIU 1021-Richmond
Pleads "No Contest"
Chevron Guilty on Criminal Charges
You probably already know, but in case you missed it, check out Robert Rogers story in the Contra Costa Times. The Court documents are attached and viewable in the story.
Do you think they use plastic zip-ties or handcuffs for Chevron?
Kory Judd the General Manager of the Richmond refinery sent a letter to the Council saying:
The Company pled no contest and agreed to the terms of probation because it was the quickest way to bring closure to this issue allowing us to focus on actions that will make our refinery processes better.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Company has been placed on probation for a period of three years and six months. We have agreed to do the following as part of our probation:
The City has Filed the Suit Against Chevron
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays judgment against Defendants, and each of them, as hereinafter set forth below.
1. For compensatory and general damages according to proof;
2. For economic damages due to emergency response, fire suppression, and permitting costs according to proof;
3. For past and future damages related to environmental remediation and
incidental costs according to proof;
5. For damages related to harm to public health, obstruction of the free
passage and use of property of public property, and/or the interference with
the comfortable enjoyment of life or property according to proof;
6. For pre- and post-judgment interest on all damages as allowed by the law;
7. For attorneys and expert/consultant fees under existing law;
8. For punitive damages in an amount according to proof or taking some
measure to ensure that an example is made of Defendant to deter similar
9. For costs of suit incurred herein; and
10. For such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
Click here to read full filing (includes pictures)
Council Meeting 7/23/13
The disruption that masqueraded as a civil rights protest at Tuesday's Council meeting made all the news. Unfortunately it distracted from some really important developments at the meeting. Here is one. The other, Ban-the-Box is below.
City finally hires lawyer
Major Development in Chevron Damages Case
Almost nobody noticed. The city attorney announced:
"that the Council voted [in closed session] unanimously, 7 to 0, to direct that the agreement with the Cochette law firm be signed and the Cochette law firm be directed to file the complaint against Chevron."
This means that the City and Chevron did not come up with an acceptable agreement to cover costs to the City from the fire and the City will now proceed with legal action against Chevron.
Now that the "settlement" for the costs of the fire is on the proper track, we must focus our attention on the safety issues. We need as many people as possible to come to the next Council meeting where we will attempt to get the city to use all of its powers to force Chevron to correct the dangerous conditions that still exist at the refinery.
With Liberty and Justice for Some
We Still Need Real Justice for Trayvon Martin
The verdict in the George Zimmerman trial demonstrates that People of Color cannot live free in the United States.
Whatever the reasons for the jury’s verdict – a racist law, a racist community, or ineffective prosecution lawyers, the facts are clear. Trayvon Martin was walking where he had a right to be. He was minding his own business, and he was shot dead. His only crime was being a young Black male.
We remember that simply electing a Black President, does not change the fact that racism still grips everyday life in the United States. It produces and promotes economic deprivation, poor schools and unequal educational opportunities, blatant and subtle discrimination and, as in this case, death.
The pain in the African-American community from this decision is intense. And although it is experienced differently among non-black allies in the struggle to eliminate racism, we all share the outrage of the injustice. We all understand the destructive impact racism has every day. Every day and every time the “pledge of allegiance” is recited, we must recommit ourselves to the struggle of justice for all.
First everyone can sign the NAACP petition. Click here. http://www.naacp.org/ (The website has been crashing because so many people are trying to sign it. If you have trouble, try later.)
Then begins the real work.
Richmond Progressive Alliance
Disruption of Council Meeting on 7/23/13
We want to be clear.
Civil disobedience and demonstrations, including disruption, have a proud history. The civil rights movement, labor struggles, and the movements of opposition to apartheid, unjust wars, and dictatorship have all used these methods.
These movements also understood that these tactics must be used selectively and carefully. They must have a point by which they can be judged. They must have a clear message so that innocent folks know it is not directed against them.
|Richmond Council Disruption 7/23/13|
Last Tuesday night's disruption had no discernible message and did not meet these standards. Instead it was intended to create chaos, to stop the City Council from functioning --and done simply as an exercise of power.
This is an escalation of a strategy that Council members Booze and Bates have been pursuing since the last election. Since they have no positive program of their own to put forward in the city, they hope to build their political careers by defending Chevron and other corporate interests. They seek to tear down the work that progressives have done and are doing to advance the city.
One element of this strategy is to try to discredit Mayor McLaughlin by making City Council meetings chaotic and uncomfortable. First, they tried overtalking the Mayor at council meetings and tried to prevent her from carrying out her responsibilities as the presiding officer of the meetings. Then there were pointless filibusters to prevent important business from coming up and intimidating questions to members of the public who spoke. As the Mayor developed techniques to handle these tactics, such as rulings on order and recessing the meeting, Booze and Bates relied more on the antics of their small band of followers in the audience to create an insulting and chaotic atmosphere.
Last Tuesday's disruption was just the logical continuation of that process.
It has to stop. It will stop when citizens of Richmond demand that it stop. It won't stop by repeating "The Council needs to work together" as though the responsibility lies equally with all members of the Council or by repeating Bates' line that "the Council is dysfunctional."
In fact the Council is not dysfunctional. It has accomplished a lot despite the disruption and ugly behavior of two of its members and their supporters.
The disruption will stop when people shine a light on and condemn the actions or lack of action by the few, including Bates and Booze, whose interests are served by disruption and chaos at the meetings. Richmond residents need to stand up and be counted by writing letters to editors, posting comments on blogs, and coming to city council meetings.
One result of this kind of public outrage already is that Councilmember Booze finally issued a statement distancing him from the hate speech (Click here for Booze statement.). His statement is more than a year late. Also his actions speak louder than and different from his words. For the last two years he has led this group of hate-promoters. During recesses that he creates by not following the rules of order and trying to overtalk the Mayor, Booze goes into the audience and shakes the hands and puts his arm around the makers of the statements from which he supposedly dissociates himself. And Councilman Bates covers for the hate-promoters by declaring that their speech is just another point of view.
---RPA Steering Committee 7/28/13
Real Leadership Required
Drawing the Line between Hate and Free Speech
Hate speech is one of the most difficult issues for those of us who strongly defend the right of free speech. The problem is that hate speech, by creating a climate of fear, discourages other people from participating and deprives them of their rights of free speech. The hate and vulgar speech and atmosphere at the council have already driven away many who would otherwise attend.
It is tough to set rules setting the line between hate and free speech. Moreover, this method rarely works in the long run although it may be necessary in the short-run.
The most effective way to end the hate speech and atmosphere at Council meetings is for all council members to take individual responsibility to exercise leadership and make it clear that they personally will not tolerate such behaviors at Council Meetings. The problem is that two Councilmembers, Bates and Booze give these hateful behaviors legitimacy by seeming to encourage them from their followers.
Nat Bates Hears No Hate!
See this clip from recent Council meetings where Nat Bates could hear no hate!
In calling what is obviously hate speech, a "point of view" he legitimizes it and promotes it.
What is Booze's contribution to the atmosphere? After a proclamation honoring the LGBTQQIS-2 community, the Mayor asked everyone who supported Pride month to stand. The video of the Council meeting shows Corky sitting, looking around, and then at the very last moment when he saw he was isolated, standing. But it is not his delay in standing that concerns us most.
When it was his turn to speak he did not criticize his supporters' hate speech. He did not support the proclamation. Instead he made up a story to answer members of the community who criticized his staying seated, claiming he was absorbed in reading materials. He then went on to attack his critics including questioning whether Police Chief Magnus could be fair. (The City Council session of 6/25 can be viewed here --the Proclamation is about 20 minutes from the beginning.)
It's time for the community to demand that these two so-called leaders help lead Richmond into a proud future and stop encouraging behaviors which drag it into the dirt. Those who no longer attend Council meetings have left the field to the hate promoters. We need people who have good things to say about Richmond and its progressive polices to show up and set the tone for these meetings.
It's time for the community to demand that the hate promoters end their shameless behavior.
Richmond Progressive Alliance
Council Honors Pride Month
Supreme Court says YES to Gay Marriage and NO to Voting Rights
As a human rights advocate, and a leader of our community I rejoice that a major barrier to LGBT rights has come down. I use the term LGBT to include all of those people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, 2-spirit, queer, or questioning and any others who face discrimination around the complicated issue of sexual identity.
At the same time I am enraged that the Supreme Court nullified the core of the voting rights act of 1965 passed after the magnificent struggle and significant sacrifices of African-Americans and our allies.
Of course there is not a great contradiction in the Supreme Court votes since the court is divided down the middle. Both cases highlight the conservative direction of the Court. Even in overturning the onerous so-called "Defense of Marriage Act", the Court reinforced the right of states to select which marriages are legitimate. We still have to carry on the struggle for marriage equality in 2/3 of the states and we must fight against LGBT discrimination that continues to be acceptable in every state.
The loss of the Voting Rights Act should move all of us to action. Whereas in the case of LGBT rights, the country is moving in the direction of democratic political rights, when it comes to voters' rights it is moving the opposite way. Increasingly, corporate power has more influence in our politics. This power is used to strategically and effectively to disenfranchise people of color and the poor to further tip the balance towards corporate interests.
The question of voting is truly a fundamental issue of civil rights. We have to ask ourselves why we are losing. There are a number of reasons for this, including the following:
1. The fight for economic and social justice challenges powerful enemies. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X both understood that we could not win true civil rights without winning economic and social equality. Exercising the vote is an act with powerful ramifications in the struggle for equality; it is not just an end to itself. It is absolutely in the interest of those who benefit from racism and inequality to keep us from exercising our power at the polls.
2. Much of our leadership has been bought off and co-opted. Far too many of our leaders settle for their own recognition, financial gain and personal power. And when it benefits them, they conveniently call this progress.
3. We get caught in the time honored game of pitting the oppressed against each other, and find ourselves easily divided and conquered. A good example of this occurred at a recent city council meeting when some African American "leaders" complained about the Pride flag, during LGBT Pride month. Some questioned "Where was the Juneteenth flag?". If the behavior of pitting the LGBT against the African American community wasn't so harmful and offensive it would have been just silly. Every movement puts itself forward, and promotes its message in different ways. Juneteenth was a great event that the City endorsed and for which it provided money. No one from the LGBT community opposed this by saying "wait a minute you can't give $10,000 or City endorsement unless you give it to the Pride activities" Some of these African American divisive leaders made it a point to make hateful remarks about gays and lesbians, while still others claimed to hear nothing hateful in these remarks. The point is that these so called leaders perpetrate the scheme of pitting one oppressed group against the other in order to protect their corporate funding.
It's time for us all to understand that we will get rid of oppression only when we are all free from oppression. And that can only happen when we stand together.
Beckles keynote speaker
Chevron Pride Event
Over the past several years the LGBT movement has shifted the mind set of America. In every aspect of life there has been both the recognition of rights and personal acceptance of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, queer or questioning. We can see this in opinion polls, the ruling of courts, the positions of even conservative politicians, and the actions of corporations. Last week Chevron Richmond Refinery sponsored a Pride Celebration for its employees
About 150 Chevron employees gathered for a lunchtime BBQ outside the plant cafeteria. New Plant Manger Kory Judd introduced Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles as the main speaker.
A question: Will Chevron spend a million dollars next year to try to defeat Jovanka and promote candidates who have defended the hateful speeches we heard at Council meetings this last week?
Progressive Politics in Richmond Makes Front Page News
In the New York Times
A City Invokes Seizure Laws to Save Homes
Robert and Patricia Castillo paid $420,000 for a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Richmond, Calif., in 2005. It is now worth $125,000.
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
An abandoned home in Richmond, where roughly half of all homeowners with mortgages are underwater, meaning they owe more than their home is currently worth.
Scarcely touched by the nation's housing recovery and tired of waiting for federal help, Richmond is about to become the first city in the nation to try eminent domain as a way to stop foreclosures.
The results will be closely watched by both Wall Street banks, which have vigorously opposed the use of eminent domain to buy mortgages and reduce homeowner debt, and a host of cities across the country that are considering emulating Richmond.
The banks have warned that such a move will bring down a hail of lawsuits and all but halt mortgage lending in any city with the temerity to try it.
But local officials, frustrated at the lack of large-scale relief from the Obama administration, relatively free of the influence that Wall Street wields in Washington, and faced with fraying neighborhoods and a depleted middle class, are beginning to shrug off those threats.
Real Answers to FAQ
Questions about Chevron's Richmond Refinery and its Relationship to Richmond?
Chevron Richmond has assigned numerous staff members to circulate in the community to spread Chevron's views on community safety, Chevron tax policy, and what a good neighbor Chevron is. They spend millions on media promotion of the company in Richmond. At the same time same time they spend 10's of millions on a legal assault on the City and County. Did you know that the county and the city are paying more than $2 million dollars for lawyers just to defend the public from Chevron's suits?
Want to hear some answers other than Chevron's official line?
RPA has posted answers to Frequently Asked Questions by Richmond resident and researcher, Jeff Kilbreth. Check it out. If you have a question that isn't answered or you want more information, just ask and we will try to get it for you.
San Quentin Richmond Project
Getting the Word Out
I, along with my office staff, have been making regular visits to the men of the San Quentin Richmond Project (men from Richmond serving time in San Quentin) and are making connections for them with the "outside community." We are circulating this video, produced by the men, among our violence prevention groups, youth groups, city staff and the community at large.
It is deeply important that we showcase the transformation that these men are making while in prison and share their message with our community, especially our youth.
Please feel free to forward this video link http://youtu.be/o_-coLXrqfU to your lists. We'll continue to update the community on efforts of the Richmond Project as we continue to prioritize this "inside/outside" connection in the interest of a safer, more peaceful Richmond.
You can help further the work of the Richmond Project by writing a check to San Quentin TRUST (write Richmond Project in the memo section of the check) and sending to:
Accounting, San Quentin State Prison, 1 Main Street, San Quentin, CA 94964
Mayor, City of Richmond
Board Votes for Re-Entry Services
On Friday the executive committee of the Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) of Contra Costa County, meeting in Martinez, voted to:
- fund the Community Advisory Board's (CAB) proposals for comprehensive re-entry services for formerly incarcerated individuals in the AB109 prison realignment population (6-1 vote)
- remove funding for jail expansion out of the Sheriff's budget and put it into a general reserve fund (7-0 vote)
Bonus item: Thanks also to Sheriff Livingston for dialoguing with community organizations and making plans to stop honoring ICE immigration holds for low level offenses.
Next steps: RFP/RFQ process will be initiated, and the AB109 budget for 2012-13, as voted on by the CCP, will be submitted to the County's Board of Supervisors on January 15, 2013 for final approval.
This all happened because of the strong and unified community mobilization that started in Richmond and spread throughout the county, involving many grassroots organizations (including CCISCO, Safe Return Project and Richmond Progressive Alliance), non-profits, faith-based groups and concerned residents. THANKS and CONGRATULATIONS to EVERYONE who was part of this effort!
Regular Community Testimony at CCP meetings was critical in shifting the funds