Mike Parker, widely regarded as the real brains behind the RPA and a generally reasonable person, and Sue Wilson, the RPA communications chair, wrote me the following “Open Letter” yesterday, also posted on the REALRICH Facebook page:
Parker’s and Wilson’s demands are more like an obstacle course than a reasonable pathway to annexation. Inexplicably, the RPA has morphed from an organization that once championed social justice to one that obstructs social justice. They continue to circulate the proposition that maybe the people of North Richmond aren’t really interested in annexation.
There were several possibilities in the RPA statement on “annexation,” which takes the position you claim you hold: favoring allowing the people of North Richmond to determine whether they wish to join Richmond. We will get to the possibilities in a moment but first try to understand why people felt that the official LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) legal process for annexation was inadequate and needed some additional actions.
1. The LAFCO process does not guarantee a vote. It puts the onus on the opposition to organize in order to have a vote.
2. The LAFCO process does not guarantee that everyone gets all the information they need. Instead of a mailing, it requires only that LAFCO place an advertisement in a publication.
3. The LAFCO process makes no effort to contact or involve undocumented and other non-voters.
4. The LAFCO process makes the opponents of annexation the champions of having a vote by N. Richmond residents
Here are two alternative additional actions to address these problems. One is the possibility of the city working with individuals, groups and/or the county to get an advisory vote on the June ballot making sure that the information material is complete and gets wide circulation in appropriate languages.
Another possibility is for the City to arrange to mail to all N. Richmond residents (and find ways of getting to non-voters) information about the possibility, pros and cons, of joining Richmond and including an unofficial ballot. Actually we understand that this is a process used by Antioch in recent years. If this process for North Richmond produces positive results then the official annexation process could begin.
So Tom, what your email blast headlined was clearly false. If you were not so obsessed with trying to smear the RPA you would have seen the possibilities. We suggest you take your anti-RPA blinders off and start working with people to discuss and solve problems rather than looking for ways to smear them. You might start with a correction and an apology in your e-forum.
Please note that while we are proud members of the RPA we are speaking only for ourselves and not the RPA or the people it helped elect to the Council.
There is serious advocacy for annexation from community leaders. See https://ca-richmond3.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/44306 for examples of support letters from:
- LaSaundra Tate, member of the North Richmond Municipal Advisory Council (MAC)
- Mark Howe, one of North Richmond’s largest property owners
- Marena Brown, president of Shields Reid Neighborhood Council and a North Richmond property owner
- Betty Reid Soskin, whose talks on racial injustice during WWII at Rosie the Riveter have made her a national figure
- Eric Acosta-Verprauskus, principal of Verde School
- Pastor Dana Keith Mitchell, Sr. of North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church
And there are many more.
The people of North Richmond may or not be interested, but why is the RPA coming up with convoluted and circuitous plans to make the process as complicated as possible? The multi-phased LAFCO process is already tortuously thorough, making sure that every voice is heard. In fact, the LACO process gives many people two protest votes, one as a registered voter and one as a property owner.
The City of Richmond Staff Report that recommends proceeding with the LAFCO process includes several procedures that address most of the RPA’s reluctance (http://sireweb.ci.richmond.ca.us/sirepub/cache/2/gtfzmbv4wts3bhrlasr0m4xu/51213310152017073801799.PDF):
Staff recommends that the City develop and disseminate education materials to inform residents, registered voters and landowners in the annexation area so that they are aware of the annexation process, understand how the annexation would impact them, and have information about how to support or protest the proposed annexation. The educational outreach component is critical because the City wants to ensure that individuals have the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision regarding annexation. The LAFCO annexation process is briefly described below:
As part of any option that is selected (except for option 5), it is recommended that City staff develop and implement a comprehensive education and outreach plan that would provide impacted residents and property owners with factual information about the annexation process. The campaign would not serve to advocate in favor of or against annexation but would, instead, serve as an engagement and education tool that could consist of the following components:
- Development and disseminate of education materials(via mail, at events, etc.) which could include:
- Information describing annexation and explaining the process,
- Answers to frequently asked questions (Attachment 4),
- An outline of benefits and costs associated with the annexation,
- A description of the protest process,
- An explanation regarding how to stay involved in the process;
- Multi-lingual meetings and materials;
- Hosted community meetings in different locations (i.e. attend schools and community events) with opportunities for open dialogue, with provision of food and childcare, when possible;
- Opportunities for meeting attendees and/or impacted residents to stay updated on the annexation process and to allow individuals to provide feedback and share concerns (i.e. provide surveys regarding annexation, update the website, etc.);
- Engagement and empowerment of local groups and/or community leaders to participate in the development of the educational materials and to help in conveying community concerns to city staff and/or elected officials;
- A request that LAFCO mail letters to inform residents of upcoming hearings in addition to placing an advertisement in the newspaper. City staff could also mail information in conjunction with what LAFCO’s outreach methods.