This is the time of the year when we think about what we have to be thankful for, and for me it starts with the millions of people who showed up on January 21, 2017 in thousands of cities across world for the biggest women’s march ever and for the millions of people every day since then who call, write, protest, fund-raise, volunteer, donate, etc. to stand up for freedom, equality, health care, economic justice, our planet, and so much else. Thank you for all you do, without you this blog would be a blank page week after week. Now that you are post-Thanksgiving stupor let me tell you about all the good that happened while you celebrated the holiday honoring a time when true Americans fed the hungry and needy undocumented refugees fleeing persecution and seeking a new life arriving on the shores of their unspoiled land. The highlights include;
- CAN’T STOP SANCTUARY CITIES – A U.S. District Court Judge permanently blocked the executive order cutting funding from cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities, saying in the decision that public comments by 45 and Jeff Sessions contradicted the Dept. of Justice’s arguments in court (the silver lining to the garbage they spew).
- MILITARY TRANSGENDER MEMBERS HERE TO STAY – A second U.S. District Court Judge blocked the entirety of the transgender military ban, including the ban on gender- reassignment surgery, going even further than the first judge. The opinionated Bush appointee presiding over the matter said the ban was “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified” and transgender military members have no negative effect on the military.
- WOMEN IN TEXAS CAN STILL HAVE ABORTIONS – A S. District Court Judge struck down a Texas law that unconstitutionally restricted women’s access to the most common form of second trimester abortions.
- MASSACHUSETTS DEMANDS WOMEN GET BIRTH CONTROL – Massachusetts’ republican Governor bucked the party line and agreed this week that women should have access to birth control and signed legislation that mandates health insurers cover birth control and requires coverage of emergency birth control without a prescription, among other requirements (but male genitalia was saved by not requiring coverage of vasectomies).
- VIRGINIA HEADS DOWN THE PATH OF BANNING GUNS – Virginia Gov. has banned guns at political rallies at Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue.
- HELPING TO END TO INCARCERATION BEFORE CONVICTION – The Bail Project announced the start of their nationwide project using a revolving fund of $30 million in donations to bail low-income defendants out of pretrial detention.
BECAUSE MONUMENTS AND NAMES MATTER – Alexandria, Virginia, removed a portrait of Robert E. Lee from the wall of the City Council chambers and relocated it to a local history museum, with the Mayor calling the museum “a more appropriate place” for the painting. If the birthplace of Lee can do it, so can other cities. The Atlanta committee appointed to consider the naming associated with the confederacy issued a report recommending the immediate renaming of “Confederate Avenue, East Confederate Avenue, and any street named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, John B. Gordon, Robert E. Lee, Stephen Dill Lee, or Howell Cobb, along with other actions. Confederate Motors announced it was changing its name to Curtiss Motorcycle Co., honoring motorcycling pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss.
SAVING THE PLANET ONE PIPELINE, GAS WELL, and COAL PLANT AT A TIME – A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency order temporarily halting construction on the NEXUS Gas Transmission in the city of Green (OH) finding they are likely to prevail in proving the state EPA failed to follow its rules in approving it. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment voted to increase the frequency of the monitoring of small gas wells in the Denver-Julesburg Basin’s oil and gas production area. Kentucky Utilities Co. announced it will close two old coal-fired power plants due to a combination of stricter environmental rules and customers’ embracing energy-efficiency measures. Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and more of the largest energy companies pledged to reduce their methane emissions, acknowledging publicly that global warming is a major problem worldwide and establishing guiding principles to reduce emissions. The Center for Biological Diversity and the NRDC sued to stop the Interior Department from allowing Americans to bring elephant trophies from Zimbabwe into the U.S.
BREAKING GLASS CEILINGS BIG and SMALL – Anita Sinha, was named the first head of the Chicago. Spokane appointed its first female assistant fire chief.
STANDING UP FOR IMMIGRANTS – The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging a proposed ballot initiative intended to make “sanctuary cities” unconstitutional for being misleading. Community efforts were instrumental in helping undocumented immigrants with no criminal records, families and jobs like Hugo Mejia in California and Riaz Talukder in New York, to get orders of release from ICE custody and extension from deportation to seek new legal status.
MOVING FORWARD NOT BACK ON LGBTQ RIGHTS – A jury found Southeastern Oklahoma State University discriminated against a transgender professor and denied her tenure because of her gender and awarded her $1.1 million dollars. The Virginia House of Delegates changed the chamber’s rules so that those speaking on the floor of the House will no longer refer to each other as ‘Gentleman’ or ‘Gentlewoman’, and will instead use the term ‘Delegate’ as a gender-neutral address. While the reason behind it was so they don’t have to call Danica Roem Gentlewoman, I’m still calling it a positive because the title shouldn’t refer to a person’s sex anyway since it has no relevance, a delegate is a delegate.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH MEANS FREEDOM FROM PEPPER SPRAY BUT NOT THE RIGHT TO SPREAD FAKE NEWS- The ACLU sued Arizona police alleging they misused pepper spray against protesters at a Trump rally and then refused to respond to records requests. Nigel Farage was forced to publically apologize to the anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate and to agree to never claim they use “violent and undemocratic means” after they sued him for libel.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION – Organizers in Michigan submitted more than enough petition signatures required to get the legalization of recreational marijuana on the ballot for next year.
ELECTION WINS AND VOTING RIGHTS – Denmark’s Social Democrats party made big gains in recent local elections. Lebanese-American Susan Dabaja was elected president of Dearborn’s (MI) city council. U.S. District Court Judge indicated that the Justice Department attorney told the court that the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity will not meet in December.
JUST PLAIN GOOD AND ENTERTAINING NEWS – The Donald J. Trump Foundation is in the process of dissolving, and will be able to do so when the NYS Attorney General finishes its investigation of its illegal payments. The Trump Organization’s management and licensing of The Trump SoHo Hotel was bought out by the property’s owner, allowing them to remove the Trump name from the failing hotel. Time magazine disputed 45’s claim that he rejected their request for an interview and photo-shoot for “Person of the Year” saying there was “not a speck of truth” to his claims.” Poland banned white supremacist extraordinaire, Richard Spencer, from entering any of the 26 countries in the EU for five years. The Washington Post published a list of all of 45’s sexual harassment/assault accusers after he stated he supports Moore. A top general says would resist an illegal nuclear strike order issued by 45, now we can stop our nuclear attack drills right?
AWESOME ACTIVISM – About 300 protesters led by clergy and the Justice Coalition took to their knees outside the AT&T Stadium as the anthem was played during the NFL game, while a number of NFL players on different teams, continued to protest for the 12th week. Protesters marched and chanted during St. Augustine’s Light Up! Night in the Plaza de la Constitución, demanding the city take down two Confederate monuments. A collaboration of Overpass Light Brigade, People Over Profits, and other artists and activists lit up the border wall with prototypes with ladders and other images critical of the project. Several thousand people streamed from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial to protest how the U.S. has handled Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery. Golden State Warriors head coach appeared on CNN and explained that the team’s desire not to visit the White House to celebrate their NBA championship came about because they did not feel they could not aside what 45 “does with his words, with his actions” in regards to handicap people, women, and others to shake his hand. The woman threatened with arrest by Sheriff Nehls for driving around Texas with “F__K TRUMP AND F__K YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM” truck decal has added “F–K TROY NEHLS AND F–K YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” Propublica sued to obtain some of the visitor’s log for the White House and have now published the information they obtained in easily usable form.
A LOOK BACK AT SOME OF THE LESS REPORTED ELECTION WINS THIS MONTH – There were a number of more local election wins I did not get to mentioning from this month’s election that I want to point out, because they mean as much as the big ones;
- AFRICAN AMERICAN, MUSLIM, LATINA/LATINO, AND IMMIGRANT FIRSTS – The first Muslim was elected to the Cambridge City Council (MA) and Mussab Ali, became the first Muslim elected official in Jersey City (NJ) when he was elected to Jersey City school board. Democratic Marc Rodriguez is the first Latino elected to the Annapolis City (MD) Council. The first two Latino members on the City Council were elected in Burien (WA) and Lancaster, Pa. In Boise, Idaho, community activist Lisa Sanchez became the first Latina elected to the city council. Fartun Ahmed was elected to Hopkins (MN) school board making her the first Somali woman in the country to be elected to a school board. The first Asian and immigrant was elected to the Rome Common Council (NY). Lamar (SC) elected its first African-American woman mayor. Manchester (CT) elected their first Hispanic Board of Directors member, and the first African American, both women. Latinos now hold six of the nine seats on the town’s Board of Alders in New Britain (CT).
- WOMEN MAYORS – So many small cities saw the election of their first female mayors, Hyde Park and Hildale (UT), Bridgeville and Carnegi’s (PA), Long View (NC), Queen City (NH), Decorah (IA), Blacksburg’s (VA), Bristol and West Haven (CT) and Myrtle Beach, ousting a 12 year incumbent.
- FEMALE BOARDS – the Methuen City Council (NJ) is going to have a female majority, with 5 out of the 9 members women. In Lawrence (KS) for the first time, the majority of all three local governing bodies will be women: the Lawrence City Commission, Douglas County Commission and Lawrence school board. Nashwa NH elected 7 women to the Board of Alderman with 2 of the women elected people of color. Salisbury (SC) elected the first ever majority female council. Women will make up the majority of the newly elected Attleboro (MA) City Council.
- WOMEN FIRSTS – Democrat Kimberly Ragazzo became the first woman elected Town Justice in Cortland (NY) defeating a 28-year incumbent. Democrat Cathy Tendrich became the first female first selectman in Plainfield (KS), Liz Miles wins for tax collector against 16 yr white male incumbent in New hope PA, In Greenwich (CT) women won about half the seats on the 230-member Representative Town Meeting, up from about a third.
- LGBTQ GAINS – SC Salisbury (SC) elected its first openly gay council member. In NY, Oneida County elected the first openly gay legislator to the County Board of Legislators. The Keystone Student Voice sums up the over a dozen historical wins for the LGBTQ community in elections in Pennsylvania.
- NAME CHANGES – Brookline (MA) approved the changing of the name of the town’s Board of Selectmen to the “Select Board.”
- TURNED BLUE – The Democratic won the mayoral race in Fredericks (MD) and all five aldermanic seats, turning the city blue. Jen Mullen was the first democrat elected to the Town of Corning Board (NY) in a majority Republican town. While the Rochester Hills (MI) City Council positions are “nonpartisan” a more progressive woman won a seat previously held by a conservative male. Democrats in Connecticut did a bang up job. In they took five of the six city council seats. In Sherman the democratic candidate beat the republican incumbent to win a seat on the Board of Selectmen. In Newtown, democrats won a first selectman seat and they took control of the Legislative Council, turning a 7-5 Republican majority to an 8-4 Democratic one. In Brookfield, Democrats took control of the boards of education and finance, in Ridgefield they took control of the Board of Education and strengthened their hold on the Board of Finance, and in Bethel they won control of the Board of Finance. And last but not least, an openly autistic woman won a seat on the Board of Education in Enfield.