Sunday, April 23, 2017

Our Revolution Livestream, 4/23/17

South Hampton Roads for Bernie is a group now officially affiliated with Our Revolution, a spin-off from Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. Our meeting was lightly attended with participants from Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. After watching tonight's live-stream featuring speeches by Larry Cohen, Nina Turner, Mike Connolly,  Lucy Flores, and Ben Jealous, we had a brief discussion using Our Revolution's guiding questions.

What issues are most important in your community?

The environment and climate change was the top issue for all of us. Norfolk is increasingly affected by flooding. Virginia Beach recently suffered due to Hurricane Matthew. Chesapeake faces threats from the Atlantic Coastal Pipeline and from coal ash dumped by Dominion Power near the Elizabeth River, which is a watershed to the Chesapeake Bay. Both of these most affect a portion of Chesapeake called Deep Creek. Flooding and rising waters caused by climate change makes the coal ash an even greater threat to our watershed.

Other important issues were raising the minimum wage, improving education with at least free community college for all, improving and expanding our health care system, and limiting corporate influence and dark money with increased government transparency.

What are some possible solutions?

The successes of the Tea Party and the election of Donald Trump have been a wake-up call and are galvanizing many progressives. We realize that local and state elections are important. If we don't get involved with these, we leave them to others whose agenda will not reflect our own.

Democratic Primaries are coming up on June 13 for Virginia's Governor, Lieutenant Governor, House of Delegates, and local offices. The deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, May 22, 2017. The deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Voters not sure of their district can check most accurately through the Virginia Department of Elections website.

Progressives are running for state delegate in South Hampton Roads. Among Democrats, Tom Brock and Kelly Fowler are running in the 21st House District. Kimberly Anne Tucker is running for delegate in the 81st House District.

In the 77th House District, Jeff Staples of the Green Party is running for state delegate. As the Green Party nominee, he does not face a primary, so he is working on getting on the ballot for November and welcomes volunteers. He is a strong environmentalist.

As far as the race for Virginia's Governor is concerned, both Democratic candidates,  Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello, have progressive credentials. Both Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution have officially endorsed Perriello.

We agreed we should all check on who is running for the House of Delegates in our own districts and be prepared to make good choices, where available, on  June 13th. We need to get candidates elected who are willing to bring change at the state level. Good sources for information on state candidates and office-holders include The Virginia Public Access Project and  Richmond Sunlight. For finding progressive female candidates, Emily's list was mentioned as helpful.

A suggestion from is to invite neighbors to neighborhood-level events or "training at the street level." Many people gripe about our political situation but need to know how to mobilize this dissatisfaction into positive political movement.

Social media are another way to help spread the word and organize.

As a group we would like more information about Arcadia Power in our region as an alternative to Dominion Power.

If progressives joined and got actively involved in our local Democratic Committees, we could increase our influence. Others have decided to work outside the system, or prefer to remain independents.

Another approach is to encourage our local mayors to join the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. The idea is to try to effect change at the local level.

Who or what are the roadblocks/allies?

 Roadblocks are the big corporations and sometimes the political establishment. Negative media attention is a roadblock. Progressives need to be unified, since we can't afford splits.

Allies are environmental groups like The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Sierra Club, neighborhood groups, women's groups like Motherboard757, Mothers Out Front, and Moms Clean Air Force Virginia. Indivisible 757 on Facebook and Virginia Beach for Bernie Sanders were also mentioned.

How can Our Revolution Support Us?

We shared that our Revolution has a number of tools available to local groups:
  • Event promotion
  • Sanctuary tool
  • Transform the part
  • Endorsements
  • Trainings

We did not have time to discuss this piece, but every participant received a handout listing them for future reference.

All participants said the meeting was valuable, they learned something, and they had something to bring back to their local groups. We certainly raised awareness of the upcoming primary in Virginia. South Hampton Roads for Bernie on Facebook is the easiest means for participants to reach Mary Lou or to coordinate in the future, since tonight's participants were more interested in working within their own cities rather than regionally.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Our Revolution Organizing Call, Sun. 3/5/17

The purpose of this meeting was to go over a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Our Revolution and affiliated groups and to lay out a vision for the future.

The solution for recent Democratic losses is progressivism and the types of policies Bernie Sanders laid out. One key idea is the idea of "all for one and one for all," a need for solidarity by our movement in response to attacks vs. a variety of vulnerable communities. What we are doing is important, because victories are going to be won at the local level. Our Revolution plans to use a distributive and lean organizing model like that used by Bernie's political campaign, giving tools, training, and resources to the people, so they can lead. This will stretch resources by depending on grassroots volunteers and become a people-led movement. Our Revolution National will serve a similar role to Bernie's campaign, connecting local and regional groups to drive work on the local level., doing more with less.

The MOU is a simple document and pretty straightforward. Groups agree to align with the Our Revolution Platform, available online. The MOU outlines the national group's expectations of partner groups and what they can expect in return. Each group will have a point of contact, to be filled out in the MOU paperwork, to be sent by DocuSign and signed off after the organizing phone call.

The "Roles and Responsibilities" section outlines what Our Revolution will do to empower local groups, including promoting local events through their website and emails, up to 4,000 people targeted in the local area, reaching people with a history of active involvement. The idea is to grow membership and get local people to events and increasingly involved with local groups. Our Revolution will provide electronic membership sign-up forms to house contact information in a database to be shared with the local groups (still in development).

Our Revolution will have monthly regional telephone calls to assist with local questions and issues, and to connect local groups with what is going on in D.C. and with upcoming campaigns. Affiliates will be hosted in a specific section of Our Revolution's website, searchable by zipcode, and hosted on their map to increase exposure and help new members find us. There are over 1,000 groups now, in total.

Local groups are asked to come up with a plan: local issues and actions (a vision) aligned with Our Revolution's priorities as a local Our Revolution group.

The MOU has a section on membership and confidentiality. The idea is to be as inclusive as possible, time-wise, financially, etc. Anyone who attends any Our Revolution meeting, training, or event, or has donated any amount, is automatically a member.

Fundraising: the MOU asks that we stay compliant with local, federal, and state campaign finance laws. Our Revolution organizers are not lawyers. Groups interested in fundraising should begin by reaching out to the state secretary of state to see what is allowed in the state. Like Bernie's campaign, Our Revolution suggests keeping low overhead costs and to engage in as little fundraising as possible. Signing the MOU does NOT give a group any organizational (501C-4, etc.) status. The MOU also asks groups not to engage in any illegal activity; doing so will cause a termination of the relationship. Local groups also have the right to terminate the relationship.

Independence of Parties: Groups are independent and cannot enter contracts in the name of Our Revolution, which will not be held responsible. Once affiliated and on the Our Revolution website, local groups will be able to use the Our Revolution name as an affiliate and Our Revolution logo online on social media, etc.

The endorsement process: Our Revolution will reach out to and solicit advice from local chapters regarding endorsements of particular candidates. This process is not finalized yet, and will be utilized where a majority of OurRevolution groups in a particular area endorse the same candidate. Our Revolution groups are asked NOT to counter-endorse an opposing candidate and cannot, under the agreement, use the Our Revolution name or group tools to support an opposition candidate. Local groups CAN use these tools to support candidates in local races where Our Revolution has not endorsed a candidate.

There will be overlap of groups within the same geographical area. Whenever possible, we should work together with other groups rather than forming more, and avoid fighting among ourselves and work out differences. Sometimes there are issues over group names, for example. Our Revolution will be releasing a training module on conflict resolution.

There is an upcoming watch party on March 21st to launch Our Revolution's national campaign. This will be like Bernie's watch parties, but on a larger model because of the number of groups involved.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

OurRevolution Regional Organizing Call, Sat. 2/4/17

As a hardcore Bernie Sanders supporter (aka "Berniecrat") and founding member of South Hampton Roads for Bernie, I am far from finished with local, state, and regional politics. Many of my colleagues and I were more than frustrated with how the Democrats, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, tipped the scales against Bernie Sanders and his grassroots supporters, first with their so-called "Superdelegates," then with their lousy debate schedule, and even by shutting his campaign temporarily out of his campaign's own database of supporters. Locally, I've been disgusted with my local Democratic Party group and with many of my representatives at the local and state levels. Due to frustration, I have started working locally with the Green Party, but, like Bernie, himself, I am happy to work with anyone of any party affiliation, including independents, to further Bernie's progressive agenda.

Today I joined a regional organizing call with Chandra Paetsch, a regional, multi-state organizer for OurRevolution, itself a formal outgrowth and continuation of Bernie Sanders' "political revolution." Together, we will resist our current President, Donald Trump, and all the myriad parts of his agenda which are antithetical to Bernie Sanders' campaign platform and values. Chandra was a volunteer on Bernie's campaign, both with phone-banking and on the ground. She has also worked as a union organizer and environmental activist. Social justice, economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice, political reform, and getting Big Money out of politics are some of the many issues we are working for. It cheered me up to learn how many of us are still committed in spite of Bernie's primary loss and the current political national news.

OurRevolution plans to validate groups of ten (or more) individuals which align with and believe in Bernie's platform. These are welcome to join as affiliates of OurRevolution. Currently there are over one thousand groups interested nationally.

Groups affiliated with OurRevolution will enjoy wide autonomy while being provided with  materials, encouragement, coordination, and other support. Affiliated groups are also welcome to work with other groups outside of OurRevolution, and separate groups within the same general region, too. Groups are encouraged to work together as much as possible. Chandra is excited about Indivisible and sees similarities in its aims with OurRevolution. There is also overlap in membership between both groups. She also likes the Indivisible Guide and finds it a great resource for activists.

New groups may also start, although a caller suggested to use this tool to find a local or regional group before starting a new one. Even working together, too many groups can be overwhelming, and often members are active in multiple groups-- which is fine, but we need to work together, avoid becoming fragmented, and avoid burnout. The good news is lots of people want to get involved, and, like Bernie's campaign, our coalition brings together many different progressive perspectives. By collaborating, we will be more effective.

Tools for OurRevolution and its affiliates have been rolled over from Bernie's campaign infrastructure, including supporters' names, its event-organizing website and tools, calling and texting teams, training, networking, and shared experience by experts in various areas. New tools will be developed and shared, too. This event organizer at will promote events and reach out to people who want to help. Its Transform the Party Tool is not aligned with any specific party, but designed to encourage citizens' political awareness, increase participation in our government at all levels, and to improve turnout for elections.

The goal is to make our efforts bipartisan-plus and to reach out to progressives everywhere. There is no point is isolating those who want to work outside the two-party system from those determined to reform from within it. As Chandra points out, we need dedicated volunteers both inside and outside the current system. Both approaches are valuable to effect change and synergy in working together. Another OurRevolution initiative is a Sanctuaries City Project to resist federal efforts to discriminate against immigrants.

We need more diverse races locally, regionally, and throughout politics. is a site for progressives who are running for office and looking for OurRevolution's endorsement at any level. There is a vetting process, and currently many people are applying for endorsements. This is great news!

Chandra followed up our telephone call with even more great information: an FAQ Guide for local organizers, a link to the OurRevolution organizing Slack, which is also available through the FAQ Guide, and a growing list of Organizing Guides.

For activists and potential activists willing to work toward a progressive and protective vision for the U.S. this is a great organization to join. I've been very discouraged with the current direction of politics, especially at the national level, and this one call has re-energized me and improved my outlook. Let's all roll up our sleeves and work together for the long haul. With determination and working together, nothing can stop us.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Richmond Protest 1/15/17 called for Bernie supporters to work with Democrats across the country for a series of protests against pending GOP cuts to the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, as well as potential cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Planned Parenthood.

My friend, Mary Anna White, and I traveled to Richmond to listen to speeches and to raise awareness of the need to preserve or even expand health care. I learned over 20 million people will lose health insurance coverage if the ACA is repealed without replacement. This would negatively affect working families, children, those with pre-existing conditions, and others. It affects whether people can afford to work at jobs they love and can even lead to life-or-death decisions if people can't afford health treatments or medications they need. The statistics and personal stories the speakers shared were similar to those in this special report, "Why Medicare Matters," by AARP.

Ashley Hawkins with her Baby, Zoe, tells a story about the personal impact of the ACA

We also heard moving speeches by Ralph Northam, who is Lieutenant Governor (running for Governor), Tom Periello, who is also running for governor, Justin Fairfax and Gene Rossi, who are running for Lieutenant Governor, Gene Rossi, Doris Crouse-Mays of the Virginia AFL-CIO, Representatives Don McEachin and Bobby Scott, and Governor Terry McAuliffe. And saw some great signs.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam (running for Governor)

Northam speaks as a doctor

Tom Periello (running for Virginia Governor)

Justin Fairfax (running for Lieut. Gov.)

Gene Rossi (running for Lieut. Gov.)

Doris Crouse-Mays, head of Virginia AFL-CIO, stands for affordable healthcare

Representative Don McEachin

Representative Bobby Scott

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe

Senator Tim Kaine

Mary Anna White and I, representing Southside!
My only disappointment was that there was lots of Democratic pride in Virginia turning "Blue" for Hillary Clinton in the last election, even though she lost. A few speakers called for universal healthcare as a right, but not one politician mentioned Bernie by name. It's a shame, because Bernie and his organization definitely turned out me and Mary Anna, and I'm sure others in the crowd, which we guess numbered about 2,000 people on a cool February Sunday on a holiday weekend.