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General Assembly (GA) – open to public

Thursdays at 12:00 noon to 2 pm
University Lutheran Church
1611 Stanford Ave, Palo Alto
(Map / Complete Directions)

NEW! Occupy Palo Alto supports I Heart Occupy (iheartoccupy.org). This website provides a way to support the Occupy Movement through donations. OPA member Jay Cabrera has been working with I Heart Occupy to make sure the process is transparent and fair.

Our other websites
Google Group (announcements) / Google Group (discussions) / Occupy Palo Alto (another website w calendar) / Facebook / Meet-up

Header photograph is by local photographer John Patrick Absalon (article about).

A small but dedicated group of people decided to keep the 99% message alive. Their picket at the corner of Page Mill and El Camino at rush hour June 12 resulted in lots and lots of people honking and waving in support.

Photos courtesy Paul George. For more, see our page on Facebook:

There are many ways to push for change. Letters to the Editor are one way to get your views in front of thousands of readers. Scott Weikart of Occupy Palo Alto has developed ways to get his letters consistently printed by newspapers. Scott writes:

Here’s some good advice about writing a letter to the editor on political economy (e.g. Occupy) issues:

http://www.cepr.net/letters/sample_letters_to_the_editor_ss.pdf

Excerpt:

Most papers do not print letters that are more than 150 words. They are far more likely to print letters that are shorter. A letter that is 90-110 words has a much better chance of getting printed. …

It is important that letters be timely. This means use e-mail, and if at all possible, send the letter on the same day the original article/editorial/column appeared or the the television or radio story aired. Occasionally they will run letters that they get two or three days later, but that is pretty much the limit. Also, once they run a letter or two in response to a particular piece, they will very rarely run additional responses.

Letters should always be polite and focus on the factual issue in dispute. This is important both for getting the letter published and also for the impact it will have on readers. Readers are not likely to care that you don’t like privatization – they might care that the news story misstated the financial condition of Social Security or the potential returns from the stock market.

It is also appropriate to send copies of the letter to the reporter who wrote the story.

The sample letters in the CEPR document are a bit dated, unfortunately. For example, the date when the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted is about 10 years earlier, because the big banks trashed the economy, and the timid Fed and do-nothing Republican Congress aren’t doing what’s needed to get us out of the Lesser Depression (i.e. the number of employed people dropped substantially in 2008 and has barely increased at all, which means FICA revenue is way down). But, it’s probably still correct that Social Security can still pay increased benefits forever (it just can’t continue to do COLA increases). And, as of last year, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported a good way to fund Social Security forever: drop the cap on the income that’s taxed (i.e. change FICA from a regressive tax to a flat tax).

Here’s my pithy “petition comment” message about political economy issues, written recently:

Social Security taxes are regressive; if you removed the cap on taxable income, Social Security would be saved forever.

The CBO reported that Medicare is substantially cheaper than private insurance; it’s best to increase Medicare taxes and not cut benefits.

If we allow the expiration of Bush’s tax cut for the highest marginal rate, we’ll have plenty of money to pay for Medicaid.

I appended my lengthier “letter to Congress” (the supercommittee, to be exact), which I wrote last year based on the latest CBO reports. Here is is:

When we consider recent CBO reports, we find that we don’t need to cut services anywhere except defense. And, because of rising inequality, we need to tax the rich more, and use the revenue to provide services/investment for middle and lower income families.

Last month’s CBO report on income inequality showed us that the Bush tax cuts for the rich were a big mistake. The CBO’s tax history from 1979-2007 showed us that the richest 1% gained an extra 9.6% share of after-tax income in 28 years. And the CBO’s December 23, 2008, report to Max Baucus showed us that the richest 0.01% got a third of this gain, and the rest of the richest 0.1% got another third; we clearly need more tax brackets.

The CBO’s report on Ryan’s budget showed us that Medicare is cheaper than private insurance: we should increase Medicare taxes, not postpone the retirement age.

The CBO report on Social Security showed us that we can _completely_ solve Social Security’s long-term budget problems by eliminating the cap on income taxed; this would switch the payroll tax from regressive to flat.

And, finally, as we exit Iraq and Afghanistan, we can eliminate Bush’s 40% defense buildup, the same way we eliminated the Viet Nam defense buildup afterward, and eliminated Reagan’s defense buildup after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The Occupy Movement has brought into focus the conflict between local police and the rights to free speech and freedom of assembly, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In some cities, the conflict was settled by pepper spray and tear gas. In Palo Alto, we have opened channels of communication with the police.

Paul George of the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center reports:

There were some recent hassles with the Palo Alto Police Department over the proper policies about assemblies, which resulted in some extended negotiations between them and PPJC and other local groups. I think we finally have come to an understanding again.

To make a long story short, we have returned to the way things have been done for the past 20+ years, but it took a lot of work to get there.

The plaza in front of Palo Alto City Hall — Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Plaza — was specifically recognized as a free speech area by the Palo Alto City Council in 1999. Political events held there do not require applications, permits, or fees. The plaza area cannot be ‘reserved’ for exclusive use, but its use cannot be denied by the Palo Alto Police Department.

The PAPD does request notification of events and that is what the attached document is for (Palo Alto Police Assembly Notification Form – DOC file). The form should be submitted as early as is practical to the contact person on the form (who is the Special Operations person for the PAPD).

If you plan to erect or install any kind of structure at the site that weighs more than 250 pounds — such as a stage — you may be required to submit more information or have the structure inspected by Public Works. This is for public safety reasons, as the plaza sits above an underground parking lot.

Peninsula Peace and Justice Center has many years of experience using the plaza for demonstrations and they are willing to offer advice if you should run into any kind of resistance from the PAPD or if you are asked to apply for permits or pay fees. You can contact Paul George at paul@peaceandjustice.org or 650-326-8837.”

Palo Alto Police Assembly Notification Form (DOC file)

Sergeant Wayne Benitez, Special Operations, Palo Alto Police Department wrote:

I think we can all agree that the police department fully understands and appreciates the right to public protest, and the rights afforded under the First Amendment. I also want you to know that I look forward to working with you in the future to ensure your events go safely and smoothly for all involved. Please know that the police department will never interfere with the content of the message (e.g. political, ideological or social) your organization might convey, but as you know, we do retain the right to place limits on time, place, and manner or your events.

I am only asking for you to either meet with me, or fill out an Assembly Notification form prior to your event. This will actually assist you in your future events. Once I know about your event, I can schedule the event and ensure there are no scheduling conflicts. For instance, various organizations routinely reserve the Civic Center Plaza or Lytton Plaza for special events. Recently, the Girls Scouts of America reserved the Civic Center Plaza on the evening of March 12th to celebrate their 100th year anniversary. The entire city council was present along with about 600 girl scouts and their parents. I am sure your organization would want to know about such a scheduling conflict and would choose another date. I am just trying to assist you, and your organization, the best I can.

Occupy Palo Alto brochure

Thanks to Kip and Lynette, we have a brochure for Occupy Palo Alto.

There’s a PDF version for viewing and printing
http://occupypaloalto.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/occupy-flyer2.pdf

And a DOC version for adding topical content
http://occupypaloalto.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/occupy-flyer2.doc

By Paul Engstrom

Customers  at California Avenue Palo Alto Farmers  Market on Feb 18, where Kip and I passed out Occupy Palo Alto  flyers, were asked  to write their opinions and responses  on  notepaper handed out on clipboards.

Here are their verbatim written comments and concerns:–

1) – less money for presidential campaigns.
– more money for schools.

2) – immigration,
– financial responsibility for Wall Street”.

3)- more progressive local candidates and on at State level too.
– support Obama tax on millionaires
– encourage support for teachers (why do software engineers make more than people who teach children?– lot more!
– leave women alone–pass laws against men’s promiscuity and violence against women

4) – there should be tax breaks for corporations that help their employees with their families local schools and with healthcare
– more resources and job training for single mothers,-assistance with housing and health care
– healthcare should help with costs of nurse practitioners–with help in purchase and maintenance of vans for mobility handicapped–elderly

5) My complaints are not with Palo Alto but  with California. we have arguably the most beautiful sate in the USA,-which is also the most technologically advanced, yet we have the worst educational systems, with the largest classes and least spending per student.  I would like Calif Govt to focus on all things related to education.”

6) – Make healthcare in hospitals more efficient by paying Registered Nurse Practitioners rather than doctors for some tasks.
– Remove 50% of the administration  budget from schools by cutting salaries and positions and put the same amount into hiring teachers.  Eliminate SAT testing altogether and replace by a meaningful high school graduation exam,
– Make corporations that buy foreclosed private homes, provide affordable housing to retired tenants for their lifetime.

Paul E: I think Occupy Palo Alto GA should take up idea of an increase of “public presence” of Occupy Palo Alto at the California Avevue Farmers Market such as–perhaps a table with information literature,perhaps a small portable bulletin board with announcements of events,  activities of various Occupy groups?

In the General Assembly, we’ve talked about various actions and projects. One tool that has great potential is Study Circles,

Several Occupy sympathizers in Transition Palo Alto are planning a series of films and discussions on Study Circles in the spring.

Steffy R. asked that I post some background information on Study Circles, so here are some excerpts of articles on the web. Click on the links for the complete article.

-BA


Study Circles: Schools For Life

Cecile Andrews, In Context
Cooperative learning, democratic participation, respect for individual views, and learning from the collective wisdom of the group

Imagine this: Sitting around a dining room table littered with cups and the remains of banana bread are seven or eight people. A burst of laughter dies down as a woman continues her story about trying to persuade her 16 year-old son to wear a helmet when he rides his bike. A man wipes tears of laughter from his eyes and nods vigorously – “Yes, I know just what you mean. My son did that, too. But I read an article the other day that said ….”

These people are engaged in one of the most fulfilling human pastimes – conversation. But they’re not at a dinner party. They’re part of a study circle – a way of learning that is springing up across the country, a method of study that has been referred to as “education by the people.” In our thrill-seeking, high-tech, hectic times, people are turning to a relaxed, simple, low-tech form of fulfillment – educating themselves in an informal, egalitarian setting.
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