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John Russo Exposed Insurance Racism, Caltrans Blight - From The Oakland Post

Here's an excerpt, but click the title of this post to read the full article.:

Oakland City Attorney John Russo said communities of color were very much a part of two issues his office handled lately: liability insurance rates tied to zip codes, and the city's agreement with Caltrans to remove blight.

Russo said he supports a plan by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi to ask insurance companies to stop relying on where persons live when rates are set for policies.

And, he said, it took the city filing a lawsuit to get Caltrans to step up and agree to clean up its properties many of which were in minority communities in East and West Oakland.

Dressed in a white shirt, blue slacks and sneakers, Russo was playing Dad as his two small sons played a Madden video game football in his City Hall office where there's a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. on a wall and a small figurine of another one of Russo's heroes: former New York Knicks star Willis Reed.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Russo said: "I have been concerned about redlining since 1979." Redlining is the practice of discrimination by financial institutions when they set rates for consumers.

Speaking in a conference room, Russo, a former Oakland City Councilmember and now a candidate for the 16th State Assembly seat, said fair insurance rates and blight abatement are important for Oaklanders.

Seventeen years ago when the voters approved Prop. 103, he said, the insurance industry spent tens of millions of dollars to get voters to vote no.

"(The voters said) your driving record, how far you drive, and how many years you've been driving were the most important factors. Not where you live. Zip code is a proxy for race... it allows insurance companies to write higher premiums in urban areas."...
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