The Effects of the Government Shutdown

government shutdown

Closing out its fourth week, the Federal Government shutdown continues with no limit in the forecast. December 22 marked the occasion when the funding that would continue government operations went unsigned in a border wall dispute.

Interests with economic reserves barely feel the shutdown effects. But those on the government payroll, or on government services, are significantly affected.

Among agencies and agency employees affected was the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with a block on issuing flood certified flood insurance, preventing banks by federal law from approving federally backed home mortgages and causing projected millions in lost revenue. Since the block placed added stress on banks and financial institutions, on December 21 — hours before the shutdown — Congressional interests temporarily reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), allowing FEMA flood insurance certifications to flow through May of 2019.

Even though FEMA strongly maintained that the Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits government agencies from entering into contracts or spending money if the projects aren’t funded, Congressional supporters of the flood insurance extension suggest the NFIP will ‘obtain’ its own funding.

“Now we can work on long-term reforms. We can make the program sustainable without it becoming unaffordable,” stated Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy.

Meanwhile, roughly 800,000 federal employees are furloughed or working unpaid; thousands of contractors are temporarily out of work; key agency approvals are causing business slowdowns; the Small Business Administration is closed down for assistance to small businesses; many imports are going unprocessed; grants and contracts processing is delayed; and thousands of businesses with contracts tied to the federal government could lose a cumulative $200 million a day.

The Transportation Security Administration is anticipating the inability to make payroll to its  TSA employees. And millions of Americans are becoming even more food insecure as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could be disrupted.

You can express your concern for the Government shutdown by urging your Congressional representatives to pressure for financing to reopen the Federal Government.

For more detail on the Government Shutdown see:


El Cerrito Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

mlk celebration

This extended weekend, January 20th and 21st, El Cerrito celebrates the birthday and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The recognition starts at 4:00 PM, Sunday, January 20, with a screening:

“Cracking the Codes: The Racial Inequality”

Held at El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater

540 Ashbury Ave. El Cerrito, CA 94530

Monday, January 21st, begins the Holiday recognition with:

  • A Rally at 8:30 AM
  • A Parade assembling at 9:30 AM. The Parade leaves at 10:00 AM from El Cerrito City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Ave.
  • A Celebratory Program honoring the Holiday at 11:00 AM, held at the El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater

Wishing everyone a joyous Celebration!

City Council takes “heat” from organized landlord groups

rentersstand updon't pack up (2)When tenants gathered in double digits on December 18th to speak up about protections, they were met by support from three of the City Council members (Mayor Pardue-Okimoto, Council member Lyman, and Council member Fadelli). By the end of a long evening of moving testimony from tenants and discussion amongst themselves, the Council directed staff to draft a Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance and an enforceable mechanism to obtain data from landlords.  Furthermore, they strengthened a Relocation Allowance Ordinance to include additional compensation for vulnerable populations. For details on the Ordinance see the Agenda Packet for the Tuesday, January 15th  meeting. Ordinances for Discussion

Tenants, do not rest! The Statewide California Apartment Association and the Contra Costa Association of Realtors is working diligently and with much funding to stop cities from implementing protections for tenants.  As a result of the Council’s action at the last meeting, According to the staff report, “Both the Contra Costa Association of Realtors (“CCAR”) and California Apartment Association Contra Costa (“CAA”) submitted separate letters alleging that the City Council violated the Brown Act at the December 18, 2018, meeting. CCAR alleged that the amendment to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance had to be agendized as a separate item of business prior to Council consideration because it constitutes a form of rent control. It also alleged that the direction to staff to prepare Just Cause Eviction and Rent Registry ordinances also had to be agendized. CAA alleged that the Council adopted the amendment to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance without discussion of the amendment.”  According to the City, none of the claims are supported in the Brown Act itself or applicable case law.

CAA  and the organized realtors are a powerful body.  Their mission is to support landlords.  But we all know not all landlords are equal.  El Cerrito is a relatively small community with a number of local responsible owners who care about their tenants, who do not rent gouge, and who are not making fortunes from their investments.  On the other hand, tenants can speak of landlords who repeatedly raise the rent, refuse to make repairs, and who have the upper hand – evicting renters at will.  At the December Council meeting, both tenants and landlords agree that no one wants to support greedy landlords or negligent  landlords.  The City Council and the community are asking the question, what policies can target those landlords who are putting profit first and community last? How can we develop policies that protect tenants and not punish those landlords who are responsible and providing housing as a service to the residents. What are  your thoughts?

Minimum Wage Increase in El Cerrito

Minimum Wage_El Cerrito1 2019

From: Management Assistant Margaret Livingston – City of El Cerrito 

El Cerrito Minimum Wage Increase on January 1, 2019

The minimum wage in El Cerrito will increase to $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2019. All employers are required to pay their employees at least the local minimum wage rate for the hours worked within the geographic limits of City of El Cerrito, regardless of the size of the employer or where the employer’s business is based. The minimum wage requirements apply to any employee (part-time or full-time) who performs work within the City of El Cerrito, except employees who work less than 2 hours per week within El Cerrito. More information at THE EL CERRITO MINIMUM WAGE IS DIFFERENT THAN THE CALIFORNIA MINIMUM WAGE – City of El Cerrito.

Posted on Nextdoor El Cerrito del Norte (Outer S).


The Nationwide Disappearance of Affordable Housing

House for Sale

As the crisis of housing affordability hits El Cerrito and the rest of California, it also assaults housing security throughout the nation.

According to data held by ATTOM Data Solutions (a multi-sourced national property data warehouse), housing affordability in the United States recently dropped to a 10-year low not seen since Q3 2008.

Prop 10 to remove rent control limits, failed on the November, 2018 ballot in California. Proposition 10 stated that it:

“Repeals state law that currently restricts the scope of rent-control policies that cities and other local jurisdictions may impose on residential property. Fiscal Impact: Potential net reduction in state and local revenues of tens of millions of dollars per year in the long term. Depending on actions by local communities, revenue losses could be less or considerably more.”

But in California, Proposition 1, which authorizes $4 billion in general obligation bonds for housing-related programs, grants, and housing loans for veterans, did pass.

A nationwide survey conducted on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), shows that 75% of U.S. households believe there is a crisis of housing affordability. Many respondents reported having observed effects of housing price increases in their local communities and at state levels.

In the opinion of one El Cerrito resident:

“Landlords should not take advantage of the Tenants, we’re living in the country of Laws, [In] El Cerrito … they keep raising rent 20% per year. They took advantage of the tenants because there is no rent control.”

Randy Noel, Chairman of NAHB, maintains:

“Housing affordability is an increasingly serious problem in communities across America. A mix of regulatory barriers, ill-considered public policy and challenging market conditions is driving up costs and making it increasingly difficult for builders to produce homes that are affordable to low- and moderate-income families.”

People nationwide are watching housing affordability seriously wane and needing to be addressed. Last November voters in several states (including California), counties, and some cities passed a number of initiatives and local measures to address affordable housing.

What do we do about the need for affordable living conditions? How can we pull universal public enthusiasm for affordable housing into workable solutions?

What type of civic response to the critical issue of affordable housing is within the scope of residential resources? Is there a way to negotiate with business interests to formulate local solutions to the crisis? How viable is it to pressure for local or state ordinances that attain and maintain affordable housing costs?

AFC street post

The challenge is daunting.

Locally many El Cerrito residents, including members of El Cerrito Progressives, are tirelessly involved in developing workable solutions to the lack of affordable housing. The challenge apparently lies in the dichotomy of affordable living and profitable real estate investment. The answer could lie in effecting the type of real estate and real estate agreements that produce both affordable housing and profitable returns.

The quest is how.

To reduce the outflow of renters from Boston, at the beginning of this year Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh proposed incentives to landlords that would include tax breaks or credits to landlords who charge rents below market value. Mayor Walsh also proposed that nonprofits would receive $5 million to assist in buying housing to rent at affordable rates.

But by November of this year, the general consensus among Bostonians seemed to be that the proposal’s activation didn’t address enough of the affordability issue.

“There is a feeling that the city needs to do more, but I think it’s good to reflect on what we have done,” said Sheila Dillon, Boston’s Chief of Housing and Director of the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development.

Tenant Housing

As a result of popular criticism, it seems that Boston is encouraging the redevelopment of up to 4,500 Boston Housing Authority public housing units, and protecting tenants in units with expiring affordability restrictions, a decades old state affordable housing program.

Like Boston, innovations employed by other cities, states, and nonprofits that include inclusionary zoning, removing parking minimums, changing building codes to make it easier to rehab older buildings, and new funding models are in operation. Still none offers an all-in-one solution to this enormous problem.

While the progress towards affordable housing is initial, public concern pleads for organized efforts towards effective solutions.

More information on the crisis of affordability in housing can be seen in the EAST BAY TIMES: Housing affordability crisis is nationwide article by ROSE MEILY | | Contributing columnist, from which much of this information was derived.

In Case You Hadn’t Heard … Federal Judge in Texas Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional


As we power through this year-end, healthcare concerns hover over Holiday celebrations like a worrisome drone. To exacerbate the stress, Obamacare has suffered another hit. This assault could issue a mortal wound to the collective health of the American people.

Precisely on the eve of the federal insurance exchange sign up deadline, a federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be unconstitutional due to a recent change to federal tax law. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor completely overturns the law nationwide.

If allowed to stand, the ruling would injure Medicare, Medicaid expansion in many states, and Native American Health Services, along with hundreds of other provisions afforded under the Affordable Care Act achieved by President Obama.

The law currently stands, pending a probable appeal to the Supreme Court.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), probable Speaker when the House convenes in January, vowed to lead House Democrats in saving the Affordable Care Act. In a recently issued statement, Minority Leader Pelosi said:

“When House Democrats take the gavel, the House of Representatives will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”


A spokeswoman for Xavier Becerra, California Attorney General (D) who leads states’ attorneys general against the lawsuit which threatens the Affordable Care Act, stated that Democrats are ready to challenge the U.S. Court of Appeals on its unfavorable ruling.

The Supreme Court ruled the ACA as constitutional in 2012 and 2015, although the 2012 ruling denied the ACA’s nationwide expansion of Medicaid. In the 2012 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, stated that the penalties issued to those who don’t sign up under the ACA law are constitutional because Congress “does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance”.

Although the executive branch traditionally argues to uphold existing federal law when a law is challenged by court cases, in this case, initiated as a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the administration stated it will not defend the ACA against the lawsuit challenge.

Legal experts anticipate an appeal to the high court in respect to the Texas case.

If interested in preserving the Affordable Care Act, contact your senators and representatives.

This communicated information was First published in The Washington Post.