American River Democrats to consider two measures

At this Wednesday’s meeting, the American River Democrats will voting on whether to support two proposals. Members should become familiar with the ideas to better know how to vote.


The California Democratic Party is considering the following to place on the official platform:

And here is the language for the proposed CADEM change –
The final version of the water proposal developed by the caucus was submitted to the platform committee.
Add to platform preamble:

We believe that the health, safety, and well-being of the people are the highest priorities for government.

Add to platform provisions:
Urge state legislature to enact, governor to sign legislation, and agencies to implement and enforce rules that

  • Guarantee each Californian sufficient safe, clean water for basic needs
  • Motivate all users to support efficient, sustainable, safe use of available water
  • Fully protect all water sources from contamination
  • Ensure allocation and management of sufficient water for environmental purposes as determined scientifically, since we depend on the environment for our prosperity and life itself
  • Require all end use to be metered
  • Regulate groundwater use in a fair and sustainable manner

Rationale for change to Party Platform
Water affects everyone on many levels, from simple survival to social equality, economic prosperity, recreation, fish and wildlife, and fiscal responsibility. How to manage water is one of the core issues of the century. Water deserves to be recognized as such in the platform.

Water is a complex issue in California. Because current policy is not sustainable, it will require comprehensive reform. But the proposed points are not revolutionary; they are just common sense. The party is already committed to fairness and sustainability. We simply want to make this commitment explicit with respect to water.


SacRideHuman has reached out to the American River Democrats to ask for our support in urging the Sacramento Regional Transit to end its contract with security company G4S.

Sacramentans are asking Sacramento Regional Transit to not extend their contract with G4S, a global private security company that is profiting from and complicit with human rights violations around the world, including operating privatized juvenile prisons in the United States in which inmates have been abused. 

We are also asking that Sac RT develop social responsibility criteria to be included in the request for proposals (RFP) for the next contract to exclude companies that are involved in human rights violations.

For detailed information about their reasons for this action, please visit their website.

Senator Richard Pan speaks at September meeting

State Senator Dr. Richard Pan

For many of us in the American River Democrats, 2010 was a special time. After 5th District Assemblyman Roger Niello left office due to term limits, Dr. Richard Pan won his first state elective office, and for 2 years, represented many of the club’s members – our first Democrat in years!

Then the boundaries were changed in re-districting, and we lost him to the 6th District, and he went on to win a seat in the state senate. And even though few – if any – of our club members are in his current senate district, he was still happy to reach out to the club, and spoke at our September meeting.

Of course, if you follow California politics, you are aware that Dr. Pan was one of the leading voices and proponents of Senate Bill 277, which insured much higher vaccination rates for children in public schools, eliminating the “personal belief” exemption some parents had been using to not vaccinate their children.

Senator/Doctor Pan pointed out, as he spoke to the club, that this measure was aimed at protecting the community rather than the individual children who may now get their vaccinations. A certain population of children for medical reasons cannot get vaccinated, or need to delay the process, and they are at greater risk of getting some of the debilitating diseases from a larger population of other non-vaccinated kids. The greater the number, the more chance that a single exposed child will spread the disease to the others, as was seen at Disneyland earlier this year when 147 people contracted measles.

The most notable vaccination opponents have the belief that vaccines cause autism, because their children have shown the first signs of autism soon after a vaccination. They even cite a study from England that supposedly proved a connection. But as Dr. Pan, and many others have pointed out, that study has been completely de-bunked, and there is no credible evidence to support any connection.

Pan reminded us that ten California babies died in 2010 from pertussis, or whooping cough, as a result of their exposure to the disease that many thought had been totally wiped out. But over 9,000 people contracted it then, and infants too young to be vaccinated were victims of exposure to people who were old enough, but did not.

But now that SB277 is law, the opponents march on! One effort, led by former Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, sought to place a referendum on the ballot to overturn SB277. They needed over 365,000 signatures to qualify, but fell over 100,000 short, so it will not be on the ballot this time. It can happen again, and the danger, Pan pointed out, is that voters in favor of vaccinations would need to vote “No” on the ballot, so even if most Californians want kids vaccinated, they would still need to be educated on how to vote, so time and money would have to be spent just to keep the status quo.

The other effort opponents are making seems more like a revenge move against the most vocal and notable proponent of the measure, Senator Pan. There is an active recall effort to remove him from office. Of course, there was no mystery about where he stood on the issue when the voters chose him, but a recall is always dangerous for an incumbent. An expensive special election may only draw the most “passionate” voters, and many supporters of Pan may not bother to vote, while the anti-vaxxers would certainly come out in droves.

One way to show your support for Senator Pan is to go to and show your support, even if you are not in his Senate district.

Richard Pan answers questions from the American River Democrats.

Richard Pan answers questions from the American River Democrats.

While at the American River Democrats’ meeting Senator Pan also answered questions from the club. He was asked why he was not supporting the bill to ban microbeads in California, which was recently signed into law by Governor Brown. (Microbeads are the tiny plastic grains in some exfoliating hygiene products that find their way into the environment, fish and wildlife.) Pan said that while he did support eliminating them, he hoped a better bill could be developed that more correctly targeted non-biodegradable varieties, and allowed improved alternatives to be brought to market.

He also talked about legislation he has proposed to increase the tax on tobacco, both in order to raise the price and decrease demand, especially from young people, and to fund medical care and disease prevention. He pointed out that $18 billion is spend each year in the state on tobacco related illness. The tax would go part of the way towards making up that cost. When you ask smoking parents if they want their kids to smoke, almost all of them say no. They know how hard it is to quit – they all have their own addiction stories.

While Pan is proud of how much he and the Democrats in the state legislature have accomplished, he is also very aware that passing bills is fine, but it is equally important to follow up to make sure they are implemented. Some programs, especially related to health care, are great on paper, but come up against roadblocks when it comes time to help the people who need it most. That is where active monitoring by the bill’s sponsors is so important. “Passing a law only works if it helps people on the ground” Pan said.


There is hope for Veterans in need

bera vets

If you heard that over in Iraq and Afghanistan 22 servicemen and women were dying in combat every day, you would probably demand answers from the President and our military leaders, and insist on bringing home our troops.

The sad fact is that they are dying – not from enemy fire and roadside bombs, but by their own hands. Yes, on average twenty-two American Veterans commit suicide each day.

And just as troubling, many of our vets have come home from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other assignments and now have to deal with physical wounds and disabilities, psychological impacts such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even just finding a job! But the good news is that there is help. The challenge is getting vets connected to the resources available.

Matthew Ceccato speaks at the American River Democrats May meeting

Matthew Ceccato speaks at the American River Democrats May meeting

The American River Democrats at the May 20, 2015 meeting welcomed Matthew Ceccato, a field representative and case worker from Congressman Ami Bera’s office, specializing in veterans’ affairs.

Mr. Ceccato is a veteran himself, having served with the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army. Like many young men and women, he joined the military after 9/11, and while preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, he and his unit were instead sent to Iraq. He served two tours of duty, and would likely have done more if he had not been wounded in the second tour. He was shot in both legs, and while recovering at Walter Reed Hospital, he began to deal with adjustments both physical and mental. Like many servicemen and women, his greatest feelings were that he did not want to leave his team behind.

Ceccato joined the Wounded Warriors Fellowship program, and earned the position of Field Representative and Case Worker with Congressman Bera’s office. With over 100,000 veterans located in the Sacramento area (second only to San Diego in California), the need for veteran outreach is especially high in congressional Districts 6 and 7. Ceccato has taken on the responsibility to reach out to, not only Irag and Afghanistan vets, but to Vietnam vets, and even the aging Korean War and World War II vets who still need support. Peacetime vets, and those who may have served during smaller scale combat missions are also eligible for, and often in need of support.

Dr. Bera welcomes Matt to his team (courtesy

Dr. Bera welcomes Matt to his team (courtesy

Ami Bera has made veterans’ issues a priority as well, sponsoring legislation such as the Veterans Choice Accountability Act, which allows vets to get healthcare outside the VA Hospitals when the wait is too long or location is too far, and the Health Care For Heros act, which will reconcile health records from active duty military to the VA systems, so doctors in the VA will have full knowledge of the medical history of their patients. Ceccato said it was particularly gratifying that Bera worked with New York Congressman Chris Gibson, who is also a veteran of the 82nd Airborne, on the legislation. Bera and Gibson, a Republican, are part of a group who have pledged to work “across the aisle” to get important work done.

But the sad thing is, many veterans don’t know where to turn, and when they do seek help, they may have trouble navigating the system to get the assistance they need. And, frankly, some are simply too proud to reach out for help. After their heroic service, they may feel they shouldn’t need help from anyone, they can handle anything. But these issues can leave vets homeless, unemployed, alone, sick or disabled, suffering from depression or other mental illness, and far too often suicidal. Another growing problem is women vets with children who find themselves homeless, and even hopeless.

But that is where people like Matthew Ceccato come in. As a Veterans Services Representive for a local Congressperson, their mission is to help insure all veterans get all the support that is available, and that they deserve! Agents like Matt can help vets find all the support they need, in areas like medical care, housing, job training and recruitment, and financial security. The government can be infamous for rejecting an application because of one small mistake on a form, but people like Matt can help vets fill out and submit forms to insure they will be accepted.

There are several local options for vets to get help, including the US Veterans Service Center at 1111 Howe Avenue, #390, 566-7430 or 877-927-8387; California Department of Veterans Affairs ( 1227 O Street, 800-952-5626; the County Veterans Services office at 2007 19th Street, 874-6811, and others. But those needing extra help may contact Matt at representative Bera’s office at 635-0505, or email him at Personal help and a special resource packet are available for those in need, or their families.

The Mather Veterans Village is also under way to provide veterans with critically needed housing options and supportive services located adjacent to the Sacramento Veterans Administration Medical Center in Rancho Cordova.

An HBO documentary film, which won an Oscar for best documentary short film, titled Crisis Hotline, Veterans Press 1, shows the heroic efforts of those on the receiving end of thousands of suicidal calls each month. It is time to insure America’s veterans get the help they need before they make that call, or even worse, don’t make that call and become another tragic loss. Veterans, rather than becoming victims of their service, can be a hugely valuable resource for America to tap into. As Matt said, “It is time for veterans to propel this country into greatness.”

For more information see Representative Ami Bera’s website with information on getting help for Veterans.

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary, ARDems

April Meeting to focus on Mental Health

Rose King

The American River Democrats will be welcoming Rose King, a special guest speaker who will educate update us on the progress and status of mental health care in California, especially in light of 2004’s Proposition 63, which was intended to dramatically improve the situation in California.

Ms. King has an extensive background in California government and politics, going back to the 1970’s, working with figures such as Nancy Pelosi, Leo McCarthy, and Bill Lockyer.

She was a principal co-author of Prop 63, a family member of individuals with serious mental illness, and served on numerous Boards of Directors related to community mental health, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness of California. As a consultant to then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Rose worked to establish the structure and role of the new Prop 63 Commission during Lockyer’s term on the OAC, and to analyze and promote effective MHSA/Prop 63 implementation policies.

She is an active mental health advocate, political advisor, and an outspoken critic of the state’s mental health policies—specifically advocating an end to discrimination against mental health in MediCal insurance that denies parity with physical health care. She is an independent lobbyist for an equal right to treatment and ethical implementation of Prop 63, the Mental Health Services Act.

In November 2009, she filed a Whistleblower Complaint with the California State Auditor, documenting unlawful implementation of Prop 63, subsequently lobbying for an Audit Committee report, alleging incompetence, waste, potential conflicts of interest, and noncompliance with the law.  With partner Teresa Pasquini of Contra Costa County, Rose established Mental Illness FACTS-Family And Consumer True Stories—to promote activism and public awareness of mental health policy.

SamuraiThe America River Democrats March Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, April 15, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova.

We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!

Fracking in California? Why not?

Damien Luzzo addresses the American River Democrats

When I was a kid, I did some fracking of my own. In my Orange County back yard, I would take the garden hose, and at full pressure, I could start a hole in the ground, and as bits of dirt would come out, the hose would continue to go in. Dirty water would come out as I dug, and the hose just kept going down! I must have burrowed a 20 foot deep hole in my backyard, but only about 2 inches wide. And to my amazement, when I pulled out the hose, the remaining water would just sink quickly away. If I added more, it would just sink – you could see it go down!

Of course, the water was just returning to the ground water table, perhaps to be sucked up again by a well, as most of our water there (I later learned) came from ground sources. So I guess I wasn’t really wasting – and who cared? This was the 60’s after all, and there was plenty to go around.

Move forward many years, and the brilliant engineers for the oil and gas companies have taken my clever idea and expanded it many times over. But their wells are dug thousands of feet deep, and also move laterally. And the water – which is also fresh water, but mixed with sand and chemicals to make it more effective – is injected at 10,000 pounds per square inch of pressure to break up the rock, and release un-tapped oil and natural gas.

Damien Luzzo

Damien Luzzo

The American River Democrats were proud to welcome special guest speaker Damien Luzzo to our March meeting. Damien is probably the most active and prolific organizer of the anti-fracking movement for the Environmental Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

He studied physics and philosophy at UC Santa Barbara, and is now an Assembly District 4 delegate for the CA Democratic Party. Since 2012, he has been the President of SaveWithSunlight; a non-profit organization working to streamline rooftop solar installations. He is a member of the Progressive Democrats of America’s Climate Action Team, and much more.

Damien shared that two of the crucial impacts on California’s water from the practice of fracking, or “hydrolic fracturing”, are waste and contamination. It takes about five million gallons of fresh water to drill and frack a single well – some use over ten million. So while we ordinary citizens do our best by lettting our lawns go brown, skipping a few flushes, and maybe even jumping in a cold shower, all our efforts are literally a drop in the bucket compared to the water wasted in fracking.


But wait, doesn’t the water pumped in get back to us? Yes and no, and that’s the other part of the problem. The water going into the wells is already contaminated by the chemicals added in to make it more effective, and is blasted into the deep rock, releasing heavy metals and more deep earth chemicals. So the water that does come up is contaminated, and not suited to drinking or irrigation. It is then usually “treated” in evaporation pools, meaning it sits there to evaporate away, leaving toxic sludge behind. It may also be sent to treatment plants, but that still leaves the waste material, and all too often the waste water leaks into the environment through runoff into streams, lakes, or into the ground water.

But not all of the water comes out. Much of the contaminated liquid remains in the earth, and affects the aquifers and ground water tables, which feeds the wells that farms and municipal users need to access when river or reservoir water is not available. Arsenic, strontium, selenium, and barium are some of the harmful chemicals that have shown up in groundwater after fracking has been done nearby.

Did you know that fracking is even done in the ocean? Well, no harm – there’s plenty of water to use out there, right? No! I asked Damien about that, and he shared the amazing fact that to frack an ocean well, fresh water is pumped from land sources into the ocean! Apparently salt water is not effective in fracking, so we in effect “resalinate” our fresh water, and bring all the contamination straight to the ocean environment.

But hey, at least fracking helps us access natural gas, which is cleaner than burning coal, right? No, not really. First of all, most California fracking, which currently goes in in Kern County (Bakersfield area), is done for oil, not gas. And it is the heavier shale oil, like Canada’s notorious Keystone Pipeline stuff – not the light sweet crude. (And unlike oil haven Texas, we don’t even have an oil severance tax!) But methane gas still emerges from these wells, and the efforts to contain it are notoriously error prone. Methane, being 80 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, makes a 3% well leakage turn natural gas power worse than coal burning, as far as climate impact. And the wells tend to leak more like 17% than 3%.

And what about earthquakes? We’re Californians right, we’re used to a little seismic activity now and then. Maybe so, but do we want to make it worse? Areas along the heavy faultlines, like San Francisco and LA try to prepare for quakes, but they are never welcome. And fracking has been shown to dramatically increase earthquakes in areas that were never prone to them before. Oklahoma, Damien pointed out, now has three times the frequency of quakes than California. And Kansas, West Virginia, and good old Texas are getting quakes where they never had them before, thanks to the major geologic disruption fracking is causing. Does California want to reclaim the crown of earthquake activity?

A recent anti-fracking rally at the state capital

A recent anti-fracking rally at the state capital

The problems with fracking are myriad, and too much to list in detail here, but has a wealth of information to share. Luckily, in California we have a Democratic controlled legislature and Governor Jerry Brown, who recognizes the environmental dangers and is actively leading the state in anti-global warming measures. Not so fast – the Governor has shown unbelievable support for fracking, and the legislature has done nothing to stop it either. True, we have more transparency in the process thanks to them, but that’s not enough. Even the best politicians often rely on money from big donors, like oil companies, which often silences their opposition.

But some of California’s counties have taken their own steps. San Benito and Mendocino have banned fracking, and others, like Monterey and Los Angeles are considering it. People concerned about fracking should urge their local, state and federal representatives to put an end to the process, and push even more for alternative energy resources. Writing letters, making calls, and sending emails can be very effective, and lets your representatives know you care. Especially Governor Brown, who should be on the right side of the debate!

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary American River Democrats 3/29/15

Please click on comments below to see more information from Damien Luzzo:

Fracking!? Learn more with our Special Guest at the March Meeting

A recent anti-fracking rally at the state capital

If you took all the major environmental issues and rolled them into one big one, it would come out Fracking.

Hydrolic Fracturing to obtain gas and oil wastes water, pollutes water, pollutes the air, causes earthquakes, and is an extreme measure to squeeze more carbon fuel from the earth to be burned and enhance our already stellar race to change the earth’s climate in a hurry.

The American River Democrats are proud to welcome a very special guest to our March meeting, who will tell us more in detail of the damage fracking is causing, and what we can do about it.

Damien Luzzo

Damien Luzzo

Damien Luzzo is probably the most active and prolific organizer of the anti-fracking movement for the Environmental Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

He studied physics and philosophy at UC Santa Barbara. He is an Assembly District 4 delegate for the CA Democratic Party. Since 2012, he has been the President of SaveWithSunlight; a non-profit organization working to streamline rooftop solar installations. He is a member of the Progressive Democrats of America’s Climate Action Team.

For the past few years, Damien has been very active in the movement to ban fracking in California. He has worked to change the California Democratic Party’s platform into a platform that now calls for an immediate moratorium on fracking. He helped organize and plan an anti-fracking protest at the 2014 democratic convention during Governor Jerry Brown’s keynote speech.

He has also been working with Californians Against Fracking, Food & Water Watch, and many other organizations to put pressure on Governor Brown, the State Assembly, and the State Senate to place a moratorium or ban on fracking in California. He is a Facebook admin for a page called “Stop Fracking California State”. With more that 5,160 followers, it is the largest online community of anti-fracking activists in California.

Join the American River Democrats us as we welcome Damien to the March meeting.


The America River Democrats March Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, March 18, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova.

We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!

Bill Durston shares ideas on guns in America

Dr. Bill Durston speaks at the American River Democrats meeting.

Dr. Bill Durston spoke at the January meeting of the American River Democrats, and of everything he spoke of, one statistic hit the hardest. Many Americans have the belief that being a responsible gun owner will give them protection from the bad people out there that may do their family harm. But the New England Journal of Medicine reported that a gun in the house is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder. That’s right. For every one bad guy who invades a home and is killed by the armed homeowner, 43 other people – children, wives, husbands, neighbors, bystanders, and always the most shocking of all, a kid visiting a friend – are killed by a gun in the home.

And yet, despite that shocking number, 63% of Americans polled believe a gun in the home makes them safer.

durston 2

Dr. Bill Durston is well known to East Sacramento Democrats. He ran twice against Dan Lungren for Congress, paving the way for Dr. Ami Bera’s successful election in 2012. But he is also an Emergency Room physician, a Vietnam war veteran, and the current President of the Sacramento chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He pointed out that more Americans are killed by guns here at home every year than died in battle in the whole of the Vietnam war. And the number of Americans killed by foreign terrorists is tiny compared the the people who die in gun violence.

While we spent thousands of lives and billions of dollars invading Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction, we are in fact sitting on a huge stockpile of WMD’s right here in America. Our small arms do more damage than anything Saddam Hussein ever threatened us with. California alone has the equivalent of 9/11 attack every year, with about 3,000 deaths from guns. Gun violence is the fourth leading cause of premature death in the US.

I came of age in the 1970’s, and I remember discussions of gun control actually revolved around handguns, especially those cheap and easy Saturday Night Specials that criminals often used. Efforts were underway to restrict or eliminate manufacturing and sales of handguns, advocates pointing out that legitimate sportsmen and “home defenders” were well supplied with rifles and shotguns, and that handguns were designed to just kill people, and were easily concealed.

And yet, despite the fact that handguns are the overwhelmingly most common type of weapon in the death of Americans (U.S. Dept. of Justice) restricting handguns is not even part of the discussion anymore. The efforts have shifted to automatic and semi-automatic weapons, both handgun and rifle style. And thanks to the efforts of the NRA, even that’s going nowhere.

How did we get to this point? The NRA started as a hunter’s organization, that actually supported sensible gun control. But they have been co-opted by the gun manufacturers who are in the business of supplying the weapons that most of the country is in favor of restricting. Dr. Durston pointed out that this is like the “nicotine effect”. Guns are very well made instruments, and when cared for, a good hunting rifle, shotgun, or revolver can last a lifetime. When used on an annual hunting trip, occasional target practice, or in those rare emergency situations, the owner uses very little ammo, and passes their guns down through generations.

Well that is a big problem for gun makers, because it is a limited market. So they get people hooked on newer, more powerful guns (like cigarette makers get smokers hooked on nicotine). Like many consumer goods, once you get one, you’re looking at the next bigger and better version. And if those guns can shoot a thousand rounds in a few seconds, all the better for supplying ammunition! So despite their lofty talk of defending our liberties, protecting our families, and honoring the second amendment, it’s really about money. So any effort to reign in the power of assault style weapons is met with a huge push by the NRA on lawmakers. And when laws do pass, the gun makers’ efforts go to finding technical loopholes in making powerful guns that find their way around the rules.

But some people still insist that they feel safer in their home with a gun. Durston pointed out that our best trained professional gun users – our law enforcement officers – when killed in the line of duty, are shot 20% of the time with their own weapons. (In a conflict, the suspect may gain control of the officer’s gun.) And 85% of peace officers never fire their weapons on duty at all. Can the average citizen do better than the well trained cops? And as guns become more and more powerful, we put the general public in an arms race with law enforcement, and the end result may be even more lethal force used, as officers protect themselves against a more well armed public.

Wayne LaPierre makes a point ( - Alex Brandon AP)

Wayne LaPierre makes a point ( – Alex Brandon AP)

The NRA, and Wayne LaPierre, like to say that the only defense against an armed bad guy is an armed good guy. That may make some sense when the good guy is a trained, uniformed officer, but they mean you and me – we’re the good guys who should shoot back. But consider the scenarios of some of our famous mass shootings. If the response to a shooting at a school, theater, or other public place is all of our well armed heroes pulling out their weapons, we now have several armed people aiming their guns and looking for their targets. While the bad guys are roaming, or even dead, good guys are seeing other armed strangers with guns, and may begin shooting each other, thinking they’ve found the bad guys. And then police arrive, and have to determine who the bad guys are. If they startle an armed person into waving their gun towards the officer, they will likely shoot. And the real bad guy can just blend in and pretend to be one of the heroes…

How about suggesting that the only defense against an armed bad guy is to – one, do everything we can to make sure he isn’t armed. Two, if he is armed, make sure his weapon isn’t rapid-fire military grade. Three, if he is armed, make sure the cops know he’s the bad guy, and if he’s not arrested for actually shooting someone, arrest him for just having the gun. (Can you imagine if we protected our schools by arming teachers? How many inquisitive kids would find those “well secured guns” and start shooting at school?)

But what about when the bad guys are not around? People with guns are far more likely to get killed or injured by their own guns, either accidentally or through suicide. How many stories do we hear each year about a kid finding a parent’s gun and using it, or an angry or despondent person killing a family or co-workers before turning the gun on himself? No, gun control would not prevent many of these incidents, especially since handguns are not even a target for control these days. (Waiting periods and mental illness restrictions on gun purchases may help, but not if the gun is already present.) Perhaps the only answer to some of these tragedies is changing the culture of guns.

A tragic illustration of the dangerous culture of gun ownership happened right here in Sacramento on New Years morning. A young man and young woman, parents of a little girl, stepped out of their home to celebrate the new year. He had his gun with him, likely to shoot in the air as they welcomed in 2015. By 12:06, the young woman was dead of accidental gunfire from her boyfriend. Steven Lucas was arrested for homicide, but his true punishment is knowing for the rest of his life that he killed the woman he loved and his daughter’s mother.

kaykey leavitt steven lucas

In the media, her family expressed their forgiveness, knowing that he did not intend to kill her. But the real culprit is the attitude we Americans have to guns. Pictures posted on his Facebook page showed him and Kayley holding and shooting the handgun that killed her. She’d be alive today if there was no gun in their home, and if a gun wasn’t treated as something fun to have, and even celebrate with. America’s love affair with guns results in too many tragedies like this.

Dr. Durston said that a common view of America from the rest of the world is that we love our guns more than our children. This in the face of 250 school shootings (not just Sandy Hook) in the past five years, with virtually nothing done in response.  Most of the guns from those shootings came from the shooter’s home.

So what can be done when virtually all Republicans, and a fair number of rural-state Democrats, refuse to consider even the most “mild” efforts to restrict at least the most dangerous assault weapons? Nationally we can encourage the new Surgeon General of the U.S., Dr. Vivek Murthy, to issue warnings of the lethal danger of keeping guns in the home. That approach did do some good with cigarettes, and led to further awareness and eventual action taken.

We can also encourage our school officials and board members to communicate the warnings about guns in the home, safe storage laws, and the liabilities that gun owners face when their guns are used, accidentally or intentionally by others, to harm people. Hopefully more education and sharing information can dispel the dangerous myth that guns are effective in protecting your family, when they are in fact the most dangerous single item you can have in your home (other than perhaps a honey oil or meth lab – but those people usually keep a gun as well.)

In 2008, when Justices Alito and Roberts were added to the Supreme Court, they ruled for the first time that the second amendment actually applied to an individual right to weapons. Prior to that, the language was judged to be what it actually said – for an organized militia. While rescinding the second amendment may be a lofty goal, electing Democratic Presidents, so future appointed justices may be more reasonable, is something we can all work towards.

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary. 2/08/2015

Learn more:

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence – the 10 Stupidest Lines from Wayne LaPierre

Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility

Visit to enter Sacramento area High School seniors in an essay contest for scholarship awards based on the quote “The world is over-armed, and peace is under-funded.” by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Enter by March 11 2015.

Bill Durston is the Special Guest at the January meeting

Dr Bill Durston during his congressional campaign.

When Dr. Ami Bera won the 2012 election to represent the 7th District in the US House of Representatives, it was after he had lost once to incumbent Dan Lundgren. But that defeat set in motion the tools, momentum, and organization needed to win the next election. But you could say the process had already begun in 2006 and 2008, when another medical doctor, Bill Durston, challenged Lundgren for the seat. Dr. Durston energized the Democratic base in the 7th District, and gave people someone to root for, and a feeling of hope that our voices might be heard, a hope that was finally answered, and then narrowly held onto in the last two elections.

durston 2

But of course, those who know Bill, know that he is so much more than a politician. You might never guess it from talking to him, but he is a Vietnam war veteran and emergency room doctor. (I think of him more as the kindly pediatrician type…)

He is also the President of the Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization concerned with reducing violence – both on a world-wide and person-to-person level, protecting the environment, and insuring good affordable healthcare for all. (Natural goals for professional healers, and worthy aspirations for anyone!)

Bill also authored a hard hitting essay on the country’s response to the Sandy Hook tragedy – or actually our political system’s total LACK of a response. Bill will be bringing that conversation to the American River Democrats’ monthly meeting for January. Everyone is encouraged to come, and bring friends!

Join the American River Democrats us as we welcome Dr. Durston to the January meeting.


The America River Democrats January Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, January 21, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova.

We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!

Common Core straightened out

Kelly Hillesland and Carole Vargas address the American River Democrats

The American River Democrats welcomed two guests to our November meeting who spoke to us about the Common Core and what it means for our kids and teachers. They also cleared up some misconceptions and answered a lot of questions. Kelly Hillesland is a Teacher, and Carole Vargas is a Principal, both of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. They spoke on the history and background of Common Core, and cleared up some misconceptions about the program.

For example: Isn’t Common Core a liberal program shoved down our throats by the Obama administration? No – It grew out of a response to No Child Left Behind (Bush admin.) when it became clear that making each state meet their own standards meant some states had it much easier than others if their educational standards were already lower. A group of education leaders and business interests came up with a plan to even the playing field and study the best education systems and theories around the country and the world. It is totally voluntary for each state, but Race to the Top tied in with Common Core, and is supported by Obama and Education Secretary Duncan.

common core logo

Why does Common Core cover only English and Math? Aren’t the other subjects important? It may look like it only covers those two, but in reality the English standards cover most other subjects, like history, science, and specialized subjects, since reading and interpreting text is the key to learning. In social studies, students are encouraged to think like historians – to focus more on discovery and critical thinking than on lectures. In science the students should learn to think like a scientist and problem-solve rather than memorize a textbook.

Why is the English standard so focused on non-fiction now instead of learning great literature? That relates to the previous issue – it covers expositional and technical writing to help with courses outside of English. But literature is still of primary importance in English, and of course literature courses.

Carole Vargas is a Principal in the Folsom Cordova School District

Carole Vargas is a Principal in the Folsom Cordova School District

Why do so many teachers and students hate Common Core? Many love it, but it is a shift in teaching and learning, and if you are already familiar with the old way, change can be a challenge, and uncomfortable. But the hope is that everyone will come around, and just like any change, become part of the process and make it better! When they discover that math can be creative, and that being good at math can mean you are a thinker, not a calculator, it may make sense. Parents who learned the traditional way, and have trouble helping with homework may see their kids are leaping past them in understanding mathematics, and all their subjects.

How can I learn more about this?

The Common Core Website

Myths vs. facts

What is Common Core and why are people upset about it?


The American River Democrats will be focusing on Common Core at the November Meeting, to be held Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 7 pm. Club members, guests, and anyone who wants to learn more about it and the objections that have been raised is encouraged to attend.

The idea behind Common Core, which is supported by President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan, is to establish a set of goals or benchmarks in math and English that students at each grade level should achieve. By having a common set of standards, students from different states, and even school districts, will be more likely to be equally prepared to score in college entrance exams and enter higher education with similar skills. American youth would also be encouraged to perform up to the higher levels most other developed nations already achieve.

But some of the concepts introduced with the common core are confusing, especially to kids already schooled in math, and parents trying to help them, who look at some of the methods as if they were written in ancient Greek.

Our guest speaker is a Folsom teacher who is very knowedgable about these issues and has a lot to share with us. Parents and concerned citizens can get a better idea of what is going on, and how they should encourage their school boards and elected officials on how to approach Common Core.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, November 19 to learn about these issues and ask questions of our guest speaker.


The America River Democrats November Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, November 19, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova. We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks. The official meeting will begin at 7:00 pm.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!