Crowded Slate Vies for State Assembly District 15 Seat

There were nine candidates on stage and a large engaged audience at the California Assembly District 15 Candidates Forum hosted by the Albany Democratic Club at Albany High on January 29. Although the candidates competed to drop names and out-progressive each other, they appeared for the most part to agree closely on the issues. Even on SB 827, the divisive transit housing density bill by Senators Wiener and Skinner, everyone was in agreement that while they appreciated the spirit of the bill and the conversation it provoked, it needed significant changes to affordability, environmental, and local control provisions before they could support it. The only disagreements were on degree: whether single payer is “ideal” or “necessary”; whether a Prop. 13 (property tax) reform campaign to close the corporate loophole goes far enough. The organizers promised that video of the forum will be available soon on KALB.

I left better informed, but no closer to knowing who I plan to vote for in the primary this June.

Want to know more? Mark your calendar for the Assembly District 15 LGBQTI Candidate Forum, hosted by Lambda Democratic Club of CCC & East Bay Stonewall Democrats, February 21, 6-8 PM. All info here.

Read our earlier article about this race.

The candidates:

Assembly District 15 Candidate Forum

There’s a crowded race to fill Tony Thurmond’s California State Assembly District 15 seat, which he’s leaving to run for state superintendent of public instruction in 2018. Hear the candidates who’ve already announced, at the Assembly District 15 Candidate Forum, Saturday, November 4, 2017, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Contra Costa College, 2600 Mission Bell Dr., San Pablo, in the Room 225, General Education Bldg.

Hosted by the California Democratic Party African American Caucus, the forum is co-sponsored by Contra Costa College, Black Women Organized for Political Action, and the El Cerrito Democratic Club.

City of San Pablo Vice Mayor Genoveva Calloway and Contra Costa Community College District Board Member John Marquez will welcome the community to the City and to Contra Costa College. Paul Cobb, publisher of The Post News Group, will serve as moderator.

Candidates who will attend (in alphabetical order): Judy Appel, Ben Bartlett, Jovanka BecklesDan Kalb, Andy Katz, Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, Owen Poindexter, Cheryl Sudduth, and Buffy Wicks.

The event is free, you can register here (not required). Any questions – contact Mister Phillips (510) 556-1951, the California Democratic Party African American Caucus Secretary. Can’t make it to the event? Submit questions for possible inclusion.

District 15 includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont in Alameda County, and El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, Richmond and San Pablo in Contra Costa County.California State Assembly district 15 map

Don’t take them from their homes

This cold-hearted administration has been unfailingly cruel to the immigrant families who bestow their work, their hard-earned money, their very lives upon this country they’ve chosen to be their home. But nothing, not the refugee and Muslim ban; not the ICE raids detaining and deporting thousands, leaving millions behind to live in fear—skip school, doctor’s appointments, court dates; not the discretionary deportation of a cancer nurse with four children. Nothing comes close to the absolute viciousness of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We all know the story: brought here as children, grow up in our communities, stand poised to achieve and contribute so much more. Our country promised to protect them and instead the GOP is threatening to toss them out like garbage.

Our representatives in Washington are doing what they can to pass the DREAM Act and take away the president’s terrifying power over these young people’s lives. But that’s not enough. We also have to act locally to keep these Californians—some of the best and brightest—here at home. The state legislature must pass a robust version of the California Values Act (SB 54). ICE may not coordinate with any state or local agency. Please find your assembly person and ask that they not buckle under pressure from the California State Sheriffs’ association, but instead support a strong SB 54.

#ResistEngageAct in CA-11

Resistance Fair

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

Resistance Fair

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

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

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

Resistance Fair cheer

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

Resistance Fair booths

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

Resistance fair tables

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

By Heidi Rand


Checking in with State Senator Wieckowski

Last week saw the passage of AB 398, the compromise cap-and-trade bill, which prevented the much more progressive SB 775 from working its way through the legislature.The author of SB 775, State Senator Bob Wieckowski (SD-10, Fremont), spoke at an event in San Francisco hosted by the Universal Income Project on Tuesday evening. Members from IEB as well as our friends at CA StateStrong & Indivisible SF attended the event to express our support for SB 775 and our disappointment that the Senator (and most other Democrats) voted for AB 398.

Senator Wieckowski responded that AB 398 is mediocre, that he had a hard time casting his vote, and that his staff supported a no vote, but that he was “definitely feeling the heat” from Jerry Brown, who designed the current cap & trade system protected by AB 398 and considers it his “baby.” Wieckowski also talked about the role of SB 1, the gas tax bill that was passed earlier this year, implying that some legislators feel paralyzed in passing any more legislation that could be perceived as a tax this year. He said if he could do it again, he would come out louder and earlier in support of SB 775. We told him he could and should let the grassroots help him in his efforts to pass progressive environmental legislation.


On a positive note, Senator Wieckowski talked at length about SB 775 and his continuing desire to overhaul and improve the entire system. When we asked whether there was any path forward to implement the good parts of SB 775, he said the current bill just punts the responsibility of the entire program to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) – so in theory, there’s nothing prohibiting more legislation that would direct CARB to implement some of SB 775’s features (for instance, not allowing rollover carbon emission allowances). Senator Wieckowski seems quite knowledgeable about environmental matters and concerned about other environmental issues, including decarbonizing the grid and promoting the use of clean vehicles. Overall, perhaps the most optimistic takeaway is that we have found an opportunity to work with a legislator who is not used to working with the grassroots but is open to our input, our help, and our support for pushing the environmental needle left. So let’s keep showing up!

By Jiggy of CAStateStrong

Help California Protect Your Privacy Online

California’s battle against the federal government rages on, this time on the issue of internet privacy. Back in March 2017, the US Congress approved a resolution to undo Obama-era internet privacy protections for consumers, and Trump of course signed it. Now our representatives in Sacramento are considering AB 375, a bill which would give us back the protections taken away by the federal government.

AB 375 would require internet service providers (ISPs) – namely AT&T, Comcast and Verizon – to get your consent before sharing or selling your information. It would also prohibit ISPs from charging you fees to keep your information confidential, or penalizing you if you opt for privacy.

In other words, the bill would give you some say-so over the companies that control the internet pipeline into your home, and that aim to profit off your personal information. As Representative Ed Chau, sponsor of AB 375, points out, your internet browsing history “can reveal highly sensitive information about you, including personal or sexual activities, political or religious interests, health or financial problems.”

“If your ISP wants to collect information about you while you’re surfing the web, and then use it for their own reasons, like selling targeted ads, they should ask your permission first,” Chau said.

Here’s a statement in support of AB 375 from our friends at Indivisible SF.

AB 375 has passed the Assembly, and has cleared the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee. In late August it’s likely to be heard by the Senate Rules and Appropriations Committees, then head to the Senate floor for a vote.

Nearly two dozen other states have introduced similar legislation, but California’s is furthest along in the legislative process, so once again our Golden State could take the lead and set a precedent for others to follow.

Contact your State Senator to let them know you care about your privacy online and want them to support AB 375. Or join these actions by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Consumer Action.

When political expediency trumps climate leadership

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The California Assembly is set to vote this Thursday, July 13, on a pair of bills which would determine our state’s ability to control greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. AB 398 would extend California’s current cap-and-trade system while AB 617 would put in place additional monitoring of airborne pollutants and impose penalties on polluters. The pair of bills have an “interesting” mix of measures to get lukewarm support of mainline environmental groups, industry, and climate change policy wonks. AB 398 in particular is problematic – it’s being rushed through the legislative process by Speaker Rendon and Governor Jerry Brown, with a vote set for just 72 hours after the publication of the bill’s text.

The bills’ compromises – deals for fossil fuel companies, utility companies, pollution penalties, and funding for vulnerable communities – were engineered to achieve a bipartisan two-thirds majority, including moderate Democrats and some environmental supporters who otherwise might have held out for a more forward-thinking plan. AB 398, which deals with carbon emissions, is a retread of our current cap-and-trade system with some modifications that will extend it to 2030. The extension has some odd-seeming provisions such as stripping local air quality management boards’ powers to innovate for their jurisdictions, but it essentially contains much of the same problems that experts have identified with the current cap-and-trade scheme. Perhaps most importantly for environmental justice advocates and some other critics of the bill, the bill yields to business by setting a limit on the prices that businesses will be charged in the future for buying emissions allowances, rather than increasing the price of those allowances over time. It would also allow companies to hoard and bank carbon allowances, giving them more leeway to pollute.

The bottom line, however, is that this bill represents a genuine missed opportunity for leadership on climate change policy on a global scale.

That missed opportunity becomes evident in light of  SB 775, the other significant piece of climate legislation wending its way through the legislative committee process. With less of the flashy support from leadership (and thus dismissal by some of the larger environmental groups), this bill has some breakthrough carbon pricing mechanisms which aim to return increasing dividends to every California resident, in a similar fashion as Alaska’s Permanent Fund program. The shift from a regulatory regime (setting a cap) to more of an incentives-based regime for reducing carbon intensity over time (including a border adjustment tax based on carbon intensity of an imported good) would allow California to leverage the massive size of its market to start the domino effect of promoting carbon pricing beyond its own borders.

The disparity between what we could achieve and the politically expedient goal of staying with the tried and true is vast. We have no illusions about how this vote will go down on Thursday, nor do we expect SB 775 to proceed in the legislature if AB 398 passes, since the two are competing programs that cover the exact same time period. For those who want California to lead and innovate in climate policy, however, we recommend using our call script here to urge legislators to oppose AB 398 and support SB 775. At the end of the day, we need time for more debate and commentary so that we can arrive on a truly forward-thinking plan. A rushed 72-hour window does not achieve this outcome.

For additional talking points, refer to CalFACT and this helpful guide by our friends across the Bay.

 UPDATE: As of 4 PM, due to voter demand for more time to consider the bills, the votes have been pushed to Monday, July 17.  IEB Member Mandeep Gill and Colin Miller of Oakland Climate Action were in Sacramento and met with our reps and staffers all day about why we want the better climate policy in SB775. Keep calling!

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.

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.