Coffee and Conversation with Rep. Lee

By Rosemary Jordan

Members of Indivisible East Bay and Alameda4Impeachment (A4I) attended the April 7, 2019 Coffee and Conversation event with Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) at Paulista Restaurant in Oakland.

We passed out copies of the Open Letter to Representative Lee that A4I’s leadership had published in the previous week’s Alameda Sun newspaper. During Q&A, Lee responded to one of our member’s questions by committing to meet with us to discuss the topics raised in our letter, including next steps to launch an impeachment investigation. Addressing something Lee said about the likelihood of Senate approval, another member pointed out that a roll call of GOP Senators in the face of overwhelming evidence of misconduct could be very helpful to Democrats. He also stressed that in any case, if we don’t hold this President accountable, we will be putting our democracy in jeopardy forever.

At the event a lively group of Oaklanders, including teachers, students, and Poor People’s Campaign representatives asked great questions about climate change, education funding, the escalation of tensions in Venezuela – and more. Representative Lee affirmed her commitment to peace and justice, with specific references to Black women’s health, the Green New Deal, reparations, and reduced defense spending.

Photo of Rep. Barbara Lee at Coffee & Conversation by 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.

 

East Bay rallies: Release the Report!

Rosemary Jordan and Katie Cameron contributed to this article

Thousands of people nationwide at more than 300 events on April 4 took to the streets to send a LOUD & CLEAR message to Attorney General William “Cover-up” Barr that we demand the immediate release of the full Mueller report and all supporting evidence. The previous night’s news that some of Mueller’s investigators believed Barr’s brief letter misrepresented their findings, and that the findings were more troubling for Trump than Barr stated, energized our resolve for full and immediate disclosure.

Indivisible East Bay members joined several local protests, and several IEB’ers organized the events in El Cerrito and Alameda.

El Cerrito Shows Up to Demand: Release the Full Report Now!

By Heidi Rand

Nearly 200 people waved signs, chanted, and got rousing honks and fists raised in solidarity from rush-hour drivers at a busy intersection in El Cerrito. IEB member George read Chair Adam Schiff’s “I Don’t Think It’s Okay” speech as a very moving call and response. Schiff’s statement was a fiery retort to calls for him to resign by GOP members of the Intelligence Committee.

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People from West County, Berkeley, Richmond and beyond lined all four corners of the intersection; many arrived with signs made at home, some created their masterpieces on the spot. Favorites included: We Want Action, Not Redaction!; We Demand the Truth!; What is Trump Afraid Of?; None Of This Is Okay!; Corrupt, Compromised, Immoral & Unpatriotic; We paid for it!; Not Exonerated!; No Cover Up; and Barr: Show Us Your Papers!

See more wonderful photos of the El Cerrito event by Mary DeShaw, a volunteer photographer with Pro Bono Photography.

 

Alameda Island Joins National Demands For Release of Mueller Report


By Katie Cameron

Joining nation-wide rallies to pressure for release the Mueller report, several local organizations held a rally in front of Alameda City Hall on April 4. About fifty people attended, including members of MoveOn, Indivisible East Bay, All Rise Alameda, and Alameda4Impeachment. Rosemary Jordan, representing all of those organizations, convened the rally.

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Jordan kicked it off by summarizing recent developments: the completion of the Mueller report two weeks ago; the peculiar distillation of the report into four pages written and released by Attorney General Barr; the subsequent declaration of full exoneration by Donald Trump; and the Constitutional crisis we face as the report remains hidden from even Congressional view. “This is yet another case of obstruction of justice – this time by the Attorney General,” Rosemary pointed out.

Following her remarks, Ed Hilton with guitar treated the rally to some folk songs, including “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and “I Once Was a Union Maid.” Katie Cameron led the crowd in chants provided by MoveOn, to an enthusiastic roar of response. Quite a few attendees stepped up to the mic to give their own short remarks on the state of things – some sad, some angry, and some delightfully humorous.

One attendee read aloud portions of Rep. Adam Schiff’s now-famous statement to his Republican colleagues itemizing a long series of presidential infractions, with the refrain: You might think that’s okay. I don’t!

To cap off the participation, Kitty Von Braskat-Crowe, attired in gorgeous purple hues, stepped away from her walker and belted out an amazing rendition of an old gospel song from the Civil Rights days. She was most definitely the star of the show!

Alameda protest photo by Katie Cameron
Rosemary Jordan held the megaphone while Kitty Von Braskat-Crowe belted out a Civil Right gospel song. Ed Hilton sat behind on the steps, with guitar. Photo by Katie Cameron

To wrap up the rally, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (AD 18) gave us all words of encouragement and hope. He made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he shares our concerns about the Mueller report, the behavior of the President, and the importance of the Rule of Law. In the late afternoon chill, the crowd had dwindled a bit, but Bonta didn’t care a bit. He spoke with passion, and thanked every one of us for standing up for the Constitution.

Whether or not you made it to one of the protests, there’s much you can do! Public pressure is working, and we must keep it up. All of our Members of Congress have spoken out strongly on this issue, BUT THEY STILL NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU – they are hearing from the other side, and if you don’t call they won’t know that you support them and that this issue is important to you!

What you can do NOW: 

  • Tell your Members of Congress that we demand transparency and complete disclosure of the Special Counsel’s report and investigation. Every day that passes without the full truth, Individual-1 and his minions continue to use the self-serving Barr letter to target and try to silence the people who are speaking out and investigating him. Take action, and keep reading below the call to action for more info & background.

What to say:

My name is ______________, my zip code is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank _________ for supporting disclosing the Special Counsel’s report to the American people. I want _______ to insist that Attorney General Barr immediately give the full Special Counsel’s report and all underlying investigatory materials to Congress. The full report and materials also have to be made public. I also want Congress to continue investigating Trump beyond the scope of the Mueller investigation.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

 

For more info & background, and to learn what actions we’ve been taking for over a year, read our past articles:

 

Katie Cameron is a member of the Steering Committee of Alameda4Impeachment. A retired social worker who spent her career in state government in Washington State, Katie 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.

El Cerrito event slideshow photos by Heidi Rand

April $hower$ Can Make it Rain

Thanks to the support of volunteers like you, Indivisibles across the country worked tirelessly to take back the House last November. This has allowed Democrats to use their new power in the majority to investigate the Trump administration’s corruption and push back on his racist border wall, all while advocating for democracy reform, a Green New Deal, protection for Dreamers and TPS recipients, and much more.

We run a lean Democracy machine here at Indivisible East Bay! We hold our meetings in free or low cost locations (shout-out to Sports Basement, the Finnish Hall, and Local Union 595), and we try to keep our postcard parties and other events economically accessible to all. But sometimes there are activities that are worth an investment —whether it’s tabling at a march or buying poster board, paints, and pens. So, every now and then we ask for a little help from our friends, to keep the pressure on, to continue to organize, build power, and fight back in 2019!

We’ve set a goal to raise $500 this month for upcoming actions, and Indivisible National has offered to match this goal, dollar for dollar — but only for support received in April. Help us reach our goal and meet this matching challenge by chipping in $20.19 (or an other amount) — your gift will go twice as far if you give today!

Here’s the link to make your donation — and thank you!

Your contribution will be directed to us through Indivisible Project, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, which are not deductible for federal income tax purposes as charitable contributions.

Photo of Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting by Heidi Rand

Training Ambassadors for Schools & Communities Act

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By Toni Henle

The 2020 election isn’t only about getting Greed-Personified-in-Chief out of the White House. Also on the ballot in November 2020: the Schools and Communities First Act (SCF) a ballot initiative that would reclaim $11 billion every year for schools and local communities by a closing a California corporate property tax loophole that benefits wealthy corporations and investors.

Indivisible East Bay members have worked on SCF since the process of qualifying the initiative for the ballot; you can read our earlier articles here and here. From now until November 2020, the campaign shifts to the public outreach, education and mobilization phases, and on March 30 a crowd of 100 enthusiastic supporters packed a training on the ins and outs of this grassroots citizen effort to close the corporate property tax loophole.

What is Schools and Communities First?

A little background: in 1978, California voters approved Proposition 13, which froze property taxes of both homeowners and corporations at 1975 levels. Few other states in the country have frozen commercial property tax rates. Most states reassess commercial property every one to five years. Under Prop 13, property is reassessed only when it’s sold, and taxes are adjusted based on fair market value. Prop 13 has allowed enormous corporations – like Disney, Chevron, WalMart and Shell – to pay taxes at 1975 rates. Chevron alone is saving over $100 million a year by benefiting from Prop 13’s corporate loophole. On the other hand, new businesses pay taxes at today’s rates, putting them at an obvious disadvantage. Before Prop 13, residential property accounted for 55 percent of the property tax and commercial property constituted 45 percent. Now the residential share is 72 percent of the tax burden while the commercial share is only 28 percent, according to an Evolve-CA fact sheet. One result is that California has slid from the top 10 states nationally in per-pupil funding to the bottom 10.

The Schools and Communities First initiative is on the ballot to correct this unfair situation. SCF would close the corporate tax loophole, so that large businesses (with property worth over $2 million) would be regularly assessed. The additional tax revenue, estimated at over 11 billion per year, would be distributed according to the current formula, about half to schools (K-12 and community colleges) and the other half to local bodies like cities, counties, and special districts, such as fire districts and water districts, that receive state tax revenues. Homeowners’ and renters’ taxes would be unaffected (although we anticipate a massive and misleading campaign by the corporations that benefit from Prop 13 that will imply otherwise!)

The excellent March 30 training, developed by Evolve-California, the League of Women Voters, Bay Rising, and other core sponsors of the initiative, covered the history, the facts, and the arguments for (and against) the initiative. Crucially, the training required attendees to develop the arguments that we’d present to different groups about why we support the initiative. We practiced our pitches in small groups, getting feedback from one another to help refine our messages. We also wrote our own plans for which groups we planned to speak to, and when. 

The SCF campaign needs all of us! Evolve will lead the grassroots organizing effort for this initiative in the Bay Area; the best way to get involved in this historic campaign is to sign up to volunteer at Evolve’s website, you’ll get updates on future trainings and organizing opportunities in our area.

 

Toni Henle is retired after a career in policy work at non-profits focused on workforce development. She is a member of the IEB Governance Committee, co-lead of Outreach to Organizations and a member of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

Photographs by Toni Henle

March 2019 Meeting with Alameda4Impeachment & Rep. Lee Staff

By Rosemary Jordan

On March 14, 2019, members of Alameda4Impeachment, including Indivisible East Bay members, met with Representative Barbara Lee’s congressional aide Jain Thapa to discuss Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments about impeachment in the context of the growing list of potentially impeachable offenses.

We opened the 45-minute meeting by thanking Rep. Lee for her strong support to impeach the President, including but not limited to her cosponsoring H.Res. 621 in the last Congress. Mr. Thapa confirmed that Rep. Lee continues to unequivocally support impeachment.

We discussed a range of topics related to the scope of the Special Counsel probe vs. the potential scope of an impeachment inquiry, and we supplied articles to Mr. Thapa explaining that the risks of further delays to a professionally-led inquiry should be of primary concern to all House members.

Among the other topics we covered:

  • Hearing Procedure: we discussed that the House Oversight & Judiciary hearings to date have been hamstrung by the five-minute interval questioning approach and by the absence of professional counsel. We shared with Mr. Thapa that professionally facilitated hearings would improve the public’s understanding of the facts. We urged him to share with Rep. Lee that her leadership role offers her a opportunity to shape committee procedures.
  • Risks of Corruption on Public Safety & Global Reputation: we reviewed the tragedy of the Ethiopian Air crash and explored how cronyism between the President and the Boeing CEO has the world community so concerned that they sent the black boxes to France for analysis, rather than to the U.S.
  • Concerns About the Peaceful Transition of Power: we discussed our fears that an optimistic outlook on 2020 is overblown – just as Trump’s chances in 2016 were misunderstood. We further shared our increasing concerns that the President will not accept the 2020 election results if they’re unfavorable to him. Given the ongoing and unaddressed attacks on our democracy (through social media manipulation and other tactics) and possible intrusions into our election systems, we shared our sense of urgency to investigate claims that our President is actively abetting these intrusions.

We closed by sharing two requests with Mr. Thapa:

  1. That Rep. Lee write a letter to Rep. Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, asking him to immediately begin a formal inquiry, with public hearings, on the issue of impeachment. The hearings would focus on whether evidence exists to support impeachment, and if so, making a record of such evidence and, if warranted, drafting articles of impeachment.

    2.  We requested an in-person meeting with Rep. Lee in the East Bay during the current Congressional recess to discuss our first request, and also to get her views on the current status of and prospects for impeaching the President.

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.

March 2019 meeting with Sen. Nancy Skinner

State Senator Nancy Skinner and her aide Margaret Hanlon-Gradie met with six Indivisible East Bay members, including the founder of California StateStrong, on March 1, 2019, to talk about important bills in the current legislative session. The half-hour meeting was wide-ranging, including discussions of bills that Indivisible East Bay is prioritizing and bills that Sen. Skinner herself is introducing. Read our pre-meeting memo to Sen. Skinner here.

Police Use of force

Two bills this session deal with the issue of police use of force. We asked Sen. Skinner, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee, to support AB 392. Her support will be critical to the outcome of this bill – and to the defeat of SB 230, a competing, weaker bill supported by law enforcement agencies. In line with recommendations from policing and legal experts, including the California Attorney General, AB 392 updates California law so that police can use deadly force only when necessary to prevent death or serious injury, and requires them to use tactics to de-escalate a situation or use alternatives to deadly force when reasonable. Changing to this standard will mean that officers will be trained to use deadly force less often and will be held accountable when they shoot and kill unnecessarily. Read our article and action item on AB 392 and SB 230 here.

As Committee Chair, Skinner said she cannot signal anything now, but she noted that neither the Public Safety Committee membership nor the chair has changed since last year when they approved AB 931, a bill very similar to AB 392 that ultimately did not receive a vote in the CA Senate. Skinner urged us to make sure Indivisible groups up and down the state are clear on AB 392 and SB 230 and flood their legislators with communications about them. Also, it’s important to work to gain the support of groups and institutions that have personal and moral influence with legislators, particularly the faith community, including the Catholic, Jewish, and African-American congregations.

Criminal Justice Reform

IEB asked Sen. Skinner to support AB 32, which would abolish for-profit prisons. Sen. Skinner supports ending for-profit prisons and Skinner’s budget subcommittee will hold hearings on why we still have prisoners in Mississippi, but in her opinion this is the least of the issues since California only has two privately owned prisons, which are staffed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and which operate under CDCR rules. The main issue in her opinion is that we have way too many people in prison despite sentencing reforms. Skinner suggests the focus should be on bills from last year that didn’t make it through the legislature that would have eliminated various sentence enhancements. She also suggested focusing on Assemblymember Bonta’s AB 1793, which became law last fall; this deals, among other things, with resentencing for marijuana-related offenses whose legal status changed under Proposition 64.

Importantly, Sen. Skinner will also carry a parole reform bill to increase the chance of parole by changing the criteria for the parole board’s “risk assessment.”  Now, only 18 percent of people who come before the parole board are released. The current criteria mostly have nothing to do with the prisoner’s behavior, are not under the prisoner’s control, and are stacked against black and brown people—e.g., family history of incarceration. Senator Skinner urged as many Indivisible groups as possible to email and call their legislators to pass these bills.

Sen. Skinner beat IEB to the punch discussing Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 6, which if approved by voters in 2020 will amend the California Constitution to restore voting rights to Californians on parole. IEB will be working with the community co-sponsors of ACA 6, including our community partner Open Gate, which supports people leaving prison and pursuing their education. Sen. Skinner told us she is a strong supporter of restoring rights to people returning to the community after incarceration. To our request that she co-sponsor ACA 6 when it comes to the Senate, she responded that voting rights are “very important.”

Anti-Poverty

We thanked Sen. Skinner for introducing SB 18, the Keep Californians Housed Act, co-authored by two other East Bay representatives, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Buffy Wicks. Among other things, this bill establishes a Homelessness Prevention and Legal Aid Fund in the State Treasury.

IEB asked Sen. Skinner to fund the CalFood Program at $24.5 million, to enable food banks to meet emergency needs. We asked her to support the following bills:

  • AB 1022 (Wicks), a top priority of our community partner the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), addresses the need to end hunger for adults (Able-Bodied Adults without Children) who are harmed by the federal 3-month time limit to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Senator Skinner said this bill should not be a problem, depending on the appropriations amount.
  • SB 285, co-sponsored by the ACCFB, would ensure all eligible Californians have access to CalFresh/SNAP by phone, online, and in-person through dignified means and within an integrated safety net that supports health and well-being. Senator Skinner said she is a strong supporter of making sure everyone who qualifies for SNAP gets it, and she has carried bills to this end in the past.  She thinks this will pass.
  • SB 499, Hunger-Free Schools, and AB 842, Hunger-Free Preschool and Child Care, would increase K-12 schools’ capacity to provide healthy school meals, and are spin-offs of legislation that Senator Skinner carried, so she is a strong supporter.

Finance

We asked for Sen. Skinner’s support of the public banking charter bill sponsored by the California Public Banking Alliance. This will create a new type of charter/license specifically tailored to public banks, which are defined as banks wholly owned by public entities (cities, counties, school or water districts, or combinations thereof). She replied that she is a strong supporter of work around public banks.  She will have to see the language before saying she will co-author.

Senator Skinner is carrying a corporate income tax bill, intended to make corporations share some of the huge savings they reaped from the Trump tax overhaul. Corporate income taxes used to supply about 30% of the state’s general fund; that is now down to less than 9%. Under Sen. Skinner’s bill, the higher the ratio between the corporation’s top officer’s pay and the median employee pay, the higher the tax rate.

We look forward to working with Senator Skinner in the current session.

Join the meetings! Indivisible East Bay meets with the staff of our Members of Congress frequently. Be part of our team! It’s a fascinating way to find out more about the things you care about. Meetings are announced in the IEB weekly newsletter; subscribe to the newsletter for this and more!

Let it shine: Thanks to Rep. Swalwell for backing GND

By Alan Marling

On March 7, Indivisible East Bay projected a big thank you – literally – to Representative Eric Swalwell for backing the Green New Deal. That night, a group of IEB members visited Hayward City Hall and a building downtown on Foothill Boulevard to shine their gratitude. The Green New Deal (GND) resolution, introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House, and by Sen. Edward Markey in the Senate, is bold, intended to stop climate change and restart our economy with a just transition to a better future. Rep. Swalwell showed vision and leadership in backing the resolution, and IEB wanted to let him know that we have his back.

Projection is an exciting new form of free speech, painting buildings with light without causing any lasting change to them. You can see more political images and video projected around the Bay Area at this Resistance SF facebook page.

The group is on the lookout for more interesting places to project their thanks in CA-15, Rep. Swalwell’s district. Have ideas, or want to participate with IEB’s CA-15 team? Contact Ward on IEB’s Slack at @ward or by email at wardkanowsky@gmail.com.

Read our recent articles for info and background about the Green New Deal, and actions you can take NOW to support it:

Alan Marling is a local activist and writer who uses light to project resistance art.

Photographs by Charles Moehle, of Pro Bono Photography, and Alan Marling

2019 Virginia elections: IEB can help

Editor’s note: At the February 24 All Member Meeting Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee member Elizabeth Douglas spoke about the importance of the 2019 state elections in Virginia. If you missed the meeting, here’s Liz’s presentation:

By Elizabeth Douglas

All 100 House and 40 Senate seats in Virginia will be up for grabs during 2019 state elections! It’s important to remember that Virginia, a purplish state at best of times, may have gone for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but only just barely (by ~212,000 votes!)

https://www.nytimes.com/elections/2016/results/virginia
Image Source: The New York Times, Election 2016 Virginia Results

Image Source: The New York Times, Election 2016 Virginia Results

So why should Californians make efforts to “keep Virginia blue” in 2019 (or, at least get it from purplish to blue-ish)? How does this affect us? Not only is this election of vital importance to Virginia state legislation, but getting more Democrats in the Senate and House of Delegates would protect the state from radical redistricting by Republicans in 2021. Recently, Virginia legislation has had the power to affect Americans nationwide on issues like gender equality (lookin’ at you the ONE Republican who voted not to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment).

And of course, we cannot – CANNOT – have Trump win Virginia in 2020. Trump has been gleefully taking advantage of the recent Virginia controversies plaguing the top three Democrats, baiting his base in Virginia with disgusting lies like the one about Governor Northam executing babies. And if they take the bait, believe us, Virginia will switch.

Indivisible East Bay should take the lessons learned from the fantastic accomplishments of the 2018 elections, and work with other Indivisible groups (e.g., Indivisible Berkeley), Resistance Labs, and partner organizations like Vote Forward, to help Virginia. We hope to kickstart these activities in May, so stay tuned for more news to come on how to help in the Virginia 2019 elections.

For further reading about the Virginia elections, the 2017 Politico article “For Democrats, Virginia’s Elections Are a Petri Dish” illustrates what a difficult state this is to win for Democrats. Even former Republican governor Jim Gilmore said of the 2019 elections: “This race [2017 Virginia elections], and any future races leading up to a redistricting are vital—they’re absolutely vital.”

Or, as recently elected VA-10 Democrat Jennifer Wexton puts it…

https://twitter.com/JenniferWexton/status/1097983475318226944

Source: https://twitter.com/JenniferWexton/status/1097983475318226944?s=19

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.

Meeting with Feinstein State Director 2/6

By Larry Baskett

On February 6, 2019, Indivisible East Bay braved the rain to attend our first meeting with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, Jim Lazarus, who is newly in the role but has worked for Feinstein on and off ever since she was mayor of San Francisco (his most recent job was for the SF Chamber of Commerce). Field Representative Abby Ellis, who has met with us before, joined in.

We led with an ask to stop Trump’s expanded plans for nuclear weapons development (including low-yield nukes) and space-based missile defense (“space wall,” i.e. Reagan’s “Star Wars” redux). The new nuclear arms race is bad news even before one considers who’s in charge. There weren’t ideas on how to stop withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. When we asked for Sen. Feinstein to use her position on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to work on the issue with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, as well as whether Feinstein was committed to a long-term goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons, Lazarus said they would check with the DC office. On the no-nukes goal, we recommended contacting former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry.

On Trump’s racist southern border policies, we asked for Feinstein to follow up on her efforts to legislate restrictions on Trump using funds via “emergency declaration.” For instance, she could work with ranking Senate Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Member John Tester to strip out language that would allow it. Lazarus and Ellis said they’d follow up. They said that the federal bureaucracy is pretty independent and that city bureaucracies seem more responsive on the matter. Lazarus also said when Feinstein’s staff visited the San Diego youth immigrant facility (ahem, prison), the conditions were better than one might expect from reporting elsewhere… which was good to hear, but not very reassuring, seeing as how the whole system is a gross injustice. We asked for Feinstein to visit personally, as she has previously committed to doing.

Also, we asked Feinstein to cosponsor the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018, S.2522. Currently foreign adoptees with American parents, children who would have qualified for citizenship but who for whatever reason didn’t go through the regular process, don’t have a formal recourse to become citizens. This issue personally impacts a loved one of one of our members.

Regarding the rapid pace of confirmations of conservative hack judges and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s plan to accelerate them, we asked for more outspoken protest and procedural hardball from Feinstein, citing Sen. Mazie Hirono’s close questioning and consistent “nay” votes and Sen. Harris’ recent commitment to vote NO on all judges in protest.

We also asked for opposition to attorney general appointee William Barr, noting that a president under investigation shouldn’t get his own pick of AG. We didn’t get much of a response on this; Feinstein did subsequently vote against Barr.

We brought up ever-rising health care costs, including the recent SF General Hospital scandal about soaking non-Medicare patients. We asked Feinstein to support a bill to outlaw “surprise medical billing” with a policy that would put the onus on providers to work out billing with insurers rather than with patients.

We also asked for support of single-payer insurance (Medicare for All). Ellis said that Feinstein supports a public option and broadening California Access Care; she also asked how we’d fund single-payer. Lazarus pointed out that other countries with public systems started them a long time ago and that even Medicare today takes private supplemental insurance for better coverage. This was not encouraging.

We discussed the idea of public banking to fund Green New Deal programs and tied it into developing efforts with Public Bank East Bay and the California Public Banking Alliance. Lazarus said he’d look into it and mentioned the possibility of a statewide public bank as well as banking services for the now-legalized marijuana industry.

We asked whether Feinstein was open to following Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s lead on a 70% or higher top marginal tax rate and/or Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s lead on a wealth tax, for economic justice and fairness. Lazarus didn’t know Feinstein’s position. He brought up how the Constitution was amended to authorize an income tax, and while he cast doubt upon a federal wealth tax’s constitutionality, he noted that many states do have an asset tax, in the form of a property tax. He was also concerned about wealth flight overseas. Again, the direction of the conversation wasn’t very encouraging.

Feinstein has found an as-yet-not-public cosponsor for her homelessness relief bill. It would involve grants via the Health and Human Services Administration to fund a variety of nonprofits and local agencies in support of housing for the poor. The emphasis would be on the states most impacted, like California, New York, and Florida.

Finally, we asked for a public town hall meeting with the Senator. Lazarus wasn’t sure and said that it depended upon the Senate’s schedule, with the likeliest time being during an August recess. Next time, hopefully we can get more specificity from Lazarus on Feinstein’s public positions and responses to our requests.

Larry Baskett is a mechanical engineer from Berkeley who spent a year on staff at the California State Senate and who previously volunteered with Wolf PAC, the campaign finance reform organization.

 

Meeting with Rep Swalwell’s staff

By Ward Kanowsky

Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky, co-leads of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 team, met with members of Representative Eric Swalwell’s staff as part of Indivisible’s February 11 National Day of Action. On behalf of IEB, we conveyed our gratitude and support for Swalwell’s cosponsorship of the Green New Deal, H.R. 1 (For the People Act of 2019), and H.R. 8 (Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019).

The purpose of the Day of Action was to keep up the pressure on all Members of Congress by hearing from their constituents, and to ask them to fund the government with no new funding for Trump’s wall, ICE, or CBP. We raised three main issues related to the potential for a February 15 shutdown:

  • Border wall – a wall would devastate border communities and waste billions of taxpayer dollars.
  • ICE agents – keep families together; no additional funding for more Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents.
  • Beds – stop ICE from expanding the number of immigrants held in detention.

We specifically asked Rep. Swalwell to co-sponsor H.R. 678, the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act of 2019. Federal contractor employees were especially hard hit by the shutdown and did not receive back pay when the government reopened on January 25. Many of these employees, who include cafeteria workers, security guards, and cleaning crews at federal buildings across the country, typically earn between $450 and $650 a week, and are now forced to choose between paying for utilities or putting food on the table for their families.

In addition, we highlighted the impact of the recent 35-day shutdown on some of CA-15’s most vulnerable, with information from the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Specifically, we pointed out that 13,000 CA-15 households received their February CalFresh/SNAP benefits (aka food stamps) in January as a result of the shutdown – resulting in a “SNAP gap” of up to 50 days until they can get their next monthly benefit payments. This irregularity and gap can create confusion and anxiety among recipients, especially since many of these 13,000 households include seniors and children. We also noted the increased need at food pantries during shutdowns.

Overall, our meeting with Rep. Swalwell’s staff was very effective. They were grateful for our feedback and information (especially about H.R. 678), and will pass on the content of the meeting to Swalwell and his D.C. staff.

If you have questions or want to participate with the CA-15 team, contact Ward on Slack at @ward or by email at wardkanowsky@gmail.com.  And please join us in Dublin at the Local IBEW 585 Union Hall for the IEB All Members Meeting on Sunday February 24 from 1-3 PMRSVP here.

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

Photo: CA-15 team co-leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky met Rep Eric Swalwell in 2018