Out In The Berkshires – A Conversation with the LGBTQ CommunityJune 22 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Berkshire Athenaeum, One Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield, MA.Book GroupStrangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell HochschildJune 22 @ 7:00 pm, Congregation Beth Israel, 53 Lois St., North AdamsAntique Appraisal Day, Raffle & Basket AuctionA fundraiser benefiting Berkshire Immigrant CenterJune 24 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, South Congregational Church, 110 South Street , Pittsfield
GT Update: May 30, 2017
Dear Greylock Together,
Summer is supposed to be around the corner. The weather hasn’t been lifting too many spirits, but I hope everyone does relax and ease up on the gas pedal for a bit over the summer. If we feel weary 6 months into this presidency, remember that the folks in the White House and on Capitol Hill probably aren’t having as much of a ball at this experience as they were hoping to. And, we live in a summer destination spot, so we should enjoy it! This past weekend, I hope many of you were able to celebrate the amazing energy we have in our community; the opening of Building 6 at Mass MoCA and all the ways that institution has pushed the envelope on community engagement, contemporary art, and economic development partnerships is a marvel.
Memorial Day and Heroes in Portland
Yesterday’s Memorial Day ceremonies also serve as a reminder of so many who have come before us who sacrificed for the ideals this country was built upon, for which we continue to strive and add our own efforts. Many are dismayed that the president has not recognized by name Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Rick Best, who were murdered standing up against a racist attack. May they rest in peace, and may their sacrifice not be forgotten.
Our Next Greylock Together Meeting is this Sunday, June 4th, 3:00-4:30pm at the Williamstown Youth Center. We will be joined by Joyce Hackett from Code Blue, and hope that despite various graduation ceremonies happening over the weekend, that you’ll be able to come out and hear about Automatic Voter Registration. As always, childcare is provided and all are welcome!
Thank you Alexander for the following notes about our surveys and the Quist race.
Please Take our Second Greylock Together Survey
This survey includes bills about two dynamite issues: the economy and healthcare. How do we bolster a fragile recovery, fix a rigged system, and protect the victories of the past? With laws, and this is our first step. We need your voice — do you support a $15 minimum wage, do you want a public option? You make the decisions… what will Greylock Together support? With hundreds of active members, we have a lot of power: help us decide how to use it!
Our last survey shows the Greylock Together community is overwhelmingly supportive of nonpartisan redistricting to end gerrymandering, automatic voter registration, and ending the disenfranchisement of felons. Changing the system of voting from first-past-the-post also has majority support, but many people still have questions about that one. We’ll ask the research team to get us more info. So we’re getting good results and soon we’ll know what to support… and where our representatives stand!
Montana and Quist
Last week in Montana’s House race, Democrat Rob Quist lost by seven points to Gregory Gianforte. This might seem disappointing and surprising — weren’t we pouring a lot of effort and money into that race, and didn’t Gianforte assault a reporter the day before the election? But Montana is deep red! In these special elections, we’re paying the most attention to the overall trend, not any individual result. In other words, victory would have been amazing, but we weren’t counting on it. Instead, we’re looking at the whole picture.
Montana is 21 points more Republican than the American average, meaning that the results are about fifteen points more Democratic than we’d ordinarily expect. And in combination with all the past results this year, we’re talking about a good year next year. Your work is paying off, so keep it up!
Chart by Harry Enten of fivethirtyeight.com
Steve Ballmer’s Data Trove
About a month ago, the New York Times wrote a fascinating article about former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s project to provide the public with a comprehensive look at how government revenue is collected and spent. Love data? It’s definitely a website worth checking out here.
The Big Bad Budget
As we all have seen by now, Trump’s proposed budget is disastrous on a number of levels. Though it seems unlikely that it will be approved given that many Republicans oppose it, it’s still scary to think that any budget similar to this could be approved. Here’s a good New York Times info piece about the proposed budget. And a helpful piece that Indivisible posted about the budget. Whether you’re concerned about Medicaid, the EPA, ridiculous tax rates, or anything and everything else, now’s a good time to call your representatives and tell them what you don’t want to see the decimation of our social safety nets to fund tax cuts for the wealthy
Berkshire: Richard Neal 202-225-5601
Bennington: Peter Welch 202-225-4115
Rensselaer: John Faso 202-225-5614
See you soon,
GT Update: May 25, 2017
Dear Greylock Together,
It seems it’s appropriate to focus, at least for a moment, on victories, small and large, as we continue to trudge through the onslaught of international and political news.
- Important Supreme Court vote – on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina’s gerrymandering of congressional districts using race is unconstitutional. This case should go down as a hallmark ruling that will hopefully serve as a precedent for other decisions that ultimately will lead to less partisan districting.
More here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/us/politics/supreme-court-north-carolina-congressional-districts.html
- 2 flipped seats – while not Congressional seats, two Democrats have recently bested Republicans in traditionally Republic strongholds. On Tuesday, Edie DesMarais defeated Republican Matthew Panche for a NH House seat in Wolfeboro, which has not elected a Democrat in the last 100 years. And yesterday, Democrat Christine Pellegrino defeated Republican Thomas Gargiulo for a NY State Assembly seat, in a county that Hillary Clinton had lost by 23 points last November.
- New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a poignant speech defending the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the final of 4 confederate monuments/statues that he and the City Council had decided to remove in a process that began 2 years ago. In his speech, Landrieu defies opposition claims that the monuments are an important part of the city’s history. He points out the “searing truth” that there are no monuments to slaves ships that docked in New Orleans, and that there is no public recognition “of the shame of slavery,” in their city and reminds defenders of these monuments that there is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.
Watch his speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ29Uwz5yPU
- In his meeting today with the U.S. President, Pope Francis gave him a copy of his 2015 encyclical (fancy name for papal document on important topics), which makes an urgent plea for drastic measures to cut fossil-fuel emissions and other environmental protection. For someone who has claimed the climate change is a hoax fabricated by the Chinese, hopefully the president (or at least members of his staff) will take some time to learn from this document on his flight back to the U.S.
And yet, grim news continues to emanate from Washington, D.C.
FY18 Federal Budget Plan Released
Yesterday the White House released the president’s “America first” (a.k.a. “taxpayer-first”) budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. In the budget, the big winner is the defense industry, with $469 billion added over the decade. Border security also receives a boost (note that it appears the plan is now for American rather than Mexican taxpayers to pay for a border wall), and the Veterans Administration gets additional funding to allow veterans to seek outside medical care (this last thing we can get behind!) 6 weeks of paid parental leave are also added, which appears to be the “big win” for which Ivanka has been angling – still far behind many other wealthy industrial nations.
The effect this budget would have on economically disadvantaged members of our community is dire: Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance, SNAP (food stamps), school lunch programs, disability benefits, individuals with student loans, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health – all stand to lose significant funding.
American Health Care Act CBO Score
The House of Representatives on May 4 passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) before a Congressional Budget Office score had been derived. Today, just about 3 weeks after their vote, the CBO has released its estimates on what effect this bill will have:
- 23 million people will lose their insurance over the next decade, beginning with 14 million losing coverage next year
- Medicaid spending will be cut considerably, resulting in 14 million fewer covered by the program by 2026
- Low-income senior citizens will in some cases end up paying up 800% what they do now
- In states that opt for waivers from certain mandates, premiums for those with pre-existing conditions could increase dramatically
- Maternity care, mental health, and substance abuse support is decreased significantly
In the meantime, 13 men in the Senate are working on their own version of the bill. It probably can’t be a lot worse than what the House passed, but I personally don’t have high hopes for what they’ll come up with.
What can you do about this?
Call your governor and make sure they know you are counting on them to oppose AHCA as well as the draconian cuts to our social safety net as proposed by this budget.
Massachusetts (R-Charlie Baker): (617) 725-4005
New York (D-Andrew Cuomo): (518) 474-8390
Vermont (R-Phil Scott): (802) 828-3333
If you prefer to write, use these links:
MA – Baker: http://www.mass.gov/governor/constituent-services/contact-governor-office/
NY – Cuomo: https://www.governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form
VT – Scott: http://governor.vermont.gov/contact-us/message
Are there topics you’d like to know more about? Do you have a question you’d like our team to answer? Or our Bullet Points Team to further research?
Let us know!
Upcoming Book Group: Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Our Book Group meets next on Thursday, June 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel, 53 Lois Street, North Adams.
Our Next Greylock Together Meeting is Sunday, June 4, 3:00-4:30 p.m. at the Williamstown Youth Center. We hope Dustin Reidy from NY-19 will be able to join us, as he was ill this past Sunday and unable to make it. For those of you who haven’t made it to a meeting in a while – don’t be shy about reconnecting. We want to see anyone and everyone, regardless of how often they’re able to join in on the in-person fellowship and discussion!
Have a great long weekend!
GT Update: May 17, 2017
Dear Greylock Together,
What a week! How are you doing? Outraged? Desensitized? Tired? If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, astonished, excited perhaps, or maybe even defeated, I’m right there with you.
What will happen next with regard to Comey’s firing, the Russia investigation (hooray for the appointment of former FBI Robert Mueller as Special Counsel!), and repercussions at the White House remains to be seen. (Here’s a guideIndivisible has created regarding what’s been happening, if you need a primer.)
However, this frenzy of news, and our collective activism has me wondering how we can sustain our energy, or know which actions to take at what time. My feeling is that the one thing we can control is our own actions. We can decide which issues are of greatest important to each of us individually, how we’d like to express ourselves and exercise our voices as constituents, and what we’d like to share with our friends and family members.
In the meantime, receiving less coverage in the news was the May 11 establishment of a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, with Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State tapped to run the commission. This group and this man will inevitably lead to more voter suppression, and many rights groups are very concerned about this. See the ACLU’s take on this topic here.
Please Take the Voting Reform Survey
Don’t forget to weigh in on specific types of voting reform you’d like to see Greylock Together endorse as a group: http://www.greylocktogether.org/voting-reform-survey/
Last Thursday, Jeff Sessions sent a memo to all Federal prosecutors requiring them to pursue mandatory minimum sentences for drug, gun, and gang-related crimes. This goes directly against the fairly widespread recognition that such tough sentencing for low level, non-violent drug crimes has not been effective in combating drug-related crimes, and has had a devastating negative impact on many in our country, in particular communities of color. Even the Koch brothers are against this policy. Call your state Attorney General to register your alarm and opposition: https://5calls.org/issue/recaNaMf3uFsmCamm
Book Group: White Rage
Our Book Group meets tomorrow, Thursday, May 16 at 7:00 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel, 53 Lois Street, North Adams. We will be discussing White Rage by Carol Anderson, which provides a stark reckoning of our country’s structural oppression and disfranchisement of our black citizens. Voter Suppression, Mandatory Sentencing – none of this is new.
Williamstown held its annual Town Meeting last night, and among the articles voted in were a resolution to become a Pollinator Friendly Community, to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, to affirm the town’s Immigrants Trust act (in support of town policy for town employees including police to not inquire about immigration status, or act at the behest of ICE), and zoning by-laws to restrict both by special permit and by location future applications for retail marijuana establishments. http://www.iberkshires.com/story/54588/Williamstown-Town-Meeting-OKs-Zoning-Bylaw-for-Pot.html
Kids Connect Kiddos on Willinet
For your dose of cute, with a heaping lift of hope for our future, see what some of our most recent Kids Connect participants learned about pollinators!
This past Sunday, a group of us gathered to have a conversation about race. We shared stories about what we’ve seen and experienced in our own community, ideas for how we might both become and indicate that we are an inclusive and welcoming community, and thoughts on how diversity education initiatives might be brought about for young and old alike. This is only the beginning, and we will get together again soon to continue and widen the discussion if you missed it. Stay tuned.
Our Next Greylock Together Meeting is this Sunday, May 21, 3:00-4:30 p.m. at the Williamstown Youth Center. Join us for a visit by Dustin Reidy from NY-19, and for committee meetings, as well as planning for specific state-level voter reform action.
See you soon!
GT Update: May 9, 2017
Dear Greylock Together,
GT Update: May 2, 2017
Dear Greylock Together,
A quick note to you this evening. I hope you saw the rainbow earlier today. Spring in our area is simply beautiful. We are lucky to live here.
GT Update: April 25, 2017
Hello Greylock Together,
Another week, with many of us back from April break, and Congress back in D.C., much continues to happen!