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El Cerrito plastic bag ban vote draws quick response

El Cerrito passed its first reading tonight of a ban on plastic bags at retail stores and foam containers for leftovers at food outlets.
It took one environmental group just a few minutes to issue a media release applauding the decision:

El Cerrito Bans Single-Use Plastic Bags and Styrofoam

El Cerrito—The El Cerrito City Council voted tonight to ban single-use plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam. The plastic bag ordinance applies to all stores except restaurants and certain charities, while the Styrofoam law affects restaurants and city vendors. Both bans take effect on January 1, 2014.

“This important step forward for El Cerrito shows yet again that we can achieve lasting victories for the ocean and our environment,” said Nathan Weaver with Environment California. “Banning plastic bags is the right choice to protect our rivers, beaches, and the Pacific Ocean. I applaud the City Council members for their leadership on this issue.”

Single-use plastic bags and food packaging, including Styrofoam, are two of the most common garbage items removed from California’s beaches by Ocean Conservancy volunteers. Plastic bags are a direct threat to ocean wildlife, like the sea turtles that mistake them for edible jellyfish. One in three leatherback sea turtles studied had plastic in their stomachs, most often a plastic bag, according to an analysis of over 370 autopsies. A study by the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association found that plastic shopping bags alone make up as much as 8 percent of the garbage that reaches the San Francisco Bay.

“Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute the ocean for hundreds of years,” commented Weaver.

Plastic bag bans have enjoyed tremendous success across California. El Cerrito is the 81st California local government to ban single-use plastic bags, joining San Francisco, San Jose, Richmond, Oakland, and others. Together, these local governments represent nearly 1 in 3 Californians. Over 70 California cities and counties have banned Styrofoam food containers.

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Richmond councilman denounces eminent domain plan, urges special meeting

From Councilman Nat Bates in an email sent to supporters:

April 2, 2013 City Council minutes of action taken.

The matter to approve an Advisory Services Agreement with Mortgage Resolution Partners, LLC to assist the City of Richmond in reducing the impact of the mortgage crisis, by advising on the acquisition of mortgage loans through the use of eminent domain, in order to restructure or refinance the loans and thereby preserving home ownership, restoring homeowner equity and stabilizing the communities’ housing market and economy by allowing many homeowners to remain in their homes was presented by City Manager Bill Lindsay. (At 11:00 p.m. on motion of Councilmember Myrick, seconded by Mayor McLaughlin extended the meeting to finish the current item with Councilmember Butt voting Noe). Councilmember Butt left the meeting at ll:15 p.m. Leland Chan and Melvin Willis gave comments.

A motion was made by Councilmember Beckles, seconded by Councilmember Myrick to approve an Advisory Services Agreement with Mortgage Resolution Partners, LLC. Councilmember Myrick requested a report back from staff regarding loan criteria and specifics. A substitute motion was made by Vice Mayor Booze, seconded by Councilmember Bates to hold the item over for 30 days to gather more information. Following discussion, Councilmember Bates withdrew his second. The original motion to approve an Advisory Services Agreement with Mortgage Resolution Partners, LLC passed by the following vote: Ayes: Councilmembers Bates, Beckles, Myrick, Rogers, Vice Mayor Booze, and Mayor McLaughlin. Noes: None. Abstentions: None. Absent: Councilmember Butt.

 

As noted above, this action was to approve an Advisory Service Agreement with a follow-up of the criteria and specifics. How the mayor interpreted this as a mandate to go after the lending institutions is beyond me. The mayor has been misrepresenting the city council action by parading around  San Francisco and threatening Wells Fargo without the city council approval. In addition, this council has no idea the capacity of Mortgage Resolutions Partners LLC financial ability to pay damages should the court order such against the city. Also, there has not been any staff report regarding loan criteria and specifics as directed in the motion of April 2, 2013,some 4 months ago which suggest not one councilmember including the mayor understand the criteria and specifics.

 

In addition, this action has caused serious financial risk to the city, and each and every homeowner or potential home owners who wish to refinance, purchase or sell a home in this city. My recent communication with the Finance Director, Mr. Jim Goins indicate the city was circulating some 30 millions of dollars in revenue bonds. Although the city has a strong A bond rating, not one financial institution was willing to come forward to purchase these bonds because of the Eminent Domain issue and Wall Street’s reaction to the City of Richmond. Kindly take a look at the reactions from several news articles, etc listed below.

 

While most of us are sympathetic to the many citizen who are undergoing financial risk of losing their homes through the mortgage crisis and etc, as responsible elected officials, we must not comprise the integrity and financial ability of this city to operate efficiently.

 

It is important this council take leadership and do our job in representing our citizenry. Therefore, I am requesting my council members join me in calling for a special city council meeting within the next seven days to clarify and make the necessary corrections to offset this potential financial liability and embarrassment to this city. Should my fellow colleagues concur, kindly email your support to the city clerk as soon as possible.

 

Respectfully,

 

Councilmember Nat Bates

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Richmond mayor set to march into Wells Fargo HQ

PRESS RELEASE: Mayor of Richmond Travels to Wells Fargo Headquarters,

Calling on Wells CEO to Drop Lawsuit and Accept Richmond’s Offers to Buy Underwater Mortgages

Surrounded by Community Leaders, Small City Mayor Stands Up to Wall Street

San Francisco, CA – On Thursday, August 15th, at 12Noon, the Mayor of Richmond, CA, Gayle McLaughlin will show up at the headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank to call on them to drop their lawsuit and cooperate with the City’s plan to fix troubled mortgages and prevent foreclosures.

On July 31st the City of Richmond announced that they are moving forward with a Local Principal Reduction program that will help homeowners refinance or modify mortgages.  This will be done by purchasing troubled loans from current servicers or trustees, like Wells Fargo, or through the City’s eminent domain authority if the current loan holders won’t cooperate.

On August 7th Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank named the City of Richmond in a lawsuit filed to attempt to block Local Principal Reduction from moving forward.

What:  Mayor of Richmond and Community Leaders, angry at Wells Fargo’s aggressive actions to prevent a local foreclosure prevention program, show up at the bank headquarters demanding that Wells Fargo back off

Where: 420 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA

When: 12Noon, Thursday, August 15th

Richmond’s Local Principal Reduction plan is designed to preserve wealth in local hands, especially in communities of color and low-income communities which have been decimated by the foreclosure crisis and see no end in sight. Wrongful foreclosures have caused a catastrophic loss of wealth.  Having been targeted by predatory lending, communities of color have been particularly hard-hit, with African Americans losing 53% of their median wealth from 2005 to 2009 and Latinos 66%.  In Richmond, 46% of all residential mortgage holders are still underwater.

Though the City of Richmond is leading the way nationwide on local principal reduction, other California cities like El Monte and La Puente are advancing this as well, as are community/labor coalitions in Newark, New Jersey; Seattle, Washington; and New York City.

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Chevron Richmond protest results in arrests

RICHMOND — Hundreds of protesters massed outside the refinery’s main gate Saturday afternoon.

The gathering chanted anti-Chevron slogans, painted a sunflower in the street entrance and slathered themselves in dark molasses intended to signify oil.

Protesters climbed ladders near the gates, and others sat down to form human circles at the edge of the police barricade.

The assemblage at the gates was a culmination of a procession that marched from the Richmond BART station, beginning at 10 a.m.

Protester Andres Soto said the march was a statement demanding more investment in clean energy and improved safety at the 2,900-acre refinery.

“There’s nothing more powerful than people in solidarity,” Soto said, watching as a human shield of police with their backs to Chevron’s gates held protesters at bay.

 

As of 5 p.m., more than 160 protesters had been arrested for refusing to cease trespassing on Chevron property. Richmond Police Capt. Mark Gagan said the number of people arrested could surpass 200. At its peak, the protest included more than 2,000 people, Gagan said.

 

“But this is nowhere near a situation that is unmanageable,” Gagan said. “We anticipated today’s civil disobedience, and the organizers and public safety have worked together to plan.”

 

Gagan said the protesters were arrested without incident and were given ample opportunity to heed warnings. Those arrested were processed at a nearby fire station and released, Gagan said.

 

One man, well-known local gadfly Mark Wassberg, punched a protester and was arrested and booked on assault, Gagan said.

 

Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus was also at the protest, watching his officers, some in riot gear, hold the line.

 

“We’ve handled the situation smoothly,” Magnus said.

 

Chevron spokesperson Melissa Ritchie released a statement late Saturday:
“Chevron respects the rights of individuals to express their viewpoints in a nonviolent manner. We ask that they do so safely, to respect our property and not disrupt our operations. That said, since the fire, we’ve worked to address the underlying issues identified in our investigation report, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s findings, and the issues raised by CAL-OSHA. We are committed to making sure something like the August incident does not happen again. We have also taken action to support that commitment. For over 100 years, safety has been the core of everything we do at the refinery, but safety is a job that’s never finished. We’re committed to collaborating with our community, as well as state and local officials to continuously improve the safety and reliability of our operations.”
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Richmond CLEAN festival set to debut June 29

From the event organizers’ Facebook Page:

 

We are excited to celebrate our Richmond Communities for Local Energy Action Now (CLEAN) Festival this summer.

For the last two years, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) leaders have been working locally and statewide to bring local clean energy and green jobs to low-income and immigrant communities.

In particular, Richmond leaders are fighting to clear the shadows of pollution to make room for the sunlight of a clean, renewable energy future. 

POWERED by our dream of local clean energy, the Richmond CLEAN Festival will be a fun-filled day of music, games, performances, clean energy technology demonstrations and more! 

Even will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Richmond Civic Center.

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Rally at Richmond Wells Fargo

PRESS ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

David Sharples, ACCE CONTRA COSTA, 415-377-9037 dsharples@calorganize.org

Community Leaders Call on Wells Fargo to Give Struggling Homeowner a Principal Reduction

Richmond, CA: On Thursday, June 27th at 12:30pm at the Wells Fargo, at 4500 Macdonald Ave., Richmond, CA over 30 struggling homeowners and community leaders will gather to demand that Wells Fargo give Genny Zentella a loan modification and principal reduction.

ACCE members are angry that Wells Fargo steered Genny into a subprime, adjustable loan and now refuse to give her a loan modification or principal reduction. Genny bought her home in San Pablo in 1989. In 2005 she refinanced in order to make improvements on her home. “I had excellent credit and never should have been put into a subprime, adjustable rate, pick a payment loan. I should’ve gotten a fixed rate. Now I’m behind and in danger of losing my home because my payments keep going up. Wells Fargo should do the right thing and give me a loan modification with principal reduction.” Said Genny Zentella.

What: Action to demand Wells Fargo give struggling homeowner an affordable loan modification and principal reduction

Where: Wells Fargo, at 4500 Macdonald Ave., Richmond, CA

When: Thursday, June 27th at 12:30pm

The event comes in the midst of a growing national campaign calling for Wells Fargo, which is the nation’s largest mortgage servicer, to provide major new homeowner relief with principal reduction on a scale that approaches the $300 billion in negative home equity that exists in the U.S. Nationwide, there are 11 million homeowners who are “underwater”

and owe more on their mortgage than the value of their homes.

Wells Fargo is also a major player in the predatory payday lending industry and has dodged more taxes than any other company since the financial crisis began in 2008, holding back funds that could help put America back to work.

 

###

 

 

ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) is a non-profit grassroots community organization in Richmond and across the state. A membership organization of low and moderate income people, the organization works to advance policies and programs that address such issues as community development, affordable housing, access to healthcare, and more.

www.calorganize.org

 

 

 

David Sharples

Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)

322 Harbour Way, Suite #25

Richmond, CA 94801

Cell phone 415-377-9037

Email: dsharples@calorganize.org

www.calorganize.org

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ContraCostaACCE

Twitter: @Calorganize

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Richmond native, former Howard University Dean to speak at local church

PRESS RELEASE

A LAW SCHOOL LEGEND RETURNS HOME

Richmond native, Daniel O. Bernstine, will return to his hometown church, BethlehemMissionaryBaptistChurch, on June 22 @ 10:45 AM.  He will be the guest speaker for BMBC’s Graduate Day Celebration.  Bernstine is a law school legend, having matriculated at University of California, Berkeley; Northwestern School of Law, and at LLM at the University of Wisconsin School of Law.  He was privileged to serve as Dean of Howard University, President of Portland State University, and currently serves as the President of the Law School Admission Council. 

The journey of the legend began as a child of Richmond; a member of the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, and the first African American President of the 8th Grade Class of Granada Jr. High School.

We invite you to worship with us during this historic service.

 

The church is located at 684 Juliga Woods Street(formerly Erlandson), RichmondCA.

 

For further information, please contact the church @ 510.232.0193.

 

–END–

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Corky Booze letter to Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay

Courtland “Corky” Boozé

3302 Nevin Avenue

Richmond, CA. 94805

 

Bill Lindsay
City Manager450 Civic Center Plaza
Suite 300
Richmond, CA  94804

Re: Carson Blvd. Inspection May 29, 2013.

Dear Mr. Lindsey,

I am writing to you regarding my concerns and need for clarifications in reference to my business located at 22 Carlson Blvd. The most recent inspection with Tim Higares, took place on May 29, 2013 @1:00 pm.

Mr. Lindsey, my reason for writing you is, I am requesting from you clarification of the zoning and items that may remain on the property @ 22 Carlson Blvd. Richmond, CA.

I have had several meetings with City Attorney, Bruce Goodmiller; he stated to me that he did not want to take on a C-2 determination fight.  He suggested at the next inspection with Mr. Higares, we should work together to determine which items have to be removed and which can stay.

At the conclusion of the May 29th inspection I asked Mr. Higares which items he wanted me to remove from the property.  His response to me was that everything on the property must go.   He stated per the letter from Assistant City Attorney, Trisha Aljoe, 22 Carlson was in C-2 zoning and nothing in the yard complied with that zoning.

I stated that I disagreed with the C-2 zoning designation because I met the legal non-conforming use for M-2 zone. 

I am willing to work with the City to resolve this problem. However, I need exact clarifications in writing and direction following the city code and zoning designation. 

What Mr. Higrares relayed to me at the May 29th inspection was way too broad in its scope.  I need to operate my business without any more disruptions.

Sincerely,

 

Courtland Corky Boozé

 

Cc:           Bruce Goodmiller, City Attorney,Chris Magnus, Police of Police

                Richard Mitchell, Planning and Building Director,  Tim Higares, Code Enforcement Manager

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From the archives: 2001 profile of Rev. Andre Shumake

Jan. 14, 2001:

MINISTER WORKS ON UNITY, HOPE
* HE IS GETTING CHURCHES TOGETHER TO WORK OUT WAYS TO END VIOLENCE IN RICHMOND
Author: Shawn Masten 
 
RICHMOND From a windowless office at the North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church, the Rev. Andre Shumake speaks rousingly about the role the church can play in healing the plague of violence ravaging Richmond‘s families and streets.
 
He clasps his hands together prayer-like, his black eyes beam and sometimes well with tears, as he talks about how the churches can help mend broken hearts and troubled minds by taking a leap of faith together.
 
There is such a state of hopelessness among some of the young men and women of this city,” Shumake said. “The church can restore hope. That’s our role. That’s what we’re supposed to do. But it takes collaboration. When you bring all the entities together, things will change.”

 

To that end, Shumake has called an eclectic group of nearly 100 religious, business and community leaders to a gathering in the city’s Iron Triangle neighborhood Thursday to begin setting an agenda for the churches of Richmond that focuses on solving the economic woes of its residents. 

The meeting comes with the city set to embark on hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of development, a rebirth that promises to bring thousands of new jobs and residents to Richmond

It also comes with residents still grieving over the recent shooting deaths of three teen-agers in south Richmond and one near Richmond High School just across the city line in San Pablo. 

Shumake does not want the churches to just preach peace from the pulpit but also to throw their doors open wide in a collaborative effort to improve the community’s spiritual and economic vitality. 

“We are in the midst of a spiritual explosion in the city of Richmond and across the country,” Shumake said. “You hear people crying out, What can I do?’ and it’s an awesome thing to witness. You have so many people saying the same thing. Now they are coming together. Now is the time. What you are going to see is the church in action.” 

Ministers from at least 20 churches of various denominations have been invited to Thursday’s meeting. 

It will start with a moment of silence for the slain youths. 

“The pastors of this city have a vision,” said Shumake. “We’re trying to bring that vision together and do the work that we’ve been called to do.” 

Speakers will include Richmond Police Chief Joseph Samuels, Ruby Hamilton of the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department, Landon Williams of the San Francisco Foundation’s FAITHS Initiative and Debra Carter-Kelly of Pacific Bell. 

The keynote speaker will be Aubry Stone of the California Black Chambers of Commerce. City Manager Isiah Turner will be the master of ceremonies. 

Participants will learn how churches can form nonprofit corporations to help develop affordable housing and launch commercial endeavors like grocery stores, banks and pharmacies to bring services and jobs to inner-city neighborhoods. 

Shumake also envisions developing faith-based mentoring programs for youths and adults, with churches throughout the city helping to provide job training and classes on parenting, budgeting, literacy and African-American history. 

“If we want to curb the violence we have to provide some economic incentives,” Shumake said. “For those young men and women on the streets, it’s about economics. They’re making money out there. If we can treat them with dignity and respect, if we can provide them with positive alternatives, I believe the community will rise to the occasion.” 

Shumake believes that even if just a few of the city’s 112 churches get involved, they can make a difference. 

Fellow Richmond ministers agreed. 

“The churches are the ones who have the most pull on the community,” said Bishop Marion Pride, a resident of the Iron Triangle and former president of the neighborhood council. “The pastors have more outreach to them than anyone else in the community.” 

“The churches, the ministers are interested in the whole man,” said the Rev. Joseph Harold, pastor of the Parchester First Baptist Church. “Not just his salvation, but his living condition and everything else.” 

The approach reflects a growing movement of churches joining with government officials and social service organizations to help address society’s ills with means that go beyond prayer. 

Churches in Los Angeles have teamed up with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to take over abandoned and blighted properties for the creation of apartments and housing for AIDS sufferers and low-income families. 

Church leaders in New York’s Harlem have banded together to raise awareness and federal funding in the fight against the AIDS epidemic in the black community. 

In Nashville, Tenn., church leaders have come up with a plan to create a center where immigrants and their children can learn English or computer skills or be tutored. 

Contra Costa is no exception. The county spent about $300,000 last year on collaborative social service projects with churches and religious organizations. 

The spirit of cooperation also is behind the work of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Project, or GRIP. Formed in 1966 in response to growing racial unrest and other social issues, the group of 27 East Bay congregations now provides social services, including a winter shelter program. 

Even President-elect Bush has recognized the importance of the churches as a provider of social services, proposing to add an Office of Faith-Based Programs to work with churches and charities that aid the needy. 

California’s 1998 welfare-to-work legislation has spurred the trend by explicitly stating that counties should seek to work with religious organizations in developing job training, child care and other programs to aid the transition. 

Nonprofit groups are also working more with church groups. 

The San Francisco Foundation has been providing grant money and technical assistance to faith-based organizations for seven years, said Williams, director of the foundations’ FAITHS Initiative, which includes about 350 congregations in five Bay Area counties. 

The initiative recently helped the Easter Hill Methodist Church buy an ailing commercial property on Cutting Boulevard and open a thrift store that not only supports the church financially but also has helped revitalize the area. 

Shumake knows firsthand the secular success a church can have working with government and social service organizations. 

For two years, Shumake’s church has helped Contra Costa County and Neighborhood House of North Richmond wean residents off welfare. 

More than 600 residents have landed full-time jobs by way of the North Richmond Community Career and Resource Center at his church, Shumake said. 

Shumake also has been an outspoken advocate of change as president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, a residents’ group that oversees one of the city’s most troubled and crime-plagued neighborhoods. 

“I see firsthand the problems of homelessness, teen pregnancy and gentrification,” Shumake said. “If we want to solve those problems, we have to get the churches to open their doors for after-school tutoring programs and child care, parenting classes and financial tutoring.” 

Proselytizing is forbidden at the career center, Shumake added. “We can’t inquire what one’s faith is. But we can show love through our actions. That’s the church in action.” 

City Manager Turner said the churches could be integral to his mission of making Richmond more vital and prosperous. 

“There’s been money set aside for faith-based organizations to prepare people for work and create economic development opportunities in the community that center on transitioning people from a lower economic rung to a higher economic rung.” 

Councilman Gary Bell said he can see the advantages of a loose-knit partnership between the city and its churches, as long as city funding doesn’t go to them directly. 

“I would not envision the city actually being involved with them as a funder or with setting an agenda,” Bell said. “But I would see them communicating with the city and saying, Here’s what we are willing to do. What is the city willing to do to assist to us reach our goals?’” 

Shumake acknowledged that city government alone can’t improve what ails Richmond neighborhoods: 

“Historically the African-American church has been at the forefront of every movement. It’s time now for the church to be out in front of the changes that are taking place and need to take place in Richmond.” 

Such collaborations can occur without violating the separation of church and state, said county Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond

“There are ways that it can be done without funding going directly to the church but that support the work that needs to be done,” Gioia said. “If a youth group in church wants to help teach art at an elementary school after school, that’s not about religion. That’s about utilizing the resources of a church to provide a service.” 

 

Caption:
Photo. The Rev. Andre Shumake believes churches working together can help end violence in Richmond. (Herman Bustamante Jr./Times). Breakout. Meeting information. Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nevin Community Center, 598 Nevin Ave., Richmond.