IEB meets with Feinstein State Director April 17, 2018

On April 17, 2018, a dedicated group of about 25 Indivisible East Bay, Indivisible Central Contra Costa County, and Together We Will Contra Costa members sat down with Senator Diane Feinstein’s State Director, Sean Elsbernd, at the Concord Public Library. After a week filled with news of scandals and investigations in the White House, as well as some major foreign policy developments, the participants were eager to talk to someone with inside knowledge of what’s going on in D.C.

As is typical of our meetings with Sean, IEB came prepared with a checklist of items to discuss. Our goals are to inform Sean of our position on various issues and request actions for the Senator to take — as well as to allow Sean to provide us with his reaction to our requests. This is never dull. Sean is not shy about asserting his views on the agenda topics, whether or not those views align with ours.

In this latest meeting, our checklist was ambitious — it included more than 20 items. Here are some highlights:

The Mueller probe

With Trump frequently commenting about the possibility that he may fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller or otherwise attempt to shut down the Russia investigation, there’s pressure on Congress to pass legislation to protect Mueller. Senators Tillis, Graham, Booker and Coons of the Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Feinstein is a Ranking Member, have sponsored the bipartisan Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act to do just that. Senator Grassley scheduled a Committee vote, though it may be for naught, as Mitch McConnell will not bring the vote to the floor and the House apparently has no plans to do anything on this matter.

Sean offered little hope. He encouraged us to keep public pressure on the Senators and to keep these bills and the importance of protecting Mueller in the public eye. Consistent with news reports and the perception of groups who are mobilizing to protect the investigation (including Indivisibles), Sean believes the real immediate danger is that Trump will fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, as an indirect route to stopping Mueller.

Meanwhile, two committees in the Senate have been investigating Russian interference into our elections: the Intelligence Committee is focused directly on what happened in the 2016 election, while the Judiciary Committee is looking into obstruction of justice concerning the Russian interference. The report from the Intelligence Committee is close to completion. Their findings, when published, need to get to Secretaries of State across the country ASAP, so they can address possible voting obstruction/interference issues. Sean reports that Senator Chuck Grassley (chairman of the Judiciary Committee) has not been helpful in his committee’s investigation. We should be prepared to exert pressure for action here.

Judicial appointments

For judicial appointments, there is a longstanding tradition in the Senate whereby the nominee’s home state Senator is sent a form called a “blue slip” and can signal their support for a nomination by returning a positive blue slip to the Judiciary Committee. Declining to return a blue slip indicates the Senator does not support the nominee; this has traditionally doomed a nomination.

During the Obama administration, GOP Senators often withheld blue slips to prevent confirmation of judges that the Republican party opposed. Breaking with this tradition, Grassley has recently allowed two nominees to go forward without a blue slip. Feinstein has thrown down a marker on respecting the blue slip tradition. We at IEB see this as critical, especially because there are currently seven vacancies in the influential Ninth Circuit, which includes California. Blue slips may be the only way Democratic Senators can influence nominations to this Circuit.

Bombing of Syria

Feinstein believes that, while the President can unilaterally authorize limited strikes, sustained military action should require authorization from Congress. Last year, she voted to debate repealing the 2001 AUMF Authorization for Use of Military Force), but that vote failed. Senators Corker and Kaine on the Foreign Relations Committee have introduced a bipartisan bill to repeal and replace the current AUMF. Feinstein plans to review that bill and continues to support having that debate. IEB also wants Congress to have this debate, but considers the terms of the proposed replacement AUMF very problematic and has asked Feinstein not to support it.

Pompeo nomination

Feinstein opposes the nomination of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. We concur — see our article for action you can take to oppose Pompeo’s nomination.

Offshore drilling in California

Donald Trump continues to push to open the California coast to offshore drilling. Not surprisingly, Feinstein is strongly opposed to this. State Senator Hanna-Beth Jackson has introduced SB 834, which would designate as state land the entire California coast, from beaches to three miles out to sea. The bill would also prohibit “the State Lands Commission from approving any leases of submerged lands that would result in an increase of oil or natural gas production from federal waters.” This would effectively prevent federal authorization of offshore drilling in California. Feinstein supports this bill and additionally wants all California counties to pass resolutions opposing offshore drilling.

We at IEB need to call our state representatives in support of this bill!

Immigration reform

A California woman spoke about her husband who was born in Brazil and had been adopted by Americans as a child. The couple recently learned that, despite the adoption, the husband is not a U.S. citizen. Shockingly, at this point, there is no clear pathway to citizenship for him, nor for others in a similar position. As a result, such individuals could be sent back to their country of origin — where they know no one and do not know the culture. Faced with this prospect, some have committed suicide.

To address this injustice, the woman advocates for passage of the Adoptee Citizen Act of 2018 (S. 2522H.R. 5233), introduced on March 8, 2018 by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). A similar bipartisan bill has been introduced in the House. The acts “would provide U.S. citizenship to individuals born outside of the United States who were adopted as children by American parents.” She asked Senator Feinstein to support this legislation.

The bill would fix a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000. This existing legislation does guarantee citizenship to adoptees born outside of the U.S. under the age of 18. However, the CCA did not apply to adoptees who were over 18 when the law went into effect on February 27, 2001 — leaving out an estimated 35,000 adoptees. These adoptees remain “susceptible to deportation, unable to travel outside of the U.S. and unable to work legally.”

Everyone in the room was very moved by the woman’s story. We were shocked to hear that so many adoptees are being denied citizenship, and baffled that Congress would find this a difficult problem to solve. Sean rushed over to carefully take down the woman’s contact information, so hopefully Senator Feinstein will take action both on this case and the larger issue. IEB plans to advocate for this bill. So please contact your members of Congress today, and look out for more details and calls to action to come. 

Make those phone calls!

While your calls to our representatives continue to come in, Sean says call volume is down from last year. This is concerning, since if anything our call volume needs to increase — especially on these issues we are most concerned about. Make those phone calls! Today! 

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

California Indivisibles Stand Together

Members of IEB Governance Committee
Members of IEB Governance Committee at California Conclave

Several members of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee attended the first-ever Conclave of California Indivisible groups in Sacramento on April 7-8. Organized by Indivisible National and California Indivisible folks, members from around 50 groups came together to discuss best practices and share stories. Hearing what Indivisible San Diego and Indivisible Calaveras are doing in red areas was eye-opening and inspiring to those of us in solidly blue East Bay.

IEB Governance Committee member Nancy Latham speaking at Conclave. Photo by Tama Becker-Verano.
GC member Nancy Latham speaking at Conclave. Photo by Tama Becker-Verano.

Over the weekend (plus Monday for lobbying), the presentations – channeling Jerry Maguire – helped us learn how to help ourselves. Sacramento union leader Fabrizio Sasso reminded us that today’s attacks on unions are a threat to everyone. Racial justice and equity leader PaKou Her shared with us Gloria Anzaldúa’s feminist theory of the borderlands, a powerful concept that challenged us all to think about our proximity to those in power. The big takeaway from the first day was to remember that it’s not just about fighting the big chicken, but about lifting up others and finding ways we can be of service.

IEB Governance Committee member Andrea Lum, with a {not} friend
GC member Andrea Lum, with a [not] friend
One of the Conclave’s most important goals was to build how we work together as a California network of Indivisible groups, so we can reduce duplication of effort (e.g. access a common repository of tools, research, trainings, etc.), avoid reinventing the wheel (learn about the amazing tools and models other groups have developed), and amplify our voices by engaging in advocacy coordinated across the state.

To build our California networked infrastructure, on the second day we broke into four work groups: Policy & Advocacy, Communications, Organizational Sustainability, and Electoral Action. Each work group formed sub-teams which created action plans to carry the work forward. It was inspiring to hear at the end of the Conclave how the sub-teams plan to work on California-wide teams to influence policy, amplify our collective voice, ensure our members and groups are sustainable, and flip the House in November!

Interested in learning more about IEB’s Governance Committee? Want to know how you can help build our organizational capacity? Please email uswe want to hear from you!

 

 

Keep Calm and Postcard On

How to follow up your Cinco de Mayo Saturday? Come to Indivisible East Bay’s second postcard party on Sunday, May 6, from noon to 2 PM. Our first postcard party in March was a huge success, with 50 IEB members & friends coming together to write 300 postcards:

  • 60 for Emily Antul (local MA race) – won on 4/4/18!
  • 62 for Rebecca Dallet (WI Supreme Court) – won on 4/4/18!
  • 164 for Dr. Hiral Tipirneni (US Congress AZ) – election is 4/24/18

This is what a pile o’ 300 postcards looks like:

Postcard party

Perfect for blue state activists, postcards are a fun and effective way to help get the message out to faraway red districts and states. Postcard resisters meet in cafes and living rooms, around tables full of snacks and a rainbow assortment of pens and markers that make even the most artsy-challenged among us grin.

All are welcome — from the postcard-curious to committed carders. Bring a friend, and make some new ones there! We’ll explain everything and have newbies up and writing in a few minutes. We provide addresses and samples of what to write for each campaign — most from Postcards to Voters, and we can also give you the lowdown on other options.

  • You can bring your own postcards (if there’s an image or text it should be content-neutral) or we’ll have some there for you to use – designed and donated by IEB’s super postcard party organizer Michael.
  • If you have postcard stamps (.35 ea for cards a max of 6″ x 4.25″) please bring them, or we’ll have stamps for you (not donated, so we’ll just ask you to reimburse us for the cost).
  • We’ll also have pens, markers, stickers, washi tape, and most importantly – snacks and friendly chat as we write to resist!

Already a verified postcard writer? Bring your own addresses if you want. Like to learn more about activist postcard-ing? See our article “The Pen (plus .35 stamp) Is Mightier Than Yelling At Your TV.” 

The El Cerrito Royale is a short walk from El Cerrito Del Norte BART station and is wheelchair accessible. Free parking.

Postcard parties
Postcard parties, photo by Heidi Rand

Want to get started writing on your own? Go to Postcards to Voters or the P2V Facebook page: volunteers in every state have collectively written over half a million postcards to voters in dozens of key, close elections. After you sign up you have to get verified: follow the directions to write your first postcard, take a photo and send it to be checked. Get started using one of these options:

  • Click here to fill out a volunteer form, or
  • Send an email to join@TonyTheDemocrat.org or
  • Text HELLO to ABBY The Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229)

Once you’re verified, request the number of addresses you’d like:

  • Click here, or
  • Send an email to postcards@TonyTheDemocrat.org, including the number of addresses you want, or
  • Text ABBY The Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229), or
  • New! Use Facebook Messenger to send a direct message to Abby the Address Bot (it’s free for Postcards to Voters, whereas they pay for texting). You must provide a texting phone number even if you’re using the FB Messenger feature because Abby is a texting robot. Click here for more info about Abby.

Or you can use another great group to write about specific issues. At Postcards for America and its main Facebook group and state sub-groups — ours is Postcards for America / California — people write postcards to their own federal and state elected officials, or other targeted parties, on issues that concern them. Search the master issues list at Postcarder Calls to Action,

Read our original article for more complete info about postcard activism.

Interested? Want to let us know about your own postcard parties? Email us or contact @heidirand on Slack.  

February 2018 Meeting with Senator Feinstein’s State Director

By Candace Goldman

On February 7 nearly 35 of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s constituents met with Sean Elsbernd, Feinstein’s state director, at the South Berkeley Public Library. Present were members of Indivisible East Bay and Indivisible Berkeley, and representatives from other local organizations. Abby Ellis, Feinstein’s East Bay field representative and James Chang, from Berkeley City Council member Kriss Worthington’s office, were also present. Chang moderated the meeting, which was a fairly free-flowing conversation rather than a formal Q&A session. Among the many things discussed:

TOWN HALL: The ongoing question of when Sen. Feinstein will have a town hall meeting remains unanswered.

TAKING ACTION: From a grandfather in particular, but supported by all, was the question of what we could do to help support the Senator and have the greatest impact. Answer: continue our participation as we have been – calls, letters, faxes and emails are all useful, logged and considered. Replies via e-mail are easiest for them. Personal stories on issues are particularly impactful. Sean assured us that issues raised during the discussion would be reported directly to the Senator and that she is very interested in knowing our concerns.

THE BUDGET: The 2-year spending deal just passed did not include specific provisions concerning immigration or DACA. The bill extended CHIP for 10 years, funding for community health centers was extended, foster care (notably in California) was addressed, the Pentagon has some funding stability, and the community development block grants were increased. Sen. Feinstein had voted “No” on the last two Continuing Resolutions (CRs) as they lacked provision for DREAMers.

TAXES, MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY: Sean emphasized that on these issues personal stories are a very effective advocacy tool and they made a difference in the fight over the ACA. He urged people to send personal stories about what cuts to Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, CalFresh (i.e., food stamps) would mean to people personally.

DEMOCRACY AND “DE-REGULATION”: Deep concern was stated for the damage to the tenets of democracy, lack of security clearances, lack of Presidential fitness and his attacks on democracy, and the seeming lack of response in Congress (except Reps. Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee), while Republicans seem to be “aiding and abetting” a slow moving coup. Sean said his understanding is that there is in fact concern in the Senate that is reflected in more private conversations, but he was not familiar with the underlying mood in the House. He thought the situation is felt more acutely in the Bay Area. Concerning the apparent lack of DNC response to the wholesale wreckage that seems to be happening, we asked “how can we help.” Sean suggested contacting and volunteering with various groups working on issues such as the ACLU, Center for Biological diversity, state Attorney General offices, and the new group National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

CABINET VOTES/FISA/MUELLER: One woman who described herself as a “progressive 80 year old” asked why the Senator voted to confirm 11 Cabinet nominees. Sean only commented that the Senator thought they deserved a “yes” vote. On FISA, the woman objected to Feinstein’s position on reauthorization of the FISA warrant list. Sean stated that Sen. Feinstein had offered amendments both in the Intelligence Committee and on the Senate floor, but that finally, given her knowledge of actions thwarted by the FISA program, she voted yes. A new Berkeley resident thanked the Senator for her work on the Russia investigation and her release of the GPS Transcript, which the group cheered. She asked about steps to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sean said there are two bills, one from Booker/Graham and another from Coons/Tillis, both before the Judiciary Committee. The Senator is working to pull the bills together to get a vote. The House is another issue, and Sean indicated the Senator also felt the best protection may be the public’s continued emphasis on the positive work being done.

ELECTIONS: Election integrity and lack of action on social media companies and bots came up. Sean reminded us to keep focus on our state elections (especially gubernatorial) as well as the national positions and to keep the pressure up on ending gerrymandering, which could happen at the state level if we can change the make-up of state legislatures and governorships. On the national level, a flip is essential in part because of Committee chair subpoena power. On social media, he indicated Senators Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff both wrote to Facebook and Twitter about bots, and were swamped with negative feedback; but they are working on legislation and there will be more hearings about social media transparency. He stated net neutrality is still a key issue. Abby also reminded us to be aware of differences between rural and urban concerns and to be sensitive to what impacts rural residents differently. Sean indicated the Census is not high up on the list right now so if we want attention drawn to it we need to be very vocal about it, including doing op-eds, letters to the editor, etc.

STUDENTS: A Cal representative thanked the Senator for her support in the past but was concerned about potential changes to the Higher Education Act, and sought the Senator’s support for re-authorization of the Act. Sean encouraged him to have students contact the Senator and he also said he would be happy to meet with students on campus to discuss their concerns.

ISRAEL: Concerning U.S. military support of Israel a constituent asked for enforcement of Sec. 620M (Human Rights Vetting) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Sean said he would address the question with the Senator, and stated she has been vocal about settlement expansion, and opposed both the ambassador choice and embassy move to Jerusalem.

EMOLUMENTS: About concerns for the apparent total lack of attention to the self-dealing and money accruing to the President and his family, Sean said there are three Judiciary Committee staff working on unthreading “45’s” finances. The Senator has met with outside groups about emoluments litigation, and there is a possibility the Judiciary Committee will investigate.

CLIMATE: In response to a concern about the “wholesale slaughter” of our regulatory system, Abby suggested one thing we could do was a writing campaign to the Department of Transportation to support the CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards). She also reminded people that the Senator had obtained $900 million for the Peninsula when Congress funded Caltrain’s 1.75 billion dollar electrification.

Other issues included a request for attention in assisting millennials with jobs, housing affordability, climate change, offshore drilling, a request for a strong carbon tax proposal, protecting journalists, healthcare finance, nursing jobs, efforts of the Senator to undo what’s been happening, the Senator’s response to the Duty to Warn professionals advocating for application of the 25th Amendment, tensions with North Korea, and the Census.

As we concluded, Sean emphasized Senator Feinstein’s “measured, thoughtful, balanced approach” that helps engender bi-partisan support on issues. He said to keep contacting people we know in red districts to get them to take action in their areas and to keep doing what we are doing as we are already using effective tools.

A Conversation with Steve Haro, Senator Feinstein’s Chief of Staff in DC

By Catherine de Neergaard

Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you have to improvise. Such was the case when Steve Haro, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Chief of Staff, met with Indivisible representatives on February 21, 2018.

As Chief of Staff, Mr Haro occupies the most prestigious position on Feinstein’s staff. Previously, he has had been Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department Commerce under President Obama.

Because Mr. Haro remained in Washington, the Indivisible group arranged for a video conference at WeWork in the Oakland Civic Center. Unfortunately, there was an Internet outage at the Center that day. So, we instead opted for an audio-only call. Not an optimal solution, but it sufficed to get the job done.

Once we were connected, and introductions were given, we proceeded to work our way through a list of agreed-upon topics.

DACA:

We thanked Senator Feinstein for holding out for a clean DREAM ACT for the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA).

Haro said that Senator Feinstein was disappointed not to get a “Clean Dream” rider on the Continuing Resolution for funding. Mr. Haro related at considerable length the inside drama and difficulties of getting the twelve Republican votes needed to pass a compromise bipartisan Immigration (DACA) Bill. The Democrats conceded much just to get the bill to the floor. Unfortunately, after the GOP leadership lobbied against it, even the most bipartisan immigration deal the Senate considered only got eight Republican votes and the bill failed.

Regarding the brief shutdown of the government that resulted from the immigration policies dispute, Mr. Haro gave us some new insight into how the senator thought it went down. In spite of strong reservations about the negative effects of a government shutdown, the senator voted against both the continuing resolution (CR) that would have kept it open and the CR that opened it back up. And she thought that Democrats didn’t allow enough time for it to work.

GUN SAFETY:

We thanked the Senator for her outspoken support of stricter gun control, including her bills banning bump stocks and all assault weapons.

Haro noted that Feinstein introduced a bill, together with Senator Flake, to increase the legal age to buy weapons to 21. But Democrats cannot get a single Senate Republican to co-sponsor a bill banning bumpstocks.

The key question for all such bills remains: How do we get to 60 votes in the Senate to support the bill? The answer, for now, is “We can’t.”

CLIMATE CHANGE:

Haro said that Senator Feinstein is working with colleagues to preserve current CAFE standards and prohibit waivers. The Senator also believes we must protect the jobs of scientists in government positions from politically-motivated firings—although it was not clear how she intends to accomplish this.

As to the Senator’s support for the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act and a timeline for a federal climate bill similar to California’s carbon auction model, Haro said he would have to “get back to us.”

We also asked Feinstein to support HJ 48, a constitutional amendment introduced in the House, to state that corporations are not people with the argument that corporate money drives harmful environmental policy.

FUNDING FOR THE 2020 CENSUS:

IEB remains concerned that continued underfunding of the 2020 census will prevent an orderly and fair redistricting of the House. Similarly, use of untried methodologies threaten to endanger an accurate count and leave out harder-to-reach people.

We asked: “What is Senator Feinstein’s plan to get more money for the census?” The answer was not encouraging. Haro said House Republicans hate census appropriations bills and fund them at the last minute. The Senate isn’t directly impacted by the census, so it is hard to get the Senators excited about this. Feinstein is pushing to prevent the census from asking about citizenship which, in her opinion, is as important as funding.

ELECTION SECURITY:

We asked: “What can Congress/Senate do in the absence of executive support to ensure fair elections?” and “What has the Senator done to advance the Secure Elections Act or similar legislation?”

Haro observed that when voter turnout is high, Democrats generally win. That’s why Democrats want people to vote and Republicans do not. He is concerned that a low voter turnout, encouraged by Republican voting restrictions, will negatively impact Democrats. Obviously, the GOP has no interest in taking on this issue.

Other than noting Feinstein’s support for paper ballots, his answers did not directly address our questions. He did say that he was unfamiliar with some of the specifics we raised and would look into them further.

NATIONAL SECURITY AND NUCLEAR WAR:

We thanked Senator Feinstein for her deep concerns about U.S. relations with North Korea. She is already a co-sponsor of S. 200 which restricts the first use of nuclear weapons. However, we asked that her concerns about U.S. involvement in the Middle East be stronger than they appear.

Feinstein supports repealing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). However, Haro expects no action on this matter any time soon. The issue has gone quiet, apparently because the GOP views any change as an attack against Trump. He told us that he personally feels some regret that Democrats didn’t work with President Obama on some of these issues regarding curtainling executive power; he might have been open to it, and it wouldn’t have had the appearance of a partisan attack.

JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS:

The Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee continues to nominate untried, inexperienced, and young conservative Republicans for lifetime judgeships. The “blue slip” process, whereby the senators of a state are consulted and partisan input is preserved, continues to be bypassed or ignored. In other words, the GOP is rapidly stacking the courts. We asked: “What can we and the Senator do to stop this travesty?”

Haro replied that, other than delaying tactics, there is little the Democrats can do. The key is to “Take back the Senate.” He specifically suggested we (Indivisible nationally) focus on helping vulnerable blue senators in states where Trump won in 2016 and trying to pick up seats in Nevada and Arizona.

WE WANT A TOWN HALL

For the past several meetings with Feinstein’s staff, we have asked about the Senator’s reluctance to hold town hall meetings where the public can ask questions. We did so again at this meeting.

Haro responded that town halls take a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources to produce.

 

Catherine de Neergaard is a gardener, artist, and environmental Activist working within a variety of organizations including Quaker Earthcare Witness, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Kensington Green, and, of course, Indivisible.

Photograph by Catherine de Neergaard

Environmental Justice: a meeting with AG Becerra’s office

By Elizabeth Douglas

On February 22, 2018, I joined folks from Bay Area Indivisible chapters (IEB, SF, and Berkeley), the Center for Biological Diversity, and 350.org to meet with members of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s staff. This was my first activity with IEB and my first time as a California resident – I’m a DC escapee – engaging face to face with my state policy makers. Below are some highlights and some personal reflections from this incredibly educational and uplifting experience.   

What We Learned from Becerra’s Staff

Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice Arsenio Mataka and External Affairs Representative Betty Cao were welcoming, enthusiastic and appreciative of our groups’ efforts to show up and take action. It helps that Arsenio has been a lifelong environmental justice activist; he told us stories of his parents taking him to meetings where they would challenge the institutions that drove environmental policy decisions -some of the same institutions and agencies that he works for today.  His empathy for the issues that our consortium of environmental activists brought to the table was a common thread to his responses.

On the EPA and Superfund Enforcement:

We shared our concern that the EPA budget cuts and scaling back of the EPA Superfund enforcement could allow irregular compliance enforcement between states. Arsenio assured us that California is going to work hard to fight against cross-border pollution. Furthermore, he said that “compliance with state laws, where they are stricter than federal law, is a mandate. So states do have clout if the feds aren’t doing their job.”

On Investigating Exxon Mobil and the PCB Monsanto lawsuit:

Attorney General Becerra understands the severity of claims regarding Exxon’s efforts to defraud investors and the public, as well as the Oregon Attorney General’s actions against Monsanto for PCB pollution contaminating dozens of waterways and leaching into ground soil. Arsenio is also very aware of both issues. However, he said, the Attorney General has a policy not to comment on investigations – including whether or not they exist.

On Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

We had the pleasure of learning the story behind Attorney General Beccera’s thoughtful and impassioned NY Times Op-Ed regarding how California’s coastal economy would be affected by the Administration’s proposed offshore drilling 5 year plan. Arsenio believes there are significant hurdles for the plan to actually be implemented, but insisted that we must continue to comment and keep the pressure on from the comment period (ending March 9, 2018) to well into next year.

We discussed a host of other topics as well, from Clean Car Standards to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. Arsenio shared that these are of great concern to the Attorney General, and while he cited procedural or bureaucratic limitations to going into much depth at the moment he made it clear that this was to be an ongoing conversation.

What I Learned from my First Indivisible Action: A Personal Reflection

While I’m no stranger to activism, this was the first time I’ve done anything with Indivisible. Ever since Trump was elected I’ve wanted to take action, but wasn’t quite sure where the right fit was — this was my first time being a mother and a start-up employee as well as an activist. I didn’t want my son to feel like anything took precedence over him. But as I sat with him on my lap watching “An Inconvenient Sequel” last year, I realized my overwhelming sense of need for action stemmed from my desire to make the world better for him. He is my inspiration and I believe working towards solutions to improve our environment is a unifying, not divisive, force. I had never met any of the lovely people in the picture accompanying this article before the pre-brief for our meeting with the Attorney General, and had only been to a single IEB meeting in January, yet this group unhesitatingly welcomed me with open arms and gave me a seat at the table on an issue that is truly close to my heart. So to Indivisible and especially Indivisible East Bay, thank you for allowing me the opportunity for immediate action… and for welcoming my son into your meetings to eat your cake and resistance cookies! 

Your Action: Do Not Give Up Hope

I know acting on climate change issues can seem difficult at a time when we are dangling off the edge of a tipping point, unable to return to any sense of climate stability across the globe. Yet there are people in power, and people speaking truth to power, we can lean on. As of this writing, Attorney General Becerra’s office has filed at least 24 lawsuits — maybe more! — against the Trump administration, about a third on environmental issues. They understand that the effects of climate change disproportionately affect the poor, people of color, and women. To quote Arsenio, “pollution doesn’t know boundary lines,” and what happens in one city, state, or country affects us all.

Here are some suggested immediate actions from Attorney General Becerra’s office:

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.

Photo credit Indivisible SF

All Members Meeting: How to Flip Red Districts

At the February All Member Meeting, Indivisible East Bay members heard from representatives from two organizations working hard to get out the vote in not-too-faraway red districts. Kook Huber from Organizing for Action gave an impassioned rationale for what motivates her to get out the vote:

I am a first generation American. I am upset and angry every day when [the president] talks about immigrants and criminals all in one breath. He allowed white supremacists to talk about us, people of color, with hatred. That motivates me.

California is the key to flipping Congress blue, since Democrats only need to convert 24 out of the 60-70 districts in the United States considered flippable — and seven of those districts are in California. Indivisible East Bay has joined with the CD-21 Action Coalition, which Kook is spearheading. The coalition is focused on District 21 because it’s relatively close to the Bay Area, and because Hillary Clinton won it in 2016 by 15.5%, although David Valadao, the current Republican representative, beat the Democratic candidate by 13%.

Kook urged the audience to consider going to District 21 to canvass in person, or to join a phone bank – she emphasized that direct contact is best, with volunteers going door to door being the most effective way to get out the vote. Phone banking will be available in San Pablo and Walnut Creek, and the Coalition’s aim is to put together more volunteer opportunities—and to spread the word that Spanish speakers are particularly needed.

Several Indivisible East Bay members have also been working with Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO aimed at canvassing. Laura Jo Foo, a Working America coordinator, told us there are now nine paid staff in an office in Modesto helping train volunteers to canvass and knock on doors. Since last June, they’ve trained 300 volunteers, including folks from Indivisible, Our Revolution, and other organizations. The goal is to to talk to every person who answers their door in CA-21. While Laura Jo said Working America is non-partisan, at the primary level they support the labor-endorsed candidate. Laura Jo told us, “We engage in deep listening more than talking. We ask ‘what keeps you up at night and why’—that is our opportunity to do the education part.”

While their efforts in California are new, Working America has canvassed for 15 years in swing states. Out of 400 elections, they have a 70% win rate in close races. Laura Jo shared that efforts in CD-21 and CD-10 are critical and echoed what Kook said: the Bay Area is critical to flipping these nearby districts.

Ready to help? Here are some actions you can take:

  • Canvass with Working America AFL-CIO in Central Valley swing districts CA-10 (Modesto) and CA-21 (San Joaquin Valley). You’ll get excellent training and can then sign up for volunteer shifts.
  • Sign up here to help the CD-21 Action Coalition in ways other than canvassing – see their phone bank schedule and check out other volunteer opportunities.
  • Canvass in CA-21 with Swing Left East Bay. Check upcoming events and sign up to be trained & attend here.
  • Check out a wide variety of volunteer opportunities listed by Democracy Action.
  • See the “Phone & Text Banks” and “Help Us Flip This Thing” sections in our weekly newsletter. Don’t get the newsletter? Subscribe to it here.
  • Join the Elections channel on IEB’s Slack platform. Want an invite to join Slack? Please drop us a line at info@indivisibleeb.org 

The Pen (plus .35 stamp) Is Mightier Than Yelling At Your TV

Can’t canvass? Phone phobic? Tired of texting? Or just want a new tool to add to your activism kit? The grassroots resistance is made stronger when we all contribute our diverse skills and interests, and apply our ingenuity to use new and old techniques and technology to reach out to get people informed and motivated.

So – think postcards! Old-school analog paper and pen, sent anywhere in the USA for a mere thirty-five cents. Perfect for blue state activists, postcards are a fun and effective way to help flip faraway red districts and states. You can do it alone while you watch the news (gah…), or come out and join one of the many postcard parties popping up all over. Postcard resisters meet in cafes and living rooms, around tables full of snacks and a rainbow assortment of pens and markers that make even the most artsy-challenged among us grin.

Postcard parties
Postcard parties, photo by Heidi Rand

A few basics:

  • Some groups write postcards directly to other voters, others write to Members of Congress or other officials and groups about specific issues. If you’re postcard-ing on your own, decide which most suits your interest, and if you want to attend a party, check in advance what they have planned.
  • Before you go to a postcard party, check whether you need to bring your own stamps and postcards. Most parties will have stamps and/or cards for you to purchase at their cost, or will ask for a donation. At minimum the organizer will provide addresses and what you will write on each card for the specific campaign.
  • Currently stamps cost 35 cents for postcards sized a maximum of 6″ x 4.25″. If your postcard is larger than that, you must use a first-class letter stamp (currently .50). Is your local PO out? You can order online for a small delivery fee: pre-stamped postcards for .39 each, or the current forever seashell postcard stamps.
  • You can buy postcards specifically designed to send to voters, use appropriate postcards you already have (nothing controversial, please), or download and print professionally designed cards from Postcards From the People and the Postcards For the Resistance tumblr page, which also has a helpful summary about how to print postcards at home.
  • Or you can make your own postcards! Cut up stiff card-stock sized to a max of 6″ x 4.25″. Cut up a piece of letter-sized card-stock (8.5″ x 11″) to make four perfectly good postcards! USPS regs specify the minimum thickness for a postcard; since most of us don’t have a ruler to measure that small, your best bet is to feel whether the paper resembles the heft of commercial postcards. Most construction paper is not thick enough.
Original artwork by Raelene Coburn
Original postcard artwork by Raelene Coburn

And now, for the meat and potatoes, check out the two main groups. 

First, Postcards to Voters and its Postcards to Voters Facebook page: volunteers in every state have collectively written over half a million postcards to voters in dozens of key, close elections. After you sign up you have to get verified: follow the directions to write your first postcard, take a photo and send it to be checked. Get started using one of these options:

  • Click here to fill out a volunteer form, or
  • Send an email to join@TonyTheDemocrat.org or
  • Text HELLO to ABBY The Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229)

Once you’re verified, request the number of addresses you’d like:

  • Click here, or
  • Send an email to postcards@TonyTheDemocrat.org, including the number of addresses you want, or
  • Text ABBY The Address Bot at 1-484-ASK-ABBY (1-484-275-2229), or
  • New! Use Facebook Messenger to send a direct message to Abby the Address Bot (it’s free for Postcards to Voters, whereas they pay for texting). You must provide a texting phone number even if you’re using the FB Messenger feature because Abby is a texting robot. Click here for more info about Abby.

Second, through Postcards for America and its main Facebook group and state sub-groups — ours is Postcards for America / California — people write postcards to their own federal and state elected officials on issues that concern them. Search the master issues list at Postcarder Calls to Action,

And breaking news! Indivisible East Bay is throwing postcard parties — save the date for our first: Sunday March 18 from noon to 2 PM at Sports Basement in Berkeley.  All info, a map, and register (free) here.

Interested? Want to let us know about your own postcard parties? Email us or contact @heidirand on Slack.  

Postcard parties
Photo by Heidi Rand

CADEM 2018

By Nancy Latham

At the California Democratic Convention in San Diego (February 23-25), I was thrilled to be around thousands of other activists and political junkies. While there was divisiveness, mostly there was inspiration. Here is what stood out:

CADEM

  • California’s open primary system can threaten the blue wave. After months of impressive point swings toward Democrats in elections since November 2016, I had blithely assumed that we would flip the House – it would simply take hard work, and we have the hard-working activist base we need. I had not dwelled on the implications of our open primary system, in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. But early on day one I was buttonholed by an Indivisible member from SoCal worried that there are so many Democrats running in Congressional District 45, they are likely to emerge from the primary with two Republican candidates. Multiple districts face the problem of too many Democratic hopefuls jeopardizing the chances of any Democrats advancing to the general election in November, and there’s no clear solution.  
  • The labor movement rocks! I went to a labor panel, the labor caucus, union booths, and a union rally on Janus v. AFSCME. I was inspired to hear Dolores Huerta speak at the labor caucus, and the crowd went wild for her. Many labor speakers reminded us that unions are not simply about negotiating about conditions and pay with a particular employer. Fundamentally, the labor movement is on the forefront of advocating for the general welfare of working families. It is our largest and most important bulwark against the special interests of big business and the hyper-rich. And labor shows up to protest mass incarceration, gun violence, discrimination against LGBTQ communities. Every union member who spoke addressed the audience as “brothers and sisters.” It is so simple, and yet I felt it viscerally every time – union members belong to a big family fighting for social justice for all.

CADEM

  • We have so many fabulous women in the party! There were many wonderful speakers who were men (Jon Lovett showed up!), but it was truly intoxicating to hear from women – three who stood out to me at a General Session were Assemblymember Shirley Weber, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Senator Kamala Harris. Senator Harris reminded us of our values:

We know why we’re here – we are here to fight for the future of our children, we are here to fight for the future of our democracy. We need to think of 2018 as the most important year of our lives. Let’s remember what our dear Dolores Huerta says. Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person is a potential activist, every minute is a chance to change the world. … For us Democrats, the challenge for us in 2018 is to remind Americans of how much more we have in common than what separate us…. And there is so much we have in common. … Let’s remember our common story, our American story. 

CADEM

  • It was amazing to bond with the San Diego Indivisibles. Through the California Indivisible Slack, I connected with Tama, who leads an Indivisible group for Congressional District 52. It was so wonderful to get to know her, and on Saturday night another SD Indivisible hosted a party to say hi to Indivisibles who had come to the Convention from across the state. They all welcomed me into their extended family right off the bat! The weekend reminded me that this movement goes beyond our political action – it also speaks to our deep human need to build community. More than anything, it is our new social bonds, and the willingness of all of us to have one another’s back, that gives me hope.  

CADEM Nancy Latham Picture 4 - SD Indivisibles

Nancy Latham is passionate about advocating for an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.

Political and Proud: Alameda’s High Schoolers Voice a Call To Action

On February 21, 2018, Indivisible East Bay joined high schoolers, parents, and public officials from the Bay Area for Political and Proud, an evening of speeches and workshops at Alameda’s Encinal High School. The goal of the night was to bring young women, especially young women of color, together with leaders and organizations that could encourage and inform them as they set out on the path to building America’s more perfect union.

Judging by this event, Alameda’s future leaders are an incredibly organized and serious group of young women. They filled their school’s big gymnasium with decorated guest tables and a huge selection of organizing stations. Indivisible East Bay set up next to Alameda4Impeachment, Women’s March Oakland, The League of Women Voters, and more. The atmosphere was very much one of collaboration and community; Encinal High’s student AV technicians, journalists, and organizers did a wonderful job of managing and documenting a complex event.

A long line of impressive public officials gave speeches throughout the evening. Alameda’s mayor, Trish Herrera Spencer, talked about being Latina in law school, and encouraged everyone present to give themselves to as many opportunities as possible, no matter how remote the chance of success might seem. “When you show up, look around. Someone in that room will like you,” she said, to cheering and applause.

She noted, crucially, that more than one million Californian 17 year-olds will be eligible to vote come November 2018. It’s on us to make sure every one of them is registered and excited to participate.

A young woman with a small camera records an older woman speaking into the camera. They're on opposite sides of a table with an Indivisible East Bay banner on the front. A man stands to their left.
Volunteers recording a short interview about Indivisible East Bay with one of Encinal High’s student journalists.

Hydra Mendoza, Deputy Chief of Staff for Education and Equity in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, spoke clearly to the students, saying: “We are dependent on your ability to educate yourselves.” Mendoza described the challenges she faced as a young woman of color running for public office in San Francisco, and made a brave attempt to explain redlining and the concept of generational wealth to an audience that may never own property unless their parents buy it for them. Hopefully they, unlike Millennials who will rent apartments into their retirement, force a change in this system before they end up trapped in it.

Pamela Price, currently running for District Attorney of Alameda County, gave a rousing speech that detailed her own experience as a litigant in a Title IX sexual harassment case. Price tied her role in this important case to her long career as a civil rights lawyer, and echoed the same themes as the mayor when she exhorted the audience to “fill out the application, okay? You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Price ended on a resonant point: Alameda County is the most progressive in the country, and its teenagers have been chosen by virtue of their time here to lead the rest of the country to a progressive future that echoes the values they’ve learned in Alameda. What is familiar to them must become familiar to their counterparts in Alabama and Georgia if we’re to keep pushing the country forward. Listening to the speeches and watching the organizers manage it all, it was difficult not to agree with Price – and it was impossible not to feel a deep belief in the capacity of her bright young audience to change America for the better.

Images courtesy of Photography by Rex.