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