Activism springs up in Big Bear

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Most grassroots efforts begin with but a few blades of grass, and that was certainly the case recently in Big Bear Lake. On a breezy spring afternoon at Veteran’s Park, a small but energetic group of citizens spanning the political spectrum gathered under the banner of a movement known as Represent Us, joining chapters across the nation hosting ”Drain the Swamp” rallies to bring awareness to efforts to stop government corruption at the local, state and federal level.
By Dayan Anderson
The Voice Network

Most grassroots efforts begin with but a few blades of grass, and that was certainly the case recently in Big Bear Lake. On a breezy spring afternoon at Veteran’s Park, a small but energetic group of citizens spanning the political spectrum gathered under the banner of a movement known as Represent Us, joining chapters across the nation hosting ”Drain the Swamp” rallies to bring awareness to efforts to stop government corruption at the local, state and federal level.

Learn more about the movement at www.Represent.US or at the next meeting of Represent Big Bear held every fourth Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Big Bear Discovery Center in Fawnskin. For more information, call 310.567.8657 or email Click here to email bigbear@local.represent.us.

And on this particular Saturday, there was more than “spring” in the air. There was an air of determination to help better the American political system.

According to Represent Big Bear event organizer Jeff Villepique, “It doesn’t look like the government is going to drain the swamp for us, so that means it’s up to us to make our government responsible to us.”

But the frustration in the air was in fact complemented by optimism. A common theme was expressed by every speaker, be they elected officials, prospective candidates in upcoming races, or the community organizers of the event: more transparency in government is long overdue. And according to this growing coalition, such a lofty goal is not out of reach as most would think.

A legislative blueprint, known as the American Anti-Corruption Act, was drafted in 2011 which Villepique says would keep “…unaccounted money out of politics and limits the revolving door between lobbyists and our elected officials.”

However, organizers admit getting this legislation on the floor of either Federal congressional body under current leadership is unrealistic. Therefore this movement aims to change the system from the ground up.

Step 1: Work with city councils across America to pass resolutions that include language from the American Anti-Corruption Act.

Step 2: Work with state legislatures to adopt legislation that mirrors nearly word-for-word what can be found in the Federal Bill so that each state can elect Congressional representatives that have committed to refuse “big money.”

Step 3: Once enough states have passed such legislation, there will be enough critical mass on Capitol Hill to pass federal reform.

Speakers at the rally included California Assemblymen Jay Obernolte (R-33rd District); Big Bear Lake local Roger La Plante (D) and Dr. Rita Ramirez (D). La Plante and Ramirez faced off against Congressman Col. Paul Cook (R) in 2016 for the 8th Congressional Seat.

During the gathering, Jimi Sunderland threw her hat in the ring for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors (2nd District). This was her first public appearance and announcement of her candidacy.

Due to a scheduling conflict, Mayor Bill Jahn of Big Bear Lake could not attend, but promised organizers that he and the city council “work very hard to make sure we are as transparent as possible.”

Represent Big Bear say they look forward to working with the City as they embark on their efforts at the local level.

At the state level, one aspect of the AACA legislation has been included in Assembly Bill 14 which Obernolte admits he has not read, but committed to looking at very closely when it comes up for a vote. Villepique says efforts are also underway for a statewide ballot initiative that will incorporate many provisions of the AACA to put in front of voters in 2018.

Rachel Wright, president of the Represent Big Bear chapter, emphasized the movement is nonpartisan and they are reaching out to conservatives, progressives and everyone in between.

“This is a big battle and we want to bring all groups together to break down the walls of partisanship, because corruption can happen in any party.”

Community members that label themselves as Independents, the Big Bear Lake Democratic Club and the Lake Arrowhead Mountain Indivisible are now on board. Wright is looking forward to working with local mountain conservatives and will be heading to Northern California in the near future to meet with other California chapters.

On a side note, the day also marked the 100th day of President Donald Trump’s term, a milestone the administration has recently made every effort to downplay as unimportant. While a candidate, Trump oft bragged of what he would accomplish during the period. However, reality shows little on his side of the ledger causing his White House to walk back the date’s importance.  

However, as Trump has taken steps to undercut the Environmental Protection Agency, organizers across the country also used this day to assemble for the People’s Climate March in more than 300 cities.