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.

Congressman DeSaulnier Holds Tax Town Hall

By Catherine de Neergaard

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier’s (CA-11) January 13 Tax Town Hall was standing room only, with more than 400 people packed into the El Cerrito Community Center and spilling out the doors. Many elected officials were there, including Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who introduced DeSaulnier.

In fine form, DeSaulnier focused on why the Republican Tax Scam Bill is such a disaster for everyone except the very wealthiest (the so-called 1%) and why it is so important to take back the House and Senate in 2018 and reverse the tax scam. In DeSaulnier’s view, getting out the vote is key to winning in November, which in turn is crucial to recover democracy and economic equality.

DeSaulnier issued a rallying cry: “American citizens have to fight now for their democracy,” and said he’d like to see Contra Costa County come alive with activism, words that resounded with the members of Indivisible and several other local progressive groups. He closed with a story about the advice Frederick Douglass in the 19th century gave a young man asking how to live. Douglass replied, “Agitate, agitate, agitate.” Amen to that!

DeSaulnier’s presentation well reflected Indivisible’s agenda, values, and policy goals. Unlike Senators Feinstein and Harris, he voted NO on the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act adding $100 BILLION to the already bloated $600 BILLION-plus military budget. Continuing his tradition of blending activism with proselytizing policy wonkery, DeSaulnier opened the Town Hall by recommending that people read “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” by Jane Mayer and “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” by Nancy MacLean to really understand what is going on in America now. He also recommended Thomas Piketty’s much-lauded book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” to, among other things, understand why the ‘trickle down effect’ (the theory behind the Reagan era tax cuts for the rich and the current tax scam bill) doesn’t work.

DeSaulnier’s town hall was one of many across the country given by House Democrats. In California, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) held her “GOP Tax Scam Teach-In” at Laney College; House Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-5) presented their teach-in together in San Francisco. You can watch it here.

If you missed it, the Facebook video broadcast of DeSaulnier’s Town Hall is well worth watching, and his excellent Power Point program should be available soon on his website.

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

Photograph by George McRae

Overflow Crowd Packs DeSaulnier Town Hall

Along with a standing room only crowd of over 200 people, CA-11 Team members Kristen, Ted, Colleen, and Elizabeth attended Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s 90-minute Town Hall at Miramonte High School in Orinda on November 20, 2017. Overflow attendees listened in the School’s library.

DeSaulnier highlighted many of the negative aspects of the House and Senate tax bills, and gave the sobering historical perspective that whereas in 1986 it it took 11 months to pass tax reform, the current GOP plan is to rush the bills through in two months. He also mentioned the mind-blowing amount that the bill will add to the national debt over 10 years: $1.5 trillion.

Pointing out that CA-11 is the twenty-third most impacted of all 435 congressional districts in terms of housing costs, DeSaulnier added that 45% of CA-11 residents use the local and state deductions that save them an average of $20,000 a year. If some version of the tax bill is passed, the deductions could be severely impacted or eliminated completely. In addition, DeSaulnier pointed out that 44% of CA-11 residents use student deductions, also on the GOP chopping block.

Of special interest to Indivisible members and other activists using the tactic of engaging our Members of Congress, DeSaulnier said he previously didn’t believe that making calls to Senators and Congresspeople worked — until he saw for himself that it does! He urged CA-11 residents and people in all congressional districts to call their Members of Congress, because it does make a difference.

As he does at each Town Hall, DeSaulnier reminded the crowd that as citizens we need to be engaged and to stay engaged. California District CA-11 is truly fortunate to have Mark DeSaulnier represent us in Congress.

If you couldn’t attend the Town Hall, watch the archive video. You can also subscribe to his newsletter, and here’s his contact info, let him know your opinions:

  • Email
  • Richmond Office phone: (510) 620-1000
  • Walnut Creek Office phone: (925) 933-2660
  • Washington DC Office phone: (202) 225-2095

Photograph © Rep Mark DeSaulnier

Rep Mark DeSaulnier Town Hall, October 2017

Representative Mark DeSaulnier held his 50th Town Hall on October 16, 2017. The meeting, held in Walnut Creek before a standing room-only crowd, was also live-streamed on DeSaulnier’s Facebook page. California’s District 11 representative was his typical self: a policy wonk, solid on his facts and figures, willing to work with the audience without backing away even from those who were angry with him.Rep Mark DeSaulnier 50th Town HallDeSaulnier gave an overview and talked about the fires up north and environmental concerns. He spoke quite a bit about opioid addiction issues and the recent 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on Congress’s role in preventing the DEA from prosecuting drug companies suspected of a major role in this disaster.

DeSaulnier also talked about how we in California have managed to be great in terms of innovation, growth, and embracing new technology and environmental protection. Some of his main points: China and other countries are now embracing much of what we’ve been doing — including plans to stop producing internal combustion engines — but the U.S. as a whole is becoming an outlier by failing to look to the future. California will continue to be a leader; but in the Bay Area we have to address issues of affordable housing and transportation and their roles in our ability to attract the best people to come here and stay.

Other issues included:

  • Fielding a tough question on immigration, DeSaulnier responded that immigrants contribute more economically than they “take” from the government. An audience member didn’t like that answer, so he asked staff to set up a one-on-one for him and the audience member to review each other’s facts.
  • DeSaulnier said that he does not support term limits: he feels that term limits get rid of both good and bad people and overall reduce the strength of your “bench.” It’s better, he said, if elections are transparent and everyone votes.
  • There was a question on BART and its service. DeSaulnier reiterated his support for labor, and sweated out the recent bond measure to upgrade BART infrastructure.
  • Someone asked about the recent Muslim ban, and DeSaulnier said that Congress is looking at studies on how other countries have dealt with religious intolerance. He mentioned that our founding fathers came to this country to escape religious intolerance, and said that the views of Steve Bannon and his ilk are not a part of our country.
  • To a question about the planned Republican tax cuts, DeSaulnier stated strong opposition, especially the FY18 budget passed by the House. He favors a more progressive tax system.
  • He is concerned about election protection and Russian interference and hacking in our elections. He reflected that if 63 million people had voted in 2016 the result could have been different – although, he said, you respect the votes of the other side.

Couldn’t make it to the Town Hall? You can see DeSaulnier’s PowerPoint presentation here.

It’s Not a Town Hall Like You Promised

Whatever Senator Feinstein says, her speaking engagement on August 29 was not a town hall. In fact, public participation was actively discouraged at every turn, and as a result, constituents like us who would have prefered to participate in the evening’s policy discussion are instead forced to focus on the ways we have been shut out.

The event was not, as far as we could tell, promoted outside of the Commonwealth Club network—certainly the senator did not inform her constituents of this chance to meet with her in person (for a fee). As a result, the vast majority of the audience was Club members. “Hardly,” as one reporter put it on Twitter, “a cross section of San Francisco” let alone California.

After several requests, a form was provided to suggest questions online. It was shared only by the Commonwealth Club on the event’s Facebook page and with a few Indivisibles who had been asking for it (to the best of our knowledge). Her staff told us the senator would share this link with as many constituents as possible. She did not.

The day of the event, we arrived early, along with some friends who were not able to get tickets, to protest the fact that our senator was holding a sham town hall. Security (politely) asked us to take  several steps away from the building in order to hold our signs and distribute our fliers on “the public sidewalk.” And if we drifted across that line we were (politely) scolded. There was no obvious reason for these restraints other than to suppress our participation.

Those of us privileged enough to have obtained tickets attempted to bring in our red and green agree/disagree cards in order to politely and non-disruptively express our opinions during our representative’s remarks. Event staff (quite rudely this time) confiscated them, apparently fearing that allowing the audience to participate in this way would be pandemonium.

Instead we were invited to “express ourselves” in writing on little question cards. The moderator chose a few of these to read (or paraphrase), but for all we know, the rest may have gone directly into the trash. Such an action would certainly have been in line with the tone of the evening which was that we should sit down, shut up, and be grateful to be allowed to listen in on a conversation between elites.

In April, at her real town hall, one of Sen. Feinstein’s constituents expressed appreciation for an event at which many different voices were heard and then asked his senator to “continue to meet with us like this.” Last night barely counted as a meeting and it certainly wasn’t “like this” or “with us.” She failed to meet her commitment, and If she doesn’t rectify that at her next recess, she will have let down not only her most engaged constituents, but the entire state. And if she doesn’t answer to the people who elected her, she will have let down democracy itself.

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

Call your senator today and say:

If Senator Feinstein intends to fulfill the duty she was elected to do, she must engage directly with the people of California—hear their concerns and answer their questions—at an open town hall, as she promised in April she would do. Her August event was not a town hall. I demand that she hold one in September.

On Keeping Promises

On April 17, 2017 at  the first town hall of her career, Senator Dianne Feinstein made a promise:

Audience Member: I would like to know whether you will commit to continuing to meet with us like this, and specifically on your next recess can we do a meeting on a Saturday when people can come? [cheers]

Senator Feinstein: I don’t know whether it will be my next recess…but I will commit to doing one on the weekend during the summer. [louder cheers]

Now she is claiming that an exclusive ($40-$65 per ticket*), tightly restricted (no direct interaction with the audience or follow-ups from anyone but the moderator) event organized by the Commonwealth Club of California is a better way to reach more constituents than a free and open town hall where she faces her constituents directly.

We are sure it will be a lovely event. But it is NOT the promised town hall.

If you disagree with the senator’s decision, please come protest outside the event. If you can’t make it in person, call the office and tell Sen. Feinstein that her constituents expect her to fulfill her commitments.

Date: Tuesday August 29, 2017
Time: 5pm
Location: Outside the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email): SF Office: (415) 393-0707

*The money goes to the nonprofit organizing the event, not to Sen. Feinstein or her campaign, but it is still a huge barrier to entry for many people.

Note: Also please submit questions for the senator at this link. Perhaps the moderator will chose to read one.

 

White Supremacists, In Berkeley? Noooooo!!

As mentioned in last week’s newsletter and blog post, Indivisible East Bay decided to endorse the Bay Area Rally Against Hate, scheduled for Sunday August 27 from 10:30-12:30 pm at the UC Berkeley Crescent Lawn, near Addison and Oxford. The Rally was planned as a peaceful counter-protest to a white nationalist group’s posting on social media about an event called “No To Marxism,” scheduled for Sunday at MLK Civic Center Park in Berkeley from 1:00-5:00 pm. “No To Marxism” did not seek a permit, and none has been granted.

Many of us watched the special Berkeley City Council meeting last Friday, at which the Council and public aired concerns regarding the planned white nationalist event and counter protests. The Council passed an ordinance giving the City Manager power to issue temporary regulations of unpermitted protests.  While Saturday’s massive counter-protest in Boston shows that counter-demos can be effective and peaceful, the City of Berkeley is encouraging people to “stay away from conflict” and it’s uncertain how many people will turn out on Sunday.

Many of you have been asking us about IEB’s participation in Sunday’s events. After much discussion among ourselves, and considering what other groups and organizations are planning, we’re offering our members the following information.

At the time of this post, individual members of several local Indivisible groups, including Indivisible East Bay, Indivisible El Sobrante, Poinsett Indivisible, and ReSisterhood do not feel they can “stay away” when white supremacists and Nazis invade our town. Many of us plan to attend the Rally Against Hate, which we note has been endorsed by more than a hundred groups and organizations.

Crescent Lawn UCB

We invite Indivisible East Bay members to join us; however, each individual must consider what level of risk they can tolerate, as it’s possible there could be violence or aggression even at the counter-protest. If you do want to gather with us, we’ll meet at 10:15 am at the top of the “crescent” of the Crescent Lawn, near the concrete walls. Once the counter-rally ends at 12:30, IEB’s participation for the afternoon will be over. While some groups are planning to march to the white nationalist rally, the IEB group is not doing so although obviously each member will make their own decision.

And if you’d like to join us on Sunday, here are some suggestions:

  • Wear your IEB or Resist shirts!
  • Make handheld signs  or use cardboard tubes as poles
  • Come with a buddy, or make new friends there to hang out with. Watch their back and they’ll watch yours. Share phone numbers
  • Engage with other Indivisibles, resistance groups and allies
  • Bring sunscreen, water, and energy bars
  • Consider whether to bring children and pets
  • Establish an exit route and/or emergency meeting area north of campus
  • Be aware of conditions around you and understand that the situation is unpredictable and safety cannot be guaranteed

Again, we all have different comfort levels and there’s no guilt if you decide to stay away. Some IEB members are choosing other ways to protest:

  • Download and read the Southern Poverty Law Center’s excellent guide: Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide
  • Attend a Day of Service and Solidarity with Urban Tilth at the North Richmond Farm on August 26 from 10 am to 1 pm
  • Create Resist signs for windows
  • Amplify our voice by retweeting and/or sharing on Facebook any IEB social media posts that day. Follow our public FB page and our twitter account, and help us push out our postings, including those with hashtags #IEBUnitedAgainstH8 or #IEBResists
  • Finally, the local interfaith community has taken a leading role in organizing to counter the alt-right, white supremacist and anti-Semitic gathering. Several different faith groups and congregations are planning to participate in various actions. Many of them will gather on Sunday at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, between 12:15 and 13:30 pm. See details here if you’re interested in joining with them

As the situation will likely change leading up to Sunday morning, please email info@indivisibleeb.org with “Resisting” in the subject line to stay updated on IEB’s plans.

Stay Woke and Wake Some People up!

Rep. Barbara Lee always brings together a great panel for her town halls. She took the stage at her town hall: “What Do You Have To Lose? The Impacts of Trump on African Americans” Wednesday evening with Urban League President Marc Morial, BART director Lateefah Simon, and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink moderated the conversation which touched on voting rights, health care, the war on drugs, housing and displacement, income gaps, education, and more.

To her CA-13 constituents Rep. Lee said, “this district is leading the resistance.” And to Republicans in Washington she said, “No way you’re going to take us back. We’re gonna fight, we’re gonna resist, and we’re gonna move forward.”

IMG_1314The group focused on resisting the Trump agenda on a state and local level–which fits in nicely with some of the expansions into that arena Indivisible EB has begun. For example, the panel agreed that in spite of the constant depressing news coming out of Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, most criminal justice takes place at a state and county level. And we well know that a there is plenty of room for criminal justice reform in California. In fact, Tony Thurmond brought up his own bill to tax private prisons in the state and give that money to pre-K and after school programs that have been shown to reduce incarceration rates for participants. He also mentioned a bill by another local, Rob Bonta, reforming California’s bail system; if this bill passes, as well as doing a lot of good locally, it has the potential to be a success story Senator Harris can point to as she fights for her bail reform bill in the Senate.

A loud and persistent heckler who said she’d voted for Trump interrupted the conversation a couple of times, but was drowned out when Tony Thurmond led the crowd in a chant of “Barbara Lee speaks for me.”

The event also contained a strong message about unity and intersectionality–broadening the movement, finding common ground among the many people threatened by the actions of our federal government. Barbara Lee urged everyone in the audience to reach out to less politically active members of their families and communities.

And each member of the panel used Barbara Lee’s campaign slogan, “stay woke” at least once. But Marc Morial took it a step further saying, “While we must stay woke, we also have to wake some people up.”

Union City Town Hall with Rep. Eric Swalwell

IEB members were among an estimated 250 people at a very energized and broad-ranging Town Hall with Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on August 5, 2017. Rep. Swalwell began with a rousing speech in defense of democracy and the middle class for about 20 minutes, then responded very thoroughly for nearly an hour and a half to questions on subjects ranging from the environment to immigration to healthcare to why Democrats are not standing up more strongly for the middle class, and why sometimes Corporate Democrats appear just like a watered-down version of Republicans.  

IEB at Swalwell town hall 8.17

IEB members meet other activists at Rep. Eric Swalwell’s Union City town hall

Swalwell repeatedly turned the issues to how important it was to stay participating, keep resisting, and not getting tired. He seemed to channel the best of all those who have fought to improve our nation over the decades; indeed, many in the audience prefaced their remarks by saying: “We’re so proud of who you have become, and what you are doing in this role.”

Swalwell emphasized over and over that we must get to the bottom of the issue of Russia meddling in our election system and subverting our entire democracy, through both ways we already know of such as the spread of fake news and others we may not yet be aware of. One of the audience’s loudest cheers was to Swalwell’s remark, in response to a question: “And this is not a President who has the right to lecture anyone else on morals.” One of our IEB participants asked a question about Swalwell’s support of HR 1697, a bill opposing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel; he also expressed concern about what Congress could do about the possibility of Trump firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, to which Swalwell responded that he feels that Congress takes this very seriously and that both parties are working to keep the checks in place, to function as the “guardrail” of democracy. We fervently hope that he is right.

 

#ResistEngageAct in CA-11

Resistance Fair

Had Mitch McConnell and his cronies succeeded in jamming skinny repeal of our healthcare through the Senate on July 28, the mood would have been more gloomy at Saturday’s Resistance Fair sponsored by Mark DeSaulnier for Congress in conjunction with Indivisible East Bay’s CA-11 United Team.

Resistance Fair

But fresh on the heels of the Resistance’s victory in holding all Democrats and Independents in line, and swaying the critical three Republicans to vote thumbs DOWN, more than 400 people were energized and eager to hear the rallying speeches of Representative DeSaulnier and Jeremy Haile, co-author of the Indivisible Guide.

Resistance Fair
CA-11 United organizers Kristen and Tom, with speaker Jeremy Haile. Photo by Melanie Bryson

Missed it? You can view DeSaulnier’s informative and motivating Powerpoint program, video of Jeremy Haile’s speech, and their Q&A with the audience. (Thanks to Erik Stallman for posting the videos on youtube). IEB member Mel live-tweeted an excellent series of photos with highlights from Haile’s memorable quotes, including: “Trump promised health care repeal would be FIRST thing, and THAT did NOT happen!!” and “You are doing something historic. If we continue working together, we will win.” And our proud Congressman tweeted a video clip of the audience doing a spirited “CALIFORNIA 11” cheer!

Resistance Fair cheer

The Resistance Fair portion of the day was like an in-person Tinder meetup for the crowd (swiping left of course) to mix n’ match, talk to, sign up for info, and find where everyone fit in to become active with the 40 advocacy, electoral and resistance groups who had tables full of flyers, petitions, political swag, and more!

Resistance Fair booths

The tablers also mingled, and coalition-building was thick in the air. Since California District 11 stretches from Richmond to Brentwood, the Fair reunited far-flung friends and enabled new cross-pollination among allies. Organizations focused on the widely diverse issues in our broad progressive movement showed up, including several Indivisible and Democratic Party groups, advocates for civil and criminal rights, racial, gender and LGBTQIA equity,  immigration, youth, and many more.

Resistance fair tables

Trying to figure out where YOU fit to #ResistEngageAct against Trump and the Republican agenda, and to persist in advancing progressive values?

By Heidi Rand