Contact Your Elected Representatives!

FEDERAL:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104

 

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

***************************************************************

STATE:

http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

Governor Edmund G. Brown: (email); (916) 445-2841c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra:  (email);  (800) 953-5335 [select English or Spanish, then press 0]

State Legislature Vote-a-rama

Indivisible East Bay supported several California Assembly and Senate bills pending in the June 2018 session. The legislature has voted, and here are the results:

Law Enforcement:

  • AB 3131 Law enforcement agencies, military equipment, funding, acquisition, and use: passed Assembly. See our articles here and here for more info
  • SB 1421 Peace officers, release of records: passed Senate. See our article for more info

Voting & Elections:

Other:

Want to work on state issues and legislation with the Indivisible East Bay state issues team? Email info@indivisibleeb.org or join the #ca_state_issues channel on IEB Slack.

The California Legislative Process Demystified, graphic © Indivisible California StateStrong

 

IEB Meets With State Asm. Thurmond’s Staff

On May 29, Indivisible East Bay members Nick, Amelia, Ted, Melanie, and Mark met with Molly Curley O’Brien from State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond’s (AD15) office in downtown Oakland. IEB’s first-ever meeting with Thurmond’s staff was a positive experience.

We had sent Molly a memo beforehand listing the topics and state bills we wanted to talk about and to find out Thurmond’s positions. But first we asked a general question — why the Democrats didn’t use their super-majority advantage last year to push through more progressive legislation. Molly explained that negotiating between moderates and more progressive members was often tricky, with the worry that moderates would flip support to the GOP and doom more progressive legislation; this unfortunate dynamic illustrates why it’s so important for Indivisible groups to take an active role in holding Democrats accountable at the state level and electing progressives wherever possible.

Schools and Students

We began by discussing Thurmond’s support for AB-1502 (Free or Reduced Lunch Direct Certification) and AB-1871 (Charter schools: free and reduced price meals). These bills would provide crucial meals to low-income and poor students in both public and charter schools, and reflect Thurmond’s ongoing work to support students in California’s education system. We thanked him for these positions, which align with our progressive values; Molly was happy to hear our thanks, and it set a good tone for the rest of the meeting.

Stating that Thurmond believes our schools need more resources, Molly mentioned that he would like to tax private prisons to provide resources for public schools, especially for LGBTQ students. She also noted that Thurmond wants to find a solution for the lack of affordable housing for teachers.

After Molly mentioned that Thurmond’s priority focus on education is “his bread and butter,” we asked her to make sure that he remembers to support small school districts and their teachers’ associations, not just larger ones in major metro area. 

Criminal Justice and Policing

We turned to the topic of criminal justice and policing, particularly AB-3131. Introduced by Assembly members Gloria and Chiu, AB-3131 is co-sponsored by Indivisible CA: State Strong, the ACLU, the Anti Police-Terror Project, and others. It  would provide for civilian oversight of local police forces’ efforts to purchase excess military equipment, which is a newly allowed practice under the Trump administration. Molly said that the principles of this bill align with Thurmond’s values, and gave us hope that he would vote Aye on it in a floor vote.

Voting Rights and Election Infrastructure

We wrapped up the meeting with a discussion of voting rights and election infrastructure, including AB-3115 (Jails: Voter Education), AB-2165 (Election Day holiday), AB-2188 (Social Media DISCLOSE Act), and AB-2125 (Risk-Limiting Audits). The IEB expert on these issues, Melanie (the lead for our Voter Rights and Election Integrity team), began by describing the problems we’ve had trying to help with voter education and registration in jails, to illustrate why passing AB-3115 is so important.

We also talked about unintended negative effects of the Voters Choice Act, recent closures of neighborhood precincts, and the need to keep polling locations open and improve – rather than restrict – access to the polls. Melanie asked whether Thurmond could help move AB-2165 out of submission so it could get a floor vote this week in the Assembly, so Election Day would be declared a holiday, showing our commitment to voter engagement and civic participation.

On AB-2188, we explained that a technical ruling had exempted social media from last year’s DISCLOSE Act, which requires political ad transparency, and urged Thurmond to support AB-2188  to help prevent a repeat in future elections of undue influence by Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and others.

Finally, Melanie tackled a complex subject — Risk-Limiting Audits (RLA). She highlighted the importance of AB-2125, the RLA legislation currently moving through the Assembly, especially in light of AB-840, enacted last fall, which weakened our 1% manual vote tally by exempting late-arriving and provisional ballots. To impress on Molly the critical need for AB-2125 to be amended before it goes to the Senate, Melanie mentioned the UC Berkeley statistics expert who invented risk-limiting audits (Philip Stark), and explained that Stark’s and other election security experts’ proposals don’t line up with current language in the bill. She asked how Thurmond might help, including whether he could let it be known he’s aware that corrections are needed, and to push for a timely amendment. Melanie clarified that although California should begin using risk-limiting audits, AB-2125 must be amended to follow best practices, and we want to see a bill we can support before it goes to the Senate.

We asked for Thurmond to familiarize himself with these bills and others, and Molly seemed confident he would be eager to do so. She noted that protecting democratic practices is important at all levels of government, and promised to discuss our issues with the Chief of Staff at their next meeting.

We ended the jam-packed half hour meeting on a positive note with a photograph. We hope to have another meeting with Thurmond’s staff, perhaps after his campaign for California Superintendent of Public Instruction is over.

Photo by Nick Travaglini

Vote ‘No Confidence’ to Oppose Contra Costa Sheriff Livingston

Indivisible East Bay and the IEB CA-11 Team are urging voters to write in “No Confidence” in the June 5, 2018 primary race for Contra Costa County Sheriff. We join the “no confidence” movement against the incumbent, Sheriff David Livingston, who is running unopposed because progressive organizations were unable to locate someone qualified to run against him (California law requires that the candidate be in law enforcement).

Why spend time mobilizing a write-in campaign opposing Livingston when he’s sure to be re-elected? Groups working on immigration and racial, social and criminal justice issues — including Together We Will Contra Costa, the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition and El Cerrito Progressives — are using the write-in effort to educate people about the sheriff’s shameful history. The California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance is also actively mobilizing against Livingston and several other horrendous California sheriff candidates.

By spreading the word, organizers hope that more people won’t automatically vote for Livingston just because he’s the only candidate. A vote count that’s significantly lower than in his prior two elections can serve to alert him, and the county, that many disapprove of his actions. Groups are also using the campaign to build support for a recall election.

Learn more about Livingston in our prior articles. To give you a taste, here are some high[low]lights. Livingston:

If you’re registered to vote in Contra Costa County, on your June 5 primary election ballot, below the box for David Livingston for Sheriff where it says ‘Write-in’ — fill in the bubble to the left and write ‘NO CONFIDENCE’ on the line. 

Sheriff Livingston no confidence write-in vote

What else can you do?

  • May 23 and 30, 6-7:30 PM: talk to voters and pass out “No Confidence in CoCo Sheriff Livingston’ flyers with IEB and CA-11 Team members, and others, at El Cerrito Off the Grid. Info here.
  • The Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance asks people to call the Sheriff’s office at (925) 335-1500 to push them to stop publicizing the names and release dates of people getting out of jail.
  • The Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition’s Sheriff Work Group suggests contacting California Attorney General Becerra about his investigation of the West County Detention Facility and other California jails with ICE contracts. Here’s background information, contact numbers, and a sample script for telephone calls or letters.
  • Sign California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance’s petition demanding that Sheriff Livingston stop violating SB 54 (the California sanctuary law) by publicly releasing the private information of immigrant inmates, including their release dates, and by allowing deputies to arrest, detain, or investigate people for violations of civil or criminal immigration laws.
  • If you’re an Alameda County resident – or know any – check out Indivisible Berkeley’s similar effort targeting the Alameda County Sheriff: “Vote No Confidence in Sheriff Ahern.”

Know Your Sheriff scorecard, graphic by California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
Ballot photo © Heidi Rand

 

Who’s Behind That Curtain? Support AB 2188, Reveal Online Ad Funders

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Updated May 26, 2018

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling eight years ago undermined our democracy by allowing those with unlimited money to use it to drown out the voices of the rest of us. While we would like to see Citizens United overturned, we should not wait for the Supreme Court to act – and we don’t have to. Here’s a good start: AB 2188, the Social Media DISCLOSE Act, currently pending in the California legislature, would lift the veil that lets big spenders influence politics while hiding their identities from us. (DISCLOSE is an acronym for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.)

The Social Media DISCLOSE Act isn’t the first piece of legislation to tackle this problem. As a 2017 California Clean Money Campaign (CCMC) press release explained, AB 249, the California DISCLOSE Act, requires television, radio, and print ads about ballot measures, and independent expenditures about candidates, to clearly list their top three funders. While AB 249 also has provisions relating to electronic media ads, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) did not believe that it required social media platforms to comply. AB 2188 closes that loophole, requiring online social media platforms to disclose information regarding the funders of political advertisements and to keep a database of the political ads they run. AB 2188 specifically requires online platforms to display “Who funded this ad?” on each political ad, linking to the page of the paying committee.

The amounts of money involved in political races have always been high; they have now become stratospheric. According to Southern California Law Review, an estimated $1.4 billion was spent on online political advertising nationally in 2016 – nearly an eightfold increase from 2012! And if you think you’re seeing a lot of political ads on Facebook, you’re right – about 40% of that astonishing sum was spent there and on other social media ads. Virtually none of those ads disclosed who paid for them, so you never knew that $100,000 of those Facebook ads were bought by Russian entities. The federal Honest Ads Act, sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar and co-sponsored by Senator John McCain, was introduced in response to this threat, but – surprise! – it’s stuck in Congress.

A federal bill would be ideal, as would a Congress that would see it to conclusion. Things being less than ideal, a state like California should be able to stand up and defend itself from the influence of dark money, Super PACs and a handful of people who believe they have more right to be heard than everyone else in the country put together. In fact, AB 2188 is better than the federal bill in at least one way — it requires the web pages of the committees paying for online ads to clearly list the top three true funders – that way, individuals can’t hide behind nice-sounding committee names.

Updated May 26, 2018: AB 2188 awaits a critical vote on the floor of  the Assembly. Please call your Assemblymember before the end of May. What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and a constituent of Assemblymember ______, I’m calling in support of AB 2188, the Social Media DISCLOSE ActPolitical ads on social media like Facebook should be required to disclose who pays for them.  We should never again have to wonder who is trying to influence our vote. I urge ______ to vote yes on AB 2188.

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

Graphic © California Clean Money Action Fund

 

Two Bills to Improve Voter Participation in CA

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Updated May 26, 2018

Our democracy is fundamental to who we are as a nation, and our right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. Two bills pending in the California legislature offer different paths to reach a common goal: facilitating and increasing voter participation in communities with low voter turnout — workers, students, and the incarcerated.

Election Day Holiday – AB 2165

AB 2165 – Election Day Holiday, was introduced by two Bay Area assembly members, Rob Bonta (Oakland) and Evan Low (San Jose). In April the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee voted to submit a letter supporting AB 2165 to the California Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization. The bill passed that committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee.

California state law lets workers take two hours off without losing pay to cast a ballot, so why make Election Day a holiday? The bill expands the current law, making it easier for students and school and state employees to vote, for schools to serve as easily accessible polling places, and for students to serve as poll workers.

This is far from being a solution in search of a problem: in 2014 California voters turned out in historically low numbers — only 42% of those registered participated in the general election and a dismal 25% participated in the primary. Nationally, turnout for the 2014 election was below 37%. According to the Pew Research Center, work and school conflicts were the most common reason that eligible voters did not vote in 2014: 35% of respondents said scheduling conflicts with work or school kept them from getting to the polls. Overall voter turnout in the US rarely breaks 60%; we rank 120th out of 169 countries for average turnout. Countries that outperform the US have different methods to elect officials, but many have one thing in common: they have Election Day off.

All Californians should have unfettered access to the polls and should be able to cast their vote in a neighborhood precinct on Election Day. We must do everything possible to make it easier for people in all communities to vote, including removing barriers that prevent those who want to vote from doing so. Assembly member Low hopes that making Election Day a legal holiday will help low-income communities participate in elections.

An Election Day holiday would expand access to voter participation and draw attention to often-overlooked midterm elections. It would commit the state to civic engagement and education by making clear that not only is voting a right and a responsibility, it’s one we take seriously enough to set aside our work obligations so we can all carry it out. It should not be “at the discretion of an employer” whether someone has time to vote, nor should anyone be concerned about their standing at their job, or of lost income because they vote.

We can help make Election Day a holiday and a celebration of our voting rights in California. AB 2165 is now awaiting fiscal analysis in the Appropriations Committee, which must act on the bill by May 24 in order for it to pass. California Senate and Assembly committees represent all Californians, and the Appropriations committee needs to hear from us in order for the bill to pass.

We can help make Election Day a holiday and a celebration of our voting rights in California. Though AB 2165 has successfully passed every Assembly committee hearing thus far, it is now being held in committee under submission.

We need to really turn up the heat so please call your Assemblymember right away! What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a constituent, and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask Assemblymember ______ to throw [his/her] support behind AB 2165, which is being held under submission. Neighborhood polling places are crucial to maintaining access for the elderly, single parents, for those without transportation or time to vote. An Election Day holiday will help all around by increasing polling locations, numbers of poll workers, overall excitement and participation in voting. Election Day should be a public celebration! AB 2165 will make explicit that the State of California upholds the foundation of our democracy. I urge your support and ask for your help in moving this bill forward.

Also, please spread the word to anyone you know in districts AD 18 (Bonta, Oakland), AD 20 (Quirk, Hayward), who are on the Appropriations Committee where AB 2165 is being held, and anyone in the San Diego area which is Appropriations Committee Chair Fletcher’s district.

 

Jails: Voter Education Program – AB 3115

AB 3115 – Jails: Voter Education Program addresses a need many don’t even know exists. While working people and students grapple with finding time to get to the polls, at least they’re usually aware they are eligible to vote. Many Californians with criminal convictions don’t know that they have that right, or don’t know how to exercise it. In fact, only felons serving their sentences and those on parole are barred from voting, but detainees, including those charged with misdemeanors and those awaiting trial, often think they can’t vote. Some jail officials also believe, incorrectly, that detainees can’t vote. And logistics often make it difficult or impossible for prisoners to register and/or vote. Many formerly incarcerated people are also unclear about their rights.

No eligible voter should be kept from exercising their right to vote for lack of understanding or access. California enacted AB 2466 in 2016 to clarify who can and cannot vote, but confusion persists, particularly when it comes to prisoners. AB 3115 would require county jails to allow at least one outside organization to provide voter education to prisoners to help them understand and exercise their rights. If passed, the bill would help remove the obstacles volunteers encounter coordinating with authorities and gaining access to prisoners.

Studies show that access to voting is strongly linked to lower recidivism. Access to voting has also been shown to re-ignite a sense of participation and citizenship that many people with criminal convictions feel they’ve lost. When people feel more connected to their community, they’re more likely to become contributing, productive citizens when they re-enter their communities. This means that improving prisoner education and access to voting will improve public safety. Because we in Indivisible East Bay know that by educating disenfranchised communities we can increase voting access to tens of thousands inside California jails who have historically been denied their right to register or cast a ballot, the IEB Governance Committee submitted a letter in support of this bill to the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 9.

Updated May 26, 2018: 

Voter education is just as important as voter registration! AB 3115 awaits a critical vote on the floor of  the Assembly. Please call your Assemblymember before the end of May. What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and a constituent of Assemblymember ______, I’m calling in support of AB 3115, which requires county jails to allow an outside group to provide voter education and help those eligible with registration. Voting is our fundamental right as Americans. If a person is eligible to vote, whether confined to jail or not, this right must be honored, not suppressed. I urge ______ to help by supporting AB 3115.

 

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

 

Vote Becton for Contra Costa District Attorney June 5

Last September, Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors appointed retired Superior Court Judge Diana Becton as interim district attorney. The position became open after a scandal forced the resignation of then DA Mark Petersen. The state charged Peterson “with 13 felonies connected to his admitted use of his campaign fund as if it were a personal bank account.”

Did you hear about her appointment at the time? With the perpetual Trump tornado in Washington, many important stories wind up getting overlooked. Catch up on the history at our prior articles. And make no mistake: this was an important story then and has grown to even greater significance now.

As interim DA, Becton became the first woman and first African-American to hold this position in the 168-year history of Contra Costa County. She now seeks to remove the “interim” from her title as she competes in the June 5th election for District Attorney.

Following a poll where Judge Becton received unanimous support, Indivisible East Bay’s CA-11 Team endorsed Becton for the District Attorney position, and the IEB Governance Committee subsequently voted to endorse her. We strongly urge all Contra Costa County IEB members to vote for Judge Becton. “Lower down on the ballot” offices are too often overlooked by voters, due to a lack of name recognition, uncertainty as to the positions of the candidates, or a mistaken belief that these offices don’t matter. Don’t let this happen here! Judge Becton is precisely the sort of progressive candidate that IEB is proud to support. Adding to the importance of voting for Becton in June: If the winner in this three-person race gets a majority, it’s over; there will be no run-off in November.

Prior to her current position as DA, Becton was a Judge in Contra Costa for over two decades and was elected by her colleagues as the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court for the First District Court of Appeals. Calling her a “great DA,” the Richmond Progressive Alliance recently wrote: “Becton received highest marks on a [Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition] community scorecard that ranked candidates on a range of issues, from bail reform to support for re-entry services.”

The District Attorney position critically affects the lives of many county residents. The DA has the power to decide whether criminal charges are brought against an individual, the severity of the charges, whether the person is diverted to a system such as mental health, and the priority of cases. Becton has worked especially hard to improve diversion programs for low level crimes and for people with mental illness who need treatment, not punishment.

With her predecessor criminally charged and her main opponent involved in questionable campaign activity regarding a donation from Sheriff David Livingston, we need a District Attorney with the record and integrity to bring transparency and accountability to the office. Judge Diana Becton is that person.

The IEB CA-11 team is putting our energy where our endorsement is, and volunteering to help elect Judge Becton — can you join us?

  • Saturday, May 5,  9 am to 1 pm: table for Judge Becton with the CA-11 Team and others at the El Cerrito Farmers Market  
  • Monday, May 7, 4 to 6 pm: help pass out flyers at El Cerrito Plaza BART station

And to learn more about the candidates:

  • April 28, 2 PM: meet Judge Becton, the featured speaker at the Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante / Richmond meeting. RSVP & all info here.
  • April 30, 6:30-8 PM: Contra Costa County District Attorney Candidate Forum. Hercules Library. Host: League of Women Voters.

Please email IndivisibleCA11@gmail.com if you have questions or want to help.

Tell Jerry Brown: Keep CA National Guard off the Wall

By Ted Landau

So you want to build a wall along the Mexican border of the United States — at an estimated cost of between $12 and $67 billion — but Congress only gave you $1.6 billion for “increased border security.” What’s your Plan B? That was the dilemma confronting the current occupant of the White House. His solution was to have thousands of people line up along the border, hold hands to form a human chain and start singing “Give Peace a Chance.” Okay…not exactly. Actually, he authorized the mobilization of up to 4,000 National Guard troops to stand guard along the California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas borders.

However, Trump doesn’t actually have the power to deploy those troops, and each state’s governor has the legal authority to refuse the President’s direction. The governors of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico – all Republicans – promptly agreed, at least in part, to Trump’s request. 

In a letter dated April 11, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown said yes – and no. He agreed to deploy troops to combat gangs, human trafficking and illegal arms and drug smuggling—but not to build the wall or enforce federal immigration laws:

[L]et’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission. This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women or children or to detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.

As the San Francisco Chronicle says, there is no sensible goal for Trump’s actions. Whether you’re talking about a border wall or a deployment of troops, these actions remain a Trumpian fantasy that won’t stop illegal immigration or improve U.S. security … and will only serve to harm relations with a neighbor and close ally. Similarly, as Brown notes, there is no clear need for troop deployment at a time when border crossings are at their lowest point in decades.

What you can do:

Tell Governor Brown he must hold firm and NOT accept federal money for National Guard troops, or agree to deploy troops, under any conditions other than the ones he has set out in his letter:

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

Keep Calm and Postcard On

BREAKING NEWS! IEB’s next postcard party & social meetup will be held on Sunday June 9 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, at Caffe Trieste (aka Caffe San Pablo), 2500 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley.  RSVP (not required, but it’ll help us know what supplies to bring for you). Please join us!

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.  

It’s time for Scott Pruitt to go

By Christina Tarr

Let us name the reasons.

He is corrupt.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is almost literally in bed with the oil and gas folks. He has been paying a measly $50 a night for a two-bedroom Washington D.C. apartment, charged only for the nights he was actually present. How’s he getting such a great deal? Maybe because the apartment is owned by the wife of Pruitt’s lobbying buddy Steven Hart, who represents a stable of energy industry clients like Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., which paid Hart’s firm $400,000 in 2017. Since Hart’s clients may well be regulated by the EPA, Pruitt might just be inclined to return this little favor to his friend. Fun fact: below-market-rate accommodations can fall into the category of prohibited gifts under ethics rules for Executive Branch officials and experts stress that officials like Pruitt should decline even permissible gifts to maintain the appearance of propriety.

On the other hand, Pruitt doesn’t mind spending the taxpayers’ dime for first class flights (to avoid unpleasant interactions with the hoi polloi) and pricy trips around the world. One such trip to Morocco last December included discussions of potential sales of liquid natural gas to Morocco. Liquid natural gas is the product of Cheniere Industries, a client of … wait for it … Steven Hart. Cheniere claimed no knowledge of the trip and also claimed to have ended its relationship with Hart’s firm in December. We think that none of this passes the smell test.

And what exactly is Pruitt talking about to his buddies? Whatever it is, he’s ordered a soundproof security booth for his office that, when all’s said and done, is going to cost the taxpayers over $40,000.

He is destroying the EPA

In a recent report, Pruitt states:

We have been hard at work enacting President Donald Trump’s agenda during my first year as EPA Administrator. His courage and leadership have been key to our success. From his decision to exit the Paris Accord to his executive order empowering EPA to review and rescind the Clean Power Plan, the President is delivering on his promises and getting results for the American people.

The EPA’s job, lest we forget, is to protect human health and enforce environmental regulations; here, from Vox, is a list of some of Pruitt’s accomplishments at its helm:

  • The EPA announced it was seeking a two-year delay in implementing the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which defines the waterways that are regulated by the agency under the Clean Water Act.
  • In May 2017, the EPA dialed back tracking the health impacts of more than a dozen hazardous chemicals.
  • The agency has said nothing about counties that failed to meet new ozone standards by an October 2017 deadline and now face fines.
  • Environmental law enforcement has declined overall: by September 2017, the Trump administration launched 30 percent fewer cases and collected about 60 percent fewer fines than in the same period under President Obama.
  • The EPA punted on regulations on dangerous solvents like methylene chloride, a paint stripper, that were already on track to be banned, instead moving the process to “long-term action.”
  • The EPA asked for a six-year schedule to review 17-year-old regulations on lead paint.
  • The implementation date of new safety procedures at chemical plants to prevent explosions and spills was pushed back to 2019.
  • Pruitt issued a directive to end “Sue & Settle,” a legal strategy that fast-tracks settlements for litigation filed against the EPA to force the agency to do its job. The agency will now spend more time in courts fighting cases that it’s likely to lose.
  • The agency’s enforcement division now has to get approval from headquarters before investigating potential violations of environmental regulations, slowing down efforts to catch violators of laws like the Clean Water Act.

We don’t have time to wait.

Pruitt has announced terrifying plans to act in the very near future to restrict the EPA’s use of science in regulation, in the name of “science reform.” Most likely, the EPA will be required to rely only on scientific studies where the underlying data are made public, a plan Congressional Republicans have been pushing for decades. Many scientific studies, however, rely on data that can’t be made public for reasons like patient privacy concerns or industry confidentiality. Relying only on publicly available results will severely hamstring the EPA’s attempts to do its job – to protect human health and the environment.

Pruitt’s next plan is to roll back emissions regulations and fuel economy standards for automakers. This move, which undercuts one of President Obama’s signature moves to confront climate change, will be couched in terms of cutting bothersome regulations and providing affordable cars to Americans – and, according to Fortune magazine, is “a solution to a problem that doesn’t seem to exist.” According to the EPA, Obama’s rules would require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Fully implemented, the rules will cut oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels and reduce carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of all the cars affected by the regulations. If Pruitt weakens the regulations, not only will all that carbon reduction not happen in the U.S., but other countries may also weaken their standards as well. (Read this New Yorker article, which discusses the lab the EPA has to test auto emissions, allowing them to compute the cost of required changes down to the last screw.) And, the $100 the consumer saved by not being required to buy a car with a catalytic converter will be dwarfed by the thousands of dollars spent on illness caused by pollution and a changing climate.

Finally, Pruitt has instructed the EPA to discuss climate change in the language of the deniers. A recent memo to employees lists eight things they may say publicly about climate change, including acknowledging the impact of human activity but asserting that “[t]he ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue … clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it. … it is important for the Agency to strive for a better understanding of these gaps given their potential significant influence on our country’s domestic economic viability.” The vast weight of reputable scientific evidence, of course, says nothing of the kind; this is the language of the deniers, and those with financial interests in

The time to act is NOW

Congress has oversight over the EPA, and to quote Richard Painter, “It’s time for them to get off their butts and act.” There is precedent. During the Reagan years, the agency was run by Anne Gorsuch, a conservative state legislator from Colorado (and mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch). Gorsuch, like Pruitt, cut enforcement, accommodated polluters, and antagonized career staff. According to the New Yorker, “she resigned after being held in contempt of Congress, for refusing to comply with a corruption investigation targeting a Superfund administrator.”

What you can do:

  • Call your Members of Congress and tell them you want them to exercise their oversight responsibility and take action against Scott Pruitt who is decimating the EPA.
    • 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
  • Call the governor of California, and your state representatives, and tell them you want them to fight for California’s stricter emission control standards. Needing to maintain two standards may make auto manufacturers more open to manufacturing to California’s higher standards, which are followed by 12 other states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Jerry Brown (916) 445-2841; find your state representative here
  • Call the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and tell them you are interested in innovation and want to buy a car that will meet Obama’s CAFE standard, and will not buy a car that does not. (202) 326-5500; (916) 447-7315
  • Sign the Boot Pruitt petition, sponsored by a coalition of progressive and environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Green Latinos, Defend Our Future, Hip Hop Caucus, and others (more info here).

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