How Environmental Policies Can Promote Economic Growth

The Trump administration had been working hard to roll back the nation’s environmental regulations on the grounds that they are an economic burden on business. But evidence from California tells a very different story. For the past half century, California has been the richest U.S. state – even as it has led the United States in coastal protection, restricting oil drilling, regulating automotive emissions, promoting energy efficiency and, most recently, curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

From 2013 to 2016, California grew more rapidly than any other state – to become the world’s sixth largest economy. Not only have rapid economic growth and stringent environmental regulations proved compatible, many of California’s environmental regulations have promoted economic growth and benefitted businesses.

A History of Innovative Environmental Policy

California was the first government in the United States to impose pollution controls on motor vehicles. The campaign to do so was strongly supported by the Los Angeles business community, most notably its powerful real estate developers. They feared that unless the city’s air quality measurably improved, it would become more difficult for the city to attract new residents and businesses.

Thanks to the steady strengthening of both state and federal automotive emissions controls, air quality in Los Angeles dramatically improved. During the 1970s Los Angeles averaged 125 Stage I smog alerts per year, but it has not had a single one since 1999. In 2015, the city recorded its lowest smog level since reporting began. It is hard to imagine that Los Angeles would have continued to grow so substantially or become the center of the world’s entertainment industry as well as the location of so many high income communities had its air remained so hazardous.

California’s pollution controls grew out of a long history of collaboration between policymakers and business firms. In fact, California’s businesspeople and policymakers have been working together since the 19th century. To promote tourism in the Golden State, steamship companies wanted to safeguard Yosemite and the Southern Pacific Railroad became advocate of protecting the sequoias of the Sierra.

Most recently, California businesses have backed the state’s wide-ranging initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. California’s historic 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act mandated a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It was backed by more than 200 individual firms and business associations, including the state’s high-technology and venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. By 2006, nearly $2 billion in venture capital had been invested in clean technology. As one state policymaker noted, “The legislation . . . sends a signal to people that there is a market where people can invest. . . So what started as an environmental issue in 2001 or 2002 has garnered a lot of business support.”

Economic Benefits of Smart Environmental Policies

Promoters of economic growth in California rightly see that regulations have opened doors for innovative businesses and reduced costs for citizens and enterprises alike:

  • Thanks to the state’s promotion of renewable energy, 1,700 solar companies are based on California. The state accounts for half of the rooftop solar installations in the United States and a quarter of the nation’s solar energy jobs. Renewable energy mandates have been strongly supported by the state’s unions because of the jobs they create. All told, more than 500,000 people are employed in the state’s growing renewable energy sector.
  • The state’s Advanced Clean Cars Program and its zero-emission mandates have led Californians to buy or lease more than 200,000 pure electric vehicles. This represents roughly half of all such vehicles registered in the United States, and has made California, along with China, the world’s largest market for this new automotive technology. Thanks to Tesla, California has become the center of electric vehicle technology, with several other auto manufactures opening design facilities in the state.
  • Between 1974 and 2014, energy consumption per person in the United States increased by nearly 75 percent, while California’s per person energy consumption has remained nearly constant. The state’s energy-savings program, building codes, and appliance efficiency standards have reduced the energy bills of Californians by nearly $90 billion and have also saved the expense of constructing what could have been up to 50 new power plants.

In 2010, two Texas-based oil companies launched a California ballot initiative to roll back the state’s climate change commitments. Tellingly, this effort met with strong business opposition, especially from California’s clean technology sector, which by then had investments worth $6.6 billion. According to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group – whose participants reap worldwide revenues of more than $2 trillion – “our members believe that reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels presents an opportunity to transform the economy from one based on coal, oil, and gas to one that runs on clean renewable energy.”

California as a Model

The experience of America’s most populated and currently rapidly growing state challenges the claim that environmental protection hurts the economy. Often jointly backed by businesses and citizens groups, California’s environmental policy leadership has nourished prosperity, truly laying the foundations for the making of a “Golden State.”

As Washington now tries to retreat in environmental policymaking, more states can learn from what California has accomplished. Policymakers, advocates, and others concerned about economic growth and competitiveness should work to strengthen regulations and create new opportunities for firms that stand to benefit from a “greener” growth trajectory. When a state protects its scenic beauty, improves its air quality, reduces its energy use, and promotes renewable energy, it not only protects its environment, but also becomes a more inviting place to live, work, visit, and invest.

National Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders

Companies Join Forces to Positively Impact 300,000 National Guard, First Responders and Healthcare Heroes

Today, Operation Gratitude announced the launch of one of the largest coordinated efforts in the country to support the brave men and women on the frontlines of the Coronavirus pandemic. Companies across all industries are joining together to form the Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders to leverage their collective resources and capabilities and provide direct support to hundreds of thousands of Frontline Responders nationwide. 

Over the past two weeks, Operation Gratitude has delivered 60,000 individual items to Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments and 450 National Guardsmen in southern California, as well as 30,000 individual items and 1,000+ handwritten letters to the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington D.C. Bulk deliveries are scheduled this week at dozens of hospitals in NYC and Seattle and metropolitan police and fire departments in areas particularly impacted by the pandemic.

Operations will scale up exponentially with generous support from CSX, Liquid IV, Mars Wrigley, Prudential Financial, Starbucks and The Starbucks Foundation and Veterans United Home Loans.

The Coalition will be co-chaired by retired Lieutenant General Kathleen Gainey, who served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. Transportation Command and brings over 35-years of extensive logistics and transportation experience in the military and in collaboration with the private sector; and Robert Lackman, the former COO of The Gorilla Glue Company and a Navy veteran, who brings 25-years of supply chain and distribution expertise.

Together the Coalition has pledged to support COVID-19 Frontline Responders by:

  • Raising $1.5 million in financial donations to fund bulk deliveries of 5 million items to 400 hospitals, police and fire departments, National Guard units and other Military response forces that are currently deployed or about to deploy.
  • Making in-kind donations of essential items, valued at $5 million, to support 300,000 frontline responders at hospitals, major metropolitan police and fire departments and deployed National Guard units over the next 10 weeks.
  • Mobilizing dedicated and grateful employees and their families through #VirtualVolunteerism with a focus on writing letters of gratitude to military, first responders and healthcare heroes.
  • Providing in-kind resources, to include critical transportation and logistics support and other professional services to ensure an agile and responsive operation

“As we have all seen recently, the world can turn upside down in a matter of days. One thing that we can always count on during a crisis is our military and first responders on the frontlines,” said the CEO of Operation Gratitude, retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Schmiegel. “While they continue to serve, we will continue to support them with the help of this coalition. Together, we will deliver millions of critically needed items and letters of appreciation globally to the Frontline First Responders who need it most.”

Officers from Los Angeles Police Department unloading supplies

In addition to engaging their employee’s enterprise-wide to write letters of appreciation for Frontline Responders, the founding members of the Coalition to Support COVID-19 Frontline Responders have also committed the following resources:

  • CSX – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 100,000 Frontline Responders allocated as part of their existing Pride In Service initiative and in direct support of tens of thousands of Military and First Responders in states and cities that the initiative has impacted since its launch in 2018.
  • Starbucks and The Starbucks FoundationFinancial support from The Starbucks Foundation to enable bulk deliveries to 50,000 Frontline Responders; in-kind product support from Starbucks including 50,000 lbs of Starbucks Coffee and a letter-writing campaign for Frontline Responders.
  • Veterans United Home Loans – Financial support to enable deliveries to 50,000 National Guardsmen, Deployed Troops and other Frontline Responders; in-kind product and services support including 50,000 drawstring bags for Frontline Responders; creation of a virtual letter writing platform, allowing others to show their support through #VirtualVolunteerism.
  • Prudential Financial – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 20,000 Frontline Responders and enterprise wide letter-writing. 
  • Liquid IV – Financial support to enable bulk deliveries to 5,000 Frontline Responders, and an in-kind donation of 312,000 hydration drink servings for every Frontline Responder impacted by the Coalition. 
  • Mars Wrigley – In-kind product donation of up to 1 million individual items, cause marketing campaigns, virtual letter-writing and funded drop shipments to locations most in need.

Since 2003, millions of Americans have volunteered in a tangible way with Operation Gratitude, both in their communities and from their own homes, helping us to fill and deliver 2.6 million care packages. 17 years after the invasion of Iraq started and Operation Gratitude was born, our nation is again under attack on the homeland – this time by an invisible enemy. The grassroots movement that started with the first four care packages will grow at a time of great challenge for our nation and lead to a groundswell of appreciation for those serving on the frontlines of this pandemic.

Orange is the New Black (OITNB): The Real Crisis of Incarcerated Women

NYT-male-model

As Summer 2015 approaches, fans anxiously await the release of the third season of Netflix’s highly viewed comedy-drama series ‘Orange is the New Black’ (OITNB). The original series is based on Piper Kerman’s Memoir of her year spent within the confines of a women’s correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut.

Although OITNB has drawn more attention to the issues surrounding the life of women in prison, the majority of people fail to acknowledge the 646 percent increase of women in jail or prison in the United States over the last three decades.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “92% of all women in California prisons had been ‘battered and abused’ in their lifetimes” and “40 percent of criminal convictions leading to the incarceration of women were for drug crimes”.

Given the evidence of the insanely drastic influx of women in jail or prisons and the expenditure of billions of taxpayer dollars, it is not unreasonable to expect corrections to invest in mental health, rehabilitation, and reentry services back into the community after release.

One of the biggest challenges female inmates face is the induction of using the male prison model to incarcerated women.

“These are invisible women,” says Dr. Stephanie Covington, a psychologist and co-director of the Center For Gender and Justice, an advocacy group based in La Jolla, Calif. “Every piece of the experience of being in the criminal justice system differs between men and women.” – New York Times

In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47 which many consider historic landmark legislation to reduce incarceration rates and rehabilitation for low-level drug offenses. California is leading the trend to address sky rocketing incarceration rates in communities of color primarily affected by the war on drugs.

Proposition 47 is at the forefront of a national trend to reduce harsh criminal penalties that led to an explosion in prison and jail populations beginning in the 1980s. It follows a revision to California’s three strikes law that limits the maximum penalty to those whose last offense is serious or violent.

Along with the shift of nonviolent inmates from state prison to county jails approved by the state Legislature in 2011, Proposition 47 is expected to further transform California’s criminal justice landscape.  Read Full Article

In 2013, a total of $9.1 billion dollars was set into the California budget for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The CDCR saw a 39.5 million dollar decrease as a result of the reduction of projected average daily population.

Some of the major accomplishments included significant funding increases for rehabilitation at 14.9 million and mental health services at 10.3 million for adult inmates. However, the Department of Juvenile Justice was decreased by 3.9 million dollars.

There is no shame in wanting to binge watch an entire season of OITNB in one night. However, if we want to put a halt to the reality of the rapidly growing rate of women being incarcerated as well as men, it is imperative that comprehensive treatment services and programs become a priority.

Will Kristie Holmes Survive the California Primary on June 3rd

On the eve of the June 3rd California primary, social work professor and congressional hopeful, Kristie Holmes, will walk away from her first electoral contest a winner regardless of the outcome. “I got in the race to win. I want to win so badly because I believe it would change things,” she says. “Five years out there’s going to be a shift in how our political system works. Even if we cannot get the money out of politics, people are tired of the status quo. There’s a reason Congress had a five percent approval rate. I feel people will become motivated to make changes.”

Kristie Holmes

If you have been following her quest to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman as the representative of California’s 33rd Congressional District, you know it’s been an uphill battle from the start. The 33rd CD is a silk stocking district containing affluent communities such as Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Marina Del Ray, and the resort city of Santa Monica. The median income for the district with a population of 701,000 is $92,111 and the median value for a house is $911,000. Among residents 25 years old and older, 96 percent has a high school diploma and 61 percent has a bachelor degree.

The 33rd CD is a Democratic stronghold with 43.6 percent of registered voters identifying as Democrats, 27.2 percent identifying as Republicans and 18.3 percent with no party preference. The remaining voters identify as members of the Green Party, Libertarian or other smaller parties. California has open primaries where Democrats, Republicans and other candidates vie for a chance to run in the general election. The top two vote getters will be on the ballot in the fall. In the 2012 elections, President Barack Obama received 60.6 percent of the vote. Waxman won the primary in 2012 with 54 percent of the vote. He is retiring after 40 years in the House of Representatives.

Money matters in the 33rd District primary. Kristie Holmes found that out early and it has been an issue that dominated the race throughout. “Money is a determining factor in the primary race,” Kristie acknowledged in our phone conversation last week. “The frontrunners and a few other candidates have spent a great deal of their time raising money. One candidate, David Kanuth, a lawyer raised almost a million dollars. I am anxious to compare our numbers. I want to see what a million dollars buys you.”

“Another candidate, James Graf, loaned himself a million dollars to enter the primary only to drop out of the race after spending $100,000 for polling that showed (frontrunners) Wendy Gruel and Ted Lieu equally sharing about 40 percent of the vote. He and his team decided no amount of money could make up the difference.” I checked his website and his statement says he could no longer in good faith raise money from others to compete in what he saw as a losing effort. Of the 25 candidates officially on the ballot, about 14 to 16 are left in the race leading up to Tuesday’s primary.

“Money is necessary but it should not be the end all, be all,” Kristie says. “The bottom line is getting people out to the polls to vote. I’d like to see more money devoted to nonpartisan efforts to get people to vote. Maybe we should adopt the Australian system that makes it a civic obligation to vote. They permit online registration in California. Maybe the next step is online voting.” It seems these days more efforts are being made to discourage Americans from voting in some states with the adoption of voter ID laws and restrictions on voting hours.

I asked Kristie if in hindsight she would do it over again and she says she would. “We need more women in Congress. We need more young people involved in politics. The few young people who show up to our events come flying up to me afterwards and tell me how much they loved what I said and that if more young people would vote, I’d win in a landslide. But too many are jaded. They believe the system is corrupt.”

She has learned that running for office is not for the faint of heart. “I am shocked by how often the media tries to sensationalize candidates’ position,” she says. “It disturbs me how candidates will dig up dirt on their opponents if they perceive them as a particular threat. On the other hand, one of the more rewarding aspects of my experience is getting to know the other candidates. They are really good people operating in the rough and tough world of politics.”

Kristie will not retreat back to the ivory halls of academia should she lose Tuesday’s vote. She will continue teaching and encouraging her students and others to be politically active. “I believe I can be a resource to other social workers running for office,” she says. “There is no other way to get the education I’ve gotten about politics other than being involved.” That is why CRISP is committed to expanding opportunities for social work students to fulfill their field placements in congressional offices. Our government may be dysfunctional in many ways, but it’s all we got and we can change it. Like Kristie Holmes—you gotta believe.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Desert Review

Fueling the Political Machine: Kristie Holmes on Campaign Finance Reforms

There is something very special about a social worker in public office. As social workers, we are bound to an ethical code to uphold social justice, provide service to others, bolster the dignity and self-worth of all people, understand human relationships and communities, and act with competence and integrity in all our endeavors. When considering how these core values shape social workers’ singular objective to make the world a better place for everyone, I think most people can agree that these are the kinds of people we want representing us in government. That is exactly what Kristie Holmes is planning to do in her campaign for Congress representing California’s 33rd district.

IMG_5651
Kristie Holmes (right) at United Nations

Kristie Holmes is a breath of fresh air for Los Angeles County. Unlike her top opponents, Holmes has not been a participant in the troubled public administration in her region. Rather, Kristie has been fighting at the front lines as a case worker, community organizer, and social policy scholar. As a social work professor at the University of Southern California and small business owner in Los Angeles, Holmes is in touch with the people in her community and is raising quite a following among younger voters, who are sick of establishment politicians and nepotism.

So what’s the problem? Why isn’t her name up in lights with the best of them?

Sadly, along with her virtuous political agenda and clean slate comes a major shortcoming: Money or as she refers to it in her blog, “Trial by Fundraising!” And while we all know campaigns always require money, Kristie Holmes has been exposing political financial requirements to that will make your stomach ache. According to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, the average congressional campaign costs over $1 million per candidate and the average senate campaign costs $4.3 million (while many go as high as $10 million and 15 million).

This leads many concerned citizens to ask, who has that kind of money? Certainly not the families and citizens politicians are supposedly “representing.”  These unprecedented financial requirements not only distract elected officials from their primary role as lawmakers, but paves a clear path for encouraging special interests in politics. As Kristie explains:

“When it is all over, what do we have to show for it?  How much have we collectively spent- on what exactly?  It certainly doesn’t go to those who need it.  In fact, it goes to funding things that voters clearly despise.”

As a determined, trail-blazing social worker, Kristie Holmes is standing up to the political establishment. She is running her campaign on policy, not politics and financial deal-making. With her hard earned, modest budget, Holmes is inspiring awe as she unwavering fights for a seat at the table. As fellow social workers, we are very proud. In her campaign blog, title “Kristie’s Adventures in Running for Congress in the Wild West” Holmes documents the process of running an honest campaign amidst a corrupt landscape of Super-PACs and sneaky political loopholes:

Money & PoliticsTo begin the process, there is a $1,740 non-refundable fee to get your name on the ballot. Okay, steep but do-able.  But wait, it doesn’t stop there. In order the get your name and 250-word blurb printed in the voting guide (the sample ballot given to all voters before they cast their vote) candidates must pay an additional $8,600.

If you want this available in Spanish (which is spoken by about half of L.A. residents) it costs another $17,200! Further fees are required for each additional language. Just the fact that there is a language fee at all, from a social justice perspective, is ethically questionable considering the US Census reports 56.8% of L.A. residents do not speak English at home. So, all in all, it actually costs a whopping $18,940 just to have a meager presence at the ballot box.

Now, comes the campaign. There is the usual stuff: yard signs, door-hangers, TV commercials, etc. These are the kind of cost most people expect from campaigns and millions of dollars can also go into funding these. Luckily, there are low-costs alternatives to raising political awareness such as relying heavily of social media and people power in the community- the tactics Kristie Holmes is well versed in as a macro social worker.There are countless, nearly insurmountable hidden costs all along the way. Just last week, for example, Kristie was denied invitation to a candidate debate forum because the organizers required candidates to have raised over $100,000 in order to attend. 

Seriously? Television commercials are one thing; denying candidates a right to speak at political debates- that is another. Requirements such as these are normal; they are a part of a regime to perpetuate the political status quo, stifle real social progress, and represent the interests of the few over the many. According to the LA Times, the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club created the requirement (which was possibly as high as $200,000) to allow only “viable” candidates to participate, as not to “dilute the session… by including candidates with little or no chance of winning.” Yet, isn’t is also true that barring these candidates from the debate is directly contributing to their poor chances of winning?

Kristie also points out that candidates for California’s 33rd congressional district only found out about the current congressman’s retirement in late January. Established candidates with an existing FEC number had less than three months to acquire their current campaign funds. However, the time frame was much shorter for new candidates who needed to apply for a FEC number before fundraising could begin. As Holmes speculates, “Perhaps a candidate has a long line of wealthy, waiting funders ready to go when they announce (due to fame or personal fortune).” Whatever the funding sources or tactics are, one this is clear: our current political system is designed to pander to wealth and power.

When a real candidate “of the people, for the people” emerges, the powers that be quickly shut them down. In such a climate, it is not a surprise that our congress looks like a Hampton country club full of white men shaking hands. As social workers and citizens, we cannot sit quietly as the political machine attempts to push aside highly qualified candidates like Kristie Holmes. The system will not fix itself. It is up to us, as voters and social change leaders, to demand better and to put people in office with integrity. We must support Kristie Holmes and raise awareness for her campaign.

As a congresswoman, Kristie pledges to fight for open government and to put an end to fraud and corruption in her district. She will fight for gender equality, equal access to education, improved care for veterans, and to put an end to the war on drug through the decriminalization of marijuana. As a social worker, she will fight for all socioeconomic groups but most importantly, those who are most in need.

Why can’t we have a Congresswoman like Kristie Holmes? I believe we can.

Learn more about Kristie Holmes and how you can support her campaign. Follow Kristie’s blog, “Kristie’s Adventures in Running for Congress in the Wild West

Follow Kristie on Twitter @DrKristie

Using Twitter for Advocacy

Throughout history, advocacy has been used a strategy to help create awareness for an idea or cause, identify allies and partners, build coalitions, as well as influence shifts in attitudes and/or public perceptions. History has also taught us that major shifts resulting in the empowerment of an oppressed group occurred because of advocacy and not because the dominate group relinquished some of their power voluntarily for the betterment of society. Advocacy means having difficult conversations, taking a stance against the majority, going against long-held traditions, and challenging widely accepted beliefs.

ADVOCACY highlighted in greenIt’s not uncommon for someone in the majority or unaffected group to label someone advocating on behalf of a minority group as being “Radical” or not being validated by the majority of people. If this is the standard for assessing the existence of a problem, slavery would still be legal, LGBTQ Americans would still be in the closet, women would not have a voice, and Dreamers wouldn’t have the right to dream.

The purpose of advocacy is to speak up on behalf of those who are not being heard, falling through the cracks, and/or trapped within the margins as a result of policies and legislation with intended or unintended consequences.

If you can only engage in conversation or interact with people accepted by the majority, how does this affect your ability to advocate on behalf of those without representation? If someone raises an issue that does not align with the majority, why not investigate, identify the affected, and talk to them in order to draw your own conclusions? Advocacy requires a thick skin and the willingness to stand on your beliefs even when it’s not popular, and this is applicable whether your are championing someone else or yourself.

For week 4 of the Evidence based twitter chats, I wanted to explore engaging in advocacy on twitter. Dr. Kristie Holmes, a Congressional Candidate in the State of California, participated as a guest in the wake of the Supreme Court decision McCutcheon vs Federal Election Committee.

Methodology

I used the live twitter chat format to encourage participants to use the #McCutcheon hashtag which is also being used by various advocacy groups to mount protest in favor or against the decision. By engaging in the Social Work Helper tweetchat using the #swhelper hashtag, I wanted to show how using a second hashtag in tweets could do two things. (1) Influence discussion of tweeters monitoring the #McCutcheon hashtag (2) Create a presence on the #McCutcheon hashtag by a specific group which in this case was social workers. You can view the full archive of the live chat using this link: http://sfy.co/jg2Y

Best Tweets of the Week

Challenges, Barriers, and Limitations

From comments and feedback that I have received, social workers and students may feel condemned or pressured to not engage in debate whether its politics related or others areas if not widely accepted by the mainstream profession. Also, when using the twitter chat format with a research focus as I have, problem identification and hypothesis is a necessary component. However, a six week format on different topics for the purpose of research can diminish being solution focused when the nature of research is investigative.

TweetChat

Today, April 13th at 3PM EST using the hashtag #SWHelper, I want to do an assessment of the past four weeks to see what adjustments can be made to improve the last two topics of the twitter study. Next Sunday, April 20th is Easter, and we will not have a tweetchat on that date in observance of the holiday. However, we will resume on April 27th and May 4th for the last two topics of the Evidence Based Twitter Study.

Kristie Holmes is Running for Congress Despite Hurdles

There are seven social workers in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kristie Holmes wants to be the eighth. An adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work, she is one of 21 candidates who will compete in the June 3rd primary to replace the venerable Henry Waxman as the Democratic candidate for California’s 33rd Congressional District. She is 39 years old with an MSW from USC and a Ph.D. in community social work.

Kristie is facing formidable hurdles including two strong opponents in Wendy Gruel who ran for mayor in Los Angeles last year and State Senator Ted Lieu. Yet, she has chosen to spend her time and money in an uphill run for Congress. Social workers should support her because we need more social workers in Congress and other legislative offices. A strong showing of support for Kristi will encourage others to run. In this day and age, policies matter, but politics perhaps more. I got the opportunity to talk to Kristie about her improbable run and why she is willing to take risks to win a seat in Congress.

How did you get the idea to run for Congress?

I was talking to friends and it occurred to me that I seem to have hit a wall when it comes to making change. It’s not happening because we’re not in the places we need to be. I said maybe I should run for Congress or something. I didn’t mean it seriously but they said it was a great idea and I should do it. Then I got a text message that Waxman was retiring and his seat was open. I have been talking to students in my class about making change for years. And with the opportunity to be at the UN and watch how organizational change is made in the world made me even more interested in how our government works. I was probably among the more apathetic social workers when it came to politics other than voting and signing petitions. I had no interest in getting involved politics.

When did you get serious about running?

Kristie Holmes
Kristie Holmes

We talked about the vacant House seat in my policy class and someone said we should go to the pre-endorsement conference in Norfolk. I posted it on Facebook and suggested that someone should run. So I decided to attend the conference to see what the process was like. It was confusing but I stayed and made a two-minute speech. When I went back to class there was great interest and then I had to make the decision to file as a candidate. I decided to pay the nonrefundable $1740 filing fee because I figured that’s about how much I would pay to go to a conference. Next I was told that I would have to file forty to sixty signed petitions and that they were due by 5:00 p.m. that day and had to be collected in the district in Los Angeles.

I was an hour and forty minutes from the district but discovered candidates had five additional days to file if the incumbent was not running. After I turned in the petitions I was told there was another fee of $18,940 if I wanted to have a blurb with my information as well as my name printed on the sample ballot in English and Spanish and it would cost more if I wanted the blurb printed in additional languages. It was Monday when I turned in the ballot and I had to hop a plane to New York City for a conference at the UN. While in session I got a call that only 38 out of 60 of my petitions were valid. My husband was able to get the additional signatures to the office and I was officially on the ballot.

What is your strategy for winning the primary?

I realize there is going to be an incredible of money spent on stuffing mailboxes. I suppose Ted Lieu and Wendy Gruel are going to spend a lot of money on television advertising. My idea is to mobilize younger voters who are more electronically connected, especially social workers. We can make a huge difference and that doesn’t cost much money or time. I have students and we have campus full of students. I know I have to raise money but we can do a lot with eighty to a hundred thousand dollars. I have many talented friends and supporters who are good with things like creating online videos. We do need to raise some money to do thing like targeted mailings and I have friends who are willing to help.

So are you beyond the point of no return . . . fully committed?

Even my father was not very happy about the idea at first. He was worried about the bad things that can happen in politics. But he’s come around and says he’s proud of me and that I shouldn’t jump off the moving train. My colleagues are very excited about it and want to be helpful. They are introducing me to their networks. There’s no turning back now.

What are your expectations?

I’m worried that if I start making headway in the race, my opponents will come after me. I’ve seen what’s happened in past races and it makes me nervous. I don’t want to expose my family to any grief. One of my opponents hired a very scary guy and that gives me concern. I would not want to reciprocate but the truth is I cannot afford to go there so I have to do something else. People are weary of negative politics. The one thing I can do is research and I know traditional methods of outreach like TV advertising are reaching a smaller percentage of voters. One thing that motivates me is that only eighteen percent of the members of Congress are women and there are few members under the age of fifty years old.

Do you see your candidacy as inspirational to other social workers?

That is the hope. That is truly the thing that is driving me because of the apathy I’m seeing. I want to see more social workers doing this at a younger age. I have nothing against older people but we need a variety of ages and perspectives. It’s hard to get young people to be politically active unless they see other young people involved. I am more surprised than anyone that I am doing this. It took me paying the filing fee and taking a look at the process to make me realize there is a whole other well that impacts our clients that needs to be addressed.

Tracking Hate Speech on Twitter

by Vilissa Thompson

It finally happened:  someone has taken the time to track the usage of hate speech (which includes slurs and derogatory terms) on Twitter.  In The State, Columbia, South Carolina’s newspaper, published an article about the prevalence of hateful tweets on the internet, and how a good percentage of the tweets tracked were from those who lived east of the Mississippi River.  This article intrigued me, especially since I live in a Southeastern state that has a history of ardent viewpoints and mistreatment concerning the groups of people targeted in the hateful messages analyzed in the study.

Here is how the tweets were tracked:  Monica Stephens, an assistant professor of geography at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California and three geography students, used data from the DOLLY Project, which had archives of tweets with the locations indicated.  The tweets used in this research analysis were from June 2012 to April 2013.  Stephens and her students analyzed the tweets from this specific timeframes and constructed a visual map highlighting the geotagged tweets to display where hateful tweets were most prevalent.  (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “geotag,” it is when you allow the geographic location of where you are tweeting to be posted on your tweets.)

The hate maps allows you to select derogatory term identifiers to see where in the country those words were tweeted the most.  From reviewing the maps, one does notice that a good percentage of the hateful tweets tracked were prominently from one side of the country.  However, we must not stereotype Easterners as being bigots/hateful, nor can we safely concluded that those who occupy other parts of the country do not harbor prejudices about race, sexual orientation, or those with disabilities.

The research findings about how some individuals are choosing to use the internet is disturbing, especially when hateful messages and propaganda are being shared to millions of users through mediums like Twitter.  Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, but that protection does not condone its usage, whether it is spoken or in written form.  Websites like Twitter can enforce policies that discourage the use of such language (i.e., Facebook allows you to report offensive posts/statuses), however, such policies can only go so far.

This brings me to my point:  what can we do to decrease the kind of hateful speech that seems to breed online?  We are all aware of the harmful, and sadly, deadly, effects of cyberbullying on our children in this country, but how come there is not a strong movement in place to “clean up” the hate language on the web?  Negative words, whether it is about someone’s race, sexual orientation, disability, or appearance, do hurt, and can greatly affect a person’s self-esteem and self-worth.  What will it take for us to be more serious about the damage that is being done, whether the target is an adolescent or an adult?

When I come across offensive posts, I do report  it.  Why?  Because I know how destructive such words and language can have on the psyche and well-being of individuals, from a professional standpoint.  Also, I, myself, have been the target of hate speech via the internet in the past, and it  is not an experience I would want anyone to endure.  That kind of language is not empowering or uplifting; it is dehumanizing, hurtful, and isolating.  The “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” rhyme that we learned in elementary school may tell us that words lack power, but for anyone who have been called a name due to who and what they are, they know differently; words have tremendous power.

Tell me, what are you prepared to do when you observe hate-filled messages on sites like Twitter?  Do you report it, or keep scrolling?  If you choose the latter, then are you indirectly “approving” the message being shared to millions online through your inaction?  

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.

Maya Angelou

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