Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Free-Speech Rights Affirmed

Jan Proctor, Chesapeake City Attorney, finally gave a formal written reply to my free-speech issue on public sidewalks outside of Chesapeake public libraries. Here is her reply as emailed on 12/12/17:

I apologize if you were expecting additional information from me regarding your right to occupy the public sidewalk to engage in expressive conduct.  It was my understanding that you and others obtaining signatures on petitions were able conduct these activities at the Chesapeake Library without a permit or express permission from the City Manager.

Also, for your knowledge, we have been working with the City Manager’s Office to develop and implement expressive activities policies applicable to traditional and limited public fora.  The intent of these policies is to protect the First Amendment rights of citizens.  However, as you are no doubt aware, constitutional law can be very complex and multi-faceted.  Therefore, we continue to research and work on these policies, as well as proposed amendments to the City Code.  In the interim, Section 46-16 of the City Code, which requires the a permit for certain political activities inside public buildings, has not been enforced to the extent that it pertains to expressive conduct in traditional public fora. 

Currently, political and other expressive activities conducted outside the Chesapeake Library are allowed without the necessity of obtaining a permit or express permission of the City Manager, subject to the following requirements:

·       No interference with the free passage of pedestrians and motor vehicles
·       No signs should be mounted or posted (affixed) to public property
·       No tables, seats or structures may be erected
·       All litter must be removed

These rules, which are derived from various sections of the City Code, will eventually be supplemented with the expressive activity policies.  We will be happy to provide you with copies of the policies once they have been completed and are then approved and implemented by the City Manager.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Our Revolution Conference Call 9/20/17

This is the "debut membership call."

Our Revolution is a grassroots group and mostly volunteer, even its Board. Anyone who attends a meeting or event or contributes any amount is a member of the organization. Our groups join groups or start any groups (ten members or more). There are over 450 groups across the U.S. and its territories and even some other countries.

Groups work on:

1. Work on issues. This can be working on "big issues" campaigns, like Bernie's Medicare for All plan, or working on local/regional issues, such as anti-pipeline issues.

2. Endorsing local candidates who support progressive issues. Now endorsements must come through local groups and only through local groups. Groups also work on progressive ballot measures.

3. Party building, either within the Democratic Party or joining with others to help independent candidates or Green candidates who support progressive issues win. We should help turn people out at the polls, like recent successes in Massachusetts and Alabama (the latter now in a run-off).

Volunteers have made great efforts, especially the texting teams. Grassroots volunteers are the lifeblood of the group.

Summer for Progress was successful this summer. This was a concerted effort to contact legislators in support of progressive legislation. This generated an "incredible" number of co-sponsorships.

The Denver chapter shared its process in getting started and its team approach and how it vetted, researched, and interviewed candidates for endorsement. They found it important to define voting membership to avoid candidates flooding a meeting last-minute with their supporters. Beyond endorsement, there is a process for actively supporting candidates. They've vetted candidates from the local (school board) through the state level.

They found it important to have face-to-face meetings at least monthly and to have informative and fun events, such as guest speakers like candidates. 

A speaker for the texting team talked about her efforts on a variety of texting campaigns. The most memorable event helped defeat a ballot question, "Question 2," that would have diverted money from public schools to a charter school initiative. She also started Greater Worcester for Our Revolution.

Go to OurRev.US/t4OR to join the texting team. It organizes through Slack. Responding to requests from Our Revolution by making requested calls or texts helps show the political establishment that our movement is growing. It's important to make them.

Join a group, start a group, build your group, "solidarity forever."

Monday, July 31, 2017

Our Revolution Summer for Progress Training

What is the People's Platform? Why now?

  • America is in crisis
  • Our representatives and senators represent not the needs of the wealthy and the political elite
  • Politicians use dog whistle politics to instill fear and turn us against each other
  • climate catastrophe pending
  • Almost 50% of Americans live at or near the poverty line
  • We are the richest country in the world and we can band together to get the things we need and deserve

How can we win? We need an aspirational message with an unapologetic, progressive platform to help people with issues they face every day. We can motivate people to take back power. We need to pressure Democrats to the left by pressuring them to co-sponsor bills. We will prepare a scorecard at end of the campaign

Campaign and Timeline

  • Petitions already signed and delivered over 120,000 signatures
  • Now we are in trainings and direct action phase with contact with members of Congress over recess
  • Group leader or member with a strong connection can make a meeting with member or highest level staffer in District Office
  • Maintain good relationships
  • If we cannot meet 1:1, try to go to a public event, preferably less formal through calendar or website. If possible, ask for a meeting 1:1.
  • Deliver petitions by district. Can put in a box with a flash drive if too many too print
  • Assigned roles in the meeting: 
    • facilitator, 
    • scribe, 
    • issue speaker(s), 
    • broadcaster = video to either livestream or post on social media to hold accountable, 
    • petition deliverer, 
    • hard ask (cosponsor bill) by someone very persuasive and with straightforward question to get clear answer, 
    • validators
  • Get together and practice and time this before the actual meeting

How to schedule a meeting with your representative and how to prepare

  • Share tips for meeting with Congressional Members
    • dress professionally (not Bernie Ts) with business casual or at least clean, pressed clothing
    • polite even when disagreeing
    • arrive at least 15 minutes early and do final rehearsal and practice
    • facilitator introduces and takes control of meeting, describes goals, has agenda and paperwork to turn in, paperwork explaining People's Platform, makes sure up front how much time to meet and keeps meeting on time and tight
    • Ask for a signed pledge card before we leave
  • After meeting, debrief and have followup plan
  • Send a thank-you note or email and follow up on any questions s/he may have asked
  • Get whatever s/he agreed to or didn't agree to on the record
  • Fill out report card form

How to track which bills your member has co-sponsored

How to conduct first meeting with member of Congress

What's next?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2nd Ballot-Petition Email from Jan Proctor and My Reply

Click here to see how this got started.

Dear Ms. Burke:

Please accept our apologies for any misunderstanding.  The attached guidelines were applied strictly, but it has now been clarified that there is room for flexibility.  If you plan to gather signatures on public property in the future, we would ask that you seek approval from the City Manager in accordance with the guidelines.  The process is easy and will help the City plan for any measures necessary to ensure the safety of all involved.  We understand if you cannot always meet the five day requirement for advance notice.

I will be happy to discuss this with you further if you would like to give me a call.

Jan L. Proctor
City Attorney

My reply:

Dear Jan,

Thank you. I prefer not to ask the City Manager for permission or a letter of understanding to enjoy the use my civil rights, now or in the future. Please rest assured I will not use attached signage, verbal abuse, etc. I will simply stand on the sidewalk with a clip board and talk to passersby who are willing to stop and talk to me. I will not enter the library except to use the public resources (restroom, drinking water) there. If there is a safety issue, I have a cell phone and will call 9-11.

If there are questions about my actions or words, a librarian is welcome to come verify that I am following the law. Anyone who signed the ballot petitions can verify (if need arises in court) that my actions are polite and legal. If anyone walks into the library and complains I *talked* to them, the librarian can inform him or her that I am acting within the law and constitution in a public space. Libraries are for educating the public, after all.

Librarians should also keep in mind that a complainant may belong to another party or support another candidate or may just dislike politics or talking to people. If so, complainers should not have an easy pass to interfere with our lawful activities.

As far as security measures, a simple handout on what is allowed/not allowed when ballot petitioning would suffice (no verbal abuse, attaching signage, etc.) 

I am not an uncooperative citizen. I am simply too busy to ask for permission or inform the City Manager, and the law is on my side.

Mary Lou Burke

Update: On June 27th, Jeff Staples and I both spoke about our concerns before Chesapeake City Council as speakers under non-agenda items. Video of the work session and entire meeting is available online. (Our speeches start at about 3:14). Council Member Ella Ward was unhappy about our treatment and promised both at the Council Meeting and in a phone call the next day to follow up.

I hadn't heard back from her, so I called her back today (8/9/17). She said, "It is in the City Council policy." I still don't see how it can be Council policy to trod upon freedom of speech and of assembly, which are both Constitutional guarantees.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dear Jan, Respectfully

Here is my emailed response to the email I received in reply to my complaint about city employees interfering with my right to collect ballot-petition signatures on a public sidewalk in Chesapeake, Va:

Dear Jan, Respectfully,

Friends and I were peacefully and politely collecting ballot petition signatures on a public sidewalk OUTSIDE of two Chesapeake public libraries when we were told to leave the premises. We were not blocking anyone. I have attached a copy of the document used at the Major Hillard Library in Deep Creek on the afternoon of Sunday, May 21st, as justification for telling us to move along. We were told this was a new policy from a recent training about two weeks ago, and that it applies to ballot petition signature gathering as well as "events" as listed on the attachment. This is putting a chill (I believe that's the legal term) on our First Amendment rights. Please correct this immediately. My next step is to address a public meeting of City Council. After that it's the ACLU.

Mary Lou Burke

Here is the letter I just emailed to the State Department of Elections, which I thought (in afterthought) I'd try before City Council and the ACLU:

Dear Virginia State Department of Elections:

Please see the (forwarded) exchange below. Is it legal for the City of Chesapeake to require residents peacefully collecting ballot-petition signatures on a public sidewalk to get written permission from the City Manager first? The candidate I support for State Delegate and I were both told to leave the sidewalks in front of two public libraries while we were politely and peacefully talking to potential voters and signatories on Sunday (May 21st, 2017). We did not block anyone, nor did we display any signage, nor were any elections going on in the library buildings that day, which I'm sure you can confirm.

On Monday morning, our candidate called the City Manager's Office to ask for an expedited letter, but he is still waiting. This could seriously and adversely affect our efforts to collect sufficient signatures by the upcoming Virginia State deadline. Is the state able to extend the deadline due to the City's interference in this matter? If not, please advise if we have any recourse or if you can offer any other assistance.
Mary Lou Burke

Initial Response from City of Chesapeake, Ballot Petition Question

I received a response from the City today regarding my complaint that I was told to leave public sidewalks in front of two Chesapeake public libraries last Sunday because I was peacefully engaged in collecting ballot-petition signatures, required by Virginia State Law to put a political candidate on the ballot. The response came from Jan L. Proctor, copied to  Wanda Barnard-Bailey James E. Baker Sandy M. Madison Victoria Strickland-Cordial-Library Mary Lynn Pinkerman Helen V. Melton Susan V. Rowling Leonard Brown Jr. Debbie Ritter Dr. Alan P. Krasnoff Ella Ward John de Triquet Lonnie E. Craig Rick W. West Rick West Ritter Robert C. Ike Roland J. Davis Suzy H. Kelly.

Here is the reply:

 Dear Ms. Burke,

Thank you for expressing concerns about gathering outside of public libraries in order to obtain signatures for a petition.   The policy you referenced is attached and is based on historic practice, as well as general authority under state law and several sections of the City Code, as follows:
Section 15.2-1800(E) of the Code of Virginia provides, in part, that  a locality may operate, maintain, and regulate the use of its real property.
Sec. 46-13 of the City Code - Loitering; obstructing free passage of others.
(a)  Any person who in any public place or on any private property open to the public unreasonably or unnecessarily obstructs the free passage of other persons to and from or within such place or property and who shall fail or refuse to cease such obstruction or move on when requested to do so by the owner or lessee or agent or employee of such owner or lessee or by a duly authorized law enforcement officer shall be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit lawful picketing.
Sec. 46-16 of the City Code - Political activities in public buildings.
(a) It shall be unlawful to display in any public building any political literature or paraphernalia or use any other means of communication used to advertise political candidates, issues or political parties, except that public buildings may be made available to all political candidates on an equal basis for the purposes of introducing candidates for public office to the general public and the conduct of the business of any political party in compliance with the following procedure: Application shall be made seven calendar days prior to the proposed use to the city manager. The seven-day application period may be waived by the city manager where it can be shown that no inconvenience or disruption of normal public activities in such building will occur.
(b) This section shall apply to all elections and political activities conducted in the city.
Sec. 50-27 of the City Code - Merchandising, advertising, signs.
·       c)  Unless otherwise expressly permitted by this Code, no person shall paste, glue, tack or otherwise post any sign, placard, advertisement or inscription whatever, nor shall any person erect or cause to be erected any sign whatever on any public lands such as parks, beaches, athletic fields, trees or roads adjacent to a park.
Sec. 66-8 of the City Code - Obstructions.
It shall be unlawful for any person to place on any sidewalk, street, right-of-way or alley in the city any object which may obstruct the safe and convenient use of the same by vehicles and pedestrians, including, but not limited to, any fence, gate, porch, step, post, barrel, bench, bar, table, box, carriage, buggy, wagon, merchandise, goods, wares or other fixtures or articles whatsoever, whether they be for sale, exhibition or any other purpose

In summary, permits are required for political activities conducted in public buildings.  City Manager approval of activities conducted outdoors on public land is required to ensure compliance with the provisions above, as well as to ensure public safety and fair access to all.  
We apologize for any inconvenience. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Me, again. Here is the attachment, which is the same document our group received from the first library we dismissed from on Sunday. I will copy my reply to my next post

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Chesapeake Ballot Petition Signatures Question

An Open Letter to Our Mayor and Members of Council:

I was out peacefully gathering ballot petition signatures on public sidewalks today in front of two different public libraries. Each time I was told to leave. I was told there is a new policy that residents may no longer gather ballot petition signatures without a written letter of permission from the City Manager.

I am writing to you to find out if this is, in fact, a new (or newly-publicized) policy, or if it is a miscommunication, or if the City Manager is over-reaching his authority. It is difficult enough to get candidates on the ballot in Virginia without additional barriers. As a citizen, voter, and taxpayer, I feel my civil rights are being trampled on if I need to get written permission to exercise my political rights peacefully on public property. Please advise.


Mary Lou Burke

Click here for the  City's initial response and here for my reaction and here for the initial resolution plus here for the (hopefully) final resolution. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Proposed Chesapeake Anti-Sanctuary-City Resolution

Here is the letter I am sending to all members of Chesapeake City Council. Residents who wish to weigh in can send their own. Your message is more likely to be effective if the tone is polite. The email address is  council@cityofchesapeake.net. Be sure to include your name, email address, home address, and telephone number when you send it. Messages with insufficient information will not reach Council members.

Dear City Council:

I am a Chesapeake resident contacting you in response to an article in the Virginian Pilot regarding Councilman Robert Ike's proposed resolution that Chesapeake is not and will not ever be a sanctuary city, http://pilotonline.com/news/government/local/chesapeake-will-not-be-a-sanctuary-city-councilman-takes-a/article_073ac709-9bd0-57a2-b390-9dfa5afe042f.html

I oppose this resolution. I have high regard for Mr. Ike and his work on behalf of our local citizens, yet I beg him to reconsider.

I agree with Hugo Valverde, as quoted in the Pilot article: "a formal resolution – coupled with the racial undertones of the recent election – could signal to the immigrant community, regardless of their status, that they are unwelcome in Chesapeake. As a result, they could move from the city... or be unwilling to report being a victim of a crime for fear they or a member of their family could be deported" (emphasis mine).

While it's important to live in a safe city, making potential victims or witnesses fearful of filing complaints, cooperating with officers, or coming to court will have the opposite effect. The only potential result will be negative public perception, especially if any viral-video of an immigrant being mistreated comes to light from anywhere in Chesapeake. People will (hopefully erroneously) believe our City Council condones the abuse leading to some unfortunate victim's bullying, mistreatment, or even death. I love Chesapeake and would not like to see its name, nor the names of our Council members, dragged through the mud of public opinion. As a taxpayer, I fear a potential lawsuit.

All residents should feel they will be treated fairly by our city.  We have nothing to gain from this proposal and much to lose. Please remove it from consideration, or, should it come before Council, vote against it.

**Update 5/4/17: I received two replies to my email. One was from Councilman Lonnie Craig, who said he agreed with me 100% on this issue and pledged to vote against it should it come to a vote.

The other one was from Rick West, our Vice Mayor. This is the first time I've received a reply from him on any issue. Unfortunately, all I received was a cryptic and non-committal, "thanks." Better than nothing.

I guess.

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 MoveOn.org 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 OurRevolution.com 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. OurRevolution.com/Candidates 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

OurRevolution.com 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.