As a tribute to Susan Popovich, maybe we all should do what she’d do: show up. You don’t often get a chance to advocate on three important issues at one City Council meeting. But today you do. One issue in particular would have Susan there: the city’s plan to continue banking with Wells Fargo.
Yesterday, I wrote a tribute to Susan Popovich and while words can soothe, the true meaning of Susan’s life will be found in what she leaves behind–an invigorated and reformed Democratic Party. But to sustain that effort, others now will have to step forward. From the outpouring of emails, comments on Facebook, and comments on yesterday’s post, it is clear people deeply appreciated the energy and persistence with which Susan made things happen. But now we have to sustain her work without her or perhaps more accurately with her looking down on us reminding us what needs to be done. Susan’s last two plus years of activism in Santa Fe demonstrate what one person can do. Not all of us can devote themselves to the cause 24-7 as Susan did, but Retake would ask you: Can you find a way to make advocacy a sustainable and significant part of your life’s priorities, whether within the Democratic Party or as part of Indivisible, Democratic Socialists,, Working Families, Retake Our Democracy or a good many of our progressive partners, organizations like New Energy Economy, Dreamers, Somos, Earthcare or Chainbreaker?
While Susan was entirely committed to the Democratic Party that commitment derived from a deeper and longer-held commitment to social justice. The same morning that she was killed Susan had posted almost a dozen articles on: how democratic socialism was a growing and credible force in America; how the ACA was a good step forward, but universal healthcare needed to be realized; how publicly funded education was dying due to privatization of education; another post described the demise of our national parks; another focused on the continuing oppression of our indigenous population… I could go on. My point is that Susan was not just a seasoned and committed Party hack; she came to her commitment to the Party through decades of organizing in the California Teacher’s Association and then became inspired by the idealism and progressive policies of Bernie Sanders. And she showed up. Always.
Today, you have a remarkable opportunity to show how much Susan meant to you by showing up yourself. I guarantee you that Susan would be at the City Council today as there are three important issues before the Council and two of them were important to Susan.
Is Santa Fe Really Going to Disregard Santa Feans Disgust with Wells Fargo and Award It a Four Year Extension to Manage $200M of the City’s Funding? The Finance Committee thought extending Wells Fargo’s was such a good idea, they voted unanimously to recommend the extension. After the Committee hearing, City Finance Director commented to the New Mexican that the community concerns were not considered in the process of selecting the City’s banking partner. This, despite a clear demonstration from the community of opposition to Wells Fargo, primary for its investments in DAPL and other fossil fuels, but also because of its recent system wide and entirely fraudulent ripoff of customers are irrelevant. Placated by assurances from Wells Fargo that it had turned over a new leaf and a true community partner, the Committee recommended to continue to do business with Wells for four more years despite having ten bids from other banks, none of whom have committed fraud or are investing in DAPL. I
As described in Sunday’s post, Wells Fargo’s regional manager and its bid tried to reassure the City that it was reassessing its investment policies and that its fraud occurred in a different division, unrelated to the services sought by the City. But Wells Fargo is a single corporation that has a historic track record of heavy investment in fossil fuels and of unscrupulous banking practices. This should be an important consideration in selecting a City bank. As should community concerns. And despite Wells’ assurances that they are reexamining their practices, a 2017 Banking on Climate Change study conducted by Sierra Club, BankTrack, OilChange and Rainforest Network, gave Wells Fargo the second to lowest overall score for fossil fuel investment and human rights policies of any US Bank and specifically cited it for its human rights violations due to its refusal to even consider withdrawing funding due to human rights violations of Indigenous peoples. Wells is like so many other mega corporations: it is all about profit and they will tell you whatever you want to hear to find another opportunity to exploit you. Click here to read the very illuminating and comprehensive report.
One of Susan’s last actions with Retake before launching her campaign for Chair of the Party was to march with over 1000 of us–and ironically our Mayor– to the Wells Fargo branch in protest of Wells’ investments in DAPL. Susan was a fierce advocate for Standing Rock tribes and detested Wells Fargo. So we have three asks: 1) If you have an account with Wells Fargo, please close it today and tell them you object to their investments in fossil fuels and that you object to their serving as the Santa Fe’s bank; and 2) show up as Susan would at 4:50 and tell the City Council and Mayor that you are opposed to this deal and feel that ethical, moral, human rights and environmental justice issues should be germane to who the City does business with; 3) whether you can make it to the meeting or not, right now please call AND email your Councilors and the Mayor. Click here for contact information for the Mayor and all of the City Councilors. Click here to review our comments on the Finance Committee’s decision to recommend Wells Fargo as Santa Fe’s bank of choice. Spoiler alert: It will piss you off.
Ranked Choice Voting. We have written at length about Ranked Choice Voting and the City’s failure to advance plans to implement it in 2018. To our mind, the City and County Clerk were simply unbending in their opposition offering as justification that they didn’t have time to implement the process, despite:
- voluminous evidence that other City’s had done so in far less time;
- assurances from the Secretary of State that there was plenty of time;
- both clerk’s know that this day was coming and having done absolutely nothing to prepare for it; and
- that the resolution to continue had a very simple out clause if the software were not ready.
FairVoteNM and its partners want elected officials to have to be concerned about the perspective and concerns of all voters, not just a plurality of supporters who can get them into office. RCV makes every vote matter and so candidates must be concerned with all of our views. FairVoteNM is filing suit against the City for its failure to move RCV forward and Retake Our Democracy fully supports this suit and with a number of other non-profit advocacy groups is considering filing an Amicus brief in support of the suit. There will be a press conference at City Hall at 6:30pm announcing the suit and it would be good to have a crowd of Retake supporters there. For more information on the RCV issue, click here.
City Council Action Needed Aug 30 (time to be announced). A Vote to Eliminate Neighborhood Notification of Plans to Install Cell Phone Towers. If enacted, Telecom Land Use Review Changes (2017-22) would require the City to design guidelines for installing antennas on public right-of-ways (PROWs). Corporations that follow these guidelines could install antennas (and accompanying gear) without neighborhood notification, public hearing or permit. A resident could notice antennas on utility poles near their home and have no recourse. The proposed ordinance doesn’t require a licensed professional engineer’s (PE’s) certification that this infrastructure safeguards the public’s life, health and property. Numerous cell towers have caught fire or collapsed. Who’d determine that PROWs can support extra weight? By what authority could the City violate the NM Engineering and Surveying Act–which requires a PE’s certification on infrastructure that serves the public? PROW-based antennas would routinely expose utility and rooftop workers to microwave radiation that exceeds FCC occupational limits, subjecting the City to lawsuits. 2017-22 eliminates neighborhood notification, public hearings and setback requirements regarding cellular antennas. Why eliminate local authority over telecom infrastructure and citizens’ constitutional right to address grievances?
It is possible that these questions will be answered by the City, but as reflected by the City Finance Director, we have seen the City ignore community input as relates to the City’s bank of choice. So it would seem important to make public comment early and often. If you are concerned about this issue, please, show up at 7pm to oppose this resolution and ask your City Council to vote no on 2017-22. And if you can’t attend, please click this link to contact info for the Mayor and your City Councilors. Let them know how you feel.
I must admit on this last issue, I am conflicted. I have found no evidence that cell towers are actually dangerous to your health and we all know how bad service is in Santa Fe. Passing the resolution would then enable the city to establish citywide standards for installation of new towers, making it easier for telecom providers to meet a clear standard and not face opposition for every attempt to install towers and as a result improve all of our service. The only way to improve that service that I know is to add towers and there is no neighborhood where folks are going to welcome one with open arms. I know I will get a raft of comments now with links to research on this but I could find nothing and the American Cancer Society more or less dismissed the danger. While Retake is not taking a firm stance on this, we wanted supporters to make their own decision based upon timely information. You have the opportunity now to tell the Council what you’d like in the regulations or that you do not think resolution 2017-22 is a good idea.
In closing, yesterday I wrote at length about how Susan always showed up. Clearly this is one of the things most everyone who knew Susan valued in her. There is a reason: those who show up can have an impact and today you can show support for RCV, voice your concerns about cell phone tower installations without public input and most importantly voice your vigorous opposition to the City completely disregarding public opposition to Wells Fargo as the City’s bank. Be there. Roxanne and I certainly will. Susan would be too.
Future posts will offer more ways in which you can use Susan’s commitment to her community to inspire sustained activism on all our part. We will never achieve the kind of social, racial, environmental, and economic justice for which Susan aspired without a sustained effort on all our parts.
Paul & Roxanne