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 He conveyed to her our opinion that it should be repealed.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.

It’s Not a Town Hall Like You Promised

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call your senator today and say:

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

On Keeping Promises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Standing in Solidarity with Charlottesville

Heather HeyerShortly after the 2016 election Heather Heyer posted the words “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” on her Facebook page, and because white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr murdered Heather by ramming his car into her and fellow counter-protesters as they stood up to the Nazis and white nationalists who brought violence and hatred to Charlottesville, those words are now her last on that forum.

We ARE paying attention, and the events of August 12 have shocked and horrified – and yes Heather, outraged us. But the many hundreds of vigils and marches across the country held last weekend, with more being planned every day, prove that we are vast in number. They console us and firm our resolve.Charlottesville events mapWe are indivisible against white supremacists and Nazis, and the tacit approval this administration provides for them. We are outraged by the pitiful, too-little too-late bleatings of Trump in (not) calling out Fields’ attack, in continuing to employ extremists Steven Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Steven Miller in his administration.

Many vigils were held in the Bay Area. IEB member Heidi reports on one — Charlottesville candellight circleMore than 120 people flocked to our candlelight circle at sundown in an El Cerrito neighborhood park. We began with a moment of silence, then people spoke out about the effects of hatred on our lives and the need to stand up and fight back, particularly for our children.Charlottesville candellight circleAn immigrant from Germany spoke with horror about seeing Nazis in his adopted country, and discussed the law imposed on Germans after the fall of the Third Reich prohibiting public display of Nazi symbols. The voice of a 93-year old veteran of World War II was filled with grief as he talked about defeating Nazis in his youth, only to find them infesting our country at the end of his life.Charlottesville candellight circleOthers read poems or talked with strength and passion about their fears and resolve, and we sang together. Charlottesville candellight circleAnd throughout we held our candles high to fight the darkness.

 

Stay Woke and Wake Some People up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indivisible East Bay Meets With Sen Harris’s Staff

Meeting with Daniel Chen

Walking into the IEB meeting with Daniel Chen, Senator Kamala Harris’s District Director on August 2, 2017, we had varying opinions on most issues we wanted to discuss – but we were INDIVISIBLY united on one question: when would Senator Harris hold a Bay Area Town Hall?

Unfortunately we left the meeting without an answer. Daniel clearly heard our message – it is not acceptable that Senator Harris hasn’t held ANY town halls in Northern California – but the most he would say was that an August Town Hall was a “number one priority” for Harris.

Daniel didn’t give many firm answers to the rest of our questions, but he took notes and said he’d convey our suggestions and concerns to the Senator.

Meeting with Daniel Chen

A rundown of the main issues we covered:

  • Health Care: We asked Senator Harris to join Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in committing to make no cuts to Medicaid before agreeing to any bipartisan health care bill. Daniel acknowledged and thanked Indivisible’s extensive grassroots work fighting for our health care.
  • Budget and Defense Spending: Daniel will ask Harris to issue a statement on why she agreed to co-sponsor Senate Bill 1414. The SHIPS Act mandates expansion of military spending on battle force ships, up from 276 to support a minimum of 355. The bill is primarily a reward to military contractors.
  • Department of Homeland Security Oversight: Daniel said that the Senator is currently mainly focused on retaining Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). She is aware that ICE and border control have been turning away asylum seekers without granting legally mandated hearings, and she’s seeking documentation of this in the field. Daniel will convey our suggestion that she consider visiting the border to greet asylum seekers.
  • Defense Appropriations and Constitutional Role of Congress: We expressed our concern that the executive branch’s impulsive, undisciplined, and unreliable approach to foreign policy is leading to escalated U.S. involvement in conflicts abroad without strategy or accountability. Daniel will talk to the Senator about supporting a bill to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, work that Rep. Barbara Lee has been doing for years and that recently gained significant support from both sides of the aisle before being removed from the House Defense Appropriations Bill at the direction of Paul Ryan.
  • LGBTQ Rights: Daniel will convey our request that Harris co-sponsor S. 1303. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act prohibits discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child.
  • Reproductive Rights: He will also convey our deep concern about the DCCC’s announcement that they’re willing to fund Democratic candidates who don’t support abortion rights, and about the failure to mention abortion rights in the Democrats’ “Better Deal” agenda. We stated that abortion rights should definitely be a litmus test for Dem candidates.
  • Obstruction of Justice: We were disappointed by Harris’s vote to confirm Christopher Wray as the new FBI Director. Daniel told us she was convinced by his responses at the hearing that Wray would remain independent, and gave us her statement regarding her vote.

It’s nearly a week since we met with Daniel, and still no word on an August recess Town Hall with Senator Harris. Please contact Senator Harris and tell her you want her to meet with her Bay Area constituents!

Update: Senator Harris asked for constituent input on priorities, please use this form to give her feedback.

It’s August and we’re all still here

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

#ResistEngageAct in CA-11

Resistance Fair

Had Mitch McConnell and his cronies succeeded in jamming skinny repeal of our healthcare through the Senate on July 28, the mood would have been more gloomy at Saturday’s Resistance Fair sponsored by Mark DeSaulnier for Congress in conjunction with Indivisible East Bay’s CA-11 United Team.

Resistance Fair

But fresh on the heels of the Resistance’s victory in holding all Democrats and Independents in line, and swaying the critical three Republicans to vote thumbs DOWN, more than 400 people were energized and eager to hear the rallying speeches of Representative DeSaulnier and Jeremy Haile, co-author of the Indivisible Guide.

Resistance Fair
CA-11 United organizers Kristen and Tom, with speaker Jeremy Haile. Photo by Melanie Bryson

Missed it? You can view DeSaulnier’s informative and motivating Powerpoint program, video of Jeremy Haile’s speech, and their Q&A with the audience. (Thanks to Erik Stallman for posting the videos on youtube). IEB member Mel live-tweeted an excellent series of photos with highlights from Haile’s memorable quotes, including: “Trump promised health care repeal would be FIRST thing, and THAT did NOT happen!!” and “You are doing something historic. If we continue working together, we will win.” And our proud Congressman tweeted a video clip of the audience doing a spirited “CALIFORNIA 11” cheer!

Resistance Fair cheer

The Resistance Fair portion of the day was like an in-person Tinder meetup for the crowd (swiping left of course) to mix n’ match, talk to, sign up for info, and find where everyone fit in to become active with the 40 advocacy, electoral and resistance groups who had tables full of flyers, petitions, political swag, and more!

Resistance Fair booths

The tablers also mingled, and coalition-building was thick in the air. Since California District 11 stretches from Richmond to Brentwood, the Fair reunited far-flung friends and enabled new cross-pollination among allies. Organizations focused on the widely diverse issues in our broad progressive movement showed up, including several Indivisible and Democratic Party groups, advocates for civil and criminal rights, racial, gender and LGBTQIA equity,  immigration, youth, and many more.

Resistance fair tables

Trying to figure out where YOU fit to #ResistEngageAct against Trump and the Republican agenda, and to persist in advancing progressive values?

By Heidi Rand