IEB’s Last Meeting With Sean

On October 24, 2018 Indivisible East Bay had our last-ever meeting with Senator Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd. It was also our last office visit with the Senator’s staff before the 2018 midterm elections, so it could possibly also be our last-ever Feinstein meeting – but as of this writing, that’s unlikely given her lead in the polls. Feinstein has given no indication yet on who will replace Sean as state director.

Our first topic was immigration. We followed up on Sen. Feinstein’s recent commitment to visit the detention facilities in California where separated kids are being held; Sean said she plans to make that visit soon after the election. Feinstein has also said that a comprehensive immigration reform bill is one of her priorities for the next Congress, especially if the Democrats win. We gave a list of priorities for such a bill, including legal status for immigrants, protection for asylum seekers, and less leeway for the executive branch to make the system harsher and more restrictive. We also had in our group an advocate for help for a very specific population: adults who were adopted from foreign countries as children, but who never became citizens because something went wrong with their paperwork, meaning they are now technically unauthorized immigrants and could be subject to deportation. Our advocate was the wife of such a person, following up on a request she had made at a previous meeting for Sen. Feinstein to look into this issue. Sean assured us that she had, but that they had not been able to find a way to move legislation forward under this Congress. He confirmed that she will continue to try, and may include it in comprehensive reform.

We asked what we could do to help the senator fight the terrible judges that the president nominated for California seats on the 9th Circuit. Senator Chuck Grassley scheduled a so-called hearing for these nominees while the Senate is away on recess – a farce of an event attended by up to two Republican senators who asked approximately zero questions. Sean said that Sen. Feinstein is certain that the way this happened was intended as revenge for what Republicans perceive as her role in “ruining” the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. As for what we can do to help, Sean said that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are still strategizing, and that, of course, a lot depends on who wins the Senate in next week’s elections. He suggested raising awareness of the red flags in the judges’ records, writing letters to the editors of newspapers, and generally making it clear that California does not support these nominees.

We also discussed the United States’ shameful role in the war in Yemen and on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; we found, not surprisingly, that we are on the same page as Sen. Feinstein, who has called abandoning the treaty a “strategic mistake.” Even if the administration tries to withdraw from the formal treaty, Sen. Feinstein is committed to enforcing its terms by way of her role on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

And we talked about creating a fair economy and protecting our social services. A theme of that conversation was the GOP’s false promises about its economic policy, its lies about looking out for working people who are struggling to get ahead, and its double-talk about everything from Social Security to pre-existing conditions. We told Sean that sometimes Sen. Feinstein’s moderate tone and abiding belief that Republicans will be reasonable “when push comes to shove” make some of us worry that she is falling for their lies and will be fooled into making compromises in exchange for empty words.

We also asked that the senator take the administration’s recent attack on trans people as an opportunity for a renewed push to pass the Equality Act. This bill amends existing civil rights law and defines sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs or activities.

And we asked that Sen. Feinstein look at the evidence that has come out on SESTA-FOSTA, an anti-sex trafficking bill she and Sen. Harris voted for. Although the bill was intended to prevent human trafficking and forced sex work, there are serious concerns that it has actually further endangered the populations that are vulnerable to those threats.

IEB Feinstein office visit. Photo credit: Catya de Neergaard

If Sean was sorry to be seeing the last of what he has called the “most demanding Indivisible group in California,” he didn’t show it. As for us, while we may not have shed tears at parting either, we do think he has set a high for bar his replacement as a responsive and informative representative for Senator Feinstein.

Photographs by Catya de Neergaard

Feinstein and de León Miss Opportunity for Meaningful Political Dialogue

They had one public conversation. And it was … not much.

The joint appearance of U.S. Senate candidates Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) on October 17, 2018 – their only joint appearance answering questions before the midterm elections – was nothing so much as a stack of missed opportunities. De León missed an opportunity to make news and bring some much-needed excitement and attention to his candidacy. Feinstein missed an opportunity to create a powerful call to action around flipping Congress and giving the Democrats back some real power in Washington. The PPIC missed an opportunity to expose new information about these candidates. The moderator missed an opportunity to ask creative, detailed, or, frankly, interesting questions. The audience was denied an opportunity to engage with their future senator. And everyone missed out on what could have been a productive and informative exchange of ideas.

The event was particularly disappointing compared to Feinstein’s most recent appearance at the PPIC in February 2017, when a lively audience called out questions and held up green/red agree/disagree signs — and Feinstein encouraged us. She responded to questions and engaged in back and forth with what she called the “red card geniuses.” It was a rare opportunity to make a real connection between constituents and representative and all were happy to stay late for additional discussion. This time, when de León half-heartedly declared that he would like to keep going, you could almost hear those in the room scream “please no!” in their heads.

The lack of interest was perhaps baked in to the event. It was not, everyone stressed, a debate. The public didn’t get to interact with the candidates: The main room with the speakers was only open to special invited guests and the media, with the general public seated in an annex area, watching the talk on a large screen. The audience was asked not to speak up or even clap. Index cards were provided upon request, but the organizers made no effort to collect audience questions and the moderator didn’t ask for them.

The candidates didn’t seem very energized, and the lack of enthusiasm was catching. People’s eyes glazed over, or they checked their phones as the candidates repeated bland talking points. De León complained about Washington’s inaction, but didn’t offer a real plan to change it. Feinstein explained that the reason for inaction was that the Democrats lack the votes to pass anything, but failed to use that effectively as a call for Californians to do the work to elect Democrats in three weeks.

Each candidate in their own way showed an all too familiar lack of respect or appreciation for the contributions grassroots activists like us have made to the huge political fights of the past few years. Feinstein remarked that “you can march, you can filibuster, you can talk all night — it doesn’t change anything,” while de León spoke of how he made a decision to help lead the resistance — not how he was chosen. Why should we, who are working so hard, vote for them?

Good question. Neither candidate so much as asked for our votes. They didn’t explicitly use those words; it didn’t even feel like they were trying to convince us. Rather, it seemed like they both felt entitled to our support: Feinstein due to her status and years of service, de León due to his palpable presence. And that dynamic added to the overall feeling that this “conversation” was a pointless charade and a missed opportunity for all involved. Indeed, it all felt, as Feinstein said in another context, rather like “hitting your head against a concrete wall.”

Still, It wasn’t a complete waste of an hour; there were a couple of tidbits of new information that came out of the conversation that will be of interest to Indivisible East Bay members:

  • Feinstein committed to visit the California facilities where separated migrant children are being detained, something we have been asking her to do ever since Senator Merkley made his first visit in June.
  • De León alluded vaguely to the need to cut military spending by ending so many of the US’s eternal undeclared wars, another IEB priority.
  • Feinstein said clearly that she supports further investigation of Brett Kavanaugh even now that he has been confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Watch the video here.

 

 

Tracking down Senator Feinstein

On the morning of August 11, 2018, IEB members tracked down Senator Dianne Feinstein at a campaign office-warming for San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani. It was a very cozy event of the kind Sen. Feinstein clearly (and understandably) prefers to open town halls — though during her remarks she did say something about envying Supervisor Stefani’s ability to get out and meet her constituents in her small district, compared to a whole state. That was a little galling from someone whom we’ve barely seen try to meet with the general public.

But the event was also kind of sweet in its way. Along with Sen. Feinstein, several SF women politicians came out to support Supervisor Stefani, including Mayor London Breed and State Treasurer Candidate Fiona Ma. Senator Feinstein led the crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday Your Honor the Mayor” and all of the younger women appeared genuinely starstruck to be there with one of their role models, whom a couple of them jokingly compared to Taylor Swift. Certainly, it was heartwarming to see this group of women come together to support each other and marvel at how much has changed — and how much has stayed the same — since Sen. Feinstein was the second woman (first elected) on the SF Board of Supervisors.

But the real reason we were there was to talk to Sen. Feinstein about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. We politely cornered her near the exit, shook her hand, and thanked her for everything she was doing, all her letters and tweets. We told her we were also working hard to fight the Kavanaugh nomination. As she edged away up the stairs, we told her we wanted to see action from the Democrats. She stopped, turned back to us and said that they would take action, but that we couldn’t win. As we looked at her, dismayed, she reframed the statement: Democrats in the Senate need Republicans to vote with them, and that to get that, we probably need some new information to come out. We agreed and told her we were working on both of those things too.

It’s clear that she hasn’t given up, and that she will keep up the fight to the best of her ability no matter what, but it’s also clear that she needs our calls and encouragement to build her strength and resolve. Because if we don’t win this fight, it won’t be because it was impossible; it will be because it was very hard and too many of us gave up. We need to make her believe that we can win, and we need to believe it ourselves because that’s the only way we have a chance.

Please contact both senators today and say:

My name is ______, my zip code is _________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for everything you’ve done to protect the Supreme Court. Please keep fighting the Kavanaugh nomination and rallying your constituents. We are winning the battle for public opinion. Most Americans support reproductive rights, workers’ rights, and the ACA. We need to keep showing more of them that Kavanaugh threatens those things, and keep showing vulnerable Republicans how much they have to lose.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

 

Canvassing with Indivisible Northern Nevada

At the Indivisible East Bay July All Member Meeting, two of our colleagues from Indivisible Northern Nevada gave a presentation about their efforts identifying issues that matter to voters in the Reno area as part of the campaign to get out the vote to unseat Senator Dean Heller, identified as one of the most vulnerable Republican Senators. They were so inspiring that in early August, 2018, a group of IEB members traveled to Reno to attend the 2018 Lake Tahoe Summit and to canvass and register voters in northern Nevada with our Indivisible colleagues. 

Our Indivisible Northern Nevada hosts, all women, greeted us at the picnic tables at Reno’s Idlewild Park with coffee, orange juice, and three kinds of pastries all laid out on a floral tablecloth. After an enthusiastic welcome, some wrangling of the MiniVan app, and a little roleplaying, we were ready to talk to some voters. The goal was to identify issues the voters cared about and decide what, if any, further contact to plan with them. We split into pairs; my partner Ruth happened to live nearby so we decided to start in her neighborhood, which made it very easy to find the addresses that popped up on my phone. 

The first person we talked to was a stocky man with a sunburn who came out around the side of his house smoking a cigar. As planned, we asked him what issues he was thinking about in the upcoming election. He said he was pretty happy with how things were going for him, and would stay happy as long as his taxes were low. We probably could have said “thank you for your time” right then and there and taken him off the list. But he was polite and reasonably friendly, if a little smug, so we pressed a little further, asking what he thought of the state of Reno’s infrastructure and about recent changes to the federal tax code. He said he got a $10K tax cut and that if Reno outgrew its infrastructure he’d just move somewhere else. Then his wife came out to tell him his mom was on the phone and we were able to make a graceful exit.

Our next experience was happier. We talked to a young woman just out of nursing school who came to the door in a bathrobe with a towel on her head, yet was happy to chat with the strangers at the door about her top issues: student debt and cost of living. With her busy life, she didn’t know anything about the candidates for Senate or other upcoming elections, but she promised to educate herself by November, and to vote. After consulting in the car, we decided that we didn’t need to send anyone back to talk to her more about the issues and we marked her “GOTV” so that someone would call or visit to remind her to vote.

After a few unanswered knocks, we came to a house that seemed to have no door. The front of the house was a row of garages and at closer inspection there was a door at the back of one of them. We ventured inside to knock, and retreated back to the driveway. Just when we were giving up and turning to leave, a white-haired woman who looked to be in her seventies opened the door. She said she hadn’t really thought about the issues or which ones were most important to her. When we suggested some common answers like health care, jobs and the economy, or the environment, she said that “all those things must be important to anyone who’s alive” but didn’t really offer anything further.  She talked about a need for balance and cooperation in government and seemed mildly enthusiastic about the fact that so many women are getting involved and running for office right now. Back in the car, we decided that she probably could use another conversation to make her feel that her vote mattered and to be sure she knew which candidates agreed with her on the issues and would bring balance to Washington: we marked her “MAYBE.”

Even our Trumpiest door knock was calm and cordial, probably in part because we identified ourselves as non-partisan and asked for information rather than giving it. A middle-aged woman on crutches told us that she thought things were “finally on the right track” now that Trump was in office. We felt sad for her, suspecting that she is one of those supporters who is actually hurt by the president’s policies, but got a certain amount of satisfaction out of emphatically taking her off our list for future visits.

At our next stop, we met a man whose top issue was immigration. He said straight off that we definitely need “some” immigration to get people to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do. He also said that people who enter the country without permission are “breaking the law” and should face consequences, and should need to prove that they haven’t come to do harm. But he was kind of wavering on whether it was okay to lock them all up in detention for fleeing violence or seeking a better life for their families. We marked him down as a strong MAYBE, almost envying the interesting conversation in store for the volunteer who comes back to engage him further about the facts around immigration and how to vote in alignment with his beliefs.

Our last conversation of the day was with a young father whose front yard was full of children’s toys, and who was the only non-white person we came across in that neighborhood. It was a short visit both because he was obviously busy and because it was pretty clear right away that he was a strong progressive informed on the issues and in favor of Medicare for all. We marked him “GOTV” and both sort of regretted that we didn’t at least ask if he wanted to volunteer; but it hadn’t occurred to us until after the moment had passed.

The group reconvened back at the park to discuss our experiences and talk about what we want to do better next time. The canvassers were energized, feeling good about people’s responses to getting questions about their opinions and priorities rather than being asked to support a candidate or fed a party line. Some also expressed a sense that out of all these voters who had registered as non-partisan, more were leaning leftward than rightward on the issues.

As for our goals to do better next time, we all thought we needed some more strategies to draw out relatively uninformed people in naming their top issues. And we noted our inclination to spend perhaps too many of our valuable canvasing minutes having long conversations with enthusiastic progressives, but decided there was value in that too both for our own morale and theirs.

Certainly my own morale was lifted by the trip, especially meeting the Indivisible Nevadans who fed us, opened their guestrooms to us, and taught us how to make connections with their neighbors and community.

If you’d like to join next time please fill out this form.

IEB Delivers Message to Sen. Murkowski from Alaska’s Indivisibles: Vote No on Kavanaugh

When we heard that the difficult to pin down Senator Lisa Murkowski was slated to be the guest speaker at the August 2018 Tahoe Summit, which several Indivisible East Bay members planned to attend, we reached out to Indivisibles in Alaska to see if there was a message we could bring to the senator on their behalf.

Sen. Murkowski is one of the most likely swing votes on the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination. She regularly breaks with Republicans to vote to fund Planned Parenthood (though she has yet to break with them in support of a judicial nominee) and she has demonstrated willingness to stand up to Republican pressure on ACA repeal.

Twenty-nine of her constituents gave us a letter asking her to vote NO on Kavanaugh, saying,

Here in Alaska, we are terrified that under a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of us would lose access to safe, effective health care and autonomy over our bodies. We fear that the brave men and women who take on tough and dangerous work to bring prosperity to their families and our state will lose their protections. And we worry that if the federal government, under this president, or a future president, takes action that harms Alaska and we take it to court, this Supreme Court will automatically decide against working Alaskans.

After almost being denied access to the event by some Nevada State troopers, we successfully delivered the letter to Sen. Murkowski as she was entering the event, and told her that Alaskans are counting on her. She was very polite and friendly and thanked us for giving it to her, though her staff was kind of rushing her past us. She said she was headed to Alaska tonight to have some meetings about Kavanaugh, but she did not say who those meetings were with – we hope they are with her constituents, a majority of whom believe the Senate should not confirm a Supreme Court Justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Alaska Grassroots Alliance is collecting additional signatories to the letter we delivered here. Please share their petition with anyone you know in Alaska!

Photograph by Linh Nguyen

IEB goes to Washington

Indivisible East Bay usually meets with our Washington representatives when they visit the Bay Area. But from June 4-6, 2018, IEB members traveled to Washington, D.C. for a succession of get-togethers with California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris as well as several of their key staffers. It was an opportunity for face-to-face interactions at a high-level — and IEB made the most of it.

Senator Feinstein visit to DC

One highlight of the trip was a constituent breakfast with Senator Feinstein. For her opening remarks, Feinstein mainly spoke about her recently-introduced legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families, as well as her plans to address the problems of homelessness and climate change. Since it was the morning after the primary, she thanked those who voted for her and said she hoped to win over the rest.

During the Q&A that followed, we noted that the Senator is a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and asked what we could do to help fix the broken process for the confirmation of judges, and especially to protect the federal judiciary from the too-often extremist nominees put forward by Republicans. Her answer was simple but will be difficult to accomplish: Take back the Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris in DC

We also heard Senators Harris and Cory Booker (D-NJ) speak at a rally jointly organized by the NAACP and Demand Justice (a new organization focusing on judicial nominations). IEB’s Judiciary team recently started working with Demand Justice to attempt to block the nomination of Thomas Farr to a lifetime judgeship on the district court in North Carolina. Farr has a decades-long history of involvement in voter suppression of North Carolina’s African-American population.

Finally, we had several days of meetings with six members of Feinstein’s and Harris’s staffs. At each meeting, we raised our concerns on specific issues, listened to their replies, and offered our responses. Here are the highlights:

Senator Feinstein Chief of Staff Steve Haro and Appropriations Legislative Aide Josh Esquivel

Our highest level meeting was with Senator Feinstein’s chief of staff Steve Haro and Josh Esquivel, her appropriations legislative aide.

The opening topic was nuclear bombs, notably the House’s recently passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision for $65 million to develop a new “low-yield” nuclear weapon to be launched from submarines. Feinstein is on record as strongly opposing this and other efforts to expand the nuclear stockpile and plans to offer an amendment to remove such provisions from the Senate bill. However, Josh would not promise that Feinstein would vote NO on the full NDAA if, despite her efforts, the nuclear authorizations remain in the bill.

We next discussed aspects of the Homeland Security Authorization Bill, which currently has bipartisan support in the Senate. We asked about the increased budget authority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) included in the bill. In our view, both of these agencies have abused their power and defied Congressional oversight; we thus asked that Senator Feinstein vote against additional funding for those agencies. Steve and Josh both expressed some surprise that funding for these agencies was included in the bill; they were under the impression that the bill was mostly about other aspects of the Department, such as disaster preparedness and election security.

We also requested a status update regarding funding for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief. Josh told us that there is still “plenty of money” left from the last relief funding bill Congress passed. Why then, we asked, does the situation in Puerto Rico remain so dire? He replied that the administration is not doing a good job using the available money to get resources to the people who need it.

We told him that we would like to see Congressional staff get raises. Legislative branch funding is very skimpy and one of the reasons for this is that Congressional Republicans have, since the 1990’s, cut funds for the legislative branch in an apparent bid to increase lobbyists’ relative power and influence. We would like to see that trend reversed in upcoming federal budgets.

Lastly, we discussed sexual harassment and staff well-being policies in Congressional offices. On the subject of harassment, Steve said that the Senator has a very strict, zero-tolerance policy. Staffers are asked to report any incidents directly to him or the Senator. In either case, a report immediately triggers an investigation, headed by Steve. If any harassment is determined to have occurred, the consequences are very serious and even a first offense can result in termination.

Feinstein judicial nominations counsel Gabe Kader

In our meeting with Gabe Kader, one of Feinstein’s Judiciary Committee counsels, we returned to the subject of nominations to the federal bench. Gabe was very interested to hear about our work in this area, especially about which issues in the nominees’ backgrounds resonated most with our members and friends: reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, conflicts of interest, etc.

While we affirmed our support for Feinstein’s goal of Democrats taking back the Senate — as the ultimate solution here — we told him that, in the interim, Feinstein should use her leadership to convince all Congressional Democrats to stand together in opposing unqualified and ultra-conservative nominees put forward by the GOP.

Gabe replied that the Senator is concerned that pushing back too hard could give Senator Grassley and the rest of the Republicans an excuse to abandon the vetting and bipartisan process entirely. We questioned how much that would differ from what the GOP is already doing.

Feinstein immigration counsel Olga Medina

Our last meeting with a Feinstein staffer was with Olga Medina, an immigration counsel. We went over the details of Senator Feinstein’s new legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families at the border. Her Keep Families Together Act would prohibit agencies from separating children from their parents unless a state court, an “official from the State or county child welfare agency with expertise in child trauma and  development,” or the Chief Patrol Agent or the Area Port Director “in their official and undelegated capacity” determines that a separation is in the best interests of the child.  It also explicitly states that families can’t be separated as a deterrent. A variety of other provisions (such as keeping siblings together) are designed to protect families in those rare cases when a separation does occur.

Senator Harris legislative science fellow Ike Irby

We had two meetings with representatives of Senator Harris. The first was with legislative science fellow Ike Irby. The focus was on the hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and how we can learn from our failures there. Ike told us that the Senator is working on legislation to put standards in place for how states and territories calculate death rates from natural disasters. We also discussed climate change, both specifically in terms of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure and, more generally, about federal carbon pricing. It sounded as if Senator Harris, similar to many of our local representatives, isn’t quite ready to put her weight behind any particular carbon pricing plan, but is generally supportive and waiting to see which way the wind blows.

Harris Legislative Aide Elizabeth Hira

Our meeting with Elizabeth Hira, one of Senator Harris’ staffers, focused on the judiciary and criminal justice. As in our meeting with Gabe Kader, Elizabeth was very interested to hear which issues in the judicial nominees’ backgrounds most resonated with the resistance.

We also discussed criminal justice bills that Senator Harris supports, most notably the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. We expressed concerns that these bills don’t sufficiently guard against the possibility that the software used for determining recidivism risk and thus sentencing could unintentionally perpetuate racial biases. As such, we want to see provisions to properly review such software and to allow people to appeal decisions made by software. We suggested a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “algorithmic bias”, with expert testimony from researchers in the field, and Elizabeth asked us to write up a short proposal for such a hearing, indicating she would follow up on this matter.

Top photo: IEB members with Emma Mehrabi, Legislative Director for Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13).

Memos:

Feinstein’s State Director responds to concerns about Alzheimer’s care

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, Sean Elsbernd, is no stranger to Indivisible East Bay. Far from it: he regularly meets with small groups of IEB members to listen and respond as we go over our priorities for action. And he doesn’t stop there: he also generously makes time to meet with the public at events that we periodically organize. One of the best parts of these public meetings is that we get to hear questions (and Sean’s answers!) from people outside our typical cadre of members — which often brings new issues to the conversation.

For example, at our latest public meeting on May 24 at the IBEW Union Hall in Dublin, we were joined by a group asking Sen. Feinstein to co-sponsor the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act — a bipartisan bill to fund Alzheimer’s care, education, and study. The parents of a daughter with early-onset Alzheimer’s described their struggle and told Sean that the bill could have helped them personally by putting in place infrastructure that could have helped them identify their daughter’s disease sooner and pursue more effective treatment.

Both Sean and IEB were very moved by their story. Sean said that he would take the bill to the senator and get a response “right away.” IEB plans to research it, and will likely ask all of our members of Congress to show their support (Rep. Swalwell already has). While this topic is a little outside our usual focus, it certainly fits within our goal of “health care for all.”

The other main topic covered at the meeting was communication. We went over the best ways to reach the senator — noting that emails, calls, faxes, and letters are all currently weighted equally in her call sheet reports. We also discussed the senator’s much-expanded Twitter presence. We voiced our appreciation that she uses the platform to speak out about the issues, but one member suggested that she include more calls to action.

Finally, we talked about recommended news sources. Sean recommended subscribing to TheWashington Post’s Daily 202 e-newsletter for a briefing on the top political stories (including Twitter highlights) and to the very impressive The Rough & Tumble website for a daily roundup of California political news. Sen. Feinstein subscribes to The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. Her staff also regularly provides her with packets of relevant articles from numerous other papers. Sean claimed that the first things she reads each day are the Letters to the Editor. A word to the wise: Write letters to your local paper expressing your political views; you never know who might wind up reading them or what effect they might ultimately have!

Meeting With Senator Feinstein’s Staff in Oakland

In recent months, with a helping hand from Indivisible East Bay, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff has reached out to local communities, providing an opportunity for citizens to participate in freewheeling Q&A discussions. The most recent meeting was March 9, when IEB, in partnership with the Unity Council, met Feinstein’s Field Representative Abby Ellis at the Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center in Oakland. Taking a break between lunch and bingo, many of the Center’s seniors stopped by for the meeting. The remainder of the 50 or so participants included a combination of neighbors, loyal Indivisible members and Unity Council staff.

As many of the attendees asked their questions in Spanish, we were most appreciative that the staff was willing and able to act as informal interpreters, translating between English and Spanish as needed.

A major focus of the discussion were immigration issues, with DACA at the top of the list. Many spoke of their fear and uncertainty surrounding the future of DACA and what it what may mean for their friends and relatives. For example, one woman was concerned that her daughter might not be permitted to stay to graduate from college this May, nor pursue her long-term dream of becoming an FBI agent. One man summed up the overall feeling in the room by stating, in Spanish, “The children are our future” — at which point everyone cheered.

In reply, Abby assured everyone that the Senator remains strongly committed to a clean DREAM Act. She promised to pass along their personal stories and indicated that some of them might be used in floor speeches that Feinstein gives on this matter.

Many of the remaining questions concerned federal funding for health care and other programs critical to the Senior Center and surrounding community. Abby assured the audience that the Senator is doing everything she can to protect existing support programs as the Congress continues to fight over the budget. She added that, if the Democrats had the majority, Feinstein would be pushing to expand funding.

Several in the audience expressed skepticism about current Democratic efforts. They spoke of frustration that immigration issues were not effectively resolved when Obama was President and Democrats controlled Congress. They noted ironically that the Trump administration’s current attacks might be serving to spur Democratic action and give these issues a higher priority than they had previously. Others in the room were more supportive of past Democratic efforts, countering that they had at least attempted to pass legislation under Obama.

Abby replied that Sen. Feinstein had been in favor of the comprehensive immigration reform bills at the time. Further, the Senator has continued to push for pieces of that bill as independent legislation, such as the DREAM Act and the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017 (which would provide legal status to more farmworkers).

At this point, as the meeting was nearing its conclusion, the same gentleman who had been cheered previously spoke up again — to more cheers — stating that the most important lesson from all this was that every citizen in the room must vote.

Our next East Bay event with Feinstein staff will be at the Concord Public Library on Tuesday April 17 at 1:45 pm. RSVP here.

IEB endorses Reps Lee, Swalwell, DeSaulnier

Thanks to all Indivisible East Bay members who voted on our very first endorsement decision! We are delighted to report that IEB is endorsing Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Eric Swalwell (CA-15) for U.S. Congress. Each candidate received 97 percent of the votes from IEB members in their district. We’re proud to register such strong approval of the work these skilled, dedicated, and responsive leaders do on our behalf, and we look forward to continuing to hold them accountable as we fight together to protect our liberal democracy and advance our progressive values.

We have also nominated these three members of Congress for a national Indivisible endorsement. If you’re not already on the national Indivisible mailing list and want to have a say, fill out this form by 8:59 PM (PT) on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

We learned much during this process and received a lot of good feedback from members who commented both for and against endorsing. We’ll post a report soon with more on that and on the next steps as we form our candidate evaluation team.

Crowded Slate Vies for State Assembly District 15 Seat

There were nine candidates on stage and a large engaged audience at the California Assembly District 15 Candidates Forum hosted by the Albany Democratic Club at Albany High on January 29. Although the candidates competed to drop names and out-progressive each other, they appeared for the most part to agree closely on the issues. Even on SB 827, the divisive transit housing density bill by Senators Wiener and Skinner, everyone was in agreement that while they appreciated the spirit of the bill and the conversation it provoked, it needed significant changes to affordability, environmental, and local control provisions before they could support it. The only disagreements were on degree: whether single payer is “ideal” or “necessary”; whether a Prop. 13 (property tax) reform campaign to close the corporate loophole goes far enough. The organizers promised that video of the forum will be available soon on KALB.

I left better informed, but no closer to knowing who I plan to vote for in the primary this June.

Want to know more? Mark your calendar for the Assembly District 15 LGBQTI Candidate Forum, hosted by Lambda Democratic Club of CCC & East Bay Stonewall Democrats, February 21, 6-8 PM. All info here.

Read our earlier article about this race.

The candidates: