By Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers, Law Center Director of Legal Education
When I'm not hosting Legal Cafes and planning teach-ins for the Law Center, I spend my free time as an active member of the Community Democracy Project! (CDP is an all-volunteer campaign working to turn the power structure right-side up by putting the people of Oakland in charge of the city budget.)
We partnered with CDP because we share the belief that everyone can be a policy maker!
The problem is that so many folks are too intimidated to get involved in politics. That's why we hosted another Policy Cafe last month. CDP members Victoria Yu and Kyle Donnelly gave a presentation on how to run a local ballot initiative campaign and shared their vision to amend the city charter to bring participatory budgeting to Oakland.
Check out the video recordings of the Policy Cafe presentation below!
Part 1:Read more
By Charles W. Thurston of CleanTechnica
Community solar projects are sweeping the nation, enabling individuals to benefit from solar energy even if they don’t have panels on their house or apartment building. The financial design of a community solar project may vary widely, however, which can make or break any savings that a system could yield for the consumer.
One model that has recently emerged in Oakland is that of a member-owned cooperative that shares a residential installation and includes both savings and investment dividends. This model, which can stretch to include a variety of installations within the coop, could help accelerate community solar projects in dense urban areas, where siting larger commercial-scale PV systems can be problematic.
Read the full article here.
(Originally published on April 11, 2019.)
By Chris Tittle, Law Center Director of Organizational Resilience
In March 2018, several of us sat in a rooftop garden overlooking downtown Oakland. As we discussed the future of the region, the city skyline suddenly appeared as a timeline, revealing the past and future imaginations of developers, city planners, and investors. We could literally see the concrete visions of developers from 100 years ago towering next to the visions of today’s developers unfolding before our very eyes. Taken together, these buildings represented much more than just a place to work or sleep, but an idea about how life should be lived and who the city is for. Undoubtedly, these people have a long-term vision for this city -- and their visions are backed by capital and political power.
By Sue Bennett and Chris Tittle, Co-directors of the Law Center's Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits Program
On March 27-29, 2019 the Law Center and an amazing team of facilitators and co-organizers hosted the second Nonprofit Democracy Network: Tools for Collective Self-Governance gathering. Over three days at the Omni Commons in Oakland, 60 people from 26 social justice organizations from around the country dove deep into the practices, structures, relationships, and cultures of workplace democracy.Read more
Last month Sustainable Economies Law Center energized over thirty people to run on behalf of our organization at the Oakland Running Festival. Our ‘Workers Run Oakland’ campaign raised over $12,000 for workplace democracy, which enabled us to support our Solidarity Fund Recipient, Bay Area Black Worker Center, with ~$600.
Our goal was to raise awareness about the legal education, advocacy, research, and advice the Law Center provides for community members at the frontlines of worker cooperatives and worker self-directed nonprofits...and have fun doing it! To spread our vision for a worker-run Oakland, we hosted a bunch of events to celebrate all of the wonderful workers we know:
By Janelle Orsi, Law Center Executive Director & Co-Founder
Our retirement savings hold transformative potential if we can get our pool of capital out of Wall Street and into our communities. Along with our partners at LIFT Economy and author Michael Shuman, we’re hatching a plan to channel that capital into local communities by 2020. Aside from developing and sharing resources on self-directed retirement savings, we’re aiming to build a group of 500 people ready to turn their nest eggs into a force for good. A group of that size can bargain with plan providers and custodians for lower fees and other benefits that smooth the path to local investing. Plus, we can collectively target our investments for deeper impact!
By Denise Fairchild & Anthony Giancatarino of The Progressive
Excerpt: The debate over the Green New Deal is growing more intense, but generating more heat than light. In some quarters, there is outright hysteria. (“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is coming for your hamburgers!”) But there is also a misperception across the political spectrum that the transition to green energy requires top-down, centralized control, as Mitch McConnell recently claimed.
...For example, in nearby Oakland, the People Power Solar Cooperative has created a community-owned solar project where residents pay less than the utility rate for electricity. Additional cost savings are reinvested into new cooperative energy projects.
Read the full article here.
(Originally published April 3, 2019.)
The 7 kW installation is a culmination of the cooperative’s work to develop a model for solar development that focuses on building community wealth and fostering long-term community ownership.
People Power Solar Cooperative announced the construction of its first solar project in Oakland on March 21, piloting a new model for community-owned energy in California. The residential-sized 7 kW project is financed entirely by small investments from over 50 local community members and leaders -- the cooperative’s Owners -- who have each purchased up to ten $100 shares of People Power. It is the first residential energy project in California to be owned by members of the broader community, and not municipally-owned, as far as the cooperative knows. The model is simple: the cooperative owns the project and will sell power to the homeowner and tenants at a rate lower than PG&E’s. The cooperative will, in turn, pay small dividends to the Owners who helped finance the project. People Power encourages anyone to sign up to learn more and get involved at peoplepowersolar.org/get-involved.Read more
Excerpt: There is a group in the United States that is changing laws to reorganize the inequality structure created by today's capitalism. The Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland, California.
Read the full news article, our first coverage by international media, here!
(Originally published on March 20, 2019.)Read more
By Peter Hagerty of East Bay Times
Excerpt: ASHLAND — Leave Oakland’s Fruitvale District and travel south along East 14th Street beyond San Leandro, and food choices get limited to what’s available from a drive-through or inside a convenience store. That’s about to change in a big way. The Ashland Market & Cafe, a corner spot within an affordable apartment complex, will bring healthier meals to the low-income neighborhood while serving as an “incubator” for four up-and-coming food businesses at the same time.
...The space also will host community events, such as the “Pop-Up Legal Cafe” from 5 to 7:30 p.m. April 11, when Oakland’s Sustainable Economies Law Center will offer a donation-based legal clinic.
Read the full article here.
(Originally published on March 19, 2019.)
By Jean Tepperman of East Bay Express
Excerpt: Andrea Hurd of Mariposa Gardening was nowhere near retirement when she decided a few years ago to convert her business to a worker cooperative. She had grown her company and developed her own style of ecological garden design. "As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I felt a huge passion for building a larger company," she recalled. But at the same time, she didn't want to become a full-time business manager like many successful contractors. Now, as a worker-owner of the Mariposa Gardening Cooperative, she shares management and gardening with other worker-owners.
Read the full article here.
(Originally published March 6, 2019.)
Yesterday, the Sustainable Economies Law Center submitted a cartoon comment-letter on behalf of 29 organizations to CalRecycle (the CA Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery). CalRecycle has drafted regulations to implement SB 1383, a law mandating reduction of methane emissions through the diversion of organic material from landfills. Community organizations spoke up because there is a high risk that the new rules will create barriers for people doing small-scale composting. Already, many California farmers, gardeners, and composters are facing insurmountable legal barriers to their composting operations, so this letter asks CalRecycle to carve out protections for people transporting organic material to small compost sites, farms, or compost sites operated by nonprofits.
For more background on the issues, here's a short (and kinda silly) video called "A Scary Carrot Story."
Other organizations that signed the letter included:
- California FarmLink
- Northern California Recycling Association
- Berkeley Climate Action Coalition
- Del Norte and Tribal Lands Community Food Council
- San Francisco Permaculture Guild
- Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA)
- Oakland Food Policy Council
- Common Compost
- Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE)
- BioFuel Oasis
- Planting Justice
- Slow Food California
- Center for Food Safety
- Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project
- The Gill Tract Farm
- Ecology Center
- Epic Renewal
- RSF Social Finance
- Richmond Grows Seed Library
- Northern California Land Trust
- Greywater Action
- ReSoil Sacramento (Green Restaurant Association of Sacramento)
- Everfux Technologies
- Community Alliance with Family Farmers
- Phat Beets Produce
- Urban Sprouts
- Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
- The Butterfly Movement
- And a long list of individuals named in the letter
BERKELEY, CA (February 27, 2019) — Last night, Berkeley City Council unanimously adopted a set of recommendations provided by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (Law Center) and a coalition of worker coop members and advocates. In doing so, Berkeley became a national leader in supporting worker cooperative businesses.
Supporters wore the color green to signify how worker cooperatives put people and planet above profit. (Represented: Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, Councilmembers Kate Harrison and Sophie Hahn, and members of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, Project Equity, Network of Bay Area Cooperatives, Democracy at Work Institute, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and worker cooperative members and advocates.)Read more
BERKELEY, CA (January 25, 2019) — In what the Bay Area worker cooperative community considers a milestone moment for the movement, the Berkeley City Council is slated to discuss the Office of Economic Development’s (OED) efforts to support worker-owned cooperative businesses and related recommendations by the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Among the recommendations is a proposal to make Berkeley the first city in the nation to commit to providing city procurement incentives to worker cooperatives and to tailor its revolving loan fund to the needs of worker cooperatives and businesses converting to cooperative ownership.
On Tuesday, February 26, Berkeley OED staff will present its worker cooperative program suggestions at a Berkeley City Council meeting. At the meeting, Berkeley council members will have the opportunity to push for bolder commitments, such as additional benchmarks, further study, or for staff to return to Council with supplemental reporting. Organizers expect that 50-100 members of the worker cooperative community will be in attendance at the Council meeting to show support for the worker cooperative proposal.Read more
Did you commit to reading more books as your new year’s resolution but don't know where to start? As always, we're here to help! Check out these books recommended by Law Center staff members Tia, Subin, Sue, and Chris:
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Recommended by Tia: This was published in 2017 but I read it last year for a book club dedicated to reading works by women of color, so I'm gonna go ahead and choose this one. One of the characters in the book is an artist, cleaning lady, and single mom who may or may not be involved in a crime of arson. The book deals with issues ranging from high school pranks to parenting in a “color-blind” community where all dolls are white.
Recommended by Subin: I love this book. It’s filled with inspiring stories of on-the-ground solutions to build an inclusive clean energy economy. It’s like a recipe book for equitable and transformative approaches to renewable energy, written by community leaders around the country. Read it if you’re wondering if there’s any hope in the struggle to transition away from our extractive dirty energy economy. Not a bad way to start the year.
Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
Recommended by Sue: I listened to this book by Anand Giridharadas cuz I knew I might not get around to reading it-and wow i’m glad i did. The main point is that the “philanthropists” both modern and historical are claiming they have the solutions to the world problems that they themselves have created. WE and the author know, the solutions they fund will never radically change our society. From the book’s website: “Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can–except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it.” Nothing many of us don’t already know but I enjoyed the way the book provided the information.
Recommended by Chris: Our friends and comrades at Cooperation Jackson published this critical yet inspiring look at the practical and theoretical basis for building land-based solidarity economies. For those searching for a comprehensive strategy for radical transformation that is not afraid of the future nor shy about our past, Jackson Rising is essential reading.
So Lucky by Nicola Griffith
Recommended by Sue: This novel, by one of my favorite authors is a quick, but not an easy read...should be required reading, particularly for those of us who are currently non-disabled.