Training Ambassadors for Schools & Communities Act

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By Toni Henle

The 2020 election isn’t only about getting Greed-Personified-in-Chief out of the White House. Also on the ballot in November 2020: the Schools and Communities First Act (SCF) a ballot initiative that would reclaim $11 billion every year for schools and local communities by a closing a California corporate property tax loophole that benefits wealthy corporations and investors.

Indivisible East Bay members have worked on SCF since the process of qualifying the initiative for the ballot; you can read our earlier articles here and here. From now until November 2020, the campaign shifts to the public outreach, education and mobilization phases, and on March 30 a crowd of 100 enthusiastic supporters packed a training on the ins and outs of this grassroots citizen effort to close the corporate property tax loophole.

What is Schools and Communities First?

A little background: in 1978, California voters approved Proposition 13, which froze property taxes of both homeowners and corporations at 1975 levels. Few other states in the country have frozen commercial property tax rates. Most states reassess commercial property every one to five years. Under Prop 13, property is reassessed only when it’s sold, and taxes are adjusted based on fair market value. Prop 13 has allowed enormous corporations – like Disney, Chevron, WalMart and Shell – to pay taxes at 1975 rates. Chevron alone is saving over $100 million a year by benefiting from Prop 13’s corporate loophole. On the other hand, new businesses pay taxes at today’s rates, putting them at an obvious disadvantage. Before Prop 13, residential property accounted for 55 percent of the property tax and commercial property constituted 45 percent. Now the residential share is 72 percent of the tax burden while the commercial share is only 28 percent, according to an Evolve-CA fact sheet. One result is that California has slid from the top 10 states nationally in per-pupil funding to the bottom 10.

The Schools and Communities First initiative is on the ballot to correct this unfair situation. SCF would close the corporate tax loophole, so that large businesses (with property worth over $2 million) would be regularly assessed. The additional tax revenue, estimated at over 11 billion per year, would be distributed according to the current formula, about half to schools (K-12 and community colleges) and the other half to local bodies like cities, counties, and special districts, such as fire districts and water districts, that receive state tax revenues. Homeowners’ and renters’ taxes would be unaffected (although we anticipate a massive and misleading campaign by the corporations that benefit from Prop 13 that will imply otherwise!)

The excellent March 30 training, developed by Evolve-California, the League of Women Voters, Bay Rising, and other core sponsors of the initiative, covered the history, the facts, and the arguments for (and against) the initiative. Crucially, the training required attendees to develop the arguments that we’d present to different groups about why we support the initiative. We practiced our pitches in small groups, getting feedback from one another to help refine our messages. We also wrote our own plans for which groups we planned to speak to, and when. 

The SCF campaign needs all of us! Evolve will lead the grassroots organizing effort for this initiative in the Bay Area; the best way to get involved in this historic campaign is to sign up to volunteer at Evolve’s website, you’ll get updates on future trainings and organizing opportunities in our area.

 

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

You Can Help Get Coal Outta Richmond!

By Janis Hashe and Janet Scoll Johnson

Push is quickly coming to shove in the accelerating fight to end coal transport through Richmond. An ordinance that would prohibit new coal handling and storage infrastructure and phase out existing coal operations over a period of years is scheduled to come before the Richmond City Council in late March or early April. The Sierra Club/Sunflower Alliance-backed group No Coal in Richmond is going door-to-door in heavily impacted areas, collecting signatures on a letter to city council members urging them to support the ordinance. Want to help? Read on for more info, and see our action items later in this article.

You might well ask: Why does the Bay Area, a region famous for its environmental leadership, still have coal trains coming through our communities? Why do we have huge, uncovered piles of dirty, dusty coal sitting right next to our Bay at the Levin-Richmond Terminal on the Richmond waterfront? Why is the Port of Richmond one of the last three ports left in the state to export the dirty fossil fuel when California doesn’t even use coal power?

The answer, of course, is money. The coal (and even more dirty petroleum coke, aka petcoke) are being shipped overseas, primarily to Asia, where they are still being burned for power. So, we are exporting our poison to communities overseas … only to have the dirty air drift right back to us in the trade winds.

Due to the falling price of clean energy and the commitment of activists, the coal industry is in retreat in the U.S. We’ve retired 259 coal plants in seven years — that’s one plant retired every 11 days. And more than three million people work in the clean energy economy, which now employs more people than fossil fuels in almost every state in the country. But the coal industry can still make money from overseas sales, and it does not care about the impact on public health or the environment.

What you can do:

1. Help pass “No Coal in Richmond”

Help us get signatures, through canvassing and tabling at local events, to support the strongest possible measures to end this public health and climate menace. 

What: No Coal in Richmond Door-Knocking
When: Saturday 3/2, Sunday 3/10, Saturday 3/16, Sunday 3/24; 1:30–4 pm
Where: Meet at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, 2540 Macdonald Ave., Richmond
RSVPaction@sunflower-alliance.org

You’ll get a quick briefing, pick up materials and a map, and leave from there with a partner. The work is gratifying and easy; 95% of the people who open their door say “No coal in Richmond? Where do I sign?” If the scheduled times don’t work, and you can door-knock with a local canvasser or help the organizers in other ways, please send an email to action@sunflower-alliance.org

2. Richmond residents, tell your City Council to pass the ordinance

If you’re a Richmond resident, you can call City Council members to urge them to support the ordinance, and you can show up to the meeting in which the ordinance will come up for its first vote. At this time it looks like the ordinance will be placed on the agenda in late March or early April. To help, or if you have questions, contact Janet at action@sunflower-alliance.org  

 

Janis Hashe is a freelance writer/editor/teacher/theatre person. She has been politically active in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chattanooga and now Richmond. Her deepest personal commitments include fighting climate change, ending factory farming and overturning Citizens United. She’s a member of Indivisible East Bay and the CA-11 team.

Janet Scoll Johnson is a long-time Richmond resident and an organizer for No Coal in Richmond and Sunflower Alliance, which works on the front lines of local fights against fossil fuel pollution and infrastructure expansion in the S.F. Bay Area and throughout California.

Indivisible California Conference 2019

By Nancy Latham

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On February 16 and 17, about 200 people from Indivisible groups all over California came together in Santa Monica’s Lincoln Middle School (where Stephen Miller went – we exorcised his ghost) for an invigorating weekend of learning, connecting, and thinking about the future! The five people from Indivisible East Bay who went to the Summit attended workshops on:

  • The critical importance of the California legislature, and how we can make a real impact there
  • Building effective alliances with social justice organizations,
  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Leveraging our influence with members of conference
  • Getting ready for the 2020 races

What we talked about most over the weekend: the fact that we are steadily building our people power. Our organizations are getting stronger, and we have so much talent and passion to bring to the social justice space. We can join with other groups that have been in the advocacy field for decades, helping to amplify their voices at the local, state, and federal level. We can collaborate with groups in other parts of the state and the country to pressure our representatives in more focused and aligned ways.

Want to join us for more networking events like this? We’d love to have you! Contact our volunteer coordinator at andrea@indivisibleeb.org.

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governing Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.

Terminate the tax on periods – period!

By Rosemary Jordan

Action deadline: March 8 and ongoing – Taxing period products is absurd and unjust. Under California law, health items like walkers, medical identification tags, and prescription medications – including Viagra! – are not taxed. But menstrual health products are not tax exempt in California, even though they are considered medical necessities by the Federal Drug Administration. This regressive tax harms women and girls living in deep poverty the most. It holds back our youth while they are already saddled with expenses. California state Assembly Bill 31 seeks to end this injustice.

Introduced by East Bay Assembly member Rob Bonta and co-authored by other East Bay lawmakers (Bauer-Kahen, Glazer, Quirk, Skinner, Wicks, and Wieckowski) and joined by over a dozen other co-authors and sponsors, AB 31 would make menstrual pads, tampons and reusable cups tax exempt. AB 31 has support in the Assembly and the Senate, from Republicans and from Democrats.  

But just like the last two times a similar bill was introduced, this is no slam dunk.  The legislature and the Governor need to hear loudly that it’s time to advance Menstrual Equity in California – not by compromise half-measures, but by a full exemption from sales tax for all period products.

Indivisible East Bay has joined a Support Letter that also includes California NOW, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, CA State Strong, and over 70 other organizations and individuals. The American Academy of Pediatrics in California is sending their own letter of support, and cities and counties across California are taking up resolutions in support of AB 31. Now it’s your turn!

What You Can Do:

Take Action Now: Get Postcarding!

The best thing you can do now, as we await hearings in Sacramento in March: gather your friends together for a postcarding event. We need to tell our elected officials that we want this bill to pass! Download postcard templates, scripts and addresses here.

Tell your elected officials: Support AB 31!

Can’t put together a postcard party? Please take a moment to contact your Assemblymember and also the chair of Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, which must pass AB 31 for it to proceed in the Assembly.

What to say:

My name is ____, I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and I’m a California voter (for your own representative, include your zip code). I want AB 31 to pass in California. Menstrual equity begins with ending the Tampon Tax. Please vote YES on AB 31!

Get more involved!

You can add your name to the Support Letter, write letters to the editor, and/or get your city council to pass a support resolution. And you can join other supporters of AB 31 for hearings in Sacramento! To get involved, email endthetampontaxinca@gmail.com.

 

Graphic credit: Lynn LaRocca

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.

And then we were Two

Indivisible East Bay held its two year anniversary at our All Members Meeting on Sunday January 27, celebrating our successes and quickly diving into what comes next.

AMM, co-emcees Andrea and Ted
Co-emcees Andrea and Ted

To get us rolling, Governance Committee members Nick, Toni, and Linh outlined the importance of HR 1, also known as the For the People Act, and how we need to keep our Members of Congress focused on this important piece of legislation. As the first piece of business issued from the House, it puts to the forefront critical democratic reforms such as restoring the Voting Rights Act, reforming the campaign finance system, and keeping corruption out of the presidency.  Check this primer from Indivisible National and our IEB take on why it is so important and what we can do to keep momentum going.

AMM, Sunrise Movement presentation by Alex Morrison and Sylvia Chi
Sunrise Movement presentation by Alex Morrison and Sylvia Chi

Everyone heard the latest on the Green New Deal and the fantastic Sunrise Movement from two of its Bay Area members, Sylvia Chi and Alex Morrison. A youth-led movement (which also welcomes non-youths!), Sunrise aims to “stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” In a very short amount of time, Sunrise has successfully led campaigns to get fossil fuel money out of politics and endorsed 19 successful candidates in the 2018 midterms. The goal post-midterms is to pressure all members of Congress, Congressional candidates, and presidential candidates to support the Green New Deal. You can view their informative presentation here.

We then broke for breakouts and birthday cake, and engaged in one of our favorite activities–writing postcards! We wrote to support Nasreen Johnson, the only Democrat running for Fresno County Board of Supervisors. If you missed out, never fear–join our postcard party at Sports Basement on February 10!

AMM, writing postcards to voters
Writing postcards to voters

Next month, join us on February 24 in beautiful Dublin, for our first CA-15-located All Members Meeting!

 

 

H.R. 1 is Priority One

By Ion Yannopoulos and Ann Daniels

Even little kids know how voting works: you vote, your vote gets counted, everyone else’s vote gets counted, the totals are added up, and the winner is the one who gets the most votes. Simple.

Or not. In real-life elections, there are so many ways this goes wrong. Let’s look at “your vote gets counted” – how do you know? And how do you know that the total of votes they announce is actually the same as the number of people who voted? There could be cheating or tampering. Even in honest elections, people can make mistakes all along the line. Bottom line: it’s so easy for there to be lost votes, miscounted votes. So how can you trust election results?

That’s why one of the first (if not the first) priorities of the new Democratic House of Representatives is H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which among other things lays the foundation for (more) secure elections. And that’s why we need you to tell your Member of Congress that you want them to support H.R. 1. Read on for more info and what to say.

Background

There are a lot of reasons why voting machines can be vulnerable to problems – and unfortunately, voting machines in the U.S. are subject to most of them. But there’s good news: it’s possible to count votes to a very high degree of accuracy, detect interference in elections, and prevent election tampering, all by using paper ballots and something called a risk-limiting audit – essentially, double-checking the election by using a specific statistical method of analyzing the votes cast.

H.R. 1 requires, among many other things, that new voting machines always start with paper ballots, and that those ballots be retained until the election is over. Why paper ballots? Digital data is cheap, fast, and very flexible – but it has a fatal flaw, because it can be changed nearly undetectably. The only way an audit can tell if there’s been tampering is if there’s a trusted source to verify the electronic vote against: namely, the voter’s original ballot. There are electronic voting machines that produce a paper ballot, but if they are hacked, the paper part produced by the electronic voting machine is just as tainted as the electronic part. In fact, there are even ways that the votes can be hacked based on the paper record produced by the electronic machine! Experts agree: Paper ballots are an indispensible part of election security.

What you can do:

1. Contact your Member of Congress. Let them know you support H.R. 1. All three of our East Bay Representatives have cosponsored the bill; thank them. Barbara Lee is on the House Appropriations Committee, which will have to come up with the money to address the funding needed for the states to agree.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank ______ for cosponsoring H.R. 1 to make our elections trustworthy by making them secure. Please make sure other Members of Congress understand how dangerously insecure our current voting machines really are, and convince them to support H.R. 1. Thank you.

For Barbara Lee, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, you can add:

I’m also asking you to make sure the provisions for funding voting machines with paper ballots are rock solid, to resist criticisms about “unfunded mandates.”

  • 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

2. Contact the California Secretary of State. The Secretary of State oversees elections. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) is having a conference in Washington from Feb. 1-4, 2019, and one of the topics they will address is voting on a resolution opposing any federal attempts to decide how state money is spent on elections – essentially leaving decisions about election machines in the hands of the states. Tell Secretary of State Alex Padilla that we don’t believe our elections can be safe nationally if any states are vulnerable, and that a minimum standard needs to be set for all elections.

What to say:

My name is ______, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Secretary of State Padilla for speaking out about the need to defend election integrity, and I want to ask him to speak against the NASS Interim Position on Potential Federal Election Funding. Our elections can’t be safe nationally if any states are vulnerable. For us to be secure and for our elections to be trusted they need to be verified by audit, and we need both paper ballots and risk-limiting audits in order to make that happen.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla: email; Main phone (916) 657-2166; Legislative Office: (916) 653-6774

3. Help work on these critical issues with the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights & Election Integrity team — email heidi@IndivisibleEB.org, or join the #voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack. Want an invitation to join Slack? Email info@IndivisibleEB.org

4. Find out more: For more information, read our past articles about election security and risk-limiting audits:

Join us at the Women’s March 2019

Flaunt your Indivisible East Bay pride by marching with us and our Indivisible Berkeley friends in the third annual Women’s March Oakland, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 19. This year’s march is co-hosted by Women’s March Oakland and Black Women Organized for Political Action.

Register here (free) to get updates and so organizers can estimate attendance. To march with IEB and IB, people will meet up at 10 AM outside the Oakland Public Library on Oak Street between 13th and 14th Streets (at Lake Merritt). Look for the red, white and blue balloons! Or find us once the contingents line up — look for us wearing our IEB t-shirts (and wear yours if you have one!), and for the IEB banner or signs.

Women's March Oakland, photo by Heidi Rand
Women’s March Oakland 2018, photo by Heidi Rand

At the end of the march — or if you can’t march but want to join in the festivities — come by our booth at the “Call to Action Alley” at Frank Ogawa Plaza!

Women's March Oakland, photo by Heidi Rand
IEB booth at Women’s March Oakland 2018, photo by Heidi Rand

These other Bay Area Women’s Marches will also be held on January 19:

And spread the Women’s March search link so people all over the country can find a march near them!

Read IEB’s statement about why we’re participating in the Women’s March Oakland, and why we encourage you to join us.

Featured photograph: Women’s March Oakland 2018 © Photography by Rex

The shutdown is our national emergency

It’s obvious to anyone who thinks before talking (or tweeting) that the government shutdown harms everyone, not just Democrats. But when pants are on fire, we need more than what’s obvious – we all need to be able to stand up and tell the truth. No, the people who long for this administration to fulfill prophecies of the end of the world won’t care, but there are millions of people who do. And so we offer this short collection of info about how the government shutdown is harming real people and the real world:

Who’s not getting paid?

  • When people think of federal employees, they may think of elected officials or high-paid white collar jobs. But federal workers as a whole make just slightly over the national average and include workers like food preparers, who make under $12/hour. These aren’t people who can afford to go without their paychecks.
  • From a National Park Service employee: “Our HR folks managed to get our Dec. 31 payroll in but who knows what’s next. It’s the lower graded employees who REALLY suffer. Some are seeking out temp jobs to fill the gap!”
  • A federal court employee reports that court employees have not been guaranteed that they’ll get paid for work beyond January 11, although they will be required to report to work as usual with or without pay. “I know several coworkers off the top of my head that can’t live without a paycheck. What are they supposed to do? I read today that some federal employees are applying for unemployment and can receive up to $450 a week but will have to return the funds once they get paid from the government. This shutdown has us scared and sick, not knowing the impact it will have on us personally and as a nation.”
  • Another federal worker: “I was planning to retire later this year but I can’t even get the paperwork going on that during the shutdown.”
  • The shutdown affects people who aren’t federal workers, too. The office that handles food stamps is staffed by federal workers, and although food stamps are essential to the people who get them, these workers aren’t considered “essential” – meaning that they aren’t coming to work and people aren’t getting the aid they need in order to eat.
  • Money and aid get held up in all kinds of ways: first-year students at a PA medical school received an e-mail saying they would get their student loan money for the upcoming term, but the funds were already late by the time the email arrived. For many people, getting money late can have serious repercussions.
  • See more personal stories here.

Health and Safety

The Environment

  • National Parks are basically semi-closed. The bathrooms are completely closed. People are driving off-road, doing what bears do in the woods, and more.
  • A park service employee reports “loss of control over schedules. … we are working on a tight timeline that is tied to many other events in the park with locked in dates. And of course, with skeleton staffs, there are serious negative impacts to delicate natural and cultural (not to mention HUMAN) resources that are being put at unnecessary risk.”
  • Wildfire prevention on federal lands – yes, the kind of thing needed to avoid huge loss of property and resources and life, especially in states like California and Nevada which are at least half federal land – has come to a halt. Of course, this is a health and safety issue as well.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is running on skeleton staffing and little to no funding as a result of the shutdown. (Let’s not even go into how that fits into this administration’s view of that agency …)

What you can do:

Call Our Senators: The House of Representatives has a bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall; we want the Senate to refuse to advance any legislation except that bill. And just before Trump gave his speech and Stormy Daniels folded her laundry on January 8, our Senators did just that. Please call Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3841, and Sen. Harris at 202-224-3553 to say thanks, and tell them:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein/Harris for voting against advancing legislation that wouldn’t have reopened the government without funding for the Wall. Please keep it up: vote NO on everything that isn’t the House bill to reopen the government without money for the Wall.

Help those in need: In times of trouble, people always need food. Donate or volunteer at these worthy organizations:

Photograph “Open Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” by Alan Levine 

November All Members Meet and Eat

At November’s Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting we spent more time eating than meeting. Several dozen members and guests gathered to enjoy tasty food and each other’s company for our potluck and post-election celebration.

November 25, 2018 All Member Meeting
November 25, 2018 All Member Meeting

We also fit in a bit of business — Governance Committee (GC) member and CA-11 team co-lead Ted led us in a round of applause for the momentous blue wave, and used the victories to inspire us to keep it up. Some actions Ted urged members to take were for now-resolved races, such as Mike Espy’s failed bid to win the Mississippi US Senate run-off election. And at the time the CA-21 congressional race was nail-bitingly close, though as we know now TJ Cox finally pulled ahead of Republican Valadao the day after the meeting, Monday Nov. 26, and by mid-day Wednesday TJ’s vote count had increased to the point that he declared victory! This race is particularly dear to IEB’s heart; many of us wrote countless postcards and canvassed for TJ, after our friends and allies in Team Blue Wave Contra Costa and East Bay for TJ showed us it could be done (despite the fact that the so-called experts didn’t think it was worth a try!)

Newsletter team co-lead and GC member Ann proudly read IEB’s statement endorsing CA-13 Representative Barbara Lee for Democratic Caucus Chair and announced IEB’s role in spurring other groups to endorse Lee for this important position. Sadly, Rep. Lee narrowly lost her bid for this position. We are deeply disappointed that her history of bravery, experience and wisdom was bypassed. But we remain hopeful that the new Chair, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, will be a strong supporter of progressive policies.

Looking ahead, Ted announced some upcoming events:

  • Indivisible National is sponsoring a National Day of Action on January 3, 2019, the first day of the 116th Congress. As Indy points out, this is our movement’s first chance to speak with our united national voice about issues that are important to us. On that day, IEB is planning to hold gatherings outside the local offices of our three representatives: Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13, and Eric Swalwell (CA-15). Check the newsletter for further details.
  • The annual Women’s March is January 19, 2019 — check the newsletter for info.
  • There’s no All Members Meeting in December; we’ll see you at the January 27, 2019 meeting!

 

 

Help elect Barrow Georgia Sec’y of State

Secretary of State — that’s a position we often don’t pay attention to till election time rolls around and we realize we’re stuck with a Republican who has abused the position to disenfranchise minorities and suppress voters’ rights — Georgia, we’re lookin’ at you! Georgia, where Brian Kemp, who “won” (yeah, we do mean cheated and stole) the governor’s race against Stacey Abrams before resigning as Secretary of State (SoS).

Well, it’s time to pay attention! Democrat John Barrow is in a runoff election against Republican State Representative Brad Raffensperger to replace Kemp as the Georgia SoS on December 4, 2018. And even if you don’t live there, you can help ensure that the era of disenfranchisement ends now.

What you can do: