In the aftermath of the fires, as the weather turns cold, thousands of individuals, many of them immigrants, are still struggling to survive. Some have lost their homes and many more have lost their jobs--they were the farmworkers in the fields that burned or the nannies, lawn care workers, or day laborers who earned their living in the houses and neighborhoods that no longer exist. Many of them are unwilling or unable to access "official" relief resources out of fear that they will be subject to immigration inspections, will not be able to communicate with relief workers, or will be humiliated. Instead, they are turning to the community organizations they know for help.
The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium calls for continued donations to the Fire Fund managed by the Foundation for Change. The Fund is focused on vulnerable populations and makes grants every two weeks to the grassroots and community-based organizations that are getting these populations the supplies, services, and information they need. We anticipate that vulnerable communities will be in crisis survival mode for at least another two months.
A recent editorial in the SB Sun illustrates the challenges that remain in San Bernardino with an election just a few days ago that left the landscape of the city's elected officials unchanged. In their own response to the election results the Black Voice News adds their voice as well to call for a city council that can temper its often antagonistic tendencies in an effort to move forward for progress in San Bernardino.
Election Results follow...
Tomorrow, 11/6, in the city of San Bernardino three individuals are seeking to keep the city moving towards an agenda of progressive leadership. These three leaders - Rachel Mendoza Clark, Carolyn Tillman, and Rikke Van Johnson - all share common values of community building, with attention focused on safety, modernization, and respectful governance.
San Bernardino faces a moment in which it can choose to turn towards an era of building cohesive leadership, an era that finds itself working in collaborative action instead of mired down in bitter battles, and an finally era of representation at the city level that where justice and accountability matter.
With a voter mobilization kick-off on October 20th the San Bernardino Social Justice Coalition Steering (SBSJC) Committee has seen some hard work and has found success.
Working in a coalition with local San Bernardino community activists and CBOs they have dispatched daily walk teams to contact thousands of voters in the city of San Bernardino. To date over 3,000 homes have received literature for the upcoming November 6 election. Now the SBSJC is preparing its walkers for a disciplined and targeted GOTV weekend and Election Day mobilization.
Paraphrasing the words of coalition organizer, Esther Portillo, "A big shout out goes out to the CCAEJ, Libreria Del Pueblo, and Time For Change Foundation for mobilizing their bases and leadership to the participate in these walks and for making a commitment to this groundbreaking campaign in San Bernardino!"
PowerPAC is proud to support this coalition and others like it. Without community based and community led movements like these - California will continue to lack true demographic representation in its elected officials, social justice in its communities, and economic success for its unheard workers.
So join us and stay tuned... this is just heating up... we've got a lot of road to cover in California to support coalitions like these while bringing attention to more opportunities for progressive change!
Cora C., an AB 540 student and activist, provided this message about the Governor's veto of the California DREAM Act. PowerPAC is proud to support these students and their efforts.
Dear California Dream Act Supporters:
As you already know, SB 1, The California Dream Act was vetoed.
The message was as follows:
"At a time when segments of California public higher education, the University of California and the California State University, are raising fees on all students attending college in order to maintain the quality of education provided, it would not be prudent to place additional strain on the General Fund to accord the new benefit of providing state subsidized financial aid to students without lawful immigration status. Under existing law, undocumented students, who meet the required criteria, already qualify for the lower in-state tuition rate while attending California public colleges and universities."
1) This argument is completely erroneous given that the institutions he is concerned for (UC and CSU) support the bill and even provided letters to the Governor urging him to sign the bill.
Recently Robert Rogers wrote in the San Bernardino Sun a piece called "Civic shirkers: Volunteerism, political action low in the I.E."http://www.sbsun.com/ci_6496840 At first upon reading this article it raised in me some guilt as I reflected on activism in my hometown. Upon rereading it, however, I realized instead that I'd missed an opportunity. Instead I decided I should focus on an opportunity to recognize groups that have been working to take the Inland Empire back for progressive change.
Barack Obama did not disappoint on the floor of the 2007 Democratic Party convention. He had the crowd from the beginning, and they never left him, as he delivered a powerful speech in a booming voice that sent the crowd to its feet more than once.
"Turn the Page," was the refrain of this speech. It was powerful even on its own, but stood in stark contrast to Hillary's "You are Invisible" earlier in the day.
First, I'll give the critique, and then the glowing review. The part that fell the flattest with this crowd was his usual stump lines about "changing politics as usual." with the phrases like "they get to write the checks, and you get to write a letter." It was a bit tone deaf to say to a room full of 2,100 hardcore and longtime Democratic activists a message that resonates much better with people who have been checked out of politics. I'm happy that he is bringing that message to those people, but for these people, the problem is the Republican-embraced conservative ideology, not the lobbyists in Washington.
But any lukewarm reaction to that part of the speech was more than made up for when the topic turned to the war in Iraq. It became the focus of the speech, and it was the strongest on Iraq that I had ever seen him. He spoke forcefully about how this was a war that should have never been authorized, and about how this is a conflict that will never be resolved by the military, and will never be resolved as long as U.S. troops are there. But the most brilliant thing he did was turn the "I" into "we," as he deliberately connected with and identified with this very anti-war crowd.
"I opposed this war from the beginning in 2002, just as many of you all did," he said. "We knew back then this war was a mistake." He also said that if the President doesn't sign the bill to withdrawl, he will fight to get the 16 votes needed to override the veto, which was more than any of the other candidates said.
If Iraq is the defining issue of this race, Barack Obama has it. Clinton's careful avoidance of the topic, to boos from the crowd, was a clear signal of that.
The part of the speech that brought tears to my eyes was when he talked about his recent trip to Selma, Alabama, commemorating the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. When the fire hoses and the dogs came, those people were beat down and beat down, but they kept coming back, and they finally got to the other side. He said people said to him, how amazing it must have been to celebrate that African American history.
"No," he said. "This is not African American history. This is American history we're celebrating. This is our story. It reminds us of a simple truth, one I learned all those years as an organizer on Chicago: In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it."
Four years ago I stood in a similar hall in Sacramento and got inspired by the fighting words of a then-obscure Howard Dean. Today, I stood there with tears rolling down my face, knowing that the work I have done, along with the work of millions of other people, is changing this country, and will continue to do so.
Obama's final quote is one that I will continue to repeat as we head down the road of this very long campaign:
"There are few obstacles that can withstand the power of millions of voices asking for change."
I have come full circle, I said to the reporter sitting next to me, as we awaited Sen. Clinton's arrival at a press conference following her convention floor speech. I was once a scrappy reporter who would have killed to have the status and stature to be covering a Presidential campaign. Who would have thought that my entry into that room would be as a blogger and political activist! This is why I love new media. Well, one of the reasons!
I took notes during the press conference, which was amazing -- to be sitting 10 feet from Hillary as she fielded questions from reporters and bloggers alike. I've got to go back down to the floor to help move people for Pelosi's speech (her office asked us as good San Franciscans to volunteer), so I don't have time to write them up, but read on for my bullet-pointed notes:
Sen. Clinton's voice was hoarse and tired as she addressed the roughly 2,000 delegates, Party activists and press, making her case as to why she should be elected the next President of the United States. She entered the room with an entourage of public officials and supporters, and to a smattering of boos from the audience.
Her stump speech mostly glossed over Iraq, not surprisingly, but otherwise focused on typical red-meat Democrat issues: global warming, public education, health care. She had trouble keeping the crowd's attention, and things got pretty testy toward the end when she did talk about Iraq. There is a strong anti-war contingent at this convention, as there always is, and they made their views known.
Sen. Clinton did talk about immigration, which was impressive, particularly because it wasn't strictly "enforcement first." She got one of her biggest applause lines when she asserted that we needed to do everything in our power to "bring people out of the shadows."
My biggest critique of her speech, and her campaign generally, comes not from policy or ideology, but from her inability to tell a good story about this moment in history, and Democrats' role in it. Her story is negative -- she tells us we are "invisible," as opposed to making us feel hopeful -- and the individual anecdotes she tells feel stale at best, and insincere at worst. When she talks about issues, she relies on the laundry list (health care - check, environment - check, pro-choice - check), and adds nothing about what binds us all together as progressives.
We desperately need that if we're going to win in 2008.
I'm here at the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego, where people are hanging from the rafters to get a peek at the impressive field of Presidential candidates. The heavy hitters today are Hillary and Obama, and tomorrow it's Richardson and Edwards.
This is a landmark convention in many ways. It's the first time in at least 5 years that they have sold out of floor passes to the state convention, with so much interest and energy in the 2008 Presidential race. And I am sitting on the floor of the convention hall on a media platform dedicated to bloggers! There are about a dozen of my fellow California bloggers typing away and reporting minute by minute their observations and insights. Everyone has special "Internet Media" press passes hanging from their necks. It's truly an amazing and inspiring sight!
The Chronicle has a front-page story on the bloggers' descent on the Democrats.
Hillary supporters are swarming near stage left...stay tuned for more coverage here and on Calitics.
California lawmakers are considering a bill that would move California's Presidential Primary election in 2008 up from mid-June to early February. The move would mean that California -- the largest and most diverse state in the country -- might actually have a shot at shaping the choice for Democratic and Republican nominees for President.
Since Gov. Schwarzenegger announced his support for the measure last week, there has been a lot of chatter about whether it's a good thing. Concerns have been raised in the blogosphere around the potential cost of a California ad war, as well as the awkward timing, right near the Super Bowl. The potential cost to the government is also raising flags for local election officials.
There is no doubt there will be kinks to work out, should this happen (and indications are that it will). But the magnitude of the impact California voters could have on this important contest far outweigh the costs. California is home to some of the most active and engaged people in politics. Most of that energy has been focused on national issues, but California has never been in a position to actually meaningfully impact the outcome of a national election. The early primary is an incredible opportunity to harness that energy, identify and train a new crop of leaders, and channel all of it toward long-term progressive change for California.
We often hear in progressive circles that health care is a right, not a privilege. In Gov. Schwarzenegger's California, health care is now a mandate. Similar to car insurance, it's "Get health care coverage -- or else." Individuals must find a way to get covered, and for the most part it will have to be tied to their employment. There is some good discussion on this over at Calitics. Here are the big problems I have pulled out so far:
There are so many other details, but the bottom line is this is the wrong approach to covering the 6 million Californians who are now uninsured, and the millions more who are struggling in the current system with too-high premiums and not enough control over their care. Californians in particular are too mobile in their jobs for health care to be tied to employment. Again, if we believe as a state that every Californian should have high-quality care, that is what we should do.
Though being heralded as "unique," it's nearly identical to the plan passed in Massachusetts by then-Republican Gov. Mitt Romney. New Governor Deval Patrick is now tasked with sorting through the law and its consequences. Perhaps we can look to Patrick, a progressive, to lead the way so that we in California do not make the same mistakes.
Below is a post-election message from the PowerPAC team, sent to supporters yesterday. One important update: We now have control of the Senate as well, with Virginia Sen. George Allen conceding this afternoon!
Dear PowerPAC friends and supporters,
The world is a better and safer place today than it was yesterday.
Sweeping and historic Democratic victories in races for U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate and key Governor’s races across the country mean that Democrats will hold power in Congress for the first time in 12 years. And in January, we will swear in the first woman Speaker of the House, California’s Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
In Massachusetts, rising star Deval Patrick became the second black Governor in the nation since Reconstruction, running on a message of unity and hope and an innovative and grassroots campaign that inspired thousands of volunteers and millions of voters.
In the key battleground state of Ohio, progressives have laid the groundwork for the 2008 presidential race by sweeping most major statewide offices, including Governor, Lt. Governor and Secretary of State. There and in six other states, millions of the lowest-paid Americans will now get an increase in their wages to help them care for their families because voters passed minimum-wage measures.
While control of the Senate is still in play, it is clear from these victories that the Bush Administration is now officially entering its twilight. And that is something for progressives to celebrate both here and around the world.
In California, the results were much more mixed.
Statewide, voters chose a Republican over a real progressive for Governor, and progressive measures on the ballot failed decisively. While Democrats held on to most seats statewide, these races were far closer than they should have been given the conservative nature of the Republican candidates.
In local races that we worked on throughout the state, we fell short on many of them, but have learned a lot and are committed to translating those lessons into preparation for the battles that lie ahead in the next several years.
In San Bernardino, Gwen Terry lost, but helped increase voter turnout by three times over in her district by running an unprecedented field operation, and engaged young voters in the campaign for the first time.
In Oakland, Aimee Allison lost, but assembled an incredible machine that will help move that city to lead the nation when Ron Dellums takes over as Mayor in January. The win in Congress will boost the efforts of former Congressman Dellums, as several of his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus will now be heading up powerful committees that control policy and resources.
Debra Bowen was elected California’s Secretary of State, a significant victory in terms of the potential for eliminating barriers to voting and moving decidedly toward a truly representative multi-racial democracy.
It’s been a long time since we have had so much news to celebrate, and that is a wonderful thing.
But we also are firmly aware that our work begins now to prepare for 2010, as we attempt to usher in a New Progressive Era, 100 years after the historic movement that pushed for equality and justice for all.
In Solidarity and Hope,
The PowerPAC team
Steve Phillips, Jenifer Ancona, Esther Morales and Nicole Derse
Much has been made of the immigrant vote this year, and whether immigrant rights activists could turn the amazing wave of Latino activism we saw in this spring's marches into victories at the polls. Another story today, this time in the San Jose Mercury News,, makes the common mistake of putting an absolute judgment on these efforts far too quickly. As the story later points out, there is little more difficult and time-consuming than the person-to-person work of getting people who are not currently involved in politics to register and vote.
"It's not like some made-for-TV movie where someone knocks on the door, and all of a sudden everyone is cheering and listening to them," said Jaime Alvarado, executive director of the Mayfair Initiative Project, which led volunteer voter registration drives in 11 East San Jose precincts for the first time this fall. "This is hard work."
One of the biggest problems is raising money to fund this work, particularly when the efforts are explicitly political in nature. PowerPAC has been working on solutions to this part of the problem this cycle, and we will step up our efforts after Tuesday. Meanwhile other groups, such as the Color of Democracy Fund and California VoterConnect, are working on solutions that will strengthen the grassroots groups on the ground reaching these populations.
This task is large and daunting, and its success cannot and should not be measured in one election cycle.
Now he's back to being like conservative hero Reagan, for those playing at home.
Yes, Reagan, the Governor who basically created homelessness, instituted tuition at California's Universities and presided over the biggest deficits this country had ever seen (well, until George W. Bush). For those who need a reminder of just who Reagan was (yeah, you're not going to figure it out from this LA Times fluff piece on Schwarzenegger at the library), I found this 1975 interview with Gov. Reagan from Reason Magazine, the propaganda of the conservative/libertarian Reason Foundation.
The similarities are actually quite striking between Reagan and Schwarzenegger, especially when it comes to their ideas around choking government to further hurt the poor and disadvantaged. But that's not what Schwarzenegger was bragging about over at the Simi Valley library. Lucky for him, the non-critically-thinking mainstream media didn't mind just lapping up his photo-op.
Today Governor Schwarzenegger again showed his complete lack of understanding of the realities facing Latino immigrants in California when he singled out immigrants of Mexican descent as not wanting to "assimilate into the American culture" because they are trying to "stay Mexican." Here's what Schwarzenegger said:
And you have to become part of America. And that is very difficult for some people to do especially, I think, for Mexicans because they are so close to their country here so they try to stay Mexican but try to be in America so there's this kind of back and forth and what I'm saying to the Mexicans is you've got to go and immerse yourself and assimilate into the American culture become part of the American fabric.
That is how Americans will embrace you. That was my, I think the secret, if there is one, to success. I was embraced by the American people because I love America, I learned the language and I made every effort to become an American. That is I think what this is all about.
It's true that Mexican immigrants, other Latino immigrants, Asian immigrants and other immigrants of color are not fully embraced in California or America. But it's not because they aren't working hard enough to "assimilate" into "the American culture."
For the most part, it is large-scale xenophobia and racism that makes life difficult for these populations, as well as the failure of our current crop of leaders -- including Gov. Schwarzenegger -- to confront the economic realities facing this country and our closest international neighbors. These very real problems are only furthered by the kind of nonsense rhetoric on display by Gov. Schwarzenegger today. Schwarzenegger's comparison of his experience as a European immigrant to that of Mexican immigrants is very telling, as it ignores the reality of racism in the daily lives of Latinos and all people of color.
The fundamental problem here is that the Governor is still operating from a "melting pot" fallacy that pretends America can or should be one homogeneous culture. The beauty of the American ideal, in fact, is that it is a tapestry of cultures. "The American culture," then, is the sum total of the cultures of all the people who have made their home here over the last four or five generations. Schwarzenegger's Borg-like vision of the future runs counter to that basic American tenet.
The America I dream about, and am working toward in supporting leaders like Phil Angelides, is one in which so many diverse people and cultures come together under the shared value of democracy, to live and flourish in a thriving, multi-cultural society based in equality and mutual respect.
Our current Governor has shown again that he does not understand this larger goal. His comments today, coming after he publicly apologized for previous comments which showed a lack of respect for the Latino community, prove that he is not even interested in trying to give this incredibly large and difficult problem more than 15 seconds of crude thought.