Voices of Vallejo
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Raise Your Voice for a Change!
Updates and News
Voices Endorsements for the November Election Beginning with Mayor's Race
and the Contest to Represent District 1
Recommendations for the other two District elections will be coming soon.
Find your voting district on the City web site here...
Vessels of Vallejo Responds to Leaked Correspondence Between Richard Freedman and Christina Lee
The email by Rich Freedman of the Vallejo Times-Herald to the City’s Public Information Officer, Christina Lee, is a perfect example of the exact system of power in Vallejo we are trying to deconstruct. Why did Freedman feel comfortable sharing his racist—and completely incorrect theory—with the City’s Public Information Officer? Read here...
Factional Funny Business at the Democratic Central Committee Engineers a Do-Over Endorsement in the Mayor's Race
The incident description was filed with the California Democratic Party September 1 to challenge the actions of a faction on the Solano County Democratic Central Committee. The strong-arm maneuvering resulted in an endorsement of Hakeem Brown in the Vallejo mayor's race along with a $3,000 expenditure to print the Solano County endorsements (including Hakeem's) on the official CDP door hangers. Read the challenge letter here...
VMT Throws in the Towel and at long last the VMT/Orcem project is history. We'll leave up the legacy content for historical interest for awhile for those who missed some of the twists and turns.
Time to consolidate the win and move on to other pressing local issues.
And speaking of pressing local issues...
Michelle PellegrinPolice in cri
Police in crisis
June 2, 2019
An open letter to Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan, Vallejo City Council members, and City Manager Greg Nyhoff:
We are writing regarding the selection of the new police chief for the Vallejo Police Department.
As the city has noted and we cannot over emphasize, the Vallejo Police Department is in crisis. The rogue behavior of certain police officers and the culture that allows this behavior resulting in the deaths and terrorizing of citizens is unacceptable and must change. We need a police department that citizens and well meaning police officers can trust.
While we acknowledge the city’s effort to engage in a process that includes at least some of its citizens, it has started down a path that will not lead to robust change in the department.
We refer to hiring Howard Jordan as special advisor to Mr. Nyhoff with duties to head the search for the police chief as well as serve as lead on the city’s work with the Department of Justice Community Relations Service. As reported in the San Jose Mercury News, Mr. Jordan’s tenure as head of the Oakland Police Department was so unsuccessful that the federal overseer was planning to remove him. Under Mr. Jordan, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, “allowed a culture in which supervisors do not report officer misconduct, and complaints of police abuse do not prompt thorough investigations.”
As a failed police chief, Mr. Jordan embodies the very things the department needs to avoid in order to be successful.
Why wasn’t a police chief that had success at transforming a rogue police department hired as a consultant and why was the public excluded from this part of the process? This first step by the city, unless rescinded, could doom the entire process. Or more simply, you cannot expect a different outcome using the same methods.
Our suggestions to restore viability and to ensure success in this endeavor are:
• Rescind the hiring of Howard Jordan and hire a consultant who has had success in a transformational process in a rogue police department.
• Have transparency and public participation in all aspects of this process.
• All meetings are open and notes are published.
• Citizens serve on the selection committee.
• Clearly define the current problems in the police department.
• Clearly define what we want the police department to be.
• Use research methods on how to establish an effective police oversight system that closes gaps which do not allow for full accountability.
• Obtain input from police chiefs who have been successful turning around troubled departments (for example: Chris Magnus, the ex police chief of Richmond).
• Research best practices and successful models to determine what is necessary not only in a police chief but in the department to turn it around.
• Incorporate social justice reform and criminal justice reform.
• Establish a deliberate and adequate timeline for stakeholder/public input and research of best practices for turning around highly dysfunctional police departments.
The importance of a functioning, trusted, community-based police department cannot be underestimated for the well being of the community.
— Michelle Pellegrin/Voices of Vallejo
Of historical interest.....
The following material is left from the political battle over the VMT/Orcem project.
It will remain up for now for the edification of those who missed this years-long grass roots struggle.
A Vallejo resident talks about the decision in front of the Vallejo City Council which will impact the City and its most vulnerable residents for generations to come. This is a community in need of relief and real economic development, not additional environmental burdens piled on for the benefit a narrow set of special interests. Read More...
Slow on the Uptake
Elections have consequences - but it seems the founder and director of Ecocem, the international corporation trying to muscle a polluting slag cement plant onto the south Vallejo waterfront, has failed to grasp the message. In a December 13 interview Mr. O'Riain expressed his continued confidence that he still has the four Vallejo councilmember votes that he needs to overturn our planning commission’s decision to deny the permits on recommendation from City staff and consultants.
Some sixty community organizations have gone on record in opposition to the project, including the Chamber of Commerce and the local school board. The three-year public process to update the Vallejo general plan generated a preferred planning scenario that would change the zoning on the site to exclude heavy industry. That vision had to be shelved because the cement plant and marine terminal application has been pending even longer, blocking the community’s desire to create a continuous connected and accessible waterfront.
The State attorney general’s office just informed the city that the environmental justice analysis paid for by the applicants is flawed and misleading in its attempt to disguise the fact that these predominately low income minority neighborhoods already suffer some of the highest rates of pollution-related respiratory illness, heart disease, and low birth weight babies in the entire State. But Mr. O'Riain remains blithely confident in pursuing their strategy to pay for regional pollution offset credits and a mountain of technical analysis prepared by their hired mercenary consultants - none of which changes the fact that this site is not at all suitable for this kind of heavy industry. Apparently he feels that by simply completing a technically dense environmental document, he will give those councilmembers he propped up with campaign contributions enough political cover to vote for a development future that a majority of the public has loudly and consistently rejected.
He tells us in his interview with an Irish publication what he thinks is really the bottom line here - not dueling technical environmental arguments or an honest appraisal of impacts and alternatives, but rather who can influence a handful of local elected officials. "From a technical point of view there's a very thorough examination, not just of the project, but of alternatives to the project that has to go on. For us that's not a problem," says O'Riain. "In parallel with that you have a political process because the ultimate decision is taken by elected politicians.” That may not have been a problem for him before, but next year it will not be the same set of politicians in office as the past five years.
He apparently failed to notice that we just had an election in which the supporters of his project trailed the two candidates who have voiced opposition by wide margins, with the biggest project booster losing his seat on the Council. A savvy Vallejo politician with a finger to the wind will know that a vote to overturn the planning commission and approve this project would be ill-advised if they plan to face local voters again in the future. We will not forget.
The VMT/Orcem Environmental Impact Report has consistently failed to meet the fundamental purpose of California Environmental Quality Act to inform the public and decision-makers about project impacts. The EIR has lacked a stable comprehensive project description from the start, and examines only the initial stage of a multi-stage project. The report is fatally flawed and cannot serve as the basis for final certification and project approval. Read More...
Time to stick a fork in VMT/Orcem
They’re just about done. Vallejo residents again rejected this ill-conceived project when casting votes for Council candidates, and the California Department of Justice has now labeled the required environmental analysis “flawed and misleading.” The applicants will try to pretend the numerous errors and omissions cited by the State will be ‘fixed’ with a final revised modified adjusted and overhauled EIR, and ram through a lame duck approval of the project without the required recirculation. Not going to work. You can’t fix stupid, and it’s all over but the shouting.
The marine terminal and slag cement mill proposed for the south Vallejo waterfront at the mouth of the Napa River was the single most galvanizing issue this election cycle for City Council. Two of only four viable candidates for the three seats were incumbents elected in 2013 on the Jumpstart slate, a special interest PAC pushing the project. It became public knowledge that candidate Jess Malgapo served as chair of a secret ad hoc committee that colluded with the project applicants prior to any environmental review, and Pippin Dew-Costa joined him as a founding member of the MISEDC. Both voted to entertain the applicant’s appeal when the planning commission denied the permits on recommendation from City staff and consultants and with overwhelming opposition expressed by the public.
Mr. Malgapo led the vote total back in 2013, but in 2018 running as the Jumpstart MISEDC candidate he came in dead last among the four contenders and lost his seat. His secret committee colleague Ms. Dew-Costa came in next to last, which should serve as a warning to any candidates who believe that the big money Jumpstart backing affords them the luxury of ignoring the will of the people. It should also be obvious to donors by now that this PAC is really not very good at this. Their typical last minute glossy smear against incumbent Councilmember Miessner - a consistent vote against the project - failed when she came in second and beat their two incumbents. They endorsed Mr. Brown as their remaining choice, who was also promoted by project opponents following his eloquent speech at the planning commission hearing calling for environmental justice in south Vallejo, and he easily came out on top in total votes.
The State confirmed in their notice to the City that the Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA), prepared in conjunction with the CEQA requirement to inform the public of the true impacts of the project, is fundamentally flawed. They conclude that “it strains logic to state that there is not a minority community that will be disproportionately impacted.” The assertion by a VMT/Orcem spokesperson that these issues will be addressed in their final EIR in a matter of weeks sounds absurd when you read the scope of the State’s critique. Nothing in a final version of an environmental report can possibly render the site suitable for this kind of heavy industry.
According to the Department of Justice: “By ignoring the community’s existing burdens, the EJA artificially minimizes the potential impacts of the Project in light of those conditions, misleading the public and decision makers.” The DOJ points out that: “The local communities have an extraordinarily high rate of asthma (99th percentile) and cardiovascular disease (96th percentile), both conditions that are caused and exacerbated by air pollution. Babies born from this area are more likely than 83 percent of babies in the state to be born with a low birth weight (less than five and a half pounds). Mothers who are exposed to pollution are more likely to bear low birth weight babies, and low weight babies are more likely to die as infants or develop asthma and other chronic diseases than babies who weigh more.”
You can’t write an environmental impact report to “address” those concerns. The numerous and varied flaws pointed to by the State analysis really only scratch the surface of all the possible challenges that can be mounted with regard to the substance and process surrounding this application. The draft EIR was circulated for the public lacking even a stable project description. Any attempt to approve this project in a lame duck session by councilmembers who long ago declared and demonstrated their unmistakable bias will meet with an immediate legal challenge from organized community opposition. It’s over - time to politely thank the applicants for their interest in our fair city and show them the door.
Did MISEDC’s members know that they were in an unlawfully-formed, rogue ad-hoc committee? Likely not, but Councilmembers Malgapo, Dew-Costa and Verder-Aliga clearly did. Their use of their personal email accounts while conducting committee business is a good indication that they were trying to hide something. Read More....
Petroleum Coke piled on Chicago's south side
Young people in Napa viewed from an approaching train engine.
Read the text of the letter here...
The VMT project description specifies returning the site to industrial use as one of its main objectives. The applicants want to convince us we should jump on a rickety wagon from the middle of the last century that has nearly rolled to a standstill Read More...
The long-term public visioning process for the south Vallejo waterfront has been hijacked by private interests pushing polluting heavy industry. Read More...
The reasonable and safe course of action for the City Council now will be to affirm the decision of the Planning Commission to deny the VMT/Orcem permit applications.
Claims by the applicant that the raw materials they would mill for "green cement" on our waterfront are safe fail to hold up to critical examination. Let's not allow short term financial crises and private sector opportunism to dictate the future character of our community and cripple our public planning process for decades to come. Read More...
It’s an old trick. Get people interested in something attractive and then when it’s not available try and sell them on something more expensive. That’s just what’s happened with the controversial VMT/Orcem project proposed for the south Vallejo waterfront. Read More...
The applicants trot out one of the Economic Development Plan’s ten stated goals, to “make Vallejo the Bay Area’s premier site for manufacturing," in an effort to convince us they fit into an established development strategy. But the text that follows tells us that the proposed Orcem project would be the wrong kind of manufacturing in the wrong place. Read More....
Eben Fodor is a professional community planning consultant and noted author. His take on all those promised economic benefits? "...it is difficult to identify any significant,direct economic benefit that the Orcem/VMT project will have for the residents and economy of Vallejo beyond creating a small number of jobs at the cement factory. Even assuming that all the cement factory jobs were to go to local residents, the overall economic impact appears to be so small as to be virtually insignificant and undetectable in a city-wide context."
South Mare Island viewed from VMT site
A revised VMT/Orcem project Environmental Impact Report fails to inform the public about project alternatives that would eliminate significant unavoidable impacts.
VMT/Orcem - A Half-baked Project
The draft EIR circulated for comment no longer describes the project in a meaningful way that would allow the public to evaluate what living with it would mean over the next sixty five years. That fundamental change compels a new document.
Internal communications reflect an early enthusiastic commitment by members of the lead agency to the VMT/Orcem project in the absence of any information regarding the potential negative environmental impacts. The willingness of lead agency members to ignore City policy, commandeer public resources in support of a private initiative, repeatedly violate the noninterference clause in the City Charter, and betray the public trust in the open and participatory function of local government all serve to indicate an extreme and unacceptable level of bias. Read More...
The Vallejo City Council will hear an appeal in the near future of the Planning Commission decision to deny the permits for a proposed marine terminal and blast furnace slag cement mill on the waterfront. A councilmember says she has been told by a friend who is an expert in the field that it would have no negative impacts on the Napa River. The real experts do not agree.