IEB’s May meeting with Assemblymembers Bonta & Wicks

By Ted Lam

Editors’ note: for each bill discussed we include its number (starting with AB for “Assembly bill,” SB for “Senate bill,” or “ACA” for “Assembly Constitutional Amendment”), its official name, and, where we know, its current status as of this writing, May 28. The legislative deadline to pass bills through their house of origin is May 31, so by that date most of the bills will have either “passed” to the other house, or have failed for the year. Currently, most of them are still under debate, so no status is included – but we include a link so you can check the status after May 31.

On May 10, 2019, Indivisible CA: StateStrong Director Jiggy Athilingam and about a dozen Indivisible East Bay members met with East Bay Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Rob Bonta in Oakland. We wanted to thank them for their progressive work in Sacramento, and we had questions on several of our legislative priorities. Read our pre-meeting memorandum here.  

Because Bonta was running late we opened by asking Wicks whether she was familiar with IEB, and were glad to hear that she is (she even added “I love you guys”). In response to our question about why the legislature didn’t override Governor Brown’s vetoes of progressive bills last session, she suggested we ask Bonta, since she only got to Sacramento in January 2019. She pointed out, though, that there are different types of Democrats in the legislature and that Governor Newsom is also different than Governor Brown.

We covered several criminal justice reform bills going through committees, specifically AB 392 (Peace Officers: deadly force; status). Wicks said that she strongly supports AB 392 and the other criminal justice reform bills. She commented that “392 is the progressive bill of the year. You have a good author in [Assemblymember] Weber.” Wicks recommended that other Indivisible chapters contact their state representatives, especially in the Inland Empire. We thanked her for supporting AB 277 (Parole: reintegration credits; status), noting why the cash bail system is wrong.

Assemblymember Bonta joined us, and we discussed the fact that SB 10 (Mental health services: peer support specialist certification; status: passed assembly, 5/21) stalled last year due to its risk assessment tool. Bonta noted that there are a lot of entrenched interests who don’t want to see change, and mentioned that although the bill didn’t make it out of the Assembly, they were able to put it on the ballot in 2020. Bonta said that he’s working with the Santa Clara Justice Group to fix the risk assessment tool, and he believes it will pass.

We asked Bonta about the following bills: AB 1332 (Sanctuary State Contracting and Investment Act; status), AB 4 (Medi-Cal: eligibility for all undocumented immigrants; status), AB 1276 (Green New Deal; status), and AB 1185 (Officer oversight: Sheriff oversight board; status). For AB 1332, Bonta said the Assembly plans to propose amendments to eliminate some unintended consequences. On AB 4, he said it will move, and added that Governor Newsom wants it to pass. We mentioned that Indivisibles throughout California are very excited about AB 1276, which Bonta sponsored, and we asked him to tell us how we can help. For AB 1185, Bonta speculated that the Sheriffs’ Association probably opposes this bill. He agreed the state’s sheriff system is outdated. Bonta offered that when Kamala Harris was CA Attorney General, she wasn’t eligible to run for sheriff due to the eligibility requirements, and suggested the legislature change that. Bonta was careful to say AB 1185 may not pass if the Sheriffs’ Association lobbies hard against it, and mentioned that the private prisons bill going through now will probably pass.

Bonta noted that California needs so many things: criminal justice reform, housing, and more. He mentioned that this was his seventh year, fourth term, and his most optimistic year. He considers Governor Newsom bold and progressive, and said that Newsom gave the legislature a budget that it could have written. Bonta let us know that when Indivisible pushes, it makes a difference! We are being heard. He also suggested that we reward the legislators who are doing the right things, and as for the others, said we should share our stories.

We discussed the issue of poverty, and Wicks pointed out her three food bills that are now in the Appropriations Committee, including one that is targeted to foster children. She believes that if the bills get out of Appropriations, they’ll be fine. She also mentioned the problem that some parents don’t even realize they qualify for Healthy Start. In response to our question about a child credit, Wicks wasn’t aware of anything in the works, and Bonta suggested that they could do more research on it. Wicks said she appreciates that Indivisible groups are pushing legislators to support progressive bills.

One member of our group, a Teamster who’s on the Labor Council, expressed appreciation for AB 1505 (Charter schools: petitions; status: passed assembly, 5/22), Bonta called 1505 – the bill he introduced which puts limits on charter schools – the “jewel of the package” of bills to limit charter schools, mentioning that it gives school districts more authority and takes into account financial impacts. Bonta said that he’s pretty optimistic about its chances, and noted that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is interested in and involved with the charter issue, particularly with his Blue Ribbon Commission. When we asked about helping the Oakland Unified School District, Bonta raised several challenges and suggested that a coalition could work on the issue.

After Wicks left for an appointment, we discussed elections and voting rights with Bonta, including AB 49 (CA Voter Protection Act 2019; status: passed assembly, 5/9) and AB 177 (Election Day Holiday; status), and we stressed the need for risk-limiting audits, the mechanism that allows hacking of elections to be detected. We emphasized that these bills are best seen as not as individual changes but collectively as part of a solid electoral foundation. Because the biggest suppressor of votes is a lack of time and resources, bills that make it easier to vote make it much more likely that people actually will vote. Although Bonta was not familiar with these bills he was open to supporting them, and seemed supportive of the idea of making them work to strengthen each other.

Circling back to criminal justice reform issues, we asked Bonta what he thought the chances are for ACA 6 (constitutional amendment part of Free the Vote Act, along with its legislative part, AB 646) and AB 392 (Peace officers: deadly force; status: passed committee, under debate). He noted that passage of ACA 6 would be an important step forward by amending the California Constitution to allow those on parole to vote. He pointed out that those who vote have a greater connection to the community; and he believes people don’t understand that the bill would reduce recidivism. We agreed that everyone needs to work to promote the benefits of this change to the state Constitution. Bonta mentioned that Assembly members in moderate districts who need to balance supporting law enforcement with more progressive actions might push back harder on other bills, but would in turn highlight the reduction in recidivism benefits in order to throw their support to ACA 6. We talked generally about expunging certain criminal records, which Bonta said in the future may be done in conjunction with vehicle registration. He also noted that the primary reason expungement wasn’t happening was because parolees weren’t told it was their right and that they have the option to request it.

Our meeting was very productive. Are you interested in working with Indivisible East Bay’s Members of Congress teams, or in helping us work on and track California state legislation? Let us know by email or join any of our MoC teams on Slack. For an invitation to join Slack, email: info@IndivisibleEB.org

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer. Ted is a member of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee and is co-lead of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

It’s impeachment inquiry time

Katie Cameron and Nancy Latham contributed to this article

Deadline – ASAP until the House Judiciary Committee launches an impeachment inquiry.

​​With ​Game of ​Thrones ​over, we​’re hoping to watch the final episodes of the (not)Game of (de)Throning the Criminal-in-Chief who Thinks-He’s-King, but is not! We, along with some Democratic House leaders, a majority of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, the one Republican who has read the Mueller Report, and millions of our fellow citizens, think it’s high time for the House Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment inquiry.

You’re bombarded with news stories, hot takes, and wildly diverse opinions about the “I” word. If you’ve been working for impeachment since inauguration day, or are now convinced from the evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors in the Mueller Report, we’ve got a great list of things you can do. If you’re still debating the need to take action, or want more info, keep reading below our action list.

What you can do now:  

  • Use Indivisible National’s page to urge your representative to cosponsor House Resolution 257, Rep. Tlaib’s resolution which would authorize an impeachment inquiry.
    • UPDATE May 24: Representative Barbara Lee is the first (and so far only) of our East Bay Reps to cosponsor the resolution. If you are Rep. Lee’s constituent, thank her!
    • You can also check out Need to Impeach’s tool to learn where your Member of Congress stands on impeachment (and share it with your out-of-town friends).
    • This May 2 SF Chron article covered Bay Area MoCs’ positions on impeachment.
    • Here are some of our MoCs’ comments: Rep. Swalwell’s tweet; and an interview with Rep. DeSaulnier. 
  • Visit bit.ly/impeachresolution for By the People’s template to send a letter to your representative.
  • Send House Speaker Nancy Pelosi an email using this Need to Impeach tool. Adapt the suggested text to your own personalized message. Send her a tweet expressing your opinion.
  • Tweet to Representative Jerry Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, urging him to take the lead and start an impeachment inquiry. 
  • Who said political action can’t be joyful and serious at the same time? Join IEB members and thousands of others at Impeach on the Beach, June 1, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Five thousand people (or more) will arrange their bodies to spell out “IMPEACH” in 150-foot-tall letters stretching for 610 feet on Ocean Beach, to be photographed from above. More details and sign up at this link
  • Spread the word! Talking directly to people you know is the most effective way to spark change. Urge friends and relatives, especially those who live in districts represented by Democratic House leaders and Committee Chairs, to contact their Reps, urging an impeachment inquiry. Keep that word “inquiry” in your messages, so people understand you’re not trying to convict without the House investigation. Give them this link to get in touch with their Members of Congress.
  • Join the discussion on the #impeachment channel on IEB’s Slack. For an invitation to join Slack, email info@IndivisibleEB.org
  • Want to work with Alameda4Impeachment (A4I)? Email them for more info: Alameda4Impeachment@gmail.com 
  • We don’t often suggest signing petitions, but it’ll just take a minute – and these, from Need to Impeach, and Free Speech for People, have already proven to be effective.
  • Come to our All Members Meeting on Sunday, May 26, from 1-3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. It’s an informal potluck get-together, and members informed about impeachment will be there.

What else you can do: Read up! 

  • Know the impeachable offenses: Unindicted co-conspirator Individual-1  has committed many impeachable offenses, some in plain sight, only a few of which rely on the Mueller Report  (“Russia, if you are listening…”). See for example Need to Impeach’s list and Lawfare’s article
  • Bone up on the impeachment process. These links help explain what the Constitution says about impeachment, the history of it and how the process works, and FAQs:
    • Robert Reich has this excellent short video on the impeachment process.
    • By The People is a national grassroots action group holding demonstrations in DC. Their website has excellent, easy to read info on impeachment.
    • Need To Impeach, the group Tom Steyer launched in October 2017, has grown to a movement of nearly 8 million people. NTI uses grassroots organizing to mobilize people to demand that Congress begin impeachment proceedings to uncover the full extent of Trump’s lawlessness.
  • Read the Mueller Report, in large part an impeachment inquiry referral to Congress. Or listen to Audible’s free audio recording of the report. For the Cliffs Notes version, check out Lawfareblog’s excellent notes about the Report.
  • Read The Constitution Requires It, by Free Speech For People Legal Director Ron Fein, co-founder and president John Bonifaz, and chair of the board Ben Clements, with a foreword by The Nation’s national affairs correspondent John Nichols. The book lays out information on impeachment clearly and concisely. And listen to The Constitution is Clear: Impeachment Hearings Now, authoritarian scholar Sarah Kendzior’s Gaslit Nation podcast interview of Bonifaz.

More info: the Whens, Whys, Hows & Whats of impeachment

When? Impeachment talk right now feels like a modern day Goldilocks & the Three Bears, with some people saying “Too soon!” others “Too late!” and the rest “Now!”

  • In the first category we most notably find House Speaker Pelosi and some other House leadership members, who say we need more investigations and more witnesses and more evidence.
  • In the second are those who think we already lost the “window.” According to them, we’re now too close to the 2020 elections and we should just settle it at the ballot box.
  • The third category includes those who’ve been on board all along or have recently reached the tipping point. This large group includes Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, who wrote To End a Presidency, the Power of Impeachment, which cautioned against impeachment, but who is now calling for hearings after the release of the Mueller report. Also in the “Now!” group: members of Congress angered by stonewalling over ignored subpoenas and worse, and some of the 900+ former federal prosecutors who signed onto a statement saying they believe Trump’s conduct as described in the Mueller Report would result in multiple felony obstruction of justice charges for any other person.

Why?

  • For one, as those former federal prosecutors put their reputations on the line to publicly state, the Mueller Report describes numerous acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge, conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. And, as we used to say to people who complained that the Mueller investigation was taking too long – he keeps committing crimes!
  • In addition, even if it’s unlikely that 45 will be removed from office, we can’t stand by while he shreds the Constitution and damages our democratic institutions. 

How & What?

  • Short answer: Impeachable offenses, impeachment inquiry, articles of impeachment, voting in House, trial in Senate. Sometimes people think impeachment means removal from office, but that happens only if the Senate votes to convict. Bill Clinton was impeached in the House, and acquitted in the Senate.
  • Longer answer:
    • Impeachment doesn’t begin as a foregone conclusion. It begins with an investigation opened by the House Judiciary Committee.
    • Second, the impeachment inquiry can be done quickly or slowly, to accommodate the election season.
    • Third, we believe a well-organized review of Trump’s impeachable offenses won’t hurt Democrats – it would rather be compelling television, informing the public of every high crime and misdemeanor.
    • Fourth, if the Republican dominated Senate refuses to convict, the voters can “convict” at the ballot box, armed with evidence from the House inquiry.
    • Finally, for those who worry about Pence becoming #46, the failure of the Senate to convict resolves that concern, and the investigation may entangle Pence in some of the offenses.

There’s a spectrum of pressure we can put on our electeds, depending in part on our own decisions about how to proceed. The point is that we should NOT sit idly by and say “Wait for 2020” – and you, dear IEB member, can choose to pressure for impeachment or impeachment-adjacent actions – whatever feels right to you. Whether or not we succeed in launching an impeachment inquiry, whether or not that inquiry helps end the Trump nightmare, our actions matter. Bear witness. Go on the record. Stand up and be counted at what could be the most important moral and legal turning point in our lifetimes. 

 

Katie Cameron is a founding member of Alameda4Impeachment. She spent her career in state government in Washington State, and now devotes most of her time to defeating the Trump administration and the corrupt forces that got him elected.

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governance Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. 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.

Imp Peach Mint photo: Indivisible San Francisco’s Master Steve Rapport 

Building Teams to Secure Our Elections

Haleh S contributed to this article

A webinar presented by the Secure Elections Network titled “Elections Officials: Building a Team to Secure Our Elections” on May 19 at 5 PM, will feature speaker Tina Barton, an election security advocate and the City Clerk of Rochester Hills, Michigan. In her presentation, “Building Networks/Working Together to Build Election Security,” Barton will describe her community work and ideas for creating a team of election officials and advocates to secure the 2020 elections.

Barton was appointed to Michigan’s Election Security Commission by the MI Secretary of State. The Commission, the first of its kind, was created in March 2019 to help boost voter confidence, increase turnout, and secure the integrity of elections against known and future threats such as hacking. Barton also oversaw Michigan’s first risk limiting audit pilot project after the 2018 midterm elections.

The Secure Elections Network (SEN) is made up of leaders and members of several Indivisible groups nationwide, including Indivisible East Bay. For more info about the webinar, email stephanie.chaplin20@gmail.com. You can watch SEN’s past webinars here. And read our articles about prior SEN webinars: Ballot Marking Devices 101 and Indivisible Webinar to Secure Our Elections

If you want to learn more about the work that IEB’s Voter Rights & Election Integrity team is doing, and how you can help, email us at info@IndivisibleEB.org, or join the #voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.  For an invitation to join Slack, email: info@IndivisibleEB.org

Haleh S. is an Engineer turned Lawyer, turned Activist

Alameda 4 Impeachment’s May meeting with Rep. Lee

By Katie Cameron

Members of Alameda4Impeachment (A4I), including Indivisible East Bay members, visited Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) on May 3, 2019 to discuss pressing forward with impeachment. The group asked her to support House Resolution 257, which would authorize an impeachment inquiry. Read A4I’s follow-up letter to Lee, summarizing their discussion.

What you can do now:  

 

Katie Cameron is a founding member of Alameda4Impeachment. She spent her career in state government in Washington State, and now devotes most of her time to defeating the Trump administration and the corrupt forces that got him elected.

Featured photo of Katie Cameron, Rep. Barbara Lee, Lynn LaRocca, Ken Cameron, and Leslie Walsh, © Jain Thapa

Meeting with Rep. DeSaulnier, who isn’t running for President

By Ted Landau and Ted Lam

Three Indivisible chapters met with CA-11 Representative Mark DeSaulnier on April 23 before his Town Hall at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. He was accompanied by Aaron Silver, a member of his staff. Indivisible East Bay was represented by Ted, Ted, and Edwin; Indivisible Resisters was represented by Gwynne; and Cora represented Indivisible Central Contra Costa County (I4C). We kicked off the meeting by congratulating Rep. DeSaulnier for being one of the few Democrats not running for president, which made him and Aaron laugh.

We covered five major topics: infrastructure, whistleblower protection, Department of Defense oversight, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the Mueller Report. You can read IEB’s pre-meeting memorandum here.

Infrastructure

The big hope for infrastructure is to reach an agreement with the White House, but DeSaulnier remains skeptical about prospects for this. A seemingly insurmountable stumbling block is the GOP’s refusal to talk about funding sources for any proposal, because of their party’s pledge not to raise taxes.

DeSaulnier mentioned that we need to provide incentives for “smart mobility and smart growth,” but noted that Senator McConnell will likely block in the Senate any bill that the House produces. He also said that the vehicle mileage tax is a good alternative to a gas tax, and that he could support it either individually or a combination of the two. Along the lines of smart and green infrastructure, DeSaulnier said he was rooting for Tesla to be successful. He believes that U.S. car companies, and the Chinese, have the incentive to beat Tesla to mass produce a viable electric car.

We discussed PG&E as an example of a utility company with the problem of being a “hybrid company” with too much emphasis on generating profits. He would like us to move away from this model, if possible.

Whistleblower Protection

DeSaulnier agreed that whistleblower protection is important. We reminded him that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross claimed that the Department of Justice asked him to put the “citizenship” question on the Census form; DeSaulnier said that whistleblowers from the Department of Justice said it was actually the opposite, that Ross asked them to do it and whistleblowers provided the emails that contradicted Ross. This is just one example of the importance of whistleblowers and why they need protection. DeSaulnier encourages them to contact him directly or contact House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings. DeSaulnier thinks that Cummings is doing a great job protecting whistleblowers that come to his committee, and he reminded us that when Betsy DeVos recently testified to the Oversight Committee, he confronted her on ignoring statutes and laws in her duties as Education Secretary. DeSaulnier, however, had nothing flattering to say about Rep. Jim Jordan on the committee.

Acting Inspector General John Kelly for the Department of Homeland Security will come before the Oversight Committee to testify regarding Jakelin Caal Maquin’s death and related matters. DeSaulnier said that Inspector Generals do great work, and that they’re relatively insulated from partisanship.

Department of Defense Oversight

Regarding the FY 2020 budget for Defense, DeSaulnier will vote against the Department of Defense bills that increase the Overseas Contingency Operations slush fund. And yes, he supports rescinding DOD’s reprogramming authority, which has been used to divert funds to Trump’s Wall.

DeSaulnier supports Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill to rescind the War Powers Act, which would force the President to come to Congress before initiating military action in most cases.

He also said that the DOD has never done a financial audit, and although they’re in the midst of one now they are doing it kicking and screaming. In his opinion, it’s the military contractors that are the root of the problem.

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

DeSaulnier strongly supports promotion of all aspects of the ACA. We briefly discussed the racial and economic implications of the ACA: how it is more critical for people with less resources. It was pointed out that ACA, and even more so universal health care, has “indirect” health benefits because it reduces stress of worrying about how to take care of one’s health. DeSaulnier agreed, and spoke of the personal issue regarding his leukemia that requires taking pills that cost $400 a day.

He similarly noted that the ACA requires “parity for behavioral and physical health.” He is especially sensitive to and familiar with behavioral health issues, partly because of what he has experienced in his own family. He supports a suicide prevention bill, and is currently working with Rep. Joe Kennedy regarding all of this. In general, he sees reason for optimism regarding the politics on these issues. Initially Democrats were on the defensive with health care and defending the ACA against attacks. Now Democrats are on offense, as the public has come to understand and support the benefits of the ACA.

Mueller Report

As a matter of principle, DeSaulnier supports impeachment proceedings, and he has voted to take up the matter on several occasions. However, he pointed out that support for investigations that could lead to impeachment is not the same thing as supporting a vote for impeachment. He cautioned that we need to move carefully here. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated, this is a long process with an uncertain outcome — and it is likely that there will be no result from Congress (even under the best of circumstances) before the 2020 elections.

He cited the investigatory work that the Financial Services, Natural Resources, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight Committees are doing. As these committees hold hearings, the public will be given a spotlight on the administration’s many corrupt acts.  At the same time, he noted that the Mueller Report clearly shows ample evidence of crimes. As one example, he cited former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s turning over private polling data to the Russians as “treasonous.”

The meeting went very well overall. Rep. DeSaulnier was responsive to all of our questions. We thanked him for representing his constituents so well in Congress. If you want more info about the CA-11 Team, contact co-leads Ted and Kristen at indivisibleca11@gmail.com. Or if you’re on Slack, contact @Ted Lam or @KristenL and join the moc_team_ca11 team. Want an invite to join Slack? Please drop us a line at info@indivisibleeb.org

Photo by Aaron Silver

Ted Landau is a retired professor of psychology. He has also spent several decades as a tech journalist/author — writing primarily about Apple products. He has been politically active in the East Bay since moving here in 2004.

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer. Ted is a member of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee and is co-lead of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

Talking impeachment with Tom Steyer, April 2019

By Katie Cameron and Rosemary Jordan

Tom Steyer, head of Need to Impeach, held a Town Hall at Ruby Hill Winery’s Casa Real in Pleasanton on April 23, 2019, to encourage his large and enthusiastic audience to keep the pressure on Representative Eric Swalwell, who is now running for President. The following day, April 24, an impeachment petition with many constituent signatures was to be dropped off at Swalwell’s office; Indivisible East Bay member and CA-15 team co-lead Ward Kanowsky also planned an April 24 visit to Swalwell’s district office, making it an impeachment day of action!

Prior to the Town Hall, Steyer had asked to hold a private meeting with Alameda4Impeachment (A4I). Four members of A4I’s leadership team – Rosemary Jordan, Ken and Katie Cameron, and Lynn La Rocca (most of whom are also active IEB members) – met with Steyer at the winery, where we were joined by Need to Impeach staff members Jamiah Adams and Nat Arriola.

A4I's Katie, Rosemary, Lynn, and Ken meet with Tom Steyer, photo by Jamiah Adams
A4I’s Katie, Rosemary, Lynn, and Ken meet with Tom Steyer, photo by Jamiah Adams

From the start it was clear that Steyer was there to listen to us. We shared photos of our work over the past two-plus years and our original Articles of Impeachment, and then quickly turned to the current situation and possible actions to take.

A4I's Katie and Rosemary meet with Tom Steyer, photo by Lynn LaRocca
A4I’s Katie and Rosemary meet with Tom Steyer, photo by Lynn LaRocca

First, we commended Need To Impeach for its recent stronger efforts to coordinate with other national and local impeachment efforts. We explored ways to end-run or persuade the Republicans, especially in the Senate, and we discussed and evaluated the Pelosi-Hoyer negative messaging on impeachment.

Perhaps most important, we all expressed frustration over the stonewalling of subpoenas by the White House and other Administration officials. It was clear that none of us, including Steyer, had answers on how and whether the House can proceed with impeachment without cooperating witnesses and necessary documents. A4I followed up by sending some questions to legal expert Ron Fein, and obtained very helpful clarification within hours; you can read the Q&A with Fein here.

The Town Hall was very well attended. Great food, typical of Steyer events – he takes care of his audience! Steyer called for us, the people, to urge our Members of Congress to hold public hearings that reveal the impeachable offenses, and to remove an outlaw President.

Audience questions were invariably supportive of Steyer’s efforts, and of impeachment, but there was an undercurrent of frustration: Is the clock running out? What do we do if no witnesses comply with subpoenas? If the House impeaches, but the Senate does not convict, can Trump do a victory lap and win the White House? Steyer’s response is that hearings will encourage support for impeachment, and that when we don’t stop an outlaw President, worse will follow.

Takeaways from our meeting with Steyer and the Town Hall: contact your Representative on a regular basis and press for an impeachment inquiry, and educate yourself about how to deal with the obstruction!

What you can do now:  

 

Katie Cameron is a founding member of Alameda4Impeachment. She spent her career in state government in Washington State, and now devotes most of her time to defeating the Trump administration and the corrupt forces that got him elected.

Rosemary Jordan is co-founder of Alameda4Impeachment, a registered Indivisible group and a partner in the Citizens Impeachment Coalition, which includes representatives of cities, towns and counties nationwide (including four in the East Bay) that have passed local Impeachment resolutions. Rosemary also serves on the Steering Committee of All Rise Alameda and is co-leader of the End The Tampon Tax In California campaign. She has over 20 years of professional experience in healthcare and aging.

 

IEB Impeachment Updates: April 19-22

By Rosemary Jordan

Members of Indivisible East Bay and Alameda4Impeachment (A4I) visited Representative Barbara Lee’s Oakland district office on April 19 to reinforce their repeated requests for a meeting with Lee on next steps for impeachment. The group was well received by district staff, including aide Jain Thapa (who especially liked the group’s bold graphics on social media and printed signs – kudos to A4I/IEB member Lynn LaRocca, the graphic designer who created the powerful images).

 

On April 22, A4I/IEB members participated in a joint rally outside Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco office calling for her to advance an impeachment inquiry. The action was covered by the SF Chronicle. Members were glad to meet with representatives from By The People, a group that uses proven mass mobilization methods to bring greater attention to impeachment.

Want to take action or get involved?

  • Visit bit.ly/impeachresolution for By the People’s template to send a letter to your representative.
  • You can also use Indivisible National’s page to urge your representative to cosponsor H.Res. 257, Rep. Tlaib’s impeachment resolution. 
  • Watch for a major announcement from By The People about a significant non-violent civil disobedience action at the Capitol on May 14 – if you can go to DC to be part of this collective action, please email Alameda4Impeachment@gmail.com for more information.
  • Join the discussion on the #impeachment channel on IEB’s Slack. For an invitation to join Slack, email: info@IndivisibleEB.org

 

Photographs by Katie Cameron and Rosemary Jordan

Rosemary Jordan is co-founder of Alameda4Impeachment, a registered Indivisible group and a partner in the Citizens Impeachment Coalition, which includes representatives of cities, towns and counties nationwide (including four in the East Bay) that have passed local Impeachment resolutions. Rosemary also serves on the Steering Committee of All Rise Alameda and is co-leader of the End The Tampon Tax In California campaign. She has over 20 years of professional experience in healthcare and aging.

 

Tax the Rich!

By Nancy Latham

Of the many reasons you’re an activist, chances are that this country’s lack of economic justice is on the list. We have an economy that works extremely well for those at the very top, works well for the top 10%, and really fails the bottom 90%. There are several ways to look at it, and they’re all appalling. There’s income inequality: in 2017, the average income for the bottom 90% was $35,628, while the average for the top 1% was almost $1.4 million. Wealth inequality is if anything more shocking: in 2016, three men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett – had more wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire population. And the top 5% owned two-thirds of the wealth in the United States. And there’s the real world: in 2016, the Federal Reserve found in a survey that about half of Americans would not have $400 to pay for an emergency like a car breaking down or an unexpected medical bill.

And there are so many more outrageous statistics about our economy. Does this make you angry? Meet the Tax March Organization. Tax March is an advocacy nonprofit that sprang up in 2017 with the grassroots Tax Day March that demanded that Trump release his tax returns; they also spearheaded the Not One Penny coalition that fought against the tax scam bill that Republicans shoved through Congress later that year.

Now, Tax March is launching a new campaign to Tax the Rich! On April 13 and 14, 2019, Tax March brought together 75 activists from all over the country to learn more about our wildly unfair tax code, and how – together – we can fight back. Taxing the rich will reduce inequality and help us pay for programs that support the common good, such as the Green New Deal, affordable college, universal health coverage, universal childcare, and more.

Activists Gathered for the Tax the Rich Training, photo by Nancy Latham
Activists gathered for the Tax the Rich training, photo by Nancy Latham

Just as importantly, taxing the rich is good for democracy. Highly concentrated wealth puts power in the hands of the few, distorting our political system as policy-makers respond to the rich donor class rather than to ordinary Americans. And in fact, we saw this in action with the tax scam itself: although the so-called reform legislation was deeply unpopular, it passed anyway. Was it just a coincidence that rich donors made it really clear they wanted the bill, even issuing threats like “Get it done or don’t ever call me again”? You decide …

Our Tax Code is Bad for Democracy
Our Tax Code is Bad for Democracy

At the Tax March training we learned about digital organizing, media strategies, shifting the public narrative, educating voters, and answering tough questions. I came back more fired up than ever to start unrigging the economy! And now, I’m inviting you to join. There will be regular calls with grassroots activists as we push the tax debate to the center of the political stage. If you are interested, reach out to me at nancylatham63@gmail.com, or if you’re on the IEB Slack platform, you can direct message me at @nancylatham and join the #economic_justice channel.

Taxing the rich is fair, and it is right. See you on the front lines, fighting for economic justice.

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governance Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. 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.

Photos by Nancy Latham

We the People

Two houses. Three days. Eight candidates. Sixteen Indivisible group leaders. 416,818 paths to a Democratic victory in 2020.

Our allies at Indivisible National in D.C. are part of a coalition including the Communication Workers of America, Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) Action, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Sierra Club, SEIU, and 32BJ SEIU. Together these groups aim to bring grassroots organizers and activists to the table to help choose our next Democratic presidential nominee. 

To that end, Indivisible National reached out to sixteen group leaders from Texas, Nevada, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, Virginia, and, of course, California. We were invited to spend three days together in D.C., living in two multistory rental houses and attending workshops and candidate forums. The theme of the event was democracy expansion — free and fair elections and pro-democracy reforms of all three branches of government.

Day one was described as activist training, but was really a call to arms from Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, plus some group discussions at our tables with members of other coalition partners. Rev. Dr. Barber invited us to join the Poor People’s Campaign. Then he spoke about the history of democracy expansion, from the Declaration of Independence to the Reconstruction Amendments to the Voting Rights Act, and also about the Supreme Court’s continued history of reversing democracy expansion. He challenged us not just to fight for the presidency, but to strive for what Coretta Scott King, in her moving Solidarity Day Address, called “not right vs. left, but violence vs. non-violence” — and to fight even for our right to self-government.

Day two: Rev. Dr. Barber was a hard act for the eight presidential candidates to follow during the seven hour forum at the historic (and very gilded) Warner Theater. The candidates took the stage one at a time to give a short pitch and answer audience questions (including questions from several Indivisible representatives) about voting rights, the filibuster, judicial reform, campaign finance reform, etc.

You can watch a recap and nearly the whole thing; here are a few highlights that stuck out to me:

  • Seeing our own Leah, representing this young but mighty organization we built together, take the stage with powerhouses like Planned Parenthood, NAACP, SEIU, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
  • Julian Castro’s story of how he quit his job as a lawyer and put his financial future at risk in order to avoid conflicts of interest on the San Antonio City Council.
  • Cory Booker saying we don’t need to eliminate the filibuster if we just elect a supermajority of Democrats instead, and almost inspiring us with his oratory to believe it.
  • Elizabeth Warren declaring that we must amend the Constitution to give everyone the right to vote, and the right to have their vote counted.
  • Beto O’Rourke introducing his plan to require each member of his cabinet to hold monthly town halls and hear directly from constituents like us.
  • Amy Klobuchar boasting about the fundraising record she holds: most money raised from ex-boyfriends.
  • Bernie Sanders getting BY FAR the loudest cheers — and no line for the restroom during his speech (nothing against Bernie, just being practical).
  • Jay Inslee living up to his reputation by bringing literally every question back to climate change.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand bringing up the rules change the Republicans were just then getting ready to go nuclear on to turn the Senate into a rubber stamp for judges. 
  • Hearing the inspiring personal stories of the questioners who are starting unions, teaching children, standing up to injustice, and protecting their communities all over the country.

Over dinner, Indivisible group leaders and staff discussed our impressions of the candidates. There was some general agreement: people were particularly impressed with Warren and surprised at how funny Klobuchar is in person. But it was most interesting to hear how experiences differed: some thought Booker was showboating while others were moved to tears, and some found Inslee charming while to others he came across as insincere.

Despite a lot of jokes about reality TV and “confessional videos” we didn’t really spend enough time at the shared houses to get in any drama or much bonding — we all went straight to bed (as far as I know!) and were up and out early for our final day at Indivisible Headquarters.

Day three: After loading up on some decadent breakfast tacos, we got started with a presentation from Indivisible National’s political data manager Olivia Robinson on Indivisible’s tactics for winning elections: expand and protect voting, build a coalition, and motivate core voters. She also talked about how various demographic groups sort into the categories of base voters, swayable voters, and opposed voters; and about the many (up to 416,818!) possible combinations of states we could use to win. You can find a lot more detail in her presentation, but the main takeaway was: don’t believe anyone who tries to tell us that there is only one path to victory or only one kind of “electable” candidate.

Next we heard from associate political director Lucy Solomon about Indivisible’s experience working with local groups to nationally endorse Congressional candidates, using as examples the campaigns of Ayanna Pressley in MA, Andrew Gillum in FL, and Harley Rouda here in CA. As it happened, several of the group leaders involved in those endorsements were in attendance. It was especially interesting to hear the story of how the Indivisible endorsement put Gillum on the map, as well as the division it caused within Indivisible groups throughout the state. Since for various reasons Indivisible East Bay never really considered getting involved in any statewide races, it was fascinating to hear the inside story of how our highest hopes and worst fears around endorsements both played out in the same race.

Then policy director Angel Padilla spoke about some of the legislative priorities Indivisible National is pushing in Congress right now. Though it is unlikely to be signed into law until 2021 at earliest, we talked about building support for H.R.1 – For the People Act of 2019 — and just how far Congressional Democrats, and we ourselves as activists, would be willing to go to force this democracy expansion bill through. Angel’s presentation is here if you scroll down to the bottom.

The final item on our agenda was a media training from consultants who shared tips about everything from how to craft and stay on message to what to wear. A webinar version of the training will be available soon.

In summary: We learned a lot. At this point all the candidates and their talking points have started to run together in my mind; but I expect that over the next 11 months, as I work with others at Indivisible East Bay to figure out how we want to engage in the primary in a way that makes both the candidates and our group better, I’ll benefit from having heard them answer the questions of that room full of grassroots leaders about the fundamentals of our democracy.

That said, I think the most lasting effect from this trip for me is the in-person connections I made with people from across the country whom I would never have met if not for this movement. It was delightful to meet the D.C. union organizer knocking on doors and working on a series of nursery rhymes about the evils of the GOP. It was inspirational to meet the Texan who got kicked out of a Ted Cruz event — and he followed her out to keep arguing! Heartening to meet the Floridian whose events our volunteers had texted to recruit volunteers for — when I told her I was from Indivisible East Bay she remembered that immediately and told me how much it meant to her that we had reached out. I tried to tell her that giving us concrete tasks we could do in swing states was as much a favor to us as our texting was to them, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

These are the moments that make me believe that we are building more than a winning coalition — another blue wave — more even than a movement. We are building an inclusive and expansive community of people who care for one another and work for one another — and that’s how we’ll build a better world.

 

Meeting with Feinstein staff March 2019

Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Feinstein’s state director Jim Lazarus and returning field representative Caitlin Meyer on March 14 in the senator’s San Francisco office. You can see our detailed pre-meeting memo here.

Our smaller-than-average delegation covered a lot of topics:

Climate Change: We told Jim that beyond the in-person interaction the senator had with young students in her office, we are disappointed that Sen. Feinstein — who we used to see leading on protecting our environment and addressing climate change — was dismissing this exciting new movement of energized youth activists by calling their ideas unrealistic. We asked her to support the Green New Deal resolution. We suggested that she doesn’t need to agree with every detail of their approach in order to celebrate their contributions and build up momentum to see how far this movement can take us toward our shared goal of a sustainable future. Jim said that he thought this perceived conflict was really mostly a communication issue and would be resolved as we move toward actual climate legislation. For example, the senator is currently working on carbon pricing legislation, which is not part of the current Green New Deal proposal but could complement it as part of the final legislation.

Immigration: We followed up on our repeated request that Sen. Feinstein visit the southern border and immigration detention facilities throughout the state — she says she wants to, but still has not — and we asked her to prioritize getting more funding in place for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghan allies. There is a current backlog of 16,700 SIV-eligible individuals, including family members, and 4,400 applications are currently pending. In FY 2018, only 1,649 visas were issued, down from 4,120 in FY 2017.

Public banking: We asked the Senator to support public banking in California. Jim said it was an area that he hadn’t had many discussions with her about, but that he knew she supported local, accessible banking options like credit unions. He also expressed skepticism that public banking was the solution to the cannabis industry’s banking problems.

Census: We were glad to hear that Sen. Feinstein and her office have been very much on top of getting ready to make sure her constituents are all counted in the census. Caitlin told us that the office has been in touch with the Alameda County Complete Count Committee. We have a lot of hard to count populations here in the East Bay, such as immigrants and unhoused people.

And more: We also asked the Senator to:

  • work to fund desperately needed food stamps in Puerto Rico — she finally did the right thing on this after pressure from Sen. Schumer
  • cosponsor the EACH Woman Act (reproductive rights)
  • cosponsor The American Family Act (child allowance)—she hasn’t yet
  • hold a Town Hall—she seems as unlikely as ever to do so.