Sunday, April 30, 2017

No Progressives Here

There may be progressives running for County seats here, and there are lots clamoring to run for Congress, but our local school board is woefully progressive-free when it comes to candidates running for the May 16 election. Nobody wants to start at the local level. It bodes ill for later town board elections; our town already has a progressive board, but many do not.

I'll be bullet voting on May 16 in an attempt to keep the worst of the bunch off the board. *sigh*

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Nation of Neophytes

Once upon a time, I worked on the campaign of a very nice, very smart man who wanted to run for Congress. He had never run for elective office before. I will never work on such a campaign again.

We currently have a President who never ran for elective office before running for President. We see how well that is going.

In my Congressional District, we have five potential candidates to run against Reed, only one of whom has any legislative and executive experience. In my county, we have multiple candidates primarying for County Legislature, few of whom have ever done anything at the village, town, or county level.

In my world, you don't wake up one day and say, "I have lots of ideas; I think I'll run for Congress!" I know people do it all the time, but to me, it makes no more sense than applying to be CEO of Dell because you own a desktop. There are skills involved; you'd better have done serious board work, run meetings, developed policies, and raised money. You'd better be good at communicating, consuming large quantities of verbiage and retaining key points, compromising, and delegating. You'd better have won an election if I'm going to take you seriously.

I know, I know—that's just not FAIR. It's not as though the Congress we have is so great; maybe a horde of newbies would improve things. Maybe not knowing the rules is a plus! Maybe seeing things through new eyes is an asset!

Or maybe I just don't have time for you to get up to speed.

If you have great ideas and want to run for office, pick a town position and go for it. Go door to door. Win an election or two. Learn how laws and regulations are made. Work together with other municipalities. Deal with people on both sides of the aisle. Listen. Make friends and do good deeds. Then we'll talk.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Con Con-Con

If one theme emerged from the Democratic Rural Conference other than, "We're fired up!" it was the anti-Constitutional Convention fervor from our elected officials. I have become used to it from assembly members, but it was disheartening to hear the warnings from Comptroller DiNapoli (a former assemblyman), whom I usually admire.

I've written before about the anti-Convention propaganda line: The convention will eliminate Forever Wild in the Adirondacks and will destroy public schools. The message has not changed, but now it is accompanied by anxiety about the cost, estimated at over $50 million. Much depends on how long the convention lasts; six months seems typical, and delegates must be paid the same amount as elected state representatives. So yes, that can add up.

Could this be what our elected officials really fear: Term limits? Ethics reform? Removal of pay to play options? Redistricting?

DiNapoli got a lot of applause for his con Con-Con message, but it was not unanimous. Don't tell me that in this Trump era we're going to lose control of the Convention and then tell me in the next breath that we will prevail in NYS elections in 2018. Both cannot be true.

P.S. The state's love of charter schools is putting public schools in danger even without a constitutional change. The state is perfectly able to create bad laws all on its own. Let's give the people a chance to clean some of it up.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why We Are Democrats

After November, my #1 priority for the local party was to create a video of interviewees answering the question, "Why are you a Democrat?"

As the all-too-often quoted George Lakoff said in "Understanding Trump,"  "Values come first, facts and policies follow in the service of values. They matter, but they always support values."

Thus for Marchers for Science, it may be better to stress a belief in exploration and invention rather than to argue against cost-cutting to the EPA. For decarceration supporters, it may be better to talk about liberty and justice for all than to quote statistics.

I don't know whether Lakoff is right that this appeal to unconscious thought is necessary, or whether Americans are just lazy thinkers. Probably both are true. It's part of the reason I'm framing the Dryden solar issue as Paul suggested: "What do we want our town to be remembered for?" rather than "We can provide cheaper electricity to 7,500 households." But it's rough going for someone who actually likes facts and details and was always taught to support opinions with strong evidence.

But back to the initial question. Because in order to support values, one ought in fact to have values, our Political Action Team is coming up with a sort of definition/manifesto that clarifies Democratic ideals as we see them at the local level. As you can imagine, it has not been an easy process—but it has been a good one.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Off to DRC

Olivia and I will take off midday tomorrow for the Democratic Rural Conference, where we are presenting on Saturday. We will probably get there too late to hear from Senator Gillibrand, but I look forward to a spirited discussion of the Constitutional Convention. Once again, the pro side is from Hank Dullea, and the con side is from a sitting assemblyperson. Here is the schedule of events.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Building a Coalition

The list of like-minded organizations, familiarly called L-MO (el-mo), is up to 50. Last week I shared the list with everyone on the list. The idea is that we now can reach out to each other to share events, volunteers, information, and ideas. I immediately received materials about the Working Families Party's application to share with our candidates plus queries from developers of the local March for Science about which elected official might make a good speaker. No one has opted out!

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Our local solar power kerfuffle is starting to look like a reflected microcosm of every 2016-17 communications problem between left and right. It really doesn't break down along partisan lines—some Democrats who love solar power in theory are unhappy with the size, location, and avian interference of the proposed solar farms, and some Republicans are quite gung ho. Nevertheless, a session last night indicated a strong division between what you might call utilitarians and libertarians. It's not exactly a battle between green development lovers and climate change deniers, although there's some of that; it's more like people who envision a greater good vs. people who assume that everyone is motivated by personal profit. It's also a bit about people dreaming of a better future vs. people bound to a beloved past. And neither side can possibly understand the other.

The developers deserve credit for making significant changes to the plan to accommodate views, wildlife, water protection, and so on. Although they are allowed to build in a wetland, they won't. Although they are allowed to operate tax-free in NYS, they are working out a PILOT. Meanwhile, there were those in the room who insisted that the town was being bilked and should charge utility taxes (which they cannot), or site the thing on Mt. Pleasant and hook into transmission lines rather than distribution lines (also not possible by law, although it seems to be a bad law), or give Dryden residents first dibs on power (which the town can and probably will do). The rumor is being floated that certain board members are personally benefiting from the solar project. Because why would anyone do anything if they were not getting kickbacks?

I left early so I wouldn't stove in the head of a noisy nearby naysayer, but I left thinking that a significant number of people were feeling better about the project, and the ones who were not would never be happy and would continue to scrabble for new reasons why. Last night it was mostly about the PILOT and how the whole thing was a scam. Earlier it was about the placement and water and the view. Tomorrow it will apparently be about graft. Impassioned statements from citizens about leaving our children a more hopeful future were greeted with great scorn, and strong complaints that "you people" were coming into "our town" to do something "we don't want" were met with mystification.

(I remain unsure why acres of gas wells are attractive, but acres of solar panels are hideous. To be fair, not everyone against the solar projects was for fracking, but several in that room were. It really must come down to dollars and who gets them.)

We live in a liberal county that has managed in the last decade or two to sink fracking, a pipeline, and two wind projects. Our penchant for saying no to everything would make us fit right in as members of Congress. Paul says it's time our town stood for something, and he's right. He and I gave a patch of our land so that a broadband tower might serve the greater good, although to be fair, we were among the recipients of the good, so it was not a grand sacrifice. At the moment, though, our town seems to be content to line its streets and highways with storage units. They provide lots of tax revenue for zero services, but are they really what we want as our legacy?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

NYS Budget News

The good news for schools: The budget was almost on time, allowing schools to budget more accurately. More $ than the governor originally suggested. Foundation Aid maintained.

The bad news for schools: More $ for charters. No lift on the cap on aid for Career & Tech teacher salaries. Really lopsided aid. (In Tompkins, % change in total aid runs from +0.03 for Trumansburg to +9.53 for Lansing.)

It will be interesting to see whether ride-sharing services upstate lead to fewer cars on campus and more parking everywhere. Wouldn't that be nice.

No Escape

If I'd thought that a seder with octagenarians would be a good place to escape politics, I was sorely mistaken. We did not use the Resistance Haggadah, but it didn't matter.

Speaking of Haggadahs, I was amused by this version via McSweeney's.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Time Warp

So we bombed Syria because it turns out dead babies can melt the hardest heart. And then we confirmed Judge Gorsuch because frozen truckers can't melt the iciest heart.

Ann Coulter's tweet is typical of the alt-right reaction.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Immigration Issues Hit Home

We learned at last night's TST BOCES meeting that ESL numbers in our adult ed programs have dropped precipitously, because people are afraid that showing up for classes puts them in jeopardy. The refugees we had counted on getting are stalled, mostly back in their home countries or in camps somewhere. Meanwhile, the state, via rulings from the feds, has decided that to get $ for ESL, we must be training people for particular jobs in the workforce. In Ithaca, at least, many ESL students are grad-student spouses or relatives of visiting professors—people who do not have work visas but hope to learn the language to be able to survive grocery shopping and parent-teacher meetings.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Like-Minded Organizations

To gain some sense of who's out there, I've been working on a list for the Dems of like-minded organizations in the area. So many have sprung up in the months post-election that it's just about impossible to keep track of events and actions. A master list that gives me contact info will let us start to share information, volunteers, etc.

I came up with 44, from Activated Ithaca through Youthful and Progressive Ithacans. I'm sure there are some that I inadvertently omitted and others that will crop up in the coming months, but it's a start. It sort of feels like a community....