Activists Say California Fighting Pollution Globally but Not Locally

Los Angeles Times
by Evan Halper

In the Bay Area oil port city of Martinez, where a colossal Shell refinery has long tainted the air, the landmark California law that requires polluters to ease their carbon footprint seemed to some to promise new relief.

But one big move by Shell to comply with rules on greenhouse gas emissions won’t do much for Martinez. It will instead give a boost to the environment in the pristine Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where the oil company is helping preserve a 200,000-acre forest.

California regulators are satisfied the forest project will be a sponge for greenhouse gases, helping reduce global warming. It doesn’t matter that the trees grow nowhere near California.

Advocates for the local community heatedly disagree.

In California and across the country, the purchase of so-called carbon offsets by large corporations sits at the root of a bitter dispute over the extent to which companies dealing with a global problem have an obligation to help their local environments.

The dispute has taken on new importance as more states mull over whether to adopt California’s model amid the Obama administration’s push to place strict new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

“We think the residents who are disproportionately burdened by this pollution should benefit,” said Guillermo Mayer, president of Public Advocates, a San Francisco environmental justice group. “Instead of reducing the pollution locally through better technology or ramping down emissions, you get to buy trees in another part of the world. The residents nearby aren’t helped.”

Mayer calls it absurd that California companies may be able to reach as much as half of their emission reduction goals over the next several years through efforts that include not just planting trees, but capturing methane from cow manure in New York and recycling refrigerators in Arkansas. An environmental justice panel assembled by the state to advise regulators similarly warned against using out-of-state offsets.

But other environmental organizations disagree.

Groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund see offsets as a major selling point of California’s climate reduction strategy. Giving companies the flexibility to search the nation, and perhaps the globe, for ways to reduce emissions helps lower the cost of reducing the global warming threat while inspiring investment in conservation projects, they say.

“What this program is supposed to achieve is a reduction in greenhouse gases,” said Emilie Mazzacurati, managing director of Four Twenty Seven, a Berkeley firm that advises on climate change strategies. “Greenhouse gases are, by their nature, global. It doesn’t matter where they come from. They all go into the atmosphere.”

Emboldened by the support of some big environmental groups, California regulators express no regrets about their fledgling offset program — even as they try to work out kinks.

The state has blocked offset plans that seem questionable. One program in Arkansas, for example, was placed under investigation after state officials discovered that companies were buying offsets involving a facility that disposes of toxic refrigerants but was operating without a federal environmental permit.

Questions over the state’s ability to police faraway projects loom over the program. Regulators are nonetheless looking into expanding it beyond the United States. In Mexico and Brazil, California polluters could be awarded offset credits for investing in efforts to preserve the rain forest.

Boosters of such an expansion aggressively fought back a legislative effort last year to limit the use of offsets outside California. They even paid to bring the champion of the proposal, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), to join them on a research trip to Mexico. The Environmental Defense Fund covered Lara’s $2,363 tab.

The California Air Resources Board, which enforces the state’s emissions rules, won’t say which companies are purchasing offsets and where they purchase them. “Each entity’s strategy in purchasing offsets is considered market sensitive,” said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the board.

In November, Young said, data will start to be released showing how many offsets are being used by what companies, but not where the offset projects are based. Environmental justice activists are maddened by the secrecy.

Shell’s plan was made public in a news release by the organizers of the Michigan forestry project. California’s major electricity companies, meanwhile, have made clear in public filings that they also are looking to make big offset purchases.

Most of those deals probably will not be linked to environmental projects in California. The air board’s list of approved offsets is dominated by out-of-state endeavors. In part, officials said, that’s because the state’s environment already is pretty clean.

“California is proactive and has many regulations to protect the environment,” Young said. Thus “it is a challenge to identify sources of offsets in California.”

The reasoning baffles Vien Truong, environmental equity director at the Greenlining Institute.

“People say California is green, and we don’t need to worry about making those investments here, but it is not true,” she said. The so-called fence-line communities, adjacent to factories and plants, “have often not benefited from the state’s clean-tech boom and clean economy. It skips right over us.”

Such grievances are laid out in detail in a complaint the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment in San Francisco filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over California’s offset program.

It contends that the offsets violate the Civil Rights Act by depriving minority communities of the benefits of cleaner air. The EPA has declined to take any action.

The debate is muddled by sometimes inconsistent mandates in California’s climate change law. The law’s overarching goal is to reduce greenhouse gases worldwide. But sponsors also promised to clean the air in the state’s most polluted communities.

The same kind of contradiction could ultimately emerge with the Obama administration’s emissions plan. Like boosters of the climate change law in California, the president promises the rules he is proposing would confront not just climate change but also local pollution.

The law “has a lot of conflicting goals,” said Michael Wara, a professor and expert on energy and environmental law at Stanford Law School. “The regulators have to balance them.”

Activists See Uber’s Oakland pullback as an Opportunity

San Francisco Business Times

By Kevin Truong

Uber Technologies’ major real estate move in Oakland was hailed as a sign of the city’s economic revitalization by some, and as a boogeyman for community groups concerned about the impact of a big corporation setting up shop in the city’s core.

Thus it would stand to reason that the company’s recent pull-back from their initial ambitions would be celebrated by activists.

That was not the general sentiment, however, of a panel convened on the topic at the Greenlining Institute’s annual economic summit. Instead the speakers focused on what community leaders and policymakers can do in the interim to leverage their power and advocate for a more equitable collaboration with business going forward.

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“To me it wasn’t terribly surprising that Uber announced that they were going to bring less employees and less jobs to Oakland,” said Kate O’Hara, executive director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. “Those of us that have been watching Oakland development have seen that movie before.”

However, O’Hara pointed out that the company’s presence is already felt in Oakland, both in cars on city streets as well as Uber’s future position as a landlord with the ability to affect housing prices, development and retail opportunities.

George Galvis, executive director of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice held up the San Francisco Mission district, which he called the “poster child of gentrification,” as what happens when “tech colonization” goes unchecked. But he said Uber’s current pull-back gives some time to figure out the best path forward for integration.

“I think it’s safe to say that this is eventually going to happen, that’s it’s just merely going to be static,” Galvis. “What this represents is a cooling off period for us and I’m cautiously optimistic that this will be an opportunity to be intentional, rather than reactionary.”

For most of the panelists the move of companies like Uber to Oakland was taken as a given, with corporations being driven both by economic realities and the city’s rising stock as an urban center in the Bay Area.

Anyka Barber, the founder and curator of the Betti Ono Center, said that protections needed to be put in place for the aspects that make Oakland an attractive destination for companies in the first place.

“Oakland’s identity and brand is really driven by its culture, it’s driven by the history and the people. It’s driven by black aesthetics, Latino aesthetics, Southeast Asian aesthetics,” Barber said.

To Galvis, that puts the city in a position of power in negotiations with companies looking at moving into the city.

“We know that when somebody comes in that the negative externalities associated with that are gentrification and displacement, so preemptively we should be charging a tax to them, because guess what, they’re going to come in no matter what,” Galvis said. “People associated with the tech industry want to be in an urban center, they don’t want to be in the suburbs, they want to have cultural amenities.”

Paul Cobb, publisher of the social justice-oriented newspaper the Oakland Post, said that community groups and elected officials need to get ahead of negotiations by having a ready-set and transparent list of demands for companies looking to move into the city.

“The playbook needs to be agreed upon and notified just like in court,” Cobb said. “We have to give notifications to all parties who come into the courtroom. So when you come into the public arena, everybody ought to know what is expected. That prevents the political sideshow.”

Guillermo Mayer, the president and CEO of Public Advocates, pointed to the Facebook campus expansion in East Palo Alto – and the associated community benefit agreement – as a possible model for collaboration between companies and communities.

“That resulted in a donation of $18.5 million into an affordable housing catalyst fund, $1.5 million for legal defense of tenants being unlawfully evicted, as well as payment for nonprofits for local advocacy work and a job pipeline for local residents,” Mayer said. “East Palo Alto is very small, but it was able to sit at the table and bring Facebook to the table as constituents.”

Another example held up was Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s $100 million community benefits deal with Baltimore city officials for his massive Port Covington redevelopment plan that included affordable housing investment, no-interest loans for minority and women-owned businesses and local hiring promises. The project requires that the city float more than $600 million in bonds to fund infrastructure development.

“What we have to understand is the public investment can drive private investment, but on our own terms,” Mayer said. “So rather than just having private capital flow in with no restrictions, we can actually use our public dollars to incentivize investment in a way that is equitable.”

Adding More Color to the Green Movement

Care 2
by: SVN News

When Orson Aguilar returns home to Berkeley, California after the Social Change Institute (SCI), he’ll be exploring the creation of a loan fund that will enable people of color hit by the foreclosure crisis a fresh start.

“I’ve been wanting to pull together a fund that would buy homes and then create second-chance opportunities for folks who were preyed upon with bad loans,” says Aguilar, whose organization the Greenlining Institute has issued briefs demonstrating that Blacks and Latinos were unfairly steered to the subprime loan market, and represent 46 per cent of total losses to foreclosure.

This possible change campaign is one of many Aguilar has helped lead as Greenlining Institute’s executive director. The nearly 20-year-old organization takes a proactive approach to empower communities of color while building understanding about how diverse communities are a source of unrealized assets and strength.

Referring to Greenlining as a “think and do tank,” Aguilar says the nonprofit conducts research and designs multi-pronged strategies, running several campaigns at a time from renewable energy to affordable higher education. A core mandate is to demonstrate how the issues are interrelated, for example, the ways in which housing affects health, which affects educational outcomes, and provide ‘shovel ready’ solutions to create change.

A recent win for the organization came in 2010 when it was able to mobilize communities of color to vote against Prop 23, an effort by Texas oil companies to overturn California’s clean air laws. Aguilar says when examining voting stats, people of color voted “No” to overturning the clean air laws more than any other community.

“Usually it’s the opposite, and we made communities of color the more progressive, environmental voters just because somebody saw the value of including us in these debates,” says Aguilar.

“We do have the capacity to make the movement more powerful by being in it.”

Greenlining also focuses on training multi-ethnic leaders who work across boundaries to address critical policy issues through its leadership academy. After 14 years, Greenlining has helped build a network of over 600 leaders, including Aguilar.

“A lot of our work is opening that door to young people who perhaps didn’t even know that this kind of work existed,” he says, adding they provide training through lived experience and putting people on the front line.

Aguilar discussed Greenlining’s work and strategy during SCI’s opening night session June 6. The first-time attendee says events like SCI provide a much-needed space for the social sector to connect and learn from one another.

“It’s only going to take people like this to make a difference in all of the issues that we are working on,” says Aguilar.

SCI took place June 6-10 and convened more than 80 impact and emerging leaders in the social sector who are seeking practical skills and networking opportunities to take their work to the next level.

This article written by AxiomNews.ca is part of a series featuring changemakers attending Hollyhock’s Social Change Institute.

 

Addressing Environmental Racism Linked to Climate Change Impacts Happening Now in California

Daily Kos
by: Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse

California’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a new report today on the “Indicators of Climate Change in California. The “indicators” are the “large amounts of scientific data” collected by monitoring and research activities by state and federal agencies, universities and other research institutions. This report makes it clear that “climate change is not just some abstract scientific debate. It’s real, and it’s already here.”  This is actually the purpose of a blogathon we are having at Daily Kos in September.  Some people look at the climate change impacts documented by statistics, graphs, and charts, and view it as an abstract issue. But those numbers represent what is happening to people, wildlife and natural resources. So, our blogathon will be focused on how these impacts are affecting people today, including environmental justice and racism.

The California study documents climate change impacts happening now in our state:

The study, written by 51 scientists, tracked a variety of indicators and found widespread evidence of the toll climate change is taking across the across the state, including more frequent and intense wildfires, rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, warmer lakes and oceans, and hotter temperatures. These ripple effects of these changes threaten communities, industry, public health, and the state’s prized natural resources.

Months ago, we noticed here in Southern California that the foothills and mountains surrounding our subdivision were dry, brown fire fuel so much earlier in the year. We’ve had two fires in my county in the past couple months, one a few blocks from our home. Our wildfire season started back in April, a month or so earlier than usual.The report also stated how “Californians are already suffering from a growing number of heat-related illnesses and deaths and those figures are projected to rise along with temperatures.”

Additional impacts include:  Our coastal waters are more acidic, the fall-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River is on the decline, conifer forests on the slopes of mountains have moved to higher elevations, butterflies emerge earlier in the spring, glaciers in Sierra Nevada have shrunk, spring runoff from snowmelt that is crucial for downstream farmers has decreased, lakes are warming, sea levels rising, animals migrate to higher ground, and average annual temperatures have increased.

This is only a partial listing of climate change impacts now happening in California. Most impacts then have additional impacts rippling from the primary impact. For example, sea level rise:

“Sea-level rise could lead to flooding of low-lying areas, loss of coastal wetlands, erosion of coastal beaches, saltwater contamination of groundwater aquifers and impacts on roads, sewage treatment plants and other coastal infrastructure,” the report warns.

People in California have noticed:

Most Californians seem to agree. In a poll last month by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, 63 percent of the state’s residents said the effects of global warming are already being felt, while 22 percent said they will happen in the future. Eleven percent said they will never happen. …What the public may not realize, experts say, is how extensive the impact of climate change already is.

A new poll shows that people in California are ready to take steps now to address climate change, including spending money on projects to clear the air in lower income communities:

A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California finds that 75 percent of California voters think we need to take steps to counter global warning “right away.” And an astonishing 83 percent say it is important to spend money raised by the state’s cap-and-trade program on projects that will clean the air in lower-income and disadvantaged communities.

It’s no secret that environmental racism is why so many poor and minority communities are suffering the impacts of fossil fuel industries and climate change. In 2006, California enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act or AB 32 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by monitoring and regulations as well as market-based compliance mechanisms or allowances despite the usual opposition by the powerful and well-financed fossil fuel industry. All monies, except for fines and penalties, collected by the State Air Resources Board, from the auction or sale of allowances are deposited in a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to be available for appropriation by our legislature to further the goals of AB 32 and “a certain percentage must be used to improve environmental conditions in lower-income and disadvantaged communities.”  State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) has introduced SB 605 to “appropriate a specified amount of those moneys that are unencumbered to the state board from the fund to be expended consistent with the act on projects and programs that are located within and benefit disadvantaged communities.”  SB 605 has passed the State Senate but now faces the Assembly, which has an important committee hearing on August 12.SB 605 says let’s get to work now:

SB 605 guarantees that if the carbon auctions bring in money beyond that initial $500 million, the first $125 million will go to projects in disadvantaged communities. It puts the neighborhoods most in need of clean air and good jobs at the front of the line, giving substance to the promise that a clean energy economy will help struggling communities build economic security and prosperity, a goal that my colleagues at The Greenlining Institute are always looking to advance.

You can send a letter of support for SB 605 here to the Chair of the Natural Resources Committee so that communities receive “prompt investment of these revenues into pollution reduction programs, such as for home weatherization, public transit, rooftop solar, urban greening, affordable homes near transit, and other under-funded existing programs that reduce emissions and create jobs.” As Meteor Blades says, delay is denial. We don’t have to wait on D.C. We need to take actions now to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts happening now.

Advancing Public Policy Through the Greenlining Institute Fellowship: Tips from Fellow Vinhcent Le

ProFellow

The Greenlining Institute Fellowship offers year-long training programs for young public policy leaders. Based in Oakland, California, fellows work in teams with a shared policy focus to engage with community stakeholders, implement projects, and receive personal and professional development. 2016-17 Telecommunications Fellow, Vinhcent Le, shares his application tips and early experiences with the Greenlining Fellowship. 

1. What inspired you to apply for the Greenlining Institute Fellowship?

My path to the Greenlining Fellowship started when I was a first-year law student volunteering at the Orange County Public Defender. I gravitated towards the public defender because I was deeply uncomfortable with the idea that some people could “buy” a type of justice that the poor couldn’t afford. For the next three years, I spent my summers in different courtrooms and libraries writing motions, researching case law, interviewing clients and listening to their stories. It was these stories that drove me to the Greenlining fellowship.

Client backgrounds are the backbone of sentencing hearings; they are a way to explain to a judge or jury why a client deserves leniency. As I wove their stories into my arguments, I found myself constantly circling back to the idea that my clients were the product of a cycle of poverty, a reflection of our society’s disinvestment in education, health and professional development in the communities that needed it the most. I began to think that there was more I could do to address these problems, and I started to look at positions outside of criminal defense.

When I came across the Greenlining Fellowship, everything clicked. I saw an organization that was tackling the problems I’d railed against in my sentencing positions. Greenlining advocates for public and private investments in communities of color on multiple fronts with the idea that increasing economic opportunity allows the next generation financial security, breaking the destructive cycle of poverty.

My grandparents fled the Vietnam War with nothing but their children, my parents. As they settled into a new life in America, the federal government gave them the financial and social support to thrive. Today, my parents achieved their version of the American Dream and paved the way for me to go to law school and do the same.  As I reflected on my own personal history, I saw that I wanted to be a part of an organization that advocated for the same opportunities that my family had. I wanted to be a part of the Greenlining Institute.

2. What is a typical week like for a Greenlining Fellow?

There are two main components to the fellowship: the academy and the advocacy. The academy portion consists of one or two workshops a week designed to teach fellows the skills to succeed both professionally and personally. The professional development workshops are invaluable and cover topics like community organizing, research and writing, media trainings (fellows get the opportunity to interact with journalists and news media) and networking. The personal development workshops focus on things like stress reduction, meditation and mindfulness. To be honest, I came to Greenlining a bit skeptical of the personal development curriculum because I didn’t think I really needed personal development or those types of soft skills, but surprisingly those workshops have become my favorites.

The advocacy part of Greenlining depends largely on what team you’re on. As the Telecommunications Fellow, I spend my time researching and writing comment letters to regulatory bodies or creating reports and factsheets to influence policymakers. In addition, my role has me interacting with groups outside of Greenlining. I’m frequently on calls or in meetings with other non-profits or regulators to discuss solutions or strategies for increasing broadband usage and economic opportunities for our communities. I’m also fortunate that my team also allows me to spend time on a telecommunications-related “passion project” of my choosing.

As for our other teams, our two environmental legal fellows, Yesi and Sona, help shape and implement California’s environmental policy. Yesi’s work focuses on how California should distribute grants to help reduce pollution and increase technical jobs in disadvantaged communities. Sona works with regulators to develop California’s climate adaption plan in a way that ensures low-income communities are resilient to the future effects of climate change. Hibba, our economic policy fellow, regularly meets with bankers to advocate for greater home ownership for people of color and small business loans for minority owned businesses. Daniel is our health policy fellow and he advocates for community health through healthier food options, and healthcare jobs for boys and men of color.

What makes each week interesting is that Greenlining pushes us to get out of the office and into the community. For example, in my second week at Greenlining I found myself in Los Angeles talking to the vice president of Frontier Communications about the importance of affordable broadband for low-income communities. Next, I went to 3-day conference in Napa where I got to network and meet with fellow advocates and regulators while learning more about utilities regulation. In a couple of months, I’ll go to Washington D.C. to meet with the Federal Communications Commission to advocate for the Greenlining perspective on issues like Net Neutrality and low-income broadband subsidies. In addition to all of this, there have been several team-building retreats and countless dinners and social events with Greenlining staff, alumni and directors.

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Greenlining Institute Fellowship?

As an applicant, you should be able to articulate how your undergraduate or law school experience demonstrates a commitment towards the public interest and tackling inequality. That means being able to discuss what pro bono or other community activities you participated in and why you chose them. Next, you’ll want to connect your skills to Greenlining’s work as a public policy focused organization. For example, I discussed how I analyzed the effectiveness of government policies as a research assistant; I highlighted my knowledge of the regulatory landscape and I mentioned my experience with integrating statistics and data into my work – an important part of the policymaking process. By covering these things in my cover letter, I believe I made enough of an impression to get to the interview stage.

To prepare for your interviews (there can be two or more), I would contact alumni of the Greenlining fellowship and ask them about their experience. There are a lot of them all across the country! My career counselor worked with the Greenlining Institute when she was at the Environmental Protection Agency and gave me some insights that I found valuable during the interview. I would also recommend visiting the Greenlining website and reading the blog posts and publications in the areas you are interested in to get a feel for the policies and perspective that Greenlining has on those issues. I’ve always been a bit of a tech geek, and familiarizing myself in the subject area and mentioning my perspectives on net neutrality during my second interview helped me connect with the telecommunications team. My final recommendation is cliché, but be yourself! You’ll be asked a bunch of questions in the second interview about your working style and personality. Being honest and showing your interviewers authenticity as opposed to being a rehearsed robot is key!

Advertisers Asked to Pressure Bloomberg Businessweek Over Racist Cover

Diversity Inc

Bloomberg Businessweek’s racist cover on the mortgage market continues to infuriate Blacks and Latinos. California-based consumer-rights group The Greenlining Institute is demanding a meeting with the editors of the magazine as well as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose company bought the publication in 2009.

Greenlining is also asking the magazine for demographic data on its staff and management, a more thorough and heartfelt apology, and a follow-up story on the true causes of the housing crisis (bank greed) rather than blaming the collapse on Blacks and Latinos.

The cover showed a caricature of Black and Latino people literally rolling in cash because of the improved housing market.

So far, neither the mayor nor the magazine have responded. If there is no response, Greenlining plans to contact the magazine’s regular advertisers and event sponsors—including several DiversityInc Top 50 companies, such as AT&T, IBM, Verizon, Toyota and Dell—and ask them to pressure the publication. Other advertisers in the 84-page issue with the inflammatory cover included Xerox, Bank of America, State Street Corporation, Netsuite, T. Rowe Price, Microsoft, UPS, Hampton Inn (owned by Hilton) and Capital One.

“I don’t think these companies want to be associated with a company that can do something so despicable and backward. We will ask them to send Bloomberg Businessweeka note and speak up that diversity does count and Bloomberg should comply with our information request. They owe the community a better policy and it needs to be written in their magazine,” said Greenlining Executive Director Orson Aguilar.

A look at the top management of both the magazine and its parent company, Bloomberg LP, shows its senior management is mostly white and male. That includes Editor Josh Tyrangiel, Creative Director Richard Turley and Publisher Hugh Wiley at the magazine, and President Daniel Doctoroff, Chairman Peter Grauer, Chief Content Officer Norm Pearlstine and Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler at Bloomberg LP.

Bloomberg does not participate in the DiversityInc Top 50, so we do not have actual management demographics. By comparison, 18 percent of the senior level (CEOs and direct reports) of the DiversityInc Top 50 are Black, Latino or Asian, 80 percent more than the average of the Fortune 500. And 24 percent of the senior level of the DiversityInc Top 50 are women, 20 percent more than the Fortune 500 average.

The Greenlining Institute—which is supported by the Greenlining Coalition, comprised of 37 business and community groups—wrote in a letter to Bloomberg and the editors:

<blockquote>It may well be that you would have done it “differently” if you had known the cover illustration would garner so much public outcry. Nonetheless, your magazine is only reacting to negative feedback from its readers and the nation. The vast majority of America’s Latinos, Asian-Pacific Islanders and African-Americans may still be hard-pressed to understand why a serious magazine with excellent writers and substantial literary acclaim believed that insulting America’s diverse citizens was the best way to portray “The Great American Housing Rebound.”</blockquote>

The letter was signed by Aguilar and Economic Equity Senior Program Manager Sasha Werblin.

Referencing the advertisers/sponsors, the letter stated: “After all, what company would want to make enemies with the fastest-growing consumer segment in America?”  The letter also questioned whether the “tone deafness” of the cover and the staff that approved it is a reflection of the lack of diversity among the management and the staff.

The cover was designed by Andres Guzman, a freelancer who was born in Peru and now lives in Minneapolis.

The image and the cover lines are particularly offensive because Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately impacted by the subprime crisis from 2007–2009, which has been demonstrated by the billions of dollars of fines levied against the likes of Bank of America and Citigroup.

Pew Research Center noted that the bursting of the housing bubble caused far greater damage to these two communities, mostly because of the subprime loans given to people who didn’t have enough money or credit to qualify.

According to Pew, from 2005–2009, Latino wealth fell by 66 percent and Black wealth fell by 53 percent, compared with 16 percent for whites.

One study found that during the subprime years, banks were twice as likely to approve whites for prime mortgages with the best interest rates, while Blacks and Latinos received two to four times more subprime loans, most of which had such high rates they put the borrowers “under water” quickly. Another study found that the major banks made 70 percent of their high-cost loans in neighborhoods that were predominantly Black and/or Latino.

After the cover came out, Tyrangiel issued this “apology”: “Our cover illustration last week got strong reactions, which we regret. Our intention was not to incite or offend. If we had to do it over again we’d do it differently.”

Advocacy Group Withdraws Opposition to RBC’s Proposed Buy of City National

SNL Bank and Thrift Daily
by Timothy Ramos

An advocacy group has withdrawn its opposition of Royal Bank of Canada’s proposed purchase of Los Angeles-based City National Corp.

According to a report from the Los Angeles Times included in a Form 425 filed on May 12, the Greenlining Institute in Berkeley was initially against the deal, and was among other groups that were seeking a public hearing by the Federal Reserve that could have pushed back the scheduled timeline for the $5.4 billion deal.

Greenlining said it now supports the transaction after ongoing negotiations with City National indicated that lower-income and minority consumers and businesses in areas served by the bank would benefit from the deal as well. City National has pledged $11 billion over a five-year period to help poor neighborhoods and small businesses as part of its deal with RBC.

The deal is still facing opposition from Daly City, Calif.-based community, ethnic and minority advocacy group National Diversity Coalition.

Advocates Challenge NBA: Take Real Action on Diversity

Contact:
Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022415-846-7758 (cell)

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA – In a letter sent today to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, The Greenlining Institute challenges the league to take meaningful action on diversity, including actions designed to bring investment and opportunity to the communities from which the NBA draws both its players and its fans. FiveThirtyEight editor in chief Nate Silver estimates that 54 percent of NBA fans are people of color.

“Taking action against a racist team owner was the right thing to do, but it’s just the first step,” said Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar. “It’s pretty clear that the NBA has a glass ceiling, that African Americans can be players and even coaches, but top management positions and owners are virtually all white. Even worse, there’s no sign that the league or its teams contract at any meaningful level with minority-owned businesses for the huge amount of goods and services they buy.” The league reportedly has a program to encourage diverse vendors, but has not released any data on the program.

“NBA teams surely buy hundreds of millions of dollars in goods and services,” Aguilar said. “Does any of that money go to the communities that their players and fans come from? That has more real impact on people’s lives than the statements of one ignorant team owner.”

In its letter to Silver, Greenlining calls on the league to:

  • Conduct a detailed diversity survey, including not only all levels of staff and management, but also data on the ownership of suppliers, broken down by race, ethnicity and gender.
  • Create a Diversity Council reporting directly to the Commissioner whose first task should be to review all of the diversity survey results and make recommendations for improvement.
  • Release all of the diversity data, recommendations and progress reports in an annual report to the public.

Those interested in following the discussion online can use the hashtag #AreWeOne on Facebook and Twitter.

###

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

greenlining.org

Advocates Hail Supreme Court Decision–Worry at Law’s Shortcomings

New America Media
by: Paul Kleyman

Initial reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court’s general upholding of the health care reform law Thursday ranged from the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) heralding the decision to conservative groups, such as the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, decrying it as “a victory for those who want the Federal government to micromanage your life and medical care.”

Buzzing beneath the first bluster of reactions, though, advocates for uninsured or underinsured Americans are raising concerns about the impact — if any — of limitations on the high court’s decision.

Chief Justice’s Surprise Swing Vote

First, here’s what the court decided: The 200-plus-page judgment breaks down into two major parts. In a 5-4 majority opinion written by conservative stalwart Chief Justice John Roberts, who became the surprise swing vote, the court upheld the law’s provision mandating that individuals have insurance or pay a penalty.

The decision states, “The Affordable Care Act’s [ACA] requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax.”

Roberts thus accepted the Obama administration’s secondary argument that compelling people to buy insurance or be penalized was not tantamount, as dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia argued, to compelling citizens to buy broccoli for their health. Instead, says the majority, the penalty for not purchasing health insurance is no different from any other federal tax permitted by the U.S. Constitution.

The Chief Justice, however, sided with his four conservative colleagues on the administration’s primary argument calling on them to uphold the individual mandate under the commerce clause of the Constitution as federally protected interstate commerce.

This highly controversial part of the decision by the conservative justices throws into question 70 years of Supreme Court decisions affirming the government’s right to regulate interstate trade on such concerns as product safety, the clean air act and some worry the 1964 Civil Rights Act.. Seemingly obscure to most Americans, it was hotly argued by the White House and public advocates. But on this issue the five conservatives prevailed.

Even though, as ACA advocates asserted, factors determining health care costs are national and don’t stop at a state’s borders, health insurance, usually regulated by states, is a states-rights matter not subject to federal control. This part of the decision – although not in the headlines now – is likely to have a huge ripple effect on issues unrelated to health care.

7-2 Vote Limiting Medicaid Expansion

The court’s decision may well trigger long-term problems for lower-income, uninsured people in some states. The court voted 7-2 that the federal government can expand the Medicaid program when the full law goes into effect in 2014. But if state political leaders don’t want the new program and its rules for covering people adequately, the United States government cannot threaten to withhold payments they already receive or existing Medicaid services.

Although the ACA will now move ahead with the aim of covering about 31 million uninsured people, about 17 million are supposed to be covered under state-run Medicaid plans. Some experts believe that even staunch GOP governors and legislatures won’t pass up the generous payments to states set by the law. Under the ACA, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of newly insured people for the first few years and 90 percent after that. But others aren’t so sure.

For very low-income people in the Medicaid program, the federal government sets minimum rules for what a state has to cover and pays from 50-70 percent of the costs, with poorer states, such as Mississippi, receiving the larger subsidy. But states have had a lot of leeway to restrict eligibility rules, such as according to what illnesses people have or how severely impaired they are. Recession-strapped states have also been able to limit access to care, such as twisting a cap on how many prescriptions a patient needs at a time, regardless of their need or physician’s orders.

With the ACA, anyone now unable to get coverage need only show that his or her income is below 133 percent of the federal poverty line, that is, just a little above being the poorest of the poor. Under the Supreme Court’s decision, though, some health care advocates are asking whether, for instance, the 26 states with Republican governors — the same states who sued the Obama administration, partly leading to the Supreme Court’s decision — could simply ignore the ACA’s Medicaid provision.

Others speculate that few if any states will decline such rich funding to provide vulnerable citizens with health care.

Impact on Multiethnic Communities

The ACA’s complications will be entangled in intense debate through the November election and beyond. But for now, health care advocates are counting the law’s blessings to date.

The American Public Health Association, for example, noted in praising the decision that already:

  • 54 million U.S. families have additional benefits, including greater access to preventive health care services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, such as vaccines and preventive care and screenings for women;
  • 2.5 million young adults up to age 26 are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans;
  • Nearly 18 million children with pre-existing conditions are protected from insurance coverage denials;
  • 3.6 million seniors received 50 percent discounts on their drugs in 2011 as an initial step in closing the “donut hole”; and
  • Almost 33 million seniors accessed preventive services now available without cost-sharing through Medicare.

Kathy Lim Ko, president and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, issued a statement hailing the decision and calling ACA a “landmark civil rights law that brings the work of equity and justice to the health arena.”

Ko noted that through implementation of ACA’s early provisions, “97,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander young adults have been able to remain on their parent’s insurance plans and nearly 3 million Asian Americans have received preventive health care at no cost. By 2016, an estimated 2 million Asian Americans will have gained or become eligible for coverage.”

At the Greenlining Institute, a multiethnic policy nonprofit, General Counsel Samuel S. Kang, stated, “Every day we wrestle with the reality that African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos are less likely to have health insurance than whites, and the Affordable Care Act is already helping to fix this massive problem.”

In California, Kang said in a release, over a million people have already benefited from the law, including 400,000 low-income earners.

Health Care Gaps Remain

In the long run, however, the 2,700 pages of the Affordable Care Act and the 200 pages of interpretation — majority and dissenting — added by the Supreme Court, leaves “a substantial gap between the diagnosis of America’s medical problems and the remedies the White House and Congress could agree to,” according to Yale professor emeritus Theodore Marmor, among the leading health policy authorities in the country.

Although ACA’s mosaic of “bits and pieces” of reform undeniably benefits many, the measure fails to create a coherent national health care policy within a system of continuity of care, fails to establish long-term care for elders and those with disabilities, and fails to control health care spending in a system now costing double that of countries having significantly better health outcomes than the U.S.

For today, though, most health care advocates would concur with the statement Thursday of APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. The Supreme Court’s decision, he said, “marks tremendous progress towards reshaping our health system into one that saves the lives of at least 44,000 people who die annually simply because they do not have health insurance that could keep them healthy.”

Advocates urge PUC to take on Lifeline ‘prequalification’ issue

TR’s State Newswire

A group of consumer advocates are urging the Public Utilities Commission to address as soon as possible the problems caused by Lifeline prequalification requirements as the problems related to all carriers offering Lifeline, and not just Virgin Mobile which recently sought a waiver of the requirements.

Comments were filed this week in response to a motion filed by Virgin Mobile USA, L.P., d/b/a Assurance Wireless for a waiver of the prequalification process requirement for prospective customers of prepaid wireless federal Lifeline service providers. In joint comments, the Utility Reform Network, Greenlining Institute, Center for Accessible Technology, and National Consumer Law Center said that the PUC’s Lifeline rulemaking is not the proper vehicle to address the problems caused by prequalification.

“Joint Consumers agree with the sentiments and overarching goals of the Assurance motion,” they said. “It is clear that the Commission’s decision to adopt and implement a ‘prequalification’ process for its Lifeline program has created a significant barrier for potential Lifeline subscribers. Joint Consumers also agree that the ultimate goal of the program should be comply with federal and state requirements by ensuring that all those customers who are eligible for Lifeline and that express an interest in participating in the program ultimately receive the benefits that they are entitled to.”

The consumer advocates note that the recent scoping memo in the rulemaking asks parties to comment on whether the state Lifeline program should continue to require prequalification of Lifeine subscribers. The groups are asking that the commission take this question “out of turn” from the other issues and expedite a commission decision providing remedies to the barriers created by prequalification for potential customers of all Lifeine carriers.

The consumer groups said that although they don’t support the remedy requested by Assurance Wireless, the motion “raises a critical issue that the commission cannot ignore.” Eligible customers are being denied access to Lifeline, or substantially delayed in obtaining service, because of the “significant barriers created by prequalification,” they said.

“Joint Consumers agree with Assurance that prequalification has caused unacceptable barriers for potential Lifeline customers,” they said. “However, the relief requested by Assurance would not benefit consumers nor would it expedite the certification process. Instead it would merely insulate Assurance from risk associated with issuing free phones. Therefore the commission should deny the Assurance Motion and instead promptly and properly address the prequalification process as it relates to all Lifeline providers.” (Rulemaking 11-03-013)