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Diminished in Congress and Many States, Dems Weigh Future

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In this Dec. 2, 2014 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden administers the Senate oath to Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii during a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional Democrats are on a retreat in more ways than one this week. As Democratic lawmakers gather in Baltimore to talk strategy and lick election wounds, their party faces diminished powers in Congress, GOP dominance in the states, and a shrinking pool of potential candidates for future elections. The picture is especially bleak in the South, where some Democrats hope courts will overturn GOP-controlled “gerrymandering” of congressional and state legislative districts. Elsewhere, Democrats in swing states say their party must get better at highlighting the improved economy and the surge in energy production under President Obama. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

In this Dec. 2, 2014 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden administers the Senate oath to Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii during a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press
ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Democrats are in retreat in more ways than one this week.

As Democratic senators gather in Baltimore to talk strategy and lick election wounds, their party faces diminished powers in Congress, GOP dominance in many states and a shrinking pool of potential candidates for future elections.

In the November elections, Democrats lost their eight-year Senate majority, and saw their House numbers fall to the lowest level in seven decades.

In the states, Republicans will hold 31 governorships, and more state legislative seats than they’ve had since 1928. It especially vexes Democrats to see Republicans dominate the U.S. House delegations and the state governments in several states that President Barack Obama won, including huge legislative majorities in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat who said the party has “failed to do something that I think represents an opportunity for us. We really haven’t talked to the American people about what government does for them.”

The big gap between Democratic success at the presidential level and elsewhere “is a real dilemma, I think, for democracy really, not just the Democratic Party,” said Rep. David Price of North Carolina, a 14-term congressman and former Duke University political scientist. He said Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia display the “most egregious” examples of gerrymandered districts for congressional and state legislative races.

This long-practiced brand of partisan map-making, Price said, helps Republicans control the legislatures of states that vote Democratic for president. But in a sign of local Democrats’ struggles to change voters’ minds, Price said the best prospect for reversing the trend — in the South, at least — is in lawsuits that allege racial bias in the way Republicans drew district boundaries.

Obama’s veto power, plus Democratic senators’ ability to block some bills with filibusters, will limit GOP success in Congress over the next two years. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are limiting their ambitions and hoping for at least a partial thaw in partisan gridlock.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said he hopes both parties will move beyond campaign rhetoric and “get to a point where we can actually move the ball on some issues.” He pointed to a series of events this year “that could actually see breakthroughs or another breakdown, from the debt ceiling to Social Security disability to infrastructure.”

Congressional Republicans will naturally take credit for any legislative achievements, Warner said. However, he said, “a functioning government, when you’ve got a Democratic president, actually still helps Democrats.”

Many Democrats say the party needs to sharpen its messaging. They note that voters in several states last fall approved referendums to raise the minimum wage, and simultaneously ousted Democratic senators who backed the proposals.

“We believe we’re on the right side of the issues, and all we can do is keeping making the case,” Yarmuth said. “Hopefully we’ll get better at that.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California on Tuesday announced a new messaging team led by Steve Israel, D-N.Y. “We need a message,” Israel said. “An effective message doesn’t tell voters what to think. It builds on what they feel.”

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said Democrats must do a better job of highlighting economic improvements and a dramatic increase in energy production under Obama’s watch. They should talk about initiatives, such as a higher minimum wage, and better training for workers, not as government programs but as common-sense ways to help workers, he said.

“We’re not battling to increase government,” Kaine said, “we’re battling to help everyday people.”

Some Democrats note that their congressional leaders have been around for decades, and don’t personify fresh ideas. The House’s top three Democratic leaders —Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn — are in their mid-70s. So is Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

More troubling to Democrats is Republican dominance of local politics in states that are competitive in presidential and Senate races.

Obama carried Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia twice, and North Carolina once. Yet Republicans hold big majorities in these states’ legislative chambers, except Virginia, where their Senate majority is narrow.

Of the 99 U.S House seats in these six states, Democrats hold 30.

These discrepancies can’t be blamed entirely on gerrymandering, said Steve Schale, a top Florida Democratic strategist. Too often, he said, “we’ve done a lousy job of recruiting candidates” at all levels. Strong candidate recruitment — starting with mayors and state legislatures — builds a farm team of potential candidates for governor and Congress, Schale said.

“We’ve gotten away from a lot of that basic blocking and tackling,” he said. He said the November election of Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham — who ousted a Republican House member from the Tallahassee area — proves that a well-funded and articulate Democrat can prosper even in a strong GOP year.

Presidential politics remain the Democrats’ brightest spot. They’ve won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential races, and they have high hopes for a 2016 field that could feature Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Still, some Democrats worry that Clinton might come across as a stale, too-familiar politician. If Republicans nominate Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, however, that issue might be negated.

Price predicts Republican lawmakers will turn off moderate voters by placating conservative hard-liners.

“We see the most extreme elements of the conference getting their wish list,” Price said. That gives Democrats a natural opening with “more reasonable and more moderate voters,” he said.

“The tea party agenda is energizing,” he said, “believe me.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Applauds 2nd Round of Workforce Funding from COVID Community Care Act Legislation

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

Announced on July 27, these awards are funded with resources from provisions within the American Rescue Plan Act that Lee led through her COVID Community Care Act.  This reflects the second of two funding opportunities announced in May 2021 for community-based efforts to hire and mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists, and others to increase vaccine access for the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities through high-touch, on-the-ground outreach to educate and assist individuals in getting the information they need about vaccinations.

The first round of funding, which was administered in June, included an $11 million award to the Public Health Institute in Oakland and a $9.5 million award to the Association of Asian/Pacific Community Health Organizations in Berkeley. Three Oakland based organizations, the Public Health Institute, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases, and Safe Passages, are recipients of this round of funding, bringing the total funding brought to organizations in CA-13 to nearly $23 million.

“We are facing another inflection point in this pandemic. We must make meaningful investments in getting everyone vaccinated—especially communities of color and medically underserved communities,” said Lee.  “I worked hard in Congress to invest in trusted messengers at the community level to build confidence in vaccines and COVID-19 prevention efforts. This is a much-needed continuation of that work, and we’ll see over a million dollars of investment on the ground in our own East Bay community.

“Our Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Native American member Congresswoman Sharice Davids, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott and Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro deserve credit for their hard work and support in getting this across the finish line in the American Rescue Plan.  We can see that the work of House Democrats is making a real-life impact on the ground for communities.  This is an important step, but we must continue our work to dismantle systemic racism in our public health system and ensure that vaccines are equitably and adequately distributed.”

The purpose of this program is to establish, expand, and sustain a public health workforce to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.  This includes mobilizing community outreach workers, which includes community health workers, patient navigators, and social support specialists to educate and assist individuals in accessing and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.  

This includes activities such as conducting face-to-face outreach and reaching out directly to community members to educate them about the vaccine, assisting individuals in making a vaccine appointment, providing resources to find convenient vaccine locations, assisting individuals with transportation or other needs to get to a vaccination site.

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Bay Area

Where Do Negotiations Go Now After A’s “Howard Terminal” or Bust Ultimatum?

The A’s are seeking to develop 55 acres at the Port of Oakland. The proposal includes a 35,000-seat baseball stadium, which would cost $1 billion, or 8.3% of the total project.

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Oakland A's Photo Courtesy of Rick Rodriquez via Unsplash

FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, Oakland Athletics President David Kaval gestures during a news conference in Oakland, Calif. TheAthletics will be phased out of revenue sharing in the coming years as part of baseball’s new labor deal, and that puts even more urgency on the small-budget franchise’s plan to find the right spot soon to build a new, privately funded ballpark. Kaval, named to his new A’s leadership position last month, is committed to making quick progress but also doing this right. That means strong communication with city and civic leaders as well as the community and fan base. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

John Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikki Fortunato

Rebecca Kaplan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland’s City Council rejected the A’s proposed non-binding term sheet, which the team had presented to the City along with an ultimatum, “Howard Terminal or Bust.”

At a packed City Council meeting last week, attended by 1,000 people on Zoom, many residents were angry at what they viewed as the A’s real estate “land grab” at the Port of Oakland and either said that the team should leave or stay at the Oakland Coliseum in East Oakland.
Rejecting the A’s term sheet, councilmembers at the July 20th meeting voted 6-1 with one abstention to make a counteroffer, approving city staff’s and Council’s amendments to the A’s term sheet.

Council’s vote was to continue negotiating with the A’s, and the A’s gained substantial concessions, $352 million, enough to return for further negotiations, in Oakland. The Council’s vote didn’t derail A’s pursuit of Las Vegas.

Now, over a week since Council’s vote, neither A’s President Dave Kaval nor owner John Fisher have spoken publically on the A’s intent to continue bargaining with Oakland for their proposed $12 billion waterfront development at Howard Terminal.

The A’s are seeking to develop 55 acres at the Port of Oakland. The proposal includes a 35,000-seat baseball stadium, which would cost $1 billion, or 8.3% of the total project.

In addition to the stadium, the development features 3,000 condominium/housing units; over a million square feet of commercial space (office and retail); a 3,500-seat performance theater, 400 hotel rooms and approximately 18 acres of parks and open space.

The most fundamental sticking point, along with all the other complications, is whether a commercial/residential development, ‘a city within a city,” in the middle of a working seaport are compatible uses for the land. Many experts are saying that the existence of upscale residences and thousands of tourists strolling around will eventually destroy the Port of Oakland, which is the economic engine of the city and the region.

According to Kaval, who had pushed for the Council to approve the ultimatum, “We’re disappointed that the city did not vote on our proposal … we’re going to take some time and really dig in and understand and ‘vet’ what they did pass and what all the amendments mean.”

Although the A’s stated a willingness to be open to the amended terms Council approved, Kaval expressed uncertainty whether the Council’s amended term sheet offers “a path forward.”

“The current [amended] term sheet as its constructed is not a business partnership that works for us,” said Kaval, saying the team would have to examine the Council’s counter-offer before deciding to resume negotiations or return to Las Vegas or focus on finding a new home someplace else.

City Council President Bas and Mayor Libby Schaaf joined city and labor leaders to discuss the Council’s vote. Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan made it clear that the amended term sheet the Council approved should be considered a “road map for future negotiations … a baseline for further discussions.”

Upon Kaval’s dismissal of the Council’s stated positions, Fife said, “I don’t know where we go from here,” abstaining from the vote on the proposed term sheet.

Many find Kaval’s statement confusing because he used words like partnership but apparently ignored and/or disregarded the City of Oakland – the A’s major stakeholder and a business partnership since 1968, more than 53 years.

Some are asking if the A’s understand that Oakland’s 53-year relationship with the team is the basis for the meme “Rooted in Oakland?” Are the A’s willing to accept, as the Council has determined, that the terms of the business “partnership” must be equitable and mutually beneficial for all of “us”?

And the question remains after a 53-year relationship, is it reasonable to terminate that relationship or negotiate further for an equitable and mutually beneficial business partnership?

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Community

Civil Rights Icon, Robert Parris Moses, 86

Dr. Robert Parris Moses, a Harlem native who became one of the architects of Freedom Summer, died at his home in Hollywood, Fla., on July 25. He was 86 years old.

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Dr. Robert Parris Moses

Dr. Robert Parris Moses, a Harlem native who became one of the architects of Freedom Summer, died at his home in Hollywood, Fla., on July 25. He was 86 years old.

“Throughout his life, Bob Moses bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice,” said Derrick Johnson, head of the NAACP on Twitter at hearing of Moses’ death. “He was a strategist at the core of the voting rights movement and beyond. He was a giant. May his light continue to guide us as we face another wave of Jim Crow laws.”

Among his contemporaries in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which Moses joined in a founding meeting in 1960, he was known for his quiet, measured demeanor, deliberately eschewing the spotlight.

By taking to heart the values taught by his mentor, NAACP youth leader Ella Baker, who believed in engaging the local population to enact change, he deliberately disrupted leadership norms in the Black community that centered the male, charismatic voice.   

It was Baker who sent Moses to the deep South in August 1960 where her NAACP contacts in McComb, Miss., wanted to do more than integrate lunch counters and bus waiting rooms. In the summer of 1961, they would embark on a voter registration campaign. Well-documented terror and violence ensued. Over the next three years, Moses would be beaten while escorting a Black couple up the courthouse steps to register to vote, waiting until that was done before seeking medical treatment. In another incident he and two others would dodge Klansmen’s bullets on country roads.

Moses was one of the organizers of 1964’s Freedom Summer, which saw mostly college kids flock to Mississippi to help register Black people to vote. Moses was also instrumental in creating the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which famously attempted to be recognized at the Democratic presidential election in 1964 and where sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer would embody the bottom-up philosophy espoused by Baker. It was her speech, broadcast on nationwide television and which then-Pres. Lyndon Johnson tried to pre-empt, that brought home to the American public the terror of living in Mississippi while Black.

Disillusioned by the policies of liberal Democrats, Moses disengaged from SNCC and, on his own, began to speak out against the Vietnam War. In 1966, at the age of 31, five years older than the normal maximum draft age, the married father was drafted. He moved to Canada and then to Tanzania with his wife and stayed there working in the Ministry of Education, returning to the U.S. in 1977 when he and 100,000 others were pardoned by Pres. Jimmy Carter.

A few years later, after completing his doctorate in philosophy, he visited his daughter’s school. Learning that algebra was not offered at the inner-city school, was what led him to founding the Algebra Project. In 1982, he received the MacArthur Genius Award for his program of helping schools and communities get the basic math classes that are the gateway to college admission.

In addition to the degrees he earned from Hamilton College and Harvard, he has received honorary degrees from Swarthmore College, Ohio State University, and the University of Missouri.

Other awards were the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship and the War Resisters League Peace Award among others.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Janet Jemmott Moses; children Maisha Moses, Omo Wale Moses, Taba Moses, Malaika Moses and Saba Moses; and seven grandchildren.

The New York Times, The Nation, Wikipedia, National Public Radio, Reuters and The Miami Herald were sources for this report. 

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