RPA Activist Info Masthead
Issue: #129
January 21, 2014 
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Why Chemical Safety Bd Postponed Vote
A Great Day on Greenway
Martin Luther King on Economic Justice
Spanish Class for Activists
RPA Party Saturday
Music/Fund-Raiser for the Mayor
Is Mitchell Throwing Out General Plan?
Richmond Institutions Need Your Support
Is Chevron Branding Our Schools?
East County Challenges Refineries
Suing the Victims: Cartoon Educational
Ritterman on Health and Mortgage Program
Journey with Mumia Abul-Jamal Feb. 17
Po Boy's Kitchen
RPA Membership Drive
Some History of RPA
 To have an item listed send it to

Progressive Office
1021 Macdonald, 510-412-2260


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.


US Chemical Safety Board Hearing in Richmond
Why CSB Postponed Vote on Report    
Chevron Fire


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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

There were two forces for delaying the report. The first included the industry agents who were seeking to delay the report to kill it.  But others, including the two commissioners who voted for the delay, stated that they wished to strengthen the recommendations. In particular they wanted more recommendations for immediate action and ways to deal with the power imbalance that allows oil companies to dominate no matter what regulations are in effect.
In the next issue of the newsletter we will print a piece co-written by Mayor McLaughlin and CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso that explains why the Board's proposal for "Safety Case Management" is so important and why we can not wait before we take steps to implement its principles.
For more information about the report:


Martin Luther King Day at the Greenway
A Beautiful Community on a Beautiful Day

MLK It was a great event. It was an educational event about composting, tree planting, green energy and much more. 
It was a show case of talent: spoken word, music, and art.
It was a fun event and it brought the whole community together. 
Many people took great pictures of the many and diverse activities that will be posted. We will provide a list in the next newsletter. 

It was the feeling of what we can do when we all pull together and a great example to show that

 "A Better Richmond is Happening."

 tree planting

Thank you to Urban Tilth that pioneered the event and the Friends of the Greenway that worked so hard on it this year. Thanks to all the individuals coordinated by Stephanie Hervey of BMOER and to  all the organizations that made this year's event so great.  
Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness Without a Job?
Martin Luther King on Economic & Social Justice
Martin Luther King on Economic Justice
Martin Luther King on Economic and Social Justice
Starts Thursday
RPA Spanish Class for Activists 



will start this week, THURSDAY JANUARY 23, 2014. 


Place :BOBBY BOWENS PROGRESSIVE CENTER at 1021 Macdonald Ave.  


Time: 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.   


TUITION is $10 per session (total $160 for the course).


Please call Sylvia at 510-236-1226 or e-mail sylviahopkins321@gmail.com to enroll or for more information. 
Class size limited to 20 persons.


This course will focus on grammar and conversation.  Special attention will be given to vocabulary needs of progressive Richmond political campaigners for the coming November election.

Saturday, January 25, 7 pm
RPA Party


Saturday, February 8, 7pm 

Fund Raiser for Mayor Gayle Expenses 


Dear RPA friends,


Gayle McLaughlin
On Feb 8 -  7 pm - at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, please join Paul and me at a CD Release Party for SF musician Frank Garvey's band "Moth Nor Rust".   They have new musicians who I understand are extraordinary.  There will be opening musical acts as well - also extraordinary.  The cost will be 10 dollars at the door -- no one turned away for lack of funds.  
Here is the Facebook link.  Please sign up as coming. You won't be disappointed.


Refreshments will be served.


This event will also be a fundraiser for my last-year-as-mayor expenses such as:  

  • my e-newsletter 
  • po box 
  • mayoral campaign committee phone

These tools will be helpful for all campaigns during the upcoming campaign season.


As you all know, what little funds that were left in my campaign committee went to the ILR campaign materials.  For the last month or so, Paul and I have been scraping the money together to keep my newsletter, po box and campaign phone bills paid through our personal money.  That generally means running out of money by end of month for food and other expenses.  WE NEED YOUR HELP. 


So, please come to this event OR if you can't come, please give a donation (of whatever you can) to help us through this tough period. Go to www.MayorGayle.net and pay through PayPal or write a check to my campaign account (which remains open from my reelection campaign):  Gayle McLaughlin for Mayor, PO Box 5284, Richmond, CA 94805


Thank you for any help you can provide. 



Gayle and Paul

When "Maximum" is not Maximum
Mitchell Throws Out General Plan?


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.

 See story in Richmond Confidential


Richmond Institutions Need Your Support
Periodically we highlight some of the  Richmond businesses, organizations, and community activities that deserve our support.

Send suggestions to RPAactivist@gmail.com

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.


To Chevron  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.


 Actually, Chevron never had qualms about using our school children for its own ends.  For example, the school district for several years has held an annual conference "Parents as Partners and Leaders" at DeJean Middle School. Mostly Latino parents attend workshops to become more skilled at helping their children.


 The district's department of Community Engagement organizes the event, but sure enough there is Chevron's logo on the program, and Chevron staff handing out tote bags. It's the Chevron Way of grabbing the spotlight in somebody else's event.


Parents as Partners  As the CEO of a worthy NGO once confided, "For every dollar that Chevron gives, they get three dollars of publicity."


 But like its other incursions, this year saw a quantum leap in Chevron's influence over our schools. The West Contra Costa Unified School District needed to replace the outdated Five Year Plan. Warm-hearted Chevron stepped in to bankroll the process and with its cash, the district hired a firm of facilitators to lead the process and write the final report.


 My problem is not just in that paternalistic capitalist way Chevron is becoming our boss, my problem is that, if it can't even run its refinery properly, what business does it have determining our children's education?


"If You Only Have a Hammer, You See Every Problem as a Nail"


 I attended two "Community Forums" and could see that the emphasis was on getting more high school students to graduate and into colleges.Because the Chevron Corporation is a high-tech industry it views the world through that lens. Therefore, Chevron prefers to give its charity to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs; another case of Chevron wanting to shape our lives in its own image.


From everything in my experience, by the time students reach high school, they are already turned off to school. Emphasizing efforts to increase graduation is nice, but misplaced. The area to make change is at the opposite end, at the pre-school level. This is where children's brains are growing most rapidly.


At the Five Year Plan community forums, parents were given colored dots to put on their priorities, but somehow what really needs to happen was not among the choices. In an email to the Board of Education and Superintendent, I suggested the following list as priorities. I never received a reply from any of them, but I know that what West Contra Costa schools need are:    

  •      Smaller class sizes
  •      An aide in every classroom
  •      A longer school day and school year
  •      A citywide in-house vibrant after-school program
  •      A well-trained pre-school program in every school
  •      More counselors, psychologists
  •      Alternative education for students who cannot sit in a chair
  •      Bilingual education
  •      Well-funded adult education
  •      Higher pay for teachers
  •      An evaluation procedure for administrators
  •      A return to vocational education with the addition of agricultural education


Chevron newsletter None of these priorities came up during the "community forums", despite the many parents and teachers who want their kids to really learn. Encouraging individual students to go to college is fine, but high college fees and slashed programs make it harder than ever to get a degree. Also, many college students will struggle for years to pay back student loans. Many graduates cannot even find jobs. In addition, many thinkers suggest that in the future, it's not specific skills that need to be mastered for they will become outmoded. What needs to be nurtured are attitudes like curiosity and values like critical thinking.


I volunteered for two years at the primary level in an Iron Triangle school. Young children are most talented at making up stories and making art, yet both of these subjects were absent from the curriculum. The arts and humanities are as vital as math and language arts, and it's about how they are taught not about how much. And with high-stakes testing, the teacher stress is palpable. In other words students are being rendered passive, inured to boredom, and tracked to becoming dropouts beginning in kindergarten.  


Also, the teacher's union, UTR, seemed strangely absent from any of the discussions I attended although everyone knows that talented and dedicated teachers are the heart of an excellent school system, not ipads for every student.


At this point, Chevron creation, "ForRichmond" has become so enmeshed with the school district that it's a "Quick Link" on the WCCUSD website.

If "ForRichmond" is Chevron's Trojan Horse, the progressive community needs to quickly put forward a school plan something like the one I have proposed. This is especially urgent given the supposed failure of public schools to the benefit of EMOs (educational management organizations) and charter schools.



The only way to get that rich and program of humane energy is with more money at the state level. That means higher corporate taxes and an oil depletion allowance, something the oil lobby and San Ramon-based Chevron Corporation has fought for years.


Maybe I'm just a cynical guy. Maybe "ForRichmond" is our savior and will lead us into prosperity. Maybe Chevron has turned over a new leaf and become part of our community. Or maybe this is all shuck and jive and the Chevron Way of keeping control --"Richmond Today" (and Tomorrow the World), and Chevron as Benevolent Dictator.


Well here's my good neighbor test. Will Chevron respect us and our democracy? Will General Manager Kory Judd make a pledge not to give any corporate money to any candidate in any over or underhanded way? Will "ForRichmond"'s leadership take a pledge not to endorse any candidates?


Email me the minute you get those pledges, and in the words of the old spiritual I'll gladly sing, "Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we're free at last."


Michael Beer


Other Communities: Kamela Harris says "defective" EIR
East County Fights Refinery/Tar-Sands Dangers  

March Residents of East County are fighting to protect their community from the dangers and pollution from refining operations that try to cut corners in transportation and storage of Tar-Sands and other crude oil. On Jan 11, a diverse crowd of hundreds rallied and marched.. 

Their actions are having an impact.  Last week State Attorney General Kamela Harris released a letter finding that the Draft Environmental Impact Report was "fundamentally defective." 
Click here to see the letter
photo: Michael Beer
Suing the Victims
Stop Chevron's Attacks Against the People It Poisoned!
Donny Rico & Chevron make it a crime to defend the environment.
Donny Rico & Chevron make it a crime to defend the environment.
Chevron or its predecessor is guilty of deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Now it is suing anyone who speaks out against it.

Don't let Chevron turn defending the environment and human rights into a crime! 
See the Amazonwatch.org video. Sign the Petition
Program to Stop Foreclosures and Fight Blight
Get Answers to your Questions

Photo: Vivien Feyer
New from Jeff Ritterman

"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

For in-depth information on the legal and economic theory behind this strategy, readHere are some other good sources you can get on-line

 RPA Membership Drive Continues 

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.     




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.


  • 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.


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.