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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.

Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...

And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Congressman Swalwell Town Hall Notes

These are my notes after attending my first ever Town Hall meeting, held by Congressman Eric Swalwell:

I appreciated Congressman Swalwell's opening statements, giving texture and depth to my perception of him both as an individual human (a lone democrat in his family, apparently his wife and her whole family [from Indiana if I'm remembering correctly] are republican. he has two brothers and other family members who are part of the police force, and he was the first or his was the first generation in his family to attend college. he served for 7 years as a prosecuting attorney which has informed some of his opinions with regard to undocumented immigrants and their inability to or reluctance to report on crimes against their own person, and also the possibility they will be deported before being allowed to testify against those who have robbed them, for example.) I personally came away from the meeting feeling he is a compassionate, reasoned, well-spoken, compassionate individual committed to many of the things that happen to align with my own beliefs and priorities, but also extremely respectful of and willing to hear out constituents with concerns that reflect a more diverse population [for Alameda County this means inclusion of DT supporters and their concerns as well, which I feel he demonstrated a willingness to hear and represent today, in spite of one very vocal and rude outlier who seemed to mainly be there to ruffle feathers] I took note of many of the topics that were raised during the Town Hall, and made particular note of anything he pledged to particularly fight or oppose. 

In no particular order: He is opposed to the gutting of Dodd-Frank, because he saw his own parents struggle to finally be able to buy a house when he was 14 and he is currently a renter himself, and he specifically mentioned not wanting interest rates on loans to sky-rocket or fluctuate unfairly. He is vehemently opposed to the proposed voucher system and the push to privatize social security, but rather would like to see social security reflect the rising cost of living. (He did not make clear how he would accomplish that, just that he feels it should be supported.) 

He opposes wars being conducted in foreign lands under false pretense, and wants to prioritize diplomacy in our dealings with foreign affairs. He mentioned being in favor of universal background checks, while also stating that recreational shooting at the range or for hunting, or even in general gun ownership is protected but that there is no reason for civilians to own military style assault weapons. 

He is in favor of taking outside money out of politics, and now I'm jumping out of order, because the topic of the possibility of Russian involvement came up later, but he came out very strongly and said we need to set up an independent group to examine that possibility because it should concern each of us (Republican or Democrat) that it might even have been *possible* and we need to examine and introduce legislation to prevent any foreign influence on our democracy going forward.  

One gentleman asked regarding one of the ways we can work with a DT administration with respect to infrastructure specifically for southern Alameda County, and Mr. Swalwell shared his intention to prioritize the BART to Livermore.  He went on to expand on this later stating he will work with his Republican counterpart in Tracy to that end. 

Next someone inquired about the confirmation of Merrick Garland and he cited there is a precedent to even allow an appointment for a period of one year. [This was also close on the heels of another question regarding bi-partisanship not only with regard to infrastructure but that he needs to represent even the 27% of Alameda County that did not vote HRC, which is a fair requirement and he seems up to the task, to me at least.] 

He is against the privatization of student loan debt, and cited that the generation behind the IT boom Silicon Valley, bio tech in San Diego and aero-space in LA were ones that graduated college debt-free, and he seems to believe that investing from our own high schools all the way through college and making a debt-free public college education possible could yield another such boom of innovation. The next person brought up her concerns with regard to elder care, and he said it is up to between $8 and 12K per month for in home elder care or assisted living facilities (I nearly dropped my teeth - mom take good care of yourself!) and his response to that was that he felt that medicare could and should be expanded to cover those necessities. 

He is in favor of overturning Citizens United. He is in favor of bringing back the Voting Rights Act (I was not aware it had been compromised, but he shared a horrific story I have not had the chance to fact check yet citing a Texas polling place was put inside a country club, and if you were not a member you could not go in and cast your ballot -- I'm still recovering from that concept even being possible in 2016...). 

Someone asked if there is any way to combat false news and misinformation, but if he answered my mind did not capture the solution. Someone mentioned the potential (multitude of) conflicts of interest our President Elect has, and his response included a mention of the phone call to Taiwan, and he also said he would like to introduce legislation to *require* the release of tax returns from any presidential candidate. [again, I was not aware it had been a show of good faith up until now, and am still appalled that he has not done so...] 

Someone mentioned California seceding from the union, which he dismissed, saying we should fight to make it a more perfect union, and engage in the democratic process. Someone asked also about becoming a sanctuary state, and he made his stance known several times during his initial address as well as in his responses: any person who wants to be here, live the American dream, work hard, contribute to society, and be willing to sign up to fight for this great nation (he mentioned an immigrant who signed up for the military) is welcome in his mind, but any criminal with any skin color from here or as an immigrant should have their rights limited [which I'm not sure I understood correctly, and might disagree with him if I did understand him correctly] and be sent to jail or back to their country of origin. 

There were several self-proclaimed DT supporters, one of whom brought up that she pays $50K per year in taxes and is law-abiding, and her concern was that there was a double standard, allowing "illegal" immigrants to be here breaking the law while she is law-abiding, and we afford them as immigrants the freedoms and they are not paying taxed and this seems unfair to her. He made a worthwhile distinction, explaining that he prefers to call them undocumented because though many of them are undocumented they are not technically an "illegal immigrant" until or unless they have been deported and then they return. 

There was a brave Muslim woman who stood up and shared about her program, called Meet a Muslim, and she said she has lived here peacefully 34 years but within the last 6 months during one of these "Meet a Muslim" meetings was told by the person that he wanted to slit her throat, and she asked about safety and his response was measured, and one of the 3 times we were moved as a group (partially) to give a standing ovation was when he thanked her for having the courage and though saddened by the need for this program he thanked her for creating the program. 

Just under the wire, we got to question number 25 and she asked about climate change and he made a commitment that by 2050 we as a state should be 50% renewable energies. 

Which reminds me when he was asked earlier about jobs, he said we should be sure not to abandon those whose livelihood is linked with outdated technologies, or coal, or oil - that we should invest in educating them so they can be the ones to build the next better faster machines, the ones who can service them. 

I'm also reminded of the gentleman who changed career paths at age 39 to become a teacher and because of a CA program that amounts to not being able to keep his SS from previous jobs held, would otherwise be required to teach 30 years (until age 69) in order to receive his full pension, rather than being able to retire at an earlier age - and the congressman said point blank that was wrong...I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton of things, and though I've added a smattering of commentary I am intentionally leaving out the bits with the contentiousness because it was relatively short-lived and distracting and not productive, and it was important to see it, and see the effect, and also see how it was handled - with grace and humility in my opinion - by the congressman. I apologize this is so long thanks for reading.

3 comments:

  1. thank you! great write-up! I am also in Rep Swalwell's district and made it to the last 30 min today.

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  2. Hi Dream Follower. I am a member of PSN Contra Costa, soon to become Together We Will Contra Costa. We are trying to help members of our group become familiar with their representatives. Do you mind if I cut and paste this and post in our group along with the link to your blog? You really give us a feeling of who Congressman Swalwell is. I think we are very fortunate to have him in our government and that it would be good for others to know about him as well. Sometimes we forget to see them as human beings!
    Julie Davis

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    1. Hi Julie, you are welcome to link here, and/or cut and paste...obviously I am not taking professional minutes here, but posting my observations. In addition, I will likely write a follow up because there was a very tense BLM moment, and some emotions were running very high which I (intentionally) downplayed in the above account. Thank you for asking, and I am glad to move forward with any name as a voice for unity, and take actions that support all threatened minorities (visible and invisible)

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