Rubicon’s June 2018 Primary Voter Guide

By Jonathan Bash May 18, 2018

Use the power of your vote to end poverty in the East Bay

 

On Tuesday, June 5th, 2018, voters across California will weigh-in on the state’s future by selecting new elected officials and approving—or rejecting—propositions and measures that impact all of our lives.

It’s crucial that we don’t sit on the sidelines; this election is far too important to be ignored. The future of criminal justice reform, housing affordability and the economy are at stake. Will our government work to end poverty, or will it simply accept the status quo?

That’s why Rubicon Programs believes that encouraging our participants, staff and community to participate in the process is absolutely essential to accomplishing our vision of an East Bay—and California—without poverty. Local elections like this one are where you can truly make your voice heard.

VOTER INFORMATION

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 5, 2018. 

If you have not yet registered to vote, be sure to do so by the state’s voter registration deadline for the June Primary, May 21, online here. If you are unsure of your status, or wish to find your polling place, be sure to visit either the Contra Costa County Elections Office or Alameda County Elections Office online. And remember, many individuals with a criminal record are allowed vote. If you’re unsure of you rights, check here for further information.

You can also vote-by-mail. Learn how by visiting the Contra Costa County Clerk or Alameda County Clerk. Additionally, Contra Costa residents may also vote early at Regional Early Voting Sites located across the county.

ENDORSEMENTS FOR STATE AND LOCAL MEASURES

This Election Day, voters will be able to weigh-in on many specific policy proposals, as well as select our local representatives. Rubicon carefully reviewed each of the propositions and measures on the ballot and have decided to share our positions with you so that you can make an informed decision and help us in our journey to end poverty. We have also provided a brief explainer—listed after our endorsements—for each of the offices on the ballot. We hope this will help you in your decision-making process.

Here are our endorsements for state and local propositions in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties:

PROPOSITION 68: YES

Bonds for Environment, Parks and Water. Permits the state to sell $4 billion in new bonds to fund various projects, including local and regional parks (including creating new parks), flood protection, addressing the effects of climate change and promoting safe drinking water.

Communities of color, and people in poverty, are the least likely to have access to clean drinking water and safe parks, which provide opportunities for physical activity and good health. They are also the most likely to be impacted by the negative effects of climate change. This bond will greatly improve conditions in these communities and will help prevent large-scale natural disasters, with minor impact on the state budget.

 

PROPOSITION 69: YES

Transportation Funding. Amends the State Constitution so that funds from the recently passed Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) gas tax and transportation fee increase can only be spent on transportation purposes, protecting those funds from ever being diverted to unrelated purposes by state legislators.

Funds from SB 1 are incredibly beneficial to the community, expanding public transportation and improving roads, all while providing a great boost to the economy by increasing job opportunities in the building trades, which provide good paying jobs to people in poverty. Prop 69 protects these dollars from being diverted to other parts of the state budget, ensuring a decrease in Bay Area commute times that will improve public health and save money in the long run.

 

PROPOSITION 70: NO

Cap-and-Trade Amendment. Amends the State Constitution to require all revenues from climate change fees on polluters to be deposited in a reserve fund until the legislature authorizes the use of the funds by a two-thirds majority.

In an effort to prevent climate change, California requires certain companies to buy a permit for each ton of greenhouse gases they create. Money from the sale of these permits goes into a state fund called the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). The state typically determines how to spend money from the fund during the annual budget process. This requires a simple majority vote by the state legislature. Prop 70 would raise the threshold on this vote to a two-thirds supermajority, greatly hindering the state's ability to fight climate change and spend funds on environmental justice programs.

 

PROPOSITION 71: YES

Ballot Measure Effective Date. Amends the State Constitution so that all ballot measures go into effect at the same time. Propositions would become law when the state elections office releases the official “statement of vote,” about 43 days after Election Day.

Currently, propositions in the State of California, if passed, take effect the day after they reach a majority. Since some propositions are counted earlier than others, this means it can be hard to predict when a law will take effect. Prop 71 ensures that every proposition is implemented at the same time, providing predictability for residents who may need to know when they will need to begin complying with new laws.

 

PROPOSITION 72: YES

Taxes for Rainwater Capture Systems. Amends the State Constitution so that the addition of a rainwater capture system to a property would no longer be considered a taxable property improvement.

Prop 72 would ensure that property owners and developers are able to install rainwater capture systems without worrying that their property taxes may go up, effectively incentivizing investments that will conserve water and prevent drought. This will lower costs for homeowners and renters alike, while also helping prevent droughts that would harm the most vulnerable members of our community.

 

REGIONAL MEASURE 3: NO RECOMMENDATION

Bridge Toll Increase for Transportation Projects. Raises Bay Area bridge tolls by $3, and ties toll prices to inflation. Allocates $4.5 billion to fund specific highway and public transit improvements.

Regional Measure 3 has both large costs and large benefits. It is abundantly clear that the Bay Area needs more funding for transportation projects in order to keep up with our growing population and ever-rising commute times. Many of our participants, and staff, have multi-hour commutes that lower their quality of life and negatively impact their health. We believe something must be done to increase highway capacity, clear congestion and add public transit options.

Unfortunately, this particular measure disproportionately impacts low-income East Bay families, while primarily benefiting the already thriving Silicon Valley region. Measure 3 will cost East Bay bridge-commuters more than $700 each year, on average. That’s a lot to ask of someone who may be living on the minimum wage.

The proposal tries to help these people by providing a path to Clipper Card discounts of 30-50 percent or more for low-income families, and improved access to bus and ferry lines. But there are no discounts for low-income drivers.

If you don’t cross a bridge to get to work, Measure 3 could provide you with a great benefit at almost no cost to you. But if you do cross a bridge each day, and are paid a less-than-living wage, Measure 3 could provide a major barrier to employment. Therefore, we encourage you to vote your conscience.

 

ALAMEDA COUNTY MEASURE A: YES

Sales Tax for Childcare and Early Education. Authorizes a 1/2-cent sales tax for 30 years to annually fund $140 million worth of childcare and pre-school programs, programs for homeless and at-risk children, programs to prevent child abuse, and efforts to add childcare locations and employees.

Early childhood education is proven to be one of the most effective tools to break the cycle of poverty. Therefore, we believe the benefits of these programs far outweigh the minor costs of the half-cent increase in the sales tax. The average family earning the minimum wage would only lose about $50 in buying power each year, in exchange for low-cost childcare and pre-school that could be worth thousands of dollars each year. We believe this is a worthy investment and a net benefit for all.

 

RICHMOND CITY MEASURES E & K: YES

Richmond Kids First Initiative. Allocates three percent of the city’s budget and amends the City Charter to create a Department of Children and Youth, funding after-school and social programs for children and youth under the age of 24.

Measure E & K would allocate significant funds for programs that would directly and indirectly aide our participants, and the Richmond community, by providing support services to children and youth up to 18 years old, and their caregivers, and to disconnected transitional aged young adults through 24 years old. The package includes programs that range from violence prevention to after-school education and health programs, all of which are desperately needed by the community. (Note: These two measures would only take effect if voters also pass additional funding measures by December 2020.)

 

INFORMATION ON ELECTED OFFICES

 

This Election Day, residents of Contra Costa County and Alameda County, including most of Rubicon Programs’ participants and staff, will also have the opportunity to vote for the following local elected officials:

  • County Supervisors, who determine local housing policy and manage social services.
  • District Attorneys, who prosecute the law, determine who is charged with a felony or misdemeanor, and have a major role in shaping criminal justice policy.
  • County Superintendents, who oversee school districts and provide education to incarcerated minors and those with special needs.
  • County Sheriffs, who manage the jails, coordinate emergency response, and determine law enforcement strategy.
  • County Officers—including Clerk, Auditor-Controller, and Assessor—who manage the administration of elections, budgets and taxation, respectively.

They will also choose State Constitutional Officers and legislators, including the:

  • Governor, California’s Chief Executive, responsible for approving the state’s budget and implementing the state’s laws.
  • Lieutenant Governor, who serves as a critical member of the state’s many policy commissions, and fulfills the duties of the Governor when he or she is out of state or indisposed.
  • Attorney General, who prosecutes the law, determines who is charged with state crimes and plays a major role in shaping statewide criminal justice policy.
  • Controller, Treasurer and Board of Equalization Member, who, respectively, ensure the state pays its bills, invests its funds, and assesses its taxes responsibly.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction, who oversees California’s schools, community colleges and universities.
  • Secretary of State, who manages elections and the administration of business.
  • State Senator, State Assemblymember, U.S. Congressmember and U.S. Senator, each of whom write state and federal laws and legislation covering nearly every topic imaginable.

Since this is a top-two, nonpartisan primary, each of these elected officials will be on the ballot again during the November 2018 General Election, unless they are local or education candidates who are able to reach 50 percent plus one in the primary.

We hope that each of our readers and participants study each of the candidates’ positions, so that they can identify and support candidates that prioritize criminal justice reform, early childhood education, affordable housing, and social programs that will help end poverty in the East Bay and throughout the State of California.

If you would like to compare all of these candidates, propositions and measures, and review nonpartisan, unbiased summaries online, please visit www.votersedge.org.

 

 

Thank you for participating!

 

We hope you will stay tuned for our November 2018 General Election Voter Guide, coming later this year.

 

Sources: Maplight’s Voter’s Edge, League of Women Voters of California Education Fund's Easy Voter Guide, and the California Secretary of State, Alameda County Clerk-Recorder, Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder and City of Richmond.

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In Furtherance of Justice: The Tangled Web of Marijuana Legalization

By Lisa Dyas March 13, 2018

Rubicon's legal team helps our participants with legal assistance on a wide range of issues to equip them to remove barriers that may stand in their way.

This question and answer series – “In Furtherance of Justice” - with Rubicon's staff attorneys explores the many intersections between the law and breaking the cycle of poverty. This week, we talked with one of Rubicon’s Attorneys, Sarah Williams, about Proposition 64, which legalized Marijuana in the State of California in 2016. 

 

Q: What is the history of marijuana legalization in California?

A: Medical marijuana first became legal back in the 90s in California. As time went on, California essentially decriminalized marijuana–law enforcement no longer was arresting people for using and possessing marijuana. Instead, they wrote tickets. The problem was that even this was pretty unfairly enforced, and it’s no surprise that the people who were predominantly getting ticketed were people of color. As the move toward legalization for recreational use gained traction, there actually was push back – not because many people wanted to see harsher punishments for use, but because they didn’t see a need for formal legislation. In affluent communities people just were not being policed for marijuana use.

 

Q: Was Proposition 64 the first attempt at legalization?

A:  Prop 215 was passed in 1996. It legalized medical marijuana. We were the first state to pass that kind of legislation. In 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation reducing possession of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction – decriminalization.  In that same year, we voted on Prop 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana use, but it was voted down.

 

Q: So on January 1, 2018, did it become legal to buy and use marijuana anywhere?

A: On November 9, 2016, the day after California voted on Prop 64, it became legal to possess, use or obtain no more than an ounce of marijuana. The parts of the law that impact setting up dispensaries and legally selling it weren’t figured out until January 1, 2018.

 

Q: Practically, what does this mean for the average person who tries to buy marijuana?

A: It means someone can give it to you, and you can legally possess it no matter where you got it, but you can only legally buy it from a licensed dispensary.  

 

Q: How do you police this?

A: It’s tricky!  The person selling it is guilty of a misdemeanor, even though it is totally legal to obtain and use marijuana recreationally.

 

Q: Does this still put a bigger burden or risk on less affluent communities and communities of color?

A: It does. There are plenty of hurdles to get a license to own a dispensary. If you have a criminal record, it’s pretty much impossible to legally sell the thing that you were cited for selling in the first place. There are many separate conversations happening in California on how to allow people of color and communities who have been selling to actually benefit from this legislation. It’s also challenging because marijuana conglomerates are already forming and taking over the industry.

 

Q: For the average Rubicon participant today, what does this legislation mean? What is the impact going forward?

A: Well, you’re still not legally allowed to just smoke on the street, but it does take away this thing that was hanging over people’s heads. If, for example, someone gets pulled over by the cops and they smell marijuana, that alone is no longer probable cause to search the car. You can’t smoke while you’re driving or drive high – that’s the same as a DUI – but lots of peoples’ cars smell like marijuana. Also, if an officer performs a stop-and-frisk and finds marijuana on you, as long as it’s within the limits of possession, it’s fine.  

This legislation is also very similar to Prop 47 in that if you have a marijuana possession conviction, you can file paperwork with the court and it is not a conviction any more, or if you have a sales conviction you can go back, file paperwork and have it reduced to a misdemeanor. It’s not discretionary, the judge must grant the dismissal or felony reduction, but you do have to file the paperwork. Public Defenders are doing that paperwork for people, and it helps if there is a pendingcriminal case. If you no longer have a felony and you get convicted, your sentencing is going to be different. It can really change things for people.

 

Q: What do you think is the next piece of legislation that will make a huge impact for Rubicon participants?

A: Bail reform. I can’t tell you how many people who have sat here and said to me, “I just pled guilty, or no contest, because I just needed to get out of jail.” Your trial is supposed to happen quickly, but most people “waive time” to give their attorney time to actually prepare for the case, and during that time, if you can’t afford bail, you’re just sitting in jail. Often if you need to get out, you just plead to something. Maybe you didn’t do it, or maybe you know there isn’t enough evidence for conviction, but you do it anyways because you just want to move on with your life.

The problem is that many people don’t realize all of the collateral consequences of having that conviction on their record – in the moment, it’s just about getting out of jail. To me, bail reform is the holy grail of where we’re going with our criminal justice reform in California, because without it, these other laws are just not enough.

Lear more about bail reform or donate today to support our work.

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No new cells for West County

By Lisa Dyas February 15, 2017

By John Gioia, Jane Fischberg and Claudia Jimenez

Contra Costa County needs greater investment in mental health treatment, job training, affordable housing, and youth services to help keep people from becoming incarcerated, not a larger West County jail.

Approving expensive new jail construction runs counter to the more fiscally responsible and humane strategy of investing greater resources in prevention and rehabilitation services. These cost-effective measures help keep people out of jail, reduce reoffending and improve public safety.

The recent 4-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors to spend $25 million in county funds and apply for $70 million from the state to add 416 high-security beds at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond comes at a time of budgetary uncertainty, with the county facing possible federal funding cutbacks from the new presidential administration.

The Prison Law Office, a well-respected nonprofit public interest law firm specializing in jail system reform, wrote to the Board of Supervisors  that “The county would better serve its population by expanding efforts to reduce the jail population instead of expanding the capacity of its jails.”

We could not agree more.

The county’s focus should be on spending our limited tax dollars on programs that are proven to keep people out of jail and help previously incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter their communities after serving time. This approach ultimately costs less and cuts crime.

The approved jail plan calls for spending $2 million more per year to hire additional sheriff deputies to staff an expanded jail. Those dollars should instead be invested in expanding programs proven to reduce incarceration, such as substance abuse treatment and Behavioral Health Court, which provides vital mental health treatment to people with chronic mental illness.

This is a more cost-effective and humane approach.

Another way to reduce our jail population and improve public safety is to reform our bail system, which currently uses the ability to pay for bail as the primary factor in deciding who should remain incarcerated while awaiting trial.

A wiser system, gaining popularity, is to base incarceration while awaiting trial on the risk of reoffending or fleeing. Approximately 70 percent of those in county jail haven’t been convicted and are awaiting trial, many for lower level non-violent drug or property offenses.

Also, the sheriff can create capacity in the West County jail instead of building new cells. Nearly 200 individuals are being held for possible deportation at the West County jail under a sheriff’s contract with the U.S. Department of Justice to house ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainees.

That’s 20 percent of the jail’s capacity that could be used to meet the county’s needs, not the federal government’s.

Contra Costa is the only Bay Area county with such a contract. This cooperation with ICE should end. It erodes our hard-working immigrant community’s trust in local law enforcement and county government.

Health and social service community agencies report that many immigrants have cancelled appointments out of anxiety, fear of deportation, or mistrust — not getting critical care.

Sheriff David Livingston’s cooperation with ICE, and traveling to Washington D.C. and meeting with controversial Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the day of the Board of Supervisor’s jail vote have further eroded community trust.

We can do better.

The community has a chance to express its opposition to this unwise jail expansion project when the issue comes back to the Board of Supervisors after the state decides whether to support the funding request.

Please speak out in favor of policies that invest our tax dollars in effective prevention programs, not costly jail construction.

John Gioia is a Contra Costa supervisor. Jane Fischberg is CEO of Rubicon Programs. Claudia Jimenez is with the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition.

This commentary appeared in the East Bay Times on February 14, 2017

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The Crisis in Black Education | Early Disparities

By Lisa Dyas February 3, 2017

This February, we will share a series of posts examining the education system, and the crucial role education has played in the lives of African Americans. We hope these posts will increase awareness, spark conversations, encourage self-reflection and lead to deeper explorations about the education system’s responsibility to a fair and just society. We hope that you will join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

The Crisis in Black Education | Early Disparities

by Jane Fischberg

Education continues to be an important strategy to achieve economic mobility, and gain access to higher quality of life.  However, 60 years after the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision that desegregated schools, there are still gross inequities along racial lines.  Research on disparities and long-term outcomes for African American children expose the bleak truth: African Americans are disproportionately shut out of meaningful educational opportunities.

African American students are less likely than white students to have access to rigorous readiness curriculum -- and they are more likely be suspended from school for the same infractions,  and to be taught by less experienced teachers, according to comprehensive data from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. 

One of the striking facts to emerge from the data is that disparities start as early as early childhood education (ECE) programs.  

African American children from low-income homes tend to be in ECE classrooms with lower ratings of instructional support.  Students of color are more likely than their peers to attend schools with a higher concentration of first-year and inexperienced teachers. Teachers in predominately black and Latino schools are paid less than their counterparts, resulting in high turnover.  As a result, too many African American children enter kindergarten a year or more behind in academic and social-emotional skills.  Starting out school from behind can trap students in a cycle of continuous catch-up in their learning.

In ECE programs, African American children are 3.6 times more likely to face suspension than their white peers.  Black boys are 19 percent of preschool boys, but represent 45 percent of male preschool children who are suspended.  Similarly, Black girls are 20 percent of female preschool enrollment, but experience 54 percent of suspensions among preschool girls. This phenomenon can send the message to children that they are “bad” and not welcomed at school.  Black boys, especially, suffer, because this feeds the dominant cultural narrative that Black men are dangerous.  This biased approach to discipline can trigger a lifetime of identity issues and disenfranchisement.

Access to high-quality ECE can boost cognitive and social skills in children, help mitigate for disparities in early learning experiences and the effects of childhood trauma, and improve long-term economic and life indicators for low-income African American children and other children of color.  These are all critical benefits that can help break the cycle of poverty and reduce inequality over the long run. 

If you would like to find out what you can do to increase access to quality ECE, connect with the National Black Child Development Institute – you can track its efforts to support federal, state and local initiatives to provide increasing numbers of children with access to quality early education and care, and learn how to add your voice.

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Celebrating Black History Month

By Lisa Dyas February 2, 2017

Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History established Negro History Week in 1926 to celebrate and elevate the achievements of African Americans. Negro History Week took root in cities across the country and by the 1960's had become a month-long celebration. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford was the first U.S. president to recognize Black History Month nationally and hailed it as an opportunity to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

From its beginnings, Dr. Woodson and his colleagues provided a theme for Negro History Week as a starting point for shared learning. Past themes have included Civilization: A World Achievement in 1928, Fulfilling America’s Promise: Black History Month in 1975, and this year's theme, The Crisis in Black Education. This February, we will share a series of posts examining the education system, and the crucial role education has played in the lives of African Americans. We hope these posts will increase awareness, spark conversations, encourage self-reflection and lead to deeper explorations about the education system’s responsibility to a fair and just society.

Rubicon intentionally affirms the struggle for social justice and parity by African Americans because it actively dismantles systemic racism.  When we invest in truth telling to change attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs; when we correct even one misrepresentation or misunderstanding of who contributed to, shaped, and built this nation;  when we shine a light on systems that contribute to and perpetuate the cycle of disparity, disenfranchisement, and unequal access; when we engage in these acts, we chip away at systemic racism -- which is inextricably tied to the root cause of poverty.

The voice of our community is invaluable, and we invite you to share your thoughts, observations, and inspirations on Black History Month with us on Facebook and Twitter

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