American River Democrats make several endorsements

The American River Democrats’ September meeting was filled with information about upcoming issues, and the club made several endorsements for the November ballot.

Andrew Kehoe, an advocate for Sacramento’s Measure B was on hand to introduce us to the measure and the benefits it would bring to the area. Measure B is a half-cent sales tax targeted to transportation projects and maintenance in the county. Kehoe pointed out that with the current quarter cent tax expiring, the effect would be just a quarter cent above the current rate.

Mike Penrose of the Sacramento Transportation Authority was also on hand to provide more information about the impact and status. Measure B would adopt a “Fix-It-First” approach in the first five years of implementation-“filling pot holes” and making needed repairs and improvements to existing roads, distributing the money to Sacramento County communities and unincorporated county areas. It would also provide future funding for some larger scale projects, such as the Capital Southeast Expressway, a highway connecting Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Elk Grove south of the 50 Freeway. Also, widening the Capital City Freeway between downtown and Interstate 80, extension of light rail service to the Natomas area and the airport, and much more.

There is still much concern about the environmental impact of some potential projects, especially Discovery Park if light rail is extended. Penrose pointed out that any new projects still have to go through environmental review and public approval process, and that Measure B only provides a funding mechanism.

The club voted to endorse Measure B. for more information visit

Melissa Romero of Californians Against Waste also joined us to discuss Proposition 67, the plastic grocery bag ban.

A state-wide ban one single use plastic grocery bags was passed by the state legislature in 2014, in an effort to reduce the overwhelming pollution caused by these lightweight, throwaway plastic bags, which end up trashing our streets, neighborhoods and parks, and often end up in our waterways and eventually the ocean (where waste plastic has become a huge problem.) The state was set to join dozens of individual communities (like the city of Sacramento) in banning their use, replacing them with re-usable bags. However, the plastic bag industry rushed to gather signatures to force the law into a ballot measure, delaying its implication, possibly nullifying it entirely.

The devastating environmental impact of the millions of bags we use daily is well-known, but visit to learn more. The club voted to endorse a Yes vote on Prop. 67.

Another measure on the ballot that looks like a companion bill is Proposition 65. This measure, at first glance, may seem like an environmentally friendly move. It will establish that IF a plastic bag ban is passed, the money stores collect to provide re-usable bags will go to the Wildlife Conservation Fund.

There are a number of problems with this initiative, which was placed on the ballot by the same industry that is trying to kill the plastic bag ban. First of all, the reusable bags the stores may provide are not free—they will cost considerably more than the current bags, and more than the 10 cent minimum fee they will be required to charge. The stores will incur a loss every time a reusable bag is sold, both discouraging them to provide them, and forcing them to pass the loss on to consumers in higher prices for groceries—whether the customer bought a bag or brought their own.

Worse still, if passed, this measure will be in place even if Proposition 67 fails, waiting for the next time it is tried. And it is entirely possible that if both measures pass, and Proposition 65 gets more votes, its provisions could in effect nullify Proposition 67 entirely! (If both pass and 67 gets more votes, 65 will be nullified.)

The club voted to endorse a No Vote on Prop. 65.

Another guest at the September meeting was Brandon Rose, who is running for SMUD Board, District 1 (covering the eastern Folsom, Fair Oaks, Orangevale and Citrus Heights area.) Brandon is an Energy Specialist in the California Energy Commission’s Renewable Energy Office, Air Pollution Specialist with the California Environmental Protection Agency, and an elected official on the Fair Oaks Recreation and Park District for the past 8 years. He has also served as Chair of the Sacramento County Treasury Oversight Committee and President of the Environment Council of Sacramento. He has the endorsement of six current SMUD Board members, including Nancy Bui Thompson of District 2 (Folsom/Rancho Cordova.) Visit to learn more about him and his goals and background.

The club voted to endorse Brandon Rose for SMUD Board of Directors.

For a list of all official endorsements by the American River Democrats, see our Endorsement Page on this site.

17 Propositions in the Fall Election

At the American River Democrats meeting in August, Ken presented a discussion of the seventeen choices California voters will be facing in the November Election.

Here is a handy guide to what they each mean, and recommendations on each.

2016 props

Of course, the get the full details of any of them, review your Voter’s Information Guide when it arrives in the mail, or visit the California Secretary of State’s website.

American River Democrats endorse Rob Rowen

Rob Rowen speaks at the American River Democrats' May meeting.

Rob Rowen speaks at the American River Democrats’ May meeting.

Rob Rowen, candidate for California Senate District 1, visited the American River Democrats at their May meeting, and received their official endorsement in his race to unseat Ted Gaines. The large district represents Folsom, El Dorado County, including El Dorado Hills and Lake Tahoe, Placer County, including Rocklin and Auburn, and all the further north counties-Shasta, Lassen, Modoc, Siskiyou, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, and Alpine.

Rowen shared some of his interesting history. He attended Shasta College, and was a pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system in the mid 1980’s. He then joined the Army, and followed that by starting his own business – a trucking company out of Redding, California. An accident resulted in back injuries requiring five surgeries, and the possibility that he would never walk again. “I’m a fighter” Rowen said of overcoming those injuries.

Rowen describes himself as a lifelong “moderate” Democrat, who grew up in a union household, understanding the working class struggles. His father was a teacher, and his brother is a 20-year veteran of the police. His moderate stance stems from his support of gun rights. He is a gun owner, as many of the rural citizens from his area are, but he does support the level of gun control currently in place in California, including background checks, and assault weapon restrictions.

One of Rowen’s key issues is health care, and mental health. Homelessness seen in cities in the first district like Redding, and beyond to the rest of California and the U.S., is the result of a broken mental health care system. Income inequality is also contributing to homelessness, and hasn’t been this bad in a century.

Rowen said he’d like to invest in mental health treatment, and expand availability by allowing more treatment from Nurse Practitioners. It used to be that County Hospitals all had mental health care available, but that has gone away over the past 30 years. While he applauds the progress of the Affordable Care Act, the problem is that it didn’t make more doctors available, especially in high poverty areas. He supports moving to a single payer system.

Meanwhile, the incumbent, Ted Gaines, has had eight years to help bring changes and help to the district, but has instead measured his success in his ability to raise money for his campaigns. Gaines has raised $360,000 from the insurance industry (and ran for Insurance Commissioner last election.) Rowen said he will not take corporate money for his campaign, because he doesn’t want to be beholden to their interests.

Rowen has participated in debates in the campaign, but since Ted Gaines was not willing to join in, they have been “Tea Party” events featuring Rowen and Republican Steven Baird. Rowen said that he has learned that Gaines is very unpopular in the rural north. He has only been to Siskiyou County once in his eight years, and has accomplished little to support his district. In fact, when Rowen was first urged to run for office, it was suggested that he challenge Brian Dahle, the Assemblyman from the same area. But Rowen said that despite their many differences, he could see that at least Dahle cared about getting things done for the people of the area, something he has not seen Gaines work for.


Rowen said that he is centered around doing for others, and is “fiscally constrained”, wanting to insure that taxpayer money is spent carefully and where it makes sense. He wants to support improving fire, water, infrastructure, jobs, veterans issues, and healthcare for the Northern California constituents of the first district.

After his visit to the American River Democrats, the club voted unanimously to endorse him. He will need to get enough votes to be in the top two of the three candidates in the June 7 election in order to appear on the ballot in November. (If he doesn’t, District 1 voters will have a choice between a business conservative and a tea party/state of Jefferson advocate.)

To learn more about Rowen, visit

Senate Candidate to visit American River Democrats

Ever since the redistricting of State Senate and State Assembly boundaries, residents of Folsom have been represented in the state legislature by someone named Gaines. The assembly district (No.6) covers Folsom, Fair Oaks and Orangevale, along with parts of El Dorado and Placer Counties. Beth Gaines is the current representative. She is not running for re-election due to term limits*.

Rob Rowen (courtesy

Rob Rowen (courtesy

Senate District No. 1 includes Folsom as the only Sacramento County portion, along with El Dorado and parts of Placer County, and the vast region to the northeast, including Shasta County up to the Oregon border. Ted Gaines, Beth’s husband, is the current State Senator for District 1, and, having failed to win the state Insurance Commissioner position last election, is running to be re-elected. Another Republican is challenging him, along with Democrat Rob Rowen.

Though the district is about 43% Republican, compared to 28% Democrat, there are also about 22% independent voters, and Rowen believes he has a good chance. “I truly believe Ted Gaines is vulnerable this election cycle; in his 8 years he has established a voting record of “no” on virtually every proposed legislation proposed by the Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate. Gaines cannot author any meaningful legislation because he will never get any cooperation from the Democrats he has opposed for 8 years” said Rowen.

“While having never held office, I have been involved with the state party for the past 4 years; both as a County Chair and as an executive board representative for Shasta County to the state party. I am not a career politician, what I am is an educated individual that understand the importance of cooperation and compromise that is missing in Sacramento from this district. I look forward to meeting all of you and I hope I will earn your support.

Rowen will be the special guest speaker for the American River Democrats’ May meeting, held on Wednesday, May 18 at Samurai Sushi in Rancho Cordova. Samurai Sushi is located at 12251 Folsom Blvd (Hazel at Hwy 50). The meeting is usually held in the back room of the restaurant. (The meeting starts at 7 pm, you may arrive at 6:30 to order any food or drinks if you wish.) The club welcomes guests and prospective members to attend.

*Brian Caples is running for Beth Gaines’ Assembly seat as a Democrat.

Two great candidates visit the American River Democrats

Kerri Howell and Gary Blenner

She is a well known politician with expertise in many aspects of government, and a well connected, business friendly Democrat. He is more of a political outsider who is running as the more progressive candidate. Either one will have to beat a larger pool of Republicans to take office. Hillary versus Bernie? How about Kerri versus Gary?

In our February meeting, the American River Democrats welcomed two candidates for the upcoming open Sacramento County Supervisor seat currently held by Roberta McGlashan. The two known Democrats running for the office are long-time Folsom City Council member and sometime Mayor, Kerri Howell, and High School social studies teacher Gary Blenner.

Blenner introduced himself as a teacher at Rio Americano High, as well as a Union Representative, school board member, central committee member, and part of both the Town and Country Democrats and the JFK Club. This is his second time running for the County Supervisor seat; in 2012 he won 23% of the vote, but Roberta McGlashan held the seat by getting just over 50% in the June primary that year.

Blenner emphasized “People Before Profits”, noting the Gibson Ranch deal that gave the lease to Doug Ose for $1 a year in exchange for a profit share to run the county park, a deal Blenner calls an example of a cash giveaway to greedy developers.

Blenner supports the $15 minimum wage to support economic growth, supporting small business over “big box” stores using a vacancy tax to encourage empty strip mall and other commercial property owners to lower their rents to encourage small business, and a county owned community bank to support them.

Blenner also stressed government reform, cutting the pay of the supervisor position, changing the meeting times away from normal business hours when many people are at work so they are more accessible, and adding six additional positions to better represent the people, and not just developers.

Blenner believes it is important to find local solutions for homeless people, much in the way Salt Lake City has done, building housing that will actually save money, and providing access to mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, and job training programs, while taking away the criminalization of homelessness.

Blenner wants to ensure there is “smart growth” in the open lands in Sacramento County. He vows to make sure developers pay their fair share for the services needed (water, sewer, electric…) and guarantee enough open space. New developments should follow the “community neighborhood model” to reduce traffic and pollution, and encourage small business. Bike trails, parks, and access to light rail and mass transit are crucial.

To learn more about Gary Blenner, visit his website

Speaking next was Kerri Howell, a very familiar face to Folsom residents as a City Council member for over 17 years. But she is also a practicing engineer with her own firm, and a member of the Regional Sanitation district, the Sacramento Transportation Authority, the Folsom Lake College Foundation, and many other current and past positions, giving her established relationships with many elected officials. She believes she is the most qualified candidate for the Supervisor seat.

Howell said that public safety is a crucial issue. When citizens call 911, they need to get an immediate response. While this usually happens in cities like Folsom, in unincorporated areas of the county, such as Orangevale, Fair Oaks, and the rural areas in the south, response can be delayed.

Howell believes the county needs to better market the area to attract new residents and businesses, and make the process for licensing more streamlined. She wants to encourage high-tech Bay Area businesses to locate here. She also wants to expand light rail service to the airport, a logical way to bring travelers into the communities, especially after the success in expanding to Folsom. She also believes the southern county roadway expansion from El Dorado to Interstate 5, along Grant Line Road, needs to be completed to relieve traffic along the 50 Freeway.

Howell also believes we need more transparency in govenment, especially as it relates to campaign financing.

When asked about rural area development, notably south of the 50 Freeway, Howell was very familiar with the issues. She said that the land owned by the private individuals had already been planned for development as long as 30 years ago. As the prospect of it happening got closer, the city of Folsom began the effort to include that area in the city’s sphere of influence. While preventing the building was not a possibility, the city would be able to control how it was developed, insuring at least 30% open space, preserving the current oak tree groves, and including sufficient schools, parks, trails, and transportation. She also said that despite the ongoing drought, there was enough guaranteed water to support the additional homes and business, and that more efficient water systems required in the structures and properties would help make that possible.

To learn more about Kerri Howell, visit her website at

With two great candidates in the running, area Democrats can be confidant that we will have at least one make it to the November ballot. Perhaps even two. . .

Images courtesy and

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary

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

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