Uber’s new policies could encourage discrimination, advocates fear

By Carolyn Said
San Francisco Chronicle

Advocates for minorities and low-income people fear that Uber’s recent overhaul of its ride processes could lead to discrimination against people traveling to neighborhoods some drivers perceive as less desirable.

Drivers can now decline to take passengers to San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point or East Oakland, for instance — areas already underserved by transportation.

Uber last week gave California drivers much more autonomy, including the ability to know every ride’s destination in advance and to reject ride requests without penalty. The changes are Uber’s attempt to shield itself from being forced to reclassify drivers as employees under the state’s new gig-work law, AB5, but some outside groups say the overhaul creates conditions for prejudicial treatment.

“We fear this new system could only exacerbate discrimination,” said Hana Creger, environmental equity program manager at Oakland’s Greenlining Institute, which promotes racial and economic justice. “Drivers could refuse to go to certain neighborhoods they deem as unsafe.”

Uber is aware of the increased potential for bias and said it will closely monitor trips for destination discrimination.

“Rejecting requests for discriminatory reasons, including rejecting trips solely to avoid particular neighborhoods, violates Uber’s Community Guidelines and California law,” it wrote in a blog post to drivers announcing the new ride processes.

Lyft has not matched Uber’s change, so Lyft drivers still cannot see their riders’ destinations.

Despite Uber’s assurances, advocates for minorities remain concerned.

“We have well-developed patterns of racial exclusion in the U.S., whether housing, land use policy or transportation,” said Bob Allen, director of the transportation justice program at Oakland’s Urban Habitat, a nonprofit advocating for historically disenfranchised communities. “Folks of color, particularly black folks, are not able to get a taxi pickup as often in their neighborhoods. I think it would also be an issue” under Uber’s new policies.

A related issue is that drivers might reject less-lucrative short-hop trips, something that seniors and others with mobility issues rely upon. However, that might be mitigated since Uber provides incentives for drivers to complete a certain number of trips within a certain time frame. Uber said it has not seen high rejection rates for short trips since the changes.

Clarrissa Cabansagan, new mobility policy director at TransForm, an Oakland nonprofit working on climate and mobility justice issues, said that independent analysis would be the best way to track destination discrimination.

San Francisco required applicants for its scooter and bike street-rental permits to explain how they’d serve communities of concern and provide ongoing data on that, she noted. (TransForm worked with bike-rental company Motivate, now owned by Lyft, on its inclusion plans and with Lyft on its unsuccessful scooter application.)

But while the city has the authority to regulate bikes and scooters on its streets, it lacks jurisdiction over Uber and Lyft. They are regulated at the state level by the California Public Utilities Commission. That agency requires the companies to provide annual reports on ZIP codes served, but spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the data are not used to track changes in service by areas.

The agency “is always focused on ensuring nondiscriminatory practices by the entities it regulates and utilizes all of its tools and resources to meeting that end,” Prosper said.

Uber has started its own studies.

Because the changes were phased in starting in December, the company could compare drivers who knew destinations with those who didn’t. It said it looked at acceptance rates for trips going to Bay Area locations identified as communities of concern by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and did not find any differences in acceptance rates or arrival times.

“So far, we have seen no indication that drivers are accepting trips to disadvantaged areas any less frequently than other areas because of this change, but we are keeping a close eye as these changes roll out more fully across the state,” Uber said.

Passengers who want to complain about discrimination or other ride-hailing issues can contact the state agency at CIU_intake@cpuc.ca.gov or 800-894-9444. They should also contact Uber via the app so it can track their complaints with their accounts, Uber said. While passengers are aware when a driver cancels an accepted trip, they won’t know if a driver rejects their ride request because it will get passed on to other drivers until the company finds someone who accepts it. The rejections would manifest in longer wait times, which could best be tracked by Uber or outside observers monitoring control groups.

Cabansagan said the issues could be nuanced — drivers might reject ride requests because they’re tired and don’t want to drive too far, for instance.

“As a person of color who understands sensitivities about white folks feeling the hood is dangerous, you can’t just automatically assume that cancellations/rejections equal racism, but you can do digging,” she said.

Access to timely, affordable transportation is a lifeline for people who need to get to school, work, stores and doctors. In outlying neighborhoods with fewer public transit options, ride-hailing has improved residents’ mobility.

“We see a lot of our communities in disadvantaged neighborhoods use Uber and Lyft because transit is so infrequent,” Cabansagan said. “That benefits people who otherwise might spend more than a third of their income on a vehicle.”

Ride “redlining” by taxi drivers is already well documented nationwide.

Hansu Kim, owner of Flywheel Taxi, San Francisco’s second-largest fleet with 300 cabs, said that is no longer an issue.

“In the past, without a doubt, neighborhoods in lower-income areas were not served as well,” he said. “Today that’s nonexistent. The loss of rides for the taxi industry (due to Uber and Lyft) has been so extreme that any ride a taxi driver gets, they’re going to take. Even in the worst parts of the city where traditionally there was discrimination in the past, (passengers are) getting picked up very quickly.”

In contrast to taxis, Uber and Lyft have long promoted that ride-hailing reduces discrimination because drivers don’t know passengers’ names or destinations.

“New transportation options like Uber add a reliable and affordable option to the transportation ecosystem for low-income neighborhoods,” the company wrote in a 2015 blog post touting a study it financed that found that its rides in underserved areas cost less and arrived faster than taxis.

But some researchers have found that ride-hailing still suffers from racial profiling, even before Uber’s recent changes.

Passengers with names that sounded stereotypically African American were more likely to have rides canceled and to have longer waits for pickups than people with white-sounding names, according to a 2018 UCLA doctoral dissertation based on a three-year study in Los Angeles. (Drivers don’t see passenger names until after accepting trip requests.) Cancellation rates and wait times for black riders were even higher on taxi rides.

“I think there’s a very real chance of (Uber’s new policy) potentially increasing discrimination,” said thesis author Anne Brown, now an assistant professor of planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon.

“The taxi industry is the best way to see consequences of a very similar policy: Taxis can see destinations of riders before accepting trips and we’ve seen that low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color are very poorly served by taxis,” she said. “In interviews, drivers say, ‘We don’t want to serve those neighborhoods, they’re dangerous, we won’t get a trip back.’”

She’s also concerned about a potential “snowball” effect — if drivers won’t accept trips going to neighborhoods of concern, then there will be a lower supply of drivers for outgoing trips from those areas.

Brown agrees that monitoring is one way to safeguard against bias.

“People change their behavior when they know someone is watching,” she said. “That element is important to retain.”

 

Community Rejuvenation Project and The Greenlining Institute Announce Mural Project

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA — The Greenlining Institute and the Community Rejuvenation Project (CRP) announced today a large-scale mural project in downtown Oakland. Over the next few months, CRP will design and install the Greenlining mural on the west-facing exterior wall of Greenlining’s 360 Center at 360 14th Street. in downtown Oakland. Additionally, CRP will be hosting a series of free community engagement events and public activities throughout the mural production process, including design workshops, a panel discussion, an art exhibition, and an artist talk.

The mural will incorporate themes related to Greenlining’s equity policy issue areas, along with content developed directly from community engagement events. Born from a multi-ethnic coalition that first came together in the 1980s to fight redlining, Greenlining works to expand economic opportunity for communities of color. Its work now embraces a wide variety of policy areas, including banking and economic policy, health, tech, energy and the green economy. The Greenlining 360 Center, opened in January 2017, has become a center for organizing and education, hosting hundreds of community events, meetings and trainings.

The project is a follow-up to CRP’s beloved “Universal Language,” also referred to as the Alice Street Mural, a tribute to the cultural history and resilience of the Afro-Diasporic and Chinese American communities centered around the intersection of Alice Street and 14th Street, which is no longer visible due to a new development at that location.  CRP founder and Director Desi Mundo, the lead artist for both “Universal Language” and the Greenlining Mural, said in a statement, “As the new development at 14th and Alice eclipses our ‘Universal Language’ mural, we’re heartened by the opportunity to re-engage in an in-depth dialogue with our community around our local cultural heroes and Oakland’s resiliency as a whole. Collaborating with The Greenlining Institute feels like a beautiful partnership because so much of their work has been creating systemic equity that will protect vulnerable communities from the forces of displacement. While we intend to continue the previous project’s reflection of our shared values and heroes, we need to be clear that this is a new piece that requires an equally thoughtful approach. This presents the opportunity to build on our past work, while evolving with Oakland.”

”We created the Greenlining 360 Center to be much more than an office building for nonprofits, but a true community hub,” said Greenlining Institute President Debra Gore-Mann. “As Oakland fights to maintain its identity in the face of gentrification and economic inequality, we hope this mural will not only add beauty to our city, but will also be a source of connection to the history and soul of Oakland.”

In addition to Mundo, artists selected for this project include Dave Young Kim, Marina Wong,  and Rachel Wolfe. Kim, an alumnus of CRP, has gone on to become a prolific muralist in his own right. Wong, a member of Twin Walls Mural Company, is one of the Bay Area’s rising stars in mural arts. Wolfe is the co-founder of the Bay Area Mural Program, a non-profit organization which combines public art with education. Funding for this project was made possible by Creative Work Fund (a program of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation), the California Arts Council, and a contribution from Bay Development.

Specific activities include:

  • February 5, 2020 at The Greenlining Institute: State of the Arts, a panel discussion with Francisco Sanchez, Dave Young Kim, and Dan Fontes, moderated by Eric Arnold;
  • February 11-14, 2020 at Oakland Asian Cultural Center (OACC), Malonga Casquelourd Center and Greenlining: community listening and input sessions;
  • March 11, 2020 at the Malonga Center:  Mural design and feedback session;
  • April 8 at OACC:  Mural design and feedback session;
  • April 15 at The Greenlining Institute: Mural design and feedback session;

Additional events at The Greenlining Institute:

  • May 1, 2020 Opening reception for art exhibit;
  • May 14, 2020:  Artist talk;
  • July 25, 2020: Mural dedication ceremony.

For a complete list of events, activities, dates, times, and locations click here.

Media contacts:

Bruce Mirken, The Greenlining Institute, (510) 926-4022 or brucem@greenlining.org.

Eric Arnold, CRP: (510) 681-8213 or escribe68@gmail.com; Desi Mundo, CRP: (510) 551-1096 or crpbayarea@gmail.com; For more information on The Greenlining Institute, please visit www.greenlining.org. For more information on CRP, please visit www.crpbayarea.org

 

Newsom’s Budget Omits Some Key Priorities for Communities of Color

Budget Strong on Health, Homelessness But Weakens Climate Efforts in Underserved Communities

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute expressed great concern about important programs left unfunded in the proposed state budget released today by Gov. Gavin Newsom, while applauding proposals that can help preserve and enhance economic opportunity for California’s communities of color.

Greenlining applauded the governor’s proposed infusion of capital into the fight against homelessness. “Affordable housing and homelessness represent critical challenges for California, and particularly for communities of color,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Adam Briones. “Black Californians represent about six and a half percent of our state’s population, but nearly 40 percent of California’s homeless. We look forward to seeing more bold leadership from the governor and legislature on this issue.”

Briones added, “Greenlining also applauds the Governor for addressing some pressing needs of small businesses, especially those owned by people of color. We are especially excited about his decision to propose an LLC fee waiver and look forward to assisting him in passing that legislation.”

Greenlining has long argued that addressing poverty and pollution at the same time must be core to the state’s fight against climate change. Unfortunately the proposed Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund allocation eliminates funding for the most comprehensive, equitable, and transformational program, the Transformative Climate Communities Program, as well as for other programs critical to low-income communities. This follows a troubling pattern of underinvestment in programs known to deliver the most measurable, direct, and assured benefits to California’s disadvantaged communities.

“We are deeply troubled by the Governor’s decision to eliminate funding for the Transformative Climate Communities Program,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez. “We call on the governor and the legislature to reestablish funding for this important program and to invest more, not less, in programs that deliver real climate solutions to low-income communities of color that are hit hardest by climate change.”

Greenlining urges that these key programs be funded at the following levels:

  • $100 million for Transformative Climate Communities (zeroed out in Gov. Newsom’s proposal)
  • $100 million for Low Carbon Transportation Equity Programs  ($75 million in Newsom’s proposal)
  • $5 million for Regional Climate Collaboratives (also zeroed out in Newsom’s proposal)
  • $75 million for Low Income Weatherization (also zeroed out)

In addition, the governor proposes a $4 billion Climate Resilience Bond.  “Unfortunately,” Sanchez said, “this includes insufficient funds to build the resilience of the populations most vulnerable to climate change, so we will strongly urge more funding for communities most at risk.”

Greenlining’s Health Equity team applauded Gov. Newsom’s inclusion of funding for full-scope Medi-Cal coverage for undocumented seniors as well as his $695 million proposal to transform Medi-Cal to provide comprehensive, coordinated physical and mental health services, especially for Californians lacking secure housing. “Coordinating funding to address housing as a health intervention is an important example of working across sectors to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable. We want to see more investments in jobs and economic opportunities as a health intervention as well,” said Greenlining Health Equity Program Manager Kelsey Lyles.

In light of the Jan. 1 expansion of Medi-Cal to cover all low income Californians under age 26 regardless of immigration status,  Greenlining emphasized the need for investments in health workforce and loan forgiveness programs so that providers are equipped to serve the diverse needs of communities of color.

Greenlining’s Technology Equity Team applauded the governor’s inclusion of resources to map the state of broadband connectivity in California. “These maps are critically needed and will finally provide the state the data necessary to ensure that everyone has access to a robust, open internet at reasonable prices,” said Greenlining Technology Equity Director Paul Goodman. “More accurate data, combined with the Governor’s commitment of $900 million over five years to improve California’s broadband infrastructure, will ensure that all Californians see the benefit of a robust, competitive market for internet service.  We are especially encouraged that governor acknowledges that California can include the construction of broadband infrastructure as part of other state projects.”

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

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
www.greenlining.org
@Greenlining

Cable Companies Fail to Hire Minority-Owned Suppliers, New Report Finds

Comcast, Cox Communications Both Get “F” Grades in Greenlining Supplier Diversity Report Card  

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Utility, telecommunications and water companies regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission continue to report overall growth in contracting with suppliers owned by people of color, women, disabled veterans and LGBT people, reports The Greenlining Institute in its latest Supplier Diversity Report Card. Still, some companies lagged, and results for particular groups were decidedly mixed.

Key findings of the report, compiled from 2018 data reported to the CPUC in 2019, include:

  • Comcast trails all other regulated companies in contracting with Minority Business Enterprises. Just 3.99 percent of Comcast’s contract dollars went to businesses owned by people of color, and its spending with businesses owned by women of color also ranked poorly at just 1.04 percent of total contracts.
  • Verizon Wireless sets the standard for diverse spending, with $290 million (33.92 percent) of its spending going towards businesses owned by people of color — more than 10x the amount of Comcast on diverse suppliers.
  • Although 37 percent of California businesses are owned by women of color, they got just 4.16 percent of contract spending in 2018.

Additional findings include:

  • Most companies improved their percentage of procurement dollars spent with Minority Business Enterprises in 2018, with Verizon Wireless and Sprint topping the rankings.
  • The cable industry continues to neglect supplier diversity, with Comcast (see above) and Cox both receiving grades of “F.”
  • Spending with African American-owned suppliers was a mixed bag, with a few companies’ spending dropping sharply.
  • Contracting with Latino-owned businesses increased at two thirds of companies, but overall levels remained low given the large Latino presence in California.
  • Spending with woman-owned businesses remained relatively flat.
  • Contracting with LGBT-owned businesses grew slightly but remained at generally low levels with a small number of exceptions.

“The groundbreaking supplier diversity efforts taken on by utility companies under the guiding principles of the California Public Utilities Commission’s General Order 156 have helped break the ‘old-boy network’ and create opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs,” said Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann. “We have seen that when commissioners make this effort a priority, it can generate unprecedented results. If our state is to remain competitive, regulated firms and their spending should reflect the demographics of our state.”

In 2018, the firms analyzed in Greenlining’s Supplier Diversity Report Card spent a combined $39.2 billion with outside contractors. Supplier contracts represent enormous opportunities for a wide variety of businesses owned by people of color and other marginalized groups and include things like construction, transportation, and business and legal services. Greenlining analyzed how much each company spent on Minority Business Enterprises (including African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Latino, and Native American-owned companies) and women-, LGBT- and disabled veteran-owned business enterprises. Overall, the utilities spent a combined $9.2 billion on businesses owned by people of color, a slight improvement over 2017.

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

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

www.greenlining.org
@Greenlining

Driving a Tesla in the carpool lane: No longer just a perk for the rich

By Rachel Swan
San Francisco Chronicle

For years, driving alone in the carpool lane was a glimmering sign of privilege, limited to owners of flashy new electric cars.

In January, California will extend this benefit to the less affluent. A new state law will enable low-income motorists who purchase secondhand electric vehicles with expired “clean air” stickers — passports into the diamond lanes — to trade them for new stickers that are valid until 2024.

Social justice advocates champion the idea, saying it will expand what was traditionally a rich person’s market, enticing more motorists to choose zero-emission vehicles. The new law applies to people whose household income is 80% of the state median, or lower. Officials at the Department of Motor Vehicles pegged that threshold at $65,777 a year.

“Philosophically, this is really important,” said Joel Levin, executive director of the nonprofit consumer group Plug In America. “There’s a stereotype that electric vehicles are just fancy cars for wealthy people, but we want to make them available to everybody — especially low-income people who drive long distances to work. Used cars are going to be a big part of that story.”

But critics question whether the state should continue offering this perk, which jams traffic in carpool lanes. On some freeways, the crush of plug-in vehicles is slowing down public buses and carpools, putting two environmental strategies in competition. As of August 2018 the DMV had issued 363,309 stickers — mostly in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, where many carpool lanes don’t meet the federal standard of moving traffic at 45 mph 90% of the time.

The bill’s author, former state Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, argued that new stickers issued as a result of the law would be offset by other stickers expiring. Yet, if the state is to meet its policy objective of putting more electric vehicles on the road, more will wind up in the carpool lanes.

“These lanes need to function,” said Randy Rentschler, legislative director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which opposed Lara’s bill. Rentschler noted that the purpose of carpool lanes is to move high-occupancy vehicles, not to “incentivize whatever do-gooder behavior we want to incentivize.”

At least one bus rider agreed.

“If you’re riding the bus on Interstate 80 on a weekday, it’s just regular traffic,” said Aswun James, who stepped off an AC Transit 76 bus on a recent Thursday morning. James often takes buses from his home in Richmond to visit friends in Pinole.

Fans of the stickers push back, saying California urgently needs to convert more drivers to electric cars and hybrids. Former Gov. Jerry Brown set a target of 5 million by 2030, a steep climb from 600,000 registered today.

“We know that if we don’t start moving from dirty cars to clean cars, we won’t get there,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, Democrat from San Francisco and owner of an electric Chevy Bolt.

When these vehicles hit the secondary market, lawmakers saw an opportunity to reach a more diverse pool of drivers.

“We want to offer low-income folks the same benefit that was given to people who could afford the technology when it was first introduced,” said Alvaro Sanchez, environmental equity director at The Greenlining Institute. The Oakland-based nonprofit was among several groups that supported Lara’s bill.

Historically, the state and federal government dangled tax breaks and rebates to induce people to buy electric cars. Most of these rewards went to well-heeled consumers who could afford to try the technology in its infancy, and whose income was high enough to benefit from a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Now, with Teslas and BMW hybrids filling the driveways of California’s most prosperous suburbs, the state’s goals have shifted. Policymakers want to broaden electric car ownership to teachers, house cleaners and janitors. And they want to cap subsidies for the wealthy.

To that end, California set income restrictions for rebates: single taxpayers who earn $150,000 or more gross income are no longer eligible, though they still qualify for carpool lane decals. At the same time, air districts throughout the state began offering scrap-and-replace programs, which enable poor people to swap their old, gas-fueled beater cars for a grant to purchase an electric car or hybrid.

Starting next year, working-class drivers can score the most coveted prize of all: entry to the diamond lanes.

“This is great,” said Randi Lewis, a Vallejo resident who would qualify for the new sticker program. Lewis squeaks by on disability payments and previously drove an old, fuel-belching clunker. In June she received a grant from Bay Area Air Quality Management District to buy a 2013 Ford C-Max hybrid, metallic gray with leather seats. The car had a white spot on its bumper where someone had peeled off the old carpool lane decal.

Besides serving as a social equalizer, the new law could also boost sales of used electric cars. Thus, it drew support from an unlikely ally: the automobile industry. Manufacturers and dealers favor the law because it helps salvage the value of used plug-ins that would be hard to sell without the carpool lane stickers.

In the Bay Area, access to fast-moving carpool lanes is the main allure of an electric vehicle, said Leo Beas, operations manager at Rose Motorcars in Castro Valley. For customers with long commutes, the ability to coast along a freeway outweighs other incentives, like saving money on fuel and repairs.

More than half the customers who walk into Rose Motorcars seek a carpool lane decal, Beas said.

He can empathize.

“When I drive to our sister location in Modesto, it can take two or three hours if I leave anytime after 1 p.m.,” he said. “When you’re stuck on Interstate 580 during that commute, and you look over to see cars flying by in the carpool lane — it can be tempting.”

Many people succumb to temptation. Roughly a quarter of carpool lane drivers are actually single motorists in gas-powered cars who are cheating the system, according to studies by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Such figures rankle the electric-car evangelists, who argue that clean-air vehicles are unfairly blamed for crowding the lanes.

Still, state officials want to thin out traffic any way they can. They’ve given clean-air stickers rolling expiration dates to limit the number of people taking advantage of them. The red decals that were doled out in 2018 will become worthless in 2022, while the purple decals released in 2019 will lose their value in 2023. Green and white decals issued before 2017 are already defunct, making those vehicles suitable for resale to a low-income buyer.

For those who participate, the advantages could multiply, Beas said.

“When you’re driving a plug-in, there’s no oil change, no spark plugs, no fuel pumps to worry about — you’re spending a lot less money on maintenance, and then you can drive for Uber or Lyft on the side,” he said. “This is going to be a game-changer.”

Greenlining Institute Announces New Board Co-Chairs, Executive Committee

Founding Co-Chairs Ortensia Lopez and George Dean Step Down After 27 Years  

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute is pleased to announce the election of new co-chairs and a new Executive Committee, as founding Co-Chairs Ortensia Lopez and George Dean step down after 27 years of service.

The new executive committee consists of:
Co-Chairs: Robert Apodaca and Tunua Thrash-Ntuk
Treasurer: Tate Hill III
Secretary: Noemi Gallardo
Member at large: Ortensia Lopez

“It has been an honor and a privilege to be a co-founding member of The Greenlining Institute and board co-chair for the past 27 years,” said Ortensia Lopez. “Having been in the nonprofit sector for over 45 years, co-founded organizations and served on many boards, I know that Greenlining has always been a respected icon that ensures that our communities thrive. Greenlining’s Leadership Academy continues to inspire as it trains and develops leaders who continue to work with, for and in our communities.”

This has been a year of momentous change for Greenlining. As co-chairs, Ortensia Lopez and George Dean entrusted Tunua Thrash-Ntuk and Robert Apodaca to head the Transition Committee that culminated in the selection of our new President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann.

“We are incredibly thankful and owe a debt of gratitude to our founding co-chairs George Dean and Ortensia Lopez, who have guided and supported the growth of this organization for the past 27 years,” said Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann. “Their tireless commitment and investment in the organization and its staff cannot be underestimated. I look forward to working with the new Executive Committee as we continue to expand economic opportunities for communities of color.”

On behalf of Greenlining’s entire staff, Gore-Mann saluted Lopez and Dean for shepherding the organization to where it is today and building the leadership needed to further advance racial equity. “They built the organization and consistently invested in the next generation of leaders – who will now carry our mission forward,” she said.

More about Greenlining’s new co-chairs:

Tunua Thrash-Ntuk: Tunua Thrash-Ntuk is the Executive Director of Los Angeles Local Initiatives Support Corporation. She is a seasoned community and economic development practitioner with nearly two decades of experience in both nonprofit and private sectors. Her strengths range from community advocacy to asset and real estate development around neighborhood revitalization. She has already led a number of important urban initiatives throughout Los Angeles County focused on affordable housing, economic and commercial development, as well as transit-oriented projects. Tunua holds a B.A. from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree from MIT.

Robert Apodaca: Robert J. Apodaca, Founder of ZeZeN Advisors, Inc., has a 45-year professional and civic career that spans both private and public sectors and several industries.  Following his service as Chairman and Trustee of Alameda County Retirement Board (pension fund), he joined the investment industry as a Senior Vice President & Partner of Kennedy Associates, an institutional investor for pension funds. New and retained accounts credited to his leadership included CalPERS, Chicago Transit Authority, San Diego County Retirement Board, Dallas Police & Fire, Kansas City Public Schools, NYC Fire Fighters and International Glass Molders. Apodaca has consistently devoted much time and energy to community service and serves on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations.

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

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
www.greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

Trump Administration Proposes Weakening Vital Anti-Redlining Law

Community Reinvestment Act Has Played Critical Role, Greenlining Institute Says

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Today the Trump administration’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation released a proposal for updating the Community Reinvestment Act, a landmark anti-redlining law first enacted in 1977. The Greenlining Institute urged a stronger, more specific focus on modern forms of redlining that continue to keep communities of color largely locked out of homeownership.

“The CRA has been a strong, and important tool to curb redlining and assure fair access to credit for all, but it needs to be modernized and strengthened,” said Greenlining Institute Senior Economic Equity Program Manager Rawan Elhalaby. “It appears that the Trump administration wants to move in the wrong direction and seeks to weaken this vital law. This would be a serious blow to communities of color, and especially women of color, who are already on the wrong side of the homeownership gap.”

Extensive research has found that the CRA did much to curb redlining, the now-banned practice of denying loans and investment in communities of color. But the Great Recession sent the homeownership gap between Blacks, Whites and nonwhite Hispanics back to pre-CRA levels. Reporting by the investigative news outlet Reveal has shown that lending discrimination, effectively a modern-day form of redlining, persists.

As stated in comments to the OCC last year, The Greenlining Institute and 54-member Greenlining Coalition believe that CRA needs an update, but changes should modernize and maintain the spirit of the law, reflecting persisting needs in low and moderate-income neighborhoods and communities of color as well as changes in our financial systems. Changes should not weaken the law by making it easier for banks to fulfill their CRA obligations. This appears to be the intent of Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, who in the past has expressed hostility to the law.

Advocates and organizations representing communities that have been victims of financially discrimination are urged to contact The Greenlining Institute at rawane@greenlining.org to learn more about the fight for financial fairness.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

Greenlining Institute Urges Tougher CA Clean Truck Standards

Urges CARB to Take Steps to End “Diesel Death Zones”  

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – As the California Air Resources Board prepares for a public hearing on its proposed Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation, The Greenlining Institute is urging CARB to greatly strengthen its proposed rule.

“Too many California communities of color live in ‘diesel death zones,’ areas where pollution from heavy-duty trucks leads to high rates of cancer, asthma and heart disease,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Program manager Leslie Aguayo, who will be testifying at the hearing. “Zero-emissions trucks exist today for a variety of uses, and we need a faster transition in order to protect lives and health.”

In comments filed with the board, Greenlining calls CARB’s proposal to have four percent of California’s trucks be zero-emission by 2030 “insufficient,” and urges that the mandate be increased to 15 percent. Longer-term, Greenlining asks CARB to set a target date for when all trucks should be zero-emission, with specific dates for each class of trucks.

Greenlining also urges CARB to accelerate both the inclusion of Class 2b pickup trucks (trucks with a GVWR of 8,501 to 10,000 pounds) and the adoption of fleet purchase requirements.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

greenlining.org
@Greenlining

Governor Signs Bill to Promote Supplier Diversity Across California’s Hospital Industry

AB 962 Requires Hospitals to Report Their Supplier Diversity Starting July 1, 2021

Contact:
Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)
Anthony Galace, Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director, 510-926-4009; 619-633-5185 (cell)

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 962, introduced by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and coauthored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). This bill establishes California’s first-ever reporting requirement for hospitals’ contracting with businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and LGBT individuals to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. This bill will shed light on the degree to which California’s $230 billion hospital sector contracts  with and outreaches to diverse businesses for various products and services.

“AB 962 is the embodiment of some of the values that are at the core of our state: transparency, economic opportunity, and diversity,” said Assemblymember Burke. “The signing of this measure furthers California’s storied history of promoting opportunity for the communities that comprise the backbone of our economy, and shows that we value diversity across all levels of this state, whether it is in the hospital industry, utility industry, or in the makeup of the legislature. Continuing this history of promoting diversity is crucial because when our diverse communities thrive, all Californians thrive.”

“AB 962 introduces a proven formula to increase diversity,” said Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace. “Requiring hospitals to report their supplier diversity will lead to significant contracting opportunities for diverse businesses, which will directly benefit the populations and communities those businesses serve. We applaud Assemblymember Burke’s leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with hospitals across the state, and with OSHPD to ensure proper implementation of this bill.”

This bill, sponsored by The Greenlining Institute, is modeled on several successful supplier diversity programs overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Insurance. After both programs were enacted, the number of contracts going to diverse businesses skyrocketed, and advocates credit the reporting and transparency requirements created by these programs. They anticipate similar results from AB 962

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

New Research: Moving off of gas in buildings can have significant benefits for low-income communities

Housing and energy experts say building electrification can be a transformative force, but policies must prioritize environmental and social justice communities 

Contact: Sage Welch, Principal at Sunstone Strategies, sage@sunstonestrategies.org, 615.715.6714

OAKLAND, CALIF. – As a wave of local governments move to kickstart a new era of cleaner, healthier all-electric homes and buildings, Equitable Building Electrification: A Framework for Powering Resilient Communities, produced in partnership between The Greenlining Institute and California’s Energy Efficiency for All coalition, highlights the benefits the move away from gas in buildings can have for low-income residents as long as policies are designed with communities at their center. 

More than 50 California cities have passed or are considering measures to accelerate all-electric buildings – moves that have been attacked by the gas industry on a number of fronts, including how they may impact low-income Californians. However, this new resource shows that through community-led, intentional policymaking, building electrification can actually help close the clean energy gap and lead to greater affordability for working families in California by putting environmental and social justice communities at the front of the line to access healthier, fossil fuel-free homes and high-quality local jobs that may come from greening the building sector.  

“The gas industry is working overtime to stoke fear around building electrification, and is specifically targeting low-income residents and communities of color with this message,” said Carmelita Miller, an author of the report and legal counsel for The Greenlining Institute. “We’re here to say that getting off of gas will have important benefits for these communities if policies are rolled out with a mission to improve the health and resilience of environmental and social justice communities.”

Data from Energy and Environmental Consulting (E3) shows gas rates rising steeply in California in coming years, as the cost to safely maintain the aging gas system rises following two major disasters and the demand for gas dries up as California moves forward with its clean electricity and climate targets. Those left on gas in coming decades could be looking at massive bill increases. 

“As gas costs increase and we learn more about the detrimental health and climate impacts of burning gas in our homes, we expect many Californians who can afford to will choose to get off gas on their own,” noted Isaac Sevier, co-author of the report and coordinator of California’s Energy Efficiency for All coalition. “Policies and support must focus on empowering entire communities who cannot afford new appliances or new homes to access all-electric housing – which is more affordable and will have long-term health benefits.” 

The framework notes that African Americans, Native Americans, immigrant communities of color, low-income communities, and others have long suffered systemic exclusion from housing and job opportunities and it urges electrification policies to address this inequity as the state seeks to transform its building stock.

“There’s no room for polluting gas in California’s future. We also can’t afford another market-based, trickle down clean energy initiative that doesn’t reach low-income people,” said Mad Stano, program director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “This framework explains how we can design building electrification policies with community resiliency at their core to help working families and communities of color be first in line to receive benefits and continue leading on climate solutions.”

 The framework offers five steps on how equitable electrification can be implemented: 

  • Assess community needs.
  • Establish community-led decision-making.
  • Develop metrics and a plan for tracking.
  • Ensure funding and program leveraging.
  • Improve outcomes.

“This framework makes it clear that through strategic, targeted and sufficient investment, we can make the transition to a clean energy future equitable,” said David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission. “This is exactly the kind of direction that California agencies and policymakers need as we explore how to cost-effectively reduce emissions from our buildings,  improve public health and increase the quality of life for all Californians – especially those struggling with affordability.”

The framework identifies building electrification as a potential boon for high-quality jobs and careers, including a just transition plan for those who currently depend on gas and other fossil fuels for their livelihood. The inherently local nature of work in the built environment means that, with the right policies and programs, electrification can produce strong careers in communities all across the state. In addition to ensuring that fossil fuel workers have access to good jobs, equitable electrification policies should include workforce development programs that create pathways for people with barriers to employment, so that they too can access good quality electrification jobs.  

“Ultimately, building electrification policies must be designed to improve people’s everyday lives,” said Sevier. “If we focus on people-centered policies, electrification can provide solutions to existing household problems – by providing jobs that can’t be exported, lowering bills, improving health, and making homes more comfortable. Community-led planning initiatives that put local needs at the center will be key.”

 San Joaquin Valley pilot serves as model

The framework emphasizes the importance of community-driven decision making in policy, noting  that community members are the experts on what challenges they face, and how policy can help address them.

The report holds up the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) San Joaquin Valley Disadvantaged Communities Pilot Project as an example of what community-driven policymaking means in practice. The program allowed communities that have never had access to gas infrastructure to work in partnership with an on-the-ground team to identify alternatives that would best suit residents, with a deep focus on long-term engagement and outreach.

Through a process that put community needs center stage, nine host communities were offered a variety of options to move from wood or propane as a heating and cooking source – to electric appliances powered by clean energy – all driven by community-led choices ensuring the result would benefit their daily lives.

“With building electrification policies being in their nascent, developmental phase, local and statewide decisionmakers and advocates have the opportunity to design these policies in a manner that will lift up communities in California that have previously been left behind,” added Miller. “That’s what was achieved in the San Joaquin Valley, and that’s what we want to replicate around the state.” 

Buildings are responsible for more than a quarter of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. To date 10 cities have passed local measures that incentivize all-electric new construction or place restrictions on gas in new buildings. The PUC has undertaken a proceeding to implement SB 1477, which creates incentives for clean heating technologies, and is looking at pathways to cut pollution from buildings using electrification. Under AB 3232, the California Energy Commission is currently studying the most cost-effective pathways to cut pollution from buildings by 40 percent by 2030.

The framework can be found on our website: http://bit.ly/ElectrifyCaNow

ABOUT THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE:

Founded in 1993, The Greenlining Institute envisions a nation where communities of color thrive and race is never a barrier to economic opportunity. Because people of color will be the majority of our population by 2044, America will prosper only if communities of color prosper. The Greenlining Institute advances economic opportunity and empowerment for people of color through advocacy, community and coalition building, research, and leadership development.

ABOUT EEFA:

California’s Energy Efficiency for All coalition is committed to an equitable clean energy future and works to advance healthy, affordable energy solutions for underserved renters at the state, regional, and city levels, with a key focus on expanding energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in frontline communities. To learn more about our state and national partnerships, visit energyefficiencyforall.org/states/california/

 

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute
greenlining.org
@Greenlining