That’s not to say the local newspaper uses racist language, such as spoken by Livermore Commissioner John Stein in an April 20th Planning Meeting, resulting in calls for his resignation. Neither is this a personal indictment of the paper’s owner, Joan Seppala, whom I’ve never met. However, her newspaper promotes political campaigns that materially harm underprivileged communities, block working-class jobs, and reinforce structural inequality.
Joan Seppala not only owns The Independent but also donates to political action groups such as Save North Livermore and Save Livermore Downtown. Her paper features paid ads from these groups but also unpaid coverage. The April 14th issue included as a top story “Save Livermore Downtown Presents Findings for Eden Housing Downtown Alternative,” with multiple full pages. This article includes no byline and is not journalism. It’s propaganda, which Joan Seppala distributes to all Livermore residents whether they ask for it or not. Another top story in the April 22nd issue, “Groups File Suit Following Approval of Aramis Project”, featured the link to donate to support the lawsuit filed by Save North Livermore against a local solar plant.
Both these campaigns have a few elements in common. They advance unrealistic alternatives while blocking real solutions that would help underserved and working-class communities. Save North Livermore calls for solar panels on top of roofs and parking lots, which are twice as expensive and less practical as those in the Aramis Project; the solar farm also includes batteries that can serve power for Alameda County in peak hours. Blocking the Aramis Project will force us to continue to rely on dirty energy generated in Hayward, polluting a region with more working-class and people of color. The lawsuit against Aramis Project also keeps local union workers from much-needed employment.
Save Livermore Downtown presents a fantastical alternative to the current Eden proposal that would provide affordable housing. The alternative plan has none of the $14 million funding already secured from the county and has no guarantee of getting any. If the Eden proposal is voted down, affordable housing in Livermore may be delayed by years.
On the face of it, denying affordable housing to Livermore’s workers is cruel. People should have the opportunity to live where they work. Add the selective exploitation and impoverishment of people of color over generations, and denying affordable housing is not only classist but racist.
Save Livermore Downtown disparages and undermines that affordable housing, while seeming to still advocate for it. In both campaigns The Independent provides the moral cover to oppose something that would help the working class and people of color. That moral high ground is not something taken advantage of by all the Livermore residents who commented at the April 20th planning meeting. Affordable housing was equated with crime and other racially charged language, the worst of which was when Commissioner Stein called it a “ghetto.”
Racism is a problem in the predominately white Livermore, and The Independent is part of that problem.
-- Alan Marling, livermore resident