Senator Harris Town Hall in Sacramento

IEB members who made the trek to Senator Kamala Harris’ Sacramento town hall on April 5 were rewarded with a lively session covering a broad range of issues. Members of the packed audience challenged Harris with questions that were sometimes supportive but more often critical, and overall she deftly replied to the queries.

On holding law enforcement to account

Senator Harris entered to a standing ovation. In her opening remarks, she spoke first about Stephon Clark, the local man killed in his grandmother’s backyard by police who allegedly mistook his cell phone for a weapon. Of note, Clark’s grandmother was in the audience.

The Senator used the Clark incident as a segue to a more general discussion of the history of police violence, dating back to the civil rights protests of the 1950’s and 60’s. She then spoke about how, as California’s attorney general, she had worked to address issues of police bias and accountability. In contrast, she noted that the current U.S. Department of Justice is “led by someone who wants to take us back” to a darker time.

Although Harris helped institute police bias training in California, it clearly hasn’t solved the problem. Acknowledging this lack of success, she spoke strongly about the “profound responsibility” of law enforcement “to give all members of the community dignity.”

The police shooting context lent a somber tone to Harris’ remarks around the adage: “as goes California, so goes the nation.” But she found hope in our response to that shooting and to the other injustices we face, many of them coming directly from Washington, D.C. The main theme throughout the discussion was “fighting for the best of who we are as a country.”

Immigration, the courts, and the power of resistance

When asked what she would say to the DREAMers who watched Congress fail to act to protect them, she told them to “keep on leading.” The DREAMers, she said, “believe that if they are seen and if their stories are heard, it will matter. They believe in our democracy.”

In response to the question of an organizer who has been leading protests outside Representative Tom McClintock’s district office regarding what to do about “counter-protesters trying to stir up trouble,” Harris said:

Speaking truth often invites people who don’t like to hear that truth to try and suppress you, and we can never be suppressed… And take a look around this room right now and hold on to the belief that you have a lot people supporting you even if you don’t see them at that moment… There are more of us.

Appropriately for a recent addition to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris spoke several times about the vital role the courts play in our government. Asked about the outsized influence of money in politics, specifically Citizens United v. FEC, she discussed the issue and then also pointed out the importance of several other Supreme Court decisions — including ones on collective bargaining, Brown vs. Board of Education, and the recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

Asked about DACA, Harris spoke of the importance of lower federal courts as a defense against the extreme positions of this administration. So far, these courts have successfully prevented the administration from rescinding DACA protections.

Toward the end of the town hall a heckler interrupted to criticize Harris for her leadership in the Democratic effort to attach the DREAM Act to a must-pass government spending bill. The heckler asserted that doing so prioritized one group of people over another. The Senator rejected this characterization, saying that the attachment was needed because “the approach this administration has taken is not just, it is not fair, it is not about giving people due process or equal opportunities.”

Senator Harris Town Hall April 2018

Areas for improvement

Overall, IEB members found several of the Senator’s answers incomplete, unclear or unsatisfactory. We plan to follow-up with her on these and other matters:

  • Harris talked about “reevaluating” Social Security and other expensive government programs. While she acknowledged we had to keep “our promises,” IEB would like to get more specifics as to her intentions here and to provide our suggestions for how to raise revenue.
  • We’d also like to discuss Harris’ remarks about “smart” allocation of national security resources. For example, she co-sponsored S.1414 – the SHIPS Act, which mandated that the Navy build up its fleet to an arbitrary 355 ships, a number that forward-thinking military experts have questioned. More generally, she has voted for bills that, in our view, astronomically increase military spending. We’d like to get more clarity on her national security priorities.
  • Near the end of the Town Hall the president of the California Urban Partnership (C.U.P.) asked Sen. Harris what will be done to ensure that the marijuana industry successfully transitions to a legal business — and not become “another cotton or sugar or tobacco where [Black people] work for free, where we do all of the jail time, but reap none of the benefits.” Sen. Harris agreed work was needed here and promised to follow up — but did not offer any specifics. We at IEB plan also want to follow up here — both with Sen. Harris and the C.U.P.

The Senator asked the audience to continue to find common ground and to build coalitions to fight for our values. She urged us to march and shout and speak up and organize. Finally, she said “thank you” for all the work we’ve done so far — and the town hall was adjourned.

Photographs © photographybyrex.com

California Indivisibles Stand Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Keep Calm and Postcard On

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

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

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

Postcard party

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

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

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

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

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

Postcard parties
Postcard parties, photo by Heidi Rand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canvassing in Mendota: Wonderful People (and Food!)

By Ted Lam

I drove to Discovery Bay early Saturday morning and got to my fellow canvasser Rae’s house by 6:30 AM. She offered me a cup of good coffee and then we got in her car and drove the two and a half hours to Mendota. When we got to Mendota’s Rojas Pierce Park, we met Karl and Sophie of Kitchen Table Resistance San Leandro, who coordinated with Swing Left for the two days of canvassing. By 10:30 AM, 30 volunteers had shown up from El Cerrito, Oakland, San Leandro, and San Jose. We downloaded and were trained on the PDI Mobile Canvassing app. TJ Cox, the CA-21 Democratic candidate, joined us to talk about his progressive platform and his business ties in Mendota, including helping to establish a health clinic. TJ canvassed with us on Saturday.

By 11 AM all volunteers headed for our “turfs,” or canvassing routes, most which were just a mile or two away, and started walking. I was very lucky to be paired up with Rae. She spoke fluent Spanish, and having a woman with a man alleviated many residents’ concerns about opening their doors. We took turns talking to residents and updating their voter information. By 1 PM, we had knocked on almost 20 doors. We talked to people in at least six homes, updated their information in the PDI app, talked to them about TJ, and collected some voter commitment postcards for November. Every person we met, whether at their homes or on the streets, was very friendly. We found that most residents felt more comfortable with us because Rae could speak Spanish.

By 1 PM it was time for lunch. We met other IEB’ers at Cecilia’s Restaurant, a local Mexican restaurant with amazing food. After recharging we all went back to canvassing. When we finished we decided our planned hike wasn’t a great idea due to the overcast skies. I invited all the folks staying overnight for Sunday’s canvassing to my motel room later to share two beer growlers I had gotten from an amazing brewery in Richmond. Before dinner we all enjoyed beer and wine tasting, and it was great to have the opportunity to learn more about each other. Canvassing in Mendota Sunday breakfast was at the Blue Flame Diner (I highly recommend the corned beef hash). We started canvassing at 11 AM, and again Rae and I were lucky: we met with large families in several houses. Most of the time Rae was able to explain why we were there to the heads of the households, and everyone was very nice to us.

One incident sticks with me. Rae and I saw an older couple on their porch shelling almonds. We asked if they were Mr. and Mrs. “So and So.” They said no, those people had moved. We thanked them, updated PDI, and were about to walk away when we noticed that they had a beautiful brick altar to the Virgin Mary in front of their house and complimented them on the tile work. Before long, family members came out to the porch and everyone was talking about how the mom made the best tortillas. Soon Rae and I were invited to December 12th’s Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe celebration in front of their house where we would taste the best tamales ever!

Canvassing in MendotaRae and I quickly put it on our calendars. Before we left, we had registered the 22 year-old daughter to vote, got her voter commitment card, and left behind another voter registration card for her sister.

On the way back to the Bay Area, we squeezed in a lunch of very good Salvadoran pupusas. I was inspired and humbled by what I saw in Mendota. The overwhelming majority of people we met and talked to were friendly, obviously worked very hard, and exhibited a strong sense of community. I would love to go back and meet more folks from Mendota.

And find more good restaurants.

You too can enjoy similar experiences canvassing in CA-21 with Swing Left. I encourage you to sign up!

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer.
Photos by Ted Lam

 

February 2018 Meeting with Senator Feinstein’s State Director

By Candace Goldman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Catherine de Neergaard

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

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

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

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

DACA:

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

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

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

GUN SAFETY:

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

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

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

CLIMATE CHANGE:

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

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

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

FUNDING FOR THE 2020 CENSUS:

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

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

ELECTION SECURITY:

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

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

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

NATIONAL SECURITY AND NUCLEAR WAR:

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

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

JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS:

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

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

WE WANT A TOWN HALL

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

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

 

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

Photograph by Catherine de Neergaard

CoCo Sheriff Retaliates Against Advocates Helping Detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, under investigation for mistreatment of ICE detainees, has retaliated against the group that helped the detainees and helped spark the investigation.

On March 6, 2018, the office of Sheriff Livingston terminated the visitation program at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) that the non-profit advocacy group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) had operated to assist detainees and their families. Since 2011, CIVIC volunteers have been providing services to the families of detainees and post-release support to those who are released or deported. They are sometimes the only people the detainees can talk to about their cases, or their only contact with the outside world if their family is far away or can’t visit.

The Sheriff claimed that volunteers violated policy, but CIVIC asserts that the revocation was in retaliation for its part in bringing immigrants’ allegations of abuse at the facility to the light of day, which led to investigations by state and federal officials.

While CIVIC works with the ACLU to contest the revocation, here are several things we can do to help CIVIC and the detainees and their families:

  • Learn more about CIVIC here and sign up here to get updates and alerts from the Friends of CIVIC about how you can help.
  • Read the ACLU’s letter to the Sheriff’s office.
  • Attend events to support the detainees held at WCDF, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually on the first Saturday of every month – check their calendar for exact date and time. Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest at WCDF the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Call the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office at (925) 335-1500 to express your concern about the Sheriff’s current action, and urge them to restore CIVIC’s visitation program.
  • Please sign petitions that Together We Will Contra Costa launched, and which IEB and many other groups have co-sponsored, to ask local Democratic representatives who have endorsed Sheriff Livingston to rescind their endorsements.

Are you a constituent of Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)? If so, please thank him for his hard work in support of immigrants, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 9:

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier says it’s time for Contra Costa County to end its relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Democratic congressman from Concord, who recently toured the Richmond jail that the county leases to the federal government for detention of undocumented immigrants, said that the Contra Costa County sheriff’s office’s move this week to ban volunteers from visiting immigrants inside the jail — to check on their well-being — was the last straw.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Read our article about the statement released by the ICE Out of California Coalition, signed by IEB and other groups.

Photograph by Boardhead (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Environmental Justice: a meeting with AG Becerra’s office

By Elizabeth Douglas

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

What We Learned from Becerra’s Staff

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

On the EPA and Superfund Enforcement:

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

On Investigating Exxon Mobil and the PCB Monsanto lawsuit:

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

On Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

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

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

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

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

Your Action: Do Not Give Up Hope

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

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

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

Photo credit Indivisible SF

All Members Meeting: How to Flip Red Districts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlikely Allies

By Christina Tarr

March in California is a great time to get out to see the migratory birds who winter here. The Central Valley reserves are full of Snow and Ross’s geese, White-faced Ibis, and Sandhill Cranes. San Francisco Bay is full of ducks soon taking off for the arctic, where they will breed and raise ducklings. The most recent excitement is a beautiful Harlequin Duck currently visiting the San Leandro marina, far from his normal range up the coast. Harlequin ducks like rough water, and ours must have liked this weekend’s hail.

Conservation of migratory birds (ducks, in this case) and the wetlands that support them is an ideal area of overlap with those we may not think of as allies: hunters and organizations that support hunting. It might surprise you to know that some of these organizations have been fighting for decades to preserve and repair the environment, and there are ways we can support their advocacy work.

One way to aid conservation efforts that you may never have heard of is to buy a Duck Stamp. No, it isn’t for sending mail: a Duck Stamp allows you to legally hunt ducks. You don’t want to hunt? That’s ok, you might want to buy one anyway, because for just $25 you can participate in one of the most successful conservation efforts in history. As the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service notes:

98 percent of the purchase price goes directly to help acquire and protect wetland habitat and purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Wetlands acquired with Duck Stamp dollars help purify water, aid in flood control, reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities.

You can buy Duck Stamps at many sporting goods stores, national wildlife refuges, and on the USPS website

Does it seem unlikely that an organization of duck hunters would be an ally in bird conservation? The mission of Ducks Unlimited is habitat conservation, and on that issue they are a powerful ally. Read their info sheet on the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a grant-based conservation program that has conserved more than 33.4 million acres since 1989; learn about the money the NAWCA has brought to California herePlease contact your Members of Congress and ask them to support the NAWCA now: 

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act conserves North America’s waterfowl, fish and wildlife resources while producing a variety of environmental and economic benefits. Every federal dollar provided by NAWCA must be matched by at least one dollar from non-federal sources. Because the program is so effective, NAWCA funds are usually doubled or tripled at the local level. More than $1 billion in federal grants has been allocated for NAWCA projects – a figure that has leveraged more than $4 billion in contributions from partners. Please support NAWCA funding by including it in your appropriations request for Fiscal Year 2019.

Theodore Roosevelt was a famous hunter, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has the mission “to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.” They’re our ally in opposing the Trump administration’s undermining of the Clean Water Act, and in opposing the proposed transfer of public lands to the states. Use this information, adapted from the TRCP, to write or call your federal and state senators and representatives and your governor: 

My name is _______, and my zip code is _______. I’m an environmentalist [birder, hiker, outdoor enthusiast, etc.], and I value public lands for recreational use. I request that you actively pledge your support for America’s public lands legacy and reject efforts to transfer federal public lands to individual states.

States are simply not equipped to support the enormous costs associated with managing public lands. State ownership would result in the fire sale of public lands to billionaires and foreign companies, where millions of acres would be closed to public access and an American birthright would be lost.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.