It is sometimes hard to stay positive in the face of unbelievable sadness, but one thing that was clear from the many courageous public statements of those who suffered great loss in Florida was their passionate demand that we as a country do something, that we act, that we work together to stop the madness. The valiant students, families, and teachers who stood up and spoke out at one of the most painful moments in their lives shows us that no matter what we face, we have the strength to fight through adversity to seek reform. That is why I search out our successes, showing where and how we achieve change in the face of an administration and congress that is forever trying to be less caring to the people and the land we live on. Through lawsuits, civic engagement, protesting, fundraising, and more we accomplish a lot even if the headlines doesn’t always appear that way. This week the highlights of what progressives can see as a step in the right direction are;
- #BlueWave2018 Democrat Margaret Good won a special election for a Florida state House seat previously held by a Republican, in a district the twittler-in-chief carried by a 5-point margin. Sister District groups across the country helped with phone banking, canvassing, and fundraising.
- #BailReform A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Harris County (TX), which includes Houston, bail system is unconstitutional because their policy of detaining indigent misdemeanor defendants before trial violated equal protection rights against wealth-based discrimination.
- #MeToo The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act was passed, which requires certain adults who interact with young athletes to report cases of child abuse, including sexual abuse.
- #StandWithImmigrants A second U.S. District Judge issued an injunction barring the administration from ending DACA pending a decision on the merits of the cases challenging its termination and a second U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the third version of the travel ban is unconstitutional.
- #DreamActNow A federal judge ordered the Dept. of Energy to implement four energy efficiency regulations that it delayed for more than a year and to publish the standards within 28 days of the ruling.
- #RussianCollusion In a big leap forward in the Russia investigation, Mueller brought charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections and more charges against Manafort. He also announced that Richard Pinedo pled guilty to identity fraud in a scheme where he helped his Russian-backed ring of social media customers use dummy bank accounts to bypass the security of companies like PayPal to transfer money and pay for online services.
👮CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM took some BIG STEPS FORWARD with Jackson (MS) voting to decriminalize marijuana, limiting the maximum penalty for possession of small amounts of cannabis to a $100 fine and no prison time. California’s AG announced the state will take over evaluating ongoing police reform in San Francisco, after the U.S. Dept of Justice stopped. Berkeley (CA) voted to become a cannabis sanctuary city, prohibiting city agencies from using municipal resources to assist in the enforcement of federal marijuana law or provide any information on the city’s legal permitted cannabis businesses.New Jersey issued a report on the results after a year of their criminal justice system overhaul showing the number of people charged with minor crimes who are jailed for the inability to pay bail dropped by 20 percent.
🧕Courts and elected officials continue to STAND UP FOR IMMIGRANTS. Senate Democrats blocked a GOP amendment that would have limited federal grants to “sanctuary city” jurisdictions. A U.S. District judge demanded that ICE explain why a mother of two was arrested and jailed for nearly a month after going to a government office to apply for legal residency. A federal immigration judge granted a temporary stay for a Kansas City professor and father just in time for him to be taken off a plane bound for his native country while it stopped to refuel in Hawaii. New Jersey’s attorney general signed on to another lawsuit challenging the withholding of federal law enforcement grants from cities that limit cooperation with ICE and other federal agencies.
💗STOPPING HATE The republican Deputy Mayor of Mendham township (NJ) resigned after making racist and anti-immigrant posts on facebook. Kent State University continued to refuse to allow white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus, stating they don’t have appropriate space. A Queens (NY) condo that was plastered with Nazi and Confederate imagery and hate symbols agreed to remove the displays and the board member credited with posting them will have to resign as part of a settlement with the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Twitter permanently banned a GOP congressional candidate after he posted a racist picture targeting Meghan Markle.
🗽BECAUSE MONUMENTS AND NAMES MATTER to the people who see them Baltimore (MD) approved plans to rededicate a Confederate monument honoring Confederate Generals to now honor Harriet Tubman. Emporia State University named a new dorm after the first woman who was appointed as president of a public university in Kansas. Utah lawmakers voted to put up a statue of a woman who defeated her polygamist husband to become the nation’s first female state senator at the U.S. Capitol. Since state law prohibits Georgia cities from removing Confederate statues, Savannah decided to rename a monument erected in memory of Confederate soldiers to instead honor all those who died in the Civil War.
👩🏾⚖️GETTING JUSTICE FROM THE CRIMINAL SYSTEM was possible for the family of Korryn Gaines, who was killed in a standoff with police when they were awarded $37 million in a wrongful death case. Two Baltimore’s detectives were found guilty of criminal charges for their use of force for extortion, robbery and planting evidence.
🏳️🌈Helping the LGBTQ community is the Erie County Legislature (NY) passing a law banning gay conversion therapy practices on minors. Lehigh County (PA) executive issued an administrative notice, instructing the county and any company doing business with the county to treat sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes. Arkansas was ordered to pay $71,000 in legal fees for the same-sex couple who won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state’s birth-certificate law was unconstitutional because it failed to allow birth certificates to be issued to married same-sex couples listing both spouses as the parents of their children. Eric Radford became the first openly gay athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.
🏥PROVIDING HEALTHCARE TO ALL Local government, health care groups and others sued the administration after it abruptly cut short grants under the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program two years sooner than authorized. The ACLU sued Kansas alleging the state’s Medicaid program denies hepatitis C treatments until patients are severely ill.
🤱PROTECTING the RIGHT TO CHOOSE The ACLU sued to block an Ohio law that bans abortions on the basis of a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
🌎HELPING to SAVE THE PLANET became possible when a federal judge found the EPA arbitrarily and capriciously delayed compliance dates for a rule that limits formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. Shell Chemical agreed to pay $350,000 in fines and install $10 million in pollution monitoring and control equipment at its chemical facility in Louisiana to settle federal and state lawsuits that allege it violated emissions laws. Conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent today to sue the EPA for failing to consider harm to endangered species when adopting a rule that delays the effective date for the 2015 Clean Water Rule.
🌲OTHERS IN THE WORLD SHOW US HOW TO SAVE THE PLANET. Nepal has banned all vehicles older than 20 years to combat air pollution. Ontario Canada is spending over 10 million to help farmers and agri-food businesses improve energy efficiency and flight climate change. Queen Elizabeth II is banning plastic straws and phasing out single-use plastics from public cafes, royal residences and staff dining rooms.
🗳️FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS are more possible with the PA Governor rejecting the proposed congressional map submitted by Republican legislative leaders finding them to be unfairly gerrymandered, putting the PA Supreme Court in control of creating the new maps and ordering counties that plan to replace their electronic voting systems to buy machines that leave a paper trail. NBC News published more than 200,000 tweets by Russian troll accounts during the 2016 election that were deleted by Twitter after the company tied them to “malicious activity” to show the extent of their interference in political matters. Senator Booker joined Gillibrand, Warren, Sanders, and Cantwell in pledging to reject corporate PAC money. New York City announced a public school voter registration drive to help school staffers identify the more than 50,000 voting eligible students and help them complete and submit their registration.
⚖️ECONOMIC AND RACIAL JUSTICE improved when Austin became the first city in Texas, to require all employers to provide paid sick leave to workers employed by private employers. The Federal Trade Commission sued three student loan debt relief companies for alleged violations of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Graffiti artists whose works on the outside of a NYC building were destroyed in violation of a local Law were awarded 6.7 million dollars in damages. Dan Haberman, one of the candidates for A Michigan’s Congressional District unionized his campaign staff. A NY State Judge ruled that Charter Communications Inc (known as Spectrum – previously Time Warner Cable) must face a lawsuit by NY’s attorney general accusing them of providing customers with slower than advertised internet speeds, rejecting Charter’s claim they are preempted by federal law. The Indiana Supreme Court declared that Lake Michigan’s shoreline is open to all, and adjacent property owners cannot exercise exclusive control of the beach between their homes and the water. A predominantly white Alabama city was denied the right to secede from a county school system that remains under a 1971 desegregation order by a federal appellate court, finding it had a discriminatory purpose.
🛑In efforts to STOP UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR the F.C.C Inspector General began an investigation into whether the Chairman improperly made rule changes to benefit his prior employer. The ACLU sued Salem (NH) for charging exorbitant police record fees in violation of state statutes. Citizen United (Yes, that Citizen United) lost a case challenging a New York law requiring the public disclosure of donors who give more than $5,000 to nonprofits in the state.
👩🎓Women continue to BREAK GLASS CEILINGS. The NY Botanical Garden named its first woman president. After 1,100 years, a woman is finally in charge of Britain’s Royal Mint and it only took 147 years for New Britain (CT) Police Department to have a female captain.
😄 FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT U.S. tax authorities have subpoenaed documents from lenders and investors in real estate projects managed by Jared Kushner’s family. Eleven city employees in Hildale (UT) resigned after the female mayor was sworn in, stating their religion prohibits them from taking orders from a woman.
⛼Another week, so it’s time for another FEW TO BITE THE DUST. ICE’s chief counsel in Seattle resigned after being charged with stealing immigrant identities and using them to commit wire fraud. A senior official on the National Economic Council resigned after working for a year with an interim clearance after he was denied a permanent security clearance because of prior marijuana use.The administration’s pick to oversee the 2020 census pulled his name from consideration after criticism of his advocating for political gerrymandering.
🕬AWESOME ACTIVISM The ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and the NAACP have backed a ballot campaign and are collecting signatures to add a voting rights amendment to the Michigan state constitution.Planned Parenthood announced a new campaign to help expand access to reproductive health care state-by-state. Thousands of fast-food workers in two-dozen cities across the country walked off their jobs and others rallied nationwide to fight for a $15 wage and union rights. A Utah woman penned a great response to a legislators objection to public breastfeeding. A Seattle TV station spent $12,000 to buy and forgive $1 million in medical debt for people in its coverage area.