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Category: dems (Page 1 of 8)

getting locally political

I was once a more active political creature in DC. These days, I pick my battles a bit more judiciously, preferring to expend my energy toward things that keep me interested, where the frustrations can lead to progress.

But this current Democratic primary season (yes, I’m a Democrat, though one who’s seldom in lock-step with the local or national party systems), I’ve heard a lot of people try and bend ears with their endorsements. And now, it’s my time to do the same.

(For those looking for #projectfemur updates, more are forthcoming.)

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vote yes on no! (election 2012 live[ish]blog)

7:35pm

Polls are closed in Virginia. Results from there are… forming.

But I vote in DC. I arrived at my polling place at 7:02am ad found a queue of over 100 people waiting to cast ballots.

And by 7:30am, I was done and out. Many ovals were filled with the standard golf pencil: Obama/Biden, Grosso, Beatty (simply because a moderate Republican would provide a needed check in the otherwise mono block DC Council), Strachuzzi (because we need new approaches within Congress), Mendelson, et al. I voted for the weak-sauce ethics reform measures because they are, at the very least, a step toward meaningful ethics reform in the DC government.

My reward? A flat white from Filter – yum!

I worked all day at the office.

Now I head to watch the returns with friends dating back to the days of Howard Dean. I’ll keep you posted by updating this post.

8:12

At Tunnicliff’s, drinking a lager. Talking heads on TV are vamping because there isn’t anything to report. Whee. Drink.

10:25pm

Trusty’s has been good. Once the trivia game broke up, it got quiet. Watching results pour in with relative peace. Nice to see Warren, Baldwin, McCaskill, Sharrod Brown win. Interesting to see the national popular vote juxtaposed with the Electoral College.

12:35am

At the White House – four more years!!!

random thursday rant

A few random thoughts about recent happenings in DC:

I’m dismayed that the DC Council’s monthly breakfasts tend to be lavish affairs, especially when the Council is dealing with high levels of unemployment, corruption, and whatnot. Yesterday’s breakfast had a rather flashy spread, complete with individual glass bottles of Voss sparkling mineral water. This water isn’t cheap, and it’s very sad to see such wasteful spending, especially when DC Water is promoting reusable bottles filled with DC’s perfectly drinkable tap water.

So I ask: as the monthly breakfast duty rotates amongst Council members, who went to these wasteful lengths? Hey, DC press (I’m looking at you, DeBonis, Sherwood and Suderman): let’s not allow this to simply pass us by.

(As an aside, this kind of over-the-top, lavish catering reminds me of my time on the DC Democratic State Committee, when the committee was planning its trip to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. One of the DCDSC’s national committee liaisons spoke of “wonderful, catered breakfasts with crispy bacon, eggs, all the trimmings,” and the need for an exorbitant budget to pay for all of this opulence – for a group that didn’t really have a purpose for being at the convention, other than to cast a ceremonial nominating vote. Otherwise, the Democratic National Convention is all about networking and trying to land a political appointment – whatever. And these funds were raised through less-than-legal means, in the end – DeBonis’ write-up is a good place to start on said research. Needless to say, I was very happy not to run for reelection to such a corrupt – and, in the end, pointless – organization.)

———

Word is the Lincoln Theatre on U Street is running out of funds, and needs a quick injection of $500,000 (give or take) to continue operation. This historic building is owned and operated by the District, and I’ve seldom seen it actually host events. From what I can tell, this so-called “hybrid community-commercial venue” is mis-managed, in part by its non-communicative board of directors (who apparently haven’t directly asked the Mayor for assistance, or even a meeting to talk), and in part by its insistance on hosting “multi-cultural experiences and programming.”

Here’s the problem with the latter portion: this charter is essentially code for preserving a culture that has long since left the U Street corridor. Yes, it was the “Black Broadway of DC” in its heyday, a magnet for performers like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway. And the majority of programs booked in the Lincoln try to preserve the historic African-American heritage of the U Street corridor, or play to international arts events.

But over the past 15 years, U Street has changed. It is no longer a neighborhood dominated by one culture, but a melting pot of urban renewal. The old guard establishments, like Ben’s Chili Bowl and Bohemian Caverns, has been joined by thriving new ventures, like Marvin, Nellie’s, Busboys and Poets, and numerous other restaurants, bars and shops. International music and theatre is embraced by performance venues like GWU’s Lisner Auditorum, Warner Theatre, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s two indoor performance space, as well as other venues in the greater DC area. As people are priced out of the U Street housing market, they often take the culture with them to their new neighborhoods.

A quick study of how many nights the Lincoln is booked for events shows it booked an average of 30-36 days per year – less than ten percent of the time. For any performance venue, this is not an admirable record. And the few times the Lincoln hosted events that were a bit outside of their typical bookings – a LGBT film festval and fringe theatre events, to name but two – there were many obstacles that stood in the way of any perception of success. These obstacles included veiled prejudice with regard to the LGBT festival and mainstream music bookings, as well as negative neighborhood perception on the part of fringe theatre. And those who have worked at the Lincoln have few positive things to say about the management and staff at the facility, ranging from cries of indifference to non-timeliness of essential technical staff.

To put it bluntly: the place is mismanaged on many levels, to its detriment. And DC is now in the midst of renovating the old Howard Theatre, likely embarking on the same path to disrepair.

The solution? The DC government should convert the Lincoln into a stand-alone, non-profit entity. It needs to be weaned from the teat of the DC taxpayers and find its own feet. Such a quality venue, with lovely architecture and a size that’s bigger than many clubs and fringe theatres, yet smaller than places like National Theatre, would be best managed by a firm like IMP (which already does occasional bookings for the facility) or a local guild of theatre companies. This facility needs to be booked more than 65 percent of the year to be relevant or solvent, and it needs management that actually is in tune with the people who now frequent the U Street corridor.

I’m not advocating complete abandonment of the mission of preserving the history of U Street. I’m simply encouraging the Lincoln to embrace the changes, as well: to offer all of Heinz’ 57 varieties of wares, not just things that no longer resonate with the locals.

As far is the Howard is concerned: partner with Howard University and a firm like IMP now, get a game plan in place that is forward thinking in terms of the needs of the city and neighborhood, and don’t step on the toes of your U Street neighbor to the west.

———

The DC government also announced that, unless a little over $300,000 can be found in the budget, it will shutter MLK Library on Sundays, thus closing the only DCPL location that operates on said day. While I grew up in a city where the public library was never, ever open on a Sunday, MLK is a vital “third space” for the DC community.

So where can $300,000 be found? Well, Councilman Harry “Tommy” Thomas, Jr., wrongly spent approximately $300,000 of city funds on his own, non-constituent expenses. He has promised to pay them back, so why not have him pay them directly to DCPL to keep MLK open? Seems like common sense, and makes lemonade out of lemons.

(And naturally, since this makes sense, the DC Council won’t do it.)

———

And finally: I’d really like to see Tommy Wells get more aggressive within the Council. Sure, the rest of the Council let you down, and in a perfect world it would be wise to sit back and let wounds heal.

But if the culture of corruption and ineptitude that has been the hallmark of the current Mayor and Council is any indication, now is not the time to be quiet, Tommy. Get angry! Get aggressive! Carry that big stick and use it. Your constituents didn’t vote you in to be a soft voice, but to call out the bullshit when you saw it. So….

Just do it!

Hold your colleagues accountable! Point out when things don’t make any sense! Be a champion for sanity in government! Take on the mantel of moving the city into the future, while many of your colleagues want to drag it back into the past!

Seriously, Tommy, you’re one of the few – if not the only – Council member with whom I don’t really have a beef (the same definitely can’t be said of my Ward’s Councilman, Jack Evans). You’ve had plenty of time to lick your wounds and brush off the dirt from being smacked down – now is the time to get back to fighting!

Ahem….

another angle on the tommy wells demotion

A quick thought about the whole, ill-advised shakeup within the DC Council that found Tommy Wells suddenly on the outs with Chairman Kwame Brown:

Wells, in his role as Chair of the Transportation Committee on the Council, worked hard to improve transit infrastructure throughout DC. In particular, he worked had via his (now former) position on the board of WMATA to expand Metro commuter services to Wards 7 and 8 on the east side of the Anacostia River.

In other words: he was working to improve the overall livability of these Wards, which often complain of being Balkanized and held in lower esteem by the rest of the city and city government.

And this, to a politician from one of said Wards, is electoral kryptonite.

Why?

Because the politicians who are successful in these Wards – from CMs Alexander (Ward 7) and Barry (Ward 8), to Chairman Brown and, to an extent, Mayor Gray – rose to success by leveraging their Wards’ second-class status. Their continued electoral success hinges on the status quo remaining just that.

And what does Wells do? He looks to change the playing field by improving Metro and DDOT services in these Wards. And while this is a popular move amongst many in said Wards (and likely amongst a majority in the Wards west of the Anacostia River, where improved transit and transportation infrastructure has made these areas desirable places to live and work), it’s seen as an affront to the old-guard political machines of Wards 7 and 8, as well as the old-guard relics who dominate the DC Democratic State Committee.

So, aside from the fact that Wells blew open the SUV buying scandal with Chairman Brown (which eventually steamrolled into a full-tilt federal investigation into campaign finance irregularities with Brown’s recent elections for At-Large Council and Council Chairman), he also was working to destroy the political backbone that brought Kwame Brown, Yvette Alexander, Marion Barry and other Ward 7 and 8 politicians into power.

So what does a threatened animal do? In this case, Brown fought back, but in a way that is the embodiment of petulant playground politics. In the role of school bully, he took Wells’ “toys” (i.e. the Transportation committee and WMATA board position) when Wells threatened to undermine part of the bully’s turf.

Frankly, I hope that this serves as a wake-up call to a new political guard in Wards 7 and 8: a group of open-minded, progressive leaders who truly embrace bringing the east side of the Anacostia out of its Balkanized past and present, instead looking toward a future where there one city isn’t just a political catchphrase, but a comfortable and accepted reality.

(In particular, I’m looking at you, Veronica, to lead in Ward 7!)

I tip my hat to Tommy Wells for keeping his commentary almost exclusively constructive and positive. Having just heard him on Kojo’s show, he was the epitome of class, accepting his new committee chairmanship (of the Libraries, Parks and Recreation, as well as Planning), and reaffirming his “loyalty… to the residents of the District.”

We haven’t heard the last of this – not by a longshot.

monday musings – mid-week edition.

Stuff that’s been in my head:

  • Long before Markos at DailyKos said it, I argued that Obama’s secret way of funding the bailout package is to name high-profile tax evaders to his cabinet and other high-level governmental positions: as they are named, they are vetted, smoked out and must pay. Soon enough, the bailout will be fully funded, and the federal deficit will be reduced.
  • Speaking of Obama and cabinet picks: Howard Dean should be the natural pick for Secretary of Health & Human Services, as well as the Health Care Czar position. Dean eats, sleeps and breathes health care policy – specifically universal coverage for children under 18. If Rahm Emmanuel is still bitter with Dean over the 50-state strategy (face it, Rahm, Dean won that battle, and the only reason you are CoS for POTUS is because of Dean’s reworking of the DNC food chain), that’s too silly a reason to pass over the former governor of Vermont.
  • The suggestions that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) be HHS Secretary are laughable and scary: this is the man, after all, who allows so-called “health supplement” companies to continue producing formulae of questionable health value without the oversight of the FDA. Of course, the gullible and naïve voters of Utah have returned this idiot to the Senate too many times to count, so perhaps this might be the only way to get some new blood in Utah’s congressional team, but still…. bad idea. And I can count the times Hatch has been bi-partisan/non-partisan on one hand (with fingers left over).
  • When will the Dems – other than Barney Frank – act like they actually won the election in November? I’m waiting, but it’s time to put up or shut up – and I’m pointing my fingers are you, Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi.

In non-political stuff (okay, might be slightly political):

  • As Sarah noted, Ticketmaster is an evil monopoly. Sure, I managed to get tickets to Springsteen’s show here in DC, but only after being denied good seats due to a site error, then finally getting tickets 20 minutes after they went on sale. All the while, my fruitless attempts at getting seats resulted in Ticketmaster suggesting I buy tickets for the same show (at a greatly inflated price) via TicketsNow, their legal “reselling” (read: scalping) sister company – these tickets almost certainly coming from under-the-table skimming of prime seats from one arm of the company to the other. That, to put it bluntly, is fucked up. And now Ticketmaster is looking to buy out one of their few remaining competitors, LiveNation. If this isn’t a true monopoly that acts against the best interests of consumers, I don’t know what is. Let’s hope the Obama DOJ investigates these criminals for what they are – a ticket mafia – and that the trust is broken and people put in jail.
  • While I love a cupcake as much as the next person, the trend of boutique cupcakes has got to end: when run-of-the-mill cupcakes in the supermarket now command more than $2 per specimen, that’s just wrong. And let’s face it: many of the boutique cupcakes aren’t that good: most home bakers could bake equally tasty, if not better, cakes.
  • I’m very much ready to get back to real winter. DC has been lacking in this area. Sure, we had a true, hard freeze this year (fewer mosquitoes this summer is a lovely thought), but a scarcity of snow. New England and the west have been inundated, so I’m headed to Colorado tomorrow to get a snow fix.
  • It’s time to start ramping up my bike training regimen for the 2009 season: lots of big rides loom ahead, and the warm months aren’t too far away. But I’m really glad I spent some time off the bike, as I was getting a bit burnt out.

what a night!

Much more to be said once I get some sleep.

Canvassing in Virginia was good – and Obama won both the state and the county where I volunteered!

And Obama won the presidency by running an active race in all 50 states, showing that the only way to win is to show up. Howard Dean and Bill Bradley deserve a lot of credit for refocusing the Democratic party on rebuilding local party organizations and getting out the vote all over the place, even in traditionally inhospitable locales.

And the street party in downtown DC was simply incredible: we ended up driving home in the middle of an exuberant, giddy convoy, with horns honking, high fives, cheers and smiles all around. It’s as if a great weight had been lifted off the shoulders of DC, and folks were celebrating the liberation.

A good day, and a good night.

get out and vote!

Vote today!

It matters no matter where you live in the United States!

VOTE!

I did it this morning, and so should you!

VOTE!

I’m now heading into Virginia to help turn out the vote for Obama and Biden.

VOTE!

To find your polling place, click here.

To see my list of endorsements in DC, VA, MD, CT, MA, CA and UT, click here.

the stars align

In this case, the stars are Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Andy Griffith….

… supporting Barack Obama!

Now Ron and Henry are no surprise, but Andy is a stunner. I would’ve pegged him as a McCain guy – I’m so happy to be wrong.

Enjoy the short walk down memory lane with Opie, Sheriff Taylor, Richie and The Fonz:

miscellaneous ramblings

Here’s a summary of what’s been going on in my life of late:

Over the long weekend (a.k.a. Columbus Day weekend – or “Insanely Politically Incorrect Federal Holiday Weekend”) sprite and I went to New England for three things: a wedding, visiting family, and a bike ride. We got to see her best friend, Karen, marry her sweetheart, Michael, in a lovely outdoor ceremony in Massachusetts. I got to hang out with Sam and Alexis, which was an all-too-brief treat. And I got to sample both the T and Amtrak, connecting the two in Boston – go, railroads!

That same weekend, I rode the Great River Ride in western Massachusetts. I’ve done this ride twice before, though both previous times the ride was my big ride of the year. Given that the Shasta Summit Super Century filled that role this year, I was past peak form at this ride – and it showed. It didn’t help that I was out late at the wedding the previous night and was a bit short of sleep and proper nutrition as a result, but I wasn’t as fast as I was in 2007. And I didn’t really care, as it was a beautiful day for riding and simply enjoying being outside in the beautiful foliage.

Rudi and LeviThis past weekend, I got the chance to catch up with an old friend: Levi Leipheimer. Most of you may know him as one of the greatest professional cyclists in the United States, who won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, who placed second in this year’s Vuelta a España and third in last year’s Tour de France. I know him as a former teammate at Rowmark Ski Academy, back when we were both alpine ski racers out west. It was fun to see him and catch up on life – small world.

I also got the chance to try out the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 bike drivetrain, which features electronic shifting. It’s very slick, and had this Campagnolo user convinced that this could be a big deal. Campy is working on something similar, but it looks like Shimano will beat ’em to market.

sprite and I continue to prepare for our upcoming trip to France. This involves a lot of house cleaning (we don’t fancy returning to a messy apartment, though I’m sure the cats will try their damnedest to ensure that some things will be out of place), some half-baked attempts at brushing up on my French (thank you, podcasts and French radio), and narrowing down wish lists of things to see and do.

All the while, I’m hoping that Obama can keep the momentum and win this election. It’s not going to be easy, given that the RNC and McCain campaign are throwing everything on the table to try and discredit Sen. Obama. It’s pathetic, but it’s also effective when aimed at people who don’t take the time to learn the truth about claims laid out in smear campaigns. 12 more days – keep up the good, aggressive, positive fight, Barack and Joe!

seven years later, i’ve moved on

I read a newspaper story today that said

“The world hasn’t stopped turning since the towers came down and the Pentagon smoldered and the earth was torn in a Pennsylvania field.”

Yet for the Republican party (and certain Dems and “independent Democrats”), it’s as if the world did stop, then and there.

Or if it did, they continue to rewind in times of political insecurity.

As Keith Olbermann said in a “Special Comment” segment on last night’s Countdown, to the GOP “9/11 has become… 9/11, with a trademark logo.”

I’m reminded of this as I remember September 11, 2001. I remember the horror and confusion created by the attacks, the anger the generated, and the hope that things would not get worse. On that day, I was teaching a class in Metarie, Louisiana, and it was tough to concentrate on my curriculum when my mind, as well as the minds of all my students, was focused on lower Manhattan, Arlington and Pennsylvania.

As time went by, I saw some of the best of America come forth: community efforts to help the victims’ families, a re-visitation of how people viewed being “American,” and a non-partisan unity of spirit and resolve.

But this feeling didn’t last long. Partisan bickering and misguided revenge put the United States into a war with a country that had nothing to do with the Al-Quaida attacks. Racism revealed its ugly face as civil liberties were undermined and the Constitution weakened in the name of so-called “security.” Fear was used as political capital, to the detriment of the foundations of this country.

And still, seven years later, many people – politicians, the media, victims of the attacks and those who still harbor feelings of anger and revenge – re-open the wounds of the attacks. These people keep looking backward, trying to find closure to a wound that they refuse to let heal.

I prefer to look forward – and I think that I’m not alone in that sentiment. During this hectic election time, I wince whenever any of the candidates lean on “remembering 9/11” as a justification for misguided military spending, detrimental expansion of domestic oil drilling, subsidizing bankrupt entities, propping up outmoded business models, and instilling fear in the voters.

But the politicians serve it up, aided by the waitstaff that is the media, and many members of the public lap it up like manna.

Except for the fact that this manna is no less off-putting than Soylent Green: not the food of the gods, but an empty form of sustenance brought forth via the most foul and despicable means imaginable.

The people of the United States can be better than this. They’re being sold out by misguided trust: in the media, in the pundits.

As far as 9/11 is concerned, I’ve moved on. While I will never forget the tragedy – I reflected on the events of that day during a slow, quiet ride to work this morning – I prefer to look forward, to move toward something better and not dwell on the mistakes and horrors of the past.

If only more people in this country felt the same, perhaps we would be asking the right things of our politicians rather than the non sequitur. At least I can hope that’s the case.

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