Thanks to readers for pointing out additional corrections that need to be made:
- Tony Sustak does live in Richmond but is no longer a member of the Steering Committee
- The RPA address is 1021 Macdonald
The Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) is arguably the most powerful political force in Richmond. Three of its steering committee members serve on and essentially control the Richmond City Council because they are almost always able to enlist a fourth City Council member to support controversial issues ranging from mind control to rent control.
For such a powerful and omnipresent organization, remarkably little is known about its actual operational and internal policy apparatus, but the RPA is undergoing some soul searching that may result in a more transparent and democratic organization. Or may not.
On Saturday, September 26, 3:00 to 5:00 PM at the RPA headquarters on 1021 Macdonald, draft bylaws for the first time will be up for consideration by the membership. Once approved, the process of electing the new Steering Committee will be underway. New members can join at the door, and current members can update their status. If you'd like to join follow this link to the membership form. Print and complete the form and mail it in with a check for your dues, which start at $12/year. Or, to avoid printing and snail-mailing, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the information requested on the form and go to the RPA web page and press the "Donate" button in the left column and make a payment for dues.
The proposed new draft bylaws are at http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/docs/RPA_Draft_Bylaws_7-14_Final.pdf.
In the discussion about new bylaws, there seems to be some internal conflict between a totally open election process for new steering committee members and a more tightly controlled process with a slate chosen by the current unelected steering committee. The draft bylaws provide that “Members may have their membership terminated by the Steering Committee for cause.” Just cause or just cause? Again, control over a rogue member that may challenge the party line is anticipated.
The RPA manifesto and the history of Richmond politics as seen by the RPA is exhaustively covered in “Communities Fight for Community Control Over Corporate Power” by Mike Parker, Social Policy, Summer 2013.
According to the Richmond Progressive Alliance website, the Richmond Progressive Alliance was formed in 2003 from two groups:
The Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) formed in late 2003 from two groups. The Richmond Greens had started to work to decriminalize homelessness, stop police mistreatment of mostly Latino day-laborers, and take on a number of environmental issues including the toxic dumps on the shoreline. At the same time a group of Latino progressive Democrats had come together in response to a police beating on Cinco de Mayo in 2002. Both groups recognized that the only way to make significant positive change in Richmond was to challenge the existing political power in the city. The two groups agreed to work together as the RPA supporting two candidates for City Council: Gayle McLaughlin, a Green Party activist, and Andres Soto, a Latino community activist in the Democratic Party.
The Richmond Progressive Alliance accepts donations, but is not a registered political action committee (independent expenditure committee) or nonprofit corporation. There is no public record of its finances, including revenue sources and expenditures.
A person can apparently “join” the RPA simply by signing up, but there is no information about what membership actually means unless and until bylaws are adopted and followed.
According to the RPA website, the RPA Steering Committee is the operative center of the organization.
The RPA Steering Committee plans actions, collaborations, and statements on behalf of the RPA, focusing largely on big issues such as affordable housing or the minimum wage and how we can work with the city council and other groups in the city to bring about change in these areas. Our positions on these issues are made public on this website, and in our newsletter.
The RPA website lists Mike Parker and Marilyn Langlois as “coordinators.” Both share conventional progressive values but don’t exactly mirror the profiles of the disadvantaged groups they claim to represent, except for “seniors,” and in the case of Langlois, “women.” (“We make a priority of the needs and leadership development of those who are disadvantaged by the system: people of color, lower income people, women, LGBTQ, disabled, young people, seniors.”)
Mike Parker is a senior white male who lives in a million dollar house with a dramatic Bay view in Point Richmond. He is very smart and writes both prolifically and well.
Marilyn Langlois is a former City Council candidate and a planning commissioner, appointed by Gayle McLauglin, who believes the World Trade Center twin towers were blown up by the U.S. Government and that unknown forces from outer space are targeting many individuals on earth with mind control waves. Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnidge wrote about Langlois’ testimony: “She cited some ‘exotic’ weapons that could be scoping out Richmond residents at that very moment — electronic, psychotronic, high-altitude ultra low-frequency weapons; plasma electromagnetic sonic and ultrasonic weapons; lasers; chemtrails,” Barnidge wrote. “She didn’t name a culprit, but obviously it’s the government seeking mind control.” Marilyn is also a talented writer.
Both Parker and Langlois are real property owners, but obviously eschew “greed.”
The RPA Steering Committee consists of a tightly knit group of 37 persons, apparently self-selected and perpetuated without a vote of the members. Twelve of the 37 members, nearly a third of the committee, are couples. At least four don’t live in Richmond. They don’t represent Richmond demographics. About half a dozen are black; half a dozen are Latino, a couple are Asian, and the rest are white, typically older. Seventeen individuals plus six pairs total 29 Richmond residents. At least four are not Richmond residents. Four members refuse to disclose their identity. Meetings are held in secret.
The RPA Steering Committee breaks down as follows:
- Gayle McLaughlin and Paul Kilkenny are spouses
- Eduardo Martinez and Liz Watts are spouses
- Jovanka Beckles and Nicole Valentino are spouses
- Mike Parker and Margaret Jordan are spouses
- Jeffrey Kilbreth and Gail Eierweiss are a couple
- Joe Puleo and Kathleen Wimer are spouses
- Andres Soto lives in Benicia, not Richmond
- Millie Cleveland lives in Oakland, not Richmond
- Tim Laidman lives in El Cerrito, not Richmond
- Miguel Cavallin lives in El Cerrito, not Richmond
- Tarnel Abbott
- Michael Beer
- Stephanie Hervey
- Torm Nompraseurt
- Jamin Pursell
- Marcos Banale
- Patricia Byers
- Sylvia Hopkins
- Marilyn Langlois
- David Moore
- Jose Rivera
- Pam Stello
- Vivien Feyer
- Janet Johnson
- Chi Nair
- Najari Smith
- Zak Wear
Secret Members: 4 undisclosed.
On paper, the RPA has a popular set of core values (from its proposed new bylaws):
One Richmond. A better Richmond is possible only through our working to achieve unity of the different populations that make up our diverse city. We need a united community effort to take on the problems of economic inequality, crime and violence, and the environmental crisis, which are destroying our children’s future, our infrastructure, and our safety nets.
Who can argue with that? But where is mind control mentioned? I missed that.
The RPA likes to talk about democracy and transparency, and eschews “back room politics,” but at least for the first 12 years of its existence, it has been a tightly controlled, secret organization that exerts tremendous power in Richmond. From the proposed bylaws:
Democracy is about people, not corporations. Large corporations have too much power in our society. In all our activities and campaigns we refuse contributions from corporations and try to answer their power with the voluntary activity of large numbers of people.
Democracy is about government being transparent, the public making the important decisions, working with elected officials, holding them accountable. It also require sending the back room politics of corporations using their power, pulling strings, or buying support through contributions.
The RPA preaches “respect for each other’s ideas,” but recently has avoided consensus and used heavy handed tactics to force contentious agendas through deeply divided City Council votes that have turned off normally progressive supporters. From the proposed bylaws:
Diversity and respect for each other's ideas. We don't all agree on every issue and invite discussion in our newsletter. We are registered as Democrats, Greens, Peace and Freedom, and in other parties. Many of us are registered “declined to state.” We all agree on the need to build a strong progressive movement where people support each other.
The RPA is loath to share credit for anything good that has happened in Richmond. If you follow their writings, they single-handedly saved Richmond, beat Chevron, won every election (including mine) and will go on to save the world. I admire positive thinking and optimism, but collaboration and sharing still have a place.