Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Category: Politics and Elections (Page 2 of 3)

Losing the Federal Government

I feel like we’re tettering on the edge of a cliff.  The next deep breath, we fall into the abyss.

What Just Happened?

Today, April 6, 2017, is truly one of the last days of American democracy.  Why? Because today, the Republican Senators voted to change the rules of the U.S. Senate. They made the change to ensure that Democratic Senators will no longer have a voice in voting on federal judges at any level. It also means that, tomorrow, the right wing of the American judiciary will take over the U.S. Supreme Court for possibly at least the next 50 years. So, the transformation of America is complete.  Elections do matter. The bloodless coup which became apparent in November 2016 is complete.

Who Is Neil Gorsuch?

This dramatic rule change was necessary to get Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch is the son of Anne Gorsuch. Anne was a Ronald Reagan appointee who at one point was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She cut the EPA’s budget by 22% and reduced the number of cases filed against polluters. Ann also relaxed Clean Air Act regulations and facilitated the spraying of restricted-use pesticides. She hired EPA staff from the industries they were supposed to be regulating.  According to her Wikipedia page, Anne is the first agency director in U.S. history to be cited for contempt of Congress after she refused to comply with a subpoena.

Judge Gorsuch’s background as a litigator is one of privilege. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991.  He clerked in the D.C. Circuit federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court after law school. He then joined an elite D.C. law firm and stayed there for 10 years, representing corporate clients and billionaires.  In 2015, his former firm paid new associates “a starting bonus “of $175,000 or a $330,000 signing bonus to those who clerked for Supreme Court Justices. Gorsuch left the firm in 2006 when George Bush appointed him to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

What is His Record?

Judge Gorsuch is the heir to Antonin Scalia. Like Scalia, Judge Gorsuch says he will “look backward.” He believes the Constitution should be interpreted the way it was interpreted when it was written. No matter that in the original Constitution, Black folks are only 3/5 of a person and women do not have the right to vote. In Gorsuch’s view, the infamous Dred Scott decision would be “good law” because it is based on what the judges then understood the law to be. He would also support the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson which ruled that Jim Crow laws were constitutional. The Court’s understanding of the law at that time legalized discrimination that endured for nearly sixty years.

His record on women’s rights and civil rights as a federal judge is troubling.  In February 2017, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 107 civil rights organizations signed a letter opposing his nomination. What is really scary, however, is that the National Rifle Association (the NRA) just dropped a million dollars to support his nomination. Gorsuch’s apparent views on guns led Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its sister organization, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, to oppose his nomination. Under Gorsuch, America’s status as the most violent country in the world will be preserved.

“Defective from The Start”

Gorsuch says using the courtroom to “debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”  If Gorsuch opposes using courts to debate social policy, he likely will oppose efforts to change any policies in the Courts.  His views are exactly opposite from the greatest lawyer and judge America has ever known, Justice Thurgood Marshall.  In 1987, Justice Marshall pointed out that “we the people no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the framers. It belongs to those who refuse to acquiesce to outdated notions of liberty, justice, and equality and who strived to better them.” He said “the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

Donald Trump promised to appoint a “Scalia-like” justice to the Supreme Court. He is keeping his promise. Justice Scalia was a rabid opponent of affirmative action and voting rights. He wrote the Walnart v. Dukes decision that ended one of the largest class-action suits in history and set civil rights progress backward for years. Scalia opposed gay rights and a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. Scalia denied protection to victims of domestic violence and he wanted to abolish the Miranda rule protecting a defendant’s right to remain silent. The truth is, if Judge Gorsuch starts where Scalia left off, he too will be “defective from the start.”

Honoring Women In Politics

This week, I am honored to be recognized as the Woman of the Year for Assembly District 18 (AD18)!  AD18 Assemblymember Rob Bonta selected me. As a result, I am joined into a very special “Girl’s Club” of amazing women from all over California. My new Club includes nurses and doctors and teachers and students, unionists and entrepreneurs and many other professions where women are making history. On March 6th, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus held a day-long celebration in Sacramento for all the Women of the Year.

We all stand on the shoulders of powerful sisters who went before us, most notably, the “Shero” of American politics, Shirley Chisholm.

Unbought and Unbossed

Shirley Chisholm was the original “giraffe.”  She was not afraid to stick her neck out. By her courage and commitment to progress, we all advanced. She was the first Black woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress. in 1971, Chisholm was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus. Chisholm is the first black major-party candidate to run for President of the United States, in the 1972 U.S. presidential election.  She is also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

According to her World Biography, Chisholm became politically active with the Democratic Party in the 1940s.  She quickly developed a reputation as a person who challenged the traditional roles of women, African Americans, and the poor.  After a successful career as a teacher, Chisholm decided to run for the New York State Assembly.  She served in the State Assembly until 1968, when she decided to run for the U.S. Congress.  During the Vietnam War, Chisholm protested the amount of money being spent for the defense budget while social programs suffered.

Chisholm was a strong supporter of women’s rights. Early in her career as a congresswoman, she supported a woman’s right to choose. She spoke out against traditional roles for women professionals (including secretaries, teachers, and librarians).  She argued that women were capable of entering many other professions. Black women especially, she felt, had been pushed into stereotypical roles, or conventional professions, such as maids and nannies.

Shirley Chisholm reported that “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.” In particular, she expressed frustration about the “black matriarch thing,” saying, “They think I am trying to take power from them. The black man must step forward, but that doesn’t mean the black woman must step back.”

Black Women In Politics Today

Black women have always stepped up in the Democratic Party. Donna Brazile, a Black woman from New Orleans just completed her term as the Acting Chair of the DNC.  Moreover, Kimberly Ellis is a Black woman making a serious bid to become the Chair of the California Democratic Party in 2017.

 

 

Former Ohio Senator Nina Turner was one of the most visible and effective surrogates for Senator Bernie Sanders. She is an accomplished advocate for social justice in her own right. After the Democratic Party rejected (and disrespected) Bernie Sanders, there was an effort to draft Sen. Turner to run for Vice-President on the Green Party ticket or for Ohio Governor.

Our own Congresswoman Barbara Lee is one of the most respected and effective representatives this country has ever seen. It has always been my joy and honor to say “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me!”

We’ve Come A Long Way Baby

I am humbled and inspired to represent AD18 on the Democratic Party Central Committee. We now all know that it is an important time to serve in our local Democratic Party.  I feel blessed to have found my way into the middle of the fray!

Many years ago, there was a commercial that tickled my father, David Price. I can still hear him saying “you’ve come a long way baby” with a big grin.  Dad was the father of two daughters and the brother of 5 sisters.  He was proud of the advances made by women in his lifetime.

On Monday, March 6th, I walked with 79 other amazing women through another door into history. As I walk forward, I know that my Lord has brought me “from a mighty long way.”  As I continue to grow as a leader, I know that “to whom much is given, much is required.”

Why Her? Why Now?

As we enter Women’s History Month 2017, we are in the midst of seeing history made. Delaine Eastin is running for California Governor. She is only the fourth woman in the history of California to run for Governor. Delaine is the only woman in the 2018 Governor’s race.

Delaine is a former California State Assemblymember (1986-1994), State Superintendent of Public Instruction (1995-2003), professor, and businesswoman.

She is the first and to date, the only woman ever elected as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Education In Crisis

For almost 40 years now, California’s entire education system has been in crisis. It continues to be in crisis. In 2004, a UCLA study of conditions 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education found that California has a HUGEracial opportunity gap” in our primary school system. 50 years after Brown, our schools were deeply segregated. More than 63% of white students attended a majority-white school, while most Black and Latino students attended either a Black-majority school (78%) or a Latino-majority school (81%).

The factors that hinder education most profoundly for Black, brown and low income students are:

  • overcrowded facilities in disrepair
  • inadequate and insufficient textbooks
  • shortage of qualified teachers
  • unstable teaching staff

Education in Transition

In 2004, the Legislature enacted a series of bills to address these problems in response to the Williams v. California lawsuit. Williams was filed on behalf of public school students denied equal educational opportunity based on the 4 factors above. A post-Williams report concluded in 2013 that “Williams is working.” The study found significant progress in most areas with the exception of the physical conditions of the schools.  75% of schools still had an issue that prevented it from being deemed completely clean, safe and functional. Moreover, the State consistently failed to fund the Williams’ Emergency Repair Program for conditions considered urgent threats to health and safety.

In 2014, however, California’s per pupil spending had dropped to 39th in the nation. Asian and white students continue to have much higher graduation rates than Black and Latino students. Our 4th and 8th grade students are in the bottom 10 states both in math and reading. Even with the Local Control Funding Formulas adopted in 2013, the amount of resources dedicated to and actually spent on students falls short of the mark. The racial opportunity gap persists today.  California educates almost 1/8 of American students, so our failure is very much a national failure.

Why Her? Why Now?

Delaine Eastin faces an uphill battle for California Governor. She is the only woman in the race in a State that has never elected a woman Governor. She’s the oldest person in the race and she needs money. A lot of it. Frontrunner Gavin Newsom, the playboy kid of California politics has $11 million in his war chest. Money is “the mother’s milk of politics.”  I call it “the microphone” for the message. You must have a microphone to get your message heard.

Some chide Delaine Eastin because education is her strong suit. I think the fact that education is her “signature issue” makes the case for her election now more compelling than less. Delaine led the successful 2016 campaign to pass Propositions 51, 55 and 58. These measures are critical to funding education in California.

Gavin Newsom’s signature issue appears to be ending gun violence. This is an issue near and dear to my heart. Every time someone is killed with a gun in Oakland, my heart burns, especially for a youngster who never saw it coming. The devastation to our community from gun violence cannot be overstated. But for every kid in California and America, education is a “game-changer.” I know that but for my education, I would not be here today.  Education creates a pathway for anyone who dares to walk on it. With an education, you can get out of a neighborhood where guns rule the day. An education allows you to create economic opportunities to walk away from careers that ultimately depend on violence. An education helps you to open doors for others to follow.

I’m With Her

So, I am helping to raise money for Delaine Eastin.  I agreed to co-host a fundraiser and to raise my voice to support her. If you can attend her event in Oakland on March 8th, International Women’s Day, please rsvp here. If you are not able to attend, please make a financial donation to her campaign. It’s going to be a long and expensive race to win. But there is a vintage joke that I love. It goes like this:

Whatever a woman does, she must do twice as well as a man to be considered half as good.  Luckily, this is not difficult!

It’s a joke! It will be difficult. But I’m also told that every time Delaine Eastin ran for office, most people counted her out. And then she won.

The Vote for DNC Chair

Credit: David Paul Morris, Bloomberg

This weekend in Atlanta, the Democratic National Party will elect a National Committee Chair.  The progressive favorite is Keith Ellison, a veteran Congressman from Minnesota. Keith Ellison is the first Muslim ever elected to Congress. He is also the first African-American Congressman elected from Minnesota. Keith is running to succeed Donna Brazile who served as the Interim DNC Chairperson.

Who Votes for the DNC Chair?

According to VOX News, there are 447 potential voters for the DNC Chairperson. They include state party chairs and vice-chairs, 112 slots evenly divided by sex. State party officials, allocated by population and Democratic vote fill 208 slots.  California has 20 slots in this category. Our representatives include Hon. Barbara Lee, Rep. Maxine Waters,  NAACP State Chairwoman Alice Huffman and Christine Pelosi. 48 slots go to various national Democratic groups. The outgoing DNC chair gets to appoint up to 75 slots. 8 slots go to Democratics living abroad, but they each only get to cast half a vote. The DNC roster appears to include fair representation of women who will get to participate and vote in this important decision.

Contested DNC Chair races are rare. In 1985, Nancy Pelosi ran for DNC Chair.  Pelosi reportedly urged the Party to “move to the center” and become “the party of capitalism.” Nancy Pelosi stamped down younger leadership in November 2016 when she held onto her position as the leader of the Democrats in Congress. It will be interesting to see if her daughter Christine will vote for Keith Ellison. The chair (and eight other leadership officers) are elected by a majority vote. Another impressive candidate for DNC Chair is Jehmu Greene of Texas.

Who Is Keith Ellison?

Keith Ellison was raised in Detroit Michigan by two professional parents.  Keith and three of his brothers became lawyers. Another brother became a doctor.  Keith is a former trial lawyer who started his career as a civil rights lawyer.  He also worked for a time as the Executive Director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis.  He says his grandfather’s work with the NAACP in Louisiana influenced him in his youth. In his first week as a member of Congress, Ellison voted with the new Democratic majority as part of the 100-Hour Plan to raise the minimum wage, for federal funding of stem cell research, and to allow Medicare to negotiate pharmaceutical prices. He has a plan for his first 100 days as DNC Chair that focuses on organizing the massive opposition to the Trump administration.

Keith Ellison is probably the only candidate for DNC Chair that has an African-American Agenda as part of his platform.  This is especially relevant because the relationship between the party and the African-American community has become increasingly strained. In 2016, many Black leaders urged Blacks to “abandon” the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton’s reluctant discourse with Black Lives Matter activists was not enough to give her the victory.

In 2014, PowerPac+ issued its Fannie Lou Hamer Report. The report showed that of $518 million spent in 2010 and 2012, the Democratic Party spent a measley 1.7% of its money on minority owned political consulting firms. One difference between Keith and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, also running for DNC Chair, are their views on conflicts of interest within the party. Keith opposes conflicts by DNC members who also have contracts with the Committee. Perez is apparently not inclined to take on this issue.

Who Supports and Opposes Keith Ellison?

Keith Ellison is endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. John Lewis among others party leaders. Keith is opposed, not surprisingly, by Zionist Jewish leaders, including major Democratic donors like Haim Saban.

 

Credit: Wikipedia

Mr. Saban is Hillary Clinton’s biggest donor and reportedly has a net worth of $3.6 billion. He has also contributed between $5 million to $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. Mr. Saban is a leading member of the .01% of wealthy Americans. Saban says that his greatest concern is to protect Israel and he entered politics for that purpose. Regrettably, American politics has long been defined and divided by support for Israel (or not).  In my experience, there is a very thin line between folks who are “pro-Israel” and straight racist Zionists.

“Evidence” used to label Keith Ellison as “anti-Semitic” is his support of Stokely Carmichael‘s right to speak at the University of Minnesota in 1990 and his support of the 1995 Million Man March. As someone who hosted Stokely Carmichael at Yale in 1975, and a businesswoman who closed her business on the historic day of the Million Man March to support my brothers, I find this “evidence” completely ridiculous.

Why Does It Matter?

The DNC Chair position is historically a bureaucratic one. The DNC will set the rules for and administer the election primary process. And it’s the DNC that will help determine whether Democrats can in fact make gains in the 2018 midterm elections. But, the Chair does lead on Democrats’ decisions, organization and spending priorities. The Chair can be a prominent voice in the national dialogue on issues that matter to Americans.  In addition, the Chair provides direction and hopefully, inspiration to Democrats locally and nationally.

This election really matters, however, because it will either define or expose the Democratic party.  Most of all, it will show whether we are really a grassroots party, or the party of capitalism. Whether we want progressive, younger members to lead us, or to continue to be dominated by those who have power, money, control and conflicts of interest in the party. Today, progressive activists everywhere proclaim our opposition to the “Muslim ban” issued by the Trump administration. There is a question whether we will also see a “Muslim ban” inside the Democratic party this weekend.

Calling Social Engineers

Calling Social Engineers

Charles H. Houston (1895-1950) said a lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite on society.  On Monday, January 30, 2017, Mr. Trump fired a social engineer.

Credit: Wikipedia

Her name is Sally Yates.  She was the Acting Attorney General of the United States.  The statement that triggered Mr. Trump’s rage describes her constitutional role:

“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts.

 

In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.  At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.

Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

America’s Private Prisons for Immigrants

This is not the first time that Sally Yates took a principled position on behalf of the American people.  In August 2016, Ms. Yates instructed Justice Department officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal is to reduce and end the federal government’s use of privately operated prisons.  These prisons are used exclusively for non-citizen inmates.

Yates’ action follows the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on federal private prisons.  The OIG found federal private prisons have higher rates of assaults and deaths under questionable circumstances, problems with contraband, low quality food and medical care.  These problems are reported in multiple exposes in Mother Jones and the Nation. These are the same prisons Mr. Trump will use to house immigrants targeted for deportation.

As a result of the Trump Executive Order on immigration issued on January 27, 2017, students, visitors and green-card-holding legal permanent United States residents from seven countries — and refugees from around the world — were stopped at airports in the United States and abroad.  Some refugees were blocked from entering the United States and sent back overseas.  Some refugees stopped at airports with no place to go would be detained.  That’s why Americans and lawyers descended upon major airports.  People who had committed no crime but had no place to go would be taken to federal private prisons.

Being A Social Engineer

It is a good time to be a civil rights lawyer.  Around the country, lawyers are organizing and galvanized to be social engineers.  It means that we, like Sally Yates, will uphold and defend the Constitution as a part of our regular day job.  Not just on holidays. The fight is clearly on.  Michael Moore warns that Mr. Trump has started a bloodless coup.

By changing the laws, firing lawyers and senior staff and giving legal authority to his advisors with the stroke of his pen, Mr. Trump is clearly taking control of the Executive branch.  With three Supreme Court nominations within his reach, he will soon control the United States Supreme Court.  Under a far right Supreme Court, our role as civil rights lawyers will likely be rendered obsolete in federal Courts.  Our role as social engineers may be the only way left to practice civil rights law in America. Thankfully, Charles Hamilton Houston, in his life’s work, has already given us the precedent to follow.

Why Are They Marching?

Why are They Marching?

I’m standing at the corner of Ninth and Fallon in downtown Oakland.  My phone rings and its Amy, my elderly foster mother in Cincinnati.  “Why are they marching?” she asks.  Another friend reports that her mother asks her in a not-so-nice tone “Did you wear a vagina on your head?”  So, not everybody “got the memo!”

So why did we march, by the millions here and around the world.  The “official” goal of the day was “to stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”  That’s the memo I got for the Women’s March in Oakland.  And so, more than 100,000 people had a peaceful march through Oakland.  Yes, we stood and we walked in solidarity.

A Beautiful Sight to See!

It was a beautiful sight – to see my beloved awesome beautiful Oakland community once again on the right side of history.  And the signs said it all.

“Keep those Bad Apples Out of the Cabinet.”

“The Children Are Watching.”  “Resist Fear, Assist Love!”

“You can’t comb over misogyny.”

“I Love Nasty Women!”

“ACA saved my life!”

“We won’t go back to the Dark ages.”

“A woman’s place is in the resistance.”

“Make America Read Again!”

 

“From Class to Crass!”     “Our rights are not up for grabs, neither are we!”

“Black Lives Matter!”  Someone simply said “Ugh!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was music and drums and tamborines.  We danced, we chanted, we marched.  There was exceedingly warm comaraderie, respect and appreciation for everyone around you.  It felt like love overflowing. And yes, those little pink hats were everywhere, symbols of a woman’s vagina.  When I asked the man standing next to me what they meant and he told me, all I could say was “I knew that.”

Why Does It Matter?

So, the question is why does it matter that millions marched around the world.  We are now in the midst of the Trump “deconstruction” of America.  Executive orders are literally flying out of the White House.  Threats of ridiculous policy initiatives have now become law.  Trump is doing everything he can to divide America.  The “haves” are going to have it their way.  The rest of us will have to figure it out on our own.

What the Women’s March says to each of us is that we are not on our own.  It does not matter if you are Mexican or Muslim, you are not going to be left on your own.  It does not matter if you are homeless or homebound, you are not going to be left on your own.  It does matter if you are a military veteran, you are not going to be left on your own.

It matters whenever you say “NO” to fascism, racism, sexism and tyranny.  Mr. Trump’s pen cannot change our vision for the future of our children and our nation.  His tweets cannot change our commitment to keep Dr. King’s dream for America alive.  While Trump honors the murderous legacy of President Andrew Jackson, let us remember the magnanimous leadership of President Barack Hussein Obama.

The Children Are Watching!

In the week of celebrating Dr. King’s birthday, I kept reading  his “Letter from A Birmingham Jail.”  Dr. King reminds the white clergymen that”injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  He reminds them that “everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.”  He reminds them that “the goal of America is freedom” and “if the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail.”

As we move forward this year, the marches will sustain and strengthen the work of those who commit themselves to the ongoing struggle for social justice.  As an activist whose entire life was transformed by “the struggle,” I know the power of seeing millions of people marching for what they believe in.  Let us continue to beat the drums for justice.  Let’s keep marching for our lives and the lives of our children!  The children are watching!

Hypocrisy in High Places

Hypocrisy in High Places contributes to the death of a just society.  The Coalition to Restore Public Trust and the Contra Costa Coalition for Racial Justice call for the immediate resignation of District Attorney Mark Peterson.  Elected in 2010, DA Peterson has violated the public trust.

The FPPC Charges – Campaign Finance Violations

According to  charges pending before the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), over a 5-year period, DA Peterson used more than $66,000 of campaign contribution money for his personal expenses.  As the FPPC points out, when an official makes personal use of campaign funds, it erodes public trust in the political process.

According to the FPPC, Peterson admits that he started misusing his campaign contributions in 2011 shortly after he was elected. His misappropriation of funds continued until 2015 when he learned that his campaign account had been selected for audit.

The misuse of money donated to his campaign included hotels, meals, movie tickets, gasoline, clothing and more. He also withdrew cash  for his personal expenses from the campaign account.  Other times, DA Peterson transferred money from the campaign account to his personal account.  The FPPC charges include more than 600 separate fraudulent transactions.

The FPPC Charges – Perjury and Fraud

For 5 years, DA Peterson acted as his own Treasurer.  During that time he filed at least 4 falsified FPPC reports which did not disclose his personal use of the funds.  After he was caught, he claimed that the withdrawals from the campaign account were actually “loans.”

DA Peterson has been a lawyer for more than 30 years, since 1983. As a lawyer, officer of the Court and elected official, he knows the meaning of receiving and holding money “in trust.” Every time that he used the campaign account for his own personal benefit, he knew that he was violating the fundamental values of the law and his ethical duties as an attorney. He knew that he was violating the trust of everyone who donated money for him to become our DA.

DA Peterson obviously cannot and will not hold himself accountable under the law. He has lost our community’s trust.  Our community deserves to have a District Attorney who acts ethically and upholds the law.  Mark Peterson has shown that he cannot be trusted to do either.  For these reasons, we call for his immediate resignation.

The Call to Action – The People v. Mark Peterson

To support the call for DA Peterson’s resignation, the Coalition to Restore Public Trust will convene a public trial of Mark Peterson on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at 900 Ward Street, in front of his office in Martinez.  We urge the public to attend the trial and hear the evidence of DA Peterson’s unethical conduct and support our call for his resignation.  We also urge you to sign the online Petition calling for his investigation and prosecution by the California Attorney General.

The Politics of Trust

  On Wednesday, January 4, 2017, I will be sworn in as an elected member of the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee.  It is an event and an honor that I do not take lightly. I ran for election earlier this year with a promise to bring “a new voice” to the Committee.  To take a seat “at the table” to represent the interests of the people over my own.  I was elected by a landslide with more than 36,000 votes.  The people’s voice demanded to be heard.

 

I take my seat at the table at a moment when progressives are determined to define the Party.  The election of Trump means we cannot go on like “business as usual.”  I take the oath of office mindful of the trust that my community has expressed in me and my leadership.  I intend to serve based on a vision of positive political change called “the Politics of Trust.”

Vasconcellos Legacy Project

In 2002, former California State Senator John Vasconcellos founded the Vasconcellos Legacy Project in Silicon Valley.  He passed away in 2014 before I had a chance to meet him.  His last mission in life was to establish “the Politics of Trust.”  The concern was that our divisive, dysfunctional politics is based on conflict and hostility.  “The traditional view that we humans are inherently evil spreads poison throughout all our politics . . . leaving us with a crippled stunted politics that no longer responds to the will of our people, and politicians who serve primarily themselves.”*  “The Politics of Trust is demanding more and better from each and all of us.”*

* Quotes taken from www.politicsoftrust.net (Accessed 12/2/14)

What We Must Do Now

I believe in the power of the people to effect positive political change.  We must strive to achieve “a new politics, based on our highest aspirations and a new, healing vision.”* In the era of Trump, we have no choice but to reject the old ways of politics and move forward to heal our nation.  In the words of my mentor, Howard Moore, Jr. we have to “organize and fight as we have never fought before to hold this evil at bay over the next two years until the 2018 elections and defeat and remove it from power in 2020.”  I look forward to working with you and all freedom-loving people in my new role. A Luta Continua!

Compassion of Our Hearts

Compassion of Our Hearts

I love Thanksgiving.  I try to live my life in a spirit of gratitude.  I really appreciate that we dedicate time in our lives every year to be thankful for our blessings.  I am so thankful for my life.  I have lived a miracle and “He didn’t have to do it.  It could have been me outdoors or in jail,” and I know it.  I often remember to be thankful that I am not living on a hill in Haiti.  Current events make me thankful that I am not living under a building in Aleppo, Syria.

thankful-forThis year I am most thankful for forgiveness, for friends who “prayed me through” a very challenging transitional year, for new love and for something called s-a-b-b-a-t-i-c-a-l which I did “my way.”

Compassion in Our Lives

We all can be especially thankful for the compassion in our lives.  As I look around, I am surrounded by friends who show compassion every day.  I am so thankful for my sister Tonsa who takes really good care of my Mom, Mildred.  My foster sisters Gina, Rendi and Virgie took great care of my foster mother Alice. They kept her for more than a decade, long after Mama could no longer speak or move. My cousin Bonita was the solid rock of compassion for my Aunt Eleanore and Uncle John.

It warms my heart to have so many friends who have done the same for their loved ones.  My friend Hope dedicated her life to taking care of her parents, Lela and Ivan.  Since Lela passed, Hope continues to shower compassion on Ivan.  My friend Torrey showed compassion to her mother Mary for years, long after Mary forgot who Torrey was.  Torrey said “she thinks I am just a nice lady who comes to visit her.”

The compassion that my friends demonstrated for their loved ones is so inspiring.  Fania and Angela‘s gentleness with their mother Sallie B. was phenomenal. It has been my privilege to watch daughters like Dianne, Faye and Deborah take care of their mothers, Frances, Imogene and Irene. My friend Shirley‘s steadfast commitment to her Dad, Pops, before he died was comforting to us when Shirley suddenly passed away.

Compassion Knows No Lines

Compassion is not limited by gender.  My cousin Shawn‘s commitment to his mother, Sharon, was unwavering as she battled breast cancer.  How well Antwon cared for his Mother in her last days is one of the most endearing stories about him.  It was my privilege to watch my friend Marshall act with total commitment to his Mother in her final years. My friends, Darryl, Douglas and Duane each showed the same compassion for their mothers in their illnesses when they needed it most.  These are truly men of honor.

My friend Charles continues to honor his mother by taking care of his aunts.  Bishop Macklin‘s concern for his ailing mother touches the heart of every member of our congregation. My godbrother Jay stepped up right away when my foster Mom Amy fell ill and needed 24-hour care. Jay and his wife continue to be there for Amy every day.

Compassion In Action

In law, it is often hard to remember that a law firm is a business. “Beating the drum for justice” is hard work and expensive.  It is very hard to accept that we can not help everybody.  But, it was compassion that moved me to help clients like John Bumphus and Abner Morgan, Deanna Freitag and Tonsa B. What I received in return for that “help” has been life-changing courage and compassion. It was compassion that led me to step off my sabbatical and go to Stuart Florida to rescue Jasmine from jail and bring her home.

In this season, I am reading “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson.  The painful truths of our broken justice system grieve the heart. Our criminal justice system is truly an instrument of evil.  Our lack of compassion for children tried as adults and condemned to life in prison is appalling.  The failure of compassion for women who ended up in abusive relationships and then prison is beyond frustrating. Our willingness to accept the death penalty regardless of a person’s guilt or innocence is profoundly disturbing. As Bishop Desmond Tutu pointed out, it’s “as if America’s soul has been put on trial.” Bryan Stevenson‘s compassionate heart is a light of hope for all of us.

In Bay Area politics, we have a rising star in Lateefah Simon.  We are all so proud of her. Her life’s work is rooted in compassion.  I know that her “popularity” is rooted in compassion.  Many people came to know her because of her love for Kevin Weston. The battle she and Kevin fought to save his life touched all of our hearts. Our compassion for this brilliant young couple flooded Facebook. Out of compassion for them, our spirits soared. Our hearts were opened. We were united in community by compassion.

The Greatest Gift of All

As you experience this Thanksgiving, regardless of your circumstances, try to remember that the greatest gift of all is love.  “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13.)  I really appreciate the people in my life and our world who show compassion for others.  As I move forward in my life, I pledge to more consistently practice “random acts of kindness.” Remember that your greatest legacy may be how you showed compassion for someone else.

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The Greatest Threat of All

The Greatest Threat of All

I remember the first time I ever heard Tom Steyer speak. It’s 2014. We’re at the San Francisco Bay Area Lawyer’s Committee Annual Martin Luther King Luncheon. Tom stands before a thousand lawyers. Tom is not a great public speaker. He stumbles as he thanks us. Initially, I am not impressed with this person. He is not a lawyer.  As I listen to him speak, however, he gets my attention. He engages my understanding of global warming.  In short order and very dramatically, Tom Steyer has an impact on me and everyone else in the room. He makes us know and believe that climate change is the greatest threat to our existence on the planet. I quickly develop an appreciation for the work that Tom does to save the planet. Eventually, I join his organization, Nextgen Climate.

Climate Change Is Real

polar-bear-global-_3339474bClimate change is not a hoax.  I have been haunted for years by the dramatic images of stranded polar bears. Polar bears swim in the Artic sea and live between the water and the sea ice. Global warming causes sea ice to melt.  Melting sea ice means reduced access to food, increased cannabilism, lower cub survival rates and increased drowning of these unique creatures, among other challenges. The U.S. Geological Survey projects that two thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050.

The “Climate Criminal”

Fast forward to 2016.  News breaks that President-Elect Donald Trump selects Myron Ebell to head Trump’s transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump claims that climate change is a hoax. He says “the Chinese” created climate change to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. Mr. Ebell’s new job is to set the direction of the federal agencies that will address climate change and environmental policy under Donald Trump’s leadership.

ebellMyron Ebell is currently the Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Peabody Energy Corporation, America’s largest underground coal mining company, oil giant ExxonMobil and foundations controlled by the billionaire Koch brothers are major donors to CEI. CEI has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Clean Power Plan developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan seeks to reduce carbon pollution in our air by 32 percent by 2030. It could result in the closing of many coal-burning power plants. CEI has published a “hit list” of Executive Orders it thinks should be repealed by President Trump.

In 2015, environmental activists in Paris labeled Mr. Ebell a “climate criminal” wanted for “destroying our future.” One Hundred and ninety-five countries, including the U.S. signed the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions worldwide. Mr. Ebell leads the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of conservatives that focuses on dispelling “the myths of global warming.” He wrote an article called “Love Global Warming,” in which he states that “higher temperatures are killing people who are likely to die soon anyway.” He opposes the Endangered Species Act and the Paris Climate Agreement. He says that he wants more funding to “combat the nonsense put out by the environmental movement.

If He Keeps His Promises

If Donald Trump keeps his campaign promises, he will shut down the EPA. We are facing the greatest threat to the planet in our lifetime. Donald Trump will leave us defenseless. He will certainly try to confuse the issue. He may try to force us into collective denial of all the scientific evidence of global warming. Mr. Ebell poses a particular threat to California because he helped kill national “cap and trade” legislation in 2009. We have our own “cap and trade” program which is a key component of California’s climate plan. How Mr. Ebell will try to undercut our state climate plan remains to be seen. His followers and supporters in the coal and oil industries may give him a few very bad suggestions. As California has led the nation on this issue, we will probably have to lead the fight to save the planet.

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