Opinion: Prop. 16 gives equal opportunity a much-needed do-over

By Debra Gore-Mann and Eva Paterson
East Bay Express

In November, California voters will be asked to vote on Proposition 16, which will allow state and local governments to use equal-opportunity policies to promote good jobs, good wages and quality schools for everyone. California has needed this for some time, but the Covid-19 crisis made it urgent, and the police killing of George Floyd this spring Minneapolis illuminated the necessity of dismantling systemic racism.

Read the rest at eastbayexpress.com.

When legislators delay housing reform, people of color lose the most

By Adam Briones

At the start of the last legislative session, Californians were assured that 2020 would be the year our representatives addressed our extreme housing shortage.

Early on, both houses introduced 15 bills in packages that were promising, if not the bold reforms needed to fully solve the crisis or close the racial wealth gap. But instead of even these modest fixes, in the end only three bills, each offering important but minor changes, made it to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk due to fierce opposition.

Patricia McCloskey addressed the Republican National Convention months after she and her husband waved guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. She echoed recent comments by President Donald Trump saying that Democrats “want to abolish the suburbs all together by ending single-family home zoning” and that this would bring “crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into now thriving suburban neighborhoods.”

McCloskey’s comments are alarmingly similar to those from affluent California neighborhood associations and advocates who have opposed policies that would even incrementally impact single-family zoning.

Fear of people of color moving into white neighborhoods is nothing new in California. In light of court rulings and federal bills that invalidated racial housing zoning and redlining, white communities and NIMBY activists began imposing codes that restricted the construction of multifamily housing in most neighborhoods starting in the early 1970s. Many still exist today.

Single-family zoning laws hold people of color and low-income families back by making homeownership cost-prohibitive. A recent Sacramento Bee headline: “California’s median home price just broke a record. Here’s how much it is” underscored the urgency of housing reform and went on to point to a new median of $700,000. The inability of all but the wealthy to access good schools or accumulate wealth through homeownership has kept generations of Californians in poverty.

Likely the biggest disappointment this year was the death of Senate Bill 1120 in the final moments, despite passing both the Assembly and Senate. The premise of the bill was simple: allow homeowners to turn their single-family lots into duplexes and or split into two parcels. The bill did not remove anyone’s ability to purchase or own a single-family home. It simply ended  the bans on smaller housing units that exist in two-thirds of residential communities in California.

SB 1120 fell victim to the end of session clock, but it never should have been controversial to begin with. The intense opposition campaigns against SB 1120 and other modest reforms demonstrated that any change that allows more working families, who are likely to be people of color, to live in wealthy, exclusive neighborhoods is too much for affluent homeowners in California’s “progressive” cities.

Their excuses are weak tropes claiming that the bill “crushes single-family streets and directly attacks homeownership;” “steals yards from children;” “destroys backyard vegetable gardens” and creates “unhealthy surroundings for children and the elderly.”

Again, these are the comments that came not from far-right actors, but from those in affluent cities that are happy to put a sign in their window supporting racial justice while at the same time employing the same, albeit watered-down, rhetoric to uphold discriminatory single-family zoning.

By blocking the construction of new housing in wealthy areas and preventing affordable housing options in white communities, single-family zoning laws make it disproportionately harder for people of color to own, or even rent homes.

If our Legislature wants 2021 to be the real year we tackle housing, elected officials must reckon with our state’s ugly history of discriminatory zoning and aggressively pursue policies that enable our state’s housing stock to grow and meet the needs of all families.

Until we can abandon the racist attitudes that have underpinned policies and undermined people of color for decades, we will continue to see failures at the state level to pass meaningful housing reform.

Environmental equity expert weighs the strengths and weaknesses of Newsom’s executive order

By: Danielle SmithKimia RahbarChichi Valle-Riestra, and Isabelle Odgers
USC Annenberg Media

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Sept. 23 requiring all new cars sold in the state to be zero-emission by the year 2035.

This announcement served as evidence of Newsom’s pledge to do more on the climate-front, as California is currently suffering from wildfires exacerbated by the harmful effects of climate change.

“Of all the simultaneous crises that we face as a state … none is more forceful than the issue of the climate crisis,” Newsom said at a news conference in Sacramento. “What we’re advancing here today is a strategy to address that crisis head-on, to be as bold as the problem is big.”

Newsom’s executive order would make California the first state to issue such a ban with the intent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a direct cause of global warming.

“Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air,” Newsom said. “Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

The executive order can only achieve so much if not supported by legislation, according to Alvaro Sanchez, environmental equity director at The Greenlining Institute, an Oakland-based nonprofit. Sanchez spoke to Annenberg Radio News about Newsom’s order and what further steps need to be taken.

“We need additional pieces of legislation from our legislature so that the executive order doesn’t change just with a change in executive office,” Sanchez said. “If we’re going to get all vehicles in California to be electric by 2035, we need to ensure that all Californians, and particularly those that have the biggest barriers to gaining access to these technologies, for them to actually have an opportunity to benefit from the executive order and to alleviate any burdens that that executive order might generate for them.”

While many details about how the order will be implemented are still being worked out, Sanchez said gas vehicles will still be operational in 2035.

“It’s only a signal that starting in that year, all vehicles will have to be electric that are sold brand new,” Sanchez said. “All the other [gas vehicles], we’re still going to have to work with. So in some ways, it’s a transition. It’s not a stop and go.”

“What the governor did is a really good step,” said Sanchez. “It’s a meaningful step, but not nearly enough related to the problem that we’re facing.”

Though Newsom’s executive order is among the most significant actions taken by a state government to address climate change, the push towards electric vehicles and renewable energy is not new.

A similar goal is mentioned in USC’s 2028 Sustainability Plan, which “will include specific long-term sustainability goals, and provide a ‘greenprint’ for achieving them.”

USC Transportation, along with USC Sustainability, is working towards a fully electric fleet of trams and campus cruisers by the year 2028 — seven years before Newsom’s executive order would take effect.

In addition to electric campus vehicles, several other goals include increasing the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, creating an e-scooter/bicycle-share program, offering incentives to decrease single occupancy vehicles and increasing tram frequency.

The Environmental Student Assembly has made efforts to reduce carbon emissions directly on campus. Established in 2014, the assembly is striving to create a “green culture” both at USC and in the surrounding neighborhood.

One initiative outlined in the Environmental Student Assembly’s “Sustainability Goals by 2020” plan seeks to “reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles traveling to and from the USC campuses” and “increase student, faculty and staff participation in alternative transportation programs.”

‘Property More Valuable Than Human Life’: No Charges Against Officers for Killing Breonna Taylor

By Kenny Stancil
Common Dreams

Declarations of “true justice denied” went up Wednesday afternoon after a Kentucky grand jury indicted former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison on three counts of first-degree “wanton endangerment” related to the no-knock raid in which Breonna Taylor was killed—with no charges for the murder itself—when three officers burst into her residence and shot the 26-year-old emergency medical technician multiple times earlier this year.

“There will be no justice until all of the officers who killed Breonna are held accountable for her murder.”

Critics of the grand jury’s decision were outraged that Hankison’s indictment was not based on the killing of Taylor, who was asleep in her bed when police entered her apartment, but on the firing of bullets into the homes of the victim’s neighbors during the raid.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) described the decision as another manifestation of a legal system in which property is considered “more valuable than human life.”

Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly—who on Tuesday described protesters as “thugs” and lamented that “the good guys are demonized” in an email sent to approximately 1,000 law enforcement personnel in Louisville—and detective Myles Cosgrove, the two other officers present at the time of the shooting, were not charged.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office shared the findings of its investigation with the grand jury earlier this week. Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, officials in Louisville prepared for additional protests and possible unrest.

In response to the decision in the Breonna Taylor case, Kristina Roth, the senior program officer for Criminal Justice Programs at Amnesty International USA said: “We call on police to facilitate the right to peaceful protest in the wake of this news.”

“Everyone has the right to take to the streets and make their voices heard,” Roth said. “And police must meet their obligation under international law to enable that right.”

In response to the grand jury’s decision, Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, put the “horrific killing” of Taylor—which occurred during a “baseless no-knock warrant in a drug investigation”—into the context of the drug war and “its parasitic relationship with police and racism.”

“Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” said Frederique. “But instead, the systems we have in place… failed her” and “robbed her of the bright future she was just beginning.” Frederique placed blame on the drug war, “which provides the military-grade equipment to local police departments through military weapons transfer and earmarked federal funds” and “incentivizes drug arrests.”

“Had it not been for the drug war… the police likely would have never gone to her home to begin with,” Frederique added.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, the city of Louisville agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million dollars—believed to be the largest settlement ever reached for a black woman killed by a police officer in the U.S.—and to implement several police reforms as part of the wrongful death lawsuit.

At the time, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said: “No amount of money can bring justice. It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges that Breonna Taylor’s family has called for.”

Following Wednesday’s announcement, Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said in a statement:

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and a local grand jury have failed to bring murder charges in the brutal killing of Breonna Taylor. In fact, they have declined to charge officers for her death at all; just one of Bre’s killers faces a minor charge completely unrelated to her murder. Officials have flatly denied justice to Bre and her loved ones, as well as the brave allies and activists calling for justice.

Debra Gore-Mann, president and CEO of the Greenlining Institute, said that the limited nature of the charges—”wanton endangerment” for only one of three officers—means that “true justice” has been “denied” to Taylor and her family.

UltraViolet characterized the grand jury’s decision as an “insult to the idea of justice,” saying it reflected “the pervasiveness of white supremacy and the need to continue to demand justice.”

“There will be no justice,” the women’s rights group added, “until all of the officers who killed Breonna are held accountable for her murder.”

“Breonna Taylor’s life mattered,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on social media. “This result is a disgrace and an abdication of justice.”

“Our criminal justice system is racist,” Sanders added. “The time for fundamental change is now.”

Amnesty’s Roth stated that Taylor’s “case must serve as a wake-up call to our elected officials” about the need for “a bold agenda for police reform, one that brings about meaningful accountability, reimagines public safety, and provides justice for all.”

Governor Newsom’s Executive Order: No New Fossil-Fuel Vehicles in California by 2035

By Melanie Curry
StreetsBlog Cal

As part of Climate Week 2020, California Governor Newsom today issued an executive order declaring the goal of eliminating fossil fuels from transportation, a sector that produces half of California’s toxic and greenhouse gas emissions. The order calls for ending all sales of new fossil-fuel-powered vehicles in the next fifteen years, and calls on various state agencies to begin formulating regulations and strategies, and identifying actions and investments, to create a “just transition” away from reliance on fossil fuels.

While it set goals – which Newsom acknowledged “are nothing more than dreams with deadlines” – the executive order leaves the details to be worked out by agencies equipped to do so. For example, the Air Resources Board is tasked with developing regulations and strategies to reach the zero-emission goals.

The order directs the California State Transportation Agency, Caltrans, and the California Transportation Commission to, by July of next year, identify actions and investment strategies “to improve clean transportation, sustainable freight, and transit options.” The order includes the building out of the statewide rail and transit network, outlined in the California State Rail Plan. It also, in recognition that zero emission vehicles are not enough by themselves, calls for the agencies to support “bicycle, pedestrian, and micro-mobility options, particularly in low-income and disadvantaged communities in the State, by incorporating safe and accessible infrastructure into projects where appropriate.”

A broad range of organizations responded with support for the order, but also pushed the governor for more. ClimatePlan, for example, while applauding the announcement, pointed out that issues like racism and segregation, which shaped California’s current transportation system, must be more directly addressed. “California must invest in transportation planning and funding that centers the communities most impacted by climate change and racial injustice if it wants to achieve a more equitable and just transportation system,” writes executive director Chanell Fletcher. There also needs to be more emphasis on making it easier for all Californians to safely walk, bicycle, and take transit, she adds, and land use planning must be included in any climate solution.

Elected Officials to Protect California held a press conference immediately before Newsom’s announcement, calling on him to end all new extraction permits and to ensure setbacks around oil gas wells. “There was a 190 percent increase in permits in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019,” said San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon. “Governor Newsom is ‘doing his utmost,’ but he’s not doing what he could and should to fight climate change,” she said, calling on the governor to declare a state of emergency on climate change. “It’s not too late to transition to 100% clean energy.”

While the executive order makes no direct mention of oil-well permits, it includes direction to begin managing the closing down of the oil industry in California.

That, according to Newsom, is in line with the order’s “core principles.” The order directs several state agencies to develop, by next July, a “Just Transition Roadmap,” following recommendations in a just-released state report on preparing the workforce for new jobs and industries as the oil industry is gradually eliminated. “We need a just transition to make sure those most affected by the transition are included in it,” he said.

The question of buffer zones or setbacks around oil wells was the subject of a bill that was killed in committee in the most recent legislative session. The executive order doesn’t make any particular recommendation about setbacks, instead requiring the state’s Geologic Energy Management Division to create “a significantly strengthened, stringent, science-based health and safety draft rule” on the question. Newsom seems to be relying on the legislature to take this up again in its new session, which starts in January – the draft rule must be proposed by December. Newsom also seems to be leaving the issue of fracking to lawmakers.

A caller to the Elected Officials press conference asked about the jobs issue, claiming that “green jobs don’t pay as well as oil industry jobs.” Meghan Sahli-Wells, former Mayor of Culver City, responded that “there are a lot of jobs in remediating and dismantling old infrastructure and creating the clean energy that fuels us.”

The creation of Oxnard’s Clean Power Alliance agreement brought “lots of good-paying jobs,” said Carmen Ramirez, Oxnard Mayor pro tem. “And we also got big community benefits from eliminating fossil fuel power plants – for example, cleaning up of the waterfront.”

“We have the technology,” she said. “The oil and gas industry is on its last… in a death struggle,” she said, urging Newsom to “use his super power” to create the changes needed. “We are the ancestors that future generations will condemn or praise, depending on what we do today,” she added.

California Environmental Justice Alliance saw “alarming contradictions in California’s path forward” in the order. “On the one hand, it sets an ambitious target for zero-emission transportation and reiterates a commitment to establishing health and safety protections for environmental justice communities,” writes Executive Director Gladys Limon. “On the other hand, [it] also calls for investments in false solutions of low carbon fuels that could create a dangerous offramp that will hinder our progress, and fails to directly name critical protections like a buffer zone to protect frontline communities from unconscionable impacts of oil drilling in dangerous proximity.”

CEJA also pointed out the “glaring” omission of any direction to procure more clean energy and storage in frontline communities. This is particularly a problem as the state has recently been relying more on power from old fossil fuel plants to manage demand in the face of threatened power shut-offs. “The Administration must do everything in its power to accelerate the deployment of clean energy, storage, and distributed energy in frontline communities to replace fossil fuel generation and increase grid reliability and resilience,” writes CEJA.

“There is no more time to waste,” wrote Don Anair in a statement by the Union of Concerned Scientists. While Newsom’s executive order is a “bold move,” it’s not enough and it won’t happen fast enough. “The harrowing impacts of climate change are already affecting people and communities throughout the state. The science tells us those impacts will worsen in the years to come without making major changes to how we move people and goods.”

The Sierra Club, EarthJustice, and the California Environmental Justice Alliance had asked for the governor to “stop permitting new oil and gas drilling, pipelines and infrastructure, and accelerate a managed decline to phase out oil production and refining in California, starting with operations near homes and schools.”

They also asked for faster adoption of clean electricity for all energy uses, phasing out of dirty fuels in homes, a faster timeline for phasing out fossil fuel vehicles, and the appointment of strong climate leaders to regulatory agencies.

Other groups, including the Greenlining Institute and the Coalition for Clean Air, pledged to support the order and push for implementation of its goals.

But while environmental and environmental justice organizations were asking for stronger commitments from the governor, other groups immediately began to push back. Californians for Affordable and Responsible Energy, a lobbying arm of the Western States Petroleum Association, said it would be too expensive, and the California Trucking Association declared it would be downright impossible to implement.

At the press conference announcing the order, Newsom said it was wise to acknowledge that the global trend is towards clean energy and that those industries that don’t get on board are “on the wrong side of history. They’ll eventually have to recover, financially,” he said, “but they’ll also have to look their kids and their grandkids in the eye.”

“Let us no longer be victims of geopolitical players,” said Newsom, “Let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that [climate change] has to be our fate. It does not. We have the tools, we have the capacity, not only to lead but to create the regenerative mindset which is foundational to the health of this planet.”

Newsom, in announcing the executive order, said it was just a beginning. “We’re just getting started; there will be more executive orders, on a broad range of climate moves,” he said.

Greenlining Institute Applauds Governor’s EV Announcement, Urges Focus on Impacted Communities

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute applauded the broad thrust of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement today of a renewed push to expand electric vehicle adoption and strongly urged an intensified push to bring clean transportation to the communities that have had the least access to EVs and other forms of clean mobility. Low-income communities of color, Greenlining noted, have the dirtiest air, the fewest financial resources, and have been particularly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The wildfires have shown us that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an urgent necessity, and environmental justice communities – mainly low-income communities of color — continue to suffer from the highest levels of deadly particulates,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez. “Wide adoption of EVs will be a crucial part of any strategy, but to succeed, that strategy can’t focus on affluent early adopters; it must reach the most impacted and hardest to reach communities.”

 “Transforming the transportation sector offers a huge opportunity to fight climate change and address the harm that’s been done to environmental justice communities,” Sanchez continued. “By leading the way, California can create good jobs and cleaner air in communities that have suffered the most, while re-imagining the way we move to end our dependence on polluting cars, trucks and fossil fuels.”

The Greenlining Institute has long advocated for equity in electric vehicle and clean mobility programs. Notable publications include the Electric Vehicles for All toolkit and Greenlining’s Mobility Equity Framework.

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

True Justice Denied to Police Murder Victim Breonna Taylor

True Justice Denied to Police Murder Victim Breonna Taylor, Greenlining Institute Says 

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – In response to today’s announcement of only minor charges — “wanton endangerment” — for one of the Louisville police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann issued the following statement:

“Nothing about today’s decision changes what we all know: Breonna Taylor was murdered. The declared state of emergency in Louisville confirms the seriousness of this reckless, systemic, state-sanctioned violence against Black folks and Black women in particular. The state attorney general’s decision to not file charges against any of the six police officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department for the killing of Ms. Taylor only serves to perpetuate the ongoing wave of domestic terrorism against Black men and women. This domestic terrorism will not stop until we demand that it stop.

“The timing of this decision, coming right after the historic $12 million settlement announcement with Breonna Taylor’s family, will not silence our voices or dampen the community’s demand for justice. It is both baffling and frustrating that settlement payouts for police misconduct and racial killings are funded by public tax dollars. In the end, the communities are bailing out the police department with their own dollars while also being on the receiving end of the police brutality. The law enforcement system is broken. This is not justice. This is not equity.

“In the words of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party who spoke in 1969, ‘We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We are going to fight racism with solidarity.’ The fight for justice is much bigger than a handful of individual cops: It’s about the ingrained racism in a system that uses outrageous tactics like no-knock warrants and bullets disproportionately against Black and Brown people. Our response will be peaceful, but we will not be silent and we will maintain a sustained collective effort to end the oppression.”

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

California Companies Lead on Contracting with Diverse Businesses; Large Gaps Remain

Spending with Black-Owned Businesses Drops

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute’s latest Supplier Diversity Report Card shows California energy, communications and water companies continuing to lead the way on contracting with suppliers owned by people of color, women, LGBTQ people and disabled veterans. Nevertheless, these 2019 figures show that significant gaps remain and show backsliding in some categories.

“It’s clear that returning to ‘business as usual,’ during and after COVID-19 will not be good for business or our communities,” said Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann. “Countless companies have spoken out against racism and police brutality, but consumers and employees are looking for more than just vague platitudes about change. We want to see companies committing to action within their own walls. At The Greenlining Institute, we believe our annual Supplier Diversity Report Card helps convert corporate intentions to corporate commitments. We look forward every year to this Report Card, which serves as one consistent step towards racial equity accountability.”

Key findings include:

  • While supplier diversity programs continue to pump billions of dollars into diverse-owned businesses, only eight of 22 companies increased their spending with Minority Business Enterprises last year.
  • Overall, the companies’ spending with Black-owned suppliers dropped nearly 10 percent. Spending with contractors owned by Black women dropped almost 37 percent.
  • Contracting with Asian American/Pacific Islander suppliers remained flat, while spending with Latino-owned businesses declined.
  • Spending with Native American-owned suppliers, a weak point in past years, improved in 2019, with half of companies increasing their level of contracting.
  • Spending with women-owned suppliers decreased slightly, although spending with firms owned by minority women increased.

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

As COVID-19 Increases the Digital Divide, the Black Community Faces Yet Another Threat to Tech Access

By Hazel Trice Edney
The Sacramento Observer

As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on a digital and educational divide that has already severely impacted African-American and other children of color, yet another situation on the horizon could further increase disparities by hindering access to crucial technological tools, according to experts.

Michael Russell, an instructor of information technology, security and forensics at the Pittsburgh Technical College, is among tech experts who say two pending cases before the ITC could seriously broaden the digital divide.

Two cases pending before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) are being watched by educators and lawmakers who describe them as deeply troubling. Many big names in technology are under attack – including Amazon, Apple, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony – and tech experts say the outcomes of these cases are absolutely realistic threats to the ability to obtain certain mobile communication devices – an outcome that would increase the digital divide even further during this unprecedented time of online learning.

In a nutshell, Neodron, a company just recently created in Ireland, is seeking to block the import of more than 90 percent of mobile touchscreen devices, like smartphones, tablets and touchscreen laptops, that come into the United States. Neodron doesn’t design or manufacture products within the U.S. Its business plan is to acquire patents and then sue for infringement.

The cases have caught the attention of members of Congress, and those in the tech world express major concern.

“When we talk about digital divide, you’re talking primarily about the availability of high speed internet and its distribution across our nation. The big problem with this patent infringement claim is that the vast majority of inner city schools still have barely sufficient internet connection,” says Michael Russell, the lead instructor for information technology, security and forensics at the Pittsburgh Technical College since 2002.

Russell points out that “the majority of young people who access the internet today access the internet from their smartphones.” Particularly low income children often use their smartphones in order to get on the Internet.

He believes the Neodron case could impact their educational lives.

Russell used the term “patent pirate” when describing the activities of companies like Neodron which acquires patents for the purpose of financial gain. Neodron recently obtained patents from Microchip Technologies, possibly with the motive of filing petitions asking the ITC to investigate and close the U.S. market to nearly all smartphones, tablets, and laptops. In short, Neodron is putting the devices that people rely on at risk amidst a season when they need them most.

According to a statement by the ITC, the complaint “alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain touch-controlled mobile devices, computers, and components thereof that infringe patents asserted by the complainant. The complainant requests that the USITC issue a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders.”

Restricting the import of these devices into the United States would cause educational and personal hardships for people largely dependent on their smartphones and other affected devices.

The issue is so dire that two members of Congress formed a bipartisan partnership to deal with it. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) introduced the Advancing America’s Interests Act to stop patent abuse through the ITC and to assure that the agency adheres to a high standard of public interest.

“The ITC was established to protect U.S. companies and consumers from unfair foreign competition, but in recent years, patent licensing entities have abused the ITC process for financial gain,” said DelBene in a joint release. “This legislation addresses this problem and helps protect American businesses from unfair and unjustified claims.”

Schweikert called the legislation “an important step in the right direction towards reforming the ITC’s unfair imports process to ensure that American businesses have equitable access to protection for their ideas.”

This potential impact of this case cannot be overlooked as African-Americans and other racial minorities have been so disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. As lives have become almost totally dependent upon access to the internet and remote services, the impact of an ITC exclusion order would have a broad reach.

Instead of rushing to get children out the door to catch the school bus and then driving into work, many parents now struggle to manage their children’s education as schools have shifted to remote learning and parents work from home. Government services of all types are now online, from job applications to business licenses to unemployment claims. And then there’s access to health care. Throughout the pandemic, it has become clear that telehealth is surging and is a crucial resource that allows people to protect both their community as a whole and the healthcare workers providing their critical services.

According to a recent study, up to 42 million people may not have access to broadband, a figure that is disproportionately made up of African-Americans and other people of color. But without the devices necessary to even access the internet, the problem becomes worse and communities of color are at a great disadvantage.

A key concern is that since the COVID-19 pandemic, an already serious struggle for low income students of color, has been exacerbated.

The Greenlining Institute, a 27-year-old multi-racial organization in Oakland, Calif. that aims to end economic discrimination such as redlining, conducted a survey of Oakland and Fresno, Calif. residents before COVID-19. The findings were as gloomy as expected. But all of the common themes were “made more urgent by the pandemic”, the Institute reports on its website.

Those common themes include “Internet access is not a luxury; Lack of access creates significant hurdles for everyday life; Smartphone access is insufficient; Internet plans designed for low-income families are inadequate; Lack of access is a barrier to academic success.”

Russell says if Neodron prevails, these issues could expand and get even worse for more people across the nation.

“I’m not only talking about just young people,” he said. “I’m talking about the elderly needing to monitor their health care, making appointments with the doctor and things of that nature. All of those things could be adversely impacted. Mostly inner city; mostly Black and Latino families would continue to have the largest impact.”

As the issue spirals, even more considerations will come into play.

“The educational, financial and personal need for the internet could lead to an even greater conflict than the inability to get online,” says Russell, who also teaches regulatory compliance.

“I do believe that technology has a potential of being another form of warfare,” he says. “I’m really concerned about that. Like economic warfare. We have a company located in another country filing a claim against American corporations that could adversely impact the way we live and do business. That’s a real deal.”

New Report Calls for Reimagining Community Development

“Greenlined Economy Guidebook” Urges Decision-Makers to Put Community First 

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – With the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting profound, structural inequities in U.S. society, The Greenlining Institute lays out a bold vision for a more equitable economy and calls for a radical rethinking of community development in its newly published Greenlined Economy Guidebook.

“It’s not enough to just rebuild an economy that’s clearly broken,” said guidebook author Sonrisa Cooper, Greenlining’s Community Development Program Manager. “The pandemic has shown us how deeply racism and inequity are embedded throughout our economy. This guidebook offers a way to rethink how we do everything — from housing and infrastructure to parks, transportation and more — putting community at the center. We need a Greenlined Economy.”

The guidebook offers a path to an economy that is cooperative, regenerative, democratic, non-exploitive and inclusive. It lays out the barriers that currently get in the way of such an economy, including unequal power dynamics that keep community members shut out of decision-making, a top-down mindset, the lack of capacity-building for redlined or disinvested neighborhoods, siloed programs and funding sources, an unwillingness to prioritize grassroots groups, and a system focused heavily on profit.

The guidebook lays out six standards for equitable community investment, followed by concrete examples of how they might be applied in particular situations.  The standards are:

1.   Emphasize race-conscious solutions, because race-conscious policies like redlining and urban renewal got us to this point, and race-neutral approaches can’t fix it.

2.   Prioritize multi-sector approaches, since while programs may be siloed, the problems communities face are not.

3.   Deliver intentional benefits to underserved communities, rather than just assuming that benefits will “trickle down.”

4.   Build community capacity, which has too often been eroded by long-term disinvestment and discriminatory policies.

5.   Be community-driven at every stage, from goal-setting to analysis.

6.   Establish paths toward wealth-building that can reach as many as possible and include pathways beyond just homeownership, with lower barriers to entry.

“We’re asking for a dramatic transformation of how things have been done in our economy for a long time,” Cooper said. “Our current economic system isn’t built to meet the needs of communities of color. If the current crisis has shown us anything, it’s that the time to start doing things differently is now.”

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit www.greenlining.org.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute