It’s Not a Town Hall Like You Promised

Whatever Senator Feinstein says, her speaking engagement on August 29 was not a town hall. In fact, public participation was actively discouraged at every turn, and as a result, constituents like us who would have prefered to participate in the evening’s policy discussion are instead forced to focus on the ways we have been shut out.

The event was not, as far as we could tell, promoted outside of the Commonwealth Club network—certainly the senator did not inform her constituents of this chance to meet with her in person (for a fee). As a result, the vast majority of the audience was Club members. “Hardly,” as one reporter put it on Twitter, “a cross section of San Francisco” let alone California.

After several requests, a form was provided to suggest questions online. It was shared only by the Commonwealth Club on the event’s Facebook page and with a few Indivisibles who had been asking for it (to the best of our knowledge). Her staff told us the senator would share this link with as many constituents as possible. She did not.

The day of the event, we arrived early, along with some friends who were not able to get tickets, to protest the fact that our senator was holding a sham town hall. Security (politely) asked us to take  several steps away from the building in order to hold our signs and distribute our fliers on “the public sidewalk.” And if we drifted across that line we were (politely) scolded. There was no obvious reason for these restraints other than to suppress our participation.

Those of us privileged enough to have obtained tickets attempted to bring in our red and green agree/disagree cards in order to politely and non-disruptively express our opinions during our representative’s remarks. Event staff (quite rudely this time) confiscated them, apparently fearing that allowing the audience to participate in this way would be pandemonium.

Instead we were invited to “express ourselves” in writing on little question cards. The moderator chose a few of these to read (or paraphrase), but for all we know, the rest may have gone directly into the trash. Such an action would certainly have been in line with the tone of the evening which was that we should sit down, shut up, and be grateful to be allowed to listen in on a conversation between elites.

In April, at her real town hall, one of Sen. Feinstein’s constituents expressed appreciation for an event at which many different voices were heard and then asked his senator to “continue to meet with us like this.” Last night barely counted as a meeting and it certainly wasn’t “like this” or “with us.” She failed to meet her commitment, and If she doesn’t rectify that at her next recess, she will have let down not only her most engaged constituents, but the entire state. And if she doesn’t answer to the people who elected her, she will have let down democracy itself.

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

Call your senator today and say:

If Senator Feinstein intends to fulfill the duty she was elected to do, she must engage directly with the people of California—hear their concerns and answer their questions—at an open town hall, as she promised in April she would do. Her August event was not a town hall. I demand that she hold one in September.

On Keeping Promises

On April 17, 2017 at  the first town hall of her career, Senator Dianne Feinstein made a promise:

Audience Member: I would like to know whether you will commit to continuing to meet with us like this, and specifically on your next recess can we do a meeting on a Saturday when people can come? [cheers]

Senator Feinstein: I don’t know whether it will be my next recess…but I will commit to doing one on the weekend during the summer. [louder cheers]

Now she is claiming that an exclusive ($40-$65 per ticket*), tightly restricted (no direct interaction with the audience or follow-ups from anyone but the moderator) event organized by the Commonwealth Club of California is a better way to reach more constituents than a free and open town hall where she faces her constituents directly.

We are sure it will be a lovely event. But it is NOT the promised town hall.

If you disagree with the senator’s decision, please come protest outside the event. If you can’t make it in person, call the office and tell Sen. Feinstein that her constituents expect her to fulfill her commitments.

Date: Tuesday August 29, 2017
Time: 5pm
Location: Outside the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email): SF Office: (415) 393-0707

*The money goes to the nonprofit organizing the event, not to Sen. Feinstein or her campaign, but it is still a huge barrier to entry for many people.

Note: Also please submit questions for the senator at this link. Perhaps the moderator will chose to read one.

 

One More Day

Maria and Eusebio Mendoza-Sanchez rally
Rally in support of Maria and Eusebio Mendoza-Sanchez

The rally Tuesday afternoon at Highland Hospital in Oakland felt from the start more like a simple show of love and support than a tool that would actually protect Maria and Eusebio Mendoza-Sanchez from deportation. The day was chilly and overcast, the crowd on the edge of tears. Two days after nazis murdered a woman in Charlottesville, the chanted words “No hate. No fear.” rang hollow. “No ban. No wall.”? The Supreme Court has allowed the refugee ban to take effect. The House has approved funding for the wall. “Immigrants are welcome here.” If chanting could make it so, they would be.Rally to Stop the Deportation of Maria and Eusebio SanchezWe talked to Josh Quigley, Rep. Barbara Lee’s district director attending on the congresswoman’s behalf. He said she’d have been there herself if she was in town. He said there wasn’t much hope left that this family could remain whole. The parents will be exiled for at least 10 years unless Congressional leadership finds the humanity to pass Senator Feinstein’s private bill on the matter, or the Democrats take back Congress and pass real immigration reform. 

Of everything this administration stands for, the attack on immigrants who are the foundation, the future, the very identity of this country, is the hardest to take. What kind of person sees an oncology and cardiology nurse as a threat? Thinks it makes our country greater to tear a 16-year-old away from her loving parents, a 12-year-old from his home? They hide behind the argument that if you make an exception for one, you have to make an exception for all. All nurses? All teenagers? Maria Mendoza-Sanchez broke the rules, it’s true—the system is broken too, but that’s beside the point. She broke the rules, but she broke them in order to help people, to save lives.

There’s nothing left to try. Eusebio, Maria, and Jesus leave today; Vianney, Melin, and Elizabeth will stay. There is no good reason why these people should be forced to make these heartbreaking decisions about what’s best for their family. Eusebio and Maria are leaving behind their three older daughters so they can pursue their educations. A fund has been set up, all money raised will go directly to support the children’s educational expenses.

In a statement, Senator Feinstein said: “My heart is broken for Maria and Eusebio, their family and our community. … This is a senseless, callous policy, and it’s heartbreaking to see in action. … I’ll continue to do everything I can to fight for the Sanchez family and all families across the country who have been so callously targeted. This is a disgraceful day for America.”

In the end all we got the Mendoza-Sanchez family was one more day together while Senator Feinstein tried one last time to get ICE to stay their deportation. The co-workers and fellow union members and community supporters who rallied outside the mother’s workplace, the family’s tireless lawyers, the members of Congress who tried everything, the family members themselves who fought to stay together for as long as they could. Our failure to do more is incredibly discouraging. It all seems like a whole lot of trouble for just one day. But think of your own loved ones. Wouldn’t you give all that and more for one more day with them?

 

Stay Woke and Wake Some People up!

Rep. Barbara Lee always brings together a great panel for her town halls. She took the stage at her town hall: “What Do You Have To Lose? The Impacts of Trump on African Americans” Wednesday evening with Urban League President Marc Morial, BART director Lateefah Simon, and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink moderated the conversation which touched on voting rights, health care, the war on drugs, housing and displacement, income gaps, education, and more.

To her CA-13 constituents Rep. Lee said, “this district is leading the resistance.” And to Republicans in Washington she said, “No way you’re going to take us back. We’re gonna fight, we’re gonna resist, and we’re gonna move forward.”

IMG_1314The group focused on resisting the Trump agenda on a state and local level–which fits in nicely with some of the expansions into that arena Indivisible EB has begun. For example, the panel agreed that in spite of the constant depressing news coming out of Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, most criminal justice takes place at a state and county level. And we well know that a there is plenty of room for criminal justice reform in California. In fact, Tony Thurmond brought up his own bill to tax private prisons in the state and give that money to pre-K and after school programs that have been shown to reduce incarceration rates for participants. He also mentioned a bill by another local, Rob Bonta, reforming California’s bail system; if this bill passes, as well as doing a lot of good locally, it has the potential to be a success story Senator Harris can point to as she fights for her bail reform bill in the Senate.

A loud and persistent heckler who said she’d voted for Trump interrupted the conversation a couple of times, but was drowned out when Tony Thurmond led the crowd in a chant of “Barbara Lee speaks for me.”

The event also contained a strong message about unity and intersectionality–broadening the movement, finding common ground among the many people threatened by the actions of our federal government. Barbara Lee urged everyone in the audience to reach out to less politically active members of their families and communities.

And each member of the panel used Barbara Lee’s campaign slogan, “stay woke” at least once. But Marc Morial took it a step further saying, “While we must stay woke, we also have to wake some people up.”

It’s August and we’re all still here

We marked our 6-month anniversary of visits to Senator Feinstein’s office with another wide ranging policy discussion. Her state director, Sean Elsbernd, doesn’t expect bipartisan progress on health care until after the upcoming budget fight, which itself isn’t likely to be resolved before the government runs out of money at the end of September. We talked about the need to keep a close watch on the beleaguered Jeff Sessions (Sean joked that we finally had something in common with the president) and asked the Senator to throw her weight behind Barbara Lee’s AUMF repeal, which has rankled Republican leadership despite – or perhaps because of – its support from the Republican rank and file. We learned that one of Senator Feinstein’s top climate change policy priorities is a carbon fee and that while the Senator likes our idea of whistleblower protections for those exposing torture, her intelligence staff is already overtaxed by the day-to-day crises of this administration. We also checked in about the Senator’s concerns regarding the falling standards in the Judiciary Committee’s evaluation of nominees for the Federal Bench: Chairman Grassley is rushing nominees through without waiting for the traditional review from either Senators from the courts’ home states or the non-partisan American Bar Association. And we reminded Sean that we are anxiously awaiting our next chance to discuss all these issues and more with the Senator in person at her August town hall (even if we have to travel to San Diego or Fresno).

CA-13, IEB answering Barbara Lee’s call to action

Congresswoman Barbara Lee invited about 40 local grassroots leaders to a workshop Saturday morning to learn skills to take back to our groups so that we can all contribute to the push to turn more California districts blue in 2018. The Democrats are aiming to flip at least 7 of 14!

Nicole Derse and Addisu Dimisse of the 2012 Obama campaign talked about the importance of using our own stories to make connections with others whether knocking on doors in Turlock or recruiting volunteers in Oakland.

And we heard some specifics about how we can help  from The California Democratic Party’s organizer, Lucia Nuñez of district 10, where they have already identified a lot of voters looking to replace Jeff Denham, particularly after he voted for huge health care cuts in exchange for tax cuts for the wealthy.

District swinging isn’t something we’ve focused on much at Indivisible East Bay so far, although it’s something we all care about and many of us are working on at other organizations. But we at IEB, as well as other blue chapters across the country (and those at the Indivisible Guide national) have been looking at how we might put an Indivisible spin on this work—otherwise we might as well leave it to other organizations.

One clear way to do that is by doing that work along with our own members of Congress as part of building those relationship. Whenever we ask our reps. what we can do to help them, or to show our support, they talk about taking back the House. Rep. Swalwell, as it happens, hosted a phone bank for Jon Ossoff of Georgia also on Saturday.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 6.37.24 PM

So at Rep. Lee’s prodding, we’re planning our first official red district field trip. The California Dems. are canvassing and registering voters in District 10 every Sunday throughout Resistance Summer. We’ve looking at coordinating with them to send a group to participate (tentative date: July 16). Please fill out this form if you’re interested! https://goo.gl/Dk5ud3

If the GOP is afraid to debate ACA repeal in the Senate, let’s take it outside!

Call script for both our senators:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. The GOP is determined to deprive millions of Americans of healthcare in order to pay for a huge tax cut for the wealthy, without any Senate debate or public hearings. The proceedings are being conducted in secret by 13 male members of the Senate, with no concern for women’s health needs. I ask the senator to conduct her own public hearings, preferably on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with 12 of her female colleagues. I also ask that she delay the bill on the Senate floor by withholding consent.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email): (415) 393-0707
DC: (202) 224-3841
LA: (310) 914-7300
Fresno: (559) 485-7430
San Diego: (619) 231-9712

Sen. Kamala Harris (email): (415) 355-9041
DC: (202) 224-3553
Sacramento: (916) 448-2787
LA: (213) 894-5000
Fresno: (559) 497-5109
San Diego: (619) 239-3884

Background: http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/337353-former-cms-head-op-ed-mcconnell-is-using-sabotage-speed-and-secrecy-as-tools

 

Road trip to Fresno: Feinstein Q&A with rural California

The atmosphere at Senator Feinstein’s Central Valley Community Foundation event in Fresno on Thursday was quite a contrast to that at her Bay Area events, but the senator herself was largely the same as ever, which speaks both to her integrity and to her moderate inclinations.

The Q&A portion of the event lasted only about 30 minutes and didn’t include any audience questions. The senator displayed her in-depth knowledge of water issues and touted the Water Resources Development Act as an example of the kind of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans that, though she acknowledges it is disappearing, the senator still advocates for as the only way to  solve problems.

Lines like that got applause in Fresno where they would have gotten jeers in San Francisco. But I think many, if not most of us throughout California agree in principal that bringing together differing viewpoints through compromise needs to be part of the way forward for our country.

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The real question is, how do you compromise with people who. as Sen. Feinstein put it,  “want to cut the costs of health care to provide funding for tax reform which will benefit the wealthy”?  And who lie about it. The senator called the huge Medicaid cuts in the Republican health care bill “undeniable,” but Donald Trump denies them. Paul Ryan denies them. HHS Secretary Tom Price denies them.

The senator’s staff has told us in several different contexts that she refuses to take no for an answer even when legislative solutions to problems look impossible. That is admirable. That is what I want from my representative. I don’t want her to give up that optimism. The optimism I do want her to give up is the hope that “this president can change.” He can’t. She also said she wished “he could calm down.” So do we all. But he won’t.

We need different tactics for this administration. One shouldn’t have to refuse to continue business as usual in the Senate in order to secure an independent investigation into Russian interference in our election. One shouldn’t have to threaten to oppose transportation department nominees in order to get that department to release funding that has been approved by Congress.

Sen. Feinstein’s said in Fresno that the Tea Party has pushed compromise out of our government. I share her fear that what we sometimes describe as the Tea Party of the left will drive out what little is left.

But we’re not going to get compromise back by lamenting its passing or by unilaterally caving in the name of comity. In that context, compromise is a bad word. That’s the kind of compromise that you can do to your principles, or to your safety, or to your sacred honor.

To get compromise back into our government we’re going to have to fight for it. Republicans have shown that they won’t compromise willingly for the good of our country. It seems we need to use resistance tactics to force them back to the table before we can get down to the kind of work Sen. Feinstein described rather wistfully on Thursday:

“It isn’t words that come out of your mouth. It’s words that go on a piece of paper, that will be legal, that will stand the test of time, that will be certified as workable. People have to come back to good old legislation. It’s not rhetoric. It’s, how do you solve a problem?”