Stop Plastic Pollution — Start Being Part of the Solution

The Environmental Justice Committee of El Cerrito Progressives is showing the movie A Plastic Ocean Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:30 pm at the Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury Ave in  El Cerrito.

 

A Plastic Ocean is an award-winning feature length documentary by a group of dedicated scientists, film-makers, social entrepreneurs, scholars, environmentalists and journalists, that explores the fragile state of our oceans and uncovers alarming truths about the consequences of our disposable lifestyle.

The film documents the global effects of plastic pollution and highlights workable technologies and innovative solutions that everyone – from governments to individuals – can do, to create a cleaner and greener ocean.

 

After the film we will have a group discussion about, in particular, pollution from single use plastics, as well as an update on the state of the El Cerrito Recycling Center now that China has stopped taking plastic trash from the United States for recycling.

Quote from Reveal.com – Kids on the Line

kids on the line

March, 2019

From: Human Rights First (HRF)

Family Incarceration Continues to Endanger Children, Impede Access to Legal Information & Waste Government Resources

The Administration continues to incarcerate families in immigration jails and to push to hold them there for even longer. In fiscal year 2018, more than 45,000 parents and children were held in family detention facilities, and the administration recently requested a huge funding increase to expand capacity from 2,500 to 10,000 beds.

It is also seeking to eliminate, through both regulations and legislation, the minimal protections for families set out by the Flores Settlement Agreement—including limits on how long children can be held in detention.

Over the last two months, Human Rights First conducted research on the Trump Administration’s incarceration of asylum seeking and other migrant families and children. With a delegation that included pediatricians affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), researchers visited the country’s two largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) family detention facilities, both located in Texas, on February 26 and 27, 2019.

kids on the line-a

At the time of our visits, ICE was detaining babies younger than 12-months-old and ten pregnant women. [Two detention centers visited:]

  1. South Texas Family Residential Center (Dilley), Location: Dilley, Texas; Operated By: CoreCivic; Facility Capacity: 2,400; FY 2018 Population: 33,500; Population on day of tour (Feb. 2019): 1,548 (700 mothers, 848 children); Demographics: Mothers with sons and daughters (ages: 5mo. – 17yrs)
  2. Karnes County Residential Center (Karnes); Location: Karnes City, Texas; Operated By: GEO Group; Facility Capacity: 830; FY 2018 Population: 12,000-16,000; Population on day of tour (Feb. 2019):  511 (approx. 50% fathers, 50% sons); Demographics: Fathers with sons (ages: 11mo. – 17yrs)

Researchers spoke with ICE representatives, attorneys who represent asylum seekers, local advocates, and scores of incarcerated mothers and fathers. This report is based on those interviews, observations of the facilities, and outside investigations.

Our core findings are that detention harms children, interferes with legal representation, and wastes government resources. Congress should ensure that the protections that safeguard families and children from longer-term detentions are upheld and reject requests from the administration to further expand family detention.

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advisory committee recommended that family detention be discontinued altogether, as it “is never in the best interest of children.” ICE should follow that recommendation and instead employ community-based
case management support for families instead of detention.

Quoted from the HRF Fact Sheet

Presented by: Reveal News

Rights for Tenants Critical in El Cerrito-Council Inches Forward

For the last two years, members of El Cerrito Progressives have been advocating for tenant protections to the City Council.  On Tuesday, May 7th, the City Council finally voted with a 3-2 split for a Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance. (Mayor Pardue-Okimoto, Fadelli, Lyman -for/ Abelson, Quinto-against. Continue reading “Rights for Tenants Critical in El Cerrito-Council Inches Forward”

Opponents of tenant protections use misleading survey to collect data

If you recently received an email or text from a coalition of “concerned El Cerrito community members” asking you to complete a survey, please be wary.  The unidentified group commissioned Voxloca, a Bay Area data collection company, to solicit resident views about tenant protections.

The problem with the survey is that it’s full is misleading and inaccurate information about the current discussion happening in El Cerrito around how to protect renters from price gauging, excessive rent increases and no-cause evictions.

Below are examples of some of the misleading questions.

What should be the TOP PRIORITY for El Cerrito?

1 – Ensuring the city has enough police officers
2 – Passing new laws to address tenant-landlord issues
3 – Balancing the budget for essential city services
4 – Repairing local streets and roads
5 – Improving our library and parks
6 – None of these

This type of question pits tenant-landlord issues against community resources like libraries, parks and public safety, when it’s not an either-or choice.  By passing tenant protections we don’t take anything away from public safety, roads and any other services, but only improve the quality of life for many.

The survey then launches into a false assertion that a database to track rent and evictions, part of the Rent Registry Ordinance that will be discussed by the Council on May 7th will cost $50,000.

What should the City Council SPEND $50,000 of the city’s budget on?

1 – A database to track rent and evictions
2 – New equipment at neighborhood park
3 – Additional training for police officers
4 – Tree trimming program to prevent fires
5 – Emergency housing programs for renters
6 – None of these

To be clear, the Rent Registry is not funded through the general fund and its cost does not diminish revenues for parks or fires.  It is based on fees. But without having a fuller context of why we need to track rent and evictions, most respondents would obviously not mark this as their number one priority.  A better question may be something like this:

The city is concerned that high rents may be displacing long term residents and that some tenants are facing evictions, but has no data.  Should the city create a Rent Registry that would be funded through a small registration fee from each rental unit?

The Voxloca Survey uses a similar tactic of pitting services against tenant protection by asking “If the City Council RAISES NEW TAXES where should it be spent?”

1 – New library
2 – More police officers
3 – New city employees to regulate landlords
4 – An affordable housing fund
5 – None — Don’t raise taxes

Again, any program that might regulate rents and/or landlords would be fee based and generate funds through registration of eligible rental units. The survey continues to ask vague questions related to Just Cause for Eviction, such as if they council should pass a new law that would “make it MORE DIFFICULT to evict problem tenants who deal drugs or are disruptive?

The question assumes that the “new law” would make it more difficult to evict problem tenants. Instead, a better question to ask El Cerrito voters might be:

The law currently allows landlords to evict any tenant without giving a cause. Do you think the city should enact a law that requires the landlord to give a reason for an eviction?

At first blush, it’s easy to think that an entity like the California Apartment Association is behind the effort.  After all, the CAA is a powerful lobbying group representing more than 50,000 landlords throughout the state has the money and experience fighting tenant protections. But the truth is that we can’t make any assumptions. It could be CAA, a local landlord or perhaps the Chamber of Commerce. What is clear is that Voxloca is willing to push out surveys full of bias and based on false assertions that are clearly intended to collect data to use to discredit efforts to strengthen tenant protections in El Cerrito.

Another misleading question in the survey is whether the City Council should “create a new housing department” with power to create a city database of all El Cerrito renters. If you’ve been following the City Council meetings and the narrative coming from the opponents of tenant protections, you know that there are some who love to mention Richmond and Berkeley as a scare tactic.  I won’t name names here, but one prominent developer likes to suggest that any type of rent stabilization program will result in a huge bureaucracy, and cost a million dollars. The truth of the matter is that the City Council is not discussing a new housing department nor have they spoken about registering renters. Instead, it appears to be a scare tactic for people who might be afraid of big government.

Other questions in the survey allege that the city is considering a new law to “force a landlord to subsidize a tenant’s rent, even though with good paying jobs.” This is entirely false. There is no such law being considered. Instead, the council is discussing a relocation allowance for tenants forced to move due to demolition. Council member Lyman had proposed a policy that would require landlords to pay a tenant who was forced to move if they could not afford a rent increase of more than 10% per year, but this motion did not garner enough votes.

To put the question on its head, one could argue that there are many current renters subsidizing landlords by paying excessive rents. These subsidies are helping landlords pay for their children’s college education, paying for expensive vacations, luxury homes and much more. Tenant protections are for all tenants, not just those who are low income, although tenants who are low income or on fixed income are most vulnerable to displacement within our current housing market.

In summary, it’s unfortunate that Voxloca can access our emails and phone numbers and send out a misleading survey to collect data that will used to fight against tenant protections.  What the company is doing is not illegal, but it’s wrong and should be called out.  Shame on you Voxloca for sending out a survey so misrepresentative of the issues at hand.  Our city residents deserve better, and we are too smart to fall for your shenanigans. And shame on the “concerned community members” who don’t have the courage to put their names on the survey.

Please let your City Council know that you are concerned about the misleading and inaccurate survey being conducted by Voxloca.  Come to the May 7th City Council meeting and join us in calling for an end to rent gouging in El Cerrito!

U.S. Foreign Policy in Part Responsible for Influx of Refugees

HarvestofEmpire1According to latest reports, our border crossings are taking on a new challenge with more families coming to seek asylum than ever before. Families at the border

The current Trump administration is determined to not only purge the United States of undocumented community members, many who have now lived in this country for decades, they are hoping to close down the borders by refusing our Central American neighbors an internationally recognized right to seek asylum. What is asylum

Just recently, the new Attorney General, William Barr, announced that people caught crossing the border illegally will be jailed and can be detained indefinitely without bond or a hearing.  This decision effectively hands all authority over to ICE, bypassing the judicial system.  The policies put in place are increasingly criminalizing families who are fleeing violence (best described in the stories of Human Rights and Wrongs)Human Rights and Wrongs.

Join us on Saturday, April 27th at 3:00 P.M. for a viewing of Harvest of Empire, a very interesting and thorough historical review of U.S. policy in the region of Central America.  If you already understand the strong link between destabilizing policies and today’s outcome,  come join us and discuss how we are responding today in our local community.

The event is free and wheel chair accessible.

Where are they now?

Separated immigrant children are now everywhere throughout the US, far from parents who can’t locate them

The whereabouts of their mothers and fathers unknown and often distant, many immigrant children separated from parents at the U.S. border are dependent on a system of institutions for survival. Their numbers are widely dispersed in multiple states, including Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, and California.

separated immigrant children

Separated immigrant children exist in impersonal living conditions where adults are not allowed to comfort them, or with foster parents unfamiliar with the effects of the children’s circumstances.

The White House maintains that the separations have stopped and that there is an ongoing plan to reconnect the children with their families. Yet over 2,000 children remain estranged from parents who have no knowledge of where the children are located.

Conditions are largely unknown. Most locations seem to be churches; suburban group home-like settings; a WalMart converted into lodging; and locked shelters with scarce outside time. Some locations house large numbers of children and have a constant need for head counts.

separated immigrant childrens center

2018 video from inside facility for separated immigrant children

A government’s official time estimate to satisfy a federal judge’s request that separated immigrant children be identified and reunited with their families is approximately two years.

The identification process entails examining the records of approximately 47,000 children generally referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement under varied circumstances, including border separations.

Currently, this author has no information on how closely the government’s treatment of detained immigrant children is monitored. Any feedback or input into the conditions of detained immigrant minors is welcomed.

Source content: The New York Times: U.S. Says It Could Take 2 Years to Identify Up to Thousands of Separated Immigrant Families, and The Washington Post: Separated immigrant children are all over the U.S. now, far from parents who don’t know where they are

Human Rights and Wrongs

humanrightsandwrongsOn March 23rd, Dr. Adrianne Aron, long time political activist and liberation psychologist discussed her latest book, Human Rights and Wrongs.  She spoke to a gathering of local community members, many involved in immigrant rights work.  Dr. Aron based her work on the mental health assessments she conducted on asylum seekers awaiting their hearing.     Her book is premised on the question, who are the people seeking asylum and coming across the border?  By writing her book, she provides counter narratives to the hateful descriptors of “invaders” and “criminals”.  Below is one account represented among many.

IMG_2464Dr. Aron was asked to perform a mental health evaluation on a 30 year old Salvadoran man.  He had been jailed for drinking in public and lifting and carrying a child whom he did not know.  This was not her typical interview. Most of her work with refugees involved non-criminal cases.  But she was curious.  Based on the surface of the case, how easy it might be to conclude that this man was attempting a kidnapping, she told us.

Her interview yielded a different story.  This man, at the age of 13 had been forced into the Salvadoran militia-twice.  He had been in detention where he repeatedly heard screams of torture.  But he never processed this powerful and traumatic period, instead he had periods of deep sadness and sometimes suicidal thoughts.  When the most recent drinking incident occurred prior to his arrest, he hadn’t been eating for a week, missed his family in El Salvador, and medicated himself with beer.  Dr. Aron concluded that he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and not anti-social impulses.  He didn’t recall picking up the child- he was too drunk.  Most importantly, he hadn’t succumbed to what Aron called, the “militarization of the mind.” In this case, this man turned his trauma against himself, he didn’t lash out in violence, believing violence as the only way to address a situation.    Aron emphasized that he was not an invader as the current administration would like you to believe.

As you may expect,  none in the gathering remotely believed Trump’s version of the “caravan”.  When Dr. Aron asked who is doing work to support immigrants, most all raised their hands. We used the opportunity to discuss additional ways to locally support immigrants and spent the remaining time sending messages targeted at presidential hopefuls and current representatives to look at the work of theTexas Civil Rights Project  and their report on the real numbers of family separations and missing children.

Other groups that need your help:

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant  

Interfaith Movement 4 Human Integrity

Freedom for Immigrants

Solidaridad con los ninos

Help Detained Immigrants

Also, Adrianne Aron will be going to Honduras next month and needs a helper to take care of her dog.  Any takers?  This is one way to support the solidarity work with immigrants.

Please join us for more gatherings on local response to abhorrent immigration policy. On Saturday April 27th we will be viewing the film Harvest of Empire  at 3:00 p.m.- Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church.

HarvestofEmpire1