City Officials Split on Tenant Protections

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 10.55.18 PMWhen the El Cerrito City Council met March 5th, 2019 to discuss tenant protections, they were rehashing staff proposals first presented at the December 18th meeting last year.  At that time the Human Relations Commission brought forward a resolution recommending that the city council place a cap on rent increases as well as a Just Cause Eviction ordinance to help renters.

The Human Relations Commission recommended that a task force of tenants, landlords and homeowners be formed to craft renter protection policies that would be unique to El Cerrito. With the California Apartment Association mobilizing over 100 landlords representing the “mom and pop” housing providers, a task force comprised of tenants, landlords and homeowners may be one way to avoid the divisive discourse promoted by the members of CAA.

Mayor Pardue-Okimoto and Council member Lyman tried to adopt the cap on rent increases, but they could not find a third vote. Council member Fadelli offered a motion for a Just Cause Eviction Ordinance and mustered the votes of the Mayor and Lyman, but coverage only for 14% or the renters or the 105 buildings that house 5 or more units.  Lyman captured a majority vote for the creation of a Rent Registry to get more data from landlords, and finally, Councilmember Abelson put forward a motion for a task force, garnishing affirmative votes from the remaining members.  Councilmember Quinto argued that the city could simply not afford any thing and basically suggested that we let the State define policy for our local tenant issues. All of this discussion can be fact checked City Council Meeting March 5th.

What Next?

City staff plan to bring back 1) a draft ordinance for Just Cause Eviction (covering 14% of the renters), 2) a proposal for a structure to have a facilitated task force, and 3) more detailed plan for the Rent Registry, including cost, in May 2019.

El Cerrito Progressives Responds…

The city council is putting forward a false narrative that El Cerrito “doesn’t have a problem with high rents.” We know the reality is that many renters are spending a significant portion of their income on housing, and some are just a few paychecks away from homelessness.  That’s why we are conducting a renter survey to better understand what El Cerrito renters are paying each month, how often their rent is increased and by how much.  While the city thinks about a Rent Registry and questions to ask landlords, we want to make sure that renters’ voices are heard.  If you a renter with a story about housing to share or would like to complete our survey, please contact us at elcerritoprogressives@gmail.com.

We are also organizing a Tenant Rights Clinic on Wednesday, April 24 where tenants can get free legal help. There is strength in numbers. Join us!

Tenant clinic. eng_span.2

Submitted by: Sherry Drobner

Will Tenants Ever Find Relief?

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 11.38.43 PMThe El Cerrito City Council postponed a decision on a package of tenant protections following almost 4 hours of a presentation and public comment at the February 19th meeting.  The crowd, composed of a majority of single family home landlords, spoke out against “just cause eviction” and “rent control”.  The landlords sported bright yellow tags identifying themselves as “responsible housing providers”, compliments of the California Apartment Association (CAA).  Members of the CAA also circulated a document on rent control, which according to one tenant in the audience, read like “gobblygook.” The photocopied document, without a credited author, basically served as a rant against the Richmond rent control model, citing the high salaries of the department members and overall cost of the program.  Again, a reminder to the reader, the city council agenda that evening did not address rent control, nor were any of the tenant protections remotely similar to that referenced anonymous rent control article. The circulation of this document seemed to be an extension of a scare campaign aimed at single family home landlords.

The study session began when he Affordable Housing Analyst Aissia Ashoori, led the council through a lengthly overview of the tools:   Just Cause for Eviction  Rent Registry  Tenant Relocation triggered by rent increases.

The Powerpoint, which can be accessed at this link, Tenant Protections Presentation  did little to relieve the fears of the numerous landlords worried about creating a new bureaucracy that might ultimately cost them additional money.  A graphic display of the Rent Registry information flow system, intended to collect data on number of rental units, and rental rates, resembled a full size checkerboard.  The number of steps from start to finish were so numerous and burdensome, even those of us in support of a Registry questioned the wisdom of this system.  Council member Fadelli commented in this vain stating  something similar at the close of the presentation .  Ashoori attempted to clarify the process, verbally offering a simpler explanation of the Rent Registry syste.

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Although the Rent Registry drew a great deal of heat from the landlords, mainly because of the bureaucracy and a potential cost, a Just Cause Eviction Ordinance truly stood front in center as the enemy of the “responsible housing provider”.  Biggest objection:  Landlords claimed that they could not afford the cost of eviction, and that their rentals represented their 401k or retirement plan.

After the meeting I approached one landlord who schooled me on “landlording as a business”. She explained that her rental was an investment and every investment has a risk factor. At some point if the risk factor outweighs the benefit, or in this case the profit, then she, as a smart investor, would simply take her house off the market.  The council heard similar threats from many of the landlords who spoke at public comment.  Just a side bar- the cost for eviction doesn’t change with “just cause”.  What does change is that the landlord can no longer evict for “no cause”.

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I found irony, sitting in a meeting for tenant protections with  a room dominated by people identified as “responsible housing providers” speaking fearfully about what amounts to be fairly weak protections for tenants.  But fear won the wrestling match, pinning compassion to the ground, and in this case using a choke hold.  One tenant said to me, “I thought this meeting was suppose to be for tenants?”

For those who are concerned about maintaining an economically and racially diverse community, a community where we can house our teachers as well as our IT workers, our grocery clerks as well as our lawyers, our seniors or others on fixed income, this meeting missed the mark.  Notable was the absence of this concern in the discussion. Two speakers both spoke to their disappointment with the landlords/investors, with  one speaker calling out the reactions and threats as selfish and clearly not in the interest of the greater community.   To be fair, a few landlords did express sympathy with those tenants facing eviction and proposed some type of community fund for renter relief on a case by case basis.

After 50 or more speakers, with the clock nearing the 11th hour, the council voted to hold over discussion and action until March 5th.  They will re-adjourn at 5:30 p.m. without public comment at the onset.  This decision seemed to be in the best interest of all parties, as people were tired, the presentation seemed to leave more questions than answers, and most importantly, if the city acts they should get it right.

Honestly, the meeting disturbed many of us who are concerned about tenant protections, as we are not certain that the staff  or council is getting it right.  On December 18th the Human Relations Commission put forward a recommendation for tenant protections.  This recommendation included a temporary rent cap, just cause eviction ordinance,  and the convening of a community task force comprised of tenants, landlords and homeowners to hash out a more permanent solution.  If the council had paid attention to the HRC resolution,  the meetings and discussion in January might have lead to an ordinance by as early as March.

While the City staff and Council drag out this arduous process, other cities, regional bodies and the State of California is moving forward.  The State is contemplating a state-wide anti-rent gouging legislation as well as just cause for eviction, and the  CASA Compact 2019 drafted by the Committee to house the Bay Area includes similar recommendations for the Bay Area region.

Please write the Mayor and Council Members prior to the March 5th meeting El Cerrito City Council E-mail  and ask them to reconsider the HRC Resolution on Tenant Protections.  Let’s get the predatory landlords out of El Cerrito and lets tell the “responsible housing providers” to turn their ears away from the fear mongering of the CAA.  

 

City Council set to discuss tenant protections…….again.

evictionOn December 18, 2018 more than 25 speakers, including tenants telling compelling stories of near homelessness, severe rent hikes and heightened anxiety, the El Cerrito City Council directed city staff to come back with an ordinance for Just Cause Eviction and a plan to develop a Rent Registry.  In January, when Council reconvened for the first meeting of 2019, the staff did not present an ordinance for review.  Instead, the city staff recommended, and the city council accepted the proposal to have  a study session in February.

Let’s fast forward to February.  The city council will be meeting on the 19th to review a package of “tenant protections.”   These protections include:

 Just Cause for Eviction

 Rent Registry

 Tenant Relocation triggered by rent increases

What is missing from the agenda on Tuesday is a discussion about a temporary anti-gouging measure for rent increases to be in effect while the city establishes new policies to disrupt displacement of our residents. In December, at the city council meeting, the Human Relations Commission made a compelling argument for such a measure, in addition they asked for the formation of a housing committee to craft a long term solution to rising rents.  The resolution can be read here.

El Cerrito Human Relations Commission Resolution on Tenant Protections

 

Come out for either meetings and help us maintain a city where all people can afford to live.

From GMO to Biofortied

gmo-bell-pepper-injections

As genetically engineered product manipulators work against what many say is a well-deserved bad name, they continue to push for public acceptance. According to the Waking Times and other publications, the latest push very aggressively leads towards relabeling GMO as “biofortified”.

Biofortification cross-breeds certain food crops to increase needed vitamin and mineral content without genetic engineering. An example would be to increase the vitamin or iron content of sweet potatoes, moving certain areas of the planet towards better nutrition, including nutrition for areas with soil depletion.

The results of a 2010 study show that the number of respondents who find GMOs dangerous had shot up to 79% in 2016, while just 18% thought GMOs are not dangerous, and 4% said they did not know.

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However when asked in the same time frame, only 7% of the average (wo)man on the street stressed that GMO labeling was most important in their consideration of food quality, and only 6% wanted more info about where or how food was grown or processed.

In spite of the lower indication of worry exhibited in the more casual inquiry, the consistent flow of evidence pointing to the biological and ecological harm related to GMO products is causing consumers to increasingly avoid brands that contain GMO. GMO companies have therefore “adopted” the term “biofortified” as a new idea to divert consumers from regarding GMOs as health detractors and into seeing these products as health promoters.

Codex Authority

Under the jurisdiction of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Codex Alimentarius is a collection of codes and guidelines that standardize world food trade, safety, and production. The Codex standard allows use of the term “biofortified” for the cross-breeding of vegetables to increase the content of certain vitamins and minerals as a nutrition boost to malnourished populations.

In an apparent effort to exercise control over Codex influence, a primary GMO engineering company is pressuring Codex delegates to broaden the definition of “biofortified” to include foods that are genetically modified. The National Health Federation (NHF), the only natural health advocate delegate at Codex, reports that many of the delegates saw the deception in this attempt. Even so, the topic was tabled for further consideration at the November, 2018 Codex convergence in Berlin under a new chairperson, Dr. Anja Brönstrup, a Policy Officer at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

Dr. Brönstrup did not call upon any of the international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) signaling her that they wanted to speak. Only the sponsoring INGO, the International Food Policy Research Institute, was allowed to speak, and then only on the broadened definition of the term “biofortified”. The NHF however was able to submit written comments stating its position against the proposed definition.

At days end Chairwoman Brönstrup suddenly stated, “I am referring this definition back to the Codex Committee on Food Labelling [CCFL],” proclaming that the GMO-inclusive definition would be sent to CCFL for its review and probable approval.

INGO Resistance

A strong resistance to GMO engineered foods in many European countries spawned a movement which has led to a moratorium in the EU and hostility towards imported genetically modified (GMO) products. The considered healthy alternative to GMOs in the EU is termed “biofortified,” just as “organic” is used in the U.S.

Blue-Corn-Seeds

In addition to confusion in Europe, the U.S. population’s consideration of “biofortified” could easily be paired with “organic,” encouraging perception of the broadened term to support health, instead of containing perceived GMO health detractors.

NHF President Scott Tips said: “It is a very sad state of affairs where we have come to the point where we must manipulate our natural foods to provide better nutrition all because we have engaged in very poor agricultural practices that have seen a 50% decline in the vitamins and minerals in our foods over the last 50 years. We will not remedy poor nutrition by engaging in deceptive marketing practices and sleight of hand with this definition.”

In May of 2019 at a gathering in Ottowa, Canada CCFL delegates will continue to review the conflict of the term “biofortified” being broadened to include GMO products. Opposers of the broadened terminology are encouraged by the fact that the Final Report of the Nutrition Committee meeting, upon which the CCFL must rely, will not include the misleading impression that there is broad support for GMO-inclusive biofortification.

A sharp eye, detailed concentration, and uncommon knowledge is already required for consumers to decode food labels. Deceptive infusion of GMO into biofortified terminology can only further confuse the situation. The conflict now depends on objections from the EU and others to prevent this mis-terminology. However even if GMO companies are unable to broaden biofortification, it is almost certain that they will continue to promote GMOs to consumers in other ways.

For more information on the attempt of the GMO engineering industry to infuse genetically modified organisms into the definition of “biofortification,” see the following sites, from which this information was derived:

Natural Blaze – GMO Foods Will Soon Be Mislabeled As Biofortified

Biology Fortified – The scary truth behind fear of GMOs

WAKING TIMES – MONSANTO TRYING TO HIDE GMO FOODS UNDER THE TERM ‘BIOFORTIFIED’

Natural News – Monsanto’s latest marketing ploy: Labeling GMOs as “biofortified”

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:

 

Witness at the Texas-Mexico Border

Submitted by Tomi Nagai-Rothe

bollard wall

In June I saw images of tent city prisons built for children separated from their families and all I could think about was the concentration camp where my mother’s family lived for several years during World War II.

The Japanese-American community has made a point of standing in solidarity with those targeted by the US government, including the Muslim community after 9/11. Because almost no one — except for the American Friends Service Committee — stood for them when they were forced out of their homes simply because of their ethnicity. I feel a part of this solidarity movement so that no one and no group targeted because of their identity will feel so alone.

I felt led to do more than organize locally in El Cerrito − to go in person to witness what is happening at the Texas-Mexico border. Going in person felt like one way to embody my commitment.

In October I spent 2 ½ weeks volunteering with the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) in Alamo, Texas just outside McAllen which was ground zero for the family separation crisis over the summer. TCRP interviewed 382 families and organized 90 attorneys as part of the #FamiliesBelongTogether effort over the summer (there are only three attorneys in their Alamo office, and six others in the other TCRP offices).

Humanitarian Respite Center

By October the family crisis had abated somewhat, so I worked on a border wall project. I studied the history of the border wall, including the economic, cultural and environmental impacts and created this illustration of the executive summary of the article, Death, Damage and Failure: Past, Present and Future Impacts of Walls on the US-Mexico Border.

To support the work of the TCRP attorneys I created an interactive map of the landowners affected by the October 10 waiver of 28 federal laws that clears the way for additional border wall construction. TCRP is working with individuals who need help negotiating with the government and cannot afford to hire an attorney.

FINAL Impact of Wall on the Border

On my last day in Texas I volunteered at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen where newly arrived families and individuals gather before taking busses to reunite with family members in other parts of the state or country. I was struck by how young they were — in their 20s and 30s — and how composed they seemed, having experienced unspeakable challenges. Soon after I arrived I started crying inexplicably. I can only guess that it was the feeling of so many people’s trauma in one small room.

When I returned to the office I edited stories of people killed by the Border Patrol for a Dia de Los Muertos Offrenda (altar). It felt important to write a respectful obituary for those who died a violent death. It was an emotional end to an eye-opening visit.

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To learn more about why the Bay Area is a border region, why the Texas-Mexico border has the fewest miles of wall and more, come to Tomi’s talk about her sojourn in South Texas.

Saturday, January 5 3 to 4:30pm at Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury at Lincoln, El Cerrito

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STOP THE TEARS AT THE BORDER!

teargasNationally, Families Belong Together are calling for a National weekend of protest on December 1 and December 2nd.  Locally, West County residents can join the chorus to STOP THE TEARS by Showing UP at the El Cerrito Plaza at Noon on December 1st. Event Sign Up  This visibility action is for ONE HOUR and meant to be a reminder – just 10 hours from our borders, we are placing innocent people in harms way, ignoring international law, and making it virtually impossible for asylum seekers to carry through with their quest for asylum.

When tear gas traveled through the throngs of migrants on the border areas of our State, most citizens stood by horrified by the images of women and children frantically running for safety,   Trumps latest manifestation of a hostile policy toward migrants  follows on the heals of the failing family separation policy,  long term detention of immigrant families, not to mention the newly restricted rules for asylum application.  It is clear that the architects of the current administrative changes at the border are determined to halt any immigration of the refugees who are fleeing from countries that have been torn apart by violence, political corruption and economic deprivation.

Locally, other efforts are underway to support the migrants at the border.

The city of Berkeley will donate money for the migrant caravan to the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, not to exceed $250 per council member. Funds will help provide food, shelter and basic needs to caravan members detained at U.S. ports of entry or traveling to immigration hearings, according the Daily Cal (November 28, 2018)

safe_imageTo learn more about the solidarity work that can be done on the border, please join the Interfatih Movement 4 Human Integrity

Saturday, Dec. 8th, 7 pm – 9 pm
People’s Assembly for Migrant Caravan Solidarity
@ 1st Pres. Church Oakland, 2619 Broadway Ave. Oakland
Join IM4HI & the Migrant Welcome Committee of the Bay Area for an evening of sharing and action as we better understand the recent caravans and take action in solidarity with their participants.
  • Find out the root causes of the mass migration of Hondurans and other Central Americans in this historic moment.
  • Hear testimony from participants of the migrant caravans about the realities, stories and power of their journey and collective action.
  • Find out the many ways individuals and organizations right here in the Bay Area can support the material and political goals of the migrants who are seeking asylum in the US.
Financial Donations to support organizations in Tijuana supporting migrants
and migrant legal defense will be collected at this event.