Keeping my eyes on the prize

by Jovanka Beckles

Save-DMC-rally-073014-by-NUHW, Keeping my eyes on the prize, Local News & Views
Hundreds have been marching and rallying to save DMC, Doctors Medical Center, which treated 12,000 of the 15,000 people in Richmond hospitalized by the Chevron refinery explosion in August 2012. – Photo: NUHW

I have recently been the target of attacks from the Chevron-run Richmond Standard and BAPAC (Black American Political Action Committee), a conservative Black organization in Richmond, California, that historically sides with corporate and developer interests over the best interests of the people.

As an elected official who accepts no corporate contributions, I serve and am beholden only to the people of Richmond. As a public official who is running for re-election in order to continue the groundbreaking progressive work we have begun in our community, I must dedicate my time and energy to what is most important.

Our critical transformational work to bring about equity and social justice for those who call Richmond home threatens the people who have made a living selling Richmond’s interests off to the highest bidder, often with tragic consequences. I cannot and will not respond to every lie and intentional distortion that is published and promoted by my adversaries to disparage me. My positions and policy record must be my focus. I trust the voters are paying attention.

One of the proudest moments in serving our community has been raising the minimum wage in Richmond. If you are a minimum wage worker in California, you may have noticed that you’ve been making a dollar more an hour. In Richmond, you’ll receive another raise come the first of January.

Over the next four years, you’ll actually be getting $4 an hour more than you do today! And, every year after that, you’ll get a raise to keep up with the cost of living!

A May 2014 Richmond City Council meeting agenda staff report tells us something we already know. Richmond workers are struggling to make a livable wage. It also suggests we will see millions in increased revenue as their wages increase.

But, most important, we are taking concrete steps to move working people out of poverty. To put things in perspective, in just four years, the local minimum wage will move full time workers with a family size of three out of poverty. This is a significant reality for those families currently living below the poverty line.

Jovanka-Beckles-smile-shades1, Keeping my eyes on the prize, Local News & Views
Richmond City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles

In addition to improving our economy by raising the minimum wage, I sponsored our Ban the Box ordinance to fight discrimination against the formerly incarcerated, who must be given opportunities to earn a living. I fought to keep Doctors Hospital open. I helped build new playgrounds for our children and families and I advocated for improved lighting to increase our public safety. For those with a serious interest in reviewing my record, one only need review my web site or the public record.

My opponents who vociferously attack me with fabrications and distortions have no program and no vision of their own. They attack me regardless of the issue, occasionally even when we agree and vote the same way!

Recently, having nothing of substance to use, they chose to distort a Facebook post that I wrote about the Richmond Police Officers Association (RPOA). The RPOA is an organization that has taken every opportunity in each election in which I have been a candidate to take pot shots at me.

My response then was simple and I repeat it here: “The writer of the article knowingly takes quotes and actions out of context. I have been a strong supporter of the Richmond police who have done a great job with community policing. The Richmond Police Officers Association, however, does not reflect the views of most of the great police officers in Richmond. The RPOA is famous for its dirty hit pieces in every election.”

As the elections approach, I imagine there will be more attacks over manufactured controversies. As always, I continue to keep my eyes on the prize and work for the people and a better Richmond.

Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, also a member of the Richmond City Council, works full time as a mental health specialist for Contra Costa County. She was born in Panama City, where she grew up in a bilingual, multicultural household. Her parents moved to the United States in1972, and she has lived in Richmond for the last 13 years. She can be reached at