350 Sonoma County speaks at April's CalSTRS Board Meeting

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Seven of 350 Sonoma County divestment activists traveled to Sacramento for the April 3rd CalSTRS (state teachers’ pension fund) Investment Committee meeting. Sunny Galbraith, Anna Cummings Jacopetti, Ken Jones, Bill Vosburg and I made public comments urging CalSTRS to divest from all fossil fuels. Hoai-An Truong and Eric Knapp were staunch supporters. 

Our comments were very diverse: Sunny spoke from an active teacher’s viewpoint and brought the head of Fossy the Dinosaur that her students had made. Her focus was CalSTRS’ responsibility to the students she teaches. Committee members thanked her for taking a day of her vacation to attend, and Harry Keiley asked her if the young people today were more  aware of climate change. Anna spoke as a human being reaching out to fellow humans and urged that we have a moral imperative to act to change course in this moment of extreme ecological peril and increasing social injustice. Ken based his comment around the slumping coal and fossil fuel returns, stating how much CalSTRS has recently lost by remaining invested in fossil fuels. Bill used the recent news that the Rockefeller family had spent years trying to “engage” with ExxonMobil to no avail; if they couldn’t, then what chance did CalSTRS have? I focused on looking into the not-so-distant future of solar energy,  autonomous cars, and the demise of the fossil fuel industry.

Our impact was powerful. However, Chris Ailman, CalSTRS CIO, still believes engagement is the way to proceed to ensure they had a voice at the table. He suggested that the divestment movement was trying to take their voice away. Maggie, CTA retired  representative to CalSTRS, spoke about her absolute faith in the decisions CalSTRS made and supported them 100%. She certainly didn’t represent the CTA members who attended!

Moving forward, we need to encourage more teachers from around the state to attend the investment committee meeting, Friday, June 12, and/or sign the fossilfreeca.org/petition. We also need to reach out to local CTA chapters and encourage them to support a resolution calling on CalSTRS to divest from fossil fuel. With more pressure from the base, CTA may  put more pressure on CalSTRS to divest.

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The next committee meeting in Sacramento will be Friday, June 12th. Could we get at least a 100 teachers to rally outside on that day? I think so. What do you think?

NOTE: Before public comments, during the very brief discussion about SB 185--Senator DeLeon's bill to divest CalSTRS and CalPERS from coal--Chris described a time-line for the divestment process emphasizing the need to engage. If our interpretation is accurate, he said that if the law came into effect in Jan 1, 2016, CalSTRS would have a year to study and another six months to respond. Sharon called for a motion to direct staff to study the effects of divestment from coal which was passed unanimously. "Study" is evidently the pre-engagement phase.

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