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Obama 2012 defends, touts health care reform

As the Affordable Care Act‘s second anniversary looms this week, the war of words over its worth is becoming deafening. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, in that both sides truly seem to believe they have a winning issue here.

Here in Oakland, Democratic activist Christine Pelosi of San Francisco – daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson rallied about 30 volunteers today at the campaign headquarters on Telegraph Avenue, briefing them on the reform law’s effects to prepare them for an afternoon of phone-banking.

Christine Pelosi @ OFA HQ 3-19-12Just as Medicare and Social Security were “an intergenerational compact,” so too is health care reform “a societal compact” from a president who believes “health care is a right, not a privilege,” Pelosi said.

By forcing insurers to spend most of their premiums revenue on health care, not administration; by requiring them to insure people with pre-existing conditions; by reducing prescription costs for seniors; and by advancing patients’ rights, including the right to wellness visits, the law has improved the lives of millions of Americans, she said.

As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the question of its constitutionality and as Republicans run on platforms of repeal, “our response has to be, ‘we’re not going back,’” Pelosi told the volunteers. “And each of you is taking personal responsibility to make sure that we’re going forward.”

Carson noted about 356,000 young adults in California – out of 2.5 million nationwide – have benefitted from the reform law by being allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Almost an equal number of Californians on Medicare got a $250 rebate in 2010 to help cover the cost of their prescriptions when they hit the “donut hole” in their coverage, and almost 320,000 got a 50 percent discount in 2011 on their covered, brand-name prescriptions when they hit the donut hole; the law will close the hole by 2020.

Carson also said 12 million Californians no longer need worry about lifetime limits on their coverage; almost 3 million Californians on Medicare received free preventative services (such as mammograms and colonoscopies) or a free wellness visit with their doctor last year; and almost 6.2 million Californians with private insurance gained preventative service coverage with no cost-sharing.

He told the campaign volunteers that this is what they must convey to the people they call, in order to ensure they’re not swayed by “those who are critical, those who are fearful, those who are financed by the insurance companies.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, March 19th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, healthcare reform, Oakland, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

What I was trying to say about Occupy Oakland

I was on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” last night to talk about Occupy Oakland:

As I expected, some within the Occupy movement weren’t happy with what I said. Here’s a few of the many tweets sent last night by @OccupyDavis:

To change the behavior of the young, we must 1st change the conditions which lead to their frustrations!

Some role models —> @Josh_Richman @dylan20 & @cmarinucci are! :P They would rather disparage the young than listen 2 young voices #ows #oo

Hey @Josh_Richman @dylan20 @cmarinucci & other #MSM talking heads! Our children & grandchildren are fighting 4 freedom on U.S. soil! #ows

@Josh_Richman We are not afraid to stand in solidarity with our young sisters & brothers. The movement is not dead. You are Wrong! #ows #oo

To this last one, I replied that I hadn’t said the movement is dead, but I’d tried to convey that it’s at a crossroads. @OccupyDavis agreed with that, and we resolved to continue the conversation today. I’d prefer not to do so in 140-character bursts, so here we are.

I was on Oakland’s streets covering Occupy soon after police rousted the camp for the first time; for about 21 hours on the day of the general strike; during the West Coast port shutdown; and at other times. I thought it was amazing – especially at the general strike – how much support there was, across age and socioeconomic lines, for Occupy’s complaint against economic injustice. I think the widespread support for that movement is still out there; I think actions like that which targeted banks in San Francisco’s financial district a few weeks ago are still building upon that momentum.

But I think that support disappears when the movement’s priorities become taking over vacant buildings and deliberately provoking police into a severe response – which were the only priorities on display in Oakland last weekend. And you can’t build a movement by alienating more and more people.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You can’t tear down fences, try to take over a building, throw things at police, and march toward police lines with reinforced corrugated metal shields without expecting police to respond with force. It’s asinine. It’s juvenile. It’s pointless.

Most people I’ve talked to don’t want Occupy to be pointless. Most of the blogs, many of the tweets and a lot of the other sources I read online say it. The polls say it. People – even self-identified liberals who are sympathetic to Occupy’s original focus – are not down with this. I’ve found precious few who thought breaking into a money-starved city’s City Hall to smash art exhibits and burn a flag was wise.

So Occupy must choose, which isn’t an easy task for a leaderless movement. It can let itself be coopted by those who are consumed by the need to break the law in order to communicate, by those whose only aim is to bait an undeniably troubled and occasionally brutal police department into further transgressions. That’s a path for which Oakland taxpayers – not the 1 percent – foot the bill, and which many believe will guarantee fewer and fewer people rally to the movement’s name over time.

Or, it can find ways to reach out to existing community entities – nonprofits, unions, student groups, whatever – to find new, creative ways to keep hammering home the message of economic inequality that gave the movement its momentum in the first place. This is the path that many believe will eventually benefit Oakland and all other cities in which the movement has manifested itself.

It’s a difference between some vandalism, provocation and cheap headlines now, and a lasting movement that will effect real change. It’s all up to those who call themselves Occupy.

UPDATE @ 6:26 P.M.: Well, I’ve really put my foot in it this time – the tweets have been coming hot and heavy today from those I’ve offended. Thanks to those of you who talked to me instead of yelling at me; I enjoy and learn from dialogue like this, and I hope it’ll continue. To the rest: I don’t have time or the inclination to respond to junior-high locker room taunts.

Here’s another way of expressing what I was trying to say earlier: Every social movement needs a mixture of idealism and pragmatism, and I think a lot of people have come to feel that Occupy Oakland has lost that balance. Put simply, if you’re interested in building a social movement that will effect real societal change and yet fewer people are supporting you as time goes by, you’re doing it wrong, no matter whether your heart is in the right place. Either you’re no longer communicating the message clearly enough, or the message you’re communicating isn’t resonating with people.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Saturday, February 4th, 2012
Under: Oakland, TWINC | 14 Comments »

Hearing on improving life for boys & men of color

Lawmakers will gather in Oakland this Friday to take testimony on ways to improve the life chances for young men of color through successful education, employment and juvenile justice programs.

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, will chair a field hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday in the first-floor auditorium of the Elihu Harris State Office Building, 1515 Clay St. Other committee members include Luis Alejo, D-Salinas; Steven Bradford, D-Gardena; Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego; Warren Furutani, D-Gardena; Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park; Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield; Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco; Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia; Henry Perea, D-Fresno; Manuel Perez, D-Coachella; and Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge.

Among those testifying will be Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Alex Briscoe; Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth Executive Director Fania Davis; Alameda County Social Services Agency Director Lori Jones; East Bay Asian Youth Center Executive Director David Kakishiba; Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad; and many others.

Research funded by the California Endowment has found African-American and Latino boys and young men are more likely to have poor heath outcomes than white boys and young men, with most of the differences directly related to their neighborhoods.

This will be the second in the committee’s year-long series of field hearings around the state.

Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Oakland, Sandre Swanson | 2 Comments »

Brown names Oakland’s Tagami to lottery panel

Oakland political and business deal-broker Phil Tagami was one of three Democrats nominated to the California Lottery Commission today by his longtime political ally Gov. Jerry Brown.

Tagami, 46, has worked at the California Capital and Investment Group since 1992, serving as president and chief executive officer since 2009. He’s been responsible for leading the redevelopments of the Rotunda Building in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Fox Theater on San PabloTelegraph Avenue in the Uptown district, and the West Oakland train station.

Phil Tagami in the Rotunda Building Nov. 2011 (Photo by Susan Tripp Pollard)Tagami has been a significant Democratic campaign benefactor, co-hosting fundraisers for the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2007 and Brown in 2009.

As mayor, Brown had named Tagami to Port of Oakland’s Board of Commissioners, on which he served from 2000 to 2003. Tagami also has had a close relationship with former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, formerly of Oakland; Perata named Tagami in 2008 to the California Transportation Commission, on which he served for a year.

Tagami has hinted in the past that he might be interested in running for elected office in Oakland, and a gubernatorial appointment certainly won’t hurt his public resume.

This nomination requires confirmation by the state Senate and the compensation is $100 per diem. The five-member lottery commission meets at least quarterly and “is charged with the authority and responsibility to oversee the Lottery and to ensure its integrity, security and fairness.”

Also nominated to the California Lottery Commission today were Nathaniel Kirtman III, 40, of Sherman Oaks, the senior vice president of publicity for NBC Universal since 2006; and John Smolin, 43, of Long Beach, a Los Angeles County firefighter and union official.

Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
Under: Jerry Brown, Oakland | 5 Comments »

ACLU loses in court vs. OPD, declares victory

A federal judge has rejected civil-rights groups’ request for a preliminary injunction to keep Oakland Police from using excessive force against Occupy protesters and other demonstrators.

Nonetheless, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California declared victory.

“(E)ven without a favorable ruling at this juncture, we’ve reached our ultimate goal with the lawsuit: stopping further violence by OPD against protesters,” ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye blogged today. “Since the filing of the lawsuit, there has not been a repeat of police violence. OPD has toned down its bad behavior. Whether the timing is coincidental, it’s not a far stretch to assume that being under the scrutiny of yet another court may have impacted OPD’s approach to handling demonstrations.”

The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild filed a lawsuit Nov. 14 on behalf of Scott Campbell, a protester and videographer at whom police apparently fired a beanbag round without provocation or adequate reason.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg basically denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction for the same reasons he had denied the earlier request for a temporary restraining order.

“(P)laintiffs sought a restraining order requiring defendants’ compliance with the entire Crowd Policy. Now they seek an order enjoining Oakland from violating four specific provisions of the Crowd Policy, which govern dispersal orders, and the use of less lethal munitions, flash bang grenades, and tear gas,” Seeborg wrote in his ruling. “As before, the proposed order would require the court to supervise and oversee defendants’ compliance with its own policy. Accordingly, federalism principles still disfavor judicial oversight of local law enforcement agencies, absent evidence of concerted, officially-sanctioned violations of constitutional rights.”

“Whatever the relative strength of each side’s factual record, mere proof of police misconduct does not entitle plaintiffs to an injunction,” the judge wrote. “(B)ecause plaintiffs have not shown a pattern of officially sanctioned misconduct, they have not dispelled doubt as to their standing for injunctive relief, and therefore cannot establish a likelihood of success on the merits.”

UPDATE @ 4:07 P.M.: Gregory Fox, the city’s lawyer, said the city appreciates the attention Seeborg paid to Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan’s testimony. “The judge clearly recognized the chief is committed to both allowing free speech to take place on the streets of Oakland while maintaining order and safety for all those concerned.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Under: Civil liberties, Oakland | 3 Comments »

Poll tries to unpack Occupy Oakland’s beliefs

A pair of Oakland pollsters say their firm’s survey of Occupy Oakland protesters shows a diverse movement united by a shared sense of frustration with the status quo and driving toward some improvement that’s not even clear to them yet.

“In six words, we would sum up their responses to our survey as follows: They want things to be better,” wrote David Metz and Greg Lewis of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, a Democrat-oriented public opinion research and strategy firm.

Metz and Lewis wrote that they did their survey in the public interest, not for any third-party client.

“Our employees either live in Oakland or in neighboring East Bay cities; the Snow Park encampment is next door to the office we work out of every day; and the encampment in the Plaza was just a half mile down the street before the November 14 raid brought it to an end,” they wrote. “Our business is finding out what people think, and the Occupy Oakland movement is a subject we all wanted to know more about.”

They acknowledge they couldn’t capture a statistically representative sample of so fluid and self-defined a movement, so they sent professional interviewers out with the goal of talking to as diverse a selection of protestors as possible. The interviewers were out in Frank Ogawa Plaza on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 12, at various times between noon and 6 p.m., talking to campers and visitors.

“While we certainly can’t say that our results reveal the views of Occupy Oakland with statistical precision, we can say that over the course of 109 interviews, we were able to learn a lot about the Oakland movement and the opinions and attitudes of the people who identify with it,” they wrote.

Among other things, they found persistence: 64 percent of those interviewed identified themselves as “frequent” participants in Occupy Oakland events, while 21 percent said they were “occasional visitors.” About 74 percent said they were from the Bay Area, including 48 percent from Oakland, 12 percent from elsewhere in Alameda County and 14 percent from other Bay Area locales. And almost everyone said they would keep participating in the movement “indefinitely.”

The protestors were fed up with both political parties, seeing widespread corruption throughout the system, and were lukewarm about President Barack Obama. Still, there is a partisan leaning – while 43 percent view the Democratic Party unfavorably, 74 percent see the Republican Party unfavorably and 67 percent see the Tea Party movement unfavorably. Views of the president were split about evenly: 33 percent favorable, 30 percent unfavorable and 34 percent neutral.

But 70 percent said they’re registered to vote and intend to do so in the 2012 presidential election, and that subset was slightly more likely to have a favorable opinion of President Obama; those who said they would not vote were more likely to view him negatively.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Under: Oakland, polls | 9 Comments »

Judge won’t issue TRO against Oakland Police

A federal judge yesterday denied civil liberties groups’ and activists’ request for a temporary restraining order to keep Oakland police from using excessive force in violation of their own crowd-control policies.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the National Lawyers Guild had sued the Oakland Police Department on Monday on behalf of Timothy Scott Campbell, a videographer who was shot with a bean bag projectile while filming police presence during Occupy Oakland on the night of November 2-3, 2011, and other demonstrators who say they were subjected to excessive force during recent protests.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg directed the parties to file briefs before appearing at a Nov. 30 hearing on whether a preliminary injunction should be issued.

But in his ruling Wednesday, Seeborg said issuing a temporary restraining order now would require him to supervise and oversee the Oakland police’s compliance pending further hearings, and even if everything the plaintiffs claim in their lawsuit is true, they haven’t satisfied the legal standards “for such an expansive and unfettered order.”

“To justify an order generally requiring Oakland to comply with its Crowd Control Policy, plaintiffs must show that such ‘systemwide relief’ is necessary to prevent defendants from concertedly violating the protesters’ constitutional rights,” the judge wrote. “Sporadic or isolated violations of individual protesters’ rights are insufficient to support broad injunctive relief against an entire agency.”

Seeborg wrote that Occupy Oakland protests have continued for days on end without any alleged unconstitutional interference from local authorities. “By plaintiffs’ account, actionable conduct has occurred on no more than two to three occasions, spanning a number of hours, in over a month of almost continual demonstrations taking place across Oakland. Thus, plaintiffs’ request must fail on its own terms.”

The plaintiffs also failed to show a likelihood of immediate, irreparable harm “because the Occupy Oakland protests have continued for over a month with relatively limited confrontations,” the judge wrote.

“Both parties maintain compelling interests,” he acknowledged. “Plaintiffs, of course, seek to protect and exercise their First and Fourth Amendment rights in ways that implicate the public interest. The defendants, on the other hand, have indisputably accommodated the majority of the demonstrations, and seek to protect the safety and property of other Oakland residents.”

ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye said she and her clients “are disappointed” by Seeborg’s denial of a temporary restraining order. “OPD is taking the position that it has not violated the crowd control policy at all, and the judge basically said in his order denying the TRO that the evidence was too anecdotal,” she said.

The plaintiffs disagree with that, Lye said, but whether anecdotal or not, Oakland police have acted in ways that not only injured protestors but also has made others afraid to protest, thus chilling their exercise of First Amdendment rights. “We’re doing our best to ensure OPD does not continue to trample on protesters’ rights.”

Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Under: Civil liberties, Oakland, Public safety | 3 Comments »

ACLU, National Lawyers Guild sue Oakland police

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the National Lawyers Guild sued the Oakland Police Department in federal court Monday, seeking an emergency temporary restraining order to stop police violence against political protesters.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg immediately issued an order requiring the city to respond by 5 p.m. today, Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The groups sued on behalf of Timothy Scott Campbell, a videographer who was shot with a bean bag projectile while filming police presence during Occupy Oakland on the night of November 2-3, 2011, and other demonstrators who say they were subjected to excessive force during recent demonstrations.

“I was filming police activity at Occupy Oakland because police should be accountable,” Campbell said in the ACLU’s news release. “Now I’m worried about my safety from police violence and about retaliation because I’ve been outspoken.”

ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye said “excessive police force is never acceptable, especially when it’s in response to political protest.” And NLG attorney Rachel Lederman said the Oakland police’s “unconstitutional actions against protestors on those two nights were wholesale and flagrant violations of Oakland’s own Crowd Control Policy.”

The lawsuit argues the police’s conduct violates the Fourth Amendment by subjecting protesters who posed no safety concerns to unnecessary and excessive force, and violates the First Amendment by interfering with their rights to assemble and demonstrate. The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, arguing the department has shown by its recent actions that it will continue to violate protesters’ constitutional rights unless a court intervenes.

Posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Under: Civil liberties, Oakland | 4 Comments »

Video: Police fell Occupy Oakland videographer

Here’s a video, uploaded Saturday, of an incident that occurred during the fracas that followed the Occupy Oakland general strike early Thursday morning.

I talked this morning with Scott Campbell, 30, of Oakland, who says he’s the man who was holding the camera.

“When I was approaching the line, an officer told me to stop and step back, so I stepped back 5 or 10 feet and started filming, and I asked if that was ok,” he said.

He said he received no reply until the shot was fired.

“Some of my friends saw me get shot and they ran up and get me into a doorway,” Campbell said; someone brought an ice-pack while a legal observer took down information, and then his friends helped him get to a taxi.

He said he has a 1-1/2 inch wound on his upper right thigh, with considerable swelling and bruising around it. He saw a doctor the next day, who told him to keep the wound bandaged and iced.

“At first I was just stunned, and in an immense amount of pain,” he said. “In real time, I didn’t see the officer raise and fire his weapon… it was just shock, I was extremely shaken. And since then what I’m really wondering is what was going through that person’s head that made him think it was OK to shoot another person with a less-than-lethal weapon for doing absolutely nothing wrong.”

Campbell said he does social and digital media work for a local nonprofit and supports Occupy Oakland. “I don’t camp out there, I’ve been a participant but not an active organizer,” he said. “I’ve come out for general assemblies and marches, and I came out that day for the general strike to show my support.”

He said he brought his camera that night because he wanted to document any excessive force used by police, never imagining that might make him a target. “I don’t know if I was in the right place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time.”

He said he wants an independent, not internal investigation of this and other reports of excessive force, and is considering whether to take legal action.

“I’ve been discussing it with some individuals from the National Lawyers Guild, so far nothing’s been decided,” Campbell said this morning. “It’s shocking that someone who is a police officer felt it was appropriate to do that. I’m not sure what the options are, but I would like to have the officer identified and I would like for him to be held accountable.”

We’re contacting the city for a response, and this item will be updated if there’s a reply.

UPDATE @ 6:05 P.M.: Read our more complete report here.

Posted on Monday, November 7th, 2011
Under: Oakland | 3 Comments »

On Occupy Oakland, the media & what’s next

After spending 21 hours on the street covering the Occupy Oakland general strike Wednesday and early Thursday, I’ve talked to a few other media outlets about what happened.

On Thursday, it was BBC Radio 4’s “The World Tonight;” the pertinent segment starts at about 36:25. On Friday, I talked with Scott Shafer of KQED’s “The California Report.” And on Friday night, I was on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California.”

Even as “This Week” was ending, a viewer e-mailed me with a critique.

On KQED this evening, you said how unfortunate it was that the powerful message was being lost with the Occupy movement because of the actions of a vast minority (the midnight vandalism). But then, with valuable television time, having a real opportunity to discuss this fundamental unbalance in our society you, what do you do?

You lay an egg.

An opportunity to relay the message of the majority (aka the 99%) and to provoke a real debate, you continued to focus on the fringe.

You’re right Josh, it is unfortunate. Next time I guess.

I understand Gary’s disappointment, but I disagree. We made it abundantly clear – as our Bay Area News Group coverage this week consistently has – that most of Wednesday’s strike was peaceful and powerful, with a cross-section of the community united in voicing its frustration over income inequality, lack of economic opportunity and a dearth of resources for education and other public services.

But it only takes a few dozen morons to muddy the water. Anyone who thinks the media (or the world) can ignore their deliberate provocation of police action – by invading and defacing private property, by building and burning barricades on public streets – and the resultant damage to property and civic reputation is being disingenuous at best.

Civil disobedience entails accepting consequences. Breaking the law to make a statement with a peaceful but defiant sit-in or camp-out may still lead to arrest; if protesters are truly nonviolent and police are brutal anyway, it only lends more credence to the protesters’ cause. But you’d have to be a fool to think that burning things in the streets and hurling things at police won’t get you tear-gassed, as well as alienate the majority whose hearts and minds you were trying to win. Nonviolence worked for Gandhi. It worked for Martin Luther King Jr. Oughta be good enough for this, too.

Yet Gandhi and MLK were leaders, of which Occupy – by design – has none. A leaderless movement that can’t define specific means to its general ends is ripe for co-option by interlopers, be they “anarchists” eager to strike a blow at tyranny by smashing Tully’s Coffee’s windows, or be they juvenile morons who get off on tagging up on any available surface.

We – on the show last night, and in our ongoing coverage – have tried to communicate that the Occupy movement knows what it wants, but can’t seem to decide how to get there. To truly tap into the widespread frustration out there, they should be thinking of Lennon (and McCartney) instead of Lenin. “You say you want a revolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world.”

The big “Death to Capitalism” banner stretched across 14th Street at Broadway won’t help keep a cross-section of the nation engaged in this movement. 99 percent of America doesn’t want a Marxist revolution; those who do constitute a 1 percent that’s scarier to the rest than the 1 percent that everyone has been smack-talking recently. “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”

“F— the police” rhetoric, barricade burning, window-smashing and graffiti won’t build a movement, either; making downtown Oakland look like an old-school New York City subway car wasn’t a deft rhetorical statement. “When you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.”

You know what brings about change? Hard work, painstaking organization and incremental progress. Years of it.

The Occupy movement’s ideological opposites learned this long ago. Read Thomas Frank’s 2004 bestseller What’s the Matter With Kansas?, a study of how arch-conservatives took over that formerly moderate state’s politics from the ground up, conquering the GOP one county at a time until the entire political landscape had been dragged to the far right.

Or consider the Tea Partiers. They got some people elected, not by smashing windows and spray-painting graffiti, but by walking precincts and getting out their votes. Now the Speaker of the House – hardly a moderate himself – has trouble wrangling them.

The lesson is: If the party you’d counted upon to represent you has betrayed you, let you down, hung you out to dry, then go take it over and make it your own. Camping outside city hall sends a message; running city hall – and then the state legislature, and then Congress – lets you make the message a reality. Calling attention to problems is good – finding practical ways to fix them is better. “You say you’ve got a real solution, well, you know, we’d all love to see the plan.”

Posted on Saturday, November 5th, 2011
Under: Oakland, TWINC | 15 Comments »