IEB Attends Single Payer Healthcare Town Hall

On Saturday, July 9, IEB and Indivisible SF members attended a Single Payer Town Hall in Larkspur on the subject of Senate Bill 562, The Healthy California (HC) Act, also known as single-payer healthcare. The Town Hall was hosted by State Senators Mike McGuire (SD 2) and Ricardo Lara (SD 33), State Assemblymember Marc Levine (AD 10), and Larkspur Supervisor Judy Arnold; a panel of experts included local physicians, the President of the California Nurses Association, Deborah Burger, and the Executive Director of the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Jodi Reid.  

In his opening remarks, Senator Lara, one of the authors of the bill (the other is Senator Toni Atkins, SD 39), shared three basic tenets of universal health care: (1) health care is a human right, (2) everyone gets to pick healthcare providers of their own choice and (3) care is determined by the patients and their health care provider. Senator Lara was clear that universal health care would be good for Californians: it would cover all residents, including those currently un- or under-insured, and would save the state about $37 billion a year.

After opening remarks from the hosts and the panel, the floor was opened up to questions from the lively and knowledgeable audience of about 300-400 local residents, and some who came from as far away as the South Bay. Questions were wide-ranging and included hot topics such as the role of Medicare (Healthy California will act as supplemental insurance for Medicare recipients); how will we pay for it (about 70% of funds will come from existing federal, state and private resources); and mental health coverage (Healthy California will fully cover all necessary mental health care needs). One major concern of the audience was the fate of the bill now that Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (AD 63) has held the bill in the Assembly Rules Committee, claiming that the bill is “woefully inadequate.” Assemblymember Levine reminded the audience that the authors of the bill can add an urgency clause at any time to avoid the restrictions imposed by the legislative timetable and keep the bill from dying in committee.

The panelists continued to answer audience questions well past the planned two hour debate to accommodate all who wished to be heard.

Watch the California State Democrats’ video of the Town Hall.

Barbara Lee and Keith Ellison Discuss the Democratic Party

On Saturday, June 24, Indivisible East Bay and Indivisible Lake Merritt volunteers helped host a political forum with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and DNC Deputy Chair Congressman Keith Ellison, moderated by Van Jones. Despite some technical difficulties with the live stream, much of the day was captured on video here and here.

Topics included the importance of African American voters to the Democratic Party, election strategy, and who could win the presidency in 2020.

Report from a State Reps Town Hall

By Anne Spevack

On Saturday, June 17th, Indivisible East Bay members attended a Legislative town hall with state Senator Nancy Skinner and state Assembly members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond. These three legislators have been leaders in sponsoring and supporting progressive legislation in Sacramento. They spoke on Saturday about their efforts to protect immigrants, reform our criminal justice system, and expand access to education and healthcare in spite of strong opposition by the current President’s administration. Here are a few key takeaways about current California politics and legislation:

  • Although Democrats have a majority in both houses, not all democrats are made the same. The state Senate is more progressive than Assembly right now, so although we may have seen progressive bills like Single Payer healthcare pass the senate, they will have a harder time getting enough votes in the Assembly.
  • Governor Brown is also not necessarily a supporter of the most progressive legislation. He is cautious, and keeps his opinions quiet until bills have made some significant progress in the legislature.
  • The Sanctuary State bill is moving forward, and our representatives are optimistic, but the hard selling point will be public safety.  There is evidence that that sanctuary policies can actually increase public safety due to decreased fear of police and other reasons, but we need to be getting the word out about that. The Governor has expressed concern about the effect of sanctuary policies on public safety.
  • The legislature just passed a budget. They repeatedly brought up good things that got more money, but still not enough, in this budget. Everything’s a compromise, even in blue California. For example, in the new budget, California has the highest education investment per pupil in a decade, though our representatives were quick to point out they still think it isn’t enough
  • California is a leader nationally on both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ policies–we spearheaded mass incarceration policies like three strikes and minimum sentencing. We are also spearheading the dismantling of these policies, but it’s important to recognize our mistakes and role in the current culture of criminal justice.
  • Bail reform has gotten some airtime in the legislature this year, but it has not yet been successful. We need more people in the assembly floor speaking out in support of bail reform.
  • Single payer passed the Senate, but faces big hurdles in the Assembly. The recent financial analysis doesn’t account for all costs, and no dedicated funding source has been identified yet. There are a lot of people who are holding out their votes until this happens, and it does need to happen. Our representatives were hopeful but not very optimistic about its chances this year. Representatives from SEIU spoke up saying that they thought there were a few key votes that could be influenced if we could get more of their constituents to call.

Town Hall With Our State Reps

Spend time with State Reps Bonta, Skinner and Thurmond and spread the Indivisible East Bay message!

“I Defend California’s Values” Town Hall Resource Fair 

RSVP for the event here.

Saturday, June 17, 12:30-2:30 p.m.

Cesar Chavez Education Center

2825 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

RSVP if you can help, to Outreach co-lead Nick Travaglini:

Description of the task(s) needed:
Set up and help table at the town hall’s Resource Fair, promoting Indivisible East Bay (and Indivisible generally) and recruiting them to join and register for our newsletter.


Road trip to Fresno: Feinstein Q&A with rural California

The atmosphere at Senator Feinstein’s Central Valley Community Foundation event in Fresno on Thursday was quite a contrast to that at her Bay Area events, but the senator herself was largely the same as ever, which speaks both to her integrity and to her moderate inclinations.

The Q&A portion of the event lasted only about 30 minutes and didn’t include any audience questions. The senator displayed her in-depth knowledge of water issues and touted the Water Resources Development Act as an example of the kind of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans that, though she acknowledges it is disappearing, the senator still advocates for as the only way to  solve problems.

Lines like that got applause in Fresno where they would have gotten jeers in San Francisco. But I think many, if not most of us throughout California agree in principal that bringing together differing viewpoints through compromise needs to be part of the way forward for our country.

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The real question is, how do you compromise with people who. as Sen. Feinstein put it,  “want to cut the costs of health care to provide funding for tax reform which will benefit the wealthy”?  And who lie about it. The senator called the huge Medicaid cuts in the Republican health care bill “undeniable,” but Donald Trump denies them. Paul Ryan denies them. HHS Secretary Tom Price denies them.

The senator’s staff has told us in several different contexts that she refuses to take no for an answer even when legislative solutions to problems look impossible. That is admirable. That is what I want from my representative. I don’t want her to give up that optimism. The optimism I do want her to give up is the hope that “this president can change.” He can’t. She also said she wished “he could calm down.” So do we all. But he won’t.

We need different tactics for this administration. One shouldn’t have to refuse to continue business as usual in the Senate in order to secure an independent investigation into Russian interference in our election. One shouldn’t have to threaten to oppose transportation department nominees in order to get that department to release funding that has been approved by Congress.

Sen. Feinstein’s said in Fresno that the Tea Party has pushed compromise out of our government. I share her fear that what we sometimes describe as the Tea Party of the left will drive out what little is left.

But we’re not going to get compromise back by lamenting its passing or by unilaterally caving in the name of comity. In that context, compromise is a bad word. That’s the kind of compromise that you can do to your principles, or to your safety, or to your sacred honor.

To get compromise back into our government we’re going to have to fight for it. Republicans have shown that they won’t compromise willingly for the good of our country. It seems we need to use resistance tactics to force them back to the table before we can get down to the kind of work Sen. Feinstein described rather wistfully on Thursday:

“It isn’t words that come out of your mouth. It’s words that go on a piece of paper, that will be legal, that will stand the test of time, that will be certified as workable. People have to come back to good old legislation. It’s not rhetoric. It’s, how do you solve a problem?”

Resisting Attacks on Human and Immigrant Rights Under the T**** Agenda

Even with stiff competition from the Warriors’ game, a roomful of community members showed up to Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s June 1st Immigration Town Hall and Resource Fair in Richmond.  

Opening by emphasizing immigrants’ vital value to California’s dynamic economy, DeSaulnier quickly gave the floor to a panel of local experts who each made a short presentation and then fielded audience questions on critical federal and local immigration issues.

Panelists at Rep DeSaulnier's Immigration Town Hall

Richmond Police Lieutenant Tim Simmons (far right) spoke as the city’s Northern District Area Commander, and read a message from Chief Allwyn Brown. Both emphasized community-based policing, and Brown reaffirmed that the current climate of fear would not slow the RPD’s progress in working with the community. The crowd applauded Brown’s statement that the RPD does not enforce federal immigration law. Brown noted that doing so would harm community trust, and acknowledged that the substantial undocumented population tends to be targeted and victimized, making a community/police partnership essential.

Catholic Charities of the East Bay legal services program manager Maciel Jacques (next to Lt. Simmons) highlighted the extensive services CCEB provides, from education and resources on immigrant rights to legal services for documented and undocumented immigrants. CCEB’s presentations and literature teaching people about their rights are vital in these times. Help support Catholic Charities’ crucial work on behalf of immigrant and human rights by donating or volunteering.

DeSaulnier immigration town hall

Private immigration attorney Maria Rivera, based in San Pablo, affirmed that fear of enforcement is real; deportations have doubled in the past 3-4 months over last year. She stressed the need for families to plan for emergencies – from knowing their rights and seeking legal representation to having a plan in case of detention, especially arranging for guardians for children. Warning that everyone without documentation is a target, Rivera strongly recommended consulting an immigration lawyer to address your personal situation, including to identify whether there’s a path to citizenship and to deal with any prior convictions.

Rivera’s valuable concrete advice: Know your rights if you’re stopped by ICE on the street or if they come to your house. If you’re detained, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING and don’t believe what ICE says. DO ask to see an Immigration Judge.

Both Jacques and Rivera noted worsening conditions under the Trump administration, saying that even where official policies haven’t changed, they’ve observed emboldened Customs and Border Protection agents, increased scrutiny of immigration applications, and reluctance to approve benefits. There are also much greater delays in consular processing and by the Department of State.

DeSaulnier immigration town hall

César Manuel Zulaica Piñeyro, from the Mexican consulate in San Francisco, works with the Mexican immigrant community and checks twice weekly for Mexican citizens in ICE detention facilities. He noted increased demand for help getting Mexican citizenship for US-born children and transferring assets to Mexico. Zulaica Piñeyro clarified that for a temporary guardianship to apply in the United States it has to be done in the US, not Mexico.

Regarding ICE detention, detainees only have the right to legal representation at their own expense, and 80% of immigration detainees are unrepresented, which greatly increases their chances of being deported.  Zulaica Piñeyro said that detained Mexicans have the right to notify the consulate, which would contact their family.

Lt. Simmons said there have been no ICE raids in Richmond, although ICE continues to conduct its usual enforcement. Rivera and Jacques mentioned that a rapid response network is being developed in Contra Costa County to quickly deploy observers and/or lawyers for people facing imminent deportation and other problems from immigration enforcement. They referred to the ACILEP network (Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership) already in place for Alameda Co., and its ICE activity hotline at (510) 241-4011.

You can also donate to or volunteer with Centro Legal De La Raza, one of the primary groups behind the ACILEP hotline and network.

By Heidi Rand

Rep. Barbara Lee: Perspectives on Presidential Accountability Town Hall

By Candace Goldman

Rep. Barbara Lee, John Dean (White House counsel in the Watergate era) and Malcolm Nance (security and terrorism expert) on stage at the same time – now there’s an interesting powerhouse mix! Yesterday (5/21), several hundred of Rep. Lee’s constituents came to King Middle School in Berkeley to hear these three titans discuss presidential accountability and respond to questions.

The program began with energetic music from members of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and an intro from Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.  Rep. Lee spoke briefly, encouraging continued resistance.   During the program she interjected a few comments, but mostly turned the floor over to Mssrs. Dean and Nance.  In response to questions whether she would consider either a senatorial or presidential run, Rep. Lee demurred with a gentle smile.

John Dean focused on understanding and working around authoritarianism and those who support it. He cautioned, however, that while impeachment procedures and implementation of the 25th Amendment are fairly straightforward, the current political complexities make it difficult for either to gain real traction.  Rep. Lee concurred but noted that there is an effort afoot to update the 25th Amendment for today’s world.

Mr. Nance provided cogent analysis of Russian cyber-sleuthing and interference, both in our elections and in other settings here and around the world.  He compared Russian cyber capacity in a dictatorship with the s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s of using such measures in a democracy, with the implication that we need to be far more savvy and rapid-fire in our intelligence efforts.

What about Trump having his hand on the nuclear button?  All three thought we need more fail safe mechanisms; absent that, Malcolm Nance reminded the audience that:

  1. The military is opposed to the use of nukes (they understand the consequences)
  2. When people have expressed concern about a president who might go off half-cocked about using nukes and asked how the Sec. of Defense and military would respond, the answer is, ”Tackle him.”

       I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want to have to rely on a fleet-footed linebacker Lt. Col. to keep us from nuclear disaster.  

Throughout the program, the drum beat behind the discussion was VOTE.  Get everyone you know in every state you know to VOTE.  VOTE so we can stop voter suppression and gerrymandering.  Get your legislators to VOTE to do the same.  When half of eligible voters are not bothering to go to the polls, Mr. Nance said (in essence) very forcefully, that if you value your civil liberties and your democracy, if you honor those who fought for and created this country, if you DON’T want an autocracy, if you want better government and policies that serve the people and not special interests, your job as a resister is to get out the VOTE.  Protest is good and has its place, but carry it into the ballot box.  Capisce?  “You know what to do,” Nance said.  “Now go do it.”

Personal note:  After the program, a man in a wheelchair, a quadriplegic, approached the stage.  He struggled to tap out a message to John Dean on a pad fixed to his wheelchair; a guy trying to help couldn’t follow the taps.  It was frustrating for both and taking forever.  I finally stepped in and luckily, got it.  The message?  “It is an honor to meet you.”  John Dean was very gracious in response.  This man had made so much effort to deliver that one simple sentence.  I think he’s an inspiration to us all to do what we can do, because the effort is worth it.

Town Hall vs “Fireside Chat”

With tickets at $150, we could only afford to send one member to Senator Feinstein’s fireside chat at an elegant luncheon hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG). The Juniper Networks “Aspiration Dome” was full of the sort of well-dressed people you’d expect. Many transit agencies, healthcare/health tech organizations, and local tech companies sponsored tables, including Palantir Technologies, co-founded by Trump advisor Peter Thiel, which builds tools for intelligence agencies which have been likened to the president’s proposed “muslim registry.”

Senator Feinstein spoke with SVLG CEO Carl Guardino for about 45 minutes, mainly about Caltrain electrification, infrastructure needs for the growth of the region, keeping the region competitive with other tech hubs around the country and around the world, and did not take questions either directly or indirectly from the audience—our member asked. The senator urged those present to make their displeasure over the defunding of the Caltrain project known to the 14 Republican members of Congress who wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requesting the withdrawal of those funds.

In a moment of vulnerability, she admitted that she hadn’t foreseen the Bay Area’s explosive growth and that she regretted opposing the second BART tube to the East Bay back in the 1970s. Then, in reply to a softball question, said that she supports immigration reform, and, unprompted she also expressed concern over what that might mean for American workers. She told a story about a constituent who had to train his replacement who came here on an H1-B visa, and did not mention the agreement among experts that immigration has overall positive effects for American workers.

At one point, she joked, “I had a town hall, I am not sure I recommend it.”  One can easily understand that being heckled was not a pleasant experience, but surely she thinks it was worthwhile to hear directly from and speak directly to her constituents. Our member, for one, says she preferred the town hall to this fireside chat. And Senator Feinstein seemed to signal agreement when she concluded, “People inspire me, I don’t want us to lose the pride we have as Americans” and it is “easy to want to serve them.”

Live-Stream of Kamala Harris Town Hall

Kamala Harris will hold her first Town Hall as California’s newest US Senator on Friday, April 21, in Los Angeles. Frustrated there isn’t one in the Bay Area? Indivisible East Bay is too. But we’re aiming to bridge the gap by presenting a public live-stream of the town hall at Ashby Stage. Come watch Harris answer constituent questions live with others who resist this administration’s disastrous agenda.

And get your voice heard! Before the live-stream starts, Indivisible East Bay will set up a question station, where we will video attendees asking the questions of Senator Harris that they would have put to her at a Bay Area town hall. We’ll then edit all unanswered questions into a single package and submit it to her, demanding answers. For additional pressure, we’ll post the video online. We’ve used this strategy in the past with Senator Feinstein and received detailed answers back—and we expect no less of Senator Harris.

Sign up for free ticket here.