This week ending 10/7/17, while full of sadness at what happened in Las Vegas, had many positive things happen in our effort to steer this country back in the right direction. I made it long to give you more to think about in this troubling week.
ELECTION WINS – Progressive challenger Randall Woodfin unseated the democratic incumbent, in a non-partisan election for the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama. Woodfin was backed by national groups including the Working Families Party, Our Revolution, and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
ECONOMIC JUSTICE – The end to school lunch shaming is growing in big and small school districts. All children in NYC public schools (more than a million) will get free lunch. Fauquier County Virginia students will continue to get a hot meal even if they owe money on their lunch account. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state’s new school finance system is unconstitutional, finding that it failed to meet the state Constitution’s requirements to adequately fund education and ordered a fairer distribution of funding to poor districts. Ben and Jerry’s signed an agreement with a farmworkers group to establish standards for the workers at the company’s milk suppliers.
DAVID VS. GOLIATH – The cities and states suing opioid making pharmaceutical companies is growing, Upshur County the first one in Texas just did, after Louisville, counties in NY, CA and others. Pennsylvania’s attorney general sued Navient Corp, the largest student loan company, accusing it of engaging in abusive practices against consumers. U.S. District Judge ruled that shareholders can seek to hold Wells Fargo’s current and former executives and directors personally responsible for the fake accounts scandal. California’s Governor signed a bill prohibiting financial firms from forcing customers into arbitration to settle disputes under certain circumstances. Equifax continues to face more lawsuits and investigations over its data breach. Berkeley California’s paid sick leave ordinance and increase in Berkeley’s minimum wage took effect. Steve Croman, one of New York City’s most notorious landlord who used force and harassment to force tenants out of rent regulated apartments was convicted in criminal court and sentenced to 1 year in jail, a $5 million fine, in a big win for tenants.
SAVING THE PLANET – A U.S. Magistrate judge ordered the Interior Department to reinstate a regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production by requiring energy companies to capture methane that’s burnt off at drilling sites on public lands. The New York Times has a summary of the status of environmental regulations. One of Texas’ largest coal plants, located near Dallas, is shutting down. The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to warn the public about the dangers of chemicals known as organohalogens in baby and other products and proposed new regulations prohibiting manufacturers from adding halogenated flame retardants to products. New ozone pollution rules are took effect, aimed at reducing ground level amount of harmful ozone.
AROUND THE WORLD – TransCanada Corp. killed the $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline proposal. The Scottish government announced a ban on fracking. A Botswana transgender man won a legal battle to be allowed to change the gender marker on his identity card. Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende were the first same-sex couple to marry in Germany as the new law allowing it went into effect.
PROTECTING WOMEN’S HEALTH – A U.S. District judge blocked a Florida law that would require people and groups that provide abortion advice to register with the state and furnish women with a detailed explanation of the alternatives and procedures, including a “full and detailed description of the abortion procedure” and was opposed by the ACLU. The ACLU and others announced they are suing over new regulations allowing employers, to stop offering birth control in their insurance plans on moral or religious grounds. The ACLU sued the FDA to expand access to medication abortions, by demanding they eliminate the requirements that the abortion pill be dispensed at a medical facility under the care of a provider, require providers register with the manufacturer, and be capable of providing a surgical abortion if complications arise. Planned Parenthood announced they are constructing of a new health center in Milwaukee. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Planned Parenthood can continue with plans to obtain abortion licenses for its Springfield, Joplin and Columbia clinics in Missouri. Keep those Planned Parenthood $ coming.
LGBTQ SOLIDARITY – A rainbow flag will be installed at the Stonewall National Monument in New York City, the first such flag to be permanently placed on federal land. Westminster, Colorado’s mayor and town council issued a proclamation against “conversion therapy. Equality Utah settled a lawsuit against Utah over a sex-education law that allowed discrimination against homosexuality in schools. The Utah Dept. of Ed agreed to issue a memo reaffirming the right to be free of discrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity and require schools develop and implement a safety plan for LGBTQ students. First United Methodist Church in Austin, TX announced that it will no longer allow weddings at the church until it is allowed to perform same-sex marriages. The Missouri Appellate Court held that a woman who helped raise a child with her former same-sex partner following artificial insemination can seek custody or visitation with the child even though they were never married and she was not the one who gave birth.
BREAKING GLASS CEILINGS AND PROGRESS FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR – I missed this one but thought it important to include, Congress passed the bipartisan Women, Peace and Security Act, if signed by 45, the law would make it a core priority for U.S. diplomatic, development and military personnel to include women in preventing and resolving conflicts. Mariah Klenke became the first female officer to lead an assault amphibian vehicle platoon for the Marines. Cynthia Mitchell is the first woman to be appointed as Colorado’s Pueblo County attorney. The Georgetown Kentucky Fire Dept. promoted Anne Willett making her their first ever female captain. Sahara Ali is the first female taxi driver in Hargeisa, Somalia, a city of 1.5 million. Melissa Grego was named CEO of Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Television Society, becoming the first woman to lead the group in its 70-year history. Rebecca Ackerman is the first woman promoted to battalion chief at the Austin Texas Fire Department.
STANDING UP FOR IMMIGRANTS – California Gov. signed the “Sanctuary State” bill that bans most state and local agencies, from enforcing “holds” on people in custody, blocks the deputation of police as immigration agents and bars state and local law enforcement from inquiring into a person’s immigration status. The SPLC won asylum for a Guatemalan transgender woman who was beaten and threatened with death because of her gender identity. The SPLC and others filed suit against the administration seeking to compel the release of information on how a person can obtain a waiver of the Muslim ban restriction, including how to apply and standards for qualifying, as the waiver process is only way people from the barred countries may be allowed to enter the US. University of North Texas organized family planning workshops for undocumented immigrants to prepare essential documents for the care of children in case of deportation. Hawaii’s Attorney General sought to amend its Travel Ban complaint to challenge the third travel ban. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling, that applies only to immigration courts in California’s Central District, that Immigrants who are held while seeking the right to remain in the U.S., and who pose no threat if released, are entitled to bail set in an amount that considers how much they can afford and whether they can be safely monitored without bail.
FEDERAL AGENCIES STILL AT WORK – The EEOC has sued a number of companies this week including; Friedman Realty Group, Aqua America, Consolidated Edison, A&E Tire, for a variety of reasons, including disability, gender, and race discrimination. If it seems like I report on a lot of EEOC cases this article may help explain why. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed new regulations to protect consumers from predatory lending practices which would require “Pay day” and other short-term lenders to determine if people they loan money to can make the payments and fees when they come due and still meet basic living expenses and major financial obligations.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM – The California Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a set bail reform recommendations intended to offer low-income, low-risk and non-violent offenders an opportunity to leave jail while waiting for trial. MacArthur Foundation gave Cook County Illinois the $1.85 million Justice Challenge Grant for comprehensive programs to reduce the number of people held in jail as they await trial. The Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and it now await the mayor’s signature. Mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug dealers ended in Maryland as part of criminal justice reforms passed by the State last year.
RACIAL EQUALITY – Many football players and teams united in their response to the national anthem for the second week, this week a number of teams, including the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars, took a knee in unity as a team before then standing for the anthem and most teams linked arms while they stood. Putting money where the mouth is – Seahawks players announced the start of the Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund “to support education and leadership programs addressing equality and justice” and the Seahawks franchise is backing the fund with money of its own.
SECURING VOTING RIGHTS AND RIGHT TO PRIVACY- A Texas judge granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the state from providing data to Commission on Election Integrity (voter fraud) in a case brought by League of Women Voters and the Texas NAACP. The ACLU launched a national grassroots campaign to expand voting rights to take the offensive to expand voting rights. The ACLU filed a lawsuit to block Justice Department search warrants seeking private information of Facebook users.
PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE – A new state law raising the minimum age for marriage took effect in Connecticut, under the new law 16-17 year olds must have parental and probate court permission and under 16 cannot marry under any circumstances. Retailers are removing Bump stocks from their shelves and websites. A Georgia sheriff and two deputies accused of conducting illegal intrusive body searches of high school students without a warrant or authority to do so have been indicted.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION – Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, were both fined $200 for missing deadlines to submit financial reports required by government ethics rules. And as of this writing Tillerson has yet to publicly deny that he called 45 a “f$%^# moron” saying everything but that. Jason Kessler, the organizer of the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was indicted for felony perjury relating to an assault charge earlier this year.
SHRINKING POOL OF REPUBLICAN INCUMBENTS – As more republican members of Congress announce they are not running for re-election they open the door for flipping the seat democratic, since no matter the district, incumbents usually have a great advantage at election time This week Rep. Tim Murphy announced he will retire at the end of his term resign immediately after allegations that the married lawmaker, who opposes abortion rights, asked his mistress to terminate a pregnancy.
AWESOME ACTIVISM – The women’s rights group UltraViolet set up a large video screen playing 45’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, accompanied by statistics about sexual assault, playing on a continuous loop by the biggest phallus symbol in the country, the Washington Monument. A white Virginia resident received a permit to place a Black Lives Matter flag in her backyard after officials said they didn’t have the authority to remove a Confederate flag that’s visible over Interstate 95 that is on private property. A group of Virginians delivered a beautiful cake to Representative Comstock in honor of her 1,000 day without a town hall meeting. Does your congressperson have a “no town hall” anniversary coming up? And what are you baking to celebrate the day?
I hope this list inspires you to take action on a cause that matters to you, no matter how big or small, stand up, act up, be heard.