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.

Trump’s War On People Of Color Reaches Your Smartphone

Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

I’ve written a couple of times about how the policies coming from the Trump administration and the current Congress amount to a war on communities of color. That war has now reached your smartphone – and your computer and any other device you own that’s connected to the internet.

During the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules designed to protect your right to access the information you want via the internet, without your internet service provider playing favorites. Without such protections, your ISP could, for example, charge you extra if you do your online shopping with a local small business and less if you shop with the megabusiness that’s part of the same corporate behemoth that owns your ISP. Or it could give its corporate cousin’s online shopping site faster download speeds, while making you sit and wait if you want to process a transaction with that local small business.

Without such protections, which go by the unglamorous name of “net neutrality,” your ISP could pick and choose what sources of information to let you access, and how rapidly and easily you can access them. So a news site that criticizes big tech and telecom companies might get slowed down or blocked, while another that parrots what big telecom wants you to hear gets first-rate service and stays easily accessible.

Who loses in this scenario? Anyone who’s not wealthy and powerful. First on the list will be communities of color and the small businesses rooted in those communities. By and large, people of color have considerably less wealth than white Americans, and the businesses they own are smaller. If net neutrality goes away, they’ll be hit first and hardest. So will activists in our communities, who depend on online organizing.

Trump’s FCC Chair, Ajit Pai, made clear some time ago that he was gunning for net neutrality and other consumer protections. Now he’s moving that effort into high gear, kicking it off with a big speech in Washington, D.C. April 26. In case you doubt who benefits, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has called Trump administration telecommunications and broadband policies “amazing.”

Pai based his argument on an absurd premise. “It’s basic economics,” he said. “The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.”

Really? By that argument, we should never have passed civil rights laws, since more laws and regulations would just cause us to have less civil rights – right? Try that argument on anyone who lived in the Jim Crow south and tell me how they react.

Ah, some will say, but that’s a social issue and this is business. Okay, let’s look at the auto industry, and specifically at auto safety. For decades carmakers paid little attention to safety, and when a halfhearted attempt at adding safety features didn’t juice sales for Ford, the industry concluded, “safety doesn’t sell.”

Then, in 1966, the federal government began adopting mandatory car safety standards. Forced to add safety systems, carmakers figured they might as well promote them, and safety quickly became a selling point – so much so that innovation in things like sophisticated crash-avoidance technology now leaps far ahead of government standards, and car commercials regularly tout safety ratings as a reason to buy a particular model.

We regulated something important to protect consumers and we got more of it – lots more of it.

But this goes way beyond economics, especially for communities of color. As Free Press– with whom our staff at The Greenlining Institute often works on net neutrality issues – put it recently:

The open internet allows people of color to tell their own stories and organize for racial and social justice. When activists are able to turn out thousands of people in the streets at a moment’s notice, it’s because ISPs aren’t allowed to block their messages or websites…

The open internet allows people of color and other vulnerable communities to bypass traditional media gatekeepers. Without net neutrality, ISPs could block speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without net neutrality, people of color would lose a vital platform.

Everyone (except Big Telecom executives and shareholders, that is) will lose if Trump’s FCC succeeds in shutting down net neutrality, but communities of color will suffer the most. We can’t let that happen.

You can help by doing two things right now. First, file a comment with the FCC at https://www.fcc.gov/restoring-internet-freedom-comments. Second, call your representatives in Congress and tell them you want them to fight to protect net neutrality. If you aren’t sure who represents you, simply call the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121. The operator there can direct you to both your Senate and House members.

Tell Congress and the administration you want to preserve a free and open internet.

Volkswagen’s Huge Diesel Settlement Falls Short

San Francisco Chronicle
By Joel Espino

Make no mistake: Volkswagen broke air laws. It actively cheated emissions tests and lied about “clean diesel” cars that were anything but clean. Now, VW can make up for that wrong by making sure its plan to address the damage it did helps those whose lungs were most affected.

The current version of VW’s $800 million California plan to boost zero-emission vehicle-charging stations, access and public education won’t do that — but it could, with some fairly simple changes.

Remember, many of the people breathing the air VW’s diesels fouled didn’t buy a VW and struggle to afford any vehicle. I’m talking about residents of low-income communities of color who live every day in neighborhoods crisscrossed with the highest concentrations of busy roads and highways. They literally breathe the toxic fumes of VW’s deceit, and the company must make a real commitment to helping clean their air.

Let’s posit that $800 million in zero-emissions vehicle-charging stations and programs can be game-changing — but not if the investment overwhelmingly is located “in the areas with the highest anticipated ZEV demand,” as VW’s plan suggests. That means places like Pacific Heights and Palo Alto, where affluent residents are already buying Teslas and other high-end electric cars — and already breathe cleaner air than those in low-income communities in Bakersfield, Long Beach, Barrio Logan, West Oakland or other communities hurt most by poverty and pollution.

We need VW’s dollars in California communities where the air is dirtiest and where they can boost efforts already under way that are making sure low-income communities of color don’t get left behind in the state’s clean-car revolution.

California leads the nation in getting working families into electric vehicles through incentives, financing, electric car-sharing and clean vanpools, thanks to laws such as the Charge Ahead California Initiative, signed in 2014. Not only that, California’s investor-owned utilities have committed to placing 1,625 electric vehicle-charging stations in disadvantaged communities — the single-largest deployment of its kind.

Right now, VW’s proposal fails to align with these efforts and with the Air Resources Board’s guidance that 35 percent of funds be invested in disadvantaged and low-income communities.

It nods in the direction of disadvantaged communities, but makes little in the way of solid commitments. That must change before the Air Resources Board, which is overseeing the plan, makes a decision.

There’s still time to turn things around. Electrify America, the entity VW created to carry out this part of its penance, has been open to dialogue but must act soon. It can submit a written statement to the Air Resources Board detailing how its plan can be implemented in a way that prioritizes the needs of low-income and disadvantaged communities and brings good jobs and training to those who need them most.

Then, Electrify America should work closely with advocates for environmental justice and equity as well as the residents of affected communities to flesh out community-driven investment plans that ensure real benefits to those whose lungs have borne the brunt of VW’s lawbreaking.

VW did real harm. It now has the power to greatly reduce that harm for those most affected. The path forward is clear, and VW must take it.

What Do We Have to Lose? Lots! Attack on Obamacare Continues the War on People of Color

The Huffington Post 
By Orson Aguilar

In February, I wrote that the thread that seems to connect nearly all of the policy ideas coming from the Trump administration and Congress seems to be an attack on communities of color. Since then, it’s only gotten worse.

No proposal better exemplifies the war on Americans of color than the attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” And that won’t change whether or not the current “Trumpcare” replacement proposal passes the House of Representatives later today.

Multiple surveys have documented the huge drop in Americans without health insurance since the ACA took effect, with most estimates putting the number who have gained insurance at about 20 million. A number that massive cuts across all races and ethnicities, but when you dig into the numbers, the story gets really interesting.

The uninsured rate peaked in the fourth quarter of 2013, just as the ACA was starting to kick in. At that time, according to Gallup, 11.9 percent of white Americans lacked health coverage. For African Americans the uninsured rate was nearly double that at 20.9 percent. And a staggering 38.7 percent of Latinos had no health insurance, more than triple the uninsured rate for non-Hispanic whites.

Gallup did not report health insurance figures for Asian Americans, but other data show an average uninsured rate for Asian Americans of 15 percent, with huge variations between nationalities, and native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders at about 18 percent uninsured.

This huge racial health insurance gap stems from a number of causes. In many cases, people of color are less likely to work for employers or in occupations that include employer-paid coverage. When it comes to paying for insurance yourself, America’s yawning racial wealth gap rears its ugly head. According to the last figures reported by the U.S. Census, for every dollar of wealth a white family has, the median Asian American family has 81 cents, the median Latino family has about seven cents, and the median African American family has less than six cents. For too many families, the money just isn’t there.

The ACA did a lot to close the gap in health insurance rates. For whites, the percentage lacking health coverage dropped by five percentage points, according to Gallup. For African Americans the uninsured rate dropped by 8.4 points, and for Latinos the drop was a staggering 11.3 points.

And while we don’t have Gallup figures for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, we know they tended to be early adopters of Obamacare at higher rates than the U.S. average, and their uninsured rate dropped by more than half after the law went into effect.

We have every reason to expect these gains to vanish if the ACA is repealed and replaced with anything like the current proposal, which has been almost universally denounced by major medical and health organizations because it would take coverage away from so many.

Make no mistake: While Trumpcare would be bad for all Americans, it targets Americans of color for the most severe damage. And the struggle the president and the House GOP have faced trying to scrounge up enough votes to pass their plan doesn’t change that picture. After all, the reason Speaker Paul Ryan had to postpone Thursday’s scheduled vote was because the far-right “House Freedom Caucus” insisted on making the bill even crueler and meaner than it already was. While some Republican moderates have seemed genuinely alarmed at how many people would lose coverage, a larger faction seems intent on making sure that what insurance Americans could still get would be so riddled with loopholes as to be nearly useless when people actually get sick.

Even if the current version of Trumpcare goes down to the defeat it deserves, the attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act will continue (remember, the administration has already begun to sabotage the law administratively, regardless of legislation). And it’s just one part of an ongoing, multipronged attack on Americans of color.

Rep. Denham, if You Back Ryan’s Plan Your Constituents Will Suffer

The Modesto Bee
By Noe Paramo and Anthony Galace

Like hundreds of thousands of Valley residents, Mireya Cazares’s life has been changed by federal health-care reform. Born with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that gradually causes sufferers to lose their eyesight, Mireya – who works and couldn’t qualify for Medi-Cal – struggled to pay for the cost of health coverage, often having to borrow from family members.

This constant struggle ended in 2014, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare.” Coverage through California’s ACA exchange, Covered California, not only saves Mireya over $300 per month, she’s protected from being dropped or having her rates skyrocket due to her pre-existing condition.

The law lifted a dark cloud that hovered over her life.

Her story is not unique. It will be repeated throughout our region if Congress repeals the ACA without a new plan to guarantee the same levels of coverage.

The current replacement plan, the American Health Care Act (or “Trumpcare”) is set for a vote in the House of Representatives on March 23. It doesn’t come close.

This bill offers no viable plan to ensure that the over 20 million Americans who have gained health coverage under the current law can keep their insurance. It would decimate the assistance low-income people now get to help pay for health coverage – so dramatically that the Congressional Budget Office estimates 14 million Americans will lose their health insurance if it passes this year and another 10 million within the next few years. Thousands of them will be our friends and neighbors in Modesto and all over the Valley.

As our representative in Washington, Rep. Jeff Denham must stand up for our people and make sure his district’s residents don’t lose their access to health care.

University of California researchers calculated the impact of Obamacare repeal and reported truly shocking numbers. In Stanislaus County – the bulk of Rep. Denham’s 10th Congressional District – the uninsured rate fell by over two thirds thanks to the ACA. That includes over 62,000 who now have insurance paid, in part, under the expansion of Medi-Cal. All would almost certainly lose their coverage under Trumpcare. Nearly 17,000 more would lose the federal help that makes private insurance affordable.

Repeal would cost Stanislaus County about 3,000 jobs, meaning our local economy would take a $283 million blow.

San Joaquin County, also partly included in the congressman’s district, would take an even worse hit, with over 73,000 residents losing access to Medi-Cal and over 22,000 losing subsidies making private insurance affordable. The county’s economy would lose over 4,000 jobs.

Does anyone believe our two counties can afford to lose 7,000 jobs?

Roughly 170,000 of the people Jeff Denham represents could lose their access to affordable health care if the ACA is repealed.

We must never forget that these statistics aren’t just numbers. They represent people like Mireya. Without access to health care, people literally die. Research suggests repealing the ACA could lead to as many as 43,000 preventable deaths each year across America.

We don’t claim the current law is perfect. In fact, we’d be happy to suggest ways to improve it. But despite its imperfections, the ACA has made life better, safer and healthier for tens of millions of Americans – including many of our neighbors.

That makes this issue far more important than political viewpoints or party loyalty. We need our congressman to stand up for our district and the people he represents. He must make sure that any changes to health insurance reform protect everyone’s access to lifesaving care. Right now, that means voting no on Trumpcare.