Opinion: I am Jovanka Beckles and this is why I am running for Assembly District 15

Beckles says she is part of a national movement to return government to serving the needs of real people.

Jovanka Beckles. Photo courtesy Jovanka Beckles

I am grateful for the opportunity to explain why I’m running to represent Assembly District 15, how I will represent the district, and that my record of public engagement shows district residents what they can expect of me in Sacramento.

I’m part of a national movement to return government to serving the needs of real people. I take no money from corporations and I will not permit expenditures on my behalf by corporate political action committees. (PACs) I will not be beholden to big-money contributors.

My mode of operation is collaborative, is grass-roots, is responsive to my constituents and to the wider communities of which we are part. I have a long record working locally to discover people’s needs, responding in a caring and creative way, and developing innovative solutions to our problems. From our industrial centers to our magnificent green spaces I have worked with all sorts of people on a multitude of issues. I honor East Bay residents’ perspectives and expertise. I believe that my people-first vision of government can benefit all of California.

While serving since 2010 as a City Council member, I’ve been working full-time as a Contra Costa County children’s mental health specialist. This involves coordinating care among many institutions to help children. My work for Richmond has been collaborative too, building support for innovative city governance. I’ll bring my coalition-building skills to Sacramento to address the state’s urgent needs.

I have a record of achievement contributing to Richmond’s resurgence on issues including housing, health, environment, education and labor, economic, and criminal justice. I spell them out in detail on my website platform presentation at <www.Jovanka.org>. I constantly learn from experts in various fields. For example, Stony Brook University economist Stephanie Kelton is informing many candidates in our national, people-powered movement.

In my platform, I call for the construction of large amounts of affordable housing and for protections from unfair residential displacement. I have embraced single-payer health coverage since 2011. I advocate passage of Senate Bill 100 for clean energy, a ban on fracking and new oil drilling. I’ve fought successful battles with Chevron and support banning the transit of coal through the Oakland port.

I call for fully funded public education from kindergarten through college. Proposition 13 must be reformed so that large property owners, particularly large corporations, pay their fair share of California’s upkeep. We need higher taxes on corporate profits and to discourage housing speculation, encourage public banking, and develop state-supported jobs programs for displaced workers while also protecting workers’ rights to organize and to earn a living wage. We must continue major changes to our justice system including an end to money bail and mass incarceration. Drug addiction should be addressed as a health, not criminal, problem.

Dan Kalb, Judy Appel, Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, Andy Katz, Cheryl Sudduth, Owen Poindexter, and Raquella Thaman, local elected officials and activists who also sought to represent AD15 during the June primary, have endorsed me. I am now tapping into their wisdom on how best to represent the East Bay. My work on behalf of working people has earned me endorsements from 17 labor organizations including nurses’ and teachers’ unions. My commitment to the environment has been validated by endorsements from the California Sierra Club and six other environmental organizations. My corporate-free stance is embraced by the national organizations Our Revolution and the Democratic Socialists of America.

A few examples of how I have pushed to improve Richmond residents’ quality of life include getting hundreds of new affordable housing units built in Richmond and voting to have 1% of new construction costs go to public art. In the last few weeks I helped a 92-year-old woman who lost her home to predatory lenders gain justice and assistance.

I fought a hospital closure in Richmond and continue to fight for Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. My advocacy of clean air for, and investment in, our community contributed to Richmond securing $90 million and significantly reduced emissions from Chevron as it embarked on a major expansion project.

I successfully helped fight, and then found funds, to keep Kennedy High School open. I joined with my council colleagues to create a program that gives grants to every Richmond graduate who wants to attend college.

I’m proud to have spearheaded the council’s enactment of a new minimum wage ordinance (Richmond will have a $15 minimum wage by January 2019); a “ban-the-box” ordinance to fight job and housing discrimination against previously incarcerated people; and the Richmond Municipal ID Program that brings security to Richmond’s immigrant population with support from Richmond Police Department.

I rescued a 35-year, black woman-owned business from collapse, pushed to bring the Covered California Call Center to Richmond, participated in efforts to bring Whole Foods Warehouse, Planet Fitness, Grocery Outlet, and Nutiva to town, and supported the joint venture Memorandum of Understanding to bring port jobs to Richmond. Under my initiative, city staff developed a citywide project labor agreement.

This is only a small selection of my accomplishments on the council.

Empathy, responsiveness, collaboration, experience, innovation, independence. I have degrees in psychology and business, and I love being with all kinds of people. My concern for people isn’t theoretical or top-down. It’s practical and bottom-up.

Government should begin by helping those most in need, level the playing field by maintaining fair rules, administration, and enforcement, and free people’s great and creative spirits while protecting our treasured environment. I’m running for Assembly to bring these values to Sacramento on behalf of Assembly District 15.

Jovanka Beckles is a Richmond City Councilwoman. She is running for AD 15.