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Get to Know Our Local Democrats: Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski

Post date: Mon, 05/20/2013 - 1:53pm

Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, re-elected last November, represents the 25th Assembly District, which stretches from southern Alameda County into Santa Clara County.  He currently serves as chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.  He is also a member of the Assembly Insurance, Health, and Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security committees.

In his first term in office, Assemblymember Wieckowski passed 24 bills through the Legislature, 21 of which were signed into law by Governor Brown.  Reflecting his collaborative style, most of these bills were approved with strong, bipartisan support.  State-wide organizations have selected him Legislator of the Year and Tech America named him a “Technology Champion.”

He has launched the Made in California Jobs Initiative to expand California manufacturing, invest in biotechnology research, and fight for small businesses.  As part of this initiative, he is touring companies throughout his district to speak to business leaders and their workers about challenges facing their industries. His priorities in the Legislature include job creation, investing in higher education, promoting emerging technologies, defending consumers, and protecting our natural resources.  He is also behind key efforts to roll back Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited money to flow into campaigns, including putting the issue on the state ballot. “It’s time to let all Californians have their voices heard,” he says. “This is an issue people feel passionately about because they know the campaign finance system is skewed against the interests of the working poor and middle class.”

As a passionate advocate for his community, he has served on numerous boards and commissions. He previously served as Vice Mayor of the City of Fremont.  He is also a small business owner and a bankruptcy attorney.  He has helped hundreds of families and seniors persevere through economic hardship, keep their homes and live with dignity.  He received his B.A. from the University of California and his J.D. from Santa Clara University Law School.

Bob is a lifelong Democrat, as he believes in civil rights, quality education, protecting our precious environment, and fighting for a strong, working middle-class. Bob’s commitment to the Party has been steadfast. He served as a long-time member of the Alameda County Central Committee, and was Chair of the Ohlone Area United Democratic Campaign. He was walked and canvassed for numerous Democrats who share his values.

Assemblymember Wieckowski lives in Fremont with Sue Lemke, and her son Luke.

Submitted by: rachel

District 2 Special Election: Elect Cindy Chavez

Post date: Wed, 04/24/2013 - 11:23am

Voters in Santa Clara County’s District 2 will choose a new County Supervisor in a special election scheduled for June 4th.   Stretching east-west from Route 17/880 to the east foothills, and north-south from just past Hedding Street to the Capitol Expressway/Route 101 area, District 2’s center is the heart of San Jose. It also happens to be the county’s poorest district, with a median annual income of $58,000.

Fortunately, voters in that district have an excellent choice: the Santa Clara County Democratic Party has endorsed former city councilmember and vice mayor Cindy Chavez. Chavez, currently CEO of Working Partnerships USA, has long been an energetic and creative advocate for working families in San Jose.  Among the many progressive causes she has championed are the Children’s Health Initiative, ensuring health care coverage for all kids in Santa Clara County; raising San Jose’s minimum wage; and bringing in local jobs by extending BART and developing partnerships to improve local neighborhoods. She has also led efforts to improve government accountability and transparency. Her experience and dedication has brought endorsements from a number of local Democratic clubs, including the Santa Clara County Democratic Club and DAWN. “Cindy’s ethics, character, and dedication to public service earned her DAWN’s sole endorsement,” says DAWN president Carla Collins. “We know we can count on her because of her track record.”

As in most special elections, turnout is expected to be low, which means your vote is even more valuable.  Call 408-445-9500 to volunteer for Cindy's campaign. For more information about the special election, including where to vote, call the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters at (408) 299- VOTE, or click here.


Election Date:                                  June 4

Mail ballots sent out:                     May 7

Last day to register:                       May 20

Last day to request mail ballot:  May 28

Runoff election (if necessary):    July 30

Submitted by: rachel

Get to Know Our Local Democrats: City Councilman Ash Kalra

Post date: Mon, 04/22/2013 - 3:40pm

First elected in 2008 in the historic wave that swept President Obama into office, City Councilman Ash Kalra made history that year himself, becoming the first Indian-American elected to the city council of a major city. Now in his second term, Kalra is known primarily as a fighter for working families and an advocate for the under-served -- his recent push for predatory payday lending regulations is a case in point. He also serves as the Chair of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the vice-chair of the VTA and is on CalTrain’s board.

Kalra was born in Toronto and moved to San Jose when he was just six years old. Today, he represents the same neighborhood he grew up in, just around the corner from Hayes Elementary and close to Oak Grove, both schools he attended. He was drawn to public service early on, though running for political office never crossed his mind. Instead, inspired by the fact that many of the great civil rights leaders – including Mahatma Ghandi – were lawyers, Kalra headed to east to earn his law degree from Georgetown University after his graduation from U.C. Santa Barbara.  There, he found his calling in clinical work that allowed him to teach in D.C. high schools or represent tenants in landlord-tenant disputes.  Returning home, he worked for 11 years as a public defender, which gave him a keen understanding of the critical role social services play in keeping neighborhoods livable and families healthy.

It was while he was waiting to pass the bar that Kalra first volunteered for the Democratic Party, which offered him a job (and an education in grassroots politics) running a satellite office for the party in East San Jose.  While he worked as an attorney, he threw himself into a seemingly unending stream of volunteer opportunities, including Fresh Lifelines for Youth, Asian Law Alliance, and Somos Mayfair, to name a few. He also served on the San Jose Human Rights Commission, as well as the Planning Commission, and helped launch the Hayes Neighborhood Association.  Throughout, he remained a fixture in the local Democratic Party, working on behalf of candidates and issues that embodied Democratic values.

“I fight for a system that allows everyone to have an opportunity to pursue the American Dream,” says Kalra. “Of course we should be rewarded for our personal effort, but we should never forget that we’re all in this together – our neighbors’ health and well-being matters to all of us.” Kalra is a big believer in grassroots action. “Ultimately, it is up to us to push for financial reform, access to healthcare for all, marriage equality, renewable energy, and campaign finance reform.”  He adds, “Democrats are on the right track on all of these matters, but we still have some distance to go against a conservative tide that is hell-bent on stopping us.”

Find out more about what City Councilman – and great local Democrat – Ash Kalra is doing for his constituents and our community by visiting his website here.

Submitted by: rachel

Letter-to-the Editor Showcase: School Funding

Post date: Sat, 03/23/2013 - 8:45am

Thanks to David Cohen for speaking out on the critical topic of inadequate school funding. His letter appeared in the March 23rd edition of the San Jose Mercury News:

Prop. 30's impact widely misunderstood

I am frustrated to keep reading quotes in the paper ("49ers win money fight") suggesting that the passage of Proposition 30 last November "essentially made (school budgets) whole." It did nothing of the sort. What it did was prevent further, even more devastating, cuts to California's education system. Our state's K-12 education funding remains unconscionably low, nearly at the bottom of the nation. Proposition 30 guaranteed that those low funding levels remain unchanged for now. In order to meet the needs of our state's future, we must find ways to, at the least, restore funding to prerecession levels, or at most, bring our per-pupil funding to at least the national average.

David Cohen

Trustee, Berryessa Union School District

Submitted by: rachel

Join the Club: DAWN

Post date: Fri, 03/15/2013 - 2:58pm

A great way to get involved as a local Democrat is to join one of our great clubs – there are more than a dozen to choose from, covering a variety of interests, ages and geographic areas within Santa Clara County. View them all on our club page here.  Last month, we profiled the Dean Club.  Today's focus: DAWN.

It is fitting that we should profile DAWN in March, which is Women’s History Month. DAWN’s acronym is, after all, Democratic Activists for Women Now.  Its mission:  to elect progressive, pro-choice women (and like-minded men).

DAWN traces its origins to Barbara Boxer’s first campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1992. A group of women (and a few men), many of whom had never volunteered with a political campaign before, worked shoulder to shoulder around kitchen tables prepping mailers, phoning voters, and raising funds to elect a progressive, pro-choice, woman.  DAWN was founded the following January, the first and only chartered club of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party whose sole focus was to elect progressive, pro-choice Democratic women. 

Twenty years later, DAWN is one of the SCCDP’s most active clubs. In honor of its anniversary, DAWN has launched a campaign to reclaim Santa Clara County’s title as Feminist Capital of the Nation – earned in the early 1980s for its female majorities on major boards and councils throughout the area. Today, however, though we live in one of the most progressive, Democratic areas in the nation, we have a larger wage gap in Silicon Valley than the national average. Though citizens here strongly support abortion rights, those rights are under vicious and sustained attack across the nation. Clearly, DAWN’s members have plenty of work to do.

While DAWN is proud to endorse the best candidates of both genders, the club only donates to female candidates. This year, we’ve identified a three-pronged approach to achieving our goals: increasing the pipeline of qualified, progressive women to run for office (from school board to the White House and every seat in between), increasing and engaging our membership, and holding our elected officials accountable.  In fact, one of our most exciting ventures is our Women’s Wake Up Calls to inform the very talented pool of women in our valley about the very basics of running for office,  from which seats are open between now and 2016 to filing deadlines, getting the endorsements that matter, and what it takes to run a successful campaign.

 If you’re ready to take action to support women’s rights and help elect proud, progressive women to every level of government, join DAWN today. The DAWN Board meets the fourth Wednesday of the month, 6pm at Local 521 (3202 Zanker Rd, San Jose). Membership dues are $35.00 per year, and there are discounts for families, students and seniors. Visit our website to learn more and become a Fan on Facebook.

Submitted by: rachel

Get to Know Our Local Democrats: State Senator Jim Beall

Post date: Mon, 03/11/2013 - 4:35pm

Jim Beall, elected just last year to the State Senate (SD15), has long been a fixture in the Santa Clara County Democratic Party. Just 28 when he was elected as San Jose’s youngest city councilman, Jim also served as County Supervisor before being elected to the State Assemblyman in 2006.

Jim was drawn to public service early on. One of ten children growing up in the Valley, Jim attended Bellarmine, and was inspired by the school’s motto, “Men for and with others.” Jim’s family was not well off, and he worked in the fields to help pay for his education, both at Bellarmine and, later, at San Jose State. The experience left a deep impression. Working along braceros, Mexican laborers brought in for agricultural work, Jim saw inequity and mistreatment up close: white workers earning more than three times that of Mexicans for picking the same amount of produce, farm owners who called the INS to frighten away Mexican workers on payday to cheat them out of their already-low wages, and more.  During this same period, many of Jim’s contemporaries had been drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. Those who hadn’t been killed were now returning, many of them injured or suffering from PTSD.  It struck Jim that no one was helping them – like the Mexican workers, no one was standing up to make sure that these people weren’t ignored or mistreated. 

If it was clear that Jim would have a career in public service, it was also clear which political party would fit him best. “Government is all about making a better life for everyone,” he says, “and Democrats don’t exclude people.” Moved by the party’s bedrock principles of social justice, Jim calls himself a “practical, progressive Democrat.” He cites our criminal justice system as an example. True justice, he insists, means not just punishment, but an opportunity for redemption. It also means pro-active prevention, which is why Jim has long been a proponent of programs dealing with mental health and substance abuse. Punishment alone, without any effort to treat underlying issues, is not only immoral – “It’s the most expensive way to deal with the problem,” Jim explains.

As State Senator, Jim’s priorities for the coming year are stabilizing the state’s fiscal situation and adopting a health care program that is both affordable and accessible to all Californians. Those are not mutually exclusive – during the special session called by Governor Brown to implement the Affordable Care Act, Jim is working to ensure that mental health receives parity, not just because it’s compassionate but also because doing so will reduce the financial burden untreated mental illness places on our public safety and justice system resources. A veteran of the public-private partnerships that saw the successful and cost-effective completion of Routes 85 and 87 in Santa Clara County, Jim is also looking forward to improving our transportation infrastructure, including obtaining funding to complete the second phase of the I-280/880/Stevens Creek interchange and improving the off-ramps on I-680 between Milpitas and the 101/680 interchange.

Jim’s official State Senate website is here.

Submitted by: rachel

Bring on the Sunshine: Help Pass the CA DISCLOSE Act

Post date: Wed, 03/06/2013 - 12:07pm

It's time for citizens to take back our democracy. The notorious Citizens United ruling not only unleashed a flood of corporate money into the electoral process -- it allowed that money to effectively flow in secret, hiding behind super PACs with innocuous-sounding names like "Californians Against Unfair Taxes." Such money impacts elections in all 50 states, but it is especially damaging in California, where voters must often sort through long lists of initiatives that they may only be familiar with though political advertising.

And it's difficult to tell who sponsors those ads. Vast sums of money are spent each cycle simply educating voters about exactly who is behind the bland names -- letting them know, for example that the "California Jobs Initiative Committee" supporting Prop. 23, which would have rolled back California's historic climate change law, was  funded entirely by out-of-state oil companies.  If we're lucky, media scrutiny and legal action will shine a light on secret money, as it did in tracing $11 million in covert last-minute funds that poured in to support the labor-killing Proposition 32.

But Californians deserve more: Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending on Elections. DISCLOSE. It is time for full transparency in our elections. The California DISCLOSE Act begins that process by ensuring that all political advertisements clearly list their top three donors. The DISCLOSE Act passed the Assembly last year, but failed to pass the Senate before the end of the legislative session.

Let's make sure it passes this year.  State Senators Jerry Hill and Mark Leno have reintroduced the DISCLOSE Act (it has already passed in the Senate), and grassroots activists are working to give it plenty of momentum to ensure its passage in the Assembly.  The California Clean Money Campaign, dedicated to bringing public financing to all levels of government, meets the third Thursday of every month here at Democratic Party Headquarters. As corporate profits soar, and workers' wages stagnate, the time to act is now -- let's take back our democracy before it's too late.

Submitted by: rachel

The Sequester: What you should know

Post date: Mon, 02/25/2013 - 5:18pm

As the country faces the deadline of yet another manufactured crisis, it's important to get a few facts straight about the looming budget sequester, which will take place March 1 if no legislative action is taken.  Many of us will spend time arguing about this with friends, family or co-workers, so here are some things to keep in mind:

First, the sequester grew out of the GOP's scorched-earth tactics over raising the debt limit to pay our country's bills. A routine step that had taken place 74 times since 1962 suddenly became an extortion tool in the hands of Republicans when Democrats refused to sacrifice critical safety net spending on the altar of continued tax breaks for the super-wealthy. Facing a looming government default, both parties agreed to the so-called "sequester," a set of budget cuts so drastic, both sides would surely cooperate to avoid them when the time came. (It's important to remember that such severe cuts didn't bother Republican House Speaker John Boehner -- he crowed that he got "98% of what he wanted" at the time.) Like the debt-ceiling debacle and the fiscal cliff fiasco, the looming sequester is yet another man-made -- and completely avoidable -- crisis.

Second, whereas Republicans insist on resolving this fiscal "crisis" with budget cuts alone, Democrats and President Obama have proposed a more balanced approach, one that calls for modest cuts and increased revenues.  The GOP insists that it has already grudgingly accepted new taxes, and the Democrats should expect not one penny more. But look at the chart above. Democrats agreed to more than $1.5 billion in spending cuts as part of the debt ceiling negotiations, while Republicans accepted $737 billion in new revenues after the fiscal cliff stand-off late last year.  Notice anything off-kilter?

A plan that insists on spending cuts alone would make this situation even more lopsided. More importantly, it would run exactly counter to the will of the American people, who rejected the GOP's austerity message and sent President Obama and large numbers of Democrats back to Washington to fight for programs that benefit the middle class.  Polls continue to support the Democratic position.  A recent Pew poll, for instance, found that most Americans reject additional spending cuts and, in fact, support increased government spending on a host of programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

Finally, endless bickering over the latest economic doomsday is exhausting to most people and brings about a sort of "pox on both your houses" attitude. And, really, who can blame them? But both sides are not to blame.  Democrats have proposed a balanced approach to dealing with the federal budget, while Republicans insist on holding the entire country hostage to an ideological pipe dream that was soundly rejected in the last election. The more people understand that dynamic, the clearer their choices become.


Submitted by: rachel

Letter-to-the Editor Showcase: CEQA

Post date: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 10:07am

Democrats make a difference when our voices are heard, and it's possible to reach thousands of people with a simple letter-to-the-editor. (Plus, it's always a thrill to see your name or the name of someone you know in print!)

This week, our own Marcene Van Dierendonck, Democratic activist and member of the Dean Club, had her letter published in the San Jose Mercury News on the critical topic of CEQA:

Environmental law should be protected

With climate change we face alterations of epic proportions. The melting ice caps and record-setting storms (as the East Coast can testify), and droughts are ample evidence that we need to do what we can to limit the effect of carbon burning. Now is not the time to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act when it is most needed not only to protect our beautiful California but also to protect our world and our neighbors. CEQA provides for an environmental impact report that takes into account local and regional concerns. For example, when we talk about the effects on our water and our air of a development that will contribute to urban sprawl, we need an impact report with a comprehensive scope. When we read (Page A1, Feb. 12) about local childhood asthma on dramatic rise, we see clean air is a vital right for a healthy life. Californians value clean air, clean water and nature's beauty. CEQA allows citizen input if public agencies fail to conduct an adequate environmental review. It has worked well for decades allowing tremendous growth but requiring responsible stewardship. Our Legislature needs to protect a law that Californians are proud to claim.

(Congratulations, Marcene!)

Submitted by: rachel

State of the Union Address: Reaction Roundup

Post date: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 10:49am

President Obama laid out an ambitious agenda for his second term last night in his State of the Union speech, including immigration reform, gun control, raising the minimum wage, universal pre-school, ending the war in Afghanistan, and making it easier to vote.  How effectively that agenda is carried out remains to be seen, of course, but here are some interesting takes on the speech itself from around the Web:

  • "Let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan”: New York Times writer Steve Levinson discusses how Obama made a case for "closing out the age of austerity."
  • Greg Sargent of the Washington Post says the looming battle over the minimum wage is one that Democrats should welcome.
  • Interesting reaction from a group of undocumented immigrants who watched the speech.
  • A summary of what legislators thought about the president's promise to take executive action on climate change.
  • Everyone (except John Boehner) cheered 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who waited six hours to vote in Florida last November. President Obama promised to fix that, although his effort to find balance on his proposed commission may leave a little to be desired.

And, finally, can we have a little fun with Marco Rubio's response? Aside from the nervous gulping of water (and Wolf Blitzer's priceless "uh-oh!"), the substance of what he had to say could be effectively summarized as "incoherent gibberish," as blogger Steve Benen put it in a post called, "Putting the Rube in Rubio." The supposed savior of the Republican Party is just not ready for prime time.

Submitted by: rachel