Friday, February 27, 2009

New PAC to Keep Politicians Accountable



Progressive bloggers have banded with the union SEIU to form a political action committee that will pressure Democrats to actually be ... liberal, reports the New York Times.
Accountability Now, set to officially launch today (though it has been in the works, at various levels, for some time), is working with state bloggers to recruit and cultivate progressive candidates on the state level.
The name pithily sums it up: the organization will work to make politicians accountable to their constituents rather than the corporate interests so firmly entrenched in Washington. By cultivating new candidates, the organization threatens the taken-for-granted incumbency enjoyed by many in Congress (e.g. the Ned Lamont strategy).
The coalition includes MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union, DailyKos, ColorOfChange.org, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC. Glenn Greenwald at Salon and Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake are also involved.
Greenwald wrote in a July 14, 2008, post in Salon:
Conveying to Democrats that you will support all of them no matter what they do, no matter how egregiously they trample on your values, only ensures that they will ignore your political priorities and values even more. ... Only by attaching a serious price to their enabling of these extremist, destructive policies will their behavior change.
If they are rewarded with greater control and greater comfort for doing what they've been doing, then it's just guaranteed that they'll continue to do the same thing. Only if they suffer losses and have their power threatened from this behavior will the behavior change.
From the Accountability Now PAC Web site:
Accountability Now is an organization built around a single guiding principle: Challenging the institutional power structures that make it so easy, so consequence-free for Congress to open up the government coffers for looting by corporate America while people across the country are losing their jobs and their basic constitutional rights while unable to afford basic health care.
Washington, D.C., is a town that operates on one principle -- maintaining incumbency. There is no higher orthodoxy in D.C.: Thou shalt not challenge an incumbent.
Accountability Now believes that members of Congress in both parties need to hear from their constituents and that nothing focuses the mind of a politician on listening to citizens better than a primary.
Accountability Now will target members of Congress who sell out the interests of their constituents in favor of corporations.
By recruiting progressive candidates who are tapped into the needs and interests of their constituents, the organization hopes to give [Barack] Obama more of an opportunity to stay true to his campaign promises:
Accountability Now will help create the political space needed to enable President Obama to make good on the many progressive policies he campaigned on -- such as getting out of Iraq, ensuring access to affordable health care for every man, woman and child, restoring our constitutional liberties and ending torture.

Ron Mills's Facebook profile
954-394-4980

Monday, February 16, 2009

GOP Party Of Obstructionist


Republicans will be judged by the voters. If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House. The G.O.P. is so insistent that the New Deal was a mirage it may well have convinced itself that its own sorry record back then didn't happen either.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gov. Crist is being trashed for being a decent human being

Democrats may be lavishing praise on Florida's Republican governor for enthusiastically supporting the Democrats' economic stimulus package, but Republicans are questioning whether Crist damaged his future in national politics.

Read the whole story here.

Planning Policy in Florida: Merging Past and Future

Bob Graham, the former U.S. Senator and govenror, will participate in a discussion about Planning Policy in Florida: Merging Past and Future.

Also participating are authors of a book on planning in Florida, Richard RuBino, professor emeritus from Florida State University, and Earl Starnes, professor emeritus from the University of Florida.

The event is Feb. 25 from 5 to 7 p.m.


Sponsored by Florida Atlantic University's School of Urban and Regional Planning, the discussion takes place at the Museum of Art, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.


RSVP via e-mail.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Feeney Catches a Break

Feeney Catches a Break: Appellate Court Limits Allowable Evidence in Federal Investigation

Experts: Unpublished finding may impede grand jury probe into Abramoff-ties by corrupt former FL lawmaker, alleged vote-rigging conspirator, and other members of Congress

ALSO: Feeney now being represented by Karl Rove's(!) attorney...
FULL STORY

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Conservatives are Beating Us...

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Dear Progressive Voter:
Conservatives are Beating Us...
For every 100 phone calls to Congress from conservatives trying to obstruct change, there is only 1 phone call from a progressive demanding passage of President Obama's economic recovery bill. We won't get change unless your Senators hear from you NOW! Call 1-866-544-7573 and demand economic recovery NOW!
100 to 1. We've gotten word from our progressive friends on Capitol Hill that for every one hundred phone calls to Congress from conservatives trying to obstruct change, there is only one phone call from a citizen demanding passage of President Obama's economic recovery bill.
Backed by this conservative grassroots pressure, Senate Republicans are moving rapidly as a block to obstruct - pushing reforms that are designed essentially to make the plan fail. They're demanding that billions be cut from a plan that, if anything, is already too small, and that more be diverted to top-end tax cuts.
That's not how you create jobs or counter a recession.
We can't allow this partisan posturing in the midst of a national crisis. Progressives need to pick up the phone now to counter the onslaught of calls pouring into the Senate from conservatives.
Consider what conservatives might succeed in passing if they continue to out-call us 100 to 1:
  • Giving corporations a 30% tax cut, instead of investing in clean green energy that will put people to work.
  • $3.1 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy that we know simply don't work to create jobs.
  • Less help for states that will be forced to lay off workers, instead of funds to retain police and teachers.
This is not the change America is demanding. It's the same failed Bush policies that drove us to economic disaster. It's time to get to work. This is the first big battle of the Obama administration, and we've got to reignite the fight for change.
Most Americans support a big and bold bill that creates jobs, generates clean energy, modernizes infrastructure, makes education and health care more affordable and protects state governments from slashing services.
But that message is getting drowned out in Washington as conservatives out-organize us and bury Congress in calls. We need to respond!
On the night Barack Obama was elected President, he said, "This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you."
And it cannot happen if we let conservatives out maneuver us on this pivotal first fight 100 to 1. If we want to turn change from a slogan to reality, we must speak up. Now.
Sincerely,
Robert L. Borosage, Co-Director

Ron Mills's Facebook profile
954-394-4980

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

LAWMAKERS FIGHT ATTEMPT TO STOP DISTRICT-RIGGING

LAWMAKERS FIGHT ATTEMPT TO STOP DISTRICT-RIGGING
Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial -- February 3, 2009


Every 10 years, the Florida Constitution requires the Legislature to work together to undermine the concept of "one person, one vote."

That's not exactly how the constitution puts it, of course. But that's how it always works out. The party in current control of the Legislature does its level best to re-draw state legislative and congressional districts in its own favor, while members of the minority party grumble helplessly or collude to protect their own districts. Every time, lawmakers draw district lines that wriggle and squiggle all over the place, dividing cities and even neighborhoods to consolidate political power and protect incumbents.

It's not surprising, then, to see lawmakers mounting a vigorous defense to a pair of proposed constitutional amendments aimed at forcing a degree of fairness into the redistricting process.

On their face, the amendments -- one dealing with state legislative districting, the other with congressional -- set fairly modest goals. If approved by voters, the amendments would bar the Legislature from drawing districts to "favor or disfavor" a political party or incumbent. They would require lawmakers to consider racial equality and draw compact districts that respect existing community boundaries. (Under current law, districts must only be "contiguous" -- that is, in one piece. But the pieces can be connected by strips one yard wide and several miles long, or jump across water bodies, and still pass legal muster.)

In a spirited attempt to convince the state Supreme Court to strike the language from the ballot, lawyers representing the Legislature represented those goals as impossible to accomplish. There are too many conflicts, they whined. It takes away our authority.

They were shoddy arguments from a group that's supposed to put the needs of the people they represent first. And the Supreme Court saw through it, deciding that the amendments met the tests of ballot-worthiness.

Florida's method of redrawing districts should change, because the current setup deprives too many voters of choice. The Legislature finalized the last redistricting plan in 2002, and it included many "safe" districts that favored one party so heavily that the other didn't mount a challenge. In the 2004 election, only a third of Florida's 120 House seats was contested by both major parties. Most of those were "open" seats where the incumbent decided not to run, or was term-limited out. Ninety incumbents were re-elected that year, and only two incumbents lost to members of the opposing party.

Communities lose their clout when they're fractured among several districts, and many find themselves represented by legislators who live an hour's drive or more away. That's the case for local constituents of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, whose sprawling district was drawn to include a large number of black voters. Her district is headquartered in Jacksonville but swoops over to Gainesville, then reaches through west Volusia County into west Orlando.

The amendments don't go as far as they should. The wording of the amendments gives lawmakers plenty of wiggle room to shift district lines to favor themselves or their parties. A better solution would take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature altogether, passing it on to an independent commission.

That makes the Legislature's knee-jerk legal reaction even more disappointing: Lawmakers don't even want to pay lip service to the idea of fairly apportioned districts. That says something about their respect for the voters they are supposed to be serving.

To learn more about redistricting and try your hand at the difficult job of apportionment, visit FairDistrictsFlorida.org.

    

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

REDISTRICTING WITH FAIRNESS JUST MIGHT HAVE A CHANCE

REDISTRICTING WITH FAIRNESS JUST MIGHT HAVE A CHANCE
Tallahassee Democrat Editorial -- February 1, 2009
By Mary Ann Lindley, Editorial Page Editor

The Supremes have done something quite brave, giving the go-forward nod to an organization that wants to help take the politics out of redistricting our legislative and Congressional seats.

This occurred on Thursday, when Florida Supreme Court justices ruled favorably on two proposed constitutional amendments aimed at preventing — though probably not bringing to a dead stop — gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering isn't anything new, and it's beloved by incumbents because it keeps possible challengers with their noses pressed against almost unbreakable glass.

It was brave for the high court to rule as it did, given that it is effectively going against the wishes of leaders in the Legislature, from which it needs more operating funds. The court did order a more specific dollar estimate of what additional costs the amendments might incur, if any, which the GOP controlled Legislature did argue for.

What happens next is that the amendment's sponsors, a bipartisan organization called FairDistrictsFlorida.org, must now begin collecting enough signatures to get two amendments on the ballot — 676,811 signatures each.

If that's achieved, then the task will be to get 60 percent of voters on Nov. 2, 2010 elections to agree to clean up this menacing map-drawing system that we tolerate, but shouldn't.

The petition drive has a lot of high-powered organizations and people behind it and they're not all from the same party, either. The chairman is Thom Rumberger, who practices law in Tallahassee now, but has been a force statewide for many years, working years ago for the inscrutable former Republican governor Claude Kirk and more recently championing Everglades protection and restoration.

"Not being cocky," Rumberger told the Associated Press last week, "it's just that the people are fed up."

Everyone acknowledges that the leaders and elected officials of whichever party is in power is fond of the current apportionment system, which makes districts so utterly in line with voting patterns that an interloper from the out-of-power party can almost never get elected.

Anecdotally it's been said that map-drawing is so technologically refined these days that you can almost draw a district line down the middle of someone's living room in a house where the wife is known to vote Democratic and the husband goes for the GOP.

They can also pack a large number of voters they don't want to have any real power into just a few districts. These minorities win seats in the Legislature, and keep getting re-elected, but there aren't enough of them to have any real power once they have that seat at the table.

It's a form of legal segregation that also has the affect of keeping everyone's interests narrow. If you don't have to please a broad array of people with varying interests to get elected, you become narrow of mind, which isn't good for the state as a whole.

Right now the Legislature does the redistricting work itself every ten years, but these constitutional amendments would change the way it's done, setting out standards for redistricting that would help stop favoritism for any party or incumbent and would prevent denying equal opportunity for racial or language minorities.

Though there are many tricks in the book of redistricting, with this change districts would have to follow existing political and natural geographic boundaries when feasible.

So it's good news that these amendments are now going to be moving forward. You will likely have an opportunity to sign one of the petitions and get involved in the money-raising needed just to get the petition drive big enough to do its job.

When the mapmakers, with their sophisticated computing skills, have more effect on the way the Legislature is elected than the voters do, something's wrong. And wrong it has been. A bipartisan effort to make what Rumberger calls this "necessary sea change" would be more honorable.

We have a lot of serious problems with the way Florida is governed — term limits, no run-off primary, toothless campaign financing rules, and presiding officers who have too much power and can't help but use it ruthlessly. But this is a step in the other direction, towards good government, not more of the same.

For more information visit online at www.fairdistrictsflorida.org.

   

http://tallahassee.com/article/20090201/COLUMNIST05/902010307/1006/OPINION