Can California Protect Frontline Communities From Climate Change?

Alternet
By Sona Mohnot

Poor people will be hit hardest by the impacts of climate change.

In the last five years, San Jose has seen severe drought followed by the worst floods in a century, and to top it off, record-breaking temperatures. These extreme weather events are not unique to the Bay Area, but are happening all around California as well as the U.S. and the world. Climate change makes them more common and more severe.

Although California is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it won’t stop global warming. We can slow down extreme weather events like those in San Jose, but communities will continue to feel the impacts of climate change no matter how much we curb emissions.

The weather conditions brought on by climate change—like flooding, heatwaves and wildfires—can affect everyday life for people. Californians face the increasing likelihood of power outages, displacement, increased costs for electricity and food, contaminated drinking water, worsened air pollution and increased asthma rates.

While climate change impacts will affect everyone, poor communities and communities of color will be hit hardest. These frontline communities already spend as much as 25 percent of their entire income on just food, electricity and water, which is much more than most Americans. They face a greater risk of heat-related illness and death.

And while air conditioning and transportation could alleviate extreme heat impacts, many people of color and low-income residents lack access to air conditioning or cars to escape hot days. Often located in areas with severe air pollution, these communities will also breathe even dirtier air as smog increases due to climate change.

So what is California doing to ensure frontline communities are prepared to handle the impacts of climate change and continue to thrive?

The state has developed a climate adaptation strategy called the Safeguarding California Plan. The plan covers 10 sectors, including energy, transportation, public health, water and forests. For each sector, the plan discusses what the state is currently doing to address climate adaptation, what must be done, and how the state plans to accomplish those goals. The plan covers a lot of ground, but focuses heavily on the vulnerability of built infrastructure (e.g. roads, highways and energy facilities) and natural systems like wetlands, forests and agricultural lands.

The plan does little to prioritize community vulnerability. For instance, are cooling centers available on hot days for communities lacking access to air conditioning? Are emergency evacuation routes available for people without vehicles? What is the emergency response system to warn people of extreme weather events in rural or hard-to-reach communities? What measures are in place to prevent displacement?

Recognizing the need to address these issues, the Resources Legacy Fund brought together several environmental justice, public health and climate equity organizations, including Greenlining, to create a Climate Justice Working Group. The working group provided recommendations to the state as it updated the Safeguarding California Plan earlier this year. We also just released a set of climate justice principles and recommendations that go beyond “Safeguarding California.” We believe the state should include the recommendations in all climate adaptation policies it develops.

Here’s an overview:

  • The state should prioritize the protection of essential facilities that provide health care, food, and emergency shelter; bring economic opportunities into frontline communities and avoid negative consequences such as displacement.

  • The state should conduct community vulnerability assessments to identify what make a community vulnerable. The assessments can inform strategies to build community resilience.

  • Importantly, the state should meet with and actively engage frontline communities to include their voice in all climate adaptation plans.

  • The state should identify at least $1 billion by 2020 and $10 billion by 2025 to accomplish climate resilience goals.

To hear what communities have to say about climate change, Resources Legacy Fund and EMC Research conducted a survey of 800 California voters of color. Sixty-one percent of these voters say climate change poses a major threat to low-income communities, and 85% want their elected officials to develop stronger policies to help their community prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The recently passed extension of California’s cap-and-trade program designates climate adaptation as a priority that must get funding from cap-and-trade revenue. Since climate adaption will get funding, this is an opportune time for the state to think about incorporating the Climate Justice Working Group’s recommendations into its policies—especially since voters of color want to see policies that address community vulnerability.

Officials must listen to the voices of the communities hit first and worst, and make sure that we build up the resiliency of those communities and don’t accidentally increase poverty and displacement.

Trump’s Cult of White Victimhood

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

In recent days, the Trump administration has removed all doubt about its desire to escalate a war on Americans of color while appealing to a cult of white victimhood.

As August began, word filtered out about a planned Justice Department attack on university affirmative action programs that supposedly discriminate against white applicants. The White House scrambled, and argued that the story was overblown. But there was nothing surprising about it. Indeed, the president’s press secretary stressed the White House’s determination to  “always review credible allegations of discrimination on the basis of any race.”

Let’s be clear: The limited use of race still allowed by the courts in college admissions at best barely makes up for the systemic advantages whites have because of America’s long history of discrimination and redlining.

African Americans and other minorities are more likely to attend underfunded, struggling schools, are less likely to have a parent or other close relative who’s been to college, and on and on.

The idea that these programs discriminate against whites is ludicrous. But it’s par for the course from a race-baiting administration that wants to crack down on legal immigration and has assembled a “voting integrity” commission that seems mostly interested in suppressing the votes of people of color and the poor. Trump’s team also appears bent on reversing police reforms intended to curb racist practices, even as the president recently seemed to encourage police violence against suspects, who tend to be disproportionately black and Latino.

Clearly, our president has staked his political future on stoking racial divisions so that he can emerge as the hero of “victimized” whites. Words barely exist to describe how dangerous this is, and how easily it could lead to more divisions in our country.

It’s also a complete fraud, an old trick long used by wealthy elites to keep working-class Americans fighting each other rather than taking on the big-business interests ripping them off.

It’s easy to forget now, but the South was not nearly as racially segregated right after the Civil War as it became in later decades. The race-baiting push for Jim Crow laws was consciously stirred by white business elites in reaction to populist movements in which working class whites and blacks began to come together for their own economic interests.

It worked, resulting in a South that was both racially segregated and economically backward, with severe poverty, low wages and a weak labor movement.

Now, Trump and his allies are again stoking racial tension, even as they seek to cut taxes on the rich by shredding health care for everyone else, dismantle protections for workers and consumers, and tear down environmental protections that stop wealthy corporations from poisoning our communities.

An Important Step to Clean Air and More Equitable Communities in Los Angeles

The Union of Concerned Scientists Blog 
By Jimmy O’Dea and Joel Espino

Tomorrow, LA Metro, the second largest transit fleet in the United States, will decide what types of buses to purchase through 2030. The decision will impact Los Angeles’ efforts to clean the air, fight climate change, and expand economic opportunity. We applaud the proposal put forward by Metro staff last week to transition the entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles.

LA Metro can be a leader

Today, Metro’s 2,200 buses operate entirely on natural gas. While natural gas was a better option than diesel when Metro began switching fuels more than 20 years ago, it no longer deserves the “clean” branding seen on Metro’s buses. Advances in technology have made electric buses an even cleaner and viable option. It’s time for Metro to continue its leadership in fighting pollution and transition to the cleanest technology available today: electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Earlier this year, a coalition of bus riders, labor groups, and public health groups launched a campaign urging Metro to be a leader and transition to an all-electric bus fleet powered by renewable energy. A central part of this campaign is that communities most affected by poverty and pollution should be first to reap the benefits of bus electrification, such as improved air quality and more high-quality, skilled jobs. Mayor Garcetti recently urged Metro to make this transition by 2030 and just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times expressed its support for Metro’s path to zero-emission buses.

Despite years of work and improvement, Los Angeles’ air still ranks among the worst in the country. Heavy-duty vehicles like buses are a major source of air pollution. Today, residents of communities like Wilmington or Bell Gardens, who live near highly trafficked roads and freight corridors, suffer the consequences of air pollution like increased risks of lung and heart disease and premature death.

Last fall we found that electric buses result in far lower air pollution and global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions, cut global warming pollution, and create new jobs. They are better for bus riders, bus drivers, and communities with heavy traffic and severe air pollution.

Our analysis found the potential for good jobs in manufacturing of electric buses, construction of charging infrastructure, and maintenance. With the right training and hiring practices, this industry could bring an economic boost to communities most in need.

Electric buses are the cleanest

There are two types of electric buses Metro could purchase; both have significant benefits. Battery electric buses have 70 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Fuel cell electric buses have 50 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. That includes the emissions from producing electricity and hydrogen. Both types also cut smog-forming emissions in half compared to today’s natural gas buses. As we generate more of our electricity with clean sources like solar and wind, electric buses will be even cleaner.

Electric buses also have lower life cycle emissions than the newest “low-NOx” natural gas buses fueled with biomethane from waste sites such as landfills. Capturing fugitive methane emissions from sources of waste is an important strategy in reducing California’s global warming emissions and can help displace natural gas use in vehicles, yet the limited amount of biomethane available from sources of waste could meet just 3 percent of California’s natural gas demand. This resource should be used prudently across California’s economy.

The technology is here and ready

Electric buses fueled with hydrogen have had ranges over 200 miles for many years and battery electric buses recently passed this mark. With fewer moving parts and durable electric motors, maintenance costs are lower for electric buses. Electric buses can also accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel or natural gas buses.

Metro’s bus investment would boost the regional economy, including at least eight electric bus and truck manufacturers in the LA region, and spur job training in underserved communities, creating a workforce capable of accelerating electrification in other areas of transportation.

Metro can’t switch to electric buses overnight, but as it retires natural gas buses it should replace each with a clean, quiet electric bus. Nearly 20 transit agencies across the state have stepped up to the plate and begun incorporating electric buses into their fleets, many with significant, if not full, commitments to zero-emission buses. California and its poorest and most polluted communities depend on it.

An Important Step to Clean Air and More Equitable Communities in Los Angeles

Union of Concerned Scientists Blog
By Joel Espino and Jimmy O’Dea

Next month, LA Metro, the second largest transit fleet in the United States, will decide what types of buses to purchase through 2030. The decision will impact Los Angeles’ efforts to clean the air, fight climate change, and expand economic opportunity. We applaud the proposal put forward by Metro staff last week to transition the entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles.

LA Metro can be a leader

Today, Metro’s 2,200 buses operate entirely on natural gas. While natural gas was a better option than diesel when Metro began switching fuels more than 20 years ago, it no longer deserves the “clean” branding seen on Metro’s buses. Advances in technology have made electric buses an even cleaner and viable option. It’s time for Metro to continue its leadership in fighting pollution and transition to the cleanest technology available today: electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Earlier this year, a coalition of bus riders, labor groups, and public health groups launched a campaign urging Metro to be a leader and transition to an all-electric bus fleet powered by renewable energy. A central part of this campaign is that communities most affected by poverty and pollution should be first to reap the benefits of bus electrification, such as improved air quality and more high-quality, skilled jobs. Mayor Garcetti recently urged Metro to make this transition by 2030 and just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times expressed its support for Metro’s path to zero-emission buses.

Despite years of work and improvement, Los Angeles’ air still ranks among the worst in the country. Heavy-duty vehicles like buses are a major source of air pollution.  Today, residents of communities like Wilmington or Bell Gardens, who live near highly trafficked roads and freight corridors, suffer the consequences of air pollution like increased risks of lung and heart disease and premature death.

Last fall we found that electric buses result in far lower air pollution and global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions, cut global warming pollution, and create new jobs. They are better for bus riders, bus drivers, and communities with heavy traffic and severe air pollution.

Our analysis found the potential for good jobs in manufacturing of electric buses, construction of charging infrastructure, and maintenance. With the right training and hiring practices, this industry could bring an economic boost to communities most in need.

Electric buses are the cleanest

There are two types of electric buses Metro could purchase; both have significant benefits. Battery electric buses have 70 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Fuel cell electric buses have 50 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. That includes the emissions from producing electricity and hydrogen. Both types also cut smog-forming emissions in half compared to today’s natural gas buses. As we generate more of our electricity with clean sources like solar and wind, electric buses will be even cleaner.

Electric buses also have lower life cycle emissions than the newest “low-NOx” natural gas buses fueled with biomethane from waste sites such as landfills. Capturing fugitive methane emissions from sources of waste is an important strategy in reducing California’s global warming emissions and can help displace natural gas use in vehicles, yet the limited amount of biomethane available from sources of waste could meet just 3 percent of California’s natural gas demand.  This resource should be used prudently across California’s economy.

The technology is here and ready

Electric buses fueled with hydrogen have had ranges over 200 miles for many years and battery electric buses recently passed this mark. With fewer moving parts and durable electric motors, maintenance costs are lower for electric buses. Electric buses can also accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel or natural gas buses.

Metro’s bus investment would boost the regional economy, including at least eight electric bus and truck manufacturers in the LA region, and spur job training in underserved communities, creating a workforce capable of accelerating electrification in other areas of transportation.

Metro can’t switch to electric buses overnight, but as it retires natural gas buses it should replace each with a clean, quiet electric bus. Nearly 20 transit agencies across the state have stepped up to the plate and begun incorporating electric buses into their fleets, many with significant, if not full, commitments to zero-emission buses. California and its poorest and most polluted communities depend on it.

Tipo De Buses Que Comprará LA Metro Afectará Los Ángeles Por Años

La Opinión
By Joel Espino y Dr. Jimmy O’Dea
La inversión de Metro en buses eléctricos le daría un empujón a la economía regional.

Esta semana, LA Metro, la segunda agencia metropolitana de tránsito más grande de los Estados Unidos, decidirá qué tipos de buses comprará durante la próxima década. La decisión afectará los esfuerzos de Los Ángeles para limpiar el aire, combatir el cambio climático y crear oportunidades económicas.Hoy en día, Metro cuenta con una flota de 2,200 buses operados exclusivamente con gas natural. Hace 20 años cuando Metro empezó a reemplazar sus buses de diesel, el gas natural era una mejor opción de combustible, pero comparado con otras tecnologías disponibles actualmente, ya no merece el título de combustible limpio, o clean, impreso sobre los buses de Metro. Gracias a los avances tecnológicos los buses eléctricos ahora son una opción más limpia y más viable. Es hora que Metro continúe su liderazgo en la lucha contra la contaminación del aire e inicie la transición a la tecnología más limpia que existe, o sea, buses eléctricos.

A principios de este año, una coalición de pasajeros del transporte público, sindicatos, y grupos de salud pública lanzaron una campaña pidiéndole a Metro que liderara la transición a una flota de buses eléctricos alimentados por energías renovables. Para las comunidades más afectadas por la pobreza y la contaminación del aire, la electrificación de los buses de Metro traería beneficios directos como mejor calidad del aire y más y mejores trabajos. El alcalde Garcetti recientemente instó a Metro para que finalizara la transición en el 2030.

A pesar de años de trabajo y mejoras, Los Ángeles continúa siendo una de las ciudades con peor calidad del aire en los EE.UU. Los vehículos de carga pesada, como los buses, son una de las principales fuentes de esta contaminación del aire. Residentes de comunidades como las de Wilmington o Bell Gardens que viven cerca de vías con altos niveles de tráfico y cerca de corredores de tráfico pesado, hoy por hoy, sufren las consecuencias de la contaminación del aire, tales como mayor riesgo de cáncer de pulmón, enfermedades coronarias y muerte prematura.

El año pasado investigamos este tema y encontramos que los buses eléctricos producen menos emisiones y contaminan el aire mucho menos que los buses de gas natural. Los buses eléctricos no producen emisiones por combustión, reducen el calentamiento global y traen nuevos trabajos. También son mejores para sus pasajeros y conductores, y para las comunidades que viven cerca de vías transitadas y en donde la contaminación del aire es severa.

Nuestro análisis reveló que la manufactura de buses eléctricos, y la construcción y mantenimiento de la infraestructura de recarga que estos buses necesitan, tienen el potencial de crear mejores empleos y traer beneficios económicos a las comunidades más necesitadas.

Existen dos tipos de buses eléctricos que Metro podría comprar; los dos tipos conllevan beneficios significativos. Los buses de batería eléctrica resultan en 70% menos emisiones relacionadas al calentamiento global que los buses de gas natural. Los buses cargados con hidrógeno resultan en 50% menos emisiones que el gas natural. Adicionalmente, los dos tipos de buses producen 50% menos de las emisiones conducentes a la formación de smog que los buses de gas natural.

Los buses eléctricos tienen un rango de 200 millas o más de distancia. Con menos partes y motores eléctricos más duraderos, los costos de mantenimiento son más bajos para los buses eléctricos. Además, los buses eléctricos pueden acelerar y remontar igual de bien o incluso mejor que los buses de diesel y de gas natural.

La inversión de Metro en buses eléctricos le daría un empujón a la economía regional, incluso al menos ocho fabricantes de buses y camiones eléctricos en la región de Los Ángeles, e incentivaría el entrenamiento de mano de obra en comunidades de bajos recursos para suplir estos puestos.

Metro no puede cambiar toda su flota a buses eléctricos de la noche a la mañana, pero a medida que descarta buses de gas natural debería reemplazarlos con los limpios y silenciosos buses eléctricos. Casi 20 agencias metropolitanas de tránsito en California han asumido su responsabilidad, han empezado a electrificar sus buses y se han comprometido completamente, o significativamente, a operar sin producir emisiones. Las comunidades más pobres y contaminadas de California dependen de este cambio.

Oakland Needs Good Jobs; Can We Trust Uber to Provide Them?

By Orson Aguilar & Gay Plair Cobb

When The Greenlining Institute joined with other Oaklanders to launch No Uber Oakland this month, we got lots of attention — including widespread media coverage and over 1,500 visitors to the campaign website in just the first two days — but also some criticism. Some of that criticism came from people correctly pointing out that Oakland urgently needs good jobs, and that criticism deserves a response.

One person, for example, wrote:

“We should be joyous that companies want to locate here… How else are jobs going to be created here except by encouraging businesses to locate here?”

Everyone wants good jobs for Oaklanders. And that’s exactly why we need to hold companies like Uber accountable.

From what Uber has said, the company seems likely to employ 2–300 people at first, and possibly many more later. Right now there’s no guarantee that even one of those jobs will go to anyone who actually lives in Oakland. If Uber imports workers from Silicon Valley or recruits them from universities where few Oakland students attend, Oaklanders will gain nothing.

Actually, that’s not true. An imported Uber workforce will leave Oaklanders worse off, because those imported, highly-paid workers will compete with Oakland residents for increasingly scarce and pricey housing. And the pressure Uber’s arrival has already put on commercial rents is already costing our city lots of nonprofit jobs that traditionally have belonged to people who live here.

That’s why No Uber Oakland’s demands put jobs front and center. We’ve asked Uber to make concrete, measurable commitments to recruit and hire local workers — both current residents and those who’ve already been driven out by skyrocketing housing costs. We’ve asked Uber to invest in the training of local workers and students by supporting “pipeline programs” to train Oakland adults and young people for meaningful careers at Uber and other tech companies coming into the area.

And we’ve asked Uber to help preserve and expand the jobs provided by existing Oakland-based businesses by thinking proactively about what vendors it contracts with. All large companies need to buy lots of goods and services, and Uber will be no exception. If those contracts go to local businesses, that means more jobs for local workers and a stronger homegrown business community.

We agree with our critics that Uber could be good for Oakland, but only if it chooses to act in partnership with Oakland’s residents and businesses. If it comes in like an invading force — which, to be honest, has been Uber’s business model as it expands its ride-hailing service into new territories — it will leave our city’s workers worse off, not better.

No one wants to turn away companies that could bring jobs to our town, but all we have to do is look across the bay to San Francisco to see what happens when a tech boom includes no social responsibility: Rents and evictions soar, wealthy tech workers displace the nurses, teachers, cooks and plumbers who form the backbone of our communities, and longtime residents end up worse off or get forced out entirely.

No sane person wants that kind of future for Oakland. A real Oakland jobs agenda must include a meaningful commitment to the local workforce by Uber and other major corporations coming into our city. If you support a real jobs agenda in Oakland, please join us.

Why I Stand With Immigrants

The Bay Area Reporter
By Bruce Mirken

Her name is Maria Contreras. She’s a U.S. citizen, having emigrated legally from the Philippines over a decade ago.

In February, on the way home from visiting friends in Mexico, she was detained and questioned at the airport for some two hours – for no apparent reason other than having brown skin and a name that sounds Hispanic. Though she was eventually allowed to go home, Contreras described it as one of the most humiliating experiences she’s ever had.

I heard about this because I work with her son, Conrad Contreras, on the communications team at the Greenlining Institute in Oakland, where he is our resident whiz on all things digital. Like most of the increasing abuse being heaped on immigrants, documented and otherwise, Maria Contreras’ story never made the news. But episodes like this are being repeated every day.

As LGBTQ Americans, we must raise our voices against the outrages being perpetrated by our government against immigrants. People who come to America to live, work, raise families, and simply try to have a better life than seemed possible in their home countries – like my grandparents over a century ago – have built this country and always will.

For those of you thinking, “But ‘illegal immigrants’ broke the law!” (Are you out there, Gays for Trump?), a bit of perspective:

First, the United States of America was founded by immigrants who came here without permission. True, Native American tribes didn’t have formal immigration laws, but they had no idea they would need them. And while the Wampanoag tribe was not initially hostile to the newcomers at Plymouth Rock, it never even occurred to the white settlers to ask the native peoples for permission – not then, and not when they proceeded to steal the rest of the continent from them over the next two and a half centuries.

For the first century of its existence – the period when the U.S. went from being a scraggly little collection of colonies to a continent-straddling powerhouse – our country had essentially no limits on immigration. And our first significant immigration restriction, passed in 1882, was explicitly racist: the Chinese Exclusion Act, which opened with, “Whereas in the opinion of the government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof …”

Not until 1917 did we start imposing broader immigration limits based on nationality, an effort that reached full flower in the 1920s. Those laws, too, were powered by bigotry: Supposedly “objective” intelligence tests in the early 20th century produced “scientific” results that mirrored society’s prejudices, with light-skinned northern Europeans shown to be most intelligent, eastern and southern Europeans trailing, and African-Americans at the very bottom. One study labeled 82 percent of Russian immigrants (for the record, that would include my grandparents on my father’s side) as “morons,” with Hungarians, Italians, and Jews also ranking high on the moron scale. At the time, Princeton University researcher Carl C. Brigham wrote confidently, “The intellectual superiority of our Nordic group over the Alpine, Mediterranean, and Negro groups has been demonstrated.”

That was preposterous, of course, and later scholars demolished what we now see as laughably obvious cultural bias in those tests. Our immigration laws were built on a foundation of prejudice.

While we’re on the subject of lawbreaking, we might also remember that LGBTQ Americans have been criminals for most of this country’s existence. “Sodomy” was a felony in every state until 1961. California’s sodomy law lasted until 1975 and such laws were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986, a decision the court didn’t reverse until 2003. Other common state and local laws made it illegal to wear clothing not conforming to one’s biological gender or even to operate a business where homosexuals gathered.

These laws, we should note, were all criminal statutes. Laws forbidding unauthorized immigration are civil laws – the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket. So let’s not get all high and mighty over lawbreaking.

In plain truth, majorities have always used laws to oppress and marginalize unpopular minorities. In the recent past that meant us. Today it’s unauthorized immigrants and Muslims, but in truth, none of us can be free until we’re all free. As the late Nelson Mandela put it, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Now more than ever we must live up to the implicit challenge in Mandela’s words, to live in ways that enhance not just our own freedoms, but the freedoms of those all around us – especially the unpopular and marginalized. I’m proud to say that at the Greenlining Institute we’re doing as much as we can on that front, including assembling a weekly roundup of actions, events, and resources called the #ResistReport that we publish on our blog every Thursday.

Please join us.

Gentrification Station: Why Oakland Still Says NO to Uber

East Bay Express
By Orson Aguilar

As Oakland struggles with gentrification and displacement, we’re about to get a new neighbor that will only make things worse. Yes, Uber is still coming to Oakland, part of a tech wave that’s already ripping apart the fabric of this historically diverse, working-class city. But there’s still time to stem the damage — if we don’t let ourselves get lulled into a false sense of security by recent announcements that the company will move in more slowly than originally planned.

That’s why The Greenlining Institute has joined with other community groups and leaders to launch No Uber Oakland, and why we hope you will join us.

I will spare you a long recitation of Uber’s misdeeds. Others, including the president of the Express, have written at length about Uber’s record of ignoring rules and laws, creating a work atmosphere rife with sexual harassment, cheating drivers, undermining public transit, cozying up to Donald Trump (until the #deleteuber campaign forced a hasty retreat), and more. Suffice it to say that no one seriously believes Uber is a good fit with Oakland’s values.

Meanwhile, skyrocketing housing prices and commercial rents threaten the very fabric of our city. You can see it everywhere, from the growing homeless population to nonprofit community and arts groups struggling to maintain a home in an increasingly unaffordable Oakland.

Although Uber now says it will only bring in a couple hundred employees right away, many more are almost certainly coming. Meanwhile, Uber’s plans for the former Sears building make it clear that the company is catering to wealthy tech firms that will accelerate our gentrification crisis. They’ve dubbed the building Uptown Station, but a glance at Uber’s promotion of the space suggests it would be better named Gentrification Station.

Remember, it’s not just about Uber. This marks the leading edge of a wave of tech and corporate development coming to our town (expected arrivals include Blue Shield and other prominent companies) and will set a precedent for all corporate development that follows – good or bad.

We say, loudly and unequivocally, no — no to Uber coming into Oakland unless the company makes serious changes.

What does that mean? It means Uber must commit to working with its new Oakland neighbors to preserve and enhance Oakland as a diverse and vibrant community for people of all income levels. It means hiring and training Oakland residents for those high-paying tech jobs. It means contracting with local businesses — including small and minority-owned firms — for the goods and services they’ll inevitably buy. It means treating its drivers with dignity, including a living wage and employee protections.

And it means Uber must make a real effort to help solve Oakland’s affordability crisis, rather than making it worse. The company must get serious about helping to preserve and create affordable housing and affordable workspaces for nonprofits, artists and arts organizations. Space doesn’t allow me to lay out our full, 10-point platform, but you can read it in full here.

Uber can start by making sure Uptown Station does not become Gentrification Station. When Greenlining moved into our newly renovated building on 14th Street, we set aside nearly one quarter of the space to provide long-term, affordable office space for local nonprofits. We regularly make meeting rooms available to community groups at no cost. I say that not to tout my own organization, but to point out that if a smallish nonprofit can do this, a huge, wealthy corporation like Uber can do much more – if it chooses to.

The city of Oakland has a role to play as well. We need our city government to take a strong stand and create meaningful standards for all large corporations coming to our city to ensure that these wealthy new neighbors strengthen the fabric of our community rather than weaken it.

Trump’s Budget Escalates His War On People Of Color

Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

58 percent of the Medicaid population is non-white.

“Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’” —Martin Luther King Jr.

Some readers thought I went too far by calling policies pushed by the Trump administration and Congress a war on Americans of color. But the president’s new budget proposal shows it’s even worse than I thought.

Even some Republicans have been rightly horrified at how the administration’s proposed budget cuts so much of what’s good, decent and useful that the federal government does, from food assistance (cut by a staggering $193 billion over 10 years) to Medicaid. But we can’t forget that this budget targets some groups more than others, and the attack on Americans of color has never been more overt.

Those massive Medicaid cuts, for example, will hurt millions who depend on the program for basic health care. Because people of color are less likely to have employer-provided health insurance and, thanks to America’s ongoing racial wealth gap, have less money with which to buy insurance, 58 percent of the Medicaid population is non-white.

But Trump’s proposed health cuts go far beyond Medicaid. They target disease prevention efforts at the CDC as well as vital programs that help train young people from diverse backgrounds to work in health professions. This not only cuts off a pathway out of poverty, it also means that blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans will be less likely to see a health provider who understands their community and culture, leading to worse care.

Massive cuts to affordable housing and other programs run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development would also disproportionately hurt low-income communities of color. When these cuts were first floated back in March, housing advocates called them “unconscionable,” and nothing has changed that situation. For example, Community Development Block Grants, which help struggling neighborhoods with needs ranging from infrastructure improvements to housing assistance, would be wiped out completely.

On the financial front, the Trump budget would gradually defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created largely because of predatory lending that targeted black, Latino and Asian communities in the run-up to the 2008 crash. The budget plan also attacks a number of programs that have been crucial to small, minority-owned businesses.

For example, the budget proposal caps the Community Development Financial Institution Fund, a vital lifeline for community development banks, credit unions, and mission-based lenders – institutions that are often the only feasible source of capital for minority-owned small businesses. It would also wipe out the Minority Business Development Agency, which runs programs and services to better equip minority-owned firms to expand and create jobs in their communities. Because these firms tend to be smaller in size than white-owned firms and have less access to conventional sources of credit and capital, CDFIs and the MBDA have played a crucial role in strengthening this sector of our economy. Cutting them will cost jobs, and most of those jobs will be in communities of color.

Environmental cuts will also disproportionately hurt communities of color, as these communities – too often used as toxic dumping grounds ― consistently suffer from the worst pollution problems. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice program would disappear completely, Native American pollution control programs would be slashed by nearly a quarter, Superfund toxic waste site cleanup would be cut by $330 million and grants to state and local air pollution control districts would be cut by 30 percent.

Also facing complete elimination is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income families keep the lights and heat on. Until Americans of color catch up with their white counterparts in levels of employment, income and wealth, cuts to programs that alleviate poverty will always hit them the worst.

And, in one final bit of pointless cruelty, Trump’s proposed budget contains a provision that would make it far easier for the administration to withhold funds from sanctuary cities. Trump administration officials justify this as a crackdown on crime, but research shows that sanctuary cities – in which officials follow the law but don’t go beyond it in assisting with deportations – have lower crime rates than cities without sanctuary policies.

While the Trump administration budget literally contains something to hurt every American, it’s our communities who will be hurt first and worst if this atrocity passes.

Bill Would Gut Consumer Protections

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

Do you have a bank account? A credit card? Any dealings with banks or other financial institutions? If so, Congress wants to empower Wall Street to rip you off.

The 2008 crash and Great Recession resulted largely from unethical behavior by lenders and other financial firms. Lenders talked people into signing up for predatory mortgage loans that were literally designed to fail—after the lenders had made a quick buck selling them to investors.

In response, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, establishing significant reforms to prevent the disaster from repeating. While imperfect, the law has done real good. Now, the new Congress and the White House are joining forces to destroy some of its most important reforms.

Earlier this month, the House Financial Services Committee approved the so-called Financial Choice Act, authored by committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). Powerful bank lobbies like the American Bankers Association lined up behind the biggest effort yet to weaken financial reform.

The bill—dubbed the Wrong Choice Act by opponents—would make it easier for banks to avoid requirements designed to keep our financial system stable. Worse, it would drastically weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the first and only federal agency whose sole function is to stop banks and other financial firms from cheating you.


Through its enforcement actions, the bureau has already forced big financial firms to give back billions of dollars to American consumers who were cheated by shady, illegal banking practices. These crackdowns have involved some of Wall Street’s biggest players, from Chase Bank and a group of American Express subsidiaries, to credit reporting firms like Equifax and TransUnion.

The bureau has also moved to curb abuses in payday lending and aggressive debt collection practices. And—particularly important given the shady lending that caused the crash—it created the Ability-to-Repay rule. This requires mortgage lenders to make a good-faith determination about whether someone actually has the ability to repay a loan and prevents the use of teaser rates to hide a loan’s true cost.

The victims of these abuses are often the most vulnerable, including people with low or moderate incomes and communities of color.

Democrats in Congress have vowed to oppose the Financial Choice Act as it now heads to the full House and Senate. The threat of a Senate filibuster could force some changes—especially if the public is alerted to the harm it could do.

While the Financial Choice Act would not kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it would destroy its independence, putting it under the thumb of politicians who get millions in campaign contributions from the very bankers it regulates.

“It is an enormous package of gifts for Wall Street and the worst actors in finance,” Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, told the New York Times.

She’s right. Congress and the White House must hear loudly and clearly that voters don’t want to go back to the bad old days.