Tag Archive for Folsom Democrats

Consumer Protections Highlight August Meeting

The American River Democrats August meeting will feature guest speaker Noemi Esparza, a practicing attorney at the firm Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora in Sacramento. Noemi is very active with Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) and she is an officer on CAOC’s Diversity Committee. Noemi has testified before the legislature numerous times and she is a former legislative staffer, so she is extremely knowledgeable about policy and the legislative process and the Capitol’s political dynamics. She will be speaking about consumer issues, and specifically two pending bills in the California Legislature.

Senate Bill 33 (Bill Dodd) addresses the “forced arbitration” agreements that we all sign with literally every purchase for goods and services. This agreement does not allow us to sue or pursue other legal means of recourse.  For example, if we have AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc., we signed this agreement with them at the time we signed up for service. The recent issues with Wells Fargo Bank brought the need for this bill to prominence.

Senate Bill 632 (Bill Monning) would set a precedent for deposition of terminally ill patients who are involved in lawsuits when their illness is a result of a product/workplace or other harmful exposure. The asbestos exposure case is one of the best examples as litigation has been drawn out for so long, with lengthy depositions, that the patients often succumb before all information is gathered.

Several documents have been provided to give us more background on these two measures, including editorials and resolutions in support of them, and a format letter example to send to your representatives.

SB33: SB 33 (Dodd) Fact Sheet 7-25-17 SB 33 Reso August 2017 for DPSC Sac Bee editorial supporting SB 33 SB 33 (Dodd) text as amended 7-3-17

SB632 SB 632 (Monning) Fact Sheet 7-26-17 DPSC – SB632 Reso 7-12-17 BEWARE THE FINE PRINT Parts 1-3 w cover SB 632 (Monning) as amended 7-10-17 SB 632_Model Support letter

Join us on Wednesday, August 16 to hear more about these important consumer issues. The American River Democrats will meet at 6:30 pm, at Samurai Sushi, 12251 Folsom Blvd (Hazel at Hwy 50) in Rancho Cordova. Guests are always welcome!

Congressman Ami Bera Staffer Visits American River Democrats

Matthew Ceccato speaks to the American River Democrats

Matthew Ceccato is Congressman Ami Bera’s District Director at his California office, for the 7th Congressional District. Ceccato is a military veteran who was wounded in Iraq, and returned to attend grad school thanks to the G.I. Bill, and began work with Bera as a caseworker on veterans’ issues. He shared a lot of information with the club in a 2015 visit regarding help for veterans in need. Since then, he has been promoted to District Director overseeing the office, and as a guest speaker at the June meeting, shared more information about the operations and what is available to constituents through the Congressional office.

Ceccato said that there were three main categories of staff that he oversees in the office. Caseworkers are the heart and soul of the office. They are there to help people who have problems or issues with any federal government, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid issues, veterans’ issues, immigration and more. Field Representatives are there to represent the Congressman at various events and meetings he is unable to attend himself, to get feedback and share information with his constituents. The interns are a hardworking group who take calls, meet visitors, and process correspondence and social media feedback, and record all the information that comes in. It is all shared with Congressman Bera, who is then able to act on it—including making personal callbacks when possible. Ceccato said it is an amazing team, and your connection to the federal government, on anything from a denial of benefits to a visit to Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, he said that it was a whirlwind going on in Washington. They get about 1000 calls a week, and sacks of mail. And voices are being heard—calls about health care are making an impact. Ceccato said that even if the Senate had passed their version of the “Trumpcare” bill, it was dead on arrival at the house. Now tax reform is on the table, and the same kind of feedback can stop the kind of spending cuts that would be needed to give a tax break to the wealthiest. He said that calls and letters help even if your representative is already on your side. Reaffirmation helps, and feedback contributes to debate.

Ceccato also highlighted some real accomplishments made on veterans’ issues. A Post-9/11 Veterans Memorial is now underway. “Blind scheduling”—medical appointments made without confirming dates and times—is being eliminated. The National Guard overpayment problem has been resolved. Bera is also working to improve woman veterans’ care. Homeless veteran women with kids is a growing problem that needs addressing on a national level.

In conclusion, Ceccato urged the club, and anyone in the Seventh Congressional District to contact Bera’s office for any federal government issues people would need help with. Stalled tax refunds, students in need of financial aid, homeowners needing loan modifications, immigrant citizen applicants, small business loans, stalled passport issues, veterans medical or educational benefits, and Social Security and Medicare problems are just examples of assistance they can offer.

Contact the Sacramento office at 916-635-0505, or visit during office hours of 9 am to 6 pm at 8950 Cal Center Drive, Building 3, Suite 100, Sacramento CA 95826. Send a letter, or contact them online at bera.house.gov. The Washington DC office can be reached at 202-225-5716; 1535 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC, 20515.

Indivisible Sacramento Rep Visits ARDems

Scarlette Bustos addresses a packed crowd at the American River Democrats meeting

It was a packed house at the American River Democrats’ February Meeting, as many current and brand new members filled every seat and then some, while the club welcomed guest speaker Scarlette Bustos, representing Indivisible Sacramento, part of a nationwide movement to resist the Trump and Republican agenda.

Ms. Bustos introduced herself the the Sacramento-born daughter of Nicaraguan refugees who grew up inspired by people stepping up to contribute to their community. She got involved in campaigns and issues herself. She opened with a sobering thought—the Republican establishment will happily give up Donald Trump, and impeach him if (or when) he gets too far out of control, leaving everyone else in the Congress and his appointees (like VP Mike Pence) behind, running the government. Should that happen, the people who are so energized today may not care so much any more—but we cannot allow that to happen! His agenda—or worse—will remain a devastating legacy that will still need to be fought against.

The room was packed at the February American River Democrats meeting!

Bustos introduced the Indivisible Guide, a Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. She said the best way to affect your leaders is to call their office, as an individual citizen or as part of a group—like the American River Democrats, or whatever clubs or groups you may belong to. Make you call concise and short, talk to a single issue and thank the staff member who deals with you. Calling is usually the most effective method, as it is hard to ignore, but mailing postcards is also a good way. Emails to the office are easier to ignore, so not as effective. If you have the time, showing up at the office is by far the best way to make your point—it shows a strong commitment to being heard!

Besides the Indivisible Guide, Bustos recommended signing up for Jennifer Hoffman’s Weekly Action Checklist for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of Conscience to get a weekly email of action items. She also recommended breakupwithyourmegabank.org, by Green America, dedicated to encouraging banks to invest in a just and sustainable society, and pulling your money out if they don’t! (More information on contacting your representatives, and other progressive groups may be found on our Information & Links page on this website.)

Besides reading the Indivisble Guide you can sign up to join their Facebook group—search Indivisible – Sacramento, or email IndivisibleSacramentoCA@gmail.com to subscribe to their newsletter. You can also follow Sacramento Indivisible Regional Action Network on Facebook. Bustos noted that these organizations are not chartered Democratic Party clubs, as they also wish to involve independents, Green Party members, and even Republicans who see the need to stop the “Trump Movement.”

Groups like Indivisible, and the many others now becoming active, are taking a cue from the “Tea Party” movement that rose to prominence early during the Obama administration. They were very effective in stopping a lot of the progress he tried to make, and turned-over both the House and Senate within two years of Obama’s election. The stakes are even higher for us now, as the progress we did make is being torn down daily by this administration. Can we hope to do as much as the Tea Party did – or even more? It will take a lot of grassroots efforts. That old saying is still true—Think Global, Act Local—and call your representatives today. If it gets to to the point where they know you when you call, Scarlette said, you know you’re being heard!

Democrats Moving Forward in 2017

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, our club president, Barbara Leary, presented an informational session about how our club and others like us fit into the overall structure of the party, and how we can make an impact on elections and issues.

This is basically how the Democratic Party is organized, from grass roots to the presidential elections, and how we may get involved!

The Clubs – organize fundraising, notify members to help phone bank, canvas neighborhoods, educate members about candidates and issues, host elected official speakers for Q&A, host advocacy representatives for ballot measures.  Working with other clubs to share ideas, voter registration, booths at fairs is an important component of success in a “red” district. Terry Schanz, the Chair of the Sacramento Democratic Party, stated the the local clubs are “the roots of the party” that make the party strong.

Democratic Party of Sacramento County (DPSC) – chartered clubs each have one group representative and one alternate; the club pays dues.  Individuals may also run for a 4 year term seat, individual pays dues.  Monthly meeting at which endorsements are considered, resolutions and platforms are reviewed and endorsed.  Selects representatives to CADEM convention.

CADEM – the California Democratic Party. Delegates selected to each Assembly District every 2 years through elections held in each District (7 Men, 7 women). The County parties have a set number of delegates as well, assigned by each chartered County party. Annual meetings take place, resolutions and party platform changes are considered in alternate years by the E-Board.  Candidate endorsements take place every 2 years. E-Board meetings take place twice a year. Meetings alternate between sites in Northern and Southern California. Caucuses—Progressive, Environmental, Senior, Latino, Veteran’s, etc. CADEM.org

Democratic National Committee – delegates chosen to attend the convention every 4 years.  There are 3 ways of being selected and the application process is outlined and applications are available on the CADEM website.

Why do we need to organize? What and who do we need to organize? Volunteers of all ages, willingness to research, time taken out of the day to day routine

OUR COMMON PRINCIPLES:

Here are few:

  • Universal Health Care
  • Freedom of Religion for All
  • Social & Economic Justice
  • Ending Citizens United—taking money out of politics
  • Comprehensive Public Education
  • Climate change action
  • Universal Health Care
  • Social & Economic Justice
  • Public (not private charter school) education
  • Gender Equality
  • Reducing Gun Violence
  • Immigration Reform
  • Prison Reform
  • Resisting the Trump Agenda

There are barriers to progress, including hate speech and divisive language within the party. This doesn’t mean we don’t strive to make change, but name calling, yelling, and blaming with less than all the facts at hand will not help unite us.

What our club needs to keep growing and be strong:

  • More active board members, transition to new participants to survive as a thriving club.
  • A Membership Chairperson/Outreach
  • Voter registration coordinator – Folsom Lake College, New Citizens Events, and other opportunities.
  • Members who will research and become active in issues, and report on progress or other information to include on the website, Facebook page, and to present at a meeting.
  • Precinct captains
  • Hosts for phone banks
  • Educational outreach coordinator/liaison to like-minded groups
  • Activity coordinator – marches, inter-club tabling

Other ways to help:

501 C-4 Political donations to clubs and the Democratic Party are used to support the election of candidates/issues—End Citizens United, DPSC, CADEM, candidates. 501 C-3 organizations file Lawsuits, defend of protesters, support for programs facing massive cuts, etc. Sample list of Organizations to join/donate to – the ACLU, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Center, Planned Parenthood, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, the Brady Foundation, Americans Against Gun Violence, etc.

Despite everything, we are lucky to live in California. We just elected two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, we have a Democratic governor, and our officials have made it clear they are behind the fight against Trump and his efforts to undo climate change laws, take away affordable health care, deport millions, and the rest. If any good can come from this, California may once again try to institute a single payer health care system, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. They passed a system in 2008, only to be vetoed by then Gov. Schwarzenegger. We may have another chance to show the country a system that works!

But we must hold our leaders accountable, pay attention to their votes and action, and contact them regularly. Most of us in this area are represented in the state houses by two Republicans—Kevin Kiley and Ted Gaines. They will need to hear from us on those important issues! Some of us are represented by Ken Cooley, a Democrat who doesn’t always vote the way we like (he didn’t support overtime pay for farmworkers, for example.) He needs to hear from you as well. And our Congressman, Ami Bera, who many of us worked hard to elect, to his credit tries to cross party lines to get things done. But that sometimes means he will also sometimes vote for issues you may not approve of. Let him know as well!

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.

rowenforsenate

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 RowenForSenate.com.

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 rowenforsenate.org)

Rob Rowen (courtesy rowenforsenate.org)

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

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 www.electgaryblenner.org.

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 www.votekerrihowell.com

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 votekerrihowell.com and electgaryblenner.org

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary

Senator Richard Pan speaks at September meeting

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 KeepDrPan.com 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

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 bera.house.gov)

Dr. Bera welcomes Matt to his team (courtesy bera.house.gov)

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 (CalVet.ca.gov) 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 matthew.ceccato@mail.house.gov. 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

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!