Bea Roberson: Who is CBE? Why are They Here?

blogimage.jpgI must quote Councilperson Booze, “Why do they come to Richmond? Because it is easy!”  Because we let them.

Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) has been speaking at our city council meetings, protesting, and generally telling citizens of Richmond how to run our city. But who are they?

CBE’s website says that the organization “focuses its work…in poor communities and neighborhoods where people of color are the majority.”  My own online research shows that Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) began in Chicago during the 1970s. Surpised?  Me too. They often present themselves as a local grassroots coalition. They only later decided to extend their influence to California.

It appears that they work in both Northern and Southern California, where they go around telling communities how to legislate on environmental issues. They are doing this in Vernon, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Alhambra, and Huntington Park in addition to Richmond. But they aren’t from these communities, either.

CBE is not a grassroots Richmond organization. Not a single member of their board of directors currently resides in Richmond. In fact, they have three offices located in Huntington Park, Wilmington, and Oakland respectively. It would appear our city isn’t even important enough to them to have a home office. Their current executive director is based in Southern California. However, it appears that they really don’t need an office here because some of our elected officials are so gullible that they swallow everything that they feed them. 

Looking at the groups 2011 financial statements, CBE seems a little too well funded to be the Richmond “grassroots” coalition they often purport to be as well. They paid the executive director $89,263 dollars that year. Not very many “grassroots” organizations I know can pay their staff that much. The organization spent $82,561 on travel alone in 2011, paying for their staff to travel up and down the state.  Perhaps even more troubling is they spent $96, 593 dollars on outside “consultants.” CBE appears to be a well-funded statewide group with a clear agenda who specializes in getting their environmental agenda enacted at the local level.  They are just interested in THEIR AGENDA, no matter if there is any truth to what they are saying.  If they were truly interested in the health and environment of Richmond, they would be also talking about the biggest polluters in Richmond, DIESEL TRUCKS AND TRAINS.  The Air Quality Board maintains that trucks & trains are responsible for 85% of Richmond’s pollution. 

There is nothing wrong with CBE having a fierce environmental agenda. They claim to want to protect communities from pollution. As long as they are honest about who they are and reveal their clear bias towards a certain result.

There is a problem, however, when this group claims to speak on behalf of Richmond or have their “senior scientist” claim to give impartial information. They list a lawsuit they helped file against Chevron on behalf of Richmond residents that resulted in delays on Chevron Modernization as a victory on their website. Now that the new EIR mandated by the lawsuit has been completed, CBE is still against moving forward. CBE clearly doesn’t care what the citizens of Richmond think is best for Richmond, our economy, working people, or our fiscal stability. They want to stop ANY projects from moving forward so they can claim victories over corporations and justify their own existence to their funders.

 Who is CBE? They are many things, but make no mistake, THEY ARE NOT ADVOCATES for the residents and don’t care what Richmond residents think is best. They are not a local group. They are not engaging in genuine dialogue with Richmond residents or businesses located here.  They are pushing their own ideas about how Richmond and other cities around the state should conduct business.

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