Berkeley’s rich history as a cradle of progressive action offers a perfect backdrop for the work of the local Grassroots Campaigns office. Most Americans consider California to be one of the “bluest” states. However, as Canvass Director Lilia Tamm notes, “A lot of work must go into keeping this blue state green!” The office is located in the center of Berkeley, within minutes of the headquarters of many other progressive organizations; the Berkeley office boasts a staff with diverse and often unusual backgrounds. To this day, aspiring public servants travel from miles around to take part in the city’s activist community. It’s one of the oldest cities in California and one of the most progressive.
The Berkeley office of GCI is currently campaigning on behalf of Forests Forever, a statewide non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of California’s forests. Forests Forever was founded in 1989 and works tirelessly every day to protect and restore 17 million acres of forests all across California. We are working to protect the Roadless Rule, a federal policy that keeps logging out of undeveloped national forests, by making sure Governor Schwarzenegger hears from Californians who want him to support it.
Lilia Tamm is steering the ship in Berkeley as the lead director. Lilia went to the University of Pennsylvania and studied Political Communications. Lilia got started on her activist career at the movies! She was canvassed outside of the movie theater where she was seeing Farenheit 911 on its opening day with her mom. Within the week she had not only been hired for the campaign, but was quickly promoted into a field manager position. Lilia took over the lead Canvass Director position in November.
Mari Schimmer, lead Field Manager for the Berkeley office, had been living in Napa, nearly two hours North of the Bay Area, when she saw an advertisement for campaign jobs to “Beat Bush” in September. After several weeks of commuting to and from Berkeley, where she took a part-time canvassing position, Mari decided to quit her job in Napa and move south to devote herself fully to the campaign. After the election Mari put her background in political science and environmental studies to use, helping Berkeley launch its campaign for Environmental Action PAC and working to develop an internship program for high school students.
Julia Stephanides and Paula Klein, two Piedmont High School students, also began working with the Berkeley office during the DNC campaign during their summer vacation. Since the election, both have stayed highly involved despite their pressing responsibilities as high school seniors applying to colleges. The girls volunteer their time to assist with recruitment, to canvass as often as they are able, and to light up the office with their infectious enthusiasm.
Celebrity and Non-Celebrity Sightings in Berkeley:
There’s one thing you can count on while canvassing in California, and that’s meeting famous people. But sometimes interactions with ‘regular’ folks turn into true inspiring moments.
• Canvasses in Berkeley have run into their share of political activists in the field; Mari met Barbara Lee (Liberal CA rep) and the Congresswoman applauded her for her work and for keeping up with political action after the election.
• Lilia once canvassed Adrienne Armstrong (married to Billy Armstrong of Green Day) who could not have been more behind our work. Mrs. Armstrong told Lilia about Punk Voter, which was her husbands’ pet project during the election.
• Yosef recently met a close friend of Governor Schwarzenegger’s office manager and she said that she would personally deliver a message to the Governor asking him to back the Roadless rule.
• Lilia and her team managed to convince an ex-logger to take a closer look at what’s going on. He contributed to the Forest Forever campaign and he promised to be a voice within the logging corporations to stop these destructive practices.