Response to SJ Merc article

By Angelica Ramos

This letter is in response to an article by the San Jose Mercury News titled “San Jose mayor and council race money pouring in — what did everyone raise?

Dear Editor: What About the Women?

I was disappointed that Mr. Rosenberg’s article on San José campaign finance (Feb. 2) failed to discuss the significant fundraising totals of the only female candidates in two City Council races. In a city of almost one million people, where women make up half the electorate, residents deserve a chance to learn about all viable and qualified candidates. An article heralding the achievements of mostly male candidates is dismissive of female ones who raised impressive amounts of money – in fact, more money than other candidates – while loaning little or nothing to their campaigns. Big congratulations to Kathy Sutherland in District 3 and Susan Marsland in District 1 for doing this, respectively, in the first fundraising period.  Considering the obstacles grassroots female candidates are known to face, these accomplishments should be celebrated – without apology.

The Women’s Media Center says it best, “[w]e’re counting on the media to remain a public trust, watchdog, and accurate and fair arbiter in the age of spin…And the females that make up 51 percent of the U.S. population want their voices heard and to be portrayed accurately and without stereotype.”  The media has a responsibility to provide complete and accurate information so that voters can make educated decisions; in the future, I sincerely hope the San Jose Mercury News/Bay Area News Group will report journalistic content through a gender educated lens.

Angelica Ramos, President
National Women’s Political Caucus of Silicon Valley
PO Box 6953
San Jose, CA 95150

Join a Neighborhood Association

By Omar Torres,
Long time SVYD member and current D3 City Council Candidate

San Jose is in desperate need of neighborhood coalitions and the community involvement they foster. Crime has increased and extensive cuts have been made to basic neighborhood services. With our quality of life at stake, it is important for residents to get involved with their local neighborhood associations or community groups. My roommate and I both direct community centers in the Guadalupe-Washington areas and are part of two neighborhood associations near our home: Guadalupe-Washington and Tamien.

Both neighborhoods have suffered from budget cuts that significantly impact residents, but those same residents are increasingly attending neighborhood meetings and becoming more active for the benefit of their families. Our residents want to organize and these neighborhood coalitions provide rich and meaningful opportunities for community involvement.

Last Wednesday, District 3 residents and community groups toured downtown’s South University Neighborhood, located immediately south of San Jose State. Issues of concern for residents were discussed, such as traffic, blight, gangs, crime, lack of community involvement, and other quality of life topics.

Earlier in the summer, the D3 Community Leadership Council, which includes residents and neighborhood groups, hit the pavement and conducted “neighbor walks” in the Vendome, Guadalupe-Washington and Delmas Park Neighborhoods. And D3 is not alone in this coalition building effort.

Just over Highway 101, the same night we walked last week, District 5 United, along with Councilmember Xavier Campos, hosted county supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese. Both supervisors answered questions from residents and covered critical issues facing the county. And last month, District 7 United held an inaugural informational meeting at the Tully Library.

Jeremy Barousse, of the District 8 Community Roundtable, told me that neighborhood coalitions such as his and those mentioned above bring value to the community by providing forums where “residents can come together to learn about and discuss relevant and timely local issues, most notably public safety, neighborhood services, land use and development, education, and traffic.”

These neighborhood coalitions are collaborative efforts between elected officials and community members to improve our communities. Specific bylaws and community members—not city staff or elected officials—guide the work of these coalitions. Residents lead the groups, although councilmembers, such as D3’s Sam Liccardo, attend coalition meetings on a regular basis.

If you do not have an existing neighborhood association—currently, D4 and D9 are the only council districts without a district-wide coalition—I encourage you to create one like the residents of the Tully Ocala Capitol King Neighborhood Association did a few years ago. Contact your councilmember or utilize the resources of United Neighborhoods of Santa Clara County.

Below is more information on current coalition groups. These people can be the loudest voice at City Hall, and we need neighborhood more advocates to come up with creative ideas to move our city forward.

D1 Leadership Group, Second Saturdays of every month, West Valley Branch Library,  Steve Landau

D2 Neighborhood Leadership Council , First Mondays of month, Edenvale Branch Library,  Roseryn Bhudsabourg

D3 Community Leadership Council, Third Wednesdays of every month, City Hall Tower T-1446 Dave Truslow,

D5 United, Third Wednesdays of every month, Dr. Roberto Cruz Alum Rock Library, Juan Estrada,

D6 Neighborhood Leadership Group, Last Tuesdays of every month, Hoover School Community Center, Bob Sippel

D7 United, more information contact Johnny Lee @ Tully Library,

D8 Community Roundtable, First Thursdays of every month, Evergreen Branch Library, Jeremy Barousse

D10 Leadership Coalition, chaired by Dave Fadness for more information contact the

Women in Non Profits

By Melanie Berringer

Women are not seen as leaders in our society. After all women still make up only twenty percent of Congress and three percent of management in Fortune 500 companies. One sector where the management issue is especially stark is in non-profits.  Women make up seventy percent of the workforce in non-profits, but they only make up forty percent of the management.  This is a problem.  In a female dominated work force, men are still being chosen to lead, leaving women underrepresented.  This is symptomatic of a larger issue in our society; women are not seen as leaders.

It is often said that women are much more empowered than we used to be.  We now have the vote, freedom over our bodies, and are equally represented in higher education.  These facts are said in order to prove how far we have come.


It is true, great strides have been made in women’s equality, and for that we should feel grateful, but it’s important to remember that we still have a ways to go.  We need to promote female leaders; in elected office, in education, and in management.  It’s not enough that we have more women in Congress than ever before, we have to keep pushing until it’s equal.


We have some amazing female leaders right now.  Women like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Hillary Clinton have all been inspiring role models and we need to continue to support them, but we also need to strive to find and support female leaders all around us.  We also need to support male leaders who are sensitive to issues of equality.  Most importantly we all need to remember that while we are making great strides in gender equality, we must continue to push for more, until women are seen as equal to men as leaders as well.

A Student Bill of Rights: to ensure higher education is a path out of poverty…not into it

By: Bob Wieckowski

Note: The Silicon Valley Young Democrats (SVYD) approved Assemblymember Wieckowski’s Student Bill of Rights during their March Membership meeting and it went on to be approved by the California Young Democrats (CYD) at the California Democratic Convention in April.

A college degree is still the best road to financial security, helping to improve quality of life for millions of American families. But with the soaring cost of higher education, the route is paved with too many potholes. A few wrong turns and poor choices can lead students straight off the road of financial prosperity, into a ditch filled with crippling debt.

In fact, with student loan debt now hovering above $1 trillion nationally, many financial experts predict this mass of red ink could swamp our economy. But with some key reforms we can make sure education remains a pathway out of poverty, not into it.

That’s why I am proposing a Student Bill of Rights, a four-bill package that focuses on debt prevention through education and easing the burden on student borrowers.

In the past decade, starting salaries for college graduates have fallen 15 percent, while education debt has soared 500 percent. Unlike federal student loans, which have multiple options for of deferment and forbearance, private student loans lack many of these crucial safeguards. With private student loans, a creditor can garnish 25 percent of a debtor’s disposable income. Preventing wage garnishment will make the lenders more inclined to work with students on manageable repayment plans and give graduates a chance to stabilize their finances.

This is why I introduced AB 233, which would allow a student debtor to claim an exemption from a wage garnishment on private student loans. It now awaits action in the Senate.

Students should also receive counseling on private loans, just as they do on federal student loans. Private loans, which are becoming more of a necessity for students seeking degrees, charge higher interest rates, lack several protections and are generally a riskier transaction. By requiring parity with the counseling students receive on federal loans, AB 534 ensures students will be able to make more informed decisions.

Recently, Congress designated April as Financial Literacy Month. But California is one of only four states that do not include personal financial literacy in their economic education standards. My Student Bill of Rights would create a Common Cents curriculum (AB 391) that includes coursework on savings, checking accounts, credit cards and ways to pay for college.

Last year college students took out more than $100 billion in loans. They are taking on more and more debt at an alarming level. Yet Congress in 2005 prohibited student debt from being discharged through bankruptcy. Virtually every kind of debt — even gambling debt — can be discharged through bankruptcy.

Since that time, the average student loan debt has increased 58 percent to more than $27,000. This needs to end. I am pushing Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR 11) to urge Congress to allow private student loan debt to be discharged via bankruptcy.

In his State of the Union address this year, President Barack Obama asked us to better equip our students for jobs in a high-tech economy. The Public Policy Institute of California says the state needs to dramatically increase its number of college graduates to meet the demands of its workforce in 2025.

The road to a strong and vibrant economic future for California will be much smoother if we act now to reduce rapidly growing student debt. Providing an affordable avenue to higher education has made California the ninth largest economy in the world. Burying students with thousands of dollars of debt will limit opportunity and financial security.

California can do better.

Upcoming Event: Student Bill of Rights

If you are available, please join Assemblymember Wieckowski on the UC Davis Campus (East Quad) on Wednesday, 5/22 @ 12:30pm, where student leaders will gather for a Rally to Tackle the Student Debt Crisis and urge the Legislature to pass the Student Bill of Rights.

Women are Fighters

By Alex Wara

For the past decades women have always been told that they were not allowed to do something in society. We were told that we were not equal, so women marched at Seneca Falls. We were told that we were not allowed to make choices about our own bodies, so we took our case to the Supreme Court. We were told that a woman could never dream of holding prominent positions in government, so we ran for office.


Every time women have been told that they couldn’t do something, we have proven naysayers wrong and done something about it.


However, the sad reality is that even today when women are running for President, holding positions at multi-million dollar companies and becoming role models in their communities, there are still stereotypes and sexism that lingers in society.


We cannot ignore the fact that women still make seventy-seven cents on the dollar. Or that we still have to listen to our country argue about whether a woman should be able to make a decision about her own body and how we are still not clear on the definition of rape, when issues such as immigration, gun violence and the deficit take a back seat.


Here is something that many know but some have yet to find out: Women are fighters.


Just take a look back at the women’s history movement. There have been women that knew very well that they would be threatened, mistreated and tried to be stopped, but they kept fighting through all of the obstacles because they knew that there would be a better tomorrow for themselves and for those in front of them.


Even women today have to carry on the fight that women were fighting years ago.


It is up to every single woman and man to keep on fighting for equal rights for everyone, no matter their ethnicity, pay scale or sex.


As individuals we have to think about what we are doing to eliminate sexism in the work place and in our schools. When a woman is passed up for a job because of the sole fact that she is female, we shouldn’t call ourselves an equal world. When a little girl who is 5 years old already knows that she is not equal to her classmate, we still have work to do. When a high school student is too ashamed of the way she looks, we still have a long path ahead of us. Also, when someone doesn’t vote for a qualified candidate because she is a woman we cannot call ourselves a politically open minded country.


That is why it’s important to continue on the conversation about equality in our homes and communities. Think about the last time you mentored a young woman or volunteered at an organization that helps women and children in your community. Did you make your voice heard at the ballot box? Or did you stand back and let others guide the direction of your rights.


We cannot move forward unless we continue the fights that have been started for us and fight the new ones that have arisen.


Many people locally and nationally have started to bridge the gap of inequality but it seems that we have a long road ahead of us.


Not all of the issues will be fixed overnight but the sooner we get started the sooner we can build on the changes that those behind us started.


Let’s continue the fights that women have been fighting for decades.