Calling BS On Thoughts and Prayers

There aren’t words for what happened in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day. The trauma inflicted on the students and their families is so unimaginably vast that it may alter the course of American history.

Parkland’s students are forging their heartbreak and anger into action. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, stood in front of the world’s news cameras and spoke her truth to the nominal leader of the free world just days after February 14:

If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy, and how it should never have happened, and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association. But hey, you want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know: $30 million. … To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!

Gonzalez and her classmates are calling BS on the fiction that tighter regulation doesn’t save lives. It does. Fewer guns means fewer deaths, every time.

They demand that we take action, and we owe it to them and to ourselves to do so. Here’s where you come in. You can:

Support legislation requiring reasonable regulation of firearms:

Let Your MoC Know How You Feel About Their Track Record:

 

  • Outside the East Bay:
    • Explore this NPR chart to see how your Members of Congress have voted on gun bills.
    • Find out whether your representatives are funded by the NRA.
    • If your MoCs support gun safety, thank them! You can be sure the NRA is getting their members to give them grief, and they need to hear from you.
    • If your MoCs oppose reasonable regulation of firearms or are being bought by the NRA, tell them they’re not representing your wishes; tell them you won’t vote for them and will work against them. This fundraising piece from Gabby Giffords has graphics you can print and make into a postcard or tape to a piece of paper. You can use Giffords’ tweets for inspiration for your message too.

Hit the Streets and Support the Students:

Support and Donate to a Gun Safety Organization:

 

CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

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

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • 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

 

Photograph of Emma Gonzalez copyright CNN

Save Alta Bates: CNA Hosts Forum and You Can Take Action

The California Nurses Association (CNA) hosted a forum on February 3, 2018 on their initiative to save Alta Bates from closure by Sutter Health. State Senator Nancy Skinner, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley Fire Chief Dave Brannigan, and other East Bay officials and citizens spoke over the course of several hours to a standing room only audience at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.

As Berkeleyside reports, Sutter recently announced “plans to relocate emergency and delivery services to Oakland’s Summit campus by 2030, the state’s deadline for full-service hospitals to make seismic upgrades.” Every speaker emphasized that such a significant change would devastate the already overburdened health care services in the East Bay. Among other things, since Doctors Medical Center of San Pablo closed in 2015, Alta Bates has under state law been the only medical facility that serves the whole of the East Bay north of Oakland (including west Contra Costa County) where emergency services like paramedics can deliver patients.

Sen. Skinner and Mayor Arreguín addressed Sutter Health’s status as a non-profit entity and state and city governments’ ability to regulate it. Particularly, Skinner spoke of Senate Bill 687, a bill she authored that would have given the Attorney General oversight of hospital closures. Governor Brown vetoed S.B. 687 last year, and Skinner now plans to rework the bill. Mayor Arreguín questioned Sutter’s non-profit status, noting that Sutter had over $15 million in assets after 2016 and asking whether it was providing the requisite “community benefits” to receive that status and if Alta Bates’ closure would affect the answer to that question.

Near the end of the program, Chief Brannigan spoke to Alta Bates’ role in providing emergency medical services, working as a crucial node in the nexus for firefighters and paramedics. Alta Bates’ closure would increase transit time to doctors at locations in Oakland and add to those sites’ existing workload. Those minutes can make the difference in individual cases of life or death, and can be catastrophic in a regional emergency like an earthquake. And that’s not to mention the significant overhaul that the dispatch and response services would have to undergo, which would take years to implement at significant cost to taxpayers.

At the conclusion of the forum attendees filled out postcards to Sutter’s CEO, requesting that Sutter invest in retrofitting Alta Bates or sell it to someone who would retrofit rather than close it. Indivisible East Bay will continue to follow this story as it develops. In the meantime, here are some ways you can support Alta Bates:

  • Write to Sutter CEO Sarah Krevans, 2480 Natomas Park Dr #150, Sacramento, CA 95833, expressing your support for keeping Alta Bates open for the good of the community and the entire East Bay.
  • Say thank you to Sen. Nancy Skinner for her work to keep Alta Bates open and to require oversight of proposed hospital closures.
  • If you live in Berkeley or Oakland, tell your City Council member(s) you want them to support keeping Alta Bates open and to continue oversight of Sutter’s attempts to close the facility.

Border Wall: Bad for People and Other Living Things

By Christina Tarr

A keystone of Trump’s presidential campaign was his call for an enormous wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Trump, Mexico would pay for it and it would keep very dangerous immigrants out. The idea is popular with xenophobic and racist members of his base, and we know he continues to use the argument to whip up their support.

On January 18, 2018, Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly said that Trump’s ideas on the border wall had evolved, and that he was willing to consider fencing or other nonphysical ways to monitor the border. But in fact, Trump’s thinking has not evolved. He shot back in a Tweet:

We all know what a disaster this wall would be for humans – splitting families apart, forcing people who must cross the border into more and more inhospitable and dangerous lands while cutting off access to American-owned lands along the border. And we know the wall would be futile at curbing immigration. As Bill Maher says, “You know how immigrants come here, right? They buy a ticket, just like you do when you’re returning from Cabo. They fly here, and then they stay.”

We all also know there are far better things we could do with the $66.9 billion the wall is estimated to cost. The Sierra Club notes that even for the $3 billion budgeted for immigration enforcement funds for fiscal year 2018, we could create 45,000 middle class jobs, or build 184 new elementary schools.

Bottom line: It’s a dumb idea and a waste of money.

But there’s more: often overlooked in the furor and tweets about the wall is the irrevocable damage it would do to the environment. The 654 miles of existing walls and fences on the US-Mexico border have already made an environmental mess: destroying pristine wilderness, harming populations of rare and endangered animals, and causing flood or starving the land of water. And there is every reason to believe that adding more miles of wall would do more of the same:

  • The border lands are an area of great species richness, both because they are at the edges of different habitats, and also because they are underpopulated and have been protected from human activity for hundreds of years. These lands are home to Sonoran pronghorn, prairie dogs, black bears, and gray wolves; they contain some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the continent. More than 450 rare species live here – some cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. At least 700 neotropical birds, mammals, and insects migrate through the borderlands each year.
  • The wall would destroy and fragment habitats of rare and endangered animals including the jaguar, ocelot, and Mexican gray wolf, cut them off from larger populations needed to retain gene pools or from water and food, and block migration corridors for endangered species.
  • The wall, if high enough, could block birds and bats from resources and larger populations on the other side of it.
  • The wall could kill pollinators, including butterflies, with lights and zaps.
  • The wall would act as a dam, blocking water from flowing where it needs to go and causing flooding by interrupting flood plains.
  • Construction of the wall would not be regulated by law. The Department of Homeland Security has, bizarrely, used Section 102 of the 2005 Real ID Act to waive construction on 15 miles along the San Diego border from complying with any part of 37 federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
  • Wildlife refuges and national parks may be most at risk for wall construction because the U.S. government already owns the land.
  • Concrete construction releases a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, posing environmental risks that this Administration has shown no inclination to control or mitigate.

How we can fight against the wall:

  • Contact your members of congress. Let them know you oppose the environmental consequences of this wall in addition to the human costs. 
  • Tell everyone you know, and urge them to contact their MoCs.
  • Contact your city, county, and state and ask them to divest from companies that would profit from building the wall.
  • See Indivisible Guide’s article “Resisting Trump’s Budget: No Cuts, No Wall, No Deportation Force” for more info and talking points.
  • See the Sierra Club’s “Border Wall Toolkit
  • Find more actions at Center for Biological Diversity’s article “No Border Wall
  • Look for chances to resist – like this protest in Texas – and take part, or organize one in your community!

 

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

Photograph © Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Crowded Slate Vies for State Assembly District 15 Seat

There were nine candidates on stage and a large engaged audience at the California Assembly District 15 Candidates Forum hosted by the Albany Democratic Club at Albany High on January 29. Although the candidates competed to drop names and out-progressive each other, they appeared for the most part to agree closely on the issues. Even on SB 827, the divisive transit housing density bill by Senators Wiener and Skinner, everyone was in agreement that while they appreciated the spirit of the bill and the conversation it provoked, it needed significant changes to affordability, environmental, and local control provisions before they could support it. The only disagreements were on degree: whether single payer is “ideal” or “necessary”; whether a Prop. 13 (property tax) reform campaign to close the corporate loophole goes far enough. The organizers promised that video of the forum will be available soon on KALB.

I left better informed, but no closer to knowing who I plan to vote for in the primary this June.

Want to know more? Mark your calendar for the Assembly District 15 LGBQTI Candidate Forum, hosted by Lambda Democratic Club of CCC & East Bay Stonewall Democrats, February 21, 6-8 PM. All info here.

Read our earlier article about this race.

The candidates:

Voting in High School: More Than For Homecoming Queen

By Ward Kanowsky

Did you know there are approximately one million juniors and seniors in California’s high schools who may be eligible to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections? Indivisible East Bay’s CA-15 (Congressman Eric Swalwell) team has been working with other organizations, most notably the League of Women Voters, on an initiative to increase voter registration among high school students in California.

We are letting high school students’ families know about the Joint Letter written by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson that encourages high schools to have voter education weeks, to help eligible students learn more about registering to vote as part of civic engagement. We will encourage families to work with – and, when necessary, to put pressure on – schools to provide voter registration materials and information to their students; it may only take one concerned parent to get a school involved.

Representative Swalwell and his staff are supportive of this initiative. We have a meeting planned with Swalwell’s staff to discuss strategy as well as their own voter registration initiative, #ishouldprobablyvote. In addition, our team is working with Indivisible National’s West Coast organizer about how best to engage other Indivisible chapters to talk to high school students’ families about the Joint Letter, with a focus on red districts.

Have questions? Want to help? Email the CA-15 team or contact @ward on Slack.

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

Photo of CA-13 team leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky with Rep Eric Swalwell 

 

No Taxation Without Representation

More than 6 million American citizens are not permitted to vote because they have a past criminal conviction. California is better than many states in allowing formerly incarcerated people to vote once they have successfully finished probation, but nearly 180,000 California citizens, most of them people of color, are prohibited from voting only because they’re in state prison or on parole. Initiate Justice, which advocates for “people directly impacted by incarceration, inside and outside prison walls,” believes this is a wrong that can be righted; the Voting Restoration and Democracy Act of 2018 (VRDA), their statewide ballot initiative, would restore voting rights to these citizens and prohibit the disenfranchisement of voters because they are imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction.

Help California join Maine and Vermont, currently the only states that don’t deprive felons of their right to vote even while they’re incarcerated. For more information see this article about states’ varied approaches to voting rights for felons; and read Restoring the Right to Vote, a pdf booklet by the Brennan Center for Justice.

In order to get the VRDA initiative on the November 2018 California ballot, Initiate Justice needs to get more than 550,000 signatures from registered CA voters by April 17, 2018. You can help:

  • Before you begin, read complete talking points; and watch the video at this page
  • This page on the Initiate Justice website has complete instructions and links for you to download and print signature-gathering petitions, or have them mailed to you
  • Want to help more? Email IEB’s voting team, or join the voting-issues channel on Slack (email info@indivisibleeb.org for an invite to IEB’s Slack platform).

And while we’re on the subject — all of you who ARE eligible to vote, don’t squander that precious right! Please, right now:

  • Are you eligible and not registered? Register online to vote in California
  • Do you have to re-register? Check when you must, here, and if so, re-register!
  • Haven’t checked your registration? Check it now!
  • Do you know any 16- or 17- year olds? Check their eligibility, and help them pre-register online, to vote at 18!
  • Then: ask everyone you know the above questions, and if they’re eligible to vote, help them follow the same steps.

Here are some other very helpful sites which can be used for people in states other than California.

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (note that it requires you to provide an email address)
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to receive election reminders, get registered to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, and more
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote
 Graphic by Democracy Chronicles / Creative Commons

Join a Phone Banking Party!

Local progressive groups with extensive phone banking experience are holding phone banks to reach out to voters in other states ahead of upcoming election. Phone and text banking are extremely effective ways people in blue areas can help flip red or purple districts.

The hosts will gladly train you on the script and how to make the calls. Bring your phone, charger, earbuds (for your comfort), and a laptop or tablet (or when you sign up, let them know you’d like to borrow one). Don’t forget your good cheer and positive energy to resist — and your friends!

For full info, including locations, times, and a link to RSVP, go to the Commit to Flip Blue website and enter your zip code into the search box.

And check out these upcoming phone banks (mostly in Oakland) listed by Sister District and Together We Will on Eventbrite:

Sister District/Together We Will Oakland Phone Bank Parties
 
  • Sunday, January 28, 2018, 12:00-3:00 PM PST, Oakland – Temescal (near BART)
  • February 4, 2018, 12:00-3:00 PM PST, Oakland – Rockridge (near BART)
  • February 11, 2018, 12:00-3:00 PM PST, Oakland – West Oakland, Emeryville border
  • February 13, 2018, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM PST, Oakland – Upper Dimond District
Save the Date in El Cerrito – hosted by Sister District/Together We Will
  • Monday, February 12, 2018, 2:00-5:00 PM PST, El Cerrito – East Richmond Heights
Graphic © Sister District

Who’s Endorsing Contra Costa Sheriff Livingston? And Why?

By Champagne Brown and Judith Tannenbaum

Although the filing period to elect the Contra Costa Sheriff hasn’t even opened yet, some local Democratic representatives have already endorsed incumbent Sheriff David Livingston in his re-election bid. This is the Sheriff who:

Several groups working on criminal justice and immigration issues, including Together We Will,  are concerned about Democratic representatives supporting Sheriff Livingston’s re-election. They also ask what effect the endorsements, made before the February 12 to March 9 filing period, will have on any potential progressive candidate who might consider running.

Although it’s sadly likely Sheriff Livingston will run unopposed, we must speak out against his record and make sure none of our Democratic representatives supports him. Check the current list of endorsers on Livingston’s website to see whether any of them represents you (find your state representative here; find your Member of Congress here). If so, please call and demand that they retract their endorsement of a candidate who does not represent the values of their constituents or party.  If your representative has not endorsed Livingston, please call to thank them and to ask that they NOT endorse him. See below for sample call scripts and contact info for both situations.

Endorsers as of January 23:

What to say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___. I’m calling to express my disappointment that _________ has endorsed Sheriff Livingston for reelection. It’s shocking to me that  _________ would endorse a candidate for Sheriff whose record doesn’t align with the values of their constituents or party. It’s especially shocking that this endorsement appears before the filing period has even opened. I ask that ____________  retract their endorsement immediately. Thank you.

If none of the endorsers represents you, call your Member of Congress and state representatives (use the links above to find them if you don’t know them; contact info below as well).

What to say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___. I’m shocked at the local Democrats who have already endorsed Sheriff Livingston for re-election, even before the filing period. Please don’t endorse Livingston. I hope that instead you’ll encourage progressive Democratic candidates to run against the Sheriff. I also ask you to speak with Congressmember Mike Thompson, State Senators Glazer and Dodd, and State Assemblymembers Frazier and Grayson to urge them to retract their endorsements.

Members of Congress

State Representatives

Contra Costa County Supervisors

Champagne Brown is a Social Service Worker and Community Activist who is a member of the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition and Black Women Organized for Political Action, where she serves as the Political Education Chair. 

Judith Tannenbaum is a writer and teacher. Her books include “Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin.”

Graphic © Together We Will Contra Costa

A Year of IEB

The news cycle in the first few weeks of 2018 has been especially unforgiving. With the White House imploding under the weight of its own gossip while the Congressional GOP relaxes and plots its next moves, the fresh start promised by the New Year feels anything but.

Despite all of that, 2017 also saw IEB come into being, and we persisted through the year: on the streets, on the phone, sending texts, meeting Members of Congress, packing town halls… we kept the government on notice, and all it takes to see the size of our impact is a quick glance down the administration’s list of unfulfilled promises. If you hadn’t come out, if you hadn’t texted or written postcards or donated money, everything on that list would be part of our reality now.

With 2018 off to a start defined by the worst excesses of its predecessor, we thought it would be a good idea to look back and really take stock of what we did and how we did it in 2017, a year that rewrote the rulebook on our understanding of the American republic. The list below lays it out: We were there when it counted, and we made our voices heard.

Holding Power to Account

We spent a lot of time meeting and cultivating close relationships with our Members of Congress, and we wrote it all down.

Raising Our Voices

In 2017, IEB and its members were unafraid to raise their voices about the issues facing the country today. From phone banks to postcard campaigns to donation drives to knitting patterns, we used tools from every corner of our arsenal to keep the Trump administration on its toes.

Shining a Light

Information is power – so we made it our business to read, learn, and share our knowledge.

Building Our Community

The progress IEB makes in 2018 will rely on the relationships between and among its members. That’s why it’s so important that we meet, and keep meeting, and so wonderful when we do: we are building a community founded on political spirit that will outlast the current darkness and teach all of us lessons in how to be the best Americans we can.

Urge Contra Costa to Return Juvenile Justice Fees

By Judith Tannenbaum

For over two decades, when a child faced criminal charges, Contra Costa and other California counties made the family pay for the child’s incarceration. This practice came to an end statewide this past October, when Governor Brown signed SB 190 into law.

Now, Contra Costa is considering restoring these fines and fees to families, which would make it the first county in California to do so.  On a reportback to Contra Costa’s Public Protection Committee, the Probation Department identified $175,000 in fees (as opposed to fines) that were illegally collected from families between 2010 and 2017.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the details of the proposed restitution at their December 12 meeting. The Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition and others call for the Board of Supervisors to return money to everyone from whom it was taken unlawfully.

Full restitution includes returning money with interest to those charged as far back as 1991 when fees were first imposed, returning fees charged for ankle monitors, and compensation for collateral damage (including impact on families’ credit ratings).

What you can do:

▪    Please call your Contra Costa County Supervisor (contact infoand say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to urge you to make Contra Costa the first county in California to agree to return the fines and fees collected unlawfully from families of juveniles facing criminal charges. I ask that you vote to approve returning money to everyone from whom it was taken improperly.

  • Speak at the December 12 Board of Supervisors meeting during public comments

At present, the item is scheduled to appear on the Supervisors’ December 12 agenda. The agenda isn’t published yet, so please check to make sure that’s the date to show up.

Judith Tannenbaum is a writer and teacher. Her books include ‘Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin’.

Graphic © Juvenile Law Center