Happy birthday, great-grandma Rachel!

The 4th of July is a uniquely American holiday. Its images of camping trips and barbecues of red, white, and blue are etched into our memories. For me, the 4th of July has another meaning, and an interesting bit of our family history, one that really commemorates the importance and true meaning of this great holiday. The 4th of July is my great-grandmother’s birthday.  Well actually we don’t know when her birthday was, but we celebrated her birthday on July 4 because that’s what it said on her immigration papers.

Rachel Singer, date unknown

My great-grandmother immigrated here as a young child from Russia. She didn’t speak English, and as she arrived on Ellis Island, the officer at Ellis Island asked about her birthday, but without any papers he simply assigned a birthday to her, the 4th of July.  I’m sure he probably chose that date simply for convenience, but for my great-grandmother that date was especially poetic, she travelled across the world as a young child, to escape violence and persecution against her people and seek a better life here in America. I can’t help but wonder what she felt as her boat sailed into New York and passed the statue of Liberty. I was very young when she died, so I never got the chance to ask her what she was thinking or feeling as she arrived in America.  I do remember having a big party on the 4th of July and my great-grandmother was there.  We had a big cake, with 4th of July sparklers on it.  I didn’t realize it back then, but as I look back on it now, I think celebrating my great grandma’s birthday on the 4th of July was perfect, she understood the true meaning of this holiday, and for her, this country really was the land of freedom.

By Laurie Nerat
, Ahwatukee resident and Rachel’s great-granddaughter!

Supporting DACA Students

Supporting Undocumented and DACAmented Students
by David Boyles

The recent Arizona Supreme Court decision rescinding in-state tuition for students at Arizona universities and community colleges who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is just the latest blow for DACA recipients here in Arizona. Much like Donald Trump at the national level, Arizona Republicans like Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who brought the tuition lawsuit, have used attacks on DACA recipients to appeal to nativisit and anti-immigrant resentment. But while these politicians score political points, the lives of hard-working young people have been thrown into disarray.

As a teacher at ASU, I have worked with DACA recipients and other undocumented students. To pursue higher education as an undocumented young person, even one with DACA protections, takes an incredible amount of discipline and sacrifice. Barred from any type of government financial aid, many students pay for their degree in cash, often taking one or two classes at a time because it is all they can afford.

And while I could point to specific students I have worked with, I also recognize that I don’t even know how many DACA and undocumented students I have worked with. Many are not “out” about their immigration status, especially at school, so they deal with the financial difficulties and other instabilities often in isolation. Imagine trying to focus on an English 101 paper last September, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the DACA program, and then imagine that your professor doesn’t realize the reason you turned in your assignment late is because you are worried about your ability to stay in the country. These are the types of challenges these students face everyday.

But despite these obstacles, DACA and undocumented students have thrived and, in many cases, become leaders in our local community. Norma Jimenez, a Grand Canyon University graduate, is director of Latino outreach for Planned Parenthood of Arizona and has made advocacy for undocumented patients part of that organization’s agenda, as described in a story last year by BuzzFeed News.  ASU student Belén Sisa, a member of Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU, and ASU graduate Erika Andiola were among the eight people arrested for occupying Congressional offices in December in protest of the Congress’ failure to pass the DREAM Act.

It is a cruel irony that these remarkable women, and many more like them, have become political leaders in Arizona despite not having the right to vote. It is a reminder that voting is a precious thing, not to be taken for granted, and those who have the right need to use it. And while a permanent solution in the form of a DREAM Act is in the hands of Congress and the president, at the local level we need to vote for candidates who will support these young people, not use them as political props like Mark Brnovich.

For more information on the situation of DACA and undocumented students at ASU, check out ASU’s excellent DREAMZone. If you work at ASU or in K-12 education, DREAMZone offers Ally Training programs which are eligible for professional development credit.

For more general information on advocacy for the DREAM Act and other DACA issues, check out United We Dream, the largest national organization for undocumented youth.

David Boyles is an English instructor at Arizona State University.

Libraries: The thin red line…

“Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.”

This month is the 60th anniversary of National Library Week, which we celebrate April 8-14.  In the mid-1950’s research showed that Americans were spending more on radios, televisions and musical instruments than books. Concerned that Americans were reading less a non-profit citizen’s group of librarians and booksellers created a national campaign to encourage people to read.

I grew up in that era, in a household in which everyone read. The books, magazines, and especially newspapers consumed by three generations living together reflected a wide spectrum of political and social views, from the left-leaning Jewish Daily Forward to the conservative and sensationalist New York Post, with an array of iconic NY papers – the Times, Daily News, and the long-defunct Journal American  –  somewhere in the middle.

Reading was in my DNA and libraries were my incubator. My love affair with libraries started with the bookmobile that came to our neighborhood in Brooklyn every Friday afternoon and continues today as I happily frequent the public libraries in and around Tempe and my NJ hometown, and everywhere I travel.  Libraries draw me in, sometimes because of the architecture, sometimes the history or subject matter, and often simply because they are there.

Public libraries are unique among civic institutions in that they are a haven for those seeking literacy and the opportunity to explore ideas, as well as a haven for many who need a place to go during the day. I was volunteering at the Burton Barr Library when storm damage closed the building. At that time, I did not realize the extent of the impact on the community.  Children lost free hot meals, provided by a local food bank, those with autism lost the cafe that offered them training and job skills, and those who needed it most lost their refuge from the summer heat.

It may be easy to dismiss public libraries as less essential in the age of e-books, streaming media, and Google, but there are considerable portions of our community who do not have ready access to these resources or the education or training to navigate them successfully. The inventive ways in which public libraries remain vibrant and relevant are marvelous and many. The Tempe Public Library, like others in the valley, represents the best characteristics of public libraries –  looking inward to serve their core constituency while reaching outward to engage and enrich the community. The wealth of free research guidance and one on one assistance, not to mention electronic resources – books, magazines, newspapers, research databases, music, movies – is remarkable. And consider the range of opportunities offered by our local libraries to learn, share and teach, including classes in citizenship, coding, game design, 3D modeling, ESL, writing, knitting, test preparation, films, lectures, and services such as small business advice and seed libraries.

While many communities still have bookmobiles to serve rural areas, Tempe has the Book Bike program, which brings books and information about library and community services to veterans, seniors, and the city’s homeless population.

And then there are the librarians. I must admit that I have no recollection of any of the public or school librarians from my childhood, but I can trace my decision to become one directly to the librarians for whom I worked in college. They seemed so cool! Smart, persistent, caring and wise (and wise-cracking), but with a certain self-effacing humor, as if they didn’t expect the world to take them seriously. And, despite the stereotypes, all my mentors were men – no buns but lots of glasses!

I have observed librarians over the years playing many roles in a community, as advocates and activists. They are often on the cutting edge of evolving technology, and on the front lines promoting digital literacy, championing intellectual freedom, ensuring equality of access, resisting censorship and protecting the right to privacy. Many of us remember the Patriot Act provision that authorized secretly monitoring electronic communications coming from libraries and requiring librarians to turn over patron records to the FBI when served with a warrant obtained without probable cause.  Professional library associations united as one to protest these incursions on our civil liberties.

As a law librarian, I have been a member of an outspoken and activist professional association that lobbies for permanent and open public access to government information, access to court records, net neutrality, intellectual property protections, and funding for library services across the country.  At a time when we are at risk of losing access to scientific and technical information because our government deems the truth to be inconvenient to their agenda, librarians are among our strongest allies and advocates. Librarians are adept at teaching us how to verify the authenticity and reliability of a source, and how to separate fact from fiction, evidence from opinion.

In many communities, librarians are taking on roles akin to social workers, health care workers, counselors, and confidantes.  In the midst of the controversy about arming teachers, libraries across the country are confronting the opioid epidemic and the implications of providing librarians with an antidote to drug overdoses, and the training to administer life-saving measures.  A library director in upstate NY summed up the situation like this: “That’s what a library’s job is — to respond to the needs of the community …  [l]ater, they may need Shakespeare. But those are their needs right now.”

So, join me in celebrating National Library Week. Show your support by asking a librarian a question, borrowing a book, downloading music, magazines, and movies, taking a class, volunteering your time. And tell a friend.

In the words of author Neil Gaiman “Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.”

By Gitelle Seer, retired NYC law librarian and a seasonal resident in Tempe.Gitelle Seer photo

Additional Reading:

“From Crafting to Programming, Libraries are Branching Out From Books,” https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2018/03/03/crafting-programming-libraries-branching-out-books/359593002
“How Public Libraries Help Build Healthy Communities,” https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/03/30/how-public-libraries-help-build-healthy-communities
“Librarians Versus the NSA,” https://www.thenation.com/article/librarians-versus-nsa
“Libraries on the Front Lines,” ALA interview with Neil Gaiman [2011]
“Once It Was Overdue Books. Now Librarians Fight Overdoses,” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/nyregion/librarians-opioid-heroin-overdoses.html

About the header photo.

“The Kansas City Public Library hides the parking lot behind walls disguised as giant book spines.”  (Photograph: Alamy) “The most beautiful libraries in America – in pictures,” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/gallery/2016/oct/06/most-beautiful-libraries-america-pictures

Return to civility

By George Krebs, published in the Arizona Republic’s “Your Turn”, Feb. 2, 2018. Original title: “Older generation has a duty to restore comity”

I am a senior on Social Security and Medicare that is distressed and astonished at the current political environment our country.

I and my wife also have pensions, quickly disappearing for most Americans, that allow us a comfortable and financially stable retirement. The government Medicare program works well for me and other seniors.

We attended private colleges when the costs were manageable. We worked for employers who respected their employees and adhered to a social employee-employer contract that benefitted both.  The citizen-government relationship was similarly mutually trusting and supportive, with clear delineation of responsibilities for success by each.

Today’s environment has changed radically!

The “government is the problem” mantra espoused by president Reagan has become the new modus operandi. Government and the necessary revenue needed for it to properly support us are demonized.  Any taxes garnered are disparaged as more money to be wasted or to be redistributed to some unworthy “lazies” in our society.

Forget the need for government support for good education, improving our roads, bridges and infrastructure, disaster relief (hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, etc.), or military readiness. How about protecting our food quality, assuring adequate pharmaceutical effectiveness and other services best provided by a joint government effort rather than by individuals, cities or states?

We are now all for shrinking government support, at all levels, relying instead on profit-making “private enterprise”. We demonize those who push for more government as out-of-touch “liberals” or “elites” or some other derogatory name. Many of us have become brainwashed to these gut-instinct labels. We no longer look at what policies are being proposed or if they are worth supporting.

We now despise those who are the name-called and demonized, and like being on the “winning” team of the nastiest. We no longer value the basic tenets of democracy, at least as I understand it.

Democracy means active citizenship. It means working in a mutually respectful environment based on trust and fair play. Each side gets to argue its points, compromises are made, and we move forward together. Everyone is engaged and has skin in the game. Today, it is more like, “If I have the power, then I make the rules, and if they primarily benefit me, then join me or suffer!”

So politicians are driven to acquire this power to enable them to rule, demean the opposition and to personally acquire the perks and benefits of power. Working for the common good is not how the real world (of those who “succeed”) works. Join the strongest team and succeed with power and perks. Keep the opposition demeaned and powerless. This is the new criterion for success in government.

I long the good old days of my youth when we all worked together. We helped each other and had a vision of mutual progress, both for ourselves and our country.

Our new focus on “nationalism” and of “America first” is just expending the widely entrenched individual attitude of “me first”.

Most younger Americans have not experienced what I have in my earlier years. To reclaim what we had, more of us seniors and older adults need to speak up, move us back to a mutually constructive and progressive society.

Otherwise, other nations will keep catching up to and exceeding us.

We will not solve our problems like immigration reform, large deficits, extreme income inequality and variable social justice, but instead will continue to flounder, continue scapegoating, and wondering why it has to be this way….IT DOESN’T!  Become an active, involved citizen. The time is now!

George Krebs is an engineer who retired from Motorola.

Happy New Year, 2018!

Enjoy this video from the LD18 Democrats’ Holiday Party!

This video was recorded at a self service photo booth during the LD18 Democrats Holiday Party, 2017. The final editing was done by Kate Tice. A special thanks to Alex Hinton for helping people at the photo booth during the party.

It is not just a debate, it’s personal

By Laurie Nerat, December 1, 2017

For me it’s not a debate – it is very personal.

Our past experiences can often influence our emotions and reactions, and this has never been more apparent than the past few weeks. Like most Americans I was horrified, saddened and angered by the recent mass shootings in Texas and Las Vegas. They immediately brought back memories of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Tucson, Aurora and so many other similar events. The harsh reality is that these events have become almost commonplace in our society. For me however, these shootings also bring back very personal memories; a gun changed my life.

In the past few weeks I have experienced such a strong reaction to the video footage of the shooting, the individuals who survived, and the family members of those who lost someone. I didn’t realize how much this was actually affecting me until I had a fight with my husband about absolutely nothing. We rarely fight so I knew something was wrong. I realized that I was internalizing so much of the anger that I felt. Comments on social media and renewed interest in the “gun control” debate simply added to an internal anger that began to boil over, causing the silly argument. Every time I read a Facebook comment that supports the use of guns I want to scream. Here is the reality – GUNS KILL PEOPLE. The idea that people need guns for self-defense is just plain hogwash.

I was married to someone who was a ‘responsible’ gun owner. He used guns for hunting. He also had guns because he thought they were cool. He learned this gun culture from his family. They gave him a brand new Magnum 44 for his college graduation gift. He owned pistols, a shotgun and a rifle. I didn’t really understand his obsession with guns, and I was extremely nervous about having guns in the house when our daughters were born, but he assured me that the guns were kept unloaded in a safe place so the girls would not have access to them. He even signed our daughter up for a gun safety class when she was 10 years old. Guns were a part of my life, and yes I even went out and shot a gun with him once or twice, but I never had an appreciation for them that he did. To me they were, and still very much are lethal weapons designed to kill.

But here is the main thing about guns, when people have guns they can and often do use them, but not in the way most gun advocates will tell you. They rarely every actually use them in self-defense – they use them to kill other people or they use them to kill themselves. This is not just my opinion, or my personal experience – the statistics back this up.

For every person who uses a gun in self-defense, the research finds, nearly six people use a gun to commit a crime.

Another study found that for every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.

States with higher gun ownership rates have higher gun murder rates—as much as 114 percent higher than states with lower gun ownership rates.

Las Vegas brought the gun issue back into the news because of a mass shooting, but here is the reality; Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians in the past 33 years: 0

For women the numbers are even more staggering. Guns are not being used as self defense for women. In 2013, more than 5 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers. A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 5 times if he has access to a gun.

Now lets talk about suicide. About half of all suicides are committed with guns, and seven in 10 by men, who also account for 74% of gun owners in the country. On average they own 7.9 guns each.

For me this issue is very personal, my husband, the responsible gun owner, committed suicide when he shot himself with one of his guns. If he did not have those guns would he be here today? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that I am sick and tired of a small minority of Americans and a very well funded lobbying effort that are controlling gun laws in this country.

Pew researchers found that 83% of Americans said they consider gun violence in the US a big problem — including 50% who called it “a very big problem. 68% of Americans told Pew researchers that they favor a ban on assault-style weapons, and 64% favor banning high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, yet Congress continues to be paralyzed on the issue.

Access to weapons can and must be regulated better than it is right now. As much as 40 percent of all gun sales involve private sellers and don’t require background checks. In a survey, 40 percent of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes said they’d gotten them this way. More than 80 percent of gun owners support closing this loophole.

I realized these past few weeks that the issue of guns and gun control is very emotional for me. I am angry that we keep allowing a false narrative to control the conversation. We need to remember that despite all of the rhetoric and arguing, the sad truth is that guns kill people; they kill a lot of people, and the longer we ignore this basic truth the more people will die. Events like Las Vegas will continue to happen until we finally decide to do something different.

This month I will have the pleasure of hearing Former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly at the Maricopa County Democrat Winter Convention. I am excited to hear what they have to say. After a gunman nearly took her life, Gabby and her husband began an organization called “Americans for Responsible Solutions,” a group dedicated to reforming gun laws and reducing violence. Gabby Gifford is doing something, she is fighting back against gun violence and advocating for common sense gun laws. We need more leaders like Gabby who will stand up against gun violence.

Laurie Nerat
Precinct Committeeperson
Foothills Precinct
LD18 Democrats


Follow the links below for more information. Thank you!
Gun Myths Debunked
Why the CDC no longer collects data on gun-related violence

Meet Renee Newman

Hello there! My name is Renee Newman and I am a proud member of the LD18 Democrats! You know me. I’m the person walking around the meetings with a walker, leaning on everyone in my path, wall walking, sitting at the entrance of the meetings doing badges and taking pictures. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, after experiencing symptoms for 15 years prior. MS has changed my entire life. I was a Jr High teacher (special education, LD,EH) at Valley View School in South Phoenix when suddenly I couldn’t feel my whole lower torso.  I was falling a lot. Then I had incontinence. That’s when I had to stop teaching. I loved teaching. It was my life. No one knew why this was happening to me. It was very scary.

Luckily I had many college degrees. That helped. I was lucky. I was a Microsoft instructor teaching teachers to use computers; I worked for Tesseract in educational technology; I was a full time faculty at NAU in the Center for Academic Excellence; and I worked and retired from the Arizona Department of Education as an Educational Specialist. I would be doing great in a job, only to be sidelined by paralysis, balance, and other symptoms. Then I would quit my job and pick up a new one when the symptoms subsided.

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system which interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

I am scooting in the NMSS Walk 2017 at the Phoenix Zoo on November 4, 2017.  It would be great if you could join me! TEAM RENEE 2017. If not, I am accepting donations for my personal walk also. Having MS has affected my entire life. I can no longer work or drive or walk without a walker or scooter. Please support me in this effort to find a cure for MS.

To DONATE or JOIN MY TEAM:Or you can email me and I will send you a direct link to my page – reneenewman@cox.net

Walk MS: Phoenix 2017

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Walk MS connects people living with MS and those who care about them.

Amberwood Park Clean Up in Chandler

For those who may have missed this on social media, we thought we’d share our video from the Amberwood Park Clean Up.  The next one will be on Saturday, August 19th from 7am to 8am.  For more information, see our Adopt-a-Park Chandler page.

LD18 Democrats adopt Redden Park

June is National Great Outdoors Month, and the LD18 Democrats celebrated by adopting Redden Park through the city of Tempe’s Adopt-A-Park program.

They held their first event on Saturday, June 3 working to clean up the park and planting four trees. Their next clean-up will be scheduled in the Fall, hopefully in cooler weather!

The LD18 Democrats are working on plans to adopt a park in Chandler which would involve doing cleanup and light maintenance on a monthly basis.


To get involved in these and other events in your community, contact the LD18 Democrats at ld18demsinfo@google.com or use our Contact form.

See “Top 10 National Parks in Arizona” from The Guardian.