Time to Help the Coast Guard

It’s mid-January 2019, and the Shutdown has reached its fourth week. We reported last week on how the Tantrum Over the Wall was affecting people nationwide, including some of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed or must work without pay. This week, we’re looking closer to home: some federal employees you may never think about, right here in Alameda County, are being required to work without pay, and may be heading for dire financial straits.

Close to 1,000 uniformed men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard live in Alameda County. Coast Guard Base Alameda is a major homeport of four Legend class cutters that go on months-long patrols: USCGC Bertholf, Waesche, Munro, and Dorothy Stratton. Each holds over 113 personnel, and some are on patrol now while their families are left behind to deal with the financial stresses of this shutdown.

The 41,000 women and men of the U.S Coast Guard were paid once before January 1, and have missed their first bi-weekly paycheck in January. However, since Coast Guard members are considered critical personnel, they must work without pay during the shutdown. Of course, their expenses aren’t put on hold; nor are the literally life-or-death nature of the responsibilities some of them have, such as those at Station Golden Gate who participate in search-and-rescue.

The government has responded to the situation by adding insult to fiscal injury, telling Coast Guard members to see themselves through the hard financial times brought on by the Current Occupant’s wall-inspired tantrum: Have a garage sale! Be a dog-walker! Be a mystery shopper! says a Coast Guard support tip sheet. “Yes, your credit score may suffer during this time,” it helpfully notes. “Bankruptcy is a last option.” Former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen has decried this shutdown as unnecessary political theater. Perhaps we should talk about moral bankruptcy of a government that refuses to pay the men and women who serve their country because one man insists on a so-called defense system that experts repudiate?

No paychecks for government workers like our Coasties doesn’t just harm them and their families: it also means immediate economic impacts to their local communities and threats to the well-being of local businesses. Based on previous shutdowns of similar length (although this is now the longest government shutdown in US history), one study concluded that “the shutdown led to an immediate decline in average household spending of almost 10 percent” and “households with a member who was furloughed and required to stay home from work slashed their spending more dramatically – by 15 percent to 20 percent.” Some small businesses in the area are already reporting dramatic losses because the federal workers who are their frequent customers aren’t getting paychecks.

IEB Governance Committee member Ted Lam says:

People often ask me what I miss most as a retired Coast Guard officer: the service? Or the work? I always say: I miss the people. They are the most patriotic, inspiring, and unselfish people I have ever worked with. So during this difficult time for the Coast Guard, I’m looking for ways to help my old shipmates, and I can tell you there’s a great way to help. It’s the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. I’ve seen first hand the amazing results of Mutual Assistance’s work to help the youngest and most vulnerable in the CG. I hope you’ll join me.

You can donate to help a member of the Coast Guard on the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance website.

You can also call our Senators and tell them you want them to insist on reopening the government without money for the border wall. Please call Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3841, and Sen. Harris at 202-224-3553 to thank them for their support, and tell them:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The government shutdown is hurting people and communities, all because of a wall that’s a terrible idea to begin with. I want to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for voting against advancing legislation that wouldn’t have reopened the government without funding for the Wall. Please do everything you can to reopen the government without funding for the Wall.

For more information and other call scripts, read our articles here and here.

 

Ted Lam and Elizabeth Douglas contributed to this article.

Photo of Coast Guard Island in Oakland Estuary between Oakland and Alameda United States Coast Guard, by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson.

IEB shows up big time for January 3 Day of Action

Whose House? Our House!

If they ever turn the story of the 2018 midterm elections into a movie, the culmination of the film will certainly be January 3, 2019. After the stunning Democratic victory in November — a Blue Wave that resulted in a gain of 40 seats and control of the House — a colorful, diverse and significantly more progressive Democratic party strode triumphantly into the Capitol building for the start of the new 116th Congress.

Not coincidentally, it was also the day that Indivisible had declared as a National Day of Action, an opportunity for local Indivisible groups across the country to meet with their local members of Congress or one of their staff to thank them for their past work when appropriate, and to challenge them to push for a progressive agenda going forward.

The National Day of Action was a huge success; Indivisible National counted 168 events in 31 states, its biggest single day of action yet, and the events made national news and lit up social media. As you would expect, Indivisible East Bay made its presence known here in the Bay Area, organizing and/or participating in three separate events.

CA-11 (Mark DeSaulnier)

More than two dozen people showed up for a noon gathering outside Representative Mark DeSaulnier‘s Richmond office. Every attendee was given one of our spectacular new Blue Wave commemorative t-shirts — paid for by a fundraiser we conducted prior to the event.

IEB members Ted, Heidi, Toni, George and Ted strike a pose
IEB members Ted, Heidi, Toni, George and Ted strike a pose

 

IEB's new Blue Wave Commemorative t-shirts make their public debut!
IEB’s new Blue Wave Commemorative t-shirts make their public debut!

The mild and sunny weather perfectly matched the festive mood of the participants. DeSaulnier was in Washington, of course, but a member of his staff graciously agreed to join us.

As DeSaulnier reliably supports most of IEB’s progressive positions, we didn’t spend much time on persuasion. Rather, we focused on thanks and encouragement. CA-11 team co-lead Ted Lam made an opening statement thanking DeSaulnier for his past work and for making himself so accessible to his constituents. Ted also noted that we had supported his re-election and put in hundreds — if not thousands — of hours to help elect him and other progressives to Congress.

Next up, IEB outreach team co-lead Toni presented DeSaulnier’s staff with a “Back to Congress” backpack, covered with buttons in support of proposed legislation including H.R. 1 and the Green New Deal, and packed with items such as an “Erase Corruption” eraser, a “Restore the Rule of Law” ruler and two of the Blue Wave t-shirts.

Our "Back to Congress" backpack
Our “Back to Congress” backpack

Most notably, the backpack included a letter outlining IEB’s priorities for the 116th Congress. Top of list: H.R. 1, the Democrats’ democracy reform bill which encompassing (1) voter empowerment and access, (2) limiting money in politics, and (3) strengthening ethics and reducing corruption in Congress. The letter cited IEB’s  high expectations for DeSaulnier and urged him not to compromise on the values of H.R. 1. We also offered to meet with him and/or his staff on a regular basis to work to accomplish these goals.

DeSaulnier’s staffer offered thanks on the representative’s behalf, and our event concluded with IEB member George’s light-hearted theatrical reading of our backpack letter, followed by our final thank-yous.

CA-13 (Barbara Lee)

California’s 13th Congressional District, represented by Barbara Lee, benefits from coverage by multiple Indivisible groups, including two of the region’s largest: our own Indivisible East Bay, and Indivisible Berkeley. These groups joined forces with Indivisible Euclid and Indivisible Alameda for Impeachment for a 5 PM event held outside Lee’s office at the Dellums Federal Building in Oakland.

IEB and other Indivisible groups outside Rep. Lee's Oakland office
IEB and other Indivisible groups outside Rep. Lee’s Oakland office

The centerpiece of the gathering was a series of speeches by Indivisible members highlighting their participation in building the Blue Wave — especially via the canvassing done by IB in CA-10 and by IEB in CA-21. The speakers also expressed their hopes for what the 116th Congress will accomplish, focusing on (as with CA-11’s message) H.R. 1 and the Green New Deal.

Following the speeches, Congressional Aide Chrissy Anecito joined the group and read a statement from Lee’s office.

CA-15 (Eric Swalwell)

Meeting at the Castro Valley District office of Eric Swalwell, IEB members presented District Director Mallory De Lauro with a backpack to welcome the Representative back to the new blue Congress. As with CA-11, the backpack contained appropriately labelled school items. A message urged Swalwell to stand firm on all parts of H.R. 1 and to not provide funding for an immoral border wall.

IEB members Ward and Andrea meet with Swalwell District Director Mallory (on left)
IEB members Ward and Andrea meet with Swalwell District Director Mallory (on left)

Ted Lam, Nick Travaglini and Ward Kanowsky contributed to this report. CA-11 photos courtesy of Mary Martin DeShaw.

A Meeting with Sen. Harris’ Office on Environmental Policy

By Elizabeth Douglas

On January 3, 2019, Indivisible East Bay met with staff at Senator Kamala Harris’ office in Washington, D.C. to discuss environmental policy. We thanked the Senator for her record of pro-environment votes and her opposition to climate-change deniers like Andrew Wheeler, we asked that she continue supporting and introducing legislation that protects our environment and communities, and we discussed other ways IEB would like Senator Harris to support climate action.

At the meeting we spoke with Dr. Ike Irby, one of the Senator’s policy advisors. We were very interested in Harris’ take on the new House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the Green New Deal. Dr. Irby stated that while Harris supports broad climate action as well as collaboration with the House on climate issues, climate policies that create equity in communities and have an immediate impact to those most affected by climate change are her top priority. These types of policies will also need to promote resilience and sustainability in communities harmed by the current effects of climate change, such as more intense and frequent natural disasters.

Here are a few environmentally-focused legislative actions that Senator Harris will work on in the new Congress:

  • Outdoors for All Act. Originally introduced in September 2018, S. 3499, the Outdoors for All Act, would create equity for public spaces, providing a permanent source of funding for green spaces in urban areas. As we discussed, many city kids don’t have easy access to pleasant outdoors areas, and it’s hard to raise a generation of environmentalists when children may not even be able to play and learn in public parks. Creating these spaces would also help areas reduce their greenhouse gas emissions – a double win! Work on this type of legislation does come with an additional challenge, however, as funding for the grants issued under the Outdoors for All Act would depend on re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which will also need calls of support from your friendly neighborhood Indivisibles!
  • Living Shorelines Act. Originally introduced in July 2018, S.3087, the Living Shorelines Act, would protect our coastline communities through natural and sustainable solutions (read: not concrete seawalls!). This bill would provide these communities with grants for projects to respond to sea level rise, for example, and also to preserve the delicate ecosystems on their coasts and even on islands.

Senator Harris plans to reintroduce both these bills during the new legislative session. Taking climate action is a collective commitment to both our present and future; we need to express our support for these bills and educate others about them so that our communities can feel hopeful and empowered despite the daily (and sometimes daunting) reports of the impacts of climate change. The clear message from our meeting with Dr. Irby was that the time is right to show that climate change legislation should be top priority. We’ll have plenty of actions on environmental issues in the months to come!

Photograph of Senator Harris’ D.C. office by Elizabeth Douglas

Elizabeth Douglas is a mom, runner, and activist from Alameda. She is also a Climate Reality Leader (Seattle 2017) with a strong interest in protecting our ocean and corals.

 

 

The shutdown is our national emergency

It’s obvious to anyone who thinks before talking (or tweeting) that the government shutdown harms everyone, not just Democrats. But when pants are on fire, we need more than what’s obvious – we all need to be able to stand up and tell the truth. No, the people who long for this administration to fulfill prophecies of the end of the world won’t care, but there are millions of people who do. And so we offer this short collection of info about how the government shutdown is harming real people and the real world:

Who’s not getting paid?

  • When people think of federal employees, they may think of elected officials or high-paid white collar jobs. But federal workers as a whole make just slightly over the national average and include workers like food preparers, who make under $12/hour. These aren’t people who can afford to go without their paychecks.
  • From a National Park Service employee: “Our HR folks managed to get our Dec. 31 payroll in but who knows what’s next. It’s the lower graded employees who REALLY suffer. Some are seeking out temp jobs to fill the gap!”
  • A federal court employee reports that court employees have not been guaranteed that they’ll get paid for work beyond January 11, although they will be required to report to work as usual with or without pay. “I know several coworkers off the top of my head that can’t live without a paycheck. What are they supposed to do? I read today that some federal employees are applying for unemployment and can receive up to $450 a week but will have to return the funds once they get paid from the government. This shutdown has us scared and sick, not knowing the impact it will have on us personally and as a nation.”
  • Another federal worker: “I was planning to retire later this year but I can’t even get the paperwork going on that during the shutdown.”
  • The shutdown affects people who aren’t federal workers, too. The office that handles food stamps is staffed by federal workers, and although food stamps are essential to the people who get them, these workers aren’t considered “essential” – meaning that they aren’t coming to work and people aren’t getting the aid they need in order to eat.
  • Money and aid get held up in all kinds of ways: first-year students at a PA medical school received an e-mail saying they would get their student loan money for the upcoming term, but the funds were already late by the time the email arrived. For many people, getting money late can have serious repercussions.
  • See more personal stories here.

Health and Safety

The Environment

  • National Parks are basically semi-closed. The bathrooms are completely closed. People are driving off-road, doing what bears do in the woods, and more.
  • A park service employee reports “loss of control over schedules. … we are working on a tight timeline that is tied to many other events in the park with locked in dates. And of course, with skeleton staffs, there are serious negative impacts to delicate natural and cultural (not to mention HUMAN) resources that are being put at unnecessary risk.”
  • Wildfire prevention on federal lands – yes, the kind of thing needed to avoid huge loss of property and resources and life, especially in states like California and Nevada which are at least half federal land – has come to a halt. Of course, this is a health and safety issue as well.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is running on skeleton staffing and little to no funding as a result of the shutdown. (Let’s not even go into how that fits into this administration’s view of that agency …)

What you can do:

Call Our Senators: The House of Representatives has a bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall; we want the Senate to refuse to advance any legislation except that bill. And just before Trump gave his speech and Stormy Daniels folded her laundry on January 8, our Senators did just that. Please call Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3841, and Sen. Harris at 202-224-3553 to say thanks, and tell them:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for voting against advancing legislation that wouldn’t have reopened the government without funding for the Wall. Please keep it up: vote NO on everything that isn’t the House bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall.

Help those in need: In times of trouble, people always need food. Donate or volunteer at these worthy organizations:

Photograph “Open Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” by Alan Levine 

Don’t Let DeVos Gut Title IX

Deadline for public comments: January 28, 2019 – 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed regulations that would modify the implementation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs. Well, let’s call it what it is – Betsy DeVos has proposed a scheme to destroy an important part of Title IX. We have a chance to say NO.

The proposed regs, which have the outrageously misleading title “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” would gut Obama-era Title IX guidance for how schools address sexual violence. Among other changes, DeVos’s proposed regulations would specify how institutions covered by Title IX must respond to sexual harassment incidents, and would also revise the availability of remedies for violations. Hint: all the changes remove protections for women …

You have until Monday January 28 to protest the proposed changes by submitting a public comment. Go to this link and click the “COMMENT NOW” button in the upper right. If that doesn’t work, go to www.regulations.gov and click on “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex…” under “What’s Trending” and follow the instructions to submit a comment. Be sure to reference Docket ID No. Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064. See below for suggested language and alternative methods to submit comments.

What to write:

Here are some suggested comments (personalize the language because copied & pasted comments or overly similar comments may be grouped together and not counted separately). Several of these are adapted from the Equal Rights Advocates’ excellent comment guide. Submit your comments by the end of day January 28:

My name is _____ and I am [fill in relevant identifying info, if appropriate – such as teacher, student, advocate, sexual assault survivor, etc.] I am writing in reference to Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064.

I oppose the proposed regulations for the following reasons:

  • General:
    • They would allow schools to refuse to investigate online sexual harassment.
    • They provide for dramatically reduced liability for schools, allowing them to turn a blind eye to sexual assault or harassment and shielding them from responsibility if they ignore or cover up sexual misconduct.
    • They would drastically reduce the number of school employees responsible for addressing or reporting sexual harassment.
    • They would encourage schools to reinstate an antiquated mediation process rather than investigating.
    • They would narrow the definition of sexual harassment, requiring schools to investigate only the most “serious forms of harassment and assault,” and only act when the sexual violence or harassment completely denies a student access to education, forcing students to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse without being able to ask their schools for help.
  • Duty to Report:
    • I am concerned about how the proposed regulations narrow which school employees are required to act on reports of sexual harassment and misconduct in higher education settings (§§ 106.44(a), 106.30), as well as the regulations’ requirement of schools to dismiss reports of sexual violence that happen between students off campus (§§ 106.30, 106.45(b)(3)).
    • These rules would not balance the scales of justice between student complainants and student respondents, but would rather result in students’ reports and complaints being dismissed or ignored, which will very likely decrease reporting overall.
  • Burden of Proof:
    • Proposed regulation 106.45(b)(4)(i) requires schools to apply the higher standard of evidence to Title IX cases – Clear and Convincing Evidence. Application of this standard of evidence is inequitable and impractical, and contradicts decades of legal practice.
    •  The Department fails to consider and address the grave consequences to the victim of sexual assault when compared to other crimes. It is unfair for the Department to apply a higher standard of evidence based on its conclusion that the consequences to the respondent are “grave” without consideration of the grave consequences to the victim, whom the provisions of Title IX were designed to protect.
    • Application of this higher standard is impractical and seems intentionally designed to reduce the overall number of findings of sexual assault.
  • Deadline for comment period:
    • Please extend the comment period for these regulations for a minimum of 60 days beyond the currently scheduled public comment deadline. The proposed 60-day comment period is insufficient to receive meaningful public participation in the rulemaking process.
    • Please schedule public hearings at schools and colleges campuses throughout the country to encourage additional input from students, teachers, administrators, and advocates.

For more information, read the Equal Rights Advocates’ article. Also, this letter from the National Women’s Law Center, joined by more than 100 groups and 200 individuals, points out that the proposed changes are extensive and far-reaching and would drastically alter students’ rights and affect almost every aspect of schools’ obligations to respond to sexual harassment against students, and requests that the Department of Education extend the brief comment period.

Graphic © Equal Rights Advocates

 

 

Keep the Pressure on for a Green New Deal

As Democrats are considering incorporating the Green New Deal (GND) into 2019’s congressional agenda (see our previous blog post for more on this proposal), a new poll shows strong bipartisan support for the idea of transforming the economy through fighting climate change. Despite the Green New Deal’s popularity, however, the House of Representative’s plan for action on climate change does not appear to be as strong as we had hoped – and may not include the Green New Deal at all. Read on for more details on these recent developments, and see the sample scripts at the bottom of this post to tell your Representatives that we need a Green New Deal now!

Tackling Climate Change in the Blue House

With Democrats taking control of the House in the new year, climate change is back on the legislative agenda. Representative Nancy Pelosi (incoming House Speaker-designate) and other Democratic leaders have pushed for reinstating the Select Committee on Climate Change, which Republicans killed eight years ago. However, climate activists, along with Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worry that action from this committee will not be aggressive or swift enough, have proposed establishing a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, which would be tasked with developing a national plan to eliminate carbon emissions while guaranteeing jobs and environmental justice by 2020.  What form the climate change committee will take will be determined on January 3, 2019, when the House convenes and votes on its rules for the upcoming session.

Who Likes the Green New Deal? Everyone!

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication recently conducted a poll of registered voters’ opinions of the GND. Based on the poll, the authors estimate that 81% of registered voters support the GND’s policy goals, including 64% of all Republicans and 57% of conservative Republicans. That’s more than half of conservative Republicans! Another important finding: 82% of respondents had not heard of the GND before the survey, meaning that most people are likely to support the Green New Deal if it’s described to them, but that word hasn’t gotten out about it.

Bipartisan support for action on climate change isn’t just found in the polls; a bipartisan carbon tax bill was introduced last week in the Senate. The bill was not expected to pass, but some see it as a starting point for bipartisan negotiation. Some Republicans have shown indications that they may be ready to compromise as the devastating effects of a changing climate become ever clearer.

Climate Action is Coming – But is it Enough?

The Green New Deal is a crucial opportunity that we cannot afford to miss. With a blue House, an energized progressive base, and bipartisan support, the House leadership has an opportunity to direct the policy agenda on this issue. Unfortunately, a few recent news items have put into question whether they will take this opportunity or let it pass.

First, Maryland Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer, the incoming majority leader, stated on December 19, 2018, that the committee that will tackle climate change – whatever that committee may be – will not have subpoena power, the legal authority to demand documents and testimony from relevant players. While the committee would likely have no problem collecting documents and testimony from climate scientists, a lack of subpoena power would prevent the committee from compelling testimony from the fossil fuel industry. Such testimony would allow the committee to establish key findings about issues such as fossil fuel funding for climate change denying think tanks and lobby groups and other bad faith efforts (some quite extraordinary – the Heartland Institute took out a billboard comparing the Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden to people concerned about global warming!), which could motivate strong action and justify the scope of the legislation.

Second, on December 20, 2018, Florida Democrat Kathy Castor (who has a 93% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters) announced that she was chosen to lead a new committee on climate change in the next Congress. The details of the committee have not yet been made public, but Representative Castor stated that although a Green New Deal would be a consideration in the committee, “that’s not going to be our sole focus.” She also indicated that they were not planning to disqualify members from serving on the committee if they take money from fossil fuel companies. While the new committee shows that the leadership is planning to focus on climate change, it is also seen as an indication that they are not moving forward with a Green New Deal as proposed.

What you can do – call your Members of Congress NOW

Green New Deal supporters in Congress have said that they have not heard opposition from Democratic leadership to the GND’s proposed policies, but “they’re not willing to go out on a limb” because they aren’t sure of support from their caucus and they’re concerned about overstepping other committees’ jurisdiction. So far, only 43 of the 235 Democratic representatives have spoken out in favor of the Green New Deal. This means that Democratic leadership needs to hear from caucus members (our representatives) that there is solid support for a robust committee to work on the Green New Deal plan by 2020; and that in order to support the plan, the committee needs subpoena power to be able to compel testimony from relevant players.

You know what that means … time to call your Members of Congress and let them know we need immediate action on Climate Change through a national Green New Deal. Despite the government shutdown and the recess between Congressional sessions, Capitol offices are open and the staff is there to record your comments (though you may have to leave a message as some offices are short-staffed). Asking our MoCs to publicly support the Green New Deal is the best way to show leadership that the House needs to take it up as soon as possible.

Representative Barbara Lee has already shown public support for the plan. Representatives Eric Swalwell and Mark DeSaulnier have previously been strong advocates for action on climate change and the environment, but have not yet publicly supported the Green New Deal.

You can also contact your local and state representatives to sign on to the platform – read our previous article about the movement to get local and state leaders on-board. The more pressure to act on a Green New Deal, the better!

WHAT TO SAY:

If you are represented by Rep. Lee (CA-13):

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for supporting the Green New Deal. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change while supporting our economy and workers. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure that a committee with subpoena power is established and takes up the Green New Deal in its agenda.

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

If you are represented by Rep. DeSaulnier (CA-11) or Swalwell (CA-15):

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change, and I know it can be done in a way that supports our economy and our workers. I ask you to publicly support the Green New Deal, which is the only concrete proposal to ensure action on climate change. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure that a committee with subpoena power is established and takes up the Green New Deal in its agenda.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

To check on who your representative is, please enter your zip code at this link to verify.

Support the Green New Deal

Protecting Our Future
Graphic © Elected Officials to Protect America

By Anne Spevack

Deadline: right now – Support for the Green New Deal (GND) keeps growing! At the COP24 UN Climate Talks in Katowice, Poland, over 300 state and local elected officials from the U.S. signed a letter calling for a GND approach to phase out fossil fuel use. The letter calls for jurisdictions in the U.S. to take steps to produce clean and renewable energy; refuse permits for new oil, coal, and gas projects; and reduce subsidies for fossil fuels. The letter also recognizes that a concerted national effort is needed, and calls for a national GND plan to guide investment in renewable energies and move our economy away from fossil fuels.

East Bay signatories to the letter include Berkeley and Richmond mayors Jesse Arreguin and Tom Butt, and City Council members from Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Oakland, Richmond, and San Leandro. Missing: mayors from every other East Bay city, many City Council members, and all our state senators and assembly members. Check to see whether your elected officials are on the letter, and if not, tell them to sign on! Don’t know who they are or how to contact them? Find them using this handy search tool.

What to say:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a Member of Indivisible East Bay. I am deeply concerned about the growing hazards that climate change is creating in our communities, most recently the devastating wildfires and worsening droughts. Thank you for helping protect our local communities and environment. But there is only so much our local communities can do. We need a national plan. Please sign on to the letter from Elected Officials to Protect America at uselectedofficials.org and join the hundreds of state and local representatives calling for a Green New Deal to protect our environment and our economy.

What else you can do:

Read our recent article for background info on the Green New Deal and to learn how you can help, including by asking your Members of Congress to publicly support the proposal and to pressure House leadership to ensure it is a priority in the new congressional session.

Anne Spevack is an expert on transportation and infrastructure issues with a passion for the environment, and is rapidly becoming an expert in the Green New Deal.

December 2018 meeting with Feinstein staff

On December 10, 2018, Indivisible East Bay had our first meeting with Senator Feinstein’s new interim state director Peter Muller. We met field representative Abby Ellis in the senator’s San Francisco office and Peter, who is based in Los Angeles, joined us by phone.

While climate change is always a high priority for IEB and usually makes our meeting agendas in some form, it’s rarely at the very top of our memo — mainly because that space is generally filled by a reaction to the latest crisis coming out of the White House. So it was a promising sign of the power shift in DC that we started with a discussion of the Green New Deal (GND). Peter said that while Sen. Feinstein isn’t yet familiar with the details of the Green New Deal proposal, as far as he could tell she’s generally supportive of the program and would invest more time in learning about it once it’s a bit further advanced in the House.

We brought up the plan Feinstein supports to extend certain controversial provisions in the WIIN Act, a water bill which, among other things, diverts water south of the Delta. We shared our concerns that the extension of those provisions could result in harm the Delta ecosystem, but Peter said that Sen. Feinstein’s office has examined the matter carefully and doesn’t believe the provisions have been harmful so far or will become so if extended.

We also talked about asylum seekers at the California-Mexico border and those being detained (along with other immigrants) throughout the state. Sen. Feinstein still wants to visit the detention facilities herself, but doesn’t yet have plans to do so. Meanwhile, her staff has visited every facility in California in which immigrants are detained, as well as some in Texas. But it’s been hard to perform oversight, because the facilities know they are coming and are able to prepare. Sen. Feinstein continues to work on getting legislation ready to pass at the earliest opportunity. (First we need to elect more Democrats.) We asked her to prioritize addressing the seemingly unnecessary “metering” at ports of entry that is causing a humanitarian crisis in which asylum seekers are forced to choose between waiting in overflowing shelters in Mexico — with complete uncertainty about having their claims heard — or attempting dangerous, illegal crossings and turning themselves in at understaffed remote outposts. And meanwhile we asked her to look at ways she could collaborate with the House concerning funding for immigration enforcement, particularly with respect to making sure the executive branch spends the money in the way Congress intended.

We discussed delays in funding transit projects — Sen. Feinstein does her best to advocate for projects in California but doesn’t have much influence otherwise; Attorney General nominee William Barr — she shares our concerns about his civil rights record and biases; judiciary appointments — Republicans are happy with how this is going. so we are likely to see more of the same; and homelessness — she has a bill ready and is looking for a Republican co-sponsor.

Finally, we asked what the senator’s hopes and dreams are for working with our new blue House. Peter listed:

  • Immigration
  • Gun Control – Peter said that Sen. Feinstein saw a strong opportunity for a bump stock ban (which the White House announced only days later)
  • Environment
  • Homelessness
  • Immigration enforcement oversight
  • Appropriations – put more constraints on the administration
  • Health care
  • 2016 election investigation – help her better leverage her position on the Judiciary Committee

 

Find out what it’s like: Witness at the Texas Border

Just reading about the administration’s mistreatment of refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border is enough to bring people to tears: from family separation to unlawful prolonged detention to the death of a seven-year old girl while in Border Patrol custody. In response, most of us sympathize, we offer support, we protest.

Some do more, including local activist Tomi Nagai-Rothe, who spent two and a half weeks at the border volunteering with the Texas Civil Rights Project. Hear Tomi speak about her eye-opening and heart-wrenching experience as a “Witness at the Texas Border” at an event sponsored by the El Cerrito Progressives on Saturday, January 5, from 3 to 4:30 PM, at Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury Ave., El Cerrito.

Tomi will also delve into why, as covered in a detailed ACLU report, the entire argument for extending a wall along the border is built on a foundation of quicksand unmoored from factual evidence. In fact, studies show that border walls “do not make the U.S. safer or significantly reduce smuggling or immigration.” There will also be an opportunity to learn about new local initiatives to support immigrants.

Ready to do more?

It’s not too late to contact your Members of Congress and insist that they keep funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection in check by fighting for a budget with no new funding for the wall or border enforcement. Read our article for more information and call scripts.

And check out these organizations, which are doing good work and need your help:

Graphic by Tomi Nagai-Rothe

Turn the Blue Wave into the Green New Deal

By Anne Spevack

The Blue Wave created the new Blue House, ready to begin its legislative session in January 2019 – and a top priority of some incoming members of the Blue House is the multifaceted environmental/economic “Green New Deal.” Like the Blue Wave, this new plan needs all of our voices in order to succeed: We need to let our legislators know it’s a priority, and we need to tell them to tell others. There will be continuing action on this front, and we’ll keep you updated with ways to support specific Green New Deal policies as they develop. For now, you can take action by telling your Members of Congress you want them to publicly support the Green New Deal; asking them to push House leadership to make the Green New Deal a priority in the new congressional session; and asking them to follow the lead of Barbara Lee and others who support the formation of a Select Committee focused on its development and implementation (or, if Barbara Lee is your Member of Congress, thanking her!).

Keep reading for background about the Green New Deal; you’ll find information on how to contact your Members of Congress, and what to tell them, at the end of this article.

What is the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal is a blanket term for a growing set of plans and policies that aim both to transform the economy and fight climate change – in fact, to transform the economy through fighting climate change. The primary environmental goal would be to rapidly eliminate carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, while the economic goal would be to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality through government-sponsored and subsidized jobs.  Though the specific actions and policies are still being defined, initial proposals mobilize the economy by creating jobs, training, and education through investments in climate-resilient infrastructure (like sea walls, smart grids, and mass transit systems) and expansion of renewable energy production. The Green New Deal rejects traditional assumptions that anything that is good for the environment is bad for the economy, instead recognizing that green industries already employ lots of workers of a variety of skill levels, and that we have only scratched the surface of that potential.

While the term “Green New Deal” dates back to the mid-2000s and was used by President Obama to frame some of his platform supporting renewable energy and infrastructure projects, the current push to make a Green New Deal is spearheaded by some of the new progressive representatives recently elected to the House, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the youth-led Sunrise Movement. Taking a progressive mandate from the Blue Wave and understanding the urgency of climate change, these representatives-elect are already working with Democratic and progressive members of Congress to set up the House for action on climate change in the next session.

How do we get a Green New Deal?

Ultimately, the Green New Deal will be made up of individual policies, rules, and funding sources supporting sustainable industries and green jobs, but proponents are currently pushing for a comprehensive plan to guide and coordinate these actions. A proposal by Ocasio-Cortez states that the Green New Deal plan would be a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan … for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.”

Ocasio-Cortez and the new class of progressives in the House, with help from the Sunrise Movement, support the creation of a new Select Committee on a Green New Deal, which would be tasked with developing a Plan for a Green New Deal by 2020 and would serve as a focal point for related efforts. A Select Committee, unlike permanent or standing committees, is temporary and investigates a particular issue outside the realm of or at the intersection of the existing permanent Congressional committees. Although the Select Committee proposal has gained the most traction, some incumbent Members of Congress argue that maintaining the existing committee structure would allow Democrats to focus on building power and pressure in existing committees that already have the most power over purse strings and authorization.

Whatever the particular structure, Indivisible East Bay-ers know that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and demands immediate and focused action. The current proposal commits the House to make a plan for action on climate change, our economy, and environmental justice by 2020. Support among legislators is growing; our own Representative Barbara Lee recently publicly supported this proposal and we trust her experience to know that this is a viable and effective path moving forward.

What you can do:

Ask your Member of Congress to publicly support the Green New Deal and encourage House leadership to form the Select Committee. Please call to thank Representative Lee for publicly supporting the Green New Deal. Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell have indicated support; please ask them to publicly support the proposal. Ask all of them to pressure House leadership to ensure the Green New Deal is priority in the new congressional session.

What to say:

If you are represented by Rep. Lee:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for supporting the Green New Deal. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change, and I know it can be done in a way that supports our economy and our workers. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure the Green New Deal is a priority in the new Congress.

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

If you are represented by Rep. Swalwell or DeSaulnier:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change, and I know it can be done in a way that supports our economy and our workers. I ask you to publicly support the Green New Deal, which is the only concrete proposal to ensure action on climate change. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure the Green New Deal is a priority in the new Congress.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

Anne Spevack is an expert on transportation and infrastructure issues with a passion for the environment, and is rapidly becoming an expert in the Green New Deal.