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.

 

IEB Meets with Senator Harris’ Staff, January 2019

By Leslie A. Burton

On January 15, 2019, Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Kamala Harris’ State Director, Julie Rodriguez, and other office staff at the Senator’s downtown San Francisco office.  

Shutdown. We opened with the government shutdown, at that point on its 24th day – the longest in U.S. history (and still ongoing as of this writing). We asked that the Senator not back down on her opposition to the border wall. We pointed out the need to  disseminate more positive stories about immigrants and noted environmental hazards to wildlife caused by the wall. Julie acknowledged the problems with privatizing immigration detention centers. We asked that Senator Harris consider forcing a vote on the budget by making a motion to proceed, but Julie didn’t think that the senator was inclined to do that.

Barr for Attorney General. Although we disapprove of the appointment of William Barr as AG, Julie explained that though Harris will likely oppose (and she officially announced opposition soon after our meeting) his appointment is likely a “done deal.”

Judicial appointments. We expressed our dismay that judges who have been found “not qualified” by the American Bar Association are being approved.  ABA approval should be a non-negotiable qualification. We asked that each judicial candidate be put through the entire vetting and approval process, with no concessions to speed up the process. Julie noted that the Blue Slip process, which had been the protocol for every other administration, is not being followed now, and said she hopes in the future we can move to restore the previous protocol to confirm judges.

Julie was pleased, though, with the decision of the federal court in Manhattan that will prevent citizenship questions from being asked on the 2020 census. She is also heartened that Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts seems to be moving a little to the left.

Nuclear arms. We voiced concern over Senator Jon Kyl’s proposals to stockpile more nuclear warheads. Rep. Engel is willing to open debate on repeal of AUMF in the House. Sen. Merkley’s AUMF repeal framework includes tying humanitarian goals into any repeal legislation. We support Engel and Merkley and would like to know how Senator Harris stands on these issues. We would like her to support a No First Use (of nuclear weapons) policy. Julie was not aware of Sen. Harris’ stance on these issues but she promised that she would discuss them with her. Senator Harris, like us, is concerned that we have the right checks and balances in place when an unstable person is in charge of nuclear arms.

Defense Budget/Budget Control Act Caps. Senator Harris supports parity between military and non-military spending. Julie doesn’t know about the proposal to discontinue humanitarian aid to Yemen, but she will look into it, as well as into the proposal to bring the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act below $700 billion.

DHS/HHS appropriations for immigration centers. Two children have died in ICE custody at the border without explanation; there is no oversight or responsibility to prevent abuses by ICE; there are no background checks on ICE employees; anti-immigration actions are taking funds from cancer and HIV research. Julie explained that most of the monetary aspect of Homeland Security goes through the Office of Management and Budget, and not through the Senate. But the Senator is concerned with the locking up of children and families and the lack of humanity exhibited in these facilities. Harris also sponsored the non-expansion act that would prohibit the expansion of immigration detention and improve oversight of these facilities. The Senator will be flagging Rep. Norma Torres’s H. Amdt. 314 to H.R. 3354, which would prevent the re-allocation of non-immigration detention funds in DHS towards immigration detention, for her immigration team to study.

Climate Change. We inquired about Harris’ approach to controlling greenhouse gases. We pointed out that lower standards are being proposed for Superfund cleanups, which will hurt communities. Julie stated that California is at the forefront of environmental issues, including environmental justice. Among other clean energy proposals, Harris is seeking federal funding for electric buses in rural areas. Climate change will be on the agenda for her next town hall.

Green New Deal. We told Julie that proposals are afloat for a system of public banks or agencies to finance energy infrastructure, which will transform the economy while addressing environmental issues. These banks would be accountable to the people and could be used to give micro-loans for communities and for conservation projects and other projects and endeavors, including the cannabis industry. Julie was very interested and asked us to provide her with good examples of successful programs.

Income Inequality and Taxes. We asked whether Harris supports Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to increase the highest tax rate to 70 percent. Julie acknowledged that taxes need to be reformed, with the goal of getting money into the hands of the people. She noted that the majority of Americans are $500 away from life-changing status (such as homelessness) and that the Senator supports the “Lift the Middle-Class Tax Act,” which will give $500 annually to those who spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

Criminal Justice Reform and First Step. We aired our concerns over some of the terms of the criminal justice reform bill First Step Act, including its reliance on algorithms for predicting recidivism. Harris believes that AG Barr’s oversight of the First Step criminal reform bill will not be a serious concern because she has faith in the career employees at the Department of Justice who will handle most of the hands-on day-to-day administration of First Step. But the senator shares concerns over the recidivism calculations.

Drug Policy. Senator Harris supported the Marijuana Justice Act.  The next step is to help the cannabis industry transition to a fully legal business. Harris supports removing it from Schedule 1 of Controlled Substances. In response to her question to Barr about federal prosecution of users who are not violating state laws, he said he would not prosecute those cases.

Next Town Hall. Senator Harris will announce a Town Hall soon. We will let you know the date as soon as we find out.

 

Leslie A. Burton is a former lawyer and law professor. She is now a traveling professor, teaching Introduction to US Law classes and Legal Writing seminars in law firms and universities around the world.

DeSaulnier Hosts Emergency Town Hall on Trump Shutdown

By Toni Henle

You won’t fall asleep at one of Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s Town Halls! He’s done 75 of them since 2015, when he was first elected to represent CA-11, and it’s clear he loves this way of connecting with his constituents. I attended my third town hall in Lafayette on Saturday, January 19, 2019 – yes, it was the same day as the Women’s Marches, and in fact the audience cheered loudly when DeSaulnier mentioned that he’d come from the Walnut Creek Women’s March!

DeSaulnier’s town halls are always informative, but also entertaining and a chance for 500 or so constituents to express their opinions to their representative, which they did, resoundingly approving his stance that there should be no negotiations on the border wall until the government is reopened. “Democrats and Republicans should not shut down the government because they don’t get what they want through the legislative process, that’s not how democracy works,” he said. “The process should be open and public and you have to hold votes” to reach a resolution.

National Treasury Employees Union table
National Treasury Employees Union table

The Emergency Town Hall on the Trump Shutdown was serious indeed – outside, a dozen tables were set up to connect furloughed or working-without-pay federal employees with services, including food banks, a credit union offering interest-free loans for Coast Guard employees, the National Treasury Employees Union (its members work across many parts of government), CoCo Kids, Monument Crisis Center and the Contra Costa County Veterans Office, among others.

Rep. DeSaulnier began with a slide show, Special Edition: The Trump Shutdown, including these facts:

  • 37,000 California workers are furloughed due to the partial government shutdown
  • $5.7 billion won’t build the wall that Trump wants – independent and congressional studies estimate it could cost up to $40 or even $70 billion in all.
  • Illegal border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades; in 2017, border-crossing apprehensions were at their lowest point since 1971.
  • Two-thirds of the “illegal” immigrant population in the U.S. is due to people overstaying their visas, so building a wall will not address that part of the situation.

How would he address the border situation?

  • First, end the shutdown now and put people back to paid work.
  • Then the GAO needs to do a cost-benefit analysis by convening experts to address the best way to both secure the border and alleviate the humanitarian crisis. “Democrats continue to support strong, smart, effective border security solutions” like smart technology and more personnel.
  • Congress needs to hold hearings and we need to have a public debate.
  • In the long run, “I’d like to spend more money in the countries that asylum-seekers are coming from…to help them restore the rule of law, so that they can live in the country that they want to live.”
  • We need permanent legislation to address the Dreamers, not a temporary solution.

Rep. DeSaulnier serves on the Education and Labor Committee, which is preparing legislation on ways to help American workers, and Transportation and Infrastructure. He may also be able to “waive onto” a third committee, Government Oversight, on which he’d want hearings on the child separation policy and reunification of families as well as, of course, Michael Cohen and others.

DeSaulnier answered audience questions for the last 45 minutes, including:

  • How to end the shutdown (see above)
  • Concern about the potential for aviation accidents if the shutdown continues, voiced by an airline pilot
  • Concern about family separation policy and reuniting children with families
  • Restoring “regular order” so that we don’t go from one continuing resolution to another in funding the government
  • 7,500+ in Contra Costa County losing their Section 8 housing subsidy at the end of February
  • What is to be expected after the Mueller report is released?
  • What can be done to protect the rights of LGBTQ people in our military?

On Tuesday, January 22, the CA-11 representative will be back in Washington after having heard important input from his district. Want to contact him? Here’s how: (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Did you miss the Town Hall? Watch the video recording here.

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

Briefing memo for meeting with Sen. Harris, Nov. 2018

On November 30, 2018, a delegation from Indivisible East Bay visited with Senator Kamala Harris’s staffers Julie Chavez Rodrigues and Daniel Chen. As we do before all our visits with our Senators, we prepared a briefing letter on all the issues we wanted to discuss, including extensive background research. This meeting concerned the following topics:

  • Asylum seekers
  • ICE/CBP abuses and DHS appropriations
  • Comprehensive immigration reform
  • Climate change, including carbon pricing
  • Poverty reduction
  • Abuses of the intelligence agencies
  • Cabinet order
  • Digital privacy
  • Criminal justice reform and the First Step Act
  • Judicial nominations
  • Campaign finance reform
  • New blue house
  • Town hall

You can read the entire memo here.

 

Swalwell final 2018 Town Hall

By Ward Kanowsky

Close to 450 attendees braved the wind and rain to join Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on December 1 at Dublin High School for his last town hall of 2018.  Swalwell gave an overview of HR 1, the new Congress’ first major piece of legislation in 2019, touching on key issues of voting rights and dark money and also pledging to expand investigations so that the Oval Office is not used by the current occupant as an “opportunity to cash in.” On the issue of immigration, Swalwell said that despite threats of a government shutdown, he would never vote to fund the wall; rather, we need to focus on the “root cause” of the immigration crisis and work with other countries to help them address the poverty and violence within their own borders.

Rep. Swalwell Town Hall, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky
Rep. Swalwell Town Hall, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky

Some of the other issues discussed during Swalwell’s opening comments and during Q&A included:

  • Trump’s tax returns: “We will see them.” The House Ways and Means Committee could request the returns right now without a vote, but Swalwell thinks it will likely still go through the courts. Every President since Nixon has released their tax returns, and “we need to do an MRI” on Trump’s financial interests.
  • Impeachment: “The best thing for democracy is for Trump to be impeached,” but we need an impeachable case. “We don’t want to make a martyr out of him.”
  • Climate change: “The window is closing fast” to get something done. Since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord (and the U.S. can’t get back into the Paris agreement until we have a new President), the best opportunity to get something done would be through an infrastructure bill that includes provisions for energy alternatives. This is an area where Trump might agree.
  • Guns: In addition to background checks, Swalwell supports banning or buying back all assault weapons. He told a personal story from when he was a prosecutor about a victim of an assault weapon who was shot in the leg, but still died because the bullet was fired at such a high velocity.
  • Yemen: Swalwell said that he supports House Concurrent Resolution 138, which directs the President to remove United States armed forces from the Republic of Yemen.

Photograph (top) © Rep. Swalwell’s office

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

 

Rep. DeSaulnier’s Congressional Update Town Hall

By Ted Lam

Indivisible East Bay CA-11 team co-leads Kristen and Ted, and IEB member Tom, met with Congressperson Mark DeSaulnier and his D.C. Chief of Staff Betsy Marr before his Congressional Update Town Hall in Richmond on October 23. We updated DeSaulnier on CA-11 team members’ recent work helping elect Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, our involvement in pushing Sheriff Livingston to cancel the ICE contract, and our various Get Out The Vote actions in CA-21, Northern Nevada, and Arizona. DeSaulnier was impressed and immensely grateful, and Marr encouraged us to keep at it. DeSaulnier shared his unvarnished summary of the “goings-on” in D.C. with us, and we had a great back-and-forth on that. 

Looking to the future, we asked about DeSaulnier’s priorities after the elections, and what he’d recommend for our post-midterm grassroots efforts. To our specific question about whether the Democrats would re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment that was killed by Newt Gingrich in the Clinton era, DeSaulnier agreed that it should be a priority. Wrapping up, DeSaulnier offered to meet with the CA-11 team after the midterms to check in and dive deeper into our post-election ideas. We will hold him to that!

About 70 people attended the 90-minute Town Hall. There was an underlying tone of optimism in the Representative’s presentation about the midterms. One of his post-election priorities is to work on overturning Citizens United, banning stock buybacks, strengthening anti-trust enforcement, and updating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN). The WARN Act of 1988 is a US labor law that protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees.

IEB and CA-11 team member Janis Hashe asked two questions on what can be done about coal rail shipments through Richmond, and whether the interstate commerce clause can be utilized to help. DeSaulnier’s response was supportive, and he gave some suggestions. Obviously fascinated with the second question, he said he’d give it further thought.

Janis Hashe & friend at Rep DeSaulnier Richmond Town Hall, photo by Ted Lam
Janis Hashe & friend at Rep. DeSaulnier Richmond Town Hall, photo by Ted Lam

It was satisfying to hear our Member of Congress espouse progressive values and be so responsive to his community. 

Missed the Town Hall? Watch the video here.

Photo of Representative DeSaulnier © Mark DeSaulnier

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

Swalwell’s Swell Town Hall

On August 11, 2018, Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) spoke to an enthusiastic audience at his “How Can I Help? A Campaign Town Hall & Midterm Election Kickoff.” The purpose was to get the audience geared up for the upcoming midterms, particularly upcoming House races. To facilitate engagement in these efforts, Rep. Swalwell is opening an office in Dublin where people can take action to help with Democratic races. The space will have areas for phone and text banking and also for writing postcards. On the weekends, the office will serve as a coordination point for events out in the field, such as canvassing. Located at the IBEW Local 595 (6250 Village Pkwy, Dublin), the space is scheduled to open on September 4. Rep. Swalwell encouraged the audience to use this space to work toward getting the candidate(s) of their choice elected.  He recommended that everyone pick one or two candidates that they really want to help get elected, as it’s easier to focus on a small number, and you’ll feel more accomplished if your candidates win!

During the Q&A period, someone asked about election security and whether our ballots were going to be secure. Rep. Swalwell said that although election security is very important, the concerns should not be sensationalized, as it may cause some folks to sit out the election because they will think their votes won’t matter. Instead, he said, we should focus on getting everyone out to vote rather than worry about hacking.

An audience member also asked Rep. Swalwell if he’d be willing to co-sign House Joint Resolution 48, which would overturn Citizens United. Both Representative DeSaulnier and Lee have co-signed it already, and Swalwell said he is supportive and will look into co-signing.

Overall, it was a motivating gathering full of people eager to help take back Congress.  All CA-15 residents should consider joining Rep. Swalwell’s office on this fight!

Excited to join Indivisible East Bay’s CA-15 team? Email us to get started!

Photograph by Janine Costanzo

 

Town Hall on Securing Our Elections

By Ted Landau

For Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s 61st Town Hall since taking office, he focused on a single critical and timely issue: Securing Our Elections. Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. Unfortunately, as evidenced by Russian interference with the 2016 election, the integrity of our voting process has never been under greater threat. The purpose of the Town Hall, held in Walnut Creek on August 13, 2018, was to consider what we should do about this — for the 2018 midterms and beyond.

The Town Hall began with a brief slide show presentation followed by opening statements by Rep. DeSaulnier and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Next, three election experts, Dr. David Jefferson, Professor Philip Stark and Mark Kumleben, joined the panel discussion. Taking questions from the jam-packed audience of about 300, they delivered both good and bad news.

Let’s start with the bad news: Here in California, attempts to “break in” to our election hardware continue unabated. Efforts to employ social media as a means to disrupt our elections also remain ongoing. We need to be more vigilant than ever if we expect to safeguard our election process. And unfortunately, with Trump at the helm and his GOP enablers downplaying Russian interference and blocking the Democrats’ attempt to increase election security funding, we can’t depend on much help from the federal government.

The good news: DeSaulnier continues to work to get Washington to act. He is currently the co-sponsor of at least 5 bills to improve election security (such as the aptly named Election Security Act, H.R. 5011). While none of these bills has made it to the GOP-controlled floor as yet, this is a start. If you live in CA-11, DeSaulnier’s district, thank him and urge him to keep pushing! Meanwhile, Secretary of State Padilla claimed that no one has yet succeeded in “hacking” California voting equipment. To help keep things that way, the state has allocated over $134 million dollars to upgrade our voting machines and to provide additional election protections. One caution came from Professor Stark, who pointed out that just because you’ve found no evidence of hacking, that doesn’t guarantee none has taken place; hackers may have succeeded in preventing your ability to detect them.

So what should we be doing? The panelists agreed on several key recommendations:

  • Paper ballots are essential. Electronic voting, online voting, whatever: they’re all bad. Only paper ballots allow us to reliably track, audit and verify the authenticity and accuracy of the vote. Accept no substitute. Further, no voting machines should be connected to the Internet; it’s too much of a risk. California has gotten the message: it keeps its machines offline and uses only paper ballots unless people with disabilities need an accessible voting machine. As for the rest of the country, while the Constitution prohibits most federal regulation of the electoral process, it allows for the federal government to require states to use paper ballots. We should demand that they do so!
  • Beware of bots. As discussed primarily by Mr. Kumleben, bots are mini-programs designed to imitate humans on social media. We can’t outlaw them but we should be aware of them. They can create an illusion of consensus or popularity that can unduly influence people’s perceptions and thus how they vote. Always be skeptical of what you read and view online — especially from unfamiliar sources! We should also demand that politicians reveal not only where their campaign money comes from but where it goes. If they’re spending money on bots, the voters should know!
  • Gerrymandering and voter suppression are rooted in white supremacy; their goal is to inhibit minorities from voting or having their vote matter. That was the strong assertion made by the Secretary of State to open this topic, which drew applause from the audience. The ideal goal should be for every eligible person to vote — and to do so within fairly-drawn districts. Again, California has led the way here with its recent bipartisan redistricting. All states should move in this direction.
  • Make the move to open source: non-proprietary software that anyone can see, explore and even modify. As elucidated by Dr. Jefferson and Professor Stark, most voting machines in use today run on proprietary software, owned entirely by the same companies that manufacture voting machine hardware. Even though election officials “purchase” voting equipment, they are prohibited from viewing or modifying the machine’s software source code. This leads to a quasi-monopoly that costs the government dearly. If voting machines were instead truly owned by the public and ran on open source software, it could reduce election costs by a factor of five, leading many experts to urge that we should push for a move to open source. While it is not a panacea for security concerns, and while it’s controversial (because, among other things, it is open to modification), open source makes the process much more transparent and accountable. Yet again, California is ahead of the curve. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles counties are planning to transition to open source. Other districts are expected to follow.

Several additional points of interest were raised by the panel:

  • You may not be aware of this, but a significant change is coming to the voting process in California, perhaps as early as 2020 in Contra Costa County, as a result of the Voter’s Choice Act. Most significantly, the law provides a new voting option, intended to facilitate in-person voting: No longer will you be restricted to vote only on election day at just one specified polling location. Instead, for the 11 days prior to an election, you will be able to vote at any of numerous “vote centers” located throughout the county. If you currently use a mail-in ballot, you already can come close to achieving this flexibility. You don’t have to mail your ballot in, risking problems with postal delivery or interference en route. You can drop it off at a city hall or, on election day, at a polling location.
  • Here is a truly cool tip revealed by Secretary of State Padilla: Did you know you can check the status of your vote after an election — and even get a history of your previous votes? To do so, start here.
  • Professor Stark explained the benefits of “risk-limiting” audits. These are partial audits that, combined with statistical analyses, determine when a full audit of a vote is needed. This allows the county to save time and money that would otherwise be wasted on full audits when they have little or no chance of changing the results. Expect to see the implementation of these audits here in California.

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.

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.

Kicking off August ’18 with local political events

With midterm election day barreling toward us, local political groups (including Indivisible East Bay, of course) and elected officials are stepping up their efforts to make sure we cross the November 6 finish line as victors. The first weekend in August – we’ve hit the less-than 100 days out, folks – saw many IEBers participating in a wide variety of events. Didn’t make any of them? Here’s a quick roundup. Oh, and don’t miss any more, check out the upcoming events listings in our weekly newsletter and our Midterm Election Work webpage!

Paint Congress Blue, Art + Action Festival

On Sunday August 5, crowds of people from the Bay Area and beyond met in Oakland to Paint Congress Blue. The free block party featured art, activism and a visit from an infamous barnyard fowl. 

IEB, together with Indivisible Berkeley, Sister District, Swing Left, Working America, and more, helped organize the event. Each group had a table to provide opportunities for the public to get educated and get involved. IEB’s table had supplies for writing GOTV (Get Out The Vote) postcards to voters in swing districts. By the end of the evening, IEB volunteers and members of the public had written over 170 postcards to voters in California Congressional Districts 1 and 21!

Don’t miss these upcoming IEB postcarding and social events:

  • August 12, 10 AM-noon: Indivisible We Write! IEB August postcard party, Sports Basement, Berkeley. Info & RSVP.
  • August 25, 2-4 PM: IEB Ale & Mail! No-host mingle & postcarding at Hop Yard Alehouse in Pleasanton. Info & RSVP.
Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang
IEB table at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang

At the main stage, speakers from each organization described their methodology and goals. Kristen Law (co-lead of the IEB CA-11 Team) spoke about the work of Indivisible East Bay, highlighting the successes of our Judiciary Team and efforts to hold our members of Congress accountable.

Kristen Law speaking at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang
IEB member Kristen Law speaking at Paint Congress Blue, photo by Wesley Chang

Between speeches local musical groups entertained the crowd, and Project Bandaloop, an aerial dance team, also performed. A number of art galleries in the district were open for tours.

The Trump Chicken overseeing the festivities.
Trump Chicken oversaw Paint Congress Blue festivities

Lest we forget, the guest of honor was the Trump Chicken, a 13-foot tall inflatable chicken that bears a striking resemblance to, well, you-know-who! Attendees could have their photos taken while giving the Chicken a piece of their mind. By any measure, Paint Congress Blue was a huge success, and a good time was had by all; well, except for maybe the Chicken.

Phone Banking for Northern Nevada

Want to help GOTV (Get Out the Vote) beyond our deep blue Bay Area? Here’s one way: Northern Nevada. That was the message delivered by two members of Issue Voters of Northern Nevada at IEB’s July All Members Meeting. The group is focused on contacting unaffiliated voters in Washoe County to ask what issues matter most to them. The number of these voters has grown dramatically in recent years — to the point that they will likely be the deciding factor in the November election.

Five IEB members who were fired up by this appeal packed their mobile phones and laptops — and headed off to Oakland for an afternoon of phone banking. They spent three hours calling voters, using national Indivisible’s virtual phone bank system. As is common with phone banking, most calls wound up with no one picking up, but the good news is that those who did answer were usually willing to talk and share their thoughts.

According to Toni Henle, one of the “IEB five,” the group made about 200 calls and “each of us had four or five good conversations (and a couple of not-so-good ones); we found it helps that others are around to share the good and bad!”

Can you help turn out the Nevada vote? We’ve scheduled two phone banks on Sundays August 19 & 26 from 3-6 PM at our hostess’ house in north Oakland. To join us, email vivian@mendezleal.com. And there are several other phone- and text-banking opportunities listed in our newsletter and this webpage.

Phone banking to Nevada
Phone banking to Nevada

Starting in September, there’ll also be opportunities to drive to Reno to canvass voters identified as “persuadable” for Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen,  running against Dean Heller, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: Immigration town hall

Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has been to our southern border, witnessing first-hand what Trump’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy means. DeSaulnier’s message to constituents attending his immigration town hall in Concord on August 4, was that the policy is something we, as Americans, should have zero tolerance for.

In a slide-show presentation that focused on immigration, DeSaulnier walked through the damage being done — including the fact that at least 500 children may now be permanently orphaned because they were separated from parents who were subsequently deported. 

DeSaulnier described his trip to the border crossing at Brownsville Texas. Upon arrival, he met with a federal judge who confided that the immigrants here were not “bad people.” In most cases, they were legally seeking asylum. DeSaulnier attended the adjudication of 70 individuals, the majority of whom came from Central America, immigrants who had traveled thousands of miles and paid as much as $20,000 to “coyotes” to gain transport to the border.

DeSaulnier also met with several families who had recently been re-united. A young boy told him how, after being separated from his family, an immigration official had told him: “Your parents don’t ever want to see you again.”

Finally, DeSaulnier was able to tour a facility for new arrivals, the place where immigrants are housed in fence-enclosed “cages” (as you may have seen in television reports). Several immigration officials related how uncomfortable this all made them. One lamented that he had sought the job after 9-11, to be one of the “good guys” helping his country; he now felt he had become one of the “bad guys.”

An obviously emotional DeSaulnier stressed to the town hall audience that “this has to stop. It is not acceptable.” What the Trump administration is doing at the border is not only ethically wrong, it is illegal!  He described efforts to get legislation passed that addresses the issue. The frustrating problem is that GOP Speaker of the House has absolute control over which bills can be brought to the floor for a vote. Even though DeSaulnier is supporting at least two bills that would pass if voted on, Speaker Ryan has refused to let them reach the floor.

The meeting concluded with a Q&A where members largely voiced support for the work DeSaulnier is doing. At one point, he gave a shout-out to Indivisible — complimenting us for pressuring him to “tell us what you are doing about it.” Watch the recorded Town Hall here.

Rep. Eric Swalwell: baseball and town hall

For Eric Swalwell, Representative for the CA-15 Congressional district, last weekend was a combination of fun and business.

Fun was an Oakland A’s pre-game tailgate party at the Coliseum, which he hosted. After wrapping that up, it was on to the game itself, where Rep. Swalwell threw out the ceremonial first pitch!

The business part was a town hall meeting at Hayward High School on Saturday August 4. Swalwell answered questions on a wide range of issues, including health care, immigration, climate change, the rights of veterans and, of course, the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. His final words touched on FDR’s four freedoms: the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — with a new freedom added by Swalwell to provide hope in today’s troubled times: the freedom to dream.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond
Rep. Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond

Many constituents were interested in getting involved in the efforts to counter the Trump administration’s actions. That’s when IEB’s CA-15 team co-leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky stepped up to the plate. They and other members passed out flyers recommending IEB as a great resource for those wanting to be more involved.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, photo by Josh Richmond
Rep. Eric Swalwell and IEB CA-15 team co-lead Ward Kanowsky, photo by Josh Richmond

And IEB activism elsewhere too!

Several other intrepid IEB members took their activism on the road over the weekend as well! IEB superstars Amelia Cass and Linh Nguyen attended the Tahoe Summit, delivering a letter to keynote speaker Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski from 29 of her constituents asking her to vote NO on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And Nancy Latham traveled to New Orleans to join with thousands of other activists at the Netroots Nation conference. Read her inspiring first-hand account.

Paint Congress Blue photographs by Wesley Chang, see more of Wesley’s PCB photos here.

Ted Landau, Alice Towey, Toni Henle and Ward Kanowsky contributed to this report.

IEB Meets with Senator Harris’ Staff, May 2018

Sen. Harris office visit 050518

By Myra S. Mitzman

On May 3, 2018, Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Kamala Harris’ State Director, Julie Rodriguez, and Bay Area District Director, June Williams, in downtown Oakland.  

We opened with a serious discussion surrounding ICE tactics of detaining pregnant women and separating children from their parents. Julie stressed that, in light of misinformation about the recently-arrived “caravan,” it is important to humanize the narrative—something we can do to help. Please email Senator Harris if you have a story concerning someone adversely affected by these harsh ICE policies.

The dialogue turned to national security, in particular Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel (torture, anyone?). We pointed out that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation, about the treatment of detainees during the so-called “War on Terror” rightly belongs to the Senate, not the CIA, and perhaps could be publicly released by any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee – which includes both Senator Harris and Senator Feinstein. Also on the national security agenda: Syria, where there is seemingly no long-term strategy, and where, according to Julie, the U.S.’s “muscular diplomacy” (i.e., ability to engage in effective negotiation) has dwindled.

On the topic of Social Security, IEB members and staff alike took umbrage at the characterization of this program as an “entitlement” when so many of us have paid into it for decades. Ironically, one of the best things we could do to shore up Social Security is to pass comprehensive immigration reform, so more young immigrants will be able to pay into the system—and earn more money, and create more jobs, growing an economy that can take care of the aging population. And let’s not forget how the Trump tax scam was always intended to dry up funding for social safety net programs.

Over the course of the next 60 minutes, we covered climate change (see S.2352, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2018, currently in need of co-sponsors); Puerto Rico (debt restructuring/renewable energy?); Trump’s latest judicial appointments (see snippet of Senator Harris grilling Wendy Vitter); defense spending (don’t count on a Harris “No” vote on increases); election security (demand paper ballots!); and sexual harassment in Congress (Harris’s staff undergoes regular harassment training, but she appears to be in the minority in doing this).

We also got into drug policy, including Senator Schumer’s proposed national Democratic platform for marijuana decriminalization. Julie pointed out that, with Democrats holding so few Washington “power levers,” one way to effect change is through the appropriations process. If Congress doesn’t approve appropriations, the Department of Justice can’t implement its regressive drug enforcement policies. For now, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is still good law (the DOJ isn’t supposed to spend money enforcing federal drug laws in states that have legalized medical cannabis). But as we know, true drug reform requires reforming sentencing laws, eliminating cash bail (promising, but not if the algorithm used to determine flight risk, etc. is inherently biased), and decriminalizing marijuana (including a nationwide “equity agenda” similar to Oakland’s).

Sen. Harris office visit 050518

A few more notable moments:

  • Julie saying that, for Senator Harris, the conversation always needs to be, “How do we improve people’s lives?” It’s her “litmus test” whenever evaluating an issue or proposal. Amen.
  • Quote of the day: “The Senator’s ability to be fearless is because you all are.” Awwww. See the Senator’s interview on the Stephen Colbert show, where she was perhaps a bit measured, but watch and judge for yourselves.
  • Reminding Julie that, despite Mitch McConnell’s bluster, any Senator can introduce the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would protect Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia 

Last but not least, we’re pushing for another town hall. June Williams said she’s been pressing the Senator on this. Historically, town halls were held only by House representatives. Fun fact: Before the 2016 election, Senators Feinstein and Boxer had not held a town hall in 24 years—last year’s Feinstein April town hall in San Francisco was her first ever! But in these troubled times, people’s demands have changed, and town halls are an important way to have our voices heard. Please call our senators and reps and demand more town halls this year—then show up (and speak up!) if and when they happen.

Myra Mitzman is an Oakland real estate/business attorney and sideline women’s fiction author (under the pseudonym Sheryl Sorrentino).

Photos by Maria Bernstein