Tag Archive for Democratic Club

Taking Action, Getting Results!

Bethany Snyder speaks at the January meeting

The American River Democrats were pleased to welcome guest speaker Bethany Snyder to the January 2018 meeting, so she could share her expertise in contacting lawmakers and getting results. She said that using resistance and bringing attention via protests and demonstrations is only one part of the equation—being an advocate and building relations with lawmakers and their staff is equally, if not more important to getting your point across in a meaningful way.

Currently from Roseville, Snyder is from Minneapolis, and has 15 years experience in the advocacy, legislative, and policy worlds. While currently an outreach and communications director for a health care consulting firm, she has also served as a grassroots director, lobbyist, and staff member for Senator Al Franken.

She said that advocacy is a three-legged stool, consisting of media advocacy, direct lobbying, and grassroots engagement. All three are equally important. Media advocacy involves getting your story out there, through letters to media (newspapers, etc.), stories shared through traditional (TV and radio) and social media, and other ways to publicly share an issue. Lobbying gets a bad name in the pubic eye, as we picture highly paid agents of wealthy corporations trading donations for favors from lawmakers. But the truth is, all causes have lobbyists of some sort, including environmentalists, seniors, the LGBT community, immigration rights, and so on. They are just people bringing their message directly and professionally to the lawmakers, and often help craft legislation. Grassroots engagement is people like us contacting our representatives directly, and lawmakers do want to hear directly from their voters. Regular communication can be one of the most effective tools to getting your cause heard.

There are of course multiple levels of government to advocate to. The local level includes city and county councils and boards, school boards, sheriffs, and elected commissioners. They can be the easiest and most direct representatives to contact, as they usually have smaller constituencies and are located in your community. State level government includes your Assembly Member and State Senator,  the Governor, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Secretary of State, and other elected state-wide officers. Federal level includes your Congressional representatives, Senators, and of course, the President.

Slide from Bethany’s presentation

The big question, then, is what is the best way to contact them and be heard? There are many effective ways, but one of the best is the good old-fashioned phone call. Snyder recommends calling when the office is open so you can talk directly to a staff member. Those calls are tallied each day, with your position and ideas noted. (A voicemail after hours will be heard, but they may not understand all your issues, and can’t ask for clarity, so it can be lost.) When calling your rep, Snyder recommends you be personal and professional, share your story, but be short and succinct, and be mindful of the time you are taking. Be sure you have researched the issue so you are accurate in your points, and ask questions in the call, like “Can I count on ___’s support?” Be patient and persistent, and always say thanks to whomever you are speaking to.

Another good method is emailing. Though not as effective as the personal call, it will still be read and recorded, just not as quickly. (There is, of course, no opportunity for dialog if they want clarification, and they are not likely to email back and forth with you.) But your opinions will be noted, and the same protocols as the phone call are recommended; using accurate points, succinct, polite, and asking for support. Traditional mail is not as good as it used to be, as there are now security issues with opening letters, so it can take longer. (Postcards are a good option.) These are scanned and filed like email, so you are heard.

Social media is not a good way to contact your representative, since they don’t usually manage their own accounts, and comments to their posts are usually so full of both praise and hateful trolling that they are mostly ignored. Giving them lots of “likes” to their posts may make them feel good about an issue, but it is not the same as advocacy!

But still the most effective way, when possible, is a personal visit to the office, by one or more people advocating for an issue. There may be a staffer there who deals specifically with that issue, and will be happy to discuss. The same rules as above apply; be knowledgeable and succinct, be polite even if you are against their current position, and value their time (if you waste their limited time going on and on, you become an annoyance rather than an advocate!) They can only see so many people in a day, so make your meeting positive.

Snyder also recommends finding an advocacy group to help you understand the issue more deeply, and to advise what is the best timing to contact your representatives about your issue. If there is a vote or hearing approaching, that is the perfect time to give them your ideas and opinions. If it just concluded or is months away, your thoughts are not as impactful. And remember, always ask the question! So many people give their thoughts without ever requesting what they really want—a vote!

Following up, Snyder shared some of the things that do not work in getting your message through. Being confrontational, lying, being flaky, and contacting lawmakers who do not represent you. (You may want to give Paul Ryan an earful, but unless you have the power to re-elect him, he and his staff don’t care about your opinion!) Contacting members of administrative agencies, like the GAO, DOJ, HUD, HHS, etc. is also useless, as they don’t set policy. They often do allow public comment on an issue, so do provide that as appropriate, like when they are about to destroy a National Park or begin coal mining in your county.

Communication with your representatives is always important, and those who take the time are heard well beyond those who save their feedback for the ballot every few years. Some of the myths or perceived barriers to taking action that Snyder shared include the idea that you are not an expert so you opinion doesn’t matter. Not true, make your voice heard based on what you do know—others certainly will! Some think they won’t be listened to—also not true—all politicians have staff to keep track of the feedback they get, even if they don’t agree, it is noted. What if your representative is the polar opposite in political orientation? Let them know anyway, they may not change, but they may “evolve” with enough feedback, and if it is overwhelming, they may even change their vote, or sit out. (Feedback to some Senators saved the Affordable Care Act, at least for now.) What if they have already decided, or cast their vote? Let them know how you feel; positive feedback keeps them going for next time, and negative may keep them wary of their choices. When your representative is on your side, let them know that you are on theirs!

Bill Durston is the Special Guest at the January meeting

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!

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!

September Meeting focus on ballot initiatives

It has been reported lately that most Californians who are considered likely to vote this Fall still know very little about the propositions, even the very significant Water Bond.

The American River Democrats will be focused on the upcoming fall election again this month, with a focus on certain ballot initiatives.

Rick Bettis, from the League of Women Voters, will be on hand to share some information on Proposition 1, the Water Bond. We all know that California is in a historic drought, but is the water bond before us the right answer for farmers, the environment, smart growth, and people in our region? Get educated and make a smart vote in November.

We will also discuss the measure, Proposition 47, that intends to reduce sentencing for non-violent crimes, and make many of them misdemeanors. Will this increase crimes, such as burglary, vandalism, auto theft, etc., in order to save money in prison and jail maintenance? Or is it a good idea to stop locking up people whose crimes might be considered minor?

If we have time, we will also discuss Proposition 46, which affect the medical profession in malpractice judgments, and many other ways.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, September 17 to learn about these issues, and consider some candidate endorsements as well.


The America River Democrats August Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, September 17, 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!

August meeting focused on 2014 election

The American River Democrats will be focused on the upcoming fall election this month with 2 guest speakers.

Melanie Ramil, the campaign manager for Dave Jones For Insurance Commissioner and Proposition 45 – Health Insurance Rate Control will update us on Jones’ campaign for re-election, and the impacts of the proposition on health insurance for the state.

Brent Perumel will also be on hand, from the California Democratic Party and Ami Bera’s re-election campaign. He will be discussing strategies for the fall election to insure Dr. Bera the best chance for re-election.

We will also be voting on an endorsement for SMUD Ward 3 candidate, Mario Guerrero.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, August 20 to hear from


The America River Democrats August Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, August 20, 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!


July meeting focused on California’s Transportation issues

What is the future of transportation in California? A lot has been made of the high speed rail project, which is moving forward through lawsuits and objections, and important funding issues. But there is obviously more than rail to be concerned about.

Our roads, highways and bridges are in constant need of maintenance and upgrades, and even when they happen, we see issues of safety and oversight, as in the Bay Bridge issues.

Our July meeting, on Wednesday July 16, will focus on the wide ranging issues of transportation and infrastructure, and feature guest speaker Will Kempton.

Folsom residents may remember Kempton as the Assistant City Manager from 2002 to 2004, after which he became Director of Caltrans until 2009. He has held numerous positions related to transportation and infrastructure, and currently is Executive Director of Transportation California.

Transportation California is a diversified, non-partisan, non-profit coalition representing a broad spectrum of business, labor, and planning agencies which have united to create the state’s leading transportation advocacy and public education group. Their stated mission is to develop adequate, dedicated and sustainable funding to properly maintain California’s transportation infrastructure and build the transportation system of the future.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, July 16 to learn more about the future impact of transportation issues, especially as they relate to budgets, the environment, and quality of life in our state.


The America River Democrats July Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, June 18, 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!


Secretary of State Candidate will Speak at May Meeting

The American River Democrats will welcome Derek Cressman, candidate for California Secretary of State, at the May meeting, on Wednesday, May 21 at 6:30 pm.

The current Secretary of State is Deborah Bowen, who was re-elected in 2010, and is ineligible for another term. Mr. Cressman is a Democrat, and is running against the more widely known Senator Alex Padilla. (Senator Leland Yee is still on the ballot, but for obvious reasons is no longer campaiging…)

Other notable candidates are Republican Pete Peterson and undeclared Dan Schnur. The two candidates, regardless of party, who receive the most votes in June will face each other in the November election.

Cressman states on his websiteI’m running for Secretary of State to make sure your vote counts and your voice is heard. The voices of the people should not be drowned out by corporations or billionaires. When secretive, out-of-state groups funneled $11 million into California’s 2012 elections, I blew the whistle and got record fines for two front groups in the Koch Brothers big money political network.”

Please join us for the May meeting to hear more about Derek Cressman and his candidacy, and ask questions to learn more about what his goals as Secretary of State will be.


The America River Democrats May Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, May 21, 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! Feel free to join us to meet Derek Cressman, or to learn more about the American River Democrats.

April Meeting to focus on Money in Politics

“Corporations are people, my friend”. That sentence was probably the most repeated quote from Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential Election. And with the Citizen’s United decision, and now the McCutcheon ruling, Romney’s corporate people, and a few individuals will be able to spend virtually unlimited funds to insure their candidate are not only elected, but beholden to them for the position.

E.J. Dionne pointed out on NPR that only 519 people actually hit the previously established limits that McCutcheon eliminates, which means this ruling, in practical sense, applies in large part to that very small segment of the population!

James Forbes

James Forbes

Does money equal speech, and therefor fall under the first amendment? the American River Democrats will be welcoming James Forbes to our meeting this month to discuss that and all of the issues surrounding the titanic changes to America’s previous efforts to level the campaign playing field so citizens will have a great voice in their government.

Jim Forbes is from a small farming town in Illinois.  He moved to Sacramento to attend law school, because it made a lot of sense to him to trade Illinois for California.  After finishing law school in 1978, Jim moved to Oregon where he was a deputy DA for 5 years.  Jim got married in Oregon, and the couple moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where they stayed for 15 years. Besides having two great kids in Alaska, Jim worked for the Alaska AG’s office for about 9 years and had a private law practice for about 6 years.

Jim and his family returned to Bend, Oregon in 1999, where Jim worked as City attorney, handling land use cases.  When the housing crash hit in 2008, the land use law practice crashed along with it, and Jim stated handling personal bankruptcy cases for clients who had lost jobs, homes and savings.  Jim became interested in the reasons for the housing crash and he started seeing that Wall Street’s large donations to politicians had resulted in new economic rules that created the housing bubble, and the crash that followed. (And the bailout that followed the crash.)   When the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case in 2010, Jim decided that he wanted to spend time doing something to reduce the influence of big money in politics.

Jim moved back to Sacramento in 2012, where he got remarried — this time to his childhood sweetheart — they had known each other since attending 7th grade together in 1964.

Jim is now an attorney in California, but is semi-retired, and is volunteering his time trying to reverse the Citizens United case to restore balance to the political system.


Please join us for the April meeting to hear what Jim Forbes has to say, and what we as ordinary citizens whose last name isn’t Koch can do about reforming our political process.

The America River Democrats April Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, April 16, 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! Feel free to join us to hear about money in politics, or to learn more about the American River Democrats.

March Meeting to address Climate Change

American River Democrats welcome speaker Peter Kirkup from the Climate Reality Project to the March Meeting

climate reality

For years now, we have been told that the carbon we have been pumping into the atmosphere at unprecedented rates is creating a greenhouse effect that is altering the natural climate cycles of the earth and will, if unchecked, result in massive catastrophic changes globally, such as drought, sea level rise, frequent weather events such as hurricanes, and the acidification of the oceans. And also that the effects, such as reducing of the ice caps and glaciers, would only accelerate the warming as less heat is reflected and more permafrost melted, releasing more carbon and methane gas into the air. And as forests are leveled, less carbon is absorbed by nature.

Al Gore in 2006 did his best to bring the message to us nationally and globally with his film An Inconvenient Truth. Our response, as a people, has been mixed. Some countries got on the bandwagon right away, and made immediate progress to reduce emissions. Others, like China and India, thought it was a good idea, but didn’t want to sacrifice their growth, when the West and US had already done most of the damage. And we in the US mostly argued back and forth about whether the scientists were right or not. (Look at this snowstorm! Where’s your global warming now, Al Gore?!!!)

And even the most progressive states, such as California, made efforts, but mostly to reduce back to targets such as 1990 levels of carbon emissions. (Of course it is 1990 type levels that got us into this situation – we need to get back to, say, 1500 levels…)

So now we are rapidly and seemingly unstoppably rushing towards and past the famous “tipping point” where the damage will be done and irrevocable; where even reducing to totally zero emissions would have no positive effects. Where the only answers will be global engineering projects to reduce warming – does that scare you even more?

climate real logo

The American River Democrats will be welcoming a speaker from The Climate Reality Project, an organization founded by Vice President Al Gore to “unleash a global cultural movement to demand action on the climate crisis.” Peter Kirkup, volunteer for Organizing for Action and the Climate Reality Project, will be on hand to update us on what the organization is doing and how you can be part of it.

Please join the meeting at Wednesday, March 19 at Samurai Sushi in Rancho Cordova. Guests are always welcome!


The America River Democrats January Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, March 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! Feel free to join us to hear about the Climate Reality Project, or to learn more about the American River Democrats.

Patrick Stelmach speaks about early childhood education

February 19, 2014 – Patrick Stelmach, a member of the American River Democrats and State Organizer for California Fair Share addressed the club on issues focused on gaining support and financing for pre-school education for all of California’s children.

“90% of a child’s brain is developed by age 5” Patrick shared, pointing out that kids who miss that nurturing and development at an early age miss an opportunity to get a head start in learning and development, and set them up to succeed in school and life.

On a pure dollars and cents outlook, Patrick pointed our that every dollar invested in pre-school and early childhood education pays off at $7.00 down the road – even more for children from low income background.

The savings comes as these kids grow older and are less likely to need remedial education classes in school, state sponsored job training, public assistance for food, housing and medical care, and even law enforcement and incarceration costs, as poorly educated youth and adults are far more likely to end up in trouble with the law.

Getting kids off to an early good start most often results in better achievement and social development as they progress through school, which will give them more opportunities and choices in their lives, especially if they are also struggling with low income or poverty in their families.

To learn more about the work the California Fair Share is doing, and to find out how you can support their efforts, please see their website.