Richmond Progressive Alliance in 500 Words

Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) is at the forefront of showing that people power can beat money power. People can make their lives and their communities better, healthier, and happier.

RPA began in late 2003 when a group of community activists in Richmond, California became tired of having their goals thwarted by people in decision-making power. They decided to run for City Council,

Rather than individual campaigns, they ran a slate of candidates. Greens, Democrats, and independents ran together as candidates struggling for the environment, for equality, for justice, against police brutality, for immigrant rights and many other great causes.

Richmond nomore checkpoints 238pxRichmond was a “company town” and the company was Chevron, the largest corporation in California. Chevron had established an approach of funding candidates, and a habit of not being held accountable for pollution, or for paying its fair share in taxes. The corporation’s relatively small charitable contributions to the city did not offset what it should have paid in taxes. The RPA ran for office, and shook up Chevron’s cozy relationship with city government.

Chevron money was of course out of the question for the new brand of candidate that the RPA nurtured, but they went even further. They rejected contributions from all large corporations. Some rejected contributions even from small corporations, and that policy evolved over the years to the higher bar which required that candidates pledge not to accept any corporate donations at all, not even from small corporations.

Becoming candidates did not stop them from remaining activists. RPA supporters believed in and built both council/board/decision-making power and grass roots/neighborhood/street power. They developed structures, organization, and a platform of ideas that resonated with residents as well as with several concentric circles of general support.

Two candidates ran in 2004 and one won a seat on the City Council. This victory demonstrated how important it was to have even a single person at the table who represented people power rather than money power. Ideas were brought forward that in the old days would not have made it to the council’s agenda. Other resolutions that had stalled moved forward, especially when Richmond residents attended the meetings and rallied in the streets. The decision-making of all councilmembers became more visible and accountable. For its first dozen years, the RPA never had a majority on the city council, and yet major shifts happened, such as decreasing pollution, and making Chevron pay more of its fair share in taxes.

All in all, from 2004 to the present, the RPA has run candidates in 13 races for city council and mayor and won eight of them. They took strong positions on three measures and won two.

The most inspiring win of “people power” over “money power” was the election of 2014. Chevron poured $3,000,000 into the race — unheard of in a town of 100,000 people — against three RPA candidates and two other non-Chevron candidates. In those five elections, Chevron money lost, lost, lost, lost, and lost.

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And that is the “Richmond Progressive Alliance in 500 Words.” Read more below, you’ll be glad you did. RPA website is HERE. Also, Gayle McLaughlin is writing a book, so watch for that!

(1) “How did the RPA get started?”, by Juan Reardon, an article about the first years of the RPA, with initial organizing documents, and campaign and event flyers.

(2) “Communities Fight for Community Control Over Corporate Power,” by Mike Parker, published in Social Policy magazine, details RPA history from 2003 to present.

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What I like about Bernie — and my recommendation

ONE: A movement is building. People are questioning the fairness of capitalism and looking at socialism with fresh eyes. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been a major spokesperson for bringing the term “socialism” back into our national dialogue. I like that about Bernie.

PHOTO Bernie Sanders speakingI should say right up front, I have blogged on questions I have about Bernie Sanders:  his “communist dictator” remark about Hugo Chavez, who did lead a “political revolution” and moved Venezuela toward socialism, HERE; and Bernie’s possibly becoming a “sheepdog” for a corporate candidate like Hillary Clinton, HERE.

TWO: The second thing I really like about Bernie is that he backs up his rhetoric about casino capitalism and the billionaire class by taking no corporate money. The “contribution rules” on his website include:

  • This contribution is made from my own funds, and funds are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.
  • I am making this contribution with my own personal credit card and not with a corporate or business credit card or a card issued to another person.

Bernie is following the example of Richmond, California. The Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates, whatever their political parties, refuse corporate and developer money in their campaigns. When they win elections — and they have won, even against millions of dollars that Chevron throws against them — they follow through on their campaign rhetoric and stand up to giant corporations, not just Chevron but also developers and Wall Street banks. Good for Bernie for following the Richmond example.

THREE: The third thing I like about Bernie Sanders is that he includes on his website a list of all the states with the rules for voting in primaries in each of the states. The California link is HERE. That leads me to …

MY RECOMMENDATION

Friends who are “feeling the Bern,” and yet who are disenchanted with the two big political parties, have asked me for my recommendation. Here it is for California; much of it applies to other states as well.

(1) Wait as late as possible before the primary to make any changes if you want to vote for Bernie. The last day to change voter registration in California, for example, is May 23, 2016. To be safe, mark your calendar for MAY DAY. On the 1st of May, change your voter registration, if and only if there’s a solid chance that the Democratic Party institution — which is different from the people — would allow Bernie to be its nominee! How could the DP institution stop Bernie if the people vote for him in droves in Iowa and New Hampshire? Easy, it uses “superdelegates” and control of the corporate media.

(2) Use the power of your voter registration to the max. Do the least damage. Don’t give the parties of the 1% your seal of approval via your voter registration. The Democratic Party has made its decision for 2016: people who are registered “No Party Preference” can can vote in the Democratic primary. California online voter registration happens at http://registertovote.ca.gov/.

(3) After the primary, come back! Mark your calendar for June 8, or maybe INDEPENDENCE DAY. Say “No!” to the 1%, their corporations, and their political parties. Help build that strong third party so many Americans want. It’s no surprise to my friends and colleagues that I recommend changing your voter registration to the no-corporate-money Green Party. The practical and idealistic reason is this: the Green Party is the strongest third party that we have for working families in this whole country. You can bet the system doesn’t make it easy for third parties to become strong — that’s where people power comes in: votes and voter registrations. Jill Stein has a good chance of being the Green Party nominee, and your vote for her in November will help build a real political revolution.

Good luck to us all!

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