AB 931, the Wellstone Club Recommends New Use of Force Policy

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Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Assembly Bill 931, which may be going to the full assembly soon, is a progressive bill that will raise the legal standard under which police may use lethal force. At the current time all an officer needs to say after a killing is that it was reasonable in his/her eyes. The new standard requires that lethal force be deemed necessary in the context of the situation and that deescalation protocols or non-lethal methods must be considered first.

The state of California in its intermittent push toward criminal justice reform-1 and half steps forward followed by 1 back–such as moves to end money bail, to monitor police brutality after being the least transparent state in the country, and to restore some programs for the formerly incarcerated, is now working toward a fundamental reform on the use of deadly force when police officers encounter suspects, otherwise known as the public, in AB 931. It is sponsored by Assemblymembers Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty of San Diego and Sacramento respectively.

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, a progressive Democratic Club with members in the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and parts of Contra Costa County, has long advocated for police reform and against the mass incarceration state. As such, we sent this letter to our Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond. We urge our readers to contact their Assemblymembers and demand they vote for this important reform.

Here is a copy of the letter that was sent to both Assembly Members:

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August 8, 2018

To: Assembly Member Rob Bonta

 

Dear Assembly Member Bonta,

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club strongly supports AB 931 which should come before you shortly. Our club has been on the forefront of advocating for police reform as we did with Oakland’s Measure LL which authorized an independent police commission in Oakland, a city that has paid out millions in settlements over police brutality and wrongful deaths.

But the issue of wrongful death at the hands of local police forces is not just an Oakland problem. According to an ACLU report, “California departments have some of the highest rates of killings in the nation.” https://www.aclusocal.org/en/news/california-can-reduce-number-police-shootings-heres-how

Additionally, the report states that, “AB 931 authored by Assembly Member Shirley Weber, would enshrine that rule in state law and help ensure that police use deadly force only as a last resort……These requirements are becoming more and more common across the country. A number of individual police departments have already implemented variations of AB 931’s provisions, including the FBI, and some have adopted all of them. The San Francisco Police Commission recently approved a use of force policy with a necessity standard. The policy requires that officers use de-escalation techniques and alternatives to deadly force.”

Seattle and Chicago have adopted similar use of force policies but this bill would make California the first state in the country to pass a law that covers all its law enforcement agencies.

As you have led the nation on so many important social justice issues, please consider putting the full force of your office behind enshrining this best practice into law.

Sincerely,

Pamela A Drake

State & Local Politics Coordinator for the Wellstone Club

 

Guest Column: James Vann on City Funding for Landlord Evictions

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This guest blog by noted Tenants’ Rights activist, James Vann, is in reference to a proposed program loosely defined in Council Member Lynette McElhaney’s press release, the body of which is posted below the column. I have edited his piece for brevity and clarity.

Here’s some background on the origin of this funding [estimated at $300k] which will provide loans to landlords who evict long-term tenants. These are tenants who now have the right to relocation fees due to the hardship of displacement. I’ll leave it up to the reader as to what extent this funding redefines spin, irony and general what-the-heckism?!

http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/05/31/oakland-allocated-2-2-million-prevent-evictions-mayors-staff-failed-spend-money/

City Council Member McElhaney Advances a Landlord-Written Tenant-Eviction Plan Funded by State Anti-displacement Grants

At the end of a 4-1/2 hour Community and Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, Council Member McElhaney rushed a plan to provide “no-interest” city loans (and/or grants) to small property owners by an exhausted 3-person committee.  The objectionable plan would enable and assist owners of duplexes and triplexes to evict longtime tenants from their homes of up to 20 or 30 years.  The hastily developed proposal — for which McElhaney somehow recruited Council Member Rebecca Kaplan as a co-sponsor — was framed by landlord advisers to McElhaney –with no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal prior to its introduction at the Community and Economic Development Committee at its Tuesday meeting.
Oakland has a “Just Cause” ordinance that prohibits the eviction of tenants without cause except in the case of owner move-ins to include family members who displace existing tenants in duplexes and tri-plexes up to five units. In response to that loophole, the City also recently adopted an ordinance that requires these owners to pay significant relocation fees to tenants who may be evicted, due to no fault of their own. These evictions also result in removing these units from the Just Cause prohibition against no-fault eviction.  While the right of such owners and certain relatives to occupy their property is acknowledged, tenants, who have done nothing wrong but are inconvenienced and evicted by their owners and must search for a replacement home, must still be compensated by the occupying owners.
What CM McElhaney has proposed is actually “an incentive” for small property owners to get long-standing tenants out of their homes, and, in the process, have the city pay for the eviction.  Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by the city, so many of these evicting owners will only pretend to occupy, but may never actually live in the unit.  The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices — a deception that the city will likely never discover.  Many of these no-interest “so-called loans” will actually become grants of public money because the owners will plead low-income, refuse to pay, resell their property, or even put their homes into reverse mortgages.  These evicting owners will not be required to make a down payment nor matching payments, they simply apply to the city and the full cost of the tenants’ eviction and relocation cost is paid for them — making the city the “Evictor-In-Chief.”
This flawed, ill-thought-out ordinance was advanced to City Council by the unanimous vote of Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Anne Campbell-Washington who joined with Lynette McElhaney.  As so often happens in committees and even at city council, despite the fact that obvious weaknesses in the proposed legislation were pointed out in detail,  not one of the council members bothered to even ask any questions.
James E Vann, Co-Founder
Oakland Tenants Union 
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Press Release: “Committee Strengthens Anti-Displacement Efforts”

“McElhaney and Kaplan Advance Amendment to Help Low-Income Owners Support Tenant Relocation

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee unanimously  approved the establishment of a city loan program to help distressed low-income homeowners advance required tenant relocation funds. Under the amendment advanced by Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Rebecca Kaplan, the City will make available no interest loans to fund required tenant relocation payments for cash-strapped  homeowners seeking to return to their homes. To qualify, owners must meet a strict set of criteria including:

  • Own 5 or fewer units
  • Be low-income or have less than 6 months of financial reserves
  • Be denied a cash-out refinance loan on their property, and
  • Certify that the relative moving in is also low or moderate income and does not own any other real estate

“This is common sense anti-displacement legislation that helps preserve the social and economic diversity of home ownership in our City, especially of African American and other low income legacy owners,” said Councilmember McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the displacement issue and not creating pressure on legacy owners to sell the homes they want to return to.”

This past January, the City Council amended the Uniform Residential Tenant Ordinance requiring that tenants who are evicted for an owner or relative move in receive relocation  payments. Payments range from $6,500 for a studio or one-bedroom unit to $9,875 for a three or more bedrooms. These payments may pose a hardship for low income and low asset owners, especially those who need to recover possession of their homes to support themselves or relatives.

The Ordinance will be heard by the full City Council at its next meeting on July 10. ”

Your Resistance To Do List for the week of June 25th

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Just added a couple more activities this week due to the horrors coming at us, I’m sure there will be more. Please sign up to twitter.com and keep track. You’ll find me @bethpikegirl

New-Today, Wednesday, June 27th, Bay Resistance is asking you to rally 4 pm at Unon Square or 5 pm at 767 Market St, SF over the Janus SCOTUS decision, bit.ly/januswhy

Since I was out of the country for a bit, the pace of resistance has necessarily picked up in reaction to the pace of government cruelty and incompetence. Not to worry-just kidding, worrying is absolutely required- just pick as many of these actions as you can handle and then add one…or two. Here goes:

Tomorrow, June 25th, Martinez

Organize against the possible use of the old Concord Naval Base for Detention/Internment Centers:

https://www.facebook.com/events/635555746779348/

Tuesday, June 26th, Oakland City Hall–     2016-03-25 22.08.15 (640x360)

Demand a 180-Day Moratorium of the Sale of Public Land Until the Council Adopts a Public Land Policy, 1 PM, Oakland City Council. More info here-

http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/06/08/moratorium-public-land-sales-goes-ced-committee-tuesday-june-12/

Also at the City Council Finance Committee- Dan Kalb’s proposing a progressive change to the real estate transfer tax that could raise money for housing services, etc. Let’s get it on the ballot.

https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/will-oakland-adopt-a-mansion-tax/Content?oid=9612287

And Tuesday at the West County Detention Center in Richmond from 7 am to 7 pm. Protest immigration policy and mass incarceration. More info here-

Flyer-June 26 Outreach Families Belong Together

New-Wednesday, June 27th, Oakland Marriott Picket Line, 4 to 7 pm.

https://onejob.org/take-action/

Thursday, June 28th, Humanist Hall in Oakland, the Wellstone Club presents Conn Hallinan on current economic and political conditions in Europe plus election round-up, Potluck at 6, meeting, 7 to 9 pm.

Wellstoneclub.org

New-Friday, at the Alameda County Board of Supes, Audit the Sheriff, 10 am to noon

All Eyes on the Sheriff Campaign, https://www.facebook.com/events/146300372910102/?active_tab=about

The biggie for this week on Saturday, happening all over including Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda and even Piedmont. Check in here-

https://act.moveon.org/event/families-belong-together/search/?source=dk&link_id=1&can_id=bcd62df92c25e6923fe975c71662e4c5&email_referrer=email_375009&email_subject=statefull-default-attn-were-taking-to-the-streets-will-you-join-us

 

For general info on how to keep families together WITHOUT incarcerating them, use thisunnamed

 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSlGbJ_hCLNs3qF0h4br7rBfvASsAMQlGqMx12xnMiSdR9jyHHu5Hvi_QgR3kD59TYqCaiFAILEyQNA/pub

    

And just for fun, on Wednesday between 5:30 and 7:30 pm, some of us will gather for a margarita and goodies at Mexicali Rose which will be closing this coming Friday, as Oakland, continues to change. Hope to see you at any or all of these places!

Your Friend,       download

Pamela

An Open Letter to Nancy O’Malley and her Supporters

Sanctuary Campaign

It has come to our attention that Alameda County Sheriff Ahern has offered to contribute significant financial resources to your campaign for reelection to the position of Alameda County District Attorney.

Sheriff Ahern has proven his allegiance to the Republican Party and the Trump regime by his words and his actions.

  • The sheriff applied for and accepted a grant from the federal government which most other local agencies declined due to the requirements, including assisting ICE in detaining immigrants in our sanctuary state.   https://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Alameda-County-gets-U-S-grant-to-hire-officers-12373292.php ““The tension in Alameda County is that is has a set of sanctuary city policies that are generally immigrant friendly, but the sheriff has always decided that his policy is going to be fairly significant cooperation with ICE,” said Santa Clara University law professor Pratheepan Gulasekaram, who specializes in immigration law.”

These are just some of the concerns we have concerning the linking of our local system of justice with an agency run by an avowed supporter of AG Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice. These are not the values of Alameda County, and according to DA O’Malley and her supporters, not her values either.

That is why we are asking her to refuse the use of these funds for any expenditures toward her re-election. If these funds are spent on mailers or other advertising without her knowledge, we respectfully request that she match these notices with those condemning such expenditures.

Sincerely,

The California Sanctuary Campaign

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club

The Coalition for Police Accountability

Reverend Deborah Lee, UCC Minister

Pastor James Alfred Smith, Jr.

Reverend David Brazil

Pastor Allison Tanner

Malena Mayorga, Immigrant Defense Advocate

[Please contact this website or Pamela Drake, pamelaadrake@gmail.com if you or your organization would like to be added to this letter.]

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The Last Memorial Day, I’m Done

Okay, it was an interesting 242 years-if you’re using 1776 as a start date-or you could use 1607, the founding of Jamestown, and maybe that’s more fitting because according to https://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/a-short-history-of-jamestown.htm “On July 30, 1619, newly appointed Governor Yeardley called for the first representative legislative assembly. This was the beginning of representative government in what is now the United States of America. In that same year, the first documented Africans were brought to Virginia.”

So there we are in a nutshell, a country founded not on freedom and democracy but on commerce and the allowance that some folks might have the right to a little bit of representation while others were here solely for the purposes of exploitation. Our sprawling country was seemingly founded by imperialists from Europe who sought to reproduce themselves. And now it seems time to call it a day….an exceptional day, but  a day nevertheless.

Ah, I know, we’re also a nation where in our little city of Oakland alone, 52 languages are spoken and one of the few countries where folks born here receive the rights of citizenship by birth (no and it didn’t happen just by passing the 14th amendment but through the struggle of the children of Chinese immigrants. See  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Wong_Kim_Ark.)

We have a Bill of Rights that was truly revolutionary at the time-setting out some important principles but we have to admit that the 4th and 6th amendments are on life support with the current government working hard to pull the plug (google search and seizure, prisoner rights, etc.) The First Amendment is now so contorted and confused-what with certain religionists forcing a new meaning in which their dogma is to be protected while corporations, with the aid of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, contain and control the media what we know about how business and government work.

Well, no conspiracy theories are necessary to see that our huge country of feudal like kingdoms no longer works very well. And I’m not just talking about the failure to prevent a Goebbels-like tinpot dictator from being “elected” president while his less than competent crime family steals our country’s resources in front of our eyes.

We don’t have a democracy. If we didn’t see that before, it’s all too clear now. Two party rule which can so easily devolve to 1 party rule in such a short time, puts the lie to the uses of representative government versus a parliamentary form with all its complex compromises and muddle now seems to offer a little more-at least if it was in bite size form. Our supersized system produces little more than diabetic offspring.

We don’t even have a national voting policy. Each state or municipality can determine (with a few restrictions) who will vote, when and how. More people have lost their rights to suffrage in the last decade than ever gained it after the Civil Rights laws were finally passed. Between voter suppression laws, reduced polling places and times, to say nothing of foreign interference and machine hacking, we have disenfranchised many more by virtue of our zeal to imprison more folks than, well, it looks like, anybody. Here’s a stat from 2013, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate.

“In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners.”

We can’t even agree with the rest of the world on how to measure stuff or note dates. For those few of us who will get a passport and leave the continent (actually it’s worse than that. Both Mexico and Canada use the metric system,) it’s damn hard to book your stay or apply for visas with our antiquated system. We can’t understand how far anything is or even what time our tour starts unless it’s translated to our so “exceptional” brains. I had to unlearn using my fork and knife in a natural way in favor of swapping them out every time I took a bite after spending a year in Germany at the tender age of 17.

Now we have a rich and powerful country with almost no allies, save Guatemala and Israel. No one much cares about what Guatemalans do-if we’re honest most of us have no idea where it is-and the world over is condemning current Israeli policies in their colonies. [I must assert-no Philistine I-that I have been to Guatemala twice and loved it.]

Everyone gets exercised over national politics but few can do anything at all about them. Do you believe you had any say in who was nominated for president other than feeling personally slighted when your chosen candidate did not get the nod?

But, ok, our local form of democracy has its problems. For instance, in my city when a politician colors outside of the box [by working to get local folks trained for local jobs that local taxes paid for,] she is called a criminal and compared to Trump. She has a predictable reaction to criticism that forces people to chose sides with her or “agin” her (not useful) but when our police chief is caught in a mistake, instead of apologizing, she then lies with charts and drawings (glossies,) she is not compared to GOP characters who do that stuff even better.

Remember Arlo Guthrie (probably not since you’re all 20 years younger than me at least) “Cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American
Blind justice, and there wasn’t nothing he could do about it, and the
Judge wasn’t going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy
Pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each
One explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. ” from Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m57gzA2JCcM

Anyway, since that song is about illegal dumping, I better not mention it since in our city, dumping garbage has become a more serious crime than allowing people to live in tents surrounded by their own filth.

Back to the problem, the United States of America. The number of crises we are confronting since the inauguration of 45, widely understood now to be an illegally elected POTUS, have grown so rapidly, the level of cruelty casual and deliberate has grown beyond what your average soccer mom can comprehend. Some of us were already painfully aware of many of them before this stolen or just bungled election and now, what..uh,yeah…what??

in some countries when they get fed up enough like Poland or Romania, it is possible to take to the streets or go on strike where your capital city, like Paris, is also the most important city. You can make things so inconvenient that governments fold or flee or just shoot down enough people to hold off change for another decade or so. But in the US, places like Washington DC, Harrisburg and Sacramento are the seats of government but otherwise, who cares?

Hardly anyone even in little Oakland knows how the government works or why PG&E, a private company, is in charge of our most important utility, doing it poorly. Just read Nextdoor for an hour or so, low information voters also live in the enclaves of the well-educated and well compensated.

So my modest proposal is that we devolve into regional entities. California is large enough and its residents confused enough to immediately become a country of its own. We grow our own avocadoes and weed, almonds, all on gluten-free trees. Really, we could be two or even three states. One for the folks who think like Alabamans, another for the vegans and the rest for those of us moderate meat eaters who like their edibles on the side.

We could conceivably have our own healthcare system once we are done arguing over how to do it with the purest of motives. Ok, so maybe not. But as Californians we know that thinking will just make it so, not to worry your little botoxed head.

Now that Georgia and Texas have real progressive female candidates, they could get elected and ship their Trump voters to Mexico which could turn out to be the biggest joke on us all once they see they how much they like it-beautiful culture, great food and plenty of holidays plus a very top down government.

Yeah, I know, there’s a blue wave a’comin. And there might be. There are lots of exciting and interesting candidates and the soccer moms are furious. Throw in the rest of us who have been pissed off for a long time, things can change. But Trump and his damage won’t go away soon. The Judiciary is being overhauled top to bottom. We might end up waxing nostalgic for the days when we could lambaste Justice Scalia instead of his younger paler technocratic replacement. The blandness of evil, eh, Neil Gorsuch?

That’s it for me. I need a new country. One in which I have some agency and in which there are national programs for healthcare, education through grad school, real public utilities including use of a modernized internet, no prison industrial complex but a renewable energy complex and housing is a right. Oh yeah, and we play the same national sports the rest of the world gives a dam about but not until the Oakland Warriors win another championship.

Yeah, you know I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…https://www.google.com/search?q=imagine+youtube&oq=imagine%2C+youbu&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.5924j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

The Death of SB 827 (increased density around transit) applaud or mourn?

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A Sacramento reporter called me the other day to ask me how I thought the Bay area was feeling about SB 827, the Wiener-Skinner bill that would wrest some level of local control from communities that use zoning and other more imaginative strategies to prevent dense development, that is, high-rise and even low-rise housing in transit zones. download (3)

But before the article even came out, my prediction that the bill would die, came suddenly true. And it died an ignominious death-it didn’t even get out of its first committee hearing at the capital-but this is not before it had animated heated discussions in every hamlet and city disguised as a suburb across the expanse of the golden state.

Those who feared SB 827 may not want to dance on its grave just yet as the original author, Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco claims he’s not giving up. “I will continue to work with anyone who shares the critical goals of creating more housing for people in California, and I look forward to working in the coming months to develop a strong proposal for next year.”  http://sd11.senate.ca.gov/news/20180417-senator-wiener%E2%80%99s-bill-allow-more-housing-near-public-transportation-stalls-senate

Wiener also said (in the above statement) that he was “heartened by the conversation it has started, both with those who support the bill and with critics of the bill.” And there I agree with him. We need to have this conversation and we need to have it among friends since we all live in a state that has almost no really affordable housing AND no  comprehensive transit systems that compare with those in cities like New York, Boston, DC, Chicago, Philly, you know, real cities.  NoLita

I grew up on the outskirts of a small town near a big East Coast city that was rapidly transforming into a suburb-this was the 50’s and early 60’s-so I regularly find Californians’ ideas on a number of things to be odd and somewhat removed from reality (my definition of that, of course.) For instance, you will often hear Californians say, we can’t have a festival, a picnic or whatever in March or April, because it might rain! But it rains whenever it feels like it in most of the country and people still plan festivals, barbecues, etc despite the likelihood of actual weather, you know, more than foggy-in-the-morning-clearing-with-sun-in-the-afternoon.

images (1) And so it is with our understanding of transit. Californians think that driving to a parking lot and getting on a sort of subway that takes us to one or two parts of town is transit. No wonder our cars clog the streets of our  downtowns. In fact, how many real downtowns where jobs, entertainment and retail all coexist within walkable blocks can you find in the entire state, one, two, maybe three?

Political Perception makes Ornery Bedfellows

The Wellstone Democratic Club tried to debate the bill at a recent meeting and lots of folks I have never seen before showed up. Some said they were there to support affordable housing and anti-gentrification measures, still others feared their quaint neighborhoods would be transformed into concrete canyons.

Rarely does the Right join with the Left or if you don’t like those characterizations, the wealthy homeowners join with the anti-gentrification folks something which by definition happens outside of their high-priced enclaves, like they did in opposing SB 827. It would have been amusing if not so worrisome, because in this case, there interests do not overlap.

So at the Wellstone meeting most spoke about the problems with the bill, all the things it left out (I for instance felt sad that I didn’t get promised a pony-something I’ve always wanted) all the things it might change inalterably and all the folks who might be driven out by luxury, that is, market rate housing.

I know that the authors  went to great lengths to tweak it, alter it and promise more goodies if only you clapped your hands 3 times. The bill’s bland scale was a mind boggling readjustment or an overreach, depending on your point of view, of our state’s zoning rules and even the vision we have of the California dream….

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Burned out 1000 sq ft house selling for $800k in San Jose

But one younger person, not a white-haired liberal like the rest of us, wanted to know why we opposed folks his age being able to live somewhere much less own a home. Good question and it encapsulated the growing generation gap between those of us who’ve obtained a corner of the American/California dream and those who are lugging along student debt while hoping that at some point in their lives, they won’t have to scan craigslist for Housing-Share any longer.

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Private room in Berkeley, $1175

But according to Katy Murphy’s story in the Mercury News, ” Anya Lawlor of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, argued that it was too simplistic of a solution, ignoring decades of research and advocacy on the preservation of affordable housing and development near transportation hubs….that legislation of this scope can take years to become law.”  https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/18/why-did-californias-major-housing-bill-fail-so-quickly/

Maybe that’s why, skimming my local pages on Nextdoor, many of my neighbors reacted to this proposal as they would a terrorist threat. Yes there were some who suggested we were in a housing crisis but they were quickly driven away by the fear mongering. In fact when I suggested on social media that the bill could be amended to consider these concerns and to add affordability requirements, some of my closest allies questioned my judgement and maybe my morals too.

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Apartment building next to single family home near Piedmont Ave

While the bill was in hospice, Senator Wiener tried intubation by adding an inclusionary zoning clause (requiring affordable housing be included which matters a lot in Oakland since that policy is NOT in place here) and lowering the height demands of the bill, but it barely took another breath before it keeled over from the weight of confusion, consternation and out-right hate from all of its anxious would-be relations. The will has yet to be read on this blockbuster (get it?) bill before we are all fighting over the remains or rather attempting to put a stake through its heart.

Issues raised, my take-

1) Subsidized housing

Housing is not or should not be a privilege though it obviously is here in Oakland where tent cities expand daily. Housing should be seen as a necessity, a public utility and subsidized to the tune of whatever is necessary to house our workforce, our families, our future and that includes the poor to the middle class like they do in many other countries where owning a home is not perceived as synonymous with being grown or successful and lifelong renting is a comfortable solution not a prediction of PTSD. 20180422_200927

Some of the affordable housing folks object to this bill because market rate developers could not be pressured into offering community benefits like subsidized units and local retail on the ground floor. That’s likely true but it’s a hell of way to get affordable housing built and not a sustainable approach over the long term. We also want prevailing (union) wages, of course, cause we don’t want out-of-town workers sleeping in their cars much less homegrown workers who have to live in tents while constructing luxury housing for newcomers.

Sounds like we all still want a pony —but but–we live in a wealthy state and if we can’t afford to subsidize housing for our folks, we shouldn’t expect to have a growing economy. Fix Prop 13, pass oil depletion allowances, tax professional services, but get something built since the Feds apparently won’t anytime soon.

2) Comprehensive mass transit

But that’s not all, who are we kidding with transportation hubs, we live in a state that has little to no dependable public transit capable of serving the majority of our everyday needs. And no, RM3 will not fix that. It won’t shorten the headways between BART trains or provide many more AC Transit buses on busy routes, much less expand those routes. Folks love to fuss about Uber, etc (me included) but it’s there because we simply cannot get around on our local transit and we can’t all ride bikes, not that there’s anything wrong with bikes-yeah, more bikes, more scoooters, whatever, please.

I can walk out of my house in the morning on time but that doesn’t mean the bus will arrive and mine is not the only street where this happens. You can’t reconstruct California around transit hubs if they aren’t there. We need transit choices like you find in other, less expensive, less wealthy cities. I’d even give up my pony for that! So Scott and Nancy and Governor Whoever, can you get on that too??

3) Dense cities & active downtowns

So here’s the last point I want to make which, damn, may be the most important one. Look around you please Californians. This whole state is one giant suburb. Is that what you really want? Do you want to be wedded to your cars and crabgrass, especially knowing that your children will be moving away or living their lives like Russians in old movies, multiple families to an apartment? 20180423_205440

I have the benefit of having some young people in my life, but not so young that they shouldn’t be able to have an apartment or house or condo without checking the housing wanted, apartment-to-share listings, who allow me to see things in a different way. Also I like to travel and I appreciate cities. Some of them are full of low-rise apartments like Paris whose average buildings are 5 or 6 stories high although that’s about to change. https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/newly-freed-from-height-limits-paris-skyline-ready-to-rise.html

20180423_205722Some cities like New York and Chicago and now Atlanta have apartment and condo buildings with many more stories but, of course, some of their chicest, most expensive neighborhoods are similar to Paris. Even the Piedmont Avenue area is more like Paris and less like Rockridge, Crocker Highlands, or North Berkeley. I’m not even bringing Piedmont of Orinda into this discussion. They’re different animals.

But areas like Rockridge and North Berekeley near BART were once surrounded by working class cottages whose owners are now house-millionaires while their offspring move away or yeah, wait for them to die before they can hope to live in their pristine California craftsman cottages (with additions, of course, for those 6 burner stoves, ginormous fridges and farmhouse sinks, but don’t get me started.)

20180422_200843 City living can be convenient and attractive, public transit doesn’t have to try so hard to reach it, eating out, which is now a national pastime for the young, is closer and a bit cheaper. Yes, I am betting that young families wouldn’t mind living in a fourplex with a shared backyard or nearby park if it meant not moving to Sacramento or Omaha.

For those families living in old lead-filled homes or crowded into small apartments, many might prefer newer family sized buildings that could be built with subsidies, rather than subsidizing their children’s learning problems later on. Pay now, pay later but pay anyway.

What is so wrong with building up a bit and not insisting that the California dream is a picket fence with grass we can’t afford to water (and why should we? It’s not sustainable.) Rockridge wouldn’t have to be a canyon but a well-designed low-rise urban landscape with occasional high-rises in their midst. Crocker Highlands could easily sustain duplexes and triplexes along Lakeshore and even higher. The problem on my narrow little street isn’t too many dwellings but too many cars. Only reliable transit can fix that. I can imagine a triplex on our little lots with an occasional empty lot transformed into a mini park.

20180422_201215 Most of us when we travel prefer these kinds of cities where gleaming downtowns alternate with five to eight story side streets and cafes and street vendors encourage us to entertain and shop in public, where civic life is not limited to fighting on twitter but watching people’s children frolic while sipping a glass of locally made wine. These activities do not have to be limited to the gentrification class if we subsidize housing, transit, and promote local business. And if we do not, it won’t be long before our booming economy (not to mention confounding climate change, already here) will sputter and die.

Let’s rethink California! Si se puede….

 

 

 

Call to Action: Governor Brown & Attorney General Becerra Must Affirm SB54–No Troops, No Loopholes for County Sheriffs

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Governor Brown: Don’t Send Our National Guard to Assist Border     Patrol!

President Trump and his Homeland Security Department are preparing to request US governors deploy National Guard Troops to the border with Mexico to “assist the Border Patrol.” https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/04/trump-national-guard-border-kirstjen-nielsen-502117

The California Values Act, otherwise known as SB54, which took effect on January 1, 2018, prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes, and proscribes other activities or conduct in connection with immigration enforcement by law enforcement agencies. Passage of SB54 demonstrates the resolve of the people of California to refuse to cooperate with Trump’s racist attacks on people of color, including and especially, refugees seeking asylum.

We call on Governor Jerry Brown to act in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the California Values Act and refuse any request for such deployment of the California National Guard. Contact the Governor with this link by twitter @jerrybrowngov or use this link: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

 

Attorney General Becerra: Tell California Sheriffs to Stop Assisting ICE and Stop Posting County Jail Prisoner Release Dates!

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The Sheriffs of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties recently instituted a policy of making the release dates of county jail inmates public on its “inmate locator” website. This coincides with similar steps taken by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to publish inmate release dates as a means of circumventing the state sanctuary law, SB 54.  These notifications benefit ICE in its effort to detain people as they emerge from the jail who may not have committed a crime or who have already paid their debt to the public.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/activists-speak-out-after-calif-county-posts-inmate-release-dates/vp-AAvrytU  

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/03/29/experts-concerned-contra-costa-sheriff-tipping-off-ice-by-posting-release-dates-of-detained-immigrants/

This assistance to ICE is in letter and spirit a violation of California Law. We call on Attorney General Becerra to demand that Sheriffs throughout the state halt this practice and obey current California law. Tweet directly @agbecerra  or contact the Attorney General with this link: https://oag.ca.gov/contact

The California Sanctuary Campaign is a coalition of leaders of the interfaith community, union and other community leaders, as well as community and political organizations.

Please contact Sharon Rose-sharonroseesl@gmail.com or Pamela Drake-                pamelaadrake@gmail.com to join this call.

Call to Action: Stop Urban Shield at the Alameda Board of Supes Tomorrow

Tomorrow at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, starting at 11 am, Sheriff Ahern, our local representative to President 45, will bring his motion to fund Urban Shield, the Law Enforcement Festival of Militarized Mayhem, which  has included organizations like ICE and the Oath Keepers-a right-wing paramilitary organization-to the Board for approval of Ahern’s next exhibition of guns and tanks on a pretense of teaching disaster preparedness.

Many organizations in the Stop Urban Shield Coalition http://stopurbanshield.org/ will be in attendance asking the Board to fund real preparedness, the kind that makes residents feel safer in their communities and empowers them to help each other, rather than a paramilitary expo which further divides our communities.

Here’s the info:

Rally and Press Conference: 

Where: Alameda County Admin Building, 1221 Oak Street, 5th floor, Oakland 94612

When: Tuesday, March 27th, 10 am rally & press conference, 11 am Board of Supes meeting.

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Photo from the Ella Baker Center by Brooke Anderson

The California Sanctuary Campaign is issuing a call to join the groups and coalitions tomorrow to stop funding this raw display of right wing force masquerading as preparedness training. Our communities have needs that this activity makes a mockery of, and now is the time for the Board to radically rethink the entire sheriff’s budget. You can find info on that from the Ella Baker Center at http://ellabakercenter.org/get-involved/save-money-save-lives–audit-sheriff-ahern

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Read this letter from Oakland’s Latino Task Force 

“We are writing to you today because we have learned that the Board of Supervisors will be voting on the distribution of Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative funds on Tuesday, March 27. We are asking that you introduce a motion to exclude funding for Urban Shield for 2018 when deciding on UASI funds.

As the Latino Task Force of Oakland we oppose Urban Shield. You likely have heard the many arguments as to why a militarized approach to emergency response is problematic. We are sure that you have listened to how programs like Urban Shield creates more fear, confusion, anxiety and actual safety concerns in our community. In particular our immigrant community who already is apprehensive in reporting crime, seeking medical attention, and reporting unsafe living conditions will be less likely to participate in neighborhood emergency preparedness. That is why California adopted the Values Act promoting sanctuary and protection for all its residents early this year. By excluding Urban Shield from UASI funds, you will begin to restore confidence and participation within all of our communities.

You and other supervisors play an important role in determining the nature, form, and
implementation of the region’s emergency preparedness. Shifting disaster preparedness
priorities back toward community strength and resilience makes our work more effective.Moving away from war games and militarization makes our communities less vulnerable. It makes them more likely to engage in smarter and stronger preparedness. We have a chance to be a model for the state and the rest of the country.

We ask that you make a motion and vote to defund Urban Shield for 2018 on Tuesday the
27th. We stand with you in recommitting to community-based safety and emergency
preparedness.”

See you tomorrow morning on a beautiful day to Stop Urban Shield and rebuild our beloved community!

 

My Primary Endorsements-Price, Kalb & a Surprise Write-In

The California Primary is still months away but for local activists, it’s been super heated since last fall. Many Democratic clubs and other activist organizations held their endorsement meetings weeks ago. But for most voters the difficulty of choosing from ten candidates for the state legislature’s 15th Assembly District-North Oakland, and the hills down through Joaquin Miller Park up to Berkeley and Richmond including Hercules- is expected to be a bit overwhelming.  21271272_2033593886872018_3753374795767531301_n

Two things make this primary on the local level exciting. One is that current Assembly Member Tony Thurmond has decided to run for State Superintendent of Schools (go Tony, yes, that is an endorsement) so it’s an open seat which always stirs the pot of local electeds and wannabes alike.

The DA’s Race-Pamela Price   Pamela_attorney-e1485730265186

No one can remember the last time the District Attorney of Alameda County, any district attorney, was in a contested race. Tom Orloff ran the DA’s office unopposed from 1994 to 2009 and Nancy O’Malley was appointed to fill out his term after which she has run unopposed until now.

Civil Rights attorney Pamela Price has stepped forward and is running a serious campaign. She has significant activist support but O’Malley has most of the establishment endorsements.

As the first woman DA in our county, Nancy O’Malley still gets high marks for being  proactive on domestic violence and human trafficking, but in every other way she has followed the traditional prosecutorial path.

O’Malley opposed the passage of Prop 47, an initiative that keeps petty criminals out of jail where they often become hardened criminals. Price favors looking at the effect the DA’s office has on those who are most often shuttled into the prison pipeline and kept there and how that can be changed.

Price also believes that police should be held accountable when they violate the law rather than honor the traditional prosecutor’s cosy relationship with law enforcement. This is especially important in Alameda County given the many layers of corruption which the Celeste Guap case (or law-enforcement-sexploitation syndrome) unearthed across Bay area police departments.

Price also opposes the DA’s traditional overcharging of defendants in order to wring a plea bargain out of those who have few resources and little understanding of the criminal justice system. As a result 95% of cases are settled this way and guilt or innocence had little to do with it. Here’s a description of that system from Price’s own blog including a look at how parts of the Guap case were handled. It’s a good read,  https://pamelaspage.com/tag/police-corruption/

If that weren’t enough to convince you that it’s time to elect a district attorney and one who will see the job in a new way, let me tell you about some of the answers the current DA gave at the Wellstone Club endorsement meeting. She said 1) she didn’t believe in charging youth as adults, and 2) she doesn’t charge demonstrators who engage in civil disobedience as criminals. Neither of those have been true although it’s possible she has rethought her past decisions.

Please check out this comprehensive article, particularly the last third.  You will probably remember something of this disturbing story. It taught me all I needed to know about this DA’s understanding of the other Oakland, the one where folks don’t get the choice of private schools, good jobs, and artisanal cooking oil.

 

 

And I’m sure you remember the Black Lives Matter demonstrators who stopped BART riders heading to SF for a couple of hours one Black Friday, to make a point about the “inconvenience” of dealing with a justice system that locks Black youth away as a matter of course or refuses to hold police accountable for any level of brutality. Ms. O’Malley wanted to charge these folks (who might’ve been called pranksters under different-colored circumstances) with serious crimes but was talked out of it by powerful community pressure.

So while we often focus on our Republican sheriff for his Trumpian policies, the DA’s office has more to do with implementing mass incarceration than the sheriff. If you want to staunch the flow of poor Black and Brown people into the prison pipeline, we need a DA who really stands behind that goal.

15th Assembly District-Dan Kalb  

The open seat vacated by Tony Thurmond has produced a plethora of progressive candidates, some with long track records of legislative achievement and some who’ve just begun their electoral climb but are hoping to jump ahead a few steps.

Rather than discuss them all, cause who has that kind of time, I’ll share my reasoning for endorsing District 1 Oakland City Council Member Dan Kalb.

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In 2016 Oaklanders overwhelmingly voted for Measure LL which is a charter change (something city administrators and some council members still haven’t wrapped their heads around, but that’s a subject for another time) that gives us an independent police commission with the power to implement discipline over officers.

That charter change would have never made it to the ballot without the courage and hours of hard work and analysis that Dan Kalb put into it. There were other CMs who stuck their necks out, notably Noel Gallo and also Rebecca Kaplan but without Dan’s shepherding it through a complex process, it would not have gotten there.

Dan also put all the resources of his office behind the fact finding that led the City  to  29oakland-master768 (1)reject trainload after trainload of coal chugging through Oakland. He has taken the right positions on renter protections and affordable housing and many other progressive issues although he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he does sweat the small stuff and can appear as a bit of a know-it-all at times (yeah, I know that’s an understatement.)

I appreciate the progressive positions that Jovanka Beckles has taken as part of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and think she’s a very attractive candidate. But Dan has had to design strong positions on a council amid perpetually shifting alliances and no clear enemy. He has created a path through thoughtful if sometimes studious verging on prissy analysis, still when he gets there he sticks to it-he’s more of a legislator than he is a politician.When Dan says he supports a position he’s taken, it’s principled one and that character trait should garner the respect of many of the diverse voters of the 15th AD.

Dan will fight for our environment, constitutional policing, and housing for all-among some of the things he has learned to champion in Oakland-and I trust his ability to develop well-thought-out positions on the other problems that confront our troubled state.

Sheriff, Write-in N.O. Confidence 

Last fall a number of folks in various progressive organizations came together to find a candidate who could could run a serious campaign against long time Republican Sheriff Gregory Ahern, someone who embodies the Trump White House in deep blue Alameda County.  https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2017/11/22/activists-call-for-audit-of-sheriff-ahern

We called it the New Sheriff in Town Coalition but we ran into problems finding a candidate who would run against a sheriff with a huge war chest and lots of name recognition; it’s the kind of campaign that would likely prove career ending to many a law enforcement professional.  https://www.facebook.com/NewSheriffAC/

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As of now Sheriff Ahern who invented the Urban Shield Law Enforcement Festival and Extravaganza that would put any military parade to shame and turned emergency preparedness into a celebration of militarized policing against domestic dissent, has no opponent.

Recently against a back drop of lawsuits by prisoner rights organizations and community forums led by the Interfaith Council of Alameda County in support of sanctuary for immigrants and refugees, I attended a hearing with Prisoners United. I heard too many harrowing stories of regular folks ensnared by an inhumane system that this sheriff gladly administers in as repressive a way as he can get away with. The final straw was hearing that persons awaiting trial may get their hour for their phone calls (to family or attorneys) granted in the middle of the night and that they are allowed a clean jumpsuit only once a week while 11% are regularly left in administrative segregation or solitary confinement for seemingly arbitrary reasons.

https://oaklandnorth.net/2018/02/09/activists-bring-concerns-about-jail-conditions-to-alameda-county-supervisors/

So some of us have come together to find a write-in candidate and found the perfect sort-of-person, the gender non-conforming negation of everything this Jefferson-Beauregard-Sessions-loving lawman stands for and to top it off, our candidate has recently immigrated to this county from another astral dimension, an actual alien if you will. Let me introduce Mx N.O. Confidence who is eminently qualified to be a write-in candidate.

They, Mx. NO Confidence, believe that ICE should not be able to hunt those who act on the supposed American creed, to offer refuge and opportunity for all who seek it, nor to deny basic human rights to people awaiting fair hearings in our jails while being forced to wear dirty underwear and languish in isolation for long periods. We are awaiting a word from the county registrar on how likely it will be that our friend from another dimension’s write-in vote will be counted but, whatever, it’s still a better choice than the alternative. download (1)

 

Oprah & My Endorsement for the 15th AD Primary

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There are nine candidates running to replace Tony Thurmond, current Assemblyman of the North Oakland/Berkeley/Richmond District in the state assembly since he has decided to run for State Superintendent of Schools rather than continue in the Assembly.

Most of these candidates are not household names, although it may be argued that most assembly reps are fairly unknown even to their constituents. Go on–ask the next 4 people you meet who their state rep is, either assembly or state senate. I’ll bet if 1 in 4 can name them, your friends can be classified as political activists.

#Oprah2020

Most folks can tell you that Oprah may (or may not) be considering a run against Trump or Pence or Ryan or Hatch or Tillerson or the monster from the Upside Down… Liberal women and many men are excited at the prospect of an actual self-made billionaire who is also a Black woman that white women might actually switch racist allegiances for while my lefty friends are freaking out over another celebrity presidency. Lighten up folks, it was just one speech, one heart melting, tear inducing vision of justice and compassion and a way forward out of despair…sigh. Anyway, I only brought it up to trick you into reading this blog.

The Nameless Faceless Masses…

For the 15th AD are in no particular order, really, none:

 

Among these I’d give Buffy, Dan, Jovanka and Judy top mentions as the candidates most likely to succeed– and I bet you never heard of Buffy but that’s how big time endorsements and piles of cash work. Two of these hopefuls have to get through the June primary after which they will run against each other in November for the spot in Sacramento.

I have my faves but I still need to see a little more from these folks to make my decision, as much as my decision matters, unless it can help  you make yours. But first you have to know my criteria. Here some of them are—

Costa Hawkins Repeal or will you support cities being able to protect renters?

That’s the gist of a 1995 law that outlawed local municipalities being able to enact renter protections on single family homes and units built since at least 1995 which also allows vacancy decontrol-where the landlord pushes you out so they can raise the rent. A huge percentage of renters in Oakland are threatened with displacement daily based on this law.

Assembly Members Bonta [hint:many of my readers may live in his district https://a18.asmdc.org/district-map] and Chiu are sponsoring the repeal of this regressive law. It doesn’t mean protections will then be enacted but it no longer prevents them from becoming law.

Hearing in Sac on Thursday

So if you want my undying love and maybe even my endorsement-which translates to a vote in the local Democratic Party-show up for the hearing, this Thursday, January 11th, 9 am at the State Capitol, maybe even speak in favor but the least you can do is endorse it, AB 1506.

Beyond renter protections what additional ways/revenues will you propose to increase all levels of affordable housing? This is an issue of desperate importance to most Bay Area folks and probably to most Californians. so be prepared with solutions.

Make it Fair California/ Close the Corporate Loophole, etc

These have been the names/branding of the movement to reform Prop 13 which ended up benefiting corporations more than homeowners and shrinking the budget for schools and roads, etc, permanently.

“Make It Fair closes the $9 billion commercial property tax loophole by assessing under-valued commercial properties at their actual value. This creates a level playing field among businesses and ends the unfair advantage given to big corporations. Make It Fair guarantees Prop 13 remains in effect with no changes for homeowners, residential renters and farmers. This is only about changing the commercial property tax loophole.”

http://makeitfairca.com

You gotta support it and tell me how you’re going to help it pass-requiring  a ballot measure-since it could result in at least $9 billion added to the state treasury. Given the new GOP tax law that will really hurt California, this is more important than ever.

Criminal Justice Reform-Who’s watching the “Protect & Serve” Crowd

It’s time to repeal the Copley Decision in which “the court ruled that police disciplinary hearings are closed — and the public has no right to learn about allegations of police misconduct, even when they are aired in a civil service commission.” Rather than lead as we have done in other policy areas, California has lagged behind most other states since 2006 in our ability to police the police.

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sdut-sweeping-impact-copley-decision-significance-2015may30-story.html

The Copley Decision has not even gotten a fair hearing by legislators as they are afraid to challenge police unions on the basic rights of the policed, especially the overpoliced. Will you stand up to this special interest group?

Ferguson Report & California

I have seen a willingness of the current legislature to reform the kind of punitive measures that the DOJ’s Ferguson Report documents, “The city’s practices are shaped by revenue rather than by public safety needs.” 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/04/the-12-key-highlights-from-the-dojs-scathing-ferguson-report/?utm_term=.6cba763c5086

But we still use revenue enhancement to guide criminal justice laws in our state and local governments rather than making the criminal code less punitive to poor people where the infraction is less a public safety threat than a bureaucratic means to filling government coffers. And that reminds me, will you vote to end money bail as proposed in SB 10, https://www.aclunc.org/article/california-money-bail-reform-act-2017. It didn’t make it through the last legislative session so may come back with a new number designation but please tell me you can vote for it or campaign for it right now?

Healthcare for All is more than voting for SB 562

If you’ve read the controversy on the stalled California healthcare overhaul, you might agree that it’s a multi step process and may have to be carried out in increments rather than one fell swoop. Our system is a hodgepodge, some of which works for a segment of the population, much of which leaves large swaths out. But we know from the first years of Obamacare that confusion breeds fear and we need as smooth a transition to full coverage as we can get.

So tell me how you will attack that need and what steps might see us through to our ultimate goal of healthcare for all? I really don’t want to hear simplistic notions of an easy answer to please the crowd. I wanna know you understand some of the complexities of switching out of private, federal and state coverage without leaving folks behind. It is doable so how will you do it?

https://www.thenation.com/article/medicare-for-all-isnt-the-solution-for-universal-health-care/

https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/07/04/has-sb-562-actually-moved-universal-healthcare-forward/

You may be tired of reading cause you are running a campaign, dialing for dollars, hiring consultants, filling out lengthy questionnaires, and finding someone to go out for your dry cleaning so I’ll list some of my other “demands” just in case you care:

Full support for SB 100 and a return to local control in regulating air pollution from refineries, transparency for charter schools with a goal of ending the privatization of our public school system, a return to the Higher Ed Master Plan, a way to end any kind of support for private prisons, a bill of rights for immigration detainees, sigh, so much more. Now tell me your priorities…

Yours,

Pamela A Drake, local Democrat  download (9)

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This is Recy Taylor, if you don’t know who she was, google her.