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East Bay "Democracy for America" Meetup Message Board › Use Your Power - EB Democracy for America

Use Your Power - EB Democracy for America

Vincent C.
Group Organizer
Berkeley, CA
Using Your Power: Political Action for February 2010

I was at a political meeting last week when I heard something that really resonated with me.  “When we sit around and think there’s nothing we can do,  we feel dispirited.  When we go out and do something positive, no matter how small,  it energizes us”.

Come to the February East Bay Democracy for America Meetup and get energized.  The RSVP information is listed below.  Here are a few things to do in the meantime.

Here’s the first place that you can use your power. 

There were a lot of things to be happy about in President Obama’s State of the Union Address – as well as some things that we’d clearly rather not have heard.  One of the best was his call to put money into community banking.  These small institutions know their depositors and borrowers and make decisions about banking based at least as much in their commitment to the community as in how much profit they need to make.

You can choose to move your money from big institutions like Bank of America or Wells Fargo Bank to a community bank in your neighborhood. 

You can choose to support a bank that lends based on the borrowers ability to repay the loan and not on amassing loans with the sole purpose of collecting their fees and then passing the downside of the debt off to someone else. 
You can choose to support a bank where the upper management’s compensation package is based on the long term health of the bank and not on its quarterly bottom line. 
This is an action that you can take that multiplied across the country will send a message to banks and to government that we are concerned about where our money is and who our money supports.
The people at know there is a larger context to consider too.  Prof. Simon Johnson has some thoughts on what effects moving money to smaller banks can have.
What happens when the location of political candidates' own money starts to matter. As early as this fall's primaries, you should expect to hear people ask politicians in debates and through various kinds of interactions: (1) where do you, personally, keep and borrow money, and (2), in all relevant cases, where did you put public money when it was up to you?
These questions strike to the heart of democratic responses against overly concentrated financial power throughout US history. In the 1830s showdown between elected officials and big banks, President Andrew Jackson went toe-to-toe with Nicolas Biddle of the Second Bank of the United States. The issue was could Jackson really move the money of the US government away from the Second Bank? He could and did.
The idea of banks being so big they can extract enormous resources from the state would have been incomprehensible to Jackson and ludicrous even to FDR -- in their day, the federal government did not have anywhere near enough resources to "save" massive failing banks as we have done in the past few years. The essence of our current difficulties is that so many people still think our biggest banks are good for their customers and for society as a whole, so we must hold our noses and live with them.
The entire discussion starts with each of us looking at what we think is right and then moving our money to a bank that shares our values.  Moving your own money is more than an important gesture, and if enough people get on board, it will make a difference. Thinking hard -- and talking with others -- about your various monetary transactions also begins to change the rules of the political game.
How can politicians claim to be against Too Big To Fail banks when they actually have an account or a credit card or a mortgage at one such offender?
Here’s the second place that you can use your power. 

Come to our February Meetup.  We’ll be focusing on ways of identifying people within space.  How do you do GIS research and what are the findings that can be put to use in campaigns is the first part of the evening.  The second part is a look at Maplight and how they have seen their data turned into stories both print & electronic.  
We look at this at this Meetup as giving us some specific ideas about how data can be tapped for specific causes / candidates.  When you volunteer this year on a campaign you’ll be able to suggest ways to use research more effectively.
February Meetup:

February 10 – 2nd Wednesday
Rockridge Public Library
5366 College Ave.

6:30 pm Socializing & Pizza
7:00 pm Meetup begins


We’ll have an action item for us to do before we leave the Meetup.  It will be based on pushing for more reliance on community banking.
DeAnna Dalton from MAPLight will present some examples of the way MAPLight information has be used to create hard hitting journalism.  DeAnna was inspired to work in the government transparency movement after her early dreams of public service were derailed by the recognition of the limits campaign fundraising places on elected officials’ freedom of conscience. is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit research organization that illuminates the connection between campaign contributions and legislative votes in unprecedented ways. Its located in Berkeley.
Their groundbreaking website combines campaign contribution information with how every legislator votes on every bill, connecting the river of money that funds our politicians with the specific issues that people care about.
Influence connections that used to require days or weeks of research to uncover are now available at the click of a mouse.
Groups seeking accountable government and policy change need timely, in-depth information about lawmakers, votes, and special-interest influence to hold legislators accountable. Uncovering this information has been slow and expensive for larger groups and media outlets and near-prohibitive for smaller groups and ordinary citizens, who must individually research, assemble, and analyze hundreds or thousands of pieces of data on votes and contributions to put together a bigpicture view of the money-vote connections behind a single bill.
The site is a tool that enables advocacy groups, citizen leaders, journalists, and bloggers to document perceived corruption and special access. While doing so, they educate a broad public constituency about how campaign contributions distort representative governance. In the past year alone, we’ve reached almost 8 million people via stories in the news and online, covering issues ranging from health care reform to the banking industry bailout.

Here’s the third place that you can use your power. 
Before the Voters FIRST Act, California lawmakers were charged with drawing their own legislative and Board of Equalization districts. But California voters changed all that when they authorized the creation of the Citizens Redistricting Commission (Commission) in the November 2008 General Election. Now YOU can apply to serve on an independent Commission that will draw district boundaries for the state Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization.
The deadline to apply is February 12, so if you want to be part of this process,  you’ve got to do it in the next 8 days.
All Californians have the opportunity to participate in a once-in-a-decade opportunity to map California's future! For decades, the state legislature designed the districts from which we elect our representatives to the legislature and congress. The result? A series of gerrymanders that protected parties and incumbents while ignoring community interests.
In 2008, the people of California put a stop to this kind of disregard for the voters and their communities by passing Proposition 11 — the Voters First Act. Now the responsibility for drawing new district maps for the state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization will go to 14 voters chosen to serve on California's first Citizens Redistricting Commission.
With a state as big and diverse as California, who draws the lines — and how those lines are drawn — will truly shape the future of our state. The commission gives this power to real people — political candidates, lobbyists and big political donors can't serve.

Do you bring an open mind, an appreciation for our state's diversity, and skills that would be helpful to serve on a redistricting commission? You may be one of the right people to do this job — or you may know someone who is.
Here’s the url for you to apply:­
Adam Briones from the Greenlining Institute will be happy to help you complete the process. 
You can contact him at or 510-926-4022
United we Meetup: Aaron, Janet S., Tara, Frances, Vincent, Yvonne, Sean, Janet F, Mark and Norman - Your DFA Meetup Team
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