Barbara Lee Speaks With IEB (about impeachment and other things)

Ultimate Womens Power Luncheon Barbara Lee
Representative Barbara Lee speaking in October 2017. Photo by Kristen Law

Katie Hooper is a member of IEB’s Governance Committee and is a co-lead of the MoC Team Lee (CA-13).

IEB members and activists from Alameda4Impeachment and others participated in a November 15 phone call with Representative Barbara Lee about impeachment and a few other matters. Although she had to take a couple of breaks to vote on the House floor, Rep. Lee was very forthcoming and couldn’t have been more grateful for our collective passion and activism.

Lee did not agree to sign the current impeachment articles by Representatives Cohen and Gutierrez, but only because she said she’s working with her colleagues (even across the aisle) on a more robust set of articles, and this takes time. She seemed to understand that we want her publicly stating her support for the effort, but she really wants it to be with a larger consensus.

The most intense part of the call came at the end, when Lee said how grounding and moving it is to take a break from the constant politics of House votes to actually talk to her constituents, and told us that she felt reinvigorated for the upcoming vote on the tax (scam) bill. She told us that her aides Josh and Lisa, with whom IEB’s MoC Team Lee meet and correspond on a regular basis, update her constantly with our questions and concerns, and that we should keep bringing things up that we care about. We are hoping to meet with her staff after the holiday to talk about policy vs. grassroots efforts.

I had the chance to thank Rep. Lee, on behalf of our team and everyone at IEB, for all her hard work in the resistance.

By Katie Hooper

No Boooos at October All Member Meeting

Our pre-Halloween October 29 All Member Meeting at the Oakland Public Library gathered a crowd of enthusiastic and motivated folks to talk about federal, state and local issues.

STATE LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: Governance Committee member Jiggy filled us in on the high (and low) lights of the just-closed California legislative session. See the CA StateStrong recap.

SENATE RACE: See our article on the spirited discussion (first of many, we’re sure) about the 2018 California Senate Race.

Oakland Rising presentation by Beth Gunston at AMMOAKLAND RISING: Strategic Partnerships Director Beth Gunston gave an inspiring presentation about Oakland Rising, including letting us know about the November 4 event that IEB is supporting. Sign up here, see details on the Make It Fair FB page. With able video assistance from local hero Robert Reich, Beth explained that this weekend’s event will have volunteers heading out to neighborhoods to discuss the negative impact Prop 13 has on the Oakland community. Oakland Rising believes that face-to-face dialogue is the key to informing voters in our community.

BREAKOUT SESSIONS

  • The CA 11 (Rep Mark DeSaulnier) team welcomed new members and discussed co-lead Kristen’s attendance at an October power lunch and conference with Reps Pelosi and DeSaulnier and other high-power Democrats. Topics of interest: focusing on California “red” districts for 2018 midterms; the effectiveness of “new” technologies vs grassroots activism; how to not leave those left behind. Read Kristen’s account here. The team also talked about our priorities beyond maintaining relations with Rep DeSaulnier: local community issues, environment/climate change, and mid-term elections. The CA-11 United team’s next meeting is November 29, 7-8:30 PM at the Rialto Theater in El Cerrito.
  • The CA 15 (Rep Eric Swalwell) team also welcomed new members and discussed the upcoming voter registration training on November 11 at Inkling’s Coffee & Tea in Pleasanton between 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Please RSVP to Ward or LeAnn Kanowsky: @ward (on Slack) or kanowsky@sbcglobal.net. We also talked about ways to increase attendance, and Rosemary Jordan from Alameda4Impeachment talked about strategies to encourage Swalwell to join other members of the House Judiciary Committee in calling for impeachment.
  • New members: A standard feature of all AMMs, we welcomed new members with a short orientation and Q&A, after which they joined other breakouts and also hung out to chat with Governance Committee members.
  • Feedback: Meeting facilitators Andrea and Ann talked to members about IEB, All Member Meetings, and more – some excellent suggestions were made. We’d love to hear your suggestions, please fill out our survey!

Senate 2018 Race – Discuss!

At the October IEB All Member Meeting, members participated in a respectful and productive opening discussion about the 2018 Senate race. After folks called out issues important to them we all voted for our top three choices. Not surprisingly, people shared overwhelming concerns about healthcare, immigration, and voting rights.IEB AMM Senate DiscussionAmelia Cass, IEB’s Member of Congress lead and Senator Feinstein expert gave a synopsis of Feinstein’s positions on the top issues, and invited the audience to contribute their thoughts about California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Léon and other candidates.

Healthcare:

Senator Feinstein has said she favors universal healthcare, but has demurred on single payer, saying she’s not yet ready to commit. At a recent meeting with Senator Feinstein’s staff, IEB learned that implementation (funding, rollout, and transition to) of a single payer system is one of the problems preventing her endorsement, and that she has not yet seen a reasonable, feasible plan that would get California where it needs to go toward a fair healthcare system. In contrast, Kevin de Léon has stated that he supports CA healthcare for all, and in a tweet said that California should have two senators behind Health Care For All. Another candidate for the Senate seat, David Hildebrand, is a Democratic Socialist and self-described “Berniecrat” who is solidly behind single payer. At present, so early in the race, little is known about the other candidates.

One IEB member stated that “if you want single payer or medical care for all, young people need to be involved to create the economics to drive it forward.” Sharing her experience working on the California healthcare bill, another member described how difficult it was to balance moving forward on a bill and being able to explain everything that is going to happen with it.

Immigration:

The son of a single immigrant mother, Kevin de Léon was an author of SB 54, the California Sanctuary State bill. The bill went through several iterations before Governor Brown signed it, which some advocates believe severely weakened the bill.

Senator Feinstein has spoken out strongly in favor of the DREAM Act and other pro-immigration bills; however, she has hinted that she might accept additional border security measures and some are concerned that she might compromise more than may be necessary.

IEB Governance Committee member Katie added that if the final DREAM Act includes other legislation, it may be worth considering how Senator Feinstein votes, if not for a “clean DREAM Act” for which most immigrants’ rights groups have advocated. Candidates should be explicit in what they will and won’t accept. In contrast, Senator Kamala Harris has stated she won’t support any end-of-year spending package without a clean DREAM Act.

Members suggested that further discussions could separate immigration into two issues: comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship. Senators Harris and Feinstein have offered legislation that would protect undocumented farmworkers in California from deportation and create a path to citizenship.

Voting rights/gerrymandering:

Interestingly, California is one of the few states which has an independent, non-partisan commission draw its district lines, instituted by ballot proposition in 2011. At the national level, after the Supreme Court curtailed the federal Voting Rights Act, a critical tool to prevent discriminatory voting practices, several states have created serious obstacles to voting, including voter ID and registration restrictions, cutbacks on early voting, closing polling places in minority neighborhoods, and more. A member suggested examining the candidates’ opinions on the districting commission.

This was the first of what we’re sure will be several conversations about the 2018 Senate race. Future discussions will examine the remaining issues suggested during the meeting.

Votes for each suggested issue:

  1. Healthcare – 15
  2. Immigration – 15
  3. Voting rights/gerrymandering – 15
  4. Environment/climate change – 13
  5. Reproductive rights/women’s rights – 10
  6. Campaign donors/transparency – 10
  7. Judicial appointments – 8
  8. Public schools & charterization – 7
  9. Lobbying/corporate money – 5
  10. Racial justice – 5
  11. Impeachment – 5
  12. Criminal Justice – 3
  13. Labor – 3
  14. Second amendment – 2
  15. LGBTQIA+ rights – 2
  16. Accessibility to elected officials – 1
  17. Minimum wage – 1
  18. Disability rights – 1

Sojourn in Southern California for Senator Feinstein

Senator Feinstein spoke to the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce at a luncheon on Wednesday October 11. As you’d expect the 400 or so attendees were mostly business people among whom the senator seemed very comfortable.

We’re not making any accusations—and it was likely just that the hosts were so  in sync with their guest—but the questions seemed to be exactly what the senator would have chosen to be asked at her first public appearance since announcing her reelection campaign. And she was clearly very prepared, down to statistics on how the elimination of the state and local tax deduction would hurt middle income Riverside residents.

Sen. Feinstein and moderator Jack Clarke talked about terrifying weapons: the senator’s gun control legislation, the nuclear agreement with Iran, and the potential crisis brewing between the United States and North Korea— “the longer it lasts this way, the easier it is for one of the two leaders to make a slip in rhetoric and something happens that we don’t want.”

Asked about tax “reform” the senator  was very clear that the Republicans do not have bill. They have “a framework—whatever that is.” And she predicted that if they attempted to jam something through without hearings and “regular order” that it would certainly fail. Let’s hope she has Senator McCain’s word on that. (Note: He voted against the 2001 Bush tax cuts; she voted for them.)

She spoke at length about saving the Affordable Care Act and stabilizing and improving the marketplaces, and about the nearby airport and what it means for the local economy and infrastructure.


Clarke also read three audience questions off of cards collected at the event including one about the future of DACA. She was, of course, strongly in favor of the DREAM Act. But she made some statements that were troublingly supportive of a deal on border security, against the wishes of the DREAMers themselves who don’t want their safety traded for policies that harm other immigrants. She said, “we can use more border patrol,” which might be a reasonable argument to make if the immigration enforcement we currently have was doing a decent job protecting the rights and humanity of the people it interacts with.

For young people who want to be involved in politics and the future of this country, she said: “Instead of sitting back and criticising, get out and run for something…people jump up and down, and you ask them what they really want and it’s some vague statement.”

Clearly she’s not talking about Indivisible East Bay. While we do jump up and down quite a bit, our statements are anything but vague. We certainly criticize, but we don’t sit back. We know what we want and we’ve learned how to translate that into requests for specific votes and legislation, and oversight, because that is the most effective way to maximize our power. But as the senator well knows (and, to be fair, has demonstrated many times) part of the job she took on when she asked to represent us, is the task of taking her constituents’ vague statements and finding the way to address those needs through policy.

And as for the admonition to “get out and run for something.” It’s not bad advice. More of us need to do that. But more of us also need to realize that it’s not the only way. Many of us Indivisibles across the country ourselves realized only recently that democracy doesn’t have to just mean voting and running for office. It can mean working as constituents together with our elected representative to govern ourselves.

Two State Directors in Two Days

It was quite a week at the beginning of October 2017 – we met back to back with the state directors for Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

We didn’t plan on having our first meeting with Sen. Harris’ state director, Julie Rodriguez, the evening before our umpteenth meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s state director, Sean Elsbernd. (Julie is based in LA, so we normally meet with with Daniel Chen, the head of the senator’s SF Office. But Julie has agreed to another meeting the next time she’s in  town.)

But two in a row worked out well, since there are a lot of things we wanted to impress on both senators: from reminding them of the urgency of passing the DREAM Act, to expressing disappointment that they both voted in favor of a huge national defense authorization bill last week, to some specific asks on long-term help for Puerto Rico as part of a hurricane relief package.

We heard a few more details about Sen. Feinstein’s hesitations around endorsing Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All — mainly about implementation and some remaining fuzzy details on the funding side. But Sean tells us that it’s the feedback from us that has moved her from off the cuff comments about “complete government takeover of health care” to asking her staff to take a close look at Sen. Sanders’ bill.

We also heard a few more details about Sen. Harris’ next steps in her push for Medicare for All. Julie says she will take the lead from Sen. Sanders, but that with a minority in Congress, the important thing to focus on is building grassroots support for single payer health care.

We shared our concerns about oversight of the Homeland Security Department, specifically ICE, and learned about some of the individual cases involving detention centers that each of our senators’ constituent services departments have worked on. In fact, Sean told us, a couple of years ago when ICE detention facilities were overcrowded due to the Central American refugee crisis (including many unaccompanied children), Sen. Feinstein had her staff visit every facility in California to compile a report and recommend changes to President Obama.

We spoke with Sean at length about Trump’s judicial nominations being fast-tracked through the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Sen. Feinstein is the lead Democrat. He told us she’s fighting hard to preserve the “blue slip” process, which gives every senator a say about judges appointed to the federal courts within their state. We asked Sen. Harris to make a statement in support of the senators who have withheld blue slips on dangerous federal court nominees in Oregon and Minnesota.

Visit With Eric Swalwell’s District Director

On September 27, IEB’s CA-15 Team had the opportunity to meet with Tim Sbranti, Deputy Chief of Staff and District Director for Congressmember Eric Swalwell. This was our first meeting with a member of Swalwell’s staff; here’s what we talked about and the main takeaways from the discussion:

  • IEB’s objectives: to stop Trump’s agenda (a main principle of Indivisible)
  • We support Eric and want to provide positive reinforcement
  • We want our CA-15 team to engage with Swalwell and his staff:
    • Swalwell’s staff have also been in contact with Indivisible Livermore; Tim had recently attended one of their events. We will identify a contact person at Indivisible Livermore and coordinate our communications with them.
    • We’d like to have regular meetings with Swalwell’s staff and will contact Sammy Jo Rudy, Finance Assistant and Organizer, for this.
    • IEB plans to be a presence at Swalwell’s events (town halls, Congress on Your Corner, etc.)
    • We plan to continue to have specific “asks” – just because we like Swalwell doesn’t mean we’ll always like the bills he cosponsors; or there may be an issue where we need to increase his awareness.
  • We discussed what we as a team can do to provide support:
    • Near term – help with voter registration efforts. Tim suggested coordinating with the League of Women Voters (LWV) and the Alameda County Registrar
    • Longer term – flipping red districts in Southern California. Timeframe is June 2018 and potential actions include phone banks and a road trip by bus

Next steps – Please contact us if you’re able to help:

  • Coordinate with the LWV and Alameda County Registrar on voter registration actions
  • Identify specific “asks” we can present to Swalwell’s staff – these can include voting against something, cosponsoring a bill, making a public statement, etc. There’s one included in this communication on the next page that you can start on NOW!
  • Schedule a CA-15 team face-to-face meeting in October – we’ll be in touch about a date and location. If anyone has a suggestion for a location, please let us know.

Action Item:

The Supplemental National Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps and known as CalFresh in California, is under attack. Please call and email and ask him to vote NO on the related House Budget Resolution. Castro Valley: (510) 370-3322; DC: (202) 225-5065

Glad to See You in September

All Members Meeting September 17With apologies to Walt Whitman: “We are large, we contain multitudes.” Indivisible East Bay sprawls across three congressional districts, two counties, and more than a dozen cities. Despite logistical struggles (“where should we meet!?”) IEB’s breadth is a strength – from west-most tip, Richmond, out to East County, our membership boasts a wide diversity of population, experience, talents, and views.

IEB is also a coalition group; many of us are in hyper-local Indivisibles, and we share with our “home teams” the ideas, info, actions and more that we gather from IEB’s awesome resources (the website, newsletter, teams and Slack channels). And that in turn expands our reach far beyond the people who have signed up as IEB’ers.

But distance and horrendous traffic dictates that most of IEB’s plotting, organizing and nuts and bolts work goes on via email or the online chat platform Slack.

Once a month, though, we get to see one another and welcome new people to the fold at our All Members Meeting. The September 17 AMM at the Oakland Library was a jam-packed two hours of catching up and meeting newbies, hearing reports on critical issues, and participating in breakouts. We started with a brief discussion about the August 27 Berkeley Rally Against Hate and what occurred afterward. Research Team lead Anne described her experience at the Rally; several people shared their views of the day and issues raised, including Antifa and how we can get more accurate information out to the public when the media at times seems interested only in focusing on incidents of violence.

AMM Linh

Speaking for the hard-working Judiciary Team, Linh raised the alarm that the GOP Congress is careening toward packing the federal courts with far right-wing lifetime tenure judges. She explained the blue slip process, alerted us to GOP attempts to split the Ninth Circuit, and spoke a bit about how IEB is organizing to resist. Have experience with or interest in judiciary issues? Email linh@indivisibleeb.org or contact her on Slack: @linh.

CA-15 team co-lead Ward spoke about the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), an extraordinary institution where he is a long-time volunteer. Ward hopes that many of us can attend the Food Bank’s event “How the Farm Bill Affects Hunger – and What You Can Do About It.” The Farm Bill, which funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as CalFresh in California and better known as food stamps, is under attack – learn what you can do to defend it! The event will be held at the ACCFB Community Engagement Center on September 27 from 5:30 to 7 PM. More information and registration here.

AMM breakout session

IEB Governance Committee member Jiggy, also a member of Indivisible SF, told us about CA StateStrong, her ambitious new project that applies Indivisible Guide tenets and grassroots activism to Sacramento and our state and local representatives. She later led a popular breakout session to let people know what CA StateStrong is working on and to give an update on what happened in the legislature last week. If you’re interested, please subscribe to the CA StateStrong newsletter. Want to get more involved with the project? Fill out this form. On twitter? Follow @CAStateStrong and RT to help spread the word.  

At the other breakouts:

  • Anne, Evan and Linh led a session for people excited to research and find more ways for members to use public comment periods to slow the administration’s rollback of protections in federal regulations.
  • Seven “veterans” attended the Outreach to Organizations (OtO) breakout and gave the team updates on the organizations they’re liaising with, including the Alameda County Community Food Bank, Anti Police Terror Project, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and Oakland Rising. The team added 350BayArea/350EastBay as a priority organization, and two people are currently exploring new organizations. If you have a relationship with an activist community organization that pursues policy changes at the federal, state or local level, OtO would love to hear from you (email Toni at ieb.outreach@gmail.com).
  • Lynn and Heidi talked to several members about volunteering for IEB teams and projects. If you want to know how to volunteer with specific committees or teams email the volunteers team lead Andrea at andrea@indivisibleeb.org or ping her on Slack: @andrea. We were glad there’s much interest in helping out with the IEB newsletter, and we can always use more! For info, contact lead newsletter wrangler Ann on Slack: @anngdan
  • The CA-13 Team lead met with members who were interested in joining the team and in supporting our efforts to bring important questions and concerns to Congresswoman Lee and her staff.
  • Ward and LeAnn, who recently stepped up as the new CA-15 (Congressman Swalwell) team co-leads, met up with a fellow CA-15’er. They also got valuable advice from Kristen, valiant CA-11 (Congressman DeSaulnier) team lead.

With doom and gloom filling the news, from threats to our healthcare to the real risk of nuclear annihilation, it was inspiring and motivating to spend the afternoon with scores of people who share common goals to resist those threats and who are fighting together, indivisibly, for progressive values.

 

IEB Meets With Senator Feinstein’s State Director

Senator Feinstein's State Director Sean Elsbernd

Several IEB members met with Senator Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd on September 5. Our first question at this first meeting since the Senator failed to hold a Town Hall during the August recess was (surprise!): when will the Senator have a real Town Hall!? Sean’s rationales aside, we heard two things loud & clear: they know this is important to us (thank you IEBers for your calls and emails); and the Senator clearly does not want to hold a Town Hall.

The rest of the meeting was more productive. Sean said using personal stories (instrumental in protecting the ACA) would be effective to resist the GOP’s anti-immigration agenda. He also suggested we send questions for an upcoming hearing at which Donald Trump Jr. will testify, and noted that questions could be submitted for the record which the witness would have to answer in writing.

Given that Feinstein is ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, her positions on judicial nominations and the process are critical. Sean said that the Senator wants above all to preserve the blue slip process, but in order to be heeded on that she can’t unnecessarily slow confirmations.

As evidence that the Senator is listening to us, Sean noted that she mentioned in their morning staff meeting the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to prevent transfer of military equipment to civilian law enforcement. IEB had brought this issue to her attention at the August Commonwealth Club (not-a-town-hall) event.

As to whether Feinstein joins Senator Kamala Harris (and at last count 15 other Dems) in supporting the Sanders Medicare for All Bill, she wants to ensure that subsidies and the mandate remain in place; that both are needed for there to be more than one health insurance carrier in all counties to provide competition to keep costs down. She is not in principle against a single payer bill and would like to see the details of one.

Open questions: Sean wasn’t sure what Senator’s position is on repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force. He conveyed to her our opinion that it should be repealed. Other issues discussed: the failure of the California legislature’s CA Desert Protection Act (AB 1000); the politicization of scientific research; NAFTA; and GOP bills to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Take Back the Vote National Conference

Take Back the Vote national conference

The California Election Integrity Coalition, a non-partisan voting rights organization, will host its Second Annual Take Back The Vote National Conference on October 7-8 in Berkeley, CA at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street, corner of Ashby Avenue (near Ashby BART station).

Over 30 nationally recognized election integrity leaders from across the country will convene to discuss the current crises in our elections. Among our speakers or guests are computer scientists, professors, lawyers, journalists and election officials as well as federal, state and local legislators. They’ll present their findings, answer questions, and organize a national effort to restore publicly verified democracy in the United States. 

Speakers include Drs. Barbara Simons and David Jefferson (Verified Voting), John Brakey (AZ), Lulu Friesdat (NY), Jan BenDor (MI), Lu Aptifer (MA), Karen McKim (WI), Dr. Laura Pressley (TX), Jonathan Simon, and more. See a list of speakers and topics here. Co-sponsors include the California Election Integrity Coalition, Voting Rights Task Force, Ballots for Bernie, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, and Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists.

Click here for more information or to register. Conference tickets are $25 per day, or $40 for both days if purchased in advance. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. You can help! The conference is funded entirely by individual contributions and organized by volunteers. Email info@nvrtf.org to find out how to donate or volunteer.

IEB All-Member Meeting September 17

Please join us at Indivisible East Bay’s All-Member Meeting! Our monthly meeting is for members and newcomers interested in opposing the Trump agenda. Meet fellow activists and Indivisible members, find out what IEB is doing and how you can join in. For more information, visit indivisibleeb.org.

WHEN: Sunday September 17, 2017, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

WHEREOakland Public Library, 125 14th Street, Oakland (between Madison & Oak Streets) in the Auditorium. The Library is a quarter mile from the Lake Merritt BART station and a half mile from the 12th Street (Oakland) BART station. View map and register (free) via Eventbrite

The Library and Auditorium are wheelchair accessible. The Library is a scent-free environment – please do not wear perfume or scented products. The Oakland Public Library does not advocate or endorse the viewpoints of meetings or meeting room users.