A Day In Fresno Building Power

In a sea of 250 people, there is often not a chance to have individual voices heard. This was not the case in Fresno as the statewide IAF Organizations, including Common Ground, gathered last Sunday to build our collective power and discuss the CA Economy.

Here are a few facts about the CA economy:

-We have the 5th largest economy in the world ($3.35 Trillion in 2021)
-The gap between middle class and upper class wages are the highest in the nation
-It has the highest poverty rate in the US (when adjusted for cost of living)
    *1/3 of families are barely able to pay their bills
    *28% of African Americans are in poverty; 1/3 of Hispanics; 2/3 undocumented

It is overwhelming to think about for sure, but there was a large amount of enthusiasm to tackle the issues! The CA IAF consists of 115 institutions (including FCC Vallejo!) with annual dues commitments totaling $384,000!

That is 115 institutions that can make a huge difference in this economy.

-We won a statewide expansion of the CA earned income tax credit in 2020
-We won free health care for uninsured low income residents in Monterey County
-We got commitments from Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass to keep us at the table regarding mental health access and affordable housing
-We got commitments from Supervisors in Marin County to discuss raising the wage of in home care workers from $16/hour to $26/hour
-We got the Vallejo City Council to pass the Police Accountability Oversight Ordinance
-We got Solano County to allocate $4 million to rental assistance throughout the pandemic

This is all to say that we might feel small but when you put us all together, we are really making a dent in the fabric of the CA economy!! You should be proud that we are a part of something so life giving to so many people throughout our state.

Stay tuned for more conversations on how the economy is working, or not working, for you as Common Ground will be focusing on this throughout the next year.

Common Ground Delegates Assembly

On February 26 at 4 pm (location tbd) members from Common Ground institutions all over Solano County and Napa County will gather to act in relation with one another and form our platform/agenda for the 2023 year. The Delegates Assembly is a time to hear what existing issues need additional work, solidify our goals for the new year, and most importantly, it is a time to be in relationship with one another as we build our power.

The work of the IAF/Common Ground is slow, persistent, work that makes real change to the lives of people everyday. It takes courage and a tenacious attitude. In Luke 18:1-8 we hear the story of a tenacious widow seeking justice from an ungodly judge who feels threatened by her persistence, and Jesus uses her as a positive character model for his disciples to learn from. We are that tenacious widow. Some may describe her as meek, but she has faith and power in her to fight for justice.

We have that power too and it is time to show the community who we are and what we can do! By coming to the Delegates Assembly we are saying that we are ready to continue our support and mission to have a just world.

So please mark your calendars for 2/26 at 4 pm.

If you would like more info, please contact Allison, Carl, or Glenda (your Core Common Ground Team Members).

New Book Study

Do you have nothing to do on Monday evenings? Would you like to have some fun discussions with friends? Well starting on February 27th at 7:00 pm we will be studying this book; “Laugh your way to Grace, Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor” by Rev. Susan Sparks.

This is what Garrison Keillor, author, storyteller and humorist says; “Humor is not a trick, not jokes. Humor is a presence in the world, like a grace, and shines on everyone.” And Moshe Cohen, founder of Clowns Without Borders-USA says “A great read. Humor yourself all the way to spiritual enlightenment. A humorous ride to a zillion and one reasons to invite laughter into your spiritual house.” 

The class will be on Zoom. Also, this is open to anyone who would like to participate. Let us come together and refresh our minds as we start the Lenten Season. From the book; “Laughter is, in fact, a way of coming at the world. It challenges how we perceive ourselves and our circumstances, it reframes how we see others, and it changes the very way we engage with God.” 

Here is a link for Amazon to purchase the book.

From Common Ground:

After many years of waiting, Vallejo is taking a historic step forward. In December, the Vallejo City Council voted 6-1 to approve a Police Accountability and Oversight Ordinance. Common Ground celebrates this win for the Vallejo community!

Common Ground has worked for over two years to gain community and city support for independent, civilian oversight that will help make the Vallejo Police Department more transparent, accountable, and responsive to the community it serves. Common Ground was founded in 2013, and from its earliest meetings, concerns about public safety and relationships with law enforcement were shared through the stories and personal experiences of families in churches, unions, and non-profits across Vallejo. In January 2020, Common Ground formed a Public Safety Team, focused at first on establishing a mobile mental health crisis unit. In June 2020, the team expanded its focus to address the entrenched distrust between police and the Vallejo community. The team researched  police oversight models in a number of cities nationwide, spoke to subject matter experts and engaged in multiple conversations with City of Vallejo council members, Police Chief Shawny Williams, representatives from the offices of the City Attorney and City Manager, and with groups and individuals who are interested in improving public safety in Vallejo.  

Common Ground’s Public Safety team is made up of individuals representing the faith community, labor, law, and education.  The number of hours the public safety committee spent conducting research, organizing and attending meetings and drafting the ordinance is difficult to calculate.  The result is a strong ordinance that takes into account  community input, diverse models, expert opinions and legal requirements or limitations at the national, state and local levels. 

With the passage of this ordinance:

  • No longer will the police investigate themselves. Serious police incidents will be automatically investigated by an independent investigator, who will have subpoena power.
  • For the first time, there will be a Vallejo Police Commission, made up of residents across the city, with the power to review all complaints and investigative reports, and make recommendations on discipline of officers. The Chief must receive and consider the Commission’s recommendations on discipline before imposing any discipline as a result of a serious incident.
  • This Police Commission will be able to receive complaints directly from members of the community, including anonymous complaints, and recommend independent investigations.
  • In addition, the Commission will be able to review all new police department policies and revisions to existing policy before they take effect, and can recommend new policies and training for officers.
  • Commissioners will receive substantial training and preparation for this role prior to taking action.
  • There will be a third level of accountability: an Independent Police Auditor, whose job will be to be present at the scene of all serious incidents, to be present at interviews of witnesses during investigations, to review all investigative reports and provide recommendations to the Commission and the Police Chief. The selection of this person will include multiple stakeholders, appointed by the City Manager in consultation with the Police Commission, and approved by the city council. 
  • This will all be happening in public, with public documents, public meetings, and public trainings available to the community.

The new Vallejo Police Oversight and Accountability ordinance will put in place three elements of police oversight: Independent Investigations, a police commission, and an Independent Auditor (IPA).  None of these previously existed in Vallejo; it was the police chief, the VPOA, the city attorney, and the city manager who had authority (with limited council influence) over the Vallejo Police Department.

The new community oversight will result in greater trust, transparency, and accountability.  

Congratulations, members, friends, and allies of Common Ground! 

Read more about the ordinance and Common Ground's work on it here:





Common Ground is a broad-based, non-partisan organization of diverse religious, labor, and non-profit organizations in Solano and Napa Counties working to build strong relationships within and across our communities; equip our members with leadership and organizing skills; and act powerfully together on concrete issues facing our communities.

Common Ground is an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the nation’s oldest and largest leadership development and broad-based organizing network.


A Commitment To Work With Common Ground

"Vallejo City Council Candidates commit to working with Common Ground on public safety and homelessness."

Beginning next year, the Vallejo City Council will look a little different. In a couple of weeks, we will be using our voices and ballots to elect 3 new members of the City Council. Those new Council Members will have their own priorities for Vallejo. But elections are not just about voting for the person with the best ideas. It is up to the community to tell them what we expect from them as representatives. Common Ground has a vision for our city and we want people to hear it.

Why do we care? We have concerns for the unhoused community, and concerns that the Police Department will continue policing themselves. We have been listening to the Vallejo community and they are scared, fearful, and losing hope that things will change. That is why on Wednesday October 12th, members of Common Ground, the Vallejo community, and City Council candidates gathered at St. Patricks-St. Vincent High School to begin a public relationship. All twelve candidates were invited and the candidates who accepted the invitation and attended were:

District 2: Cassandra James, Don Jordan, J.R. Matulac
District 4: Ruscal Cayangyang, Chris Platzer, Ravi Shankar
District 5: Tara Beasley-Stansburry, Melissa Bowman, Peter Bregenzer

They listened to our stories, our concerns, and our vision for Vallejo. When asked the following yes or no questions all the candidates gave a resounding “YES!”

-If you are elected to the city council, will you work with Common Ground to make police oversight effective, transparent, and independent?

-Will you meet with Common Ground and Vallejo Together to hear from those with lived experience and to learn and understand what is really happening on the ground?

-Will you work with Common Ground to leverage federal, state, and local funding and resources to give the unhoused community the safety net they deserve?

-If elected, will you meet with Common Ground within 2 months of taking office to discuss how we will move forward together on these issues?

This is a new beginning of Common Ground relationships with the City. By publicly affirming support, the candidates have taken a step toward building trust within our community. Whichever of the candidates are elected, we can hold them accountable to what they pledged at the event.

As members of Common Ground, we expect they will hold true to their public intention to make the Vallejo community safer and more secure and we will be there to work with them and hold them accountable.

We will be exercising our civic right to vote on 11/8, and we encourage the community to do so as well. Your vote matters!


Global Holiday Faire Update

We are just a month away from the 25th Annual Global Holiday Faire. The plans are well underway. Merchandise is already being ordered. We are working on getting the word out (ads have been placed, fliers have been handed out - don’t forget to help with this part of our effort to spread the word!). Volunteers have been signing up (but not enough! If you can work the day of the Faire, please let Helen Mezzera know ASAP if you haven’t already). Donations of crafts, gift baskets and re-gifted items are being made (please continue to do so. If you have a donation to make, please let me or Helen know and we will schedule a time to get those donations from you).

Our website (globalholidayfaire.org) has been updated. On the site, you will find information about the organizations that we are supporting this year. You will find links to the websites of those organizations, where you can shop or donate if you aren’t able to come in person to the Faire (the website includes some past organizations that won’t be in person this year too). One thing to note on the website is the link to our special Heifer International fundraising page. If you come to the Faire, you will be able to visit our Alternative Giving table to make a gift to someone through Heifer and / or Arbor Day Foundation. On the website, you can contribute to our $3,000 goal for Heifer this year. We have gotten a great piece of news from Heifer - there is a matching fund that will double all of our donations this year, both online and in person at the Faire. So donate online, or come to the Faire to buy alternative gifts and get Christmas cards for that person who has everything. Or you can purchase cards through Arbor Day where the proceeds go to plant trees in someone’s honor.

The Faire will feature food items (soup and chili mixes, baking mixes, spices, candy, jams, oils, sauces and more) from SERRV and Women’s Bean Project. It will have a wide variety of hand-made items from around the world through Project Have Hope, Global Mamas and Concern America. It will have locally made crafts and plants from Loma Vista Farm. There will be baked goods, gift baskets, crafts and re-gifted items for sale to benefit Amador St. Hope Center, DePaul Women’s Center, Vallejo Together and Doctors Without Borders. We will also be selling multiple varieties of chili and our famous turkey soup to-go (and hopefully lumpia too!). With so many shopping options and a dozen non-profit organizations benefiting, we are going to embody our motto: “One Stop Shopping, Double Your Holiday Giving”.