02 Sep Q&A: Claudia Jimenez Wants to Give Residents ‘More Power’
Interview, Denis Perez-Bravo
Name: Claudia Jimenez
Occupation: Community Organizer at FowardChange
Public Service: “Invest in People not Prison” campaign organizer; Solano Playlot neighborhood parent committee; proponent of rent control ballot measure
Highest Education: Master of Landscape Architecture with emphasis in environmental planning – UC Berkeley; Licensed Architect in Colombia
Richmond Pulse: Why are you running for City Council?
Claudia Jimenez: I am running for the City Council because I have been working with the community for many, many years. The work I’ve been doing has been to look at the problems and what the solutions are. Sometimes, it’s drafting policies and a lot of advocacy to get these policies passed. We need leaders that are supporting the community, that are the voice of the community. A vote for me is not just for Claudia Jimenez but for everybody in the city, particularly those marginalized by racial and economic injustice. We need people that have bold solutions and push the envelope to make sure the community gets what it deserves.
RP: What are the two most pressing issues in the city, and what should be done about them?
CJ: Immediately, we make sure people are not losing their homes because they can’t pay their rent or mortgage and small businesses won’t close because they are also not able to pay. Second is we make sure we have a responsible, effective budget and look at local tax revenue and close the gap.
Solution for the first one is not just a moratorium but looking at how the city can advocate at the county and state level and support those who are not able to pay and create programs that support renters and homeowners.
[For small businesses], the city can help talk to the landlords, the banks, making sure there is good negotiation. We need to have a plan for economically vibrant business corridors — San Pablo, 23rd Street and Macdonald — that support small businesses, support Black and Brown small business owners.
In my priorities, we will have a gross receipt tax that the City Council put on the ballot. I will be campaigning in support of the gross receipt tax, which will be a fair taxation where the wealthiest people in the city will pay more. And we need to campaign for Proposition 15, the Schools and Communities First Initiative, which will bring almost $22 million to Richmond.
RP: What is the most pressing issue in your district and how should it be addressed?
CJ: Trying to have an economic corridor that attracts small business is one key issue, but [the] other key issue is making sure parks are well-maintained and that we build more open space for the youth. Particularly [amid] COVID-19, we need more open space for the kids. When I moved here, I joined a group of moms to rebuild Solano Playlot. We convinced the city to put money and resources to rebuild the park. This is a model we can use with the city and the neighborhood council because there are already people that are involved. We need to make sure we give them more power and more say in local projects and local needs.
RP: How can the city help residents and businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic and then recover?
CJ: There are ideas and initiatives other cities are doing. Small businesses need to adjust to the health restrictions. I will take action to make businesses viable [with] the use of the sidewalk or parts of the street for outdoor eating. The city can help the business apply for funds and resources that will help their recovery.
RP: What changes, if any, to policing would best serve the community?
CJ: Richmond has been ahead in the nation in reimagining public safety. We can address the underlying causes of crime and racism, but we need more. I am working [with] Reimagining Public Safety, [which] includes many community organizations, police commissioners, [on] three things. One, is what are the alternatives of policing. This is what Bisa French said: We are asking the police to do many things, to answer [calls about] mental health, substance abuse, neighborhood dispute and even fireworks.
We are putting everything on the police. We have to look at creating restorative emergency response that is in nonviolent. In some substance abuse and mental health cases, we need someone that knows how to deescalate. We need to continue making the police more accountable. Strengthening the Community Police Review Commission is very important because these bodies are in charge of receiving complaints about police and addressing this conduct, but right now they can only investigate three kinds of police misconduct. What we want is that this body can investigate every case [where] the police are complained about.
RP: Why are you the best person to represent your district?
CJ: I am a mom. I am an immigrant from Colombia. I speak the language, Spanish, [that] 35% of my constituents speak. There are no women and no Latinas on the City Council who can relate to the immigrant experience. But more than that, it is my experience and my record of work that has improved the lives of residents in Richmond. Working at the county level to advocate for reallocation of funds to serve the community — $5.2 million that led to creating the Re-Entry Success Center in Richmond and another in East County. I committed to not receiving corporate or developer contributions or police union contributions so I can be honest and make the decisions for my city and for the residents.