Hunger Action Day 2019

By Ward Kanowsky

May 22, 2019 was Hunger Action Day, with over 400 advocates and community members from across California converging on the State Capitol in Sacramento for a day of meetings and joint action with our state legislators. The goal of Hunger Action Day is to make sure our elected officials know the reality of hunger and hardship in California, and to use their voices to help end it.

Indivisible East Bay member Ward Kanowsky attended the event along with several other representatives from the Alameda County Community Food Bank; IEB has been partnering with ACCFB for the past two years and this is the second year in a row IEB members have attended the event. Ward was part of two teams meeting with the staff of State Senator Steve Glazer (7th Senate District) and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (16th Assembly District) to discuss and ask for support on the following legislative priorities:

  • Increase state funding of Supplemental Security Income so the grant is above the federal poverty level: Budget ask and AB 1434
  • Protect adults harmed by the federal 3-month time limit to SNAP/CalFresh: AB 1022 (introduced by AD-15 Assemblymember Wicks)
  • End exclusion of taxpaying, immigrant workers with Individual Taxpayer IDs from the California Earned Income Tax Credit: Budget ask and AB 1593
  • Require preschool and child care meals: AB 842
  • Increase funding for the CalFood Program for California’s 41 food banks: Budget ask from California Hunger Action Coalition, of which ACCFB is a member.

Participants received some good news the following day — two of these bills, AB 1022 and AB 842 passed through the Assembly, their originating house, and moved on to the Senate.

ACCFB regularly participates in Hunger Action Day. One of ACCFB’s core values is that food is a basic human right, and this value was included in the message we delivered to legislators during meetings. The Food Bank serves one in five Alameda County residents; two-thirds of these are seniors and children. ACCFB works towards a stronger, more nourished Alameda County, where no one worries where their next meal will come from.

 

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

Photograph: ACCFB outside Senator Steve Glazer’s office on Hunger Action Day 2019, by Brittany Paris

Supporting Criminal Justice Reform Bills in the California Legislature

By Toni Henle

Action Deadline: today and every day through May 30 –

On May 20, 2019, Indivisible East Bay members joined a large crowd at the State Capitol in Sacramento at the 2019 Quest4Democracy (Q4D) Advocacy Day. Q4D is a statewide coalition of grassroots groups supporting a platform of bills to improve access to employment, housing, and education for all Californians, and to restore civil and human rights for prisoners and the formerly incarcerated. Several of the bills supported by Q4D are on the Indivisible CA StateStrong list of priority bills for this legislative session, including ACA 6-Free the Vote, which would restore voting rights to approximately 50,000 people on parole in California who are currently prohibited by the State Constitution from voting, and AB 392, which clarifies that police should use deadly force only when there are no alternatives and requires de-escalation whenever possible. IEB strongly supports, and has written about, both ACA 6 and AB 392; see below for actions you can take to support these bills with your East Bay assembly members.

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The rally had many emotional high points, especially when family members who lost loved ones to police violence, including the mother of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man shot by police in Sacramento, spoke about unjust violence and their horrendous losses and led chants of “Remember their name…” And Assemblymember Rob Bonta, a co-author of ACA 6, said “The right to vote is the greatest anti-recidivism tool that we have.”

Before Lobby Day began, attendees received legislative advocacy training on the general mechanics of the California legislature and the specific bills the coalition is supporting. Then over 100 people spread out inside the Capitol to talk with elected representatives and their staffs in support of proposed legislation, while other supporters made phone calls from outside. IEB members met with groups organizing actions at the event, including All Of Us or None, Initiate Justice, Prisoners with Children, and many others.

IEB interviewed attendee Abdul Haqq Muhammad, Community Outreach Coordinator for Open Gate, an Oakland-based jail-to-college pipeline nonprofit. Muhammad explained that he wanted to make a difference in supporting Free the Vote for the 50,000 people on parole, including himself, who don’t have the right to vote. As he said:

The black and brown community has been sold a bill of goods that their vote doesn’t count, but if it didn’t, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep it from so many. If ACA 6 passes, it would give those of us on parole a voice to effect change, instead of the system affecting us. Voting is the first step in being a citizen.

IEB was approached by two young women from UC Riverside with their Underground Scholar Initiative. Bibiana and Jazmin came from the Inland Empire to lobby legislators “to shift the School-to-Prison pipeline to a Prison-to-School pipeline using higher education as an alternative to incarceration through recruitment, retention, and advocacy.” One of them told us that her brother was incarcerated when she was seven years old, and that has had a big impact on her life. We were moved by her personal story and how she was trying to do something meaningful while attending college.

What you can do:

Each legislative chamber must vote on bills and send them to the other chamber by May 31, meaning that floor votes can happen any time from now until then. So call your state assemblymember NOW!

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (AD-15):
    • supported AB 392 in the Public Safety Committee. Call to thank her and ask for her vote for AB 392 on the floor.
    • She doesn’t have a public position on ACA 6 and needs calls asking for her support.
    • District: 510-286-1400; Capitol: 916-319-2015
  • Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (AD 16):
    • supported AB 392 in the Public Safety Committee
    • supports ACA 6
    • Call to thank her and ask her to support both bills on the floor.
    • Capitol (handles legislative calls): 916-319-2016
  • Assemblymember Rob Bonta (AD-18):
    • has not yet taken a position on AB 392 and needs calls to support.
    • Is a co-author of ACA 6; thank him.
    • District: 510-286-1670; Capitol: 916-319-2018
  • Assemblymember Bill Quirk (AD-20):
    • needs calls on both AB 392 and ACA 6.
    • voted “aye” in public safety committee for AB 392; thank him and ask him to do so again in the Assembly.
    • District: 510-583-8818; Capitol: 916-319-2020

What to say:

For AB 392:

My name is ______, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask for (or: thank you for) your support on AB 392. We need this bill to update California’s use of force standard, to make sure that police officers avoid using deadly force whenever there are alternatives available to them. AB 392 is modeled after best practices across the country. This bill will save lives. “Yes” on AB 392!

For ACA 6:

My name is ______, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask for (or: thank you for) your support on ACA 6, the Free the Vote Act. ACA 6 restores the right to vote to about 50,000 Californians who are on parole. Taking away the right to vote from formerly incarcerated people is a form of voter suppression that dates back to Jim Crow laws. People on parole pay taxes; they should be able to vote and be full participants in our communities and democracy. Please vote “Yes” on ACA 6!

If you want to learn more about the work that IEB’s Voter Rights & Election Integrity team is doing, and how you can help, email us at info@IndivisibleEB.org, or join the #voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.  For an invitation to join Slack, email: info@IndivisibleEB.org

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.

Charter law reform: Get Buffy and Becky on Board

By Emily Filloy

Deadline:  Immediate and ongoing –

Four charter law reform bills currently are moving through the California legislature: AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756 would stop rampant charter school proliferation that comes at the expense of public schools and local control. All are supported by East Bay representatives Assemblymember Rob Bonta and State Senator Nancy Skinner. But our newly elected Assemblymembers, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (AD-16) and Buffy WIcks (AD-15) are still on the fence. Wicks ran as a strong supporter of public schools, but the charter school issue was a point of contention during the election, and she hasn’t committed to common-sense reforms that will at least give our democratically governed public schools a fighting chance against the billionaire-backed privatizers. We need to push Rebecca and Buffy off the fence!

Two actions are needed:

  1. If your Assemblymember is Buffy Wicks or Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, contact her to urge her to support the charter reform package. Read on for more info on the bills, a call script, and contact info.
  2. Sign and circulate the CharterLawReform.com petition. This petition demands four fundamental changes to state charter law that would go a long way to leveling the playing field. The beauty of this petition is that when you enter your address, it automatically sends your state reps a notice that you support their efforts to reform the Charter School Act.

We previously asked for your support for this package of bills. Things have evolved—read on for the latest:

AB 1505—Our Dream Bill: AB 1505 and 1508 were combined to create one bill that would enact the most needed reforms. AB 1505 now allows districts to deny a charter petition if the new charter school would have a negative fiscal, academic, or facilities impact on the district. It also eliminates charter operators’ ability to appeal to the county and then the State Board of Education if a district says no. These two reforms recognize the adverse impact charters have in heavily targeted cities and also return local control to our school districts. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee, where we expect a decision on May 16. If it passes out of Appropriations, 1505 will go to the Assembly for a floor vote. It will be highly contested.

AB 1506 would impose a cap at the number of charters operating statewide—1,323 right now—and a new charter could only open if one closes. The bill also establishes a cap in each individual district. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee, where we expect a decision on May 16. If it passes out of Appropriations, 1506 will go to the Assembly for a floor vote. It will be highly contested.

AB 1507 would end the ability of a district to authorize a charter school and then place it in another district. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee.

SB 756 would establish a 5-year moratorium on all new charters statewide unless the reforms in the three bills above are enacted before 2020. The bill has passed out of the Senate Education Committee.

What You Can Do:

1. If your Assemblymember is Buffy Wicks or Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, please tell her to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756.

What to Say:

My name is___________.  My zip code is_________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging Assemblymember _____  to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756. This package of bills is essential to holding charter schools accountable to local communities and ensuring that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember _____ to support these bills?

  • Buffy Wicks: 510-286-1400; email
  • Rebecca Bauer-Kahan: 925-328-1515; email

2. Sign and circulate the CharterLawReform.com petition.

 

Emily Filloy is a retired OUSD teacher whose grown children are graduates of Oakland Unified School District. She and other educators started Educators for Democratic Schools to fight for the survival of public education.

Fight Voter Suppression and Free the Vote in California!

Action deadline: Friday April 26 and ongoing –

There’s strength in numbers. (Go Warriors!) Every vote matters, and we need to do everything in our power to combat voter suppression. Restoring voting rights to Californians who are on parole is a critical step, and although we can’t do this in time for the 2020 election, there’s a path to achieve this goal in the near future. And your help is needed.

East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta is coauthor of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6, the “Free the Vote Act,” which eliminates the provisions of the California Constitution that disqualify people on parole from voting. A companion bill to ACA 6, AB 646, amends the relevant provisions of the Elections Code. Passage of ACA 6 requires a 2/3 vote in both the Assembly and Senate, followed by ratification by a majority of voters. AB 646, if passed into law, will only take effect if the voters pass ACA 6 in the 2020 election. ACA 6 and AB 646 have been designated as priority measures by CA State Strong.

Almost 50,000 Californians on parole are disqualified from voting, even though they have served their sentences and been released from prison. The right to vote is a pillar of citizenship, and people on parole for felony convictions are still citizens who pay taxes and have an overriding constitutional right to have their voices heard on political issues. As Assemblymember Bonta explains:

After paying their debt to society, people have a right and obligation to contribute to society. Part of building a productive life includes becoming civically engaged and exercising the fundamental right to vote.

Given the “racial underbelly of criminal justice policies in general,” it comes as no surprise that felony disenfranchisement disproportionately impacts people of color. In California, three out of four male prisoners are nonwhite. Black American adults are more than four times more likely to lose the right to vote than non-Black American adults. As the Sentencing Project puts it, research shows that:

African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, and they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences.

In other words: Black Americans are more likely to lose their voting rights, and to lose them for longer. To add insult to injury, prisoners are often counted as residents of largely white rural areas where prisons are located for the purposes of redistricting, leading to “prison-based gerrymandering.”

Felony disenfranchisement is a shameful reminder of California’s Jim Crow laws, enshrined in our Constitution. As a matter of fundamental fairness, we must amend the Constitution to restore the right to vote to people with convictions. Restoring the right to vote helps people leaving prison reintegrate into the community. Successful reintegration reduces recidivism and increases public safety. As Secretary of State Padilla commented: “Civic participation is foundational to a sense of community—and it can play a major role in reducing recidivism.”

California has already begun to reform its felony disenfranchisement policies. In 2016, voting rights were restored to people convicted of a felony offense who had been sent to county jail, but not those sent to state or federal prison. ACA 6 and AB 646 will advance this effort by ensuring that people on felony parole who have served their sentences will be treated equally regardless of the facility in which they were incarcerated.

This is an idea whose time has come. An increasing number of states have passed legislation eliminating or modifying felony disenfranchisement. It’s become a topic of discussion for Democratic Presidential hopefuls and other bigwigs and has entered the discourse on social media. California is lagging behind in this national movement to advance democracy.

What you can do:

1. Call your state representatives, now and every day.

If you’re a constituent of Assemblymember Bonta, thank him; if you’re a constituent of Assemblymember Wicks or Bauer-Kahan, call and encourage them to support ACA 6 & AB 646. Yes, call even when your representatives have taken good positions on an issue! The other side is calling, and you need to make your voice heard.

Find your legislator here.

What to say:

For Assemblymembers Wicks and Bauer-Kahan:

My name is _______, my zip code is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want _______ to co-author and support Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6, which restores voting rights to Californians on parole after they have been released from prison. I also want _______ to support AB 646, the companion bill to ACA 6.

For Assemblymember Bonta:

My name is _______, my zip code is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Assemblymember Bonta for coauthoring ACA 6 and supporting voting rights for Californians who are on parole after they have been released from prison. I strongly support ACA 6 and AB 646.

  • Buffy Wicks 510-286-1400; email
  • Rob Bonta 510-286-1670; email
  • Rebecca Bauer-Kahan 925-328-1515; email

2. Come to Sacramento on May 20 for the 2019 Quest For Democracy Advocacy Day

Join IEB and community partners at this event at the Capitol in Sacramento, where participants will meet to strategize, train, and then advocate directly to legislators. A bus will leave for the event from Fruitvale and West Oakland BART stations in Oakland on the following schedule on May 20:

  • 7 AM: Bus will be at Fruitvale BART
  • 7:15 AM: Bus leaves Fruitvale BART
  • 7:30 AM: bus leaves West Oakland

RSVP (required!) and let them know you’re with IEB.

Read our prior articles:

Can you help work on these critical issues with the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights & Election Integrity team? Email: info@IndivisibleEB.org, or join the #voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack. For an invitation to join Slack, email: info@IndivisibleEB.org

 

December 10 March for voting rights, photograph © Michael Fleshman