Indivisible Yolo Podcast – Diego Rivas of Democrats Abroad in Berlin

Diego Rivas, Chapter Chair of the Democrats Abroad in Berlin, joined us this week on the pod to discuss voter engagement overseas.

Democrats Abroad is the official arm of the Democratic party for Americans living abroad. It’s main purpose is to ensure that voters are able to vote and participate in the civic process. One of the ways they make sure to stay in touch is to send postcards, which members can pick up at their meetings, and to stay informed about issues in their home states.

And Democrats don’t forget about their voters abroad. Several prominent figures, including Martin O’Malley, Eric Garcetti, and Howard Dean, have come to speak to the Democrats Abroad of Berlin, in particular. Some important races are decided by absentee ballots, which are most often cast by Americans living overseas. In 2008, Al Franken even won his senate seat by a mere 312 votes – a number of which were from Americans abroad.

A big focus for the group is voter engagement, which is particularly difficult when members are from diverse areas of origin. In the Berlin group alone, there are few people who come from the same state, let alone the same county. And since states often have different voter registration and ID laws, keeping track and making sure that folks have up-to-date information is crucial and difficult.

Some things that Americans don’t think twice about can make a huge difference for Democrats Abroad. For instance, they must be incredibly selective about who they take donations from, or even sell things to, as they run the risk of taking campaign donations from foreign nationals, which is illegal. Although they often find friends, family, and colleagues sympathetic to their cause, they must be sure to never engage in any sort of financial transaction that could be considered illegal.

In addition to voter engagement, the party at large is pushing a Tax Reform plan, regarding residence based taxation, or RBT. Currently, the US taxes residents of other countries, while they also pay taxes in their country of residence. Many Democrats would like to see fair, residence based taxation, while others argue that removing US taxes would create unfair loopholes for corporations with overseas operations. Whatever the outcome, it’s important that Americans living in other countries are taxed within reason, and that corporations aren’t allowed to circumvent the law through these types of loopholes.

Democrats Abroad, as an official arm of the party, is also involved in the Democratic National Convention, and sends around 13 delegates every year. Similarly to how delegates are designated and selected stateside, the world is divided up into several slices – the Americas, Europe and Africa, and Asia – each of which sends a certain number of delegates. Delegates are chosen the way they are stateside: each delegate runs a small campaign and is elected to represent their district. Diego was lucky enough to be part of the Berlin elections, which is where the European delegates were chosen.

If you’re planning on living abroad, or know someone who is living abroad, the best way to get involved is to go to the Democrats Abroad webpage, and find the nearest group. If there isn’t one, Diego recommends starting a charter – it’s a lot easier than it looks!

Indivisible Yolo Podcast – Kara Hunter of Yolo Conflict and Resolution Center

Kara Hunter, Executive Director of the Yolo Conflict and Resolution Center, visited the podcast this week. The Yolo Conflict and Resolution Center (YCRC) is a local nonprofit that offers mediation and other services to the region. Anyone having a conflict can call YCRC for mediation services for free or low cost, and the group is meant to be a community resource. They also do trainings on conflict resolution skills, communication, and listening, to help people deal with conflicts that come up in the course of their lives. One of their newest endeavors is a restorative justice program, that aims to keep low-level crimes out of the court system and have them handled through a restorative justice and communication process.

Prior to working at YCRC, Kara spent about 14 years working with juvenile offenders, particularly through advocacy and mentorship. The restorative justice program was what drew her to YCRC, because it particularly works with youth and young offenders to keep them out of the courts and out of the prison system.

YCRC, although it doesn’t really have a target group – anyone from the community is welcome to use their services – they tend to focus on groups individuals who interface with the public and often need to have good conflict resolution skills, like police or public figures. The main service they provide, however, is mediation, where two or more parties having a conflict will call upon YCRC to mediate and facilitate communication. Some of their most common cases, particularly in Davis, are landlord tenant cases.

The YCRC actually got it start to fill a void that was left when the city defunded its landlord-tenant mediation services. Former city government employees from that department got together and founded the nonprofit as a way to continue those services in Davis and the greater Yolo region.

YCRC has expanded its programming beyond mediation, to include trainings, like the ones they provide for public figures and others. This is useful for anyone who has conflict at any point in their lives (hint: it’s all of us). Many people get nervous, or angry, when confronted with conflict, and YCRC strives to make communities better at addressing issues in a peaceful, communicative manner. They aim to make conflict a constructive, rather than a destructive, force in both the community at large, and individuals’ lives.

One of the focuses that drew Kara to the organization was this educational service, particularly its focus on youth. There are many people who are never taught how to productively deal with conflict, and YCRC aims to begin education from a young age, which is why it reaches out to youth and particularly at-risk youth, populations.

Currently, YCRC partners with the school district, the police department, and the district attourney’s office. In the future, they’re looking forward to working with the courts and prison systems more, including mentoring and teaching folks as they’re released from the prison system, both in restorative justice practices and in conflict resolution skills. Kara feels this is particularly important because people coming out of the prison system are constantly dealing with conflict, and most people are not naturals at constructively mitigating conflict. She is looking forward to offering their mediation services and trainings to these vulnerable communities, as a way to help them not only productively manage conflict in their own lives, but to use their newfound skills to help integrate back into society after incarceration.

A newer, but exciting program YCRC is offering is restorative justice, which presents a different way of looking at crime – rather than focusing on the act of wrongdoing, they focus on how it has harmed a community, and how to make the wrongdoer understand the harm and the obligations it creates. The program aims to bring together the people involved, and have them come to an agreement by which the harm can be righted or mitigated in some way. Then, once the act or acts of restoration have been completed, the wrongdoers is accepted back into their society, rather than ostracized, and their label of ‘offender,’ is often struck from their record. The program aims to heal in a way that the current justice system does not – Kara points out that many folks who go through the traditional justice system, on both sides of the act, do not feel any type of closure, even after the verdict. The restorative justice program, however, works to create that feeling of closure by bringing together both parties and coming to a mutual agreement.

Currently, the Yolo County DA offers a volunteer program called Neighborhood Court, which deals with low-level crimes in the specified neighborhood. YCRC has facilitated the trainings for the members of the neighborhood courts, and these groups work at helping the offender right the wrong or undo the harm caused by their actions, so that the community can heal and the offender can learn. In addition, YCRC has partnered with Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) for a referral program, where youth who have committed low level, nonviolent crimes (such as graffiti, or possession of marijuana), are brought together with the victim (if there is one), for a dialogue about how to proceed in a way where both the victim and the offender feel the wrong has been righted, and the outcome is achievable for the offender.

Often, restorative justice is called ‘transformative justice,’ because of how it transforms not only the situation of how justice is administered, but how it transforms the offender and the victim, and offers a way of accepting and understanding that allows people to become whole after a wrong has been done. All of us, Kara points out, have done something stupid, and we don’t deserve to be punished for life because of a small offense. If offenders are allowed to work through the wrong, and to reintegrate into the community after it occurs, it can head off many of the school to prison pipelines we see happening all across the country. It’s a slippery slope once a youth is labeled an offender, and Kara acknowledges that some kids really embrace it, which only makes things worse, both for their trajectory, and for the community as a whole. This is even more important when considering racial justice in the community, particularly with who is disproportionately targeted to bear the label of ‘offender,’ for low-level, nonviolent crimes that most youth commit.

Its often said that our prison system is broken, and Kara argues that at its core is the fact that we don’t allow for reintegration into society after someone has been to prison. Once someone is incarcerated, that stays with them for life – they can’t vote, must report it on every job application, and it follows them everywhere. It can become someone’s identity, and it’s no wonder there are so many repeat offenders. We have to, offer people a way to make amends for the crimes they’ve committed, but also, once they have, to accept them back into our society. As Kara mentioned before, people will embrace the labels they are given, especially if they have no way of casting them off, and with that in mind, it’s no wonder we see so many repeat offenders in our prison system.

But Kara is hopeful – many agencies, from law enforcement to the District Attourney’s office, have asked YCRC for help. They acknowledge that there is an issue, and that not only restorative justice, but conflict resolution training, can help change the way things are. Even people in the California Department of Corrections have informally reached out to learn more about restorative justice and what they can do to make the justice system work.

Here in Yolo, particularly in Davis, there have been two high-profile cases that have floated the idea of using restorative justice: the vandalism at the Davis Islamic Center and the Picnic Day 5 incident. Kara points out that while these might seem like good candidates for restorative justice, in order for the process to work, both parties have to come to the table willing and open to discuss. Mandates to participate in restorative justice tend to color or sour the conversation, and can negatively affect the outcomes. Particularly in these cases, the high profile of the events has made all parties involved understandably cautious about their next moves, but restorative justice is still on the table.

To get involved in YCRC check out their facebook page, or go to one of their board meetings. They reserve time at every meeting for public comment and they post the agenda on their website. They talk about everything from the nuts and bolts of a nonprofit to the strategy of which populations they can reach out to next. One group that has been on the YCRC radar is the elder population in Yolo, and what conflicts they might have – from interpersonal conflicts in assisted living facilities, to family disputes around end of life care or wills. Beyond the board meetings, YCRC is always looking for new volunteers and community mediators. They facilitate a community mediator training every year (the upcoming one is in January 2018), and many mediators come back to volunteer with the community mediation process. In addition, they’re always looking for folks to join the restorative justice and neighborhood court programs – facilitator training is free. They are particularly interested in office and legislative interns, and had a fabulous UC Davis intern help them track policy and legislative changes over the summer. More information for all these services, events, and ways to get involved is available on their website.

Indivisible Yolo Podcast – Driscoll’s Boycott with Dillan Horton

Dillan Horton, assembly district 4 delegate, and Executive Director of the Yolo County Dems, stopped by this week to talk to us about the Driscoll’s Boycott and why it’s so important.

The Driscoll’s boycott has been in effect since late 2015, but has picked up speed recently, particularly with the endorsement of groups like the Yolo County Democrats. The boycott began because Driscoll’s, a company based in California, outsources a large part of its farm labor to San Quintín, Mexico, in Baja California, where workers make around $6 a day, and allegations of sexual assault and child labor are common. The farm workers have formed a union, but Driscoll’s has refused to negotiate with the representatives, which is why workers have called for a boycott.

Despite the farms being in Mexico, Yolo County Dems, and other organizations, feel that it’s imperative that we use our power as consumers to stand against unjust labor practices wherever they happen. Dillan points out it’s especially troubling, because Mexico is not only our neighbor, they’re a vital trade partner and member of NAFTA. With plenty of US elected officials penning and passing legislation aimed at gutting unions, this is not just Mexico’s issue, but one that affects all the members of NAFTA, and working people everywhere.

Part of the reason that unfair farming practices can still exist is because smaller farms are struggling to survive, particularly outside of the US. With the establishment of NAFTA, US farms were able to expand their markets and compete with Canadian and Mexican farmers in their respective countries. However, many farms and agribusinesses in Canada and Mexico were unable to compete with the heavily subsidized US agriculture, and as a result, US agriculture managed to monopolize the market. Even within the United States, the consolidation of Big Agriculture, and the inability of small farmers to compete has concentrated economic power in very few, large, subsidized American corporations.

Counterintuitively, the United Farmworkers’ Union – famous for its boycotts of grapes and tomatoes here in California, and for its leadership like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta – has not publically supported the strikes and boycotts of Driscoll’s. This is, in part, because of a change in the makeup of the board of the union, which has been colonized by represetatives from agribusiness.

Another challenge the boycott faces is the inability to access Driscoll’s finances. Driscoll’s is a private company – it has not gone public, meaning it does not have to publish quarterly earning statements, or answer to investors. This means that there are not public records, or even shareholder records, of its earnings, which makes it difficult to assess the level of financial pressure felt by the company. Regardless, it’s still possible to bring Driscoll’s to the negotiating table, whether negotiators have the exact numbers for Driscoll’s losses or not.

To effectively participate in the boycott, one merely needs to not buy Driscoll’s berries wherever they’re sold. In Yolo, that includes Trader Joe’s, Coscto, Safeway, and the Nugget. This doesn’t require boycotting the store – Safeway has other berry choices besides Driscoll’s – simply not buying the berries will do. In addition, share. No, not your berries, the information. The more folks who know and participate in the boycott, the more power the workers will have when Driscoll’s comes to the negotiating table, and the sooner that will happen. Post about your boycott on social media, tell your friends about it – particularly if you know they’re ‘regular berry consumers,’ and encourage them to share, as well.

The sooner Driscoll’s feels the financial pressure, the sooner these workers will have justice.

 

You can read Dillan’s piece in the Vanguard here.

Indivisible Yolo Podcast – Anoosh Jorjorian of Rainbow Families and Safe Yolo

Anoosh Jorjorian is the Coordinator for Safe Yolo and Yolo Rainbow Families, as well as the founder of the Yolo Justice and Action Network, and a member of Davis Phoenix Coalition and the Parents for Equity for Davis Teachers.

Safe Yolo is a group founded after the election, in order to protect those directly in the crosshairs of the Trump administration. They work closely with the Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network (YIIN), and Sacramento ACT, who are working to help families prior to detention, and during ICE raids. Sacramento ACT, in particular, provides legal observer training for those interested, and does so in partnership with the ACLU and People Power groups. Safe Yolo is focused on aiding families during incarceration, particularly providing legal aid to detainees, since studies show that those with legal representation are less likely to be deported. They are in the process of securing a grant that would allow for a public defender in Yolo to act on the behalf of undocumented immigrants in detention.

Rainbow Families is a subset of the Davis Phoenix Coalition, focused on providing support and advocating for LGBTQIA families – parents, children, and extended family. At its inception, the group provided support to gay and lesbian parents, but since the passage of marriage equality, queer parents haven’t needed the same levels of support, and the group has shifted its focus to advocating for trans and gender nonconforming kids in Davis Joint Unified School District. They plan to branch out to other districts, particularly Woodland, once they feel that trans students in Davis have a secure footing and are well represented to the district and board at DJUSD.

Anoosh advocates for teachers, as well as kids. The Parents for Equity for Davis Teachers is a group dedicated to advocating for better wages and benefits for the teachers in DJUSD. Davis’ teachers are paid the lowest wages of the surrounding areas, despite Davis being a very affluent community. Davis teachers often can’t afford to live in Davis, and those that are retiring are leaving spaces that are difficult to fill. Davis has a high turnover rate, which hurts kids who don’t have continuity in their teaching staff. At one Davis school, a classroom has started its school year without a full time teacher, which will mean inconsistency for the children until the vacancy is filled.

In doing all this advocacy, Anoosh noticed that there wasn’t a lot of coordination between groups, who often had the same end goal in mind. In the spirit of collaboration, and in the hopes that groups could pool resources and better affect change, she created the Yolo Justice and Action Network for progressive causes in the Yolo area. It is a facebook page where she amplifies progressive actions going on in the Yolo community, and something you can follow to get updates on actions you can take in your community.

She’s always looking for people to help manage the Yolo Justice and Action Network page, particularly since the UC Davis school year has started up, and the number of events has skyrocketed. If you’d like to get in touch with her, you can message the YJAN facebook page, or any of the other groups she’s affiliated with, or shoot her an email. Davis Phoenix Coalition is always looking for volunteers, as well, and they are easily accessible through their facebook page. Sacramento ACT has a facebook page, as well, and you can call or text their ICE hotline at (916) 245-6773.

 

LISTEN HERE!

If you liked this podcast, or have a comment, feel free to email us – indivisibleyolopodcast at gmail.com.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the subjects we’ve covered in this podcast, check out some of our other podcasts:

Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor on Yolo County’s Safe County Resolution and Immigrant Detention in Woodland

Arvind Reddy on People Power in Davis

Ann Block on Immigrant Legal Rights

Tracy Tomasky and Gloria Partida on the Davis Phoenix Coalition

Antonio DeLoera Brust on Migrant Camps in Yolo County

Indivisible Yolo Podcast – Arvind Reddy of People Power

This week the Indivisible Yolo Podcast featured Arvind Reddy, a member of People Power’s UC Davis Immigration and Policing Task Team. People power was created by the ACLU after the election of Donald Trump, as a way to increase grassroots organizing, and to engage community members both on local and national levels. Arvind got involved with People Power shortly after the election by attending a meeting for the Davis chapter.

 

The issue of police violence has been thrust into a national spotlight through the efforts of people like Colin Kaepernick, DeRay McKesson, and women who founded Black Lives Matter – Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. On the other hand, we have a president who advocates “roughing up” criminals, and groups that espouse All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter rhetoric as a way of perpetuating status quo. People Power in Davis follows the ACLU model of condemning violence against civilians, and supports the goals of Black Lives Matter, although they do not always work directly with the group. Generally, People Power’s goals vary state by state, community by community, depending on the needs and beliefs of residents. The ACLU and People Power strive to protect those who are peacefully protesting, who are exercising their first amendment rights, and to condemn violent actions against peaceful protesting. It also supports police reform, although again, the degree of reform depends on the community.

 

The Davis People Power group is advocating for better relations between the UCD Police Department and its community, the Davis Police Department and its community, and is working on immigration issues pertaining to ICE activity in Yolo, as well as the release of the Picnic Day 5 (tune in to podast 32 with Stephanie Parriera to learn more).

 

Legislatively, SB54 has been signed into law by the governor, making California the first Sanctuary State, which is something the ACLU and People Power have both supported. The bill reduces and condemns cooperation between state police forces and ICE, but the original version of the bill was weakened prior to passing in the Senate, at the behest of police unions and lobbying groups. There have been exceptions carved out for ICE’s ability to enter correctional facilities and county jails, and to cooperate with correctional officers. The bill does designate sanctuary areas where ICE cannot operate, like hospitals and schools.

 

Both UCD PD and Davis PD are required to comply with SB54, but since UC Davis campus is open – unlike a hospital or elementary school – the lines are blurred, and there are possible cases where UCDPD can cooperate with ICE. The bill does not outline the consequences for failure to comply, so it remains to be seen what kind of effect this will have on state policing.

 

UCD Police Department has a fairly new Police Accountability Board that is open to the public and meets once a quarter. However, its meeting times are during the middle of the day (noon to 1pm), and it is held at the Memorial Union. The meetings are not well advertised, and there is very little transparency. There is a public record of the meetings, but many topics are deemed unavailable for confidentiality reasons, as Arvind found out when he requested a copy of the document.

 

In addition, Police Accountability Board reports to the Chief of Police, who has veto power on their decisions, effectively making them powerless to enforce any judgements. There has only been one case where an officer was found at fault, and the Chief was able to override the decision of the PAB.

 

Anonymous complaints are often ignored, or downplayed, as well, as the board cites “lack of information.” This sounds reasonable, but with no enforcement power, complaintants have much to lose by coming forward, so anonymous complaints are a safer way to report misconduct. However, this decreases the likelihood of any action by the PAB. So far, the PAB seems to be ineffective, as there have been no disciplinary actions taken against police for misconduct, despite cases continually being brought before the board.

 

When submitting a complaint, using the online form, complaintants must give a reason for their complaint, yet there are no boxes for sexual misconduct, or immigration related issues. These are cases where anonymous complaints would be particularly helpful, since harassment complaints are often ignored to the detriment of the complainant, and retaliation by the abuser is often the result.  

 

Many who are calling for police oversight and accountability are merely calling for the same kind of workplace accountability that exists in every job. If someone behaves badly at work, or bungles a project, they are reprimanded in a manner that is appropriate for the size of the mistake (or they should be, anyway). This kind of workplace accountability does not exist for police officers. Asking for police oversight and accountability is merely asking that police officers do their job – serving and protecting the citizens in their communities – appropriately and correctly.

 

To get involved with a People Power in your area, check out the ACLU People Power website, or contact us at indivisibleyolopodcast at gmail dot com, and we can get you in touch with People Power in Davis. The next UCD PD oversight meeting is October 18th from 12-1pm in the Fielder Room of the Memorial Union on the UC Davis campus. If you’d like to let UCD PAB know that they should change their meeting times to accommodate more community input, you can contact them at pab@ucdavis.edu. You can request their meeting minutes through that email or on the police accountability board website, as well.