Marin Energy item to be on Tuesday’s Richmond council agenda


From the agenda report:





November 13, 2012


Mayor McLaughlin and Members of the City Council


Councilmember Boozé


Marin Clean Energy Project



The City of Richmond has become a member of the Marin Energy Authority JPA.

Richmond residents will be automatically enrolled in the Marin Clean Energy

Community Choice Aggregation program and must opt out if they wish to continue to

purchase electric power through Pacific Gas and Electric.




RECEIVE a report from staff on the Marin Clean Energy Community Choice

Aggregation program regarding the source of energy and the “opt out” process for

Richmond consumers – Councilmember Boozé (620-6953).




There is no financial impact related to this item.




I would like to receive a staff report on the Marin Clean Energy program. The report

should explain the program to the community. I am concerned that consumers must pay

to opt out of the program if they do not meet the initial opt out deadline. Other questions


1. What is the process to opt out of the program?

2. What is the difference between the charges of kilowatt hours through the Marin

Clean Energy program vs. the charges of kilowatt hours through Pacific Gas and





November 13, 2012 Page 2 of 2


3. Is the source of energy through PG&E? If not, what is the source?

4. Where will the energy panels be located?

5. Who initiated Richmond’s participation in the program?

6. Does the state dictate whether all Richmond gas & electric consumers participate

in the program or not?





Richmond races down to wire

Who will win Richmond’s three council seats? I don’t really know, but a lot of people think it comes down to six people: Incumbents and Tom Butt, Nat Bates, along with RPA-backed Eduardo Martinez and Marilyn Langlois and Chevron-backed Gary Bell and Bea Roberson.
Who are the favorites within those six? Tough to say, although Butt and Bates have both been consistent re-election winners for a long time, so that may imply some edge.
Andres Soto, a longtime local leader and founding member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, posted this on Facebook today. As you can read below, he says that it’s really a battle between four at this point, Butt, Langlois, Bates and Martinez.
What do you think?
Dear Friends:

Regardless of the national election as they say, “All politics are local”. We need you now. This election in Richmond is being watched nationally because of Measure N and we have a chance to put a stake in the heart of Chevron and its efforts to dominate and corrupt the Richmond City Council.

This Saturday is the last day for door to door canvassing – great way to meet neighbors and feel the pulse of the election.

The recents hit pieces against Eduardo Martinez and on behalf of Gary Bell tells us Eduardo is battling Bell for the third slot and that Tom Butt and Marilyn Langlois are on top – Nat Bates is almost gone forever – but we must keep up the fight until 8:00 p.m. on election night. Then we party!!!!

We also need you to take next Tuesday off from work and join us all day as we persuade voters in Richmond to stand up to Chevron and to support our children’s health.


Richmond’s David v. Goliath: the sugar beverage tax

jeff ritterman felix hunziger

Jeff Ritterman, foreground, and Felix Hunziker, background, an anti-Measure N activist.

RICHMOND — Jeff Ritterman made his case for taxing sugar-sweetened beverages at American Public Health Association Conferences, to doctors at a San Francisco Medical School and the Board of Supervisors in San Mateo County — all in the last week.

But perhaps his most important audience was Monday night’s, where 80 people gathered at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church for a town-hall meeting.

Trim and energetic, with his trademark ponytail pulled tight, the retired cardiologist-turned-councilman relied on local African-American sports and health advocates to do most of the talking to one of the city’s oldest African- American congregations, but he bemoaned the “polarization” that has cleaved the city over his controversial ballot measure.

“We have to keep the focus on our children and how to make the city a better place for them,” Ritterman said.

Erick Avery, coach of the Richmond Half-Steppers, a youth track club, had just finished speaking on the need for recreation funding from Measure N, the penny-per-ounce tax Ritterman has devoted nearly all his energies to.

Click here to see the Beverage Association spending report: BEVERAGEGROUPREPORT pdf pdf

Keenly aware of the $2.5 million spent so far against the measure, Ritterman did what he seldom does — acknowledged the possibility of defeat on Nov. 6. As of Oct. 20, the pro-Measure N “Fit for Life” campaign had spent less than $50,000 from mostly small donors.

“Win or lose, we have to figure out a way to support (the Half Steppers),” Ritterman said.

The pro-Measure N “Fit for Life” campaign has spent less than $50,000 from mostly small donors, a total dwarfed by the $2.5 million in soda industry funding the opposition.

The underdogs have relied on volunteers and creativity to get their message out to local voters.

Youth artists spray-paint anti-soda, “Yes on N” murals on street corner buildings, with the owners’ permission. Ritterman has done hundreds of interviews with media from all over the world, and has spent thousands of hours campaigning. He pulls a wagon carrying 40-pounds of sugar — a prop meant to personify the amount the average child consumes in a year — and spends late nights pecking rhetoric into his keyboard, jousting with critics and naysayers on social media platforms. He’s been shouted down at parks and in church parking lots.

It’s in Richmond’s working-class neighborhoods where the ballot battle will be won or lost, and skeptics say the pro-tax activists can’t overcome the money and the blunt “no on new taxes” message against them.

“Our campaign spending is still considerably less than what Measure N would cost Richmond families in higher grocery bills and Richmond businesses in lost sales and customers,” said Chuck Finnie, a spokesman for the anti-tax group.

Otheree Christian, president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Association, said he liked much of what he heard Monday night, but that his mostly African- American and Latino neighborhood is leaning against the ballot measure and can’t be persuaded.

“In this economy, with people struggling, putting in a new tax is not going to work, no matter how you try to dress it up,” Christian said.

Several speakers on Monday appealed directly to the city’s working class African-American and Latino communities, calling sugar-sweetened beverages “poisons” that are fueling obesity, diabetes and other health maladies.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and other elected leaders joined Ritterman at the church and pushed hard for the measure. McLaughlin pledged to pass postelection legislation requiring that every dollar from Measure N goes to youth health and recreation programs, another in a long line of tweaks to the message that the pro-N side has made over months of campaigning to tamp down critics.

The keynote speaker Monday was Maya Rockeymoore, a Washington D.C.-based scholar.

Rockeymoore called on the African American community to look critically at the beverage industry, its products and its marketing tactics toward ethnic groups.

She called the obesity crisis — 52 percent of children in Richmond are overweight — a “systemic” problem.

“We are surrounded all the time by an environment in which unhealthy drinks are advertised,” Rockeymoore said.

McLaughlin echoed many of Rockeymoore’s theme, at one point noting acerbically that obesity and diabetes has been a bitter fruit of the “Pepsi Generation” marketing campaign.

Doria Robinson, a community advocate for better nutrition and urban farming, said residents needed to come together to tax sugary-drinks and reduce consumption.

“It’s not food,” she said. “It’s hurting us.”

With its unlimited budget, The Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes counts hundreds of local businesses and influential community groups, including the NAACP and Black Women of Political Action (BWOPA) among its members. The city’s streets and its airwaves are awash in “No on N” ads, funded by the Washington D.C.-based American Beverage Association’s support. The coalition has also provided thousands in direct payments to influential community leaders, including the treasurer of the Black American Polical Action Committee (BAPAC).

“Without Big Soda’s money, there would be no organized opposition against the soda tax,” Ritterman said.

The dynamic has played out elsewhere to the same notes. El Monte, a Los Angeles County suburb with a nearly 20 percent larger population than Richmond, is the other major California battleground over beverage taxes.

El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, the leading proponent of Measure H — which is virtually identical to Richmond’s ordinance — has acknowledged that his measure has little chance in the face of the beverage industry’s sophisticated and well-funded campaign.

Yet in El Monte, the battle is being tipped with far fewer resources. The “No on H” committee has spent about $1.3 million, barely half its spending in Richmond, the smaller city. El Monte’s pro-beverage tax forces have spent about $7,000 more than those in Richmond.

“The comparison shows how strong Richmond’s progressive movement is,” said Andres Soto, a founding member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. “We can win here against all the corporate money.”

In both cities, slick campaign strategists have focused on appealing to key ethnic groups.

In Richmond, the campaigns have focused on appealing to African Americans and Latinos. In El Monte, advertising aims at Asians and Latinos.

Critics have complained that Ritterman and his allies initially overlooked the support of local churches and leaders, opening the door for the beverage industry to make inroads. Ritterman disagrees.

“No regrets,” Ritterman said. “We have worked hard. We have run an honest campaign.”

Observers close to the campaigns on both sides say N has a slim chance at passage, but still marvel at the spirited, crafty, bare-bones campaign that has pushed Richmond into the national limelight on issues of public health and sugar-sweetened beverages. The battle in Richmond may be lost this year, they say, but the larger war changing the beverage industry is still in their favor.

“This really advanced the cause no matter how the vote turns out,” said Councilman Tom Butt. “A lot of people have been watching this, learning what to do and what not to do, and I am sure there will be other cities that will take this up.”

Asked if he has ever felt down against the seemingly overwhelming odds, Ritterman brushed that aside.

“I’ve been working on this more than full time for many months. I don’t feel demoralized at all, I feel energized.”



Richmond council hopefuls debate at Hotel Mac

nat bates, tom butt

Candidates square off at the Hotel Mac. (photo by Robert Rogers)

RICHMOND — Five candidates for City Council squared off in their upteenth debate Wednesday in an upstairs room of the historic Hotel Mac.

The lunch hour debate featured incumbents Nat Bates and Tom Butt, along with challengers Eduardo Martinez, Bea Roberson and Marilyn Langlois.
The debate was sponsored by the Council of Industries and drew about 20 local business leaders.
Economic development took center stage in all the candidates’ remarks.
Martinez, Langlois and Butt, backed by the progressive coalition that has lead Richmond in recent years, touted the city’s successes and said Richmond was on the right track.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Martinez said, joining his allies in praising the city’s General Plan, which stresses pedestrian friendly streets, green development and open space preservation.
Langlois said passing Measure N, a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, was part of Richmond’s progress as a leader in healthy development.
  1. Read an online debate on Measure N here
Bates and Roberson said they were the “business friendly” candidates and vowed to open the city up to more development.
“We have enough parks in this city,” Bates said. “We need more economic development.”
Bates, 81, and Butt, 68, sparred with their usual volleys of barbed banter.
Bates said Butt and his Richmond Progressive Alliance allies were to the Council of Industries what Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is to the NAACP.
Butt said Bates “probably just forgot” that Butt has been a leader on economic development issues for years.
Other candidates for city council, including Gary Bell, Eleanor Thompson and Jael Myrick participated in another debate at the Hotel Mac on Oct. 17.
Three slots are up for grabs this year. Butt and Bates are longtime incumbents seeking re-election, while Councilman Jeff Ritterman has opted not to seek a second term.
In recent years, Richmond has enjoyed a sharp drop in crime, improving employment and new development starts, most notably the announcement earlier this year that the city would be the site of a massive new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, slated to open in 2016 or 2017.

WriterCoach program debuts at Richmond High School

writercoach connection richmond high

Ceremony announcing WriterCoach Connection at Richmond High School on Wednesday.

RICHMOND — WriterCoach Connection has been destined for Richmond, and now it’s here.

The program began in Berkeley in 2001, then expanded to Oakland and Albany. El Cerrito High was the first school in West Contra Costa to adopt it, in 2010, after parents began lobbying for the program there.

Now, it’s in Richmond.

More than 25 people, including WriterCoach Connection leaders and volunteers, school district officials and Richmond elected leaders were on hand at noon Wednesday to celebrate the official beginning of the program at Richmond High School.

The program makes its Richmond debut with about 150 students involved.

WriterCoach Connection leaders Shelli Fried and Robert Menzimer said the volunteers represent a cross-section of Richmond parents and adults concerned about education, as well as some coaches from nearby cities. The program is a nonprofit which relies on volunteers, grants and school district funding.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilmembers Jovanka Beckles and Tom Butt were among those on hand. West Contra Costa Unified School District Superintendent Bruce Harter also attended, as did Richmond High’s principal.

The new coaches attend two training sessions, three hours each. The training provides strategies and practice to work effectively with students at all levels of achievement and all stages of the writing process, according to Menzimer.

The city made news in recent years by taking the unusual step of using general fund moneys to subsidize schools, especially Kennedy High School, which was on the verge of closing because of budget cuts in 2010.

Menzimer said he is hopeful that after his program makes an impact at Richmond High, he’ll be able to establish it at Kennedy as well.