Focus on Resistance

Waking up to my twitter feed in the morning, it seems we’ve all gone Russian crazy. Now.. if you can rid us of 45 by finding connections to bad Russian dudes, by all means, do it. Then I’ll stop trying to scratch the inside of my brain wondering why the old Cold War has been revived and seems to have flipped the bad guys and confounded the good guys-it’s just too confusing. Besides I don’t trust the nice folks at the FBI, CIA, etc, to tell me who my president should be.

How about that Voter Suppression?

Anyway, I’m truly sorry that we are not focusing on the more obvious villain of this shocking electoral turn-around, no skullduggery necessary-voter suppression, aided and abetted by a right leaning Supreme Court which gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act-and left us open to every kind of racist, nefarious Republican plot in which no Russian had a hand.

We’d already witnessed the first selection of George Bush after the Florida voter rolls were purged of hundreds of Black sounding names, which even then required the high court to hand him the presidency.

So, we should’ve been prepared to see a wholesale slashing of voters from the rolls, the reduction of voting hours, the removal of available polling booths, etc, to give the Republicans the edge that outright precinct gerrymandering had not been able to provide. It’s about to get much worse with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions running the DOJ like the Confederacy of old.

Instead we focus on the diabolic doings of Vladimir Putin, and I’m sure he’s worthy of the bulls eye on his pale naked back, but really, does that make it ok that many Republican governors see voting as something that the “wrong” people should be prevented from doing? Too many of us have spent hours begging people just to consider voting to believe it should be made more difficult.

Spend as much time as you can registering voters and talking to them about how they will vote.

So Much for the Environment…                    

While we are focused on the cheesy melodrama that elected Mr. Drumpf, the rest of the entire Republican controlled Congress is busy gutting the 21st century and lots of the 20th century’s advances. To (nit)wit- All kinds of protections for our waterways are being dirtied https://futurism.com/trump-aims-to-eliminate-clean-water-rule/, regulations on methane gas, 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide to hold in heat, are being eliminated.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2017/03/03/epa-drops-request-for-data-on-methane-emissions-that-could-cost-us-trillions/#7673485d617d

Trumpcare, too Toxic for Congress…

The “replacement” for the ACA, much like the replacements in the iconic film, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, mv5bnti4nzg5mtm4nf5bml5banbnxkftztcwotewmjg4mw-_v1_  is so dangerous to our continued health that it has to be quarantined lest even Republicans become exposed to its sickly aura. [Doesn’t it seem like many of them have already turned into robots and mannequins? Hmm, maybe we should find those pods.]

In California a single payer bill is back and it would cover all Californians including immigrants while being simpler and cheaper to administer that\an the ACA. It is SB 562.

http://www.latimes.com/business/lazarus/la-fi-lazarus-california-single-payer-healthcare-20170303-story.html

Homeland Security Police State Build Up…

And now, the ultimate in police state style governing-ICE vans parked outside courthouses, ICE police roaming the streets and hallways in unmarked jackets-why don’t they just go with long black leather coats, steel-tipped boots and hats covering their dead-Stephen-Miller eyes since they prefer the geheime staastspolizei style? Look it up. images-5                      ap_091209048890-b499337a2d9e0b713a557a3936d469d80d5cb054-s700-c85

This creepy, constitution-shredding activity is spreading. Passengers on a domestic flight to New York were asked to show ID in order to get off, not on, but off the plane, and they complied-why folks-don’t do that!

Supporting Sanctuary State Legislation

We’re in California where the California Values Act, SB 54, is on its way to passage in an “urgency” vote. We hope that then we’ll be able to curb some incursions of the secret police  by attempting to prevent our local police forces, including sheriffs and high way patrol, CHP, from helping ICE to terrorize our hard working immigrants.

But we need to do more, much more. In addition to finding ways to keep the feds polluted mitts off our tax dollars-we’re a donor state, giving more than we receive-we’ve got to find ways to make “sanctuary” mean something. Right now our resolutions and laws have too many loopholes. Rather than large sweeps we can organize against, they are stealthily picking off individuals and families wherever they can trick them into answering  any questions about their status or of using the services for which they, immigrants, also pay.

What to do-a 5 Point Plan                                                20170121_122129-1       

1st– We need to make sure that our police departments are trained in how to recognize ICE, report on raids, no matter how small, and assist immigrants who may need to report crimes but are afraid of the consequences to their families.

2nd– We have to demand that sheriffs departments, notoriously filled with elected Republicans, are given clear instructions on when they can and when they cannot assist ICE in reporting who is in their jails.

Beyond that, we have to search for new candidates to run for these offices-candidates who care more about their constituents than their Trumpian ideology. This will become more obvious as the return of banking deregulation results in another crash and another massive wave of foreclosures and sheriffs are called on to assist the banks to throw people out of homes.

3rd-We have to sit down with our district attorneys and talk to them about the odious practice of plea bargaining which was almost always a bad deal for low level offenders, innocents among them, who were talked into declaring themselves guilty to avoid threatened longer sentences if they opted for a trial by their peers. The state has cut court costs so the increase in this type of “justice” is one result. But besides consigning many to jail terms with little proof of guilt, it may also consign defendants to deportation as criminals.

4th-We now have a bill which could repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, one piece of legislation which prevents municipalities from passing renter protections on buildings erected after 1995 and other restrictions on tenant protections. Wikipedia says, “The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (“Costa-Hawkins”) is the California state law that prohibits municipal rent increase limitations on certain kinds of exempted dwelling units, allows rent increases on subtenants following departure by tenants of rent-controlled tenancies, and prohibits “vacancy control” — the regulation of rental rates on units that have been voluntarily vacated by the previous renters at an amount other (presumably lower) than what the open market would bear.”  920x1240

Simply put, we can’t call ourselves sanctuary cities if many of our residents are living in tents, subject to immediate removal and loss of their belongings at any time. Our Assembly Member Rob Bonta is one of the co-authors of this bill and we need to mobilize if we hope to defeat the well-heeled real estate industry  which is already gunning for it.

Mr Bonta is also with us on SB54, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon’s bill to protect immigrants and refugees from allowing our police to help detain them for ICE [except in the case of dangerous criminals.] Bonta also sponsored AB 3, the Stronger Public Defenders Act, and supports AB 291, the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, SB 29, Dignity Not Detention, SB 30 requiring voter approval of the border wall, and of course, SB 54. Get behind these important sanctuary bills.

5th-It’s much harder to find support to make police agencies more transparent but we must insist on policies which clearly state that police are not above the law. Drumpf’s new AG Sessions has declared open season on police killings of Black and Brown people. I never knew the season had closed but it will be even more dangerous to walk, shop, or drive while Black during this regime.

IMG_20150612_212616That means ending the practice of allowing sheriffs and police departments of buying military equipment and curbing the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights which so far trumps our own. Oh yeah, pun definitely intended. California under the Copley Decision is currently one of the least transparent states concerning police misconduct.   http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/investigations/1293/copley_v._account-ability/

We have lots of work to do, the resistance must continue to build. But keep your eyes on the prize-a better state, a better world-don’t give in to the melodrama, as alluring as it is. I’ve outlined some actions we can take and reported on ones we are taking now-even more serious resistance is being considered in the halls of Sacramento. We are the 6th largest economy, remember? Ok then…

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California Must Resist #notaxationwithoutrepresentation

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[Drawing above–Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/how-charles-dickens-saw-london-13198155/#qjkp6Y867GhOyeU1.99%5D

As of this morning and my first check into Twitter, Trump had done so much damage on so many fronts, it took my breath away, so here pre-coffee, I sit down to write.

I have been thinking of a modest proposal to shut this whole thing down. I love that you’re calling your senators and representatives in Congress. My Rep Barbara Lee is hard at work and my new Senator is tweeting about fighting back. But their modest or, robust a la Barbara Lee, efforts are meager compared to how fast and furious the damage is coming.

Let’s recap briefly: the new FCC chair will probably roll back Net Neutrality which could mean, for instance, that I’d have to pay to post this blog on the internet so that it could continue to blast as far as you all can forward it.

GAG Rule on Family Planning-He already prevented any organization that even mentions (not provides) abortions from receiving federal funding, that includes those who test for HIV or combating the Zika virus and, of course, birth control. He did this worldwide so not only will women die all over the planet but many will be denied care here also. This a broader directive than any former reactionary administration of either party has ever attempted.

The first directive that Trump signed may end the mandate that keeps Obamacare afloat and cause a cascading collapse of it and all the other healthcare initiatives it supports which are too many to go into here. But you can find them on Facebook.

220px-the_writings_of_charles_dickens_v4_p12_engraving_cleanedThe new regime working with the Paul Ryan Congress may seriously try to transform Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (if you don’t care about poor people, then do you want your grandma’s nursing home option removed?) into programs similar to those Dickens referred to in your favorite Christmas story, “Are there no poorhouses, are there no prisons.” BTW, private prisons are still big money makers and will be expanded. 0b770554576ec15fcef4402967ba948e

Also on his first day, he declared war on protestors, particularly Black protestors, and anyone associated with Black Lives Matter or #BLM–and for krissakes learn how to tweet, blog and get on instagram, snapchat, whatever is out there, facebook is just us talking to ourselves. No laws need to be changed to declare open season on Black and Brown men and women in a police state where the police have always been granted and now, encouraged to assume judge and jury status.

They are already working on increasing voter suppression so unless we do something now, that wistful worry about four year term could easily become a very long and destructive eight. 

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/trump-justice-department-moves-to-delay-texas-voting-rights-case-859610691557

Trump is proposing further destabilizing the Middle East by uprooting any peace talks in Israel/Palestine with a simple yet effective provocation-move the US embassy to Jerusalem http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-jerusalem-idUSKBN1532HW

He’s provoking war with China, and pledging to reduce all regulations–all regulations– by 75% whether that is regulating the banks which crashed the economy in 2008 or quietly ending the investigation into the Flint poisoned water crisis, still ongoing.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/house-gop-quietly-closes-flint-mich-water-investigation/

Oh yeah, he is writing directives to reinstate the Keystone Pipeline AND the Dakota Access Pipeline in which he has investments plus upping the production of coal, oh enough, you say, but it’s never enough for these plunderers….

Ok, but we live in California. We are currently considered the 6th largest economy in the world with Texas following us as the 10th largest economy-hmm, not a useful stat since it is run by folks who would reinstitute slavery the moment Jeff Sessions gave them the go-ahead. http://www.newsweek.com/economic-output-if-states-were-countries-california-would-be-france-467614,    

But if you take the great Northeast, from Boston through Washington, you’d reside in an area that is the world’s 4th largest economy. See http://www.citylab.com/work/2014/03/dozen-regional-powerhouses-driving-us-economy/8575/

If any of the those corridor states joined us, say New York, our state leaders might get the chutzpah given the devastation to our economy and climate that we are facing, to deny or at least delay forwarding its residents’ tax payments to this corrupt puppet government. Can it be done, lets’ try it, the worst that could happen would be a federal suit that could delay implementation of the regime’s plans.

Yeah, I love that legal scholars are going after Trump’s many violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause and others are investigating his ties to Russia, possibly involving treason but without Trump, there would still be the Ryan Congress. Yes, please challenge some of those members in the coming midterms so we could get a couple more votes, but NOW is the time for us to protect our folks and use the economic power of our state, a state which did not vote for Trump.

Anything that California does that restricts the flow of dollars and acquiescence to its new rules-they will probably go after our waivers which, put simply, allow us to pass stronger environmental regulations in our state like on auto emissions-has the potential to throw a monkey wrench into the regime’s ability to govern the other states with an orange fist.

So call your Assembly person, your State Senator (yeah, we have them, do you know who yours is? http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/ ). Then Call Betty Yee’s office, our state Controller http://www.sco.ca.gov/eo_about_bio.html , she’s great by the way, very progressive. Then also call State Treasurer John Chiang’s office, http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/ and ask them how we can resist #taxationwithoutrepresentation. Given the rules of the Electoral College, our votes were virtually ignored.

And since you will no longer bump into Jerry Brown running the Lake or working out at the gym in City Center-he moved last year-you can contact his office, https://www.gov.ca.gov/home.php

20170121_122129-1He has been talking about leading the fight against Trump’s depredations, so let’s challenge him to do it. Part of the overall strategy is to declare our entire state a sanctuary  (https://draketalkoakland.com/2016/11/23/join-the-call-on-november-29th-make-california-a-sanctuary-state/ ) but the implementation has to have some teeth, some financial back-up against the punishments to meted out by the Trumpster’s cabinet.

Yes, that’s it, the New Tea Party of the Left, and unapologetically so. No time to waste, every single day we wait we lose another day of health, another right, another economic protection, and another species on the planet. Is this a radical proposal? I sure as hell hope so! You got another one? Put it out there. If you don’t want to start your own blog, be a guest on mine, love to have you.

Thanks for all you do already, now let’s do some more,  2016-11-14-11-37-46

Your friend in Oakland,

Pamela Drake

 

 

 

Mourning in America-Resist & Revolt

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Here in Northern California, we woke up at 4 am to thunder and lightning and remembered that it was January 20th and the Obama family was packed and ready to leave. We felt like children waking from a nightmare whose parents came into the room to comfort you, then said, “we have to leave but the monster under the bed will take care of you now.”

We took to facebook in shared horror and received some small measure of consolation. But we went back to sleep so that we would wake up ready to use the coming chaos as a time to reshape the nightmare into an experience of solidarity against the oncoming backlash.

Of course, Barack and Michelle were never our parents and could not protect us against the ugliest of America’s pathologies-the pathologies of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny-on the rise in many countries as I write this-in ways comparable to the 1930s. This movement towards hatred, repression and ethnic cleansing is part of our history-we are not exceptional in this.

Some of us remember the Reagan years, not as a time of renewal, but a time in which it was very difficult to raise a family without wealth and privilege. As a single mom of biracial kids with chronic illnesses, there were very few places to go for help or even succor. We can’t let that happen to our families during this time of looming disaster.

For instance, in California we have begun a movement toward declaring a sanctuary state. Our cities cannot stand alone against this kind of lawless regime which has already declared them as enemies. The sanctuary we seek must include all who are threatened by these thugs and their billionaire accomplices.

We have already declared:

“In the face of deportations, harassment, and growing threats of violence, the immigrant, Muslim, Latino and other targeted communities, including all People of Color, LGBTQ, women and people with disabilities are experiencing levels of stress and fear not seen since the days of Jim Crow. We the undersigned believe the first, best response would be to create a statewide sanctuary.” We are heartened that individuals and organizations have rushed to sign onto this statement.

So many of us are now living in fear that it’s important to honor all their concerns as we work in concert or on parallel tracks to protect and uplift what is known as the beloved community.

Who will be under threat first, undocumented immigrants, members of the Black Lives Matter movement and People of Color in general, DACA kids, women who seek to control their own bodies, anyone in the LGBTQ community, people with pre-existing conditions, seniors, journalists and dissenters? Folks, they’re coming for all of us at once. They have the money and power to try and overwhelm our people’s movement.

This is no time for division. The time to fight the last battle is over, Bernie vs Hillary, whose slate is more righteous! We need to look as Obama has tried to show us, at the good intentions in each other, and work with that. 000ywc_wordle

That doesn’t mean we will ignore Democratic Party pandering to campaign donors or insist on lockstep responses. We demand a high standard because we need a demonstration of strength in principles now more than ever.

Back to California-do you know that we give more to the Federal government than we receive in benefits? This is also true for 13 other states-see http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/which-states-are-givers-and-which-are-takers/361668/.

There must be a way to stop or at least slow the flow of our tax dollars to a government which will use them to punish us-taking our healthcare, our environmental protections, our rights to family planning, and imprisoning or deporting our newest, most enthusiastic Americans. So let’s think in creative, even grandiose ways and attack the regime where it depends on our compliance the most.

This is truly taxation without representation as our huge population did not vote for any of this-indeed almost no one voted for the devastation of services that we all pay for. If we resist successfully and even one other economic powerhouse state also resists, we can throw a monkey wrench into the federal machine which is even now lining up against us.

Probably no one said it better than our own Mario Savio. Heed his words-resistance, rebellion and the fight for a more perfect union start today. Throw off your despair, harness your anger, and remember:

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop.”

Contact your legislators, make friends with the electeds with whom you so recently fought, forget sectarianism, find common ground. Your life may depend upon it. I know mine does.

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A Letter from the Democratic Party.. I want to receive

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We need to hear swiftly, definitively and defiantly from our leaders in the disloyal opposition before we let the winner of the Electoral College debacle into the White House. This is what I’m asking them to say, but first they must account for their many failures.

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We recognize that many are suffering in this country and around the world, especially since the economic crash brought on by Republican politics and the wars in the Middle East, terrorism and fears of it also brought on by NeoCon policies during the Bush years.

We accept full responsibility for acquiescing to those policies sometimes with our votes and often with our silence while knowing full well that the devastation wreaked in faraway places would drain our people of needed resources while enraging the residents of those far places.

We admit that no American banker or oligarch was jailed while families lost their homes, their pensions and their hopes for the future. Even as that continues to happen, the bodies of small children wash ashore in the Mediterranean as a result of those disastrous votes and the funds to back them. We never told the American people the truth about how that happened nor of our responsibility in it. We must start now!

The same can be said of  Central American families seeking refuge from murderous regimes while we jail and deport families back to lands they may not know or to violent cities and countrysides from which they fled.

We have been complicit in putting our population under surveillance and lying about it while hunting down those who would expose the rumors as truth-giving rise to far fetched conspiracy theories and the complete loss of trust in our democracy.

There is more in which we have been complicit, privatizing our schools, denigrating our union movement, and ignoring the unfathomable fear that has replaced the American dream. We even told our citizens that education was a necessity while making a profit off of those who have worked so hard to achieve it, along the way, indebting an entire generation out of their birthright.

We spent decades building prisons lest Black Americans attempted to seek their long-ago-earned part of the American Dream-whose only compensation for their hard work has been more restrictions including death for shopping, driving, working, walking, breathing. Many of us never stood up for our first Black president when he sought solutions for all working Americans while taking on all of the old festering problems of a dying republic.

Now that the pathway to facism, destruction of the planet, and targeting of whole swathes of our population has been made manifest, we declare:  2016-11-14-11-51-29

To prevent the acceptance of any court nominee (Supreme or lower) who does not uphold individual rights, voting rights, rights of women and people of any gender to control their bodies, the rights of workers and consumers, and the most basic right-that of the planet to continue to make human habitation possible. We further assert that the 4th Amendment to the Constitution be reinstated-the right to be safe in our persons being the most basic and necessary to survival.

To prevent cuts in funding to any marginalized group (as defined by Dave Chappell) including our elders, our children, our students, and those who have long lived without the protections and benefits others have taken for granted.

To prevent violations of our communal property-parks, schools, housing, and health, including ending fracking, mining public lands and other acts of destruction in order to provide cheap energy and subsidizing communal needs.

To reassess the need for and usefulness of the FBI, NSA, and especially the CIA while eliminating funding for military hardware, including in our cities and for our local law-enforcement agencies. 20161113_153003

To maintain and spread the prohibition against private prisons, indeterminate sentencing, jailing people who cannot pay fines (debtors’ prisons,) cruel and unusual punishment-oh hell-just really read the Bill of Rights and stop trying to limit them-with one addendum that they not be limited to men, or white folks or straight folks or restricted for those with disabilities/differences or those born in other places than these 52 states (which must include Puerto Rico and DC.)

To stop the border wall and close border detention/concentration camps, registration of immigrants or religious groups.

To demand a basic income for all Americans including healthcare, childcare and higher education. We vow to educate Americans to the true cost of privatizing all these needs and the ways in which we can all contribute to the betterment of our country through fair taxation.

To rebuilding our decaying infrastructure and restarting our leadership in innovation including making internet and information access available at low or no cost to our country’s families, families not defined by one type-by training and hiring those at the bottom of the pay scale first.

We refuse just to fight against reaction and nihilism but to demand a better life for all of us, including those in other corners of the globe. We will fight to be the beacon-we-always-pretended-we-were and not-in-some-1950’s-fantasy but as our best angels might envision us.

This is a long expensive list, it’s true but if we really want to be great as never before, we have to tackle a future where everyone can live, thrive, and have the opportunity to pursue even a modicum of happiness.

Signed,

The Democratic Party of the United States of America

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Today’s All in One Rant-Oakland City Council Continues to Flail, CPUC Raises our Rates, and Traffic on Grand Avenue

Today’s blog is a compilation of rants/lectures on various community/political topics happening in the Bay Area or beyond this week, including the city council becoming known as the-gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight, the CPUC raising our electricity rates while restricting public attendance, and the proposed Grand Avenue Road Diet. I’m leaving out the process for a decision on renewing use of the Kaiser Auditorium and the possible “Grexit” topics which interest me but are beyond my unpaid-grade to comment on.

1st up-My Advice to the gang-that-doesn’t-want-to-be-known-as-the-gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight.

This city council, which is full of human beings, (before you denounce them be sure you are willing to look each one in the eye and say mean or hyperbolic things. This is a small town in many ways.) many of them new to the job, has made itself look very untrustworthy recently by 1)ignoring the advice it got from the city attorney on the 12th Street parcel and 2) forcing the courts to open the meetings to the public again, not to mention silence on the mayor’s nightime demonstration crackdown which I have to mention because you won’t!

From now and very far into the future, folks who don’t even care about these 2 things will think of these guys as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight or worse, as a corrupt body of self-interested purveyors of bullshit.

I don’t believe either of the above but I would advise that each council member, recent or longstanding, who is remotely concerned about this, pull together an advisory group of diverse (not just gender or ethnicity but socio-ecnomic and political) constituents now and listen! You need realistic, down-to-earth advice from folks who will back your decisions in the future. You need to solicit new views and ideas, views of the young and radical as well as the old-and-get-off-my-lawn folks and those who don’t know the name of their council members-maybe those people are the most important because they will ONLY remember your mistakes.

I need my city to work and that doesn’t mean fantasizing that their are magical people out there raring to run who will do it all differently. We elected you all and you need to find your way fast-get some breadcrumbs from your neighbors and use them-otherwise—the woods are deep and perilous.

CPUC Strikes Again Or Watch Your Electricity Rates Rise and Wonder Why!

Last Friday I trekked into San Francisco to attend the California Public Utilities Commission and speak against PG&E’s proposal to increase electricity rates for the lowest consuming users while lowering rates for the most profligate users and imposing a flat fee on everyone which hurts the same folks who always get hurt the most but you knew that, sigh, teeth grinding…..

Initially the CPUC proposed a flat rate for everyone which like a flat tax penalizes the lower echelons and favors the wealthier classes. In other words, it’s the opposite of progressive. 350.org was really concerned that conservation would be discouraged and that people who were considering signing up for solar would be similarly affected. Part of the reasoning given by the CPUC was that conserving users were being subsidized by wasteful users-gasp-from each according to his need, etc-and that PG&E is being hurt by solar power (I don’t think they actually admitted that one.)

When I got there, I discovered something I’m growing tiresomely used to-I was told that the meeting was being held in a small room, due to some BS about construction, and I would have to wait in a holding pen, I mean, room, and then returned to said pen to listen to the remainder of the meeting. However, there were too few attendees to force us out and we sat together in the little room and listened to each other.

Some of the speakers, organized by TURN, 350 Bay Area, and other organizations like an East Oakland church (didn’t catch the name)spoke on the effects of the flat use proposal and how it would hurt seniors and others who could barely pay their bills now not to mention (which they did) that it was counterproductive to conservation of our resources! My old school chum (who didn’t seem to remember me from SDS and SF State) Paul Kangas suggested that climate change was the number 1 peril that we face and I suggested that wealth inequality was right up there with it.

Just that morning progressive Commissioner Mike Florio had proposed an alternate structure that while still flattening the rates somewhat took it back to 2 tiers (I think we have had a 4 tier system til now) and cut the flat fee in half. This is the proposal which passed-it’s better but will cause an increase in most of our bills.

While we can’t be sure of this, many noted that PG&E looked like it was just trying to recoup its losses after blowing up an entire San Bruno neighborhood and finally being fined something close to the cost of that little mishap in which several people lost their LIVES. Also, PG&E is not happy that so many folks are conserving and/or having the nerve to go solar. It’s hurting their bottom line. Please remember that while PG&E is known as a public utility because the public relies on them, they are in fact a private monopoly which is driven by profits for their shareholders, not the public good.

Back to the meeting, I was surprised by the paltry number of speakers and the limited response from a few groups who knew about this meeting and its far reaching power to affect our lives. But the pastor from Oakland set us straight on some of the reasons for this. He mentioned how interesting it was that the meeting had been changed to take place on the day before a national holiday, July 4th, and in the midst of the summer vacation season.

If you don’t know, electric power does not have to come from a giant corporation, like the one which laughingly can’t seem to keep the lights on on a sunny day, if the wind blows. Some cities and states have real public utilities, generally resulting in lower rates with greater reliability-our own East Bay Municipal Utility District could take over the job.

I learned all of this as chair of a group we formed during the Enron-induced California “energy crisis” which nearly bankrupted our golden state-we called it the Oakland Alliance for Community Energy, or ACE but it faded as 1) the faux energy crisis faded with Enron 2) our state legislators resisted real change in how we make, consume and pay for the energy we use.

At least we now will have some choice through the Community Choice Aggregation policy that allows us to band together in regions in order to purchase energy from renewable and reliable sources. But this a complex topic and I don’t pretend to know as much about it as I once did. Please go to the Utility Reform Network, turn.org, for much more info and ways to organize against future egregious increases.

Grand Avenue Road Diet-Meeting tonight at the Lakeshore Baptist Church, 7pm

As a former Grand Avenue merchant and a one-time president of GABA, I applaud the road diet proposal.It comes in various versions, only one of which includes the car-backing-into parking proposal. Another one offers a protected bike lane which would really encourage bike ridership. I might even chance it. When I had my shop on Grand, I bought a bike to ride to work so I didn’t have to take up my customers’ parking spaces or accrue tickets (you’d be surprised how many merchants do both.) But I got scared of riding around drivers and found it easier to walk up and down the steep hills in our area so I gave up.

As a Grand Avenue merchant, I tried to find out why Lakeshore was so much more successful than Grand (not as true anymore.) I consulted a retail specialist and among other things, she explained that a street that is very broad with fast traffic discourages walking and breaks up the retail frontage experience.

Broad expanses of concrete are also not attractive or conducive to folks who want to hang out with friends and family in the area. I noted with dismay that drivers seemed to think of Grand Avenue as one big freeway on-ramp. It felt dangerous to even think of crossing the Avenue.

So first we tried adding planters to break up the concrete experience, then when Danny Wan was briefly our council member I asked him to get us the sidewalk bulbouts that pedestrians now use successfully. At the time the lights only turned red when you electronically requested them to.

All of that combined to slow traffic a bit and make the neighborhood appear more friendly and cozy (the German term geműtlich describes it better) but it’s still too fast. The upper end has fewer shops than service businesses with many buildings which appear cold and forbidding. This is where traffic picks up speed, and one is inclined to utter prayers prior to stepping off the curb.

Hopefully, we have come a long way from the days when we tore up the streetcar tracks and widened highways in every neighborhood to make it safe for cars but not for people. Grand Avenue feels a little less like a river pounding through the district now; but it’s still a fast flowing stream where a meandering creek would better suit a pedestrian/bicycle/business friendly neighborhood.

I’m grateful for WOBO and the city’s interest in this issue. See you tonight.
Pamela Drake
Director of the Lakeshore BID

Rallying in San Francisco against Climate Change, Petitioning the Air Management District

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If you’re a local activist like me, you’re probably up to your widow’s peak in causes that demand you sign their petitions, tweet their updates, march under their banners, or, god forbid, attend their meetings, too. We have lots of issues that folks in Oakland alone are working on: violence prevention, economic development, police accountability, and improving the schools. I better stop before I make myself too tired to complete this blog.

But here I am on a sunny day in Oakland asking you to show up, be counted, march, rally, and speak out with our local branch of the national organization 350.org. Check out 350BayArea.org’s September 17th rally in San Francisco where we will join together to let the president know what we want him to do when he makes the final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

The fact that it’s a sunny day after 5 weeks of no rain during our California “rainy season” should be a tip-off. I’ve also been enjoying the wonderful sunsets that we’ve been seeing and photographing for the last year or so. Could they be a result of drier and dirtier air, don’t know, but I have to wonder?

I’ve worried about climate change so much over the last decade or so that I, like many Americans, have almost avoided the subject. I try to conserve energy and water, and recycle everything, but whenever I’ve taken the online quiz, myfootprint.org, I still find that it would take 3 or more planets like ours if everyone lived like poor little me. Being a  meat eater, I contribute greatly, as my son always reminds me, to methane gas production, a more dangerous gas than carbon dioxide. So I try to eat a little less meat-it’s very doable.

Also very doable is joining 350BayArea.org which is finding itself so popular, its projects have almost gotten ahead of its membership structure. They still don’t have regular meetings but are involved in some very interesting campaigns. You can find out more at 350BayArea.org’s website, but I’m going to promote two of them here for now.

Here’s what they have to say about the “No Tar Sands” movement. “The Bay Area 350 No Tar Sands Campaign focuses on local activism in support of the 350.org movement. We bring to public attention the dangers of the Tar Sands Oil and the Keystone XL Pipeline. We support the ongoing Tar Sands Blockade and encourage participation.  We will work to prevent the refining of this oil in the refineries of the East Bay.”

I attended their last event and heard a very effective speaker from Canada, Garth Lenz, who showed us slides of the horrendous damage that tar sands development is already wreaking in Canada (yes formerly benighted Canada).

From the website oilsandstruth.org site, “The Tar Sands “Gigaproject” is the largest industrial project in human history and likely also the most destructive. The tar sands mining procedure releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production and is slated to become the single largest industrial contributor in North America to Climate Change.”

The national version of 350.org is holding a giant rally in Washington, DC, on February 17th to let the Obama administration know we will back him if he stands up to the oil lobby. The state department is slated to make a decision soon on whether to let Canada bring the oil from Canadian tar sands into the US. The demonstration in DC will be held at the national mall but the Bay Area dem will be held in front of the state department’s building at 1 Market Street in SF, starting at 1 PM and continuing til 3 PM. There will be brass bands, giant puppets, and speakers. Bring your original signs and all your friends and family-this is truly a family issue.

But before you make those signs and check your BART schedule, you can do something even easier if less fun. The Bay Area 350 Carbon Cuts Campaign will lobby Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) “to lead the way to achieve the deep cuts we need to protect the global climate.”

They are petitioning the Air District Board to use their authority to enact programs to reduce Bay Area Green House Gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Please go to 350BayArea.org and check this under campaigns, “Carbon Cuts.” There are also other intriguing actions being planned that you will probably want to sign onto-a Chevron watch (Richmond refinery), divestment and dump the pump labels to check out.

For today, please sign the Carbon Cuts petition and plan your Sunday, February 17th, to meet in San Francisco with those you hold dear. See you on BART!