IEB goes to Washington

Indivisible East Bay usually meets with our Washington representatives when they visit the Bay Area. But from June 4-6, 2018, IEB members traveled to Washington, D.C. for a succession of get-togethers with California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris as well as several of their key staffers. It was an opportunity for face-to-face interactions at a high-level — and IEB made the most of it.

Senator Feinstein visit to DC

One highlight of the trip was a constituent breakfast with Senator Feinstein. For her opening remarks, Feinstein mainly spoke about her recently-introduced legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families, as well as her plans to address the problems of homelessness and climate change. Since it was the morning after the primary, she thanked those who voted for her and said she hoped to win over the rest.

During the Q&A that followed, we noted that the Senator is a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and asked what we could do to help fix the broken process for the confirmation of judges, and especially to protect the federal judiciary from the too-often extremist nominees put forward by Republicans. Her answer was simple but will be difficult to accomplish: Take back the Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris in DC

We also heard Senators Harris and Cory Booker (D-NJ) speak at a rally jointly organized by the NAACP and Demand Justice (a new organization focusing on judicial nominations). IEB’s Judiciary team recently started working with Demand Justice to attempt to block the nomination of Thomas Farr to a lifetime judgeship on the district court in North Carolina. Farr has a decades-long history of involvement in voter suppression of North Carolina’s African-American population.

Finally, we had several days of meetings with six members of Feinstein’s and Harris’s staffs. At each meeting, we raised our concerns on specific issues, listened to their replies, and offered our responses. Here are the highlights:

Senator Feinstein Chief of Staff Steve Haro and Appropriations Legislative Aide Josh Esquivel

Our highest level meeting was with Senator Feinstein’s chief of staff Steve Haro and Josh Esquivel, her appropriations legislative aide.

The opening topic was nuclear bombs, notably the House’s recently passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision for $65 million to develop a new “low-yield” nuclear weapon to be launched from submarines. Feinstein is on record as strongly opposing this and other efforts to expand the nuclear stockpile and plans to offer an amendment to remove such provisions from the Senate bill. However, Josh would not promise that Feinstein would vote NO on the full NDAA if, despite her efforts, the nuclear authorizations remain in the bill.

We next discussed aspects of the Homeland Security Authorization Bill, which currently has bipartisan support in the Senate. We asked about the increased budget authority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) included in the bill. In our view, both of these agencies have abused their power and defied Congressional oversight; we thus asked that Senator Feinstein vote against additional funding for those agencies. Steve and Josh both expressed some surprise that funding for these agencies was included in the bill; they were under the impression that the bill was mostly about other aspects of the Department, such as disaster preparedness and election security.

We also requested a status update regarding funding for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief. Josh told us that there is still “plenty of money” left from the last relief funding bill Congress passed. Why then, we asked, does the situation in Puerto Rico remain so dire? He replied that the administration is not doing a good job using the available money to get resources to the people who need it.

We told him that we would like to see Congressional staff get raises. Legislative branch funding is very skimpy and one of the reasons for this is that Congressional Republicans have, since the 1990’s, cut funds for the legislative branch in an apparent bid to increase lobbyists’ relative power and influence. We would like to see that trend reversed in upcoming federal budgets.

Lastly, we discussed sexual harassment and staff well-being policies in Congressional offices. On the subject of harassment, Steve said that the Senator has a very strict, zero-tolerance policy. Staffers are asked to report any incidents directly to him or the Senator. In either case, a report immediately triggers an investigation, headed by Steve. If any harassment is determined to have occurred, the consequences are very serious and even a first offense can result in termination.

Feinstein judicial nominations counsel Gabe Kader

In our meeting with Gabe Kader, one of Feinstein’s Judiciary Committee counsels, we returned to the subject of nominations to the federal bench. Gabe was very interested to hear about our work in this area, especially about which issues in the nominees’ backgrounds resonated most with our members and friends: reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, conflicts of interest, etc.

While we affirmed our support for Feinstein’s goal of Democrats taking back the Senate — as the ultimate solution here — we told him that, in the interim, Feinstein should use her leadership to convince all Congressional Democrats to stand together in opposing unqualified and ultra-conservative nominees put forward by the GOP.

Gabe replied that the Senator is concerned that pushing back too hard could give Senator Grassley and the rest of the Republicans an excuse to abandon the vetting and bipartisan process entirely. We questioned how much that would differ from what the GOP is already doing.

Feinstein immigration counsel Olga Medina

Our last meeting with a Feinstein staffer was with Olga Medina, an immigration counsel. We went over the details of Senator Feinstein’s new legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families at the border. Her Keep Families Together Act would prohibit agencies from separating children from their parents unless a state court, an “official from the State or county child welfare agency with expertise in child trauma and  development,” or the Chief Patrol Agent or the Area Port Director “in their official and undelegated capacity” determines that a separation is in the best interests of the child.  It also explicitly states that families can’t be separated as a deterrent. A variety of other provisions (such as keeping siblings together) are designed to protect families in those rare cases when a separation does occur.

Senator Harris legislative science fellow Ike Irby

We had two meetings with representatives of Senator Harris. The first was with legislative science fellow Ike Irby. The focus was on the hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and how we can learn from our failures there. Ike told us that the Senator is working on legislation to put standards in place for how states and territories calculate death rates from natural disasters. We also discussed climate change, both specifically in terms of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure and, more generally, about federal carbon pricing. It sounded as if Senator Harris, similar to many of our local representatives, isn’t quite ready to put her weight behind any particular carbon pricing plan, but is generally supportive and waiting to see which way the wind blows.

Harris Legislative Aide Elizabeth Hira

Our meeting with Elizabeth Hira, one of Senator Harris’ staffers, focused on the judiciary and criminal justice. As in our meeting with Gabe Kader, Elizabeth was very interested to hear which issues in the judicial nominees’ backgrounds most resonated with the resistance.

We also discussed criminal justice bills that Senator Harris supports, most notably the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. We expressed concerns that these bills don’t sufficiently guard against the possibility that the software used for determining recidivism risk and thus sentencing could unintentionally perpetuate racial biases. As such, we want to see provisions to properly review such software and to allow people to appeal decisions made by software. We suggested a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “algorithmic bias”, with expert testimony from researchers in the field, and Elizabeth asked us to write up a short proposal for such a hearing, indicating she would follow up on this matter.

Top photo: IEB members with Emma Mehrabi, Legislative Director for Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13).

Memos:

Spread IEB’s message at July 4th Fair

Celebrate Independence Day by helping save our democracy! Meet new people and get the word out about Indivisible East Bay at the fantastic City of El Cerrito/worldOne Fourth of July Festival on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, 10 AM to 5 PM. 

You don’t have to be an expert! All you need is a basic familiarity with Indivisible and a friendly attitude. There will be experienced members at every shift, so if you’re unsure what to say you can listen for a bit to get into the swing. Sign up for shifts here: got an hour? Perfect! Got two? Even better! Don’t live in El Cerrito? No worries, everyone is welcome! Bring a friend or three, and children are more than welcome too. 

At last year’s booth we spoke to many people eager to learn about Indivisible and hungry for suggestions about how they could take action against the Trump agenda. Talking one-on-one with people is the best way to get the word out, answer questions, and let people know how they can get involved and begin resisting. Also, eat corn-dogs and/or other fun fair food (our booth is mere steps from the Food Court).

July 4th Indivisible booth

We welcome volunteers with disabilities – the event is wheelchair accessible, and our booth will accommodate wheelchairs. 

RSVP or questions to IEB Outreach co-lead Toni Henle: ieb.outreach@gmail.com

July 4th Indivisible booth

Photos © Heidi Rand

California Indivisibles Stand Together

Members of IEB Governance Committee
Members of IEB Governance Committee at California Conclave

Several members of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee attended the first-ever Conclave of California Indivisible groups in Sacramento on April 7-8. Organized by Indivisible National and California Indivisible folks, members from around 50 groups came together to discuss best practices and share stories. Hearing what Indivisible San Diego and Indivisible Calaveras are doing in red areas was eye-opening and inspiring to those of us in solidly blue East Bay.

IEB Governance Committee member Nancy Latham speaking at Conclave. Photo by Tama Becker-Verano.
GC member Nancy Latham speaking at Conclave. Photo by Tama Becker-Verano.

Over the weekend (plus Monday for lobbying), the presentations – channeling Jerry Maguire – helped us learn how to help ourselves. Sacramento union leader Fabrizio Sasso reminded us that today’s attacks on unions are a threat to everyone. Racial justice and equity leader PaKou Her shared with us Gloria Anzaldúa’s feminist theory of the borderlands, a powerful concept that challenged us all to think about our proximity to those in power. The big takeaway from the first day was to remember that it’s not just about fighting the big chicken, but about lifting up others and finding ways we can be of service.

IEB Governance Committee member Andrea Lum, with a {not} friend
GC member Andrea Lum, with a [not] friend
One of the Conclave’s most important goals was to build how we work together as a California network of Indivisible groups, so we can reduce duplication of effort (e.g. access a common repository of tools, research, trainings, etc.), avoid reinventing the wheel (learn about the amazing tools and models other groups have developed), and amplify our voices by engaging in advocacy coordinated across the state.

To build our California networked infrastructure, on the second day we broke into four work groups: Policy & Advocacy, Communications, Organizational Sustainability, and Electoral Action. Each work group formed sub-teams which created action plans to carry the work forward. It was inspiring to hear at the end of the Conclave how the sub-teams plan to work on California-wide teams to influence policy, amplify our collective voice, ensure our members and groups are sustainable, and flip the House in November!

Interested in learning more about IEB’s Governance Committee? Want to know how you can help build our organizational capacity? Please email uswe want to hear from you!

 

 

On Trend and On Message!

Now, you can resist in style AND represent Indivisible East Bay! For a limited time only, a minimum donation of $25 each (non-tax deductible) gets you a fabulous IEB t-shirt to wear to your next march (even if it’s marching around your apartment).

Out of your $25 donation, IEB gets $5.38—and as with all donations to IEB through Act Blue, you’re contributing toward our meeting and event expenses such as booth fees, informational flyers, postcards, etc.

These glamorous U.S.-made shirts, produced by union shop Alliance Graphics, are 90% combined ringspun cotton and 10% polyester. Get one for yourself, and more for your friends!

All shirts are in the color and style shown above (or below, depending on what gizmo you’re viewing this article with), with the fabulous colorful IEB logo.

Order now:

  1. Make your donation of $25 or more per shirt through Act Blue
  2. Email Gina at treasurer@indivisibleeb.org (or on Slack: @gmc) with the receipt number
  3. Include whether you want the men or women’s t-shirt, and what size (see list below)
  4. Get your order in by 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
  5. Pick up your shirt at the April 29 All Member Meeting!

Questions? Email andrea@indivisibleeb.org or on Slack: @andrea

Women’s: fits sizes

  • Small 2-4
  • Medium 6-8
  • Large 8-10
  • Extra large  XL 10-14
  • Double extra large  2XL 14-18

Men’s sizes: chest to fit

  • Small 34″-37″
  • Medium 38″-41″
  • Large 42″-45″
  • Extra large XL 46″-49″
  • Double extra large 2XL 50″-53″

Support IEB!

Bay Area Marches for Our Lives

Indivisible East Bay members attended March for Our Lives events in several locations in the East Bay and beyond on March 24; here are some of their impressions.

Richmond

Tom Janci: We attended the March For Our Lives event in Richmond. Organizers estimate almost 1,000 people turned out to show support for the young people who organized such an incredible event. It was incredibly moving to hear their stories. It was also a good reminder that our children are not just our future – they are our NOW. City and county elected officials as well as State Senator Nancy Skinner and Representative Mark DeSaulnier attended the event.

March for our Lives, Richmond, photo by Alice Towey
March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Alice Towey

George McRae: I went to the March for Our Lives in Richmond. The March started at the intersection of Nevin and Harbour Way, opposite Kaiser Hospital, which treats its share of gunshot victims, and ended at City Hall Plaza, where government officials and the community work to mitigate gun violence. Along the route, one could look up at the lamp and power poles and see the “shot spotter” equipment … they’re everywhere in Richmond.  I listened to the speakers, those whose lives were directly impacted and those who have been elected to legislate gun violence out of existence. I can say with complete certainty whose reflections impacted me most. The names of Richmond victims were read in between the speakers. The list went on … and on …  I left carrying the memory of people I have lost to gun violence. None of us are immune. According to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as an American,  YOU have a 99.85% chance of knowing someone victimized by gun violence in your lifetime.  These children know they are in the gun sights, and it’s up to all of us to make the elected people do OUR bidding, not the NRA’s. Enough.

March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Heidi Rand
March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Heidi Rand
Catherine de Neergaard: It was a really sweet march and rally on 3/24 in Richmond, California to stop gun violence. At about 3000 people, it was a more accessible, intimate, and quieter event than the much larger rallies in SF and Oakland. I liked that. There was space to be able to hear and chat with old buddies, neighbors and new people too. About 25 people from Indivisible East Bay met at the beginning of the March. It was wonderful seeing the children and young people some of whom made speeches or read poems.
Sixteen year old Shelton McAdoo opened the rally with a moving speech. Interspersed with the speeches, names of those slain in gun violence were read. Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia both made short, passionate speeches supporting the young people to lead this country to end gun violence. Towards the end, there was an open mike. I made a brief speech about the many new laws we need to control guns and stop gun violence, including the need to permit and fund the national health agency, the CDC, to do research on the health effects of gun violence, and the need for a national database of guns, gun owners, and gun sales. Indivisible East Bay, Rich City RIDES, and Citizens Power Network were doing voter registration. IEB and League of Women Voters had petitions to sign. Thank you organizers! Let us not stop until guns are controlled.

 

Oakland

Ward Kanowsky: On March 24, 2018, over 840 cities around the world participated in the March For Our Lives. With gun violence impacting the Oakland community, it was important for the city to be a host of one of these events. I was one of several members of IEB who staffed a booth during the rally, which included student speakers from local high schools, poetry readings, youth from the Martin Luther King Freedom Center and Bay Area Students for Gun Violence Prevention, and alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, among many others. Following the two-hour rally, there was a brief but rousing march to Lake Merritt, led by four of the student organizers of the event.

You can continue to support the inspiring work of our young people by signing the March For Our Lives petition, which calls for Congress to pass legislation that will protect and save our children from gun violence.

Ann Daniels: I was helping to staff the IEB table in back of the crowd, so I didn’t hear the speakers very well, but I got to interact with a steady stream of people of all ages and races. Some were long-time activists but many were new to activism,or hadn’t been active politically for several years – this cause, this moment, was the “last straw,” as one woman told me. They wanted information about how to be active on more than this one issue, which was wonderful. I also loved seeing how many people felt positive, full of admiration for the young people from Parkland and all over the country who have stood up and become leaders.

March for Our Lives, Oakland, photo by Deirdre Spencer
March for Our Lives, Oakland, photo by Deirdre Spencer

San Francisco

Helen Clifton, Poinsett Indivisible: The San Francisco March for Our Lives was inspiring, rousing, energizing. People of all ages attended, listening to and cheering on this youth movement. Unlike the Washington, D.C. March, there were adult speakers as well as MANY amazing articulate youngsters from around the Bay Area: we heard from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Jennifer Seibel Newsom, London Breed, current SF Mayor Farrell, Grace Slick, and Pastor Michael McBride and Leo Mercer, who work with communities and organizations in Oakland. There was also a woman who survived Columbine, two alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the father of a student who was killed at the UC Santa Barbara massacre, who works with Everytown for Gun Safety. Dr. Gregory Victorino, M.D., chief of the Trauma Center at San Francisco General Hospital, spoke about the huge gun violence issue in American public health. A leading trauma surgeon, Victorino was involved in treating victims at the Columbine and Aurora Theatre shootings.  

Many speakers addressed the prevalence of gun violence generally in America, as only 4% of gun deaths are from mass shootings. They also pointed to the horror of so many deaths caused by police shooting Black people, most recently Stephon Clark in Sacramento, unarmed, on an iPhone, in his grandmother’s backyard, leaving two little boys without their loving father. They also spoke of women being killed by domestic partners, and Jennifer Seibel Newsom brought up Toxic Masculinity! One teenage girl, a senior in high school, talked about PTSD from when she was 13, walking fourth-grade sisters home from school, and being surrounded by gunfire in their neighborhood, only steps from home, dropping to the ground until bullets stopped. She has grown up with the constant fear of gun violence in the streets. 

Everyone around me was very moved, stood and listened throughout the unusually long rally, then marched forever down Market Street to the Ferry Building. 

March for Our Lives, San Francisco, photo by Helen Clifton
March for Our Lives, San Francisco, photo by Helen Clifton

Did you march? There’s more you can do! Help keep the momentum these young people have built going — contact your Members of Congress to ask them to hold a Town Hall for Our Lives in solidarity with those across the country on Saturday April 7.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661

A Conversation with Steve Haro, Senator Feinstein’s Chief of Staff in DC

By Catherine de Neergaard

Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you have to improvise. Such was the case when Steve Haro, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Chief of Staff, met with Indivisible representatives on February 21, 2018.

As Chief of Staff, Mr Haro occupies the most prestigious position on Feinstein’s staff. Previously, he has had been Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department Commerce under President Obama.

Because Mr. Haro remained in Washington, the Indivisible group arranged for a video conference at WeWork in the Oakland Civic Center. Unfortunately, there was an Internet outage at the Center that day. So, we instead opted for an audio-only call. Not an optimal solution, but it sufficed to get the job done.

Once we were connected, and introductions were given, we proceeded to work our way through a list of agreed-upon topics.

DACA:

We thanked Senator Feinstein for holding out for a clean DREAM ACT for the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA).

Haro said that Senator Feinstein was disappointed not to get a “Clean Dream” rider on the Continuing Resolution for funding. Mr. Haro related at considerable length the inside drama and difficulties of getting the twelve Republican votes needed to pass a compromise bipartisan Immigration (DACA) Bill. The Democrats conceded much just to get the bill to the floor. Unfortunately, after the GOP leadership lobbied against it, even the most bipartisan immigration deal the Senate considered only got eight Republican votes and the bill failed.

Regarding the brief shutdown of the government that resulted from the immigration policies dispute, Mr. Haro gave us some new insight into how the senator thought it went down. In spite of strong reservations about the negative effects of a government shutdown, the senator voted against both the continuing resolution (CR) that would have kept it open and the CR that opened it back up. And she thought that Democrats didn’t allow enough time for it to work.

GUN SAFETY:

We thanked the Senator for her outspoken support of stricter gun control, including her bills banning bump stocks and all assault weapons.

Haro noted that Feinstein introduced a bill, together with Senator Flake, to increase the legal age to buy weapons to 21. But Democrats cannot get a single Senate Republican to co-sponsor a bill banning bumpstocks.

The key question for all such bills remains: How do we get to 60 votes in the Senate to support the bill? The answer, for now, is “We can’t.”

CLIMATE CHANGE:

Haro said that Senator Feinstein is working with colleagues to preserve current CAFE standards and prohibit waivers. The Senator also believes we must protect the jobs of scientists in government positions from politically-motivated firings—although it was not clear how she intends to accomplish this.

As to the Senator’s support for the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act and a timeline for a federal climate bill similar to California’s carbon auction model, Haro said he would have to “get back to us.”

We also asked Feinstein to support HJ 48, a constitutional amendment introduced in the House, to state that corporations are not people with the argument that corporate money drives harmful environmental policy.

FUNDING FOR THE 2020 CENSUS:

IEB remains concerned that continued underfunding of the 2020 census will prevent an orderly and fair redistricting of the House. Similarly, use of untried methodologies threaten to endanger an accurate count and leave out harder-to-reach people.

We asked: “What is Senator Feinstein’s plan to get more money for the census?” The answer was not encouraging. Haro said House Republicans hate census appropriations bills and fund them at the last minute. The Senate isn’t directly impacted by the census, so it is hard to get the Senators excited about this. Feinstein is pushing to prevent the census from asking about citizenship which, in her opinion, is as important as funding.

ELECTION SECURITY:

We asked: “What can Congress/Senate do in the absence of executive support to ensure fair elections?” and “What has the Senator done to advance the Secure Elections Act or similar legislation?”

Haro observed that when voter turnout is high, Democrats generally win. That’s why Democrats want people to vote and Republicans do not. He is concerned that a low voter turnout, encouraged by Republican voting restrictions, will negatively impact Democrats. Obviously, the GOP has no interest in taking on this issue.

Other than noting Feinstein’s support for paper ballots, his answers did not directly address our questions. He did say that he was unfamiliar with some of the specifics we raised and would look into them further.

NATIONAL SECURITY AND NUCLEAR WAR:

We thanked Senator Feinstein for her deep concerns about U.S. relations with North Korea. She is already a co-sponsor of S. 200 which restricts the first use of nuclear weapons. However, we asked that her concerns about U.S. involvement in the Middle East be stronger than they appear.

Feinstein supports repealing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). However, Haro expects no action on this matter any time soon. The issue has gone quiet, apparently because the GOP views any change as an attack against Trump. He told us that he personally feels some regret that Democrats didn’t work with President Obama on some of these issues regarding curtainling executive power; he might have been open to it, and it wouldn’t have had the appearance of a partisan attack.

JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS:

The Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee continues to nominate untried, inexperienced, and young conservative Republicans for lifetime judgeships. The “blue slip” process, whereby the senators of a state are consulted and partisan input is preserved, continues to be bypassed or ignored. In other words, the GOP is rapidly stacking the courts. We asked: “What can we and the Senator do to stop this travesty?”

Haro replied that, other than delaying tactics, there is little the Democrats can do. The key is to “Take back the Senate.” He specifically suggested we (Indivisible nationally) focus on helping vulnerable blue senators in states where Trump won in 2016 and trying to pick up seats in Nevada and Arizona.

WE WANT A TOWN HALL

For the past several meetings with Feinstein’s staff, we have asked about the Senator’s reluctance to hold town hall meetings where the public can ask questions. We did so again at this meeting.

Haro responded that town halls take a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources to produce.

 

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 Catherine de Neergaard

All Members Meeting: How to Flip Red Districts

At the February All Member Meeting, Indivisible East Bay members heard from representatives from two organizations working hard to get out the vote in not-too-faraway red districts. Kook Huber from Organizing for Action gave an impassioned rationale for what motivates her to get out the vote:

I am a first generation American. I am upset and angry every day when [the president] talks about immigrants and criminals all in one breath. He allowed white supremacists to talk about us, people of color, with hatred. That motivates me.

California is the key to flipping Congress blue, since Democrats only need to convert 24 out of the 60-70 districts in the United States considered flippable — and seven of those districts are in California. Indivisible East Bay has joined with the CD-21 Action Coalition, which Kook is spearheading. The coalition is focused on District 21 because it’s relatively close to the Bay Area, and because Hillary Clinton won it in 2016 by 15.5%, although David Valadao, the current Republican representative, beat the Democratic candidate by 13%.

Kook urged the audience to consider going to District 21 to canvass in person, or to join a phone bank – she emphasized that direct contact is best, with volunteers going door to door being the most effective way to get out the vote. Phone banking will be available in San Pablo and Walnut Creek, and the Coalition’s aim is to put together more volunteer opportunities—and to spread the word that Spanish speakers are particularly needed.

Several Indivisible East Bay members have also been working with Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO aimed at canvassing. Laura Jo Foo, a Working America coordinator, told us there are now nine paid staff in an office in Modesto helping train volunteers to canvass and knock on doors. Since last June, they’ve trained 300 volunteers, including folks from Indivisible, Our Revolution, and other organizations. The goal is to to talk to every person who answers their door in CA-21. While Laura Jo said Working America is non-partisan, at the primary level they support the labor-endorsed candidate. Laura Jo told us, “We engage in deep listening more than talking. We ask ‘what keeps you up at night and why’—that is our opportunity to do the education part.”

While their efforts in California are new, Working America has canvassed for 15 years in swing states. Out of 400 elections, they have a 70% win rate in close races. Laura Jo shared that efforts in CD-21 and CD-10 are critical and echoed what Kook said: the Bay Area is critical to flipping these nearby districts.

Ready to help? Here are some actions you can take:

  • Canvass with Working America AFL-CIO in Central Valley swing districts CA-10 (Modesto) and CA-21 (San Joaquin Valley). You’ll get excellent training and can then sign up for volunteer shifts.
  • Sign up here to help the CD-21 Action Coalition in ways other than canvassing – see their phone bank schedule and check out other volunteer opportunities.
  • Canvass in CA-21 with Swing Left East Bay. Check upcoming events and sign up to be trained & attend here.
  • Check out a wide variety of volunteer opportunities listed by Democracy Action.
  • See the “Phone & Text Banks” and “Help Us Flip This Thing” sections in our weekly newsletter. Don’t get the newsletter? Subscribe to it here.
  • Join the Elections channel on IEB’s Slack platform. Want an invite to join Slack? Please drop us a line at info@indivisibleeb.org 

Voting in High School: More Than For Homecoming Queen

By Ward Kanowsky

Did you know there are approximately one million juniors and seniors in California’s high schools who may be eligible to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections? Indivisible East Bay’s CA-15 (Congressman Eric Swalwell) team has been working with other organizations, most notably the League of Women Voters, on an initiative to increase voter registration among high school students in California.

We are letting high school students’ families know about the Joint Letter written by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson that encourages high schools to have voter education weeks, to help eligible students learn more about registering to vote as part of civic engagement. We will encourage families to work with – and, when necessary, to put pressure on – schools to provide voter registration materials and information to their students; it may only take one concerned parent to get a school involved.

Representative Swalwell and his staff are supportive of this initiative. We have a meeting planned with Swalwell’s staff to discuss strategy as well as their own voter registration initiative, #ishouldprobablyvote. In addition, our team is working with Indivisible National’s West Coast organizer about how best to engage other Indivisible chapters to talk to high school students’ families about the Joint Letter, with a focus on red districts.

Have questions? Want to help? Email the CA-15 team or contact @ward on Slack.

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

Photo of CA-13 team leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky with Rep Eric Swalwell 

 

The Art of Resistance

Big Oil Dudes, by artists from ARRT.
Big Oil Dudes, by artists from ARRT.

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.

I grew up in Santa Cruz County and was a self-declared feminist by age 14, and active in my first political campaign as a senior in high school. After 23 years in Los Angeles, and ten in Tennessee, I returned to Santa Cruz less than a year before the election debacle. Like many, I went to bed that night stunned—but rose determined to resist.

I first joined a Meet-Up group called “Strategies for the New Political Climate,” which was helpful as it brought like-minded people together, and Swing Left, to which I still belong. It quickly became clear, however, that there were too many groups pulling resources too many ways, and Santa Cruz Indivisible emerged as the go-to organization. It now has an extremely effective and well designed web site and Facebook page; the page showing almost 2,500 likes. The group almost immediately realized that the best way for people to focus their energies and time was to create issue subgroups: these are listed on their site under “Issues for Resistance.”

As a writer and theatre artist, I gravitated toward the subgroup Artists Respond and Resist Together (ARRT), which identified itself this way: “We are an affiliation of artists joined together by our shared belief in the power of art to effect social change and protect democratic values. Our creative skills support progressive social actions in our local community and beyond.” This group was committed to actions, not group-complaining sessions, and this motivated me. An example of the actions ARRT continues to do is creating resistance banners that will hang over Highway 1 overpasses:

  • Branciforte Ave. Overpass: “Putin is not our Friend”
  • Morrissey Blvd. Overpass: “Country above party”
  • La Fonda Ave. Overpass: “We are Indivisible.”
John Muir. Street theatre art by Santa Cruz artist Donna Thompson
John Muir. Street theatre art by Santa Cruz artist Donna Thompson

I am currently working with Heidi, another IEB member, to organize a first meeting of ARRT/East Bay. We’d like to curate a show of Resistance-themed art, make a list of suggested art-focused actions, and also solicit artist volunteers who can be called on to help create graphics, signage, and other art for events. I would also like to see if we can replicate the very successful “Resist Fest” held in downtown Santa Cruz, in which all local Indivisible groups participated. If you’re interested in joining us, please email me.

Can We Work Toward a National Resistance Summit?

Its no secret that getting progressives to work together can resemble the proverbial herding cats. But another famous statement that resonates strongly right now was made by Ben Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: “We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” I believe ALL the groups engaged in resistance work: political, environmental, human and civil rights, education, income inequality … all of us … need to come together and set a National Resistance Agenda. If all the groups currently struggling to do things individually joined forceseven if it was only on certain key issuesit would be a massive force for progressive change. I continue to urge the leaders of all the groups to which I belong to consider this idea.

By Janis Hashe