CA Bill Aims to Boost Insurance Contracts for LGBT Firms

Bay Area Reporter
By Matthew S. Bajko

California leaders are pushing legislation aimed at boosting insurance companies’ contracts with LGBT-owned firms and other certified minority-owned businesses. It comes as lawmakers are also seeking to increase hospital contracts for such businesses.

Under Senate Bill 534, introduced by state Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), the state’s $310 billion insurance industry would be required to biennially report how much it is contracting with businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, and LGBT individuals.

Gay Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a former state senator who will be the commencement speaker May 24 at City College of San Francisco, is a co-sponsor of the legislation. It revives the state agency’s Insurance Diversity Initiative that expired in January and would expand its scope to include LGBT- and veteran-owned businesses.

“California’s nation-leading insurance industry can be an engine of prosperity for diverse businesses, benefiting our communities and the customers they serve,” stated Lara, who took over leadership of the California Department of Insurance in January. “SB 534 will continue to leverage the rapid growth of the insurance sector’s role in contributing to vibrant local economies.”

When the state insurance agency was collecting data on insurers’ contracts with certain diverse-owned firms, it saw procurement between insurers and such businesses increase by 93% over a five-year period. It went from $930 million in 2012 to $1.8 billion in 2017.

“California is a diverse state and becomes more diverse with each day,” stated Bradford. “Ignoring that fact also ignores the proven value diverse businesses have and the importance of making our economy more inclusive. Insurance spending on diverse businesses increased 93% over the few years the supplier survey was administered. I think that difference speaks to the enormous impact this measure will have.”

The bill passed out of the Senate’s judiciary committee last Tuesday, April 23, and will now be taken up by the chamber’s appropriations committee. In 2017 Bradford had introduced a similar bill but it died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee; it remains to be seen if this year’s bill will survive.

Hospital contracting bill waits review

Similar legislation pending in the state Assembly would require California hospitals with annual operating budgets of more than $25 million to publicly disclose how much they are contracting with LGBT-owned businesses as well as those owned by women, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups.

As the Bay Area Reporter’s Political Notes column reported April 8, the transparency requirement is aimed at seeing more such companies benefit from the estimated $230 billion the state’s hospital industry spends annually. It mirrors recent efforts to encourage other industries in the state, from public utilities to transportation agencies, to also increase their contracts with minority-owned firms.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) co-authored the legislation, Assembly Bill 962. It currently is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s suspense file, as it needs to be reviewed by California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, AB 962 would result in “one-time contract costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to OSHPD for an information technology solution that will collect, store and make available supplier diversity reports (Health Data and Planning Fund).” The statewide office also noted that it could “necessitate an increase in the current level of assessments on hospitals and long-term care facilities to support the increased costs.”

The California Hospital Association, United Hospital Association and Sharp Healthcare have expressed opposition to the bill unless it is amended. The lobbying groups contend that “manufacturing of specialized products is extremely limited and there are virtually no diverse suppliers for hospitals to consider in many cases.” They have also argued that hospitals, in order to secure cheaper prices, participate in group purchasing organizations that have diversity policies.

The analysis by Assembly staff suggested that the bill’s July 1, 2020 deadline to comply “seems aggressive” since it could take longer for the state to create a standard form that hospitals can use to submit the required information.

The Senate bill is also facing opposition unless amended by a coalition of organizations representing insurers doing business in California. It would require as of July 1, 2020 that each admitted insurer with California written premiums of $100 million or more submit a report in even-numbered years to the state’s insurance commissioner on its minority, women, LGBT, veteran, and disabled veteran-owned business enterprise procurement efforts during the previous two years.

The bill would also require insurers to report on the diversity of their governing boards and set goals for supplier and board diversity. But that provision of the bill has raised objections from the insurer groups, which argued that asking and publishing information about a board member’s sexual orientation or gender identity, for example, “may violate laws and is problematic,” according to a Senate staff analysis.

Based on those concerns, the bill was amended to state that the board members would be asked to voluntarily disclose their personal demographic data and that “no adverse action” would result in their choosing not to. The bill was also amended to specify that only “the aggregate data collected for each demographic category will be reported.”

Data collected by the Department of Insurance in 2017 showed that men held 80% of major insurers’ governing board seats, with people of color holding just 12%. Of nearly 2,400 total board seats, only 14 members self-identified as LGBT, while 13% of insurance companies reported zero women and 35% reported zero persons of color on their boards.

“SB 534 will ensure that California’s insurance providers think about diversity when they make procurement decisions and choose their boards of directors,” stated Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace. “California leads the nation in diverse-owned businesses, which creates the ideal environment and opportunity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion among insurance companies and other large businesses.”

The Oakland-based institute is co-sponsoring both of the bills requiring insurers and hospitals to report out on their diversity contracting.

TOMORROW: Boots Riley, Aimee Allison, Rep. Barbara Lee Headline Greenlining Institute Economic Summit

Event Also Marks Greenlining’s Official Farewell to Longtime President Orson Aguilar

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

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute’s 26th annual Economic Summit, “Reclaiming Our Time,” happens Friday, April 26 in Oakland and features a stellar lineup. With a theme inspired by Rep. Maxine Waters’ iconic 2017 “reclaiming my time” moment, this year’s Summit will highlight the leaders — especially here in California — who refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. Highlights include:

  • An opening discussion moderated by She the People founder Aimee Alison examining how communities are “reclaiming their time” through the Me Too movement, environmental advocacy and more
  • A “fireside chat” featuring acclaimed rapper, activist, producer, screenwriter and film director Boots Riley in conversation powerhouse poet and playwright Chinaka Hodge
  • A luncheon awards ceremony with a keynote address by Lifetime Achievement Award recipient U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee
  • In-depth panel discussions of the racial equity aspects of critical issues such as tech, transportation and banking – including a rare appearance by Aaron Glantz of Reveal, whose landmark reporting on modern redlining just won a Peabody Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist
  • Equity Lab – a unique, interactive workshop in which participants will learn and apply practical tools for advancing racial equity
  • An art sale featuring the work of local artists Dignidad Rebelde and Francis Mead
  • Greenlining’s official farewell to longtime President Orson Aguilar, under whose leadership the organization grew dramatically

Each year Greenlining brings together powerful voices for change—grassroots community leaders, nationally known advocates, artists, elected officials and more—for a unique event focusing on how to build a more equitable, just society. More than a conference, Greenlining’s Economic Summit is a unique gathering where innovation, art and activism align. See Greenlining’s Economic Summit web page for detailed information on the day’s program.

Journalists wishing to attend are asked to RSVP promptly to Bruce Mirken at

WHAT: The Greenlining Institute’s 26th annual Economic Summit

WHO: Speakers and awardees include rapper/filmmaker Boots Riley, Rep. Barbara Lee, Dream Corps President Vien Truong, She the People founder Aimee Alison, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and many more.

WHEN: Friday, April 26, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (registration opens at 8)

WHERE: Oakland Marriott, Oakland City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, California, 94607


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

Green New Deal Enlists People of Color

Yahoo News
By Kadia Tubman

Exactly a year before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the revered civil rights activist did something uncharacteristic. In a speech in New York City, he passionately denounced the Vietnam War and U.S. foreign policy. The man who championed voting rights for African-Americans and rallied the nation’s conscience to fight poverty and racial segregation had taken on a new cause.

King’s controversial “Beyond Vietnam” speech was denounced in the media; commentators said he “stepped out of his depth and threatened to undermine the movement by alienating his allies.” Even some African-American leaders said King should stay focused on civil rights, despite his argument that U.S. actions abroad were connected to oppression at home.

Today, many Democrats have embraced an issue that hasn’t traditionally been on the list of priorities for people of color: climate change. In 2018, a few months after President Trump called climate change “a hoax,” newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said during a climate change town-hall event that the Green New Deal, the ambitious environmental plan to cut the country’s carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030, was “going to be the Great Society, the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation.”

Republicans in Congress called it “elitist.”

“I think we should not focus on the rich, wealthy elites who will look at this and go, ‘I love it because I’ve got big money in the bank. Everyone should do this. We should all sign on to it,’” said Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis. “But if you’re a poor family, just trying to make ends meet, it’s a horrible idea.”

“This is not an elitist issue; this is a quality-of-life issue,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who recently raised the “legitimate question” of whether “it is OK to still have children considering climate change.”

“You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist?” she said in response to Duffy. “Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx, who are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint whose kids have their blood ascending in lead levels, their brains are damaged for the rest of their lives. Call them ‘elitist.’”

Ocasio-Cortez continued: “We talk about cost. We’re going to pay for this whether we pass a Green New Deal or not. Because as towns and cities go underwater, as wildfires ravage our communities, we are going to pay. And we’re either going to decide if we’re going to pay to react, or if we’re going to pay to be proactive.”

Last year, the world’s leading climate scientists released a report as a part of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warning that the world has until 2030 to cut carbon pollution to avoid the worst effects of global warming, such as rising ocean levels and devastating storms. Some consequences are already being felt.

The debate has shifted in recent years; environmental issues, once the province of elites, are now seen as affecting all communities and classes. Among Democrats, at least, not to care about climate change is increasingly seen as a form of racism. Air and water pollution, increasing temperatures and extreme weather are a growing concern among people of color.

African-Americans and Latinos are showing higher rates of “climate awareness and concern” while reporting the “highest levels of personal and health effects from climate impacts,” according to a 2018 survey by ecoAmerica, supported by the MacArthur Foundation. “The NAACP also found that one’s race, more than class, is the primary indicator of vulnerability to environmentally-induced negative health outcomes,” the report said.

“In the past, relative elites controlled the narrative and really gave a false impression in terms of who was concerned about this and was actually impacted by it,” said Jacqueline Patterson, senior director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program. “It really is a life-and-death situation for all of us, but for some communities more than others. And so it’s the very antithesis of an elitist situation, because communities of color, low-income communities, women and indigenous communities are actually disproportionately impacted.”

“Changing the narrative is going to be critical because before the narrative was so dominated by polar bears and melting ice caps and not something relating to people’s lived realities,” continued Patterson, “[For example,] after every single disaster that happens, there’s a significant uptake in violence against women. Both [women’s rights groups and climate activists] might not necessarily see climate change as a gender-justice issue until you actually help people to see those patterns.”

Even the Movement for Black Lives lists climate change as a concern for African-Americans, alongside issues such as health care and education. It argues that “Black people are amongst the most affected by climate change. If we’re not serious about reducing emissions, the planet will keep getting hotter and Black people will continue to bear the biggest brunt of climate change.”

On Monday, Earth Day, Democrats announced the formation of a U.S. Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, to be chaired by Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Tom Carper of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

The caucus will approach environmental issues with specific attention to race and class. “Oftentimes, black and brown communities are the ones that suffer the biggest consequences of pollution and a lack of enforcement on environmental issues,” said Duckworth in an interview with Yahoo News.

“Increasingly, you are hearing more and more people framing climate change as a civil rights issue or as an environmental-justice issue,” said James Marshall Shepherd, director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia. “[That’s because] marginalized populations including African-American and Hispanic and other disadvantaged communities will bear and are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts now and going forward, while at the same time have a very small carbon footprint.”

“But here is the challenge for African-Americans, Hispanic or even broader population,” continued Shepherd, who has previously posed the question of whether black people cared about climate change. “The way we have traditionally, as a scientific community, messaged climate change is that we’ve not messaged it as being about people’s kitchen-table issues, their lives right now, today. It always is projected as this thing off in the future.”

A decade ago, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication reported how different communities view climate change. White Americans far outpaced African-American and nonwhite Hispanics in their awareness of the issue: While 66 percent of white Americans were “fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and were taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it,” only 11 percent of African-Americans and 15 percent of Hispanics were doing the same.

But within the past decade, leading civil rights organizations have taken up climate justice in their host of priorities. The NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program began in 2009 “because we saw a connection between issues like pollution and sea levels rising and the effect those are having on the health and wellbeing of African-American communities and lower-income communities.”

In its 2017 publication “Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit,” the NAACP crafted strategies for low-income communities to address environmental and climate-justice issues, pointing out that climate change disproportionately affects people of color. For instance, the fact that “people of color have historically been relegated to living in lower, flood-prone areas that are also vulnerable to flooding during extreme weather events and to sea level rise.” Or that “25% of the African-American population lives in the five Atlantic states most vulnerable to climate change.” Or that nearly one in two Latinos lives in counties with poor air quality, and their children are twice as likely to die from asthma as non-Latino whites, according to the American Public Health Association.

“African-Americans, Latinos,” Shepherd told Yahoo News, “they generally understand that like everything in society, when America catches a cold, we get a fever. Now what you have to do to really stimulate action is remove this notion that it’s something far off in the future, about some polar bear or butterfly somewhere. It’s actually about agriculture. It’s about national security. It’s about public health and health care. Things people care about every day.”

“African-Americans and the broader population are starting to pay a bit more attention to climate change because they see some of the things that are happening around them,” he continued. “When [they] look at what happened, for example, with Hurricane Harvey in Houston, look at Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, look at the faces that were most vulnerable. They were people that look like them.”

Shepherd added: “We don’t act until there’s a tragedy. There are still many black and poor populations and communities in Houston that still haven’t recovered. There still are communities in New Orleans that still haven’t recovered from Katrina in 2005.”

When asked if black Americans were more focused on social, criminal and economic justice than on climate change, Shepherd said, “You’re always going to have competing issues, but I guarantee you that almost every single one of those other issues that you could raise [as] important to black people, there’s a climate connection. Even criminal-justice reform, because studies show that violence and criminal activity increases as the temperature increases. If you talk about jobs and job access for African-Americans, well, one of the main solutions to climate change is a new economy, a decarbonized economy that moves jobs in places like solar and wind energy.”

“They definitely understand the severity of the issue,” said Alvaro Sanchez, environmental equity director at the Greenlining Institute, about the communities he works with to lessen the disparities of climate change. “But it’s hard to focus on that when there’s no food on the table, when you don’t have money for rent, when you don’t have health care, where your immigration status is precarious. There’s just so much more that’s more immediate.”

Sanchez’s organization is one of the organizers behind California’s Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) program, which he told Yahoo News addresses “climate change on a neighborhood scale.” The program provides resources to five disadvantaged communities to invest in neighborhood-scale sustainability projects, Sanchez said.

“It’s a catalytic investment essentially that transitions a polluted community into one that in the future will be more sustainable, healthier and will address community-identified needs,” he continued. “It requires a co-governance structure between government and community, so community input and participation in this process is really elevated. They’re not just aware of what’s happening. They’re actively engaged in decisions about how this money is being spent, what projects are going to be funded and how evaluation and performance are going to look like over the years. [Also,] there has to be a workforce development or economic-opportunity strategy for the people who live in that area.”

Sanchez added: “It also requires that the people that submit the application develop an anti-displacement strategy, because we know that if you make these investments you could have the unintended consequences of having to displace people and businesses and cultural institutions.”

Sanchez said California’s TCC program blazes a trail for the Green New Deal. “The umbrella of the Green New Deal is not just about the planet, it’s about our economy. It’s about how we live. It’s about our governance. It’s about how we make decisions about our future,” he said.

But one of the main issues with the Green New Deal was its hefty price tag. Republicans had estimated it would cost $93 trillion. Sanchez says that communities like South Los Angeles and Sacramento have been awarded grants “between $20 million all the way up to $70 million to invest in an area that’s no more than 5 square miles.”

Similar to California, New York passed a bill similar to the Green New Deal last week to set emissions caps for various types of buildings over 25,000 square feet, which include Trump Tower. Five years from now, landlords will be required to “retrofit buildings with new windows, heating systems and insulation that would cut emissions by 40% in 2030, and double the cuts by 2050.” The cost of these upgrades is an estimated $4 billion, according to the New York Times.

Although Trump has challenged the existence of climate change — and claimed that wind power turbines cause cancer — his top federal energy regulator recently said, “Climate change is real.”

“I believe man has an impact,” said the Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Neil Chatterjee. “And I believe that we need to take steps to mitigate emissions urgently.”

As for fighting climate change on a federal level, Sanchez said he hopes “over the next few years that the Green New Deal is going to be more detailed about strategies to ensure that a call to action actually delivers something down the line that is going to address not only the climate crisis but the economic crisis, the housing crisis, the employment crisis and our democracy crisis that we’re seeing now.”

“We have to address this as though it’s a crisis, because it is, and everybody has to contribute the way that we’ve done in the past for things like wars,” added Sanchez. “We’re fighting the biggest war of our lifetime. It’s not a crisis that’s coming. It’s a crisis that’s here.”

FRIDAY: Rep. Barbara Lee, Boots Riley, Aimee Allison Headline Greenlining Economic Summit

Event Marks Official Farewell for Longtime Greenlining Institute President Orson Aguilar  

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

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute’s 26th annual Economic Summit, “Reclaiming Our Time,” happens Friday, April 26 in Oakland and features a stellar lineup. Speakers and awardees will include U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, acclaimed rapper, activist, producer, screenwriter and film director Boots Riley, She the People founder Aimee Alison, Dream Corps President Vien Truong and many more community leaders exploring how to move America toward true justice and equity.

Each year Greenlining brings together powerful voices for change—grassroots community leaders, nationally known advocates, artists, elected officials and more—for a unique event focusing on how to build a more equitable, just society. More than a conference, Greenlining’s Economic Summit is a unique gathering where innovation, art and activism align. With a theme inspired by Rep. Maxine Waters’ iconic 2017 “reclaiming my time” moment, this year’s Summit will highlight the leaders — especially here in California — who refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice.

Founded in 1993, The Greenlining Institute envisions a nation where communities of color thrive and race is never a barrier to economic opportunity. See Greenlining’s Economic Summit web page for detailed information on the day’s program.

Last year’s Summit sold out, and this year’s is expected to as well. Journalists wishing to attend are asked to RSVP as soon as possible to Bruce Mirken at

WHAT: The Greenlining Institute’s 26th annual Economic Summit

WHO: Speakers and awardees include rapper/filmmaker Boots Riley, Rep. Barbara Lee, Dream Corps President Vien Truong, She the People founder Aimee Alison, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and more.

WHEN: Friday, April 26, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (registration opens at 8)

WHERE: Oakland Marriott, Oakland City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, California, 94607


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

9 Major Opportunities for Electric Buses & Trucks

Meeting of the Minds
By Joel Espino

When most people think of electric vehicles, we think of cars, like Teslas, Chevy Bolts and Nissan Leafs. But trucks and buses are going electric, too, and the impact on both our air and our economy could be huge.

In 2016, we at The Greenlining Institute joined forces with The Union of Concerned Scientists to analyze the growing electric truck and bus industry, producing the report “Delivering Opportunity: How Electric Buses and Trucks Can Create Jobs and Improve Public Health in California.” While we focused on California, where electric buses and trucks are taking off rapidly, what we found has major implications for the whole country. Especially at a time when many transit agencies across the country are committing to 100 percent electric, many states are increasing their efforts to get more electric cars, trucks, and buses on the road, and The Green New Deal is generating buzz and conversation on climate change.

Here are nine things we found.

1. Transportation is the largest contributor to global warming in California and nationwide.

Including carbon pollution from refining petroleum products, transportation accounts for more than 50 percent of global warming emissions in California, and the transportation sector recently overtook power plants as the largest contributor to climate change nationwide.

2. Trucks and buses form a major part of our air pollution problem.

Heavy-duty vehicles are the single largest source of smog-forming pollution in California. They also emit more particulate matter than all of the state’s power plants. And they make up seven percent of the state’s global warming emissions—an amount projected to increase as freight shipments grow.

3. Air pollution from transportation discriminates, hitting poor communities of color the hardest.

Poor communities suffer disproportionately from exposure to traffic-related pollution because they are more likely than wealthier neighborhoods to be near busy roads and highways. Breathing lung-damaging exhaust from vehicles on a daily basis leads to higher rates of pollution-related diseases such as cancer and heart attacks. Race matters, too: even for people in the same socioeconomic class, people of color are more likely than whites to be exposed to pollution from cars, trucks and buses.

In fact, a recent Union of Concerned Scientists analysis that quantified pollution from on-road sources reinforces this finding.

4. Electric trucks and buses are cleaner than diesel and natural gas vehicles.

Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, meaning you won’t have to gulp pollution while waiting for the bus or walking down the street. In terms of global warming emissions, smog forming emissions, and particulate matter; electric vehicles powered by clean electricity have the lowest emissions compared to any other vehicle technology, including natural gas. The clean air benefit continues even when you look at “life cycle” emissions from electricity generation and hydrogen production.

And these clean vehicles will only get cleaner: California will get at least half of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030, has virtually no coal power in the state, and will end contracts for coal power imported from other states by 2025. California also requires that at least 33 percent of hydrogen must be produced using renewable energy, a standard the state already exceeds. Bottom line: We’re blazing a path toward clean power that other states can follow.

5. Electric trucks and buses are far more energy efficient.

Depending on the type of vehicle, electric trucks and buses are up to four times more efficient than diesel and natural gas vehicles. This means that for the same amount of energy used to power a vehicle, the electric vehicle will travel up to four times as far. This can lead to significant savings in fuel costs.

6. Electric truck and bus technology is here and ready to clean the air today.

This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky future dream. Battery-powered electric trucks and buses have ranges over 100 miles. One company recently announced a transit bus with a 350-mile range. Fuel cell trucks and buses have long had ranges over 200 miles. While these vehicles may cost more to purchase, reduced fuel and maintenance costs mean the total cost of ownership of electric trucks and buses is becoming competitive with traditional technologies. Electric trucks and buses can accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel and natural gas vehicles. They’re quieter, too.

7. The heavy-duty EV industry is creating good jobs.

Some of the leading electric bus and truck manufacturers in California pay assemblers $13-$20 per hour for entry level jobs, which is considerably above typical pay for assembly jobs in California. These jobs can also lead workers into higher-skilled, well-paid occupations. When we asked representatives of heavy-duty EV companies what jobs were likely to grow the most if demand for heavy-duty EVs increases, they unanimously identified assembler positions. Increased investment in this technology should spur growth of good, well-paying jobs—especially if unions and community benefits agreements like the one BYD struck are in the mix.

8. This industry can be a great source of jobs for underserved communities—if workers get the training and skills they need.

Leading electric bus and truck companies in California typically require one to three years of related experience for assemblers, a higher standard than assembly jobs in general manufacturing. Jobs in EV manufacturing, charging and maintenance require significant electrical skills. These requirements can be barriers to employment for people from low-income communities. But good, readily accessible training programs can overcome this barrier and make sure those most in need of good jobs will get a fair shot.

9. It will take conscious effort to bring workers from marginalized communities into the electric truck and bus workforce.

We don’t currently have enough training programs accessible to those who need them. Manufacturers can help fix this by partnering with workforce training organizations and community colleges to establish pathways for training and certifying workers from these communities and placing them in quality jobs. This emerging industry needs effective, equitable workplace policies, programs, and practices to ensure opportunity for all.

You may not hear much about electric trucks and buses, but they’re here and growing. We have to put the policies and actions in place now so that we can leverage the clean air and economic benefits of this technology to fight environmental injustice and give an economic boost to people most in need.

The proposed Green New Deal has already begun to stimulate new discussions of the role of transportation in fighting climate change and strengthening communities. Electrification of trucks and buses should be part of plans going forward to fight climate change, clean our air and – with help from the right policies — bring new opportunities to underserved communities.

Oakland Can Step Up Support for Diverse Small Businesses, New Report Says

Small Business Advisory Group Offers Detailed Recommendations

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

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – As Oakland undergoes rapid development and increased gentrification, small businesses – especially those owned by people of color – find themselves in an increasingly challenging environment. In a new white paper, Advancing Racial Equity in the City of Oakland’s Small Business Ecosystem, the Small Business Advisory Group convened by The Greenlining Institute lays out a series of recommendations for how Oakland can help preserve and grow its diverse small business community.

“We commend the city of Oakland for placing racial equity front and center in its 2018-2020 Economic Development Strategy, and for seeking to build wealth in communities of color through entrepreneurship,” said white paper author Sharon Velasquez, Greenlining’s senior economic equity program manager. “The racial wealth gap, built through decades of redlining, will take concerted effort to close. The Small Business Advisory Group hopes its recommendations will jump-start a decisive policy agenda aimed at creating a small business ecosystem where Oakland’s entrepreneurs of color can thrive. We offer the city our partnership for implementation and look forward to convening with the Economic and Workforce Development Department regarding next steps.”

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • Prioritize the creation of a thriving economy by investing in the Economic and Workforce Development Department and Business Assistance Center. By ensuring adequate staffing and robust small business supports, the city will advance economic equity by providing entrepreneurs with critical resources for success. The Business Assistance Center urgently needs expanded hours, a revamped website and satellite locations around Oakland.
  • Collect data on the rate of commercial displacement across Oakland. Presently, no comprehensive data set on commercial displacement exists for Oakland that identifies the number of small businesses at risk of being displaced, the number of small businesses of color that have closed, nor the reasons why. In addition, the city should use data collection platforms to better understand the state of local small businesses.
  • Explore the implementation of commercial tenant protections. Though state law limits what can be done in this area, all possibilities should be explored.
  • Align all city plans so they all contain a racial equity lens, in line with the vision of the 2018-2020 Economic Development Strategy and the Race & Equity Ordinance.
  • Expand transparency and community engagement opportunities as the Economic Development Strategy and other strategic plans are implemented. This should include increased outreach to and communication with both individual business owners and Oakland’s ethnic chambers of commerce.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

California Blazes a Trail for a Green New Deal

The Progressive
By Alvaro Sanchez

While politicians and activists debate the idea of a federal plan to fight climate change and boost our economy, the Golden State is quietly showing how it could actually work.

While politicians and activists debate the idea of a Green New Deal to fight climate change and boost our economy, California is quietly showing how it could actually work. The state has a successful model program that could be used by any community that wants to make itself cleaner, more livable and more prosperous.

It’s called Transformative Climate Communities, or TCC, and it focuses on ways that different agencies can work together with communities to make neighborhoods better.

As it is, most governments put each of its various functions in separate buckets. One agency approves transportation projects, another deals with housing, and so on. Often no one considers how their agencies affect each other or what residents need.

But TCC puts communities in charge of pulling these various pieces together, with a goal of reducing carbon emissions.

This might mean replacing old, smoky diesel buses with clean electric buses or light rail, building affordable housing near those transit stops, and connecting it all with improved pedestrian and bicycle pathways. It might mean planting trees that shade those new bikeways and sidewalks even as they take climate-damaging carbon out of the air. It could mean outfitting those new, affordable homes with solar power and designing them to be energy efficient.

And instead of applying to a dozen different bureaucracies for a dozen separate grants, TCC gives communities a “one-stop shop” where they can get the whole package funded.

The result: A community that’s cleaner, greener and easier to get around, with less air pollution and traffic and lower energy bills for residents. And hundreds of people are put to work making it all happen.

This isn’t a fantasy. It’s happening right now in five California communities.

Consider Fresno. This medium-sized city in the middle of the state’s Central Valley agricultural heartland has long suffered from poverty and air pollution. As required by TCC, Fresno’s plan was put together by the residents themselves – who are, after all, the real experts in their community’s needs.

The plan funds about two dozen projects with dollars collected from polluters through the state’s cap-and-trade program. These include affordable housing close to transit, bike paths, a community garden, home weatherization for low-income families, electric car, vanpool and bikeshare programs. Taken together, the projects will make life better for thousands of low-income residents, clean the air, and put people to work in a region with chronically high unemployment.

There are also full-fledged TCC plans in Ontario, Sacramento, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Watts and the northeast San Fernando Valley.

My organization, the Greenlining Institute, worked with state legislators to create the TCC program and has been able to offer technical assistance to several communities seeking to apply for funds. But we’re the first to admit that we’ve barely scratched the surface. This sort of comprehensive, community-led effort should happen nationwide and on a much larger scale.

What’s needed is a commitment to community-driven transformation and reliable funding.

The proposed Green New Deal offers the opportunity to do that. The idea that we can fight climate change, improve our neighborhoods and build prosperity for struggling communities isn’t some fantasy. California is showing how to do it right now.

COMMENTARY: Environmental Racism is Real, Destructive and Deadly

Black Press USA
by Stacey M. Brown

For many, Earth Day stands as a reminder of everyone’s role as stewards of the planet.

It’s a time to reflect and to plan ahead for a cleaner and healthier environment.

Still, for many others, it’s also a stark reminder about how African Americans and other minorities are often forgotten when it comes to the protection of their communities.

A March 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that whites experience 17 percent less pollution caused by their consumption of goods and services.

On the other hand, Blacks and Hispanics experience 56 percent and 63 percent, respectively, more pollution than their consumption would generate.

Whites experience a “pollution advantage” while Blacks and Hispanics experience a “pollution burden.”

On his global issues blog, Dr. Robert Bullard said the study builds on a growing body of environmental justice literature showing racial and ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure.

It shows that particulate matter exposure in the U.S. is disproportionately caused by consumption patterns of whites and inhaled by people of color minority, said Bullard, the former dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and the founding director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University.

Known as the father of Environmental Justice, Dr. Bullard currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University.

“Our Environmental Justice movement has been trying to change this and related environmental inequities for the past four decades,” Bullard said.

While the study takes a somewhat different approach in examining disparities in air pollution exposure by examining consumption of goods and services, “its findings once again reveal blacks and Hispanics bear a disproportionate ‘pollution burden’ or costs, while whites experience ‘pollution advantage’ or benefits,” Dr. Bullard said.

“There is a clear disparity between the pollution white people cause and the pollution to which they are exposed,” he said.

The study concludes that “pollution inequity is driven by differences among racial-ethnic groups in both exposure and the consumption that leads to the exposure.”

There’s a name for this inequity, Dr. Bullard said. “It’s called environmental racism,” he said, noting a term coined by NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Chavis, whose also known as the “Godfather of the Environmental Justice Movement,” first coined and defined the term environmental racism in his 1983 work, “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.”

Chavis said environmental racism is racial discrimination in the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the presence of life threatening poisons and pollutants near communities of color and the history of excluding people of color from leadership of the environmental movement.

The civil rights leader also noted that there are different forms of racism, “yet environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.”

“Environmental justice is the corrective antidote to the reality and prevalence of environmental racism,” Chavis said.

While studies like the one performed by PNAS continue to reveal that race is a major predictor of exposure to goods and services to air pollution, conditions aren’t helped when politics come into play.

A recent press release from the nonprofit Earth Justice said President Donald Trump’s policies continue to “chip away at the shield against environmental racism.”

Particularly, the NEPA Act has come into the cross hairs of the president.

The NEPA ACT requires review of federal projects before they proceed – among other things to assess environmental, human health and socioeconomic impacts on communities.

Properly implemented, it gives every person a voice in decisions affecting the wellbeing of their local community, from providing comments on project design to pointing out how a project could harm clean air and water, according to Earth Justice.

It’s far more than an obscure environmental statute: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe made use of the law to fight back against the Dakota Access Pipeline project in 2017.

And today, advocates are charging that the Trump administration is violating core NEPA protections in its quest to build its border wall.

Simply put, NEPA is one of the most effective tools in the fight against environmental racism.

It is essential to ensuring that communities of color, who so often bear a disproportionate pollution burden, get a say in the decision-making processes that are most likely to affect their health, resiliency, and vitality, environmental experts said.

And without robust NEPA requirements, policymakers are left to make decisions that will have real impacts without a full understanding of the consequences.

“The underlying message of environmentally racist tactics and strategies is that certain neighborhoods and certain people matter less than others, and that geographical vulnerability is inevitable when in fact it is socially constructed to be this way,” said Dr. Deborah J. Cohan, an associate professor of Sociology in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

“The problem with racism and society’s response to it is that we have failed to see this most basic thing: that in order to do that much damage to a community, one must so thoroughly objectify and dehumanize the people in it that they become things that can be discarded and forgotten about,” Cohan said.

“People’s ability to thrive under these hostile conditions is greatly compromised,” she said.

Extensive data show that low-income communities of color still breathe the worst air and have excessive rates of pollution-related illnesses like asthma and other respiratory problems, Bruce Mirken a spokesman for The Greenlining Institute, said in an earlier interview.

“As we move away from oil, coal and gas to fight climate change, we must consciously bring clean energy resources and investment into communities that were for too long used as toxic dumping grounds,” Mirken said.

Bill to Maximize Clean Energy Benefits Passes First Committee

AB 961 Directs CPUC to Consider Benefits Like Cleaner Air, Improved Health, Jobs for Underserved Communities 

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

SACRAMENTO — Today the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy passed AB 961, which would require the California Public Utilities Commission to consider “non-energy benefits” – impacts like job creation and improved public health – when evaluating clean energy projects. The bill is sponsored by The Greenlining Institute and backed by a broad array of environmental justice groups, solar developers, environmental groups, and progressive nonprofits.

“California leads the nation in clean energy innovation, but the benefits too often don’t reach low-income communities of color because the Public Utilities Commission never measured how these projects cut pollution, improve community health and boost the economies of underserved communities,” said Greenlining Institute Energy Equity Legal Counsel Madeline Stano. “What gets measured gets done, and this bill will make sure that officials look at the whole picture when they evaluate clean energy projects.”

“Energy efficiency programs have the potential to deliver so many benefits to local communities, especially communities that bear a disproportionate environmental and economic burden,” said Jodi Pincus, Executive Director of the Rising Sun Center for Opportunity. “We’re doing those communities a disservice if we only count the energy benefits and dismiss things like safety, affordability and workforce development.”

“California’s clean energy investments in social and environmental justice communities are highly impactful in providing broad benefits, including increased health and safety, increased resiliency, new economic opportunities, and reduced energy burden for low-income families,” said Stanley Greschner, Chief Policy and Business Development Officer of GRID Alternatives.  “AB 961 ensures these societal benefits will be quantified and measured over time. Doing otherwise, California is selling itself short when it comes to measuring the success of its clean energy investments.”

AB 961 formalizes a recommendation in the California Energy Commission’s unanimously adopted SB 350 Low-Income Barriers Study that the state establish common definitions of “non-energy benefits,” develop standards to measure them, and prioritize projects that promote them in environmental justice communities, the communities that suffer from the worst pollution and economic stagnation.

The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

For further background on AB 961, see Madeline Stano’s recent blog post.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


Bill to Ensure Diversity in California Insurance Passes First Senate Committee

SB 534 Would Require Largest Insurers to Report Supplier Diversity and Governing Board Diversity

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

SACRAMENTO – Today the Senate Insurance Committee passed legislation to promote diversity in California’s insurance industry, SB 534, introduced by Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). The measure, which was supported by testimony from the California Department of Insurance, members of the department’s Insurance Diversity Task Force and The Greenlining Institute, would require the largest players in the state’s $310 billion insurance industry to report on their level of contracting with businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans and LGBT individuals. It would also require insurers to report on the diversity of their governing boards and set goals for supplier and board diversity.

“SB 534 will ensure that California’s insurance providers think about diversity when they make procurement decisions and choose their boards of directors,” said Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace. “California leads the nation in diverse-owned businesses, which creates the ideal environment and opportunity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion among insurance companies and other large businesses.”

Data collected by the Department of Insurance in 2017 showed that 80 percent of major insurers’ governing board seats were held by men while just 12 percent were held by people of color. Of nearly 2,400 total board seats, only 14 members self-identified as LGBT, while 13 percent of insurance companies reported zero women and 35 percent reported zero persons of color on their boards.

SB 534 is modeled on a number of prior, highly successful diversity initiatives based on reporting and transparency, which have stimulated large increases in corporate contracting with California’s diverse businesses. The bill now moves to the Judiciary Committee.

For further background on the bill, see Anthony Galace’s blog post.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute