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Living Liberally Blog
Living Liberally Blog
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 1:13pm.
I voted today.
I went to the New York Board of Elections. I filed out my absentee ballot request form in person. I sat in what looked like a classroom with about 3 dozen other people at any given time. We all waited patiently. Somewhat quietly. Waiting like we were on a mission.
And we were.
It actually took over a half-hour before they called my name and handed me my ballot. By then, I was feeling a little weary from the room.
But once I filled out my ballot, and as I sealed the envelope, I couldn't repress a big smile.
Other people caught it -- they smiled too.
Then, five minutes later, I had to fight back tears.
As I exited the building onto the street, I just felt overwhelmed.
Was it a similar feeling that a friend's mother expressed to her daughter in an email yesterday?
It's not just that sense of history...it's not just that hope for advancement...it was also the people I rode down the subway with:
- a middle-aged white woman, classic New Yorker-in-a-rush, who was on her way to the airport. Her ballot never arrived, so she stopped off before flying off to make sure she voted.
- a Latino man, late 20s or early 30s, lowkey, hat pulled down low...holding his bi-racial daughter who he had brought with him...she'll be a lifelong voter.
- the elevator operator who grabbed my hand and gave it a hearty pump as I stepped onto the groundfloor, grinning at my Obama button.
Did they evoke the tears in me?
Or was it the sense that we might actually take this country forward, out of the hands of a gang that has screwed it up and screwed us up...that we might restore some of the lost beauty and glory of our country.
Sappy? Silly? Perhaps. But I tell everyone now: vote -- not only because you should, because your country needs you to, but because you might feel overwhelmed with emotion when you do, and it's a beautiful feeling.
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 8:12am.
They've given two years of sleepless nights,
They've had to watch every word,
And they do all this to inherit a crashing economy,
Why exactly do they want this job?
Because there's greatness in America,
The candidates have done their job
Vote early, vote often, volunteer your time
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 3:40pm.
A few weeks ago, a celebrity-studded video hit YouTube asking people to vote.
In the comments on Open Left, I ridiculed it. The spirit was their, but I was distinctly unimpressed.
I thought it was kind of lame, and gave suggestions on how it could be better:
I'm happy to report that Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Forest Whittaker, Tom Cruise and others have listened to my advice!
It's a little long...but it's much more fun to watch:
Submitted by Josh Bolotsky on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 1:42pm.
Okay team, don't forget to dispose of this memo when you're done reading it. Anyway, clearly we need a late-October surprise. Here are the possibilities I've come up with. Some may sound outlandish, but I'm willing to do anything and spend any amount to win this bullshit election.
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 11:55am.
Democrats are on the ascent, nationally and in states like ours, where the decades-old Republican stranglehold on Albany may finally be broken in less than one week.
If the Democrats are victorious, then the real battle will begin: how do we hold them accountable to progressive values against the enormous pressure they will face to play it safe?
It's going to be a big challenge, so we'll cut to chase: we need your help. New York needs your help. The single biggest thing we can do right now to boost progressive power in the Empire State is to strengthen our very own progressive third party - the Working Families Party.
As you may well know, they've led many of the big battles over the last ten years, from raising the minimum wage to putting paid family leave on the map, to fighting for affordable healthcare for all, public transportation, and most recently taking on Mayor Bloomberg's extremely undemocratic plan to extend term limits without a public vote
The term limits fight deserves a close look. The WFP, with the help of bloggers and parts of the city's labor movement, was able to turn what would have been an overnight power grab into a very real - and only narrowly lost – fight. They did it by quickly assembling a grassroots coalition, online and in the streets, to put pressure on a City Council that had expected none.
The term limits battle is another reminder that voter anger is not enough – winning means having progressive institutions with the resources to respond when push comes to shove.
The fights of the future will be no different. The more strength the WFP has, the better our chances are of keeping Democrats from drifting rightward in 2009.
To do it, we need to get every progressive we can reach to vote for Barack Obama - and the Democratic candidates for Congress and the state legislature - on the Working Families ballot line.
That's where you come in. Thousands of Netroots activists in New York already vote on the Working Families line, but need a reminder. Many thousands more would find their happy home on "Row E" - if we let them know (repeatedly) about the opportunity.
They've set up a great website to do just that: Vote Change Like You Mean It.
Our task is to make sure enough people read what's there. Tell your friends, family, all your fellow New York progressives. Blog, Twitter – whatever your thing is, do it.
It's simple. Working Families votes not only let us "vote our progressive values," they carry an important implicit threat. The WFP and its allies online and off have a track record defeating incumbent Democrats through primary challenges when those Democrats let us down.
The more Working Families votes there are this November, the greater that threat becomes, and the more likely we are to win the big votes for affordable housing, campaign finance reform, a fair budget, and everything else next January and beyond.
On November 4th we have a chance not just to kick Republicans out of the White House and Albany, but to start making Democrats better from day one.
We hope you'll join us. Go to: www.workingfamilies.org/Obama -- tell your friends, fellow activists, and every New Yorker you know. The more votes, the more progressive power.
To contact the WFP about helping directly, email Dan Levitan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Anderson and Robert Harding, The Albany Project
Michael Bouldin, Daily Gotham
Justin Krebs, Political Organizer
Submitted by Josh Bolotsky on Tue, 10/28/2008 - 2:08pm.
Bertha Lewis, Chief Organizer with ACORN, made this great little video thanking the netroots for their work defending ACORN from the scurrilous accusations of the last few weeks, and also makes a shout-out to the Obama on Row E campaign of our friends at the New York Working Families Party:
If you're in New York and want to learn more about the project she endorses towards the end, check out Working Families For Obama.
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Mon, 10/27/2008 - 3:38pm.
We've gathered for the primaries. We've turned the debates into communal spectacles. Now, it's the World Series -- and you don't want to watch it alone.
We're collecting Election Night listings in one place. Stay tuned as the list grows over the next week.
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 12:49pm.
The vote is over, but you can stay involved in the fight at ItsOurDecision.org.
Maybe someday people will look back at "The Great Term Limits Vote" -- or maybe it will be completely forgotten. We have no idea. But in the chance that it does become a memorable moment, you have a ringside seat.
I'm at City Hall, in the Council chambers (photos coming soon) to watch as 51 City Council members decide to go along with a plan by the Mayor to extend their own and his terms of office.
The background: in the 90s, New Yorkers twice voted by popular referendum to impose limits of 2 terms. Mayor Bloomberg -- reminding us that rich people don't like when other people tell them what they can or can't do -- wants to run for a third term. His popularity probably could have swayed the public to support his quest through a new referendum -- but rich people don't like to follow process or convince others. So he is trying to railroad it through City Council.
The Speaker, Christine Quinn, is going along with him. And now it's a question of whether 26 Council Members will say no.
Yesterday, three of the undecided Council Members -- Gale Brewer, David Yassky and Alan Gerson -- proposed an amendment, that this law would not take effect unless and until it also passed a popular referendum. Opponents to the Mayor's plan are willing to support this idea as it will still give the public a say. The Mayor's supporters seem to be against any public involvement. But that vote did change the scenario.
And there are still a few undeclared. Are they feeling pressure from their constituents? Having their arms twisted by the Mayor and Speaker (rumors swirl of having committee chair posts stripped over disloyalty)?
In the front row of the balcony, next to Franz Hartl who is working with the Working Families Party -- leaders of the "It's Our Decision" campaign to defeat the Mayor's plan (as well as the "Vote Change Like You Mean It" push -- and we'll report anything that happens...which is nothing yet.
It's 5-to-1pm...every chair is already full and the Sargent-at-Arms has warned us that if we leave the chamber, there are others waiting for our seats.
...and this doesn't start for an hour.
1:23 - Opponents Expect Bill to Pass
Dick Dadey, head of the Citizens Union, arrived up in the balcony. His group has been vocal about this issue -- acknowledging the Council's right to take this vote, but questioning the appropriateness of it.
As he just told us, he suspects there will be 27 or 28 votes in favor of the Mayor's plan...not happy news coming from one of the captains in this fight.
He also says that anything can change; that lobbying is still happening; that votes may change on the floor.
(Video coming soon)
Not great news, nonetheless.
1:27 - Security is Strict-ish
When I left the balcony, I had to tell the Sargent-at-Arms I was leaving so he would let me back up. I had to tell him what I was doing. It was like getting a bathroom hall pass. As I came back and lurked by the stairs, he told me "No hanging out; head up if you want your seat."
It's less security-theater and more people-flow, but it was surprisingly intense. They seem to expect some clamor and controversy.
I did have the sense, though, that I probably could have talked my way past him. But maybe that's just my own self-aggrandized sense of chatty persuasion.
1:38 - ACORN in force
Given all that the GOP has recently been saying about ACORN, you'd be surprised to realize when you talk to them that they are not, in fact, out to shred our country and democratic process. In fact, they fall squarely on the side of process.
There are some very sweet, sincere ACORN folks next to us. They are carrying on a conversation (I'm eavesdropping) with a man in a suit (not ACORN) who just declared: "If this were happening in Mississippi, the Justice Department would get involved."
I'm not sure I'd go that far...but there is a lot of concern about how this is getting rushed through.
The woman from ACORN just asked me (rhetorically): "Are you telling me that these City Council members are going to give away their power like this? They have families, parents who are immigrants -- they should know how much it matters to vote. How are they going to tell their children that their vote doesn't count."
That's the feeling up here. Council Members have started to arrive.
(Franz is taking photos, but the internet is real sloooooowwwww)
Everyone has a different vote count...and of course we're up here in the balcony, away from the lobbying.
1:58 - Chamber is Filling
About half the Council Members are wandering around. Nobody looks particularly elated or deflated. Maybe they don't know yet
Everyone says it's uncustomary to be so uncertain about a vote.
The downstairs is fulling with local reporters, lots of cameras, overflowing with staff. The balcony is not overflowing. They regulate the crowd very carefully (probably firecode). When the Sargent-at-Arms announced "The balcony is packed," we all looked around and laughed. People could be sitting on stairs, standing in back, but they are not allowed. There are angry people who want to be in here and can't be.
It's also a very diverse crowd -- reflective of New York City. All ages, all colors, all attire up here in the peanut gallery.
2:15 - About to begin
Announcements tell us to turn off cel phone ringers.
Somebody heard there may not be a vote for a couple hours; I have no idea what authority she was speaking on. But we are about to begin.
Bill de Blasio, one of the generals against the Mayor's plan, is here -- but I can't tell what strategy he's working. Looks more like he's waiting.
And David Yassky, an author of the amendment, keeps chatting with Ramon Martinez, a deputy for Quinn (and a former boss of mine from Senator Clinton's office) -- is that a sign? Are they just being soical?
Quinn has entered the hall...smiling...
2:19 - Everyone has a tell
I'm not a good poker player, so I don't pretend to be able to read everyone's expressions, but:
Quinn is smiling right now.
Dominic Recchia, a feverish supporter of another term, is smiling too -- but he always swaggers a little.
Robert Jackson is studying his blackberry. Interpret as you will -- i think he's bored.
James Oddo, the Republican Leader and an opponent, has a serious look -- as though a brave face...maybe I'm just projecting.
Charles Barron looks like he's ready to pick a fight. But that's sort of his thing.
Dan Garodnik looks like a class President I'd like to vote for -- that's sort of his thing.
so...maybe not the most informative post of the afternoon...
2:25 - Pledge and Roll Call
Betsy Gotbaum gaveled us to order. She's the Public Advocate. We stood for the Pledge.
Now the Roll Call.
Response: "Unfortunately, here."
Gale is one of my favorite Council Members, dedicated and smart and intellectually curious. I wonder what we'll hear from her today.
2:30 - Controlling the Room
You get a sense of how the Speaker gets certain advantages, just in the way she controls the room. The Public Advocate may be the chair, but the Speaker stands up front while all the other Council Members sit...or if they walk, they go to outer aisles.
(Photo from camera phone -- sorry for blurriness)
The center aisle is blocked by several guards, and only the Speaker's deputies are roaming it. (This photo attempts to capture that.)
She owns the room, the flow. Her deputies do a good job making traffic move to their advantage.
2:33 - Quinn's Opening
Quinn is introducing it.
There are hisses and catcalls from the balcony.
When Quinn says, "This isn't some backroom deal," a chorus wells up in the balcony.
When she said "It's about a third term instead of two terms" -- people murmured, almost in unison, "or 4, or 5, or 6."
2:37 - Laugh Line
"Opponents say we support this because we think we're indispensable...believe me, we don't think we're indispensable."
Laughter -- not intended by the Speaker -- ensued.
2:40 - The Yassky Amendment
David Yassky is respected by a number of friends I respect. I haven't followed his decisions closely (and I also know some Williamsburgers who are strongly opposed to him) -- but folks generally agree he's a smart guy.
He's speaking now about the amendment proposed by Brewer, Gerson and himself. The amendment would require a referendum to actually pass this resolution.
And -- here's the fun kicker -- in these tough times (the Mayor and Speaker's argument), the government needs the public's trust and cooperation.
2:44 - Applause Line
Yassky: "We shouldn't lead by the polls, but in a world where 60-40 is a large margin, then 80-20 should make us think about reflecting the public's will" (or something like that)
Applause from the gallery. The sargent quiets us. A woman keeps waving her arms joyously.
Let's hope he lives up to that promise if the amendment goes down.
2:46 - Signs
In the gallery, being held up:
"No King Bloomberg"
"When Christine Quinn opens her mouth Michael Bloomberg's words come out."
"Bloomberg's billions can't buy de Blasio" (she was just instructed to put that sign away for being "too big" -- only 8.5x11 allowed
"Bloomberg Blog: What's Wrong the Democracy...the Voters"
now she's being told she can't hand out signs, event though people want them and are asking for them.
2:49 - "Under His Watch"
Charles Barron just brought up Bloomberg. "It was under his watch we got into this economic mess; it was under his watch that he came in worth $5 billion, and is now worth $20 billion."
He then encouraged Bloomberg to follow Hugo Chavez's lead and listen to the people.
...now David Weprin is up. In the past, he's not been a favorite of mine because of his unnecessarily fear-mongering comments when Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia...but he's totally right here -- good for you, Council Member!
He's also against term limits, but in favor of process -- and he notes that the second referendum in the 90s was very similar to the current proposal.
2:53 - What Happens When the Amendment Fails?
So, these speeches are great right now -- Alan Gerson, Council Member for and friend of The Tank for the past couple years, is up now supporting the amendment.
But it's not clear that the amendment will pass; in fact, some whispers up here are that it's going down.
And where do these voices go after? Do Yassky and Gerson -- who were undeclared -- vote no to the Mayor's plan and live up to their rhetoric?
That's right -- sorry, kids -- unless someone's rhetoric is so remarkable that it changes hearts right here on the floor, we're really just going through a pre-arranged dance...that will lead this amendment to fail.
2:57 - Tish James
Letitia James just gave a stirring statement on the legality issue. I'm no lawyer, but it sounded good. And she got applause up here.
There's a great woman who keeps cheering silently so she won't be hushed. I'm hoping to have some video of her soon.
3:05 - Quoting Lincoln
A Council Member I don't know just read the seal above the Chair's seat: "A Government of the People, By the People, For the People." How can anyone argue with a little Abe Lincoln?
Otherwise, we're hitting a "no new arguments" phase of the debate...we get it...and sadly, you don't get the sense that anyone's going to change their minds. I hope I'm surprised.
Ooh...and I am. He ended with: "Let your constituents reward you, don't reward yourself."
3:15 - Gioia, Oh Boy-a
Eric Gioia has been great on issues of supporting voter registration in the past -- so he means it when he talks about getting people off the sidelines. (He started Voter Registration Day, for one.)
He just voiced his concern: nothing says "Stay on the sidelines" like the Council overturning a popular vote.
If this amendment fails, I hope he'll stay principled and vote against the Mayor's measure.
As a sidenote, pertaining to nothing, Gioia once lived on foodstamps for a week to demonstrate how difficult it is to eat healthy that way. I thought that was cool. Not surprising to learn, he's friends with Morton Spurlock.
3:19 - Voting on the Amendment!
After Koppell, staunch supporter of the Mayor's plan spoke, it went to vote.
That means it was a parade of pro-Amendment comments, one or two in opposition, just to usher it along.
Happening now...seemingly as predicted (Foster, an undecided, just voted against the amendment)
3:21 - No Votes
No votes -- on the Amendment -- are getting hisses up here. Lappin just voted No.
Sanders just abstained to groans.
Vacca just got hissed.
3:22 - Amendment Fails
22 affirmative, 28 negative.
Now we see who will stand up against the bill. Will those Yes votes on the Amendment stand strong?
Barron is up and speaking -- saying we need to check the Mayor. And that's what this vote represents.
3:24 - Race
Barron just pointed out that pre term limits, the Council was mostly white. Now it's 50% people of color. He's telling black and Latino members who say Yes to the Mayor to be ashamed.
Most of these members are only here because of term limits...
The guards are having trouble keeping folks quiet. One woman just got "a warning."
3:30 - Enraging the voters...
"Enraging the voters is not a way to engage them in this coming fiscal crisis."
3:31 - Not stand on ceremony
Bill de Blasio just said he's not going to respect civility. That's kind of awesome.
He just said George Orwell would have loved the arguments made by the Mayor and Speaker.
He calls this "stealing like a thief in the night the shape of our democracy."
Sonded like he was trying to agitate.
3:32 - Yassky folds
Yassky just rose in support of the bill after his amendment failed. He folds. So now he just lost that half of my friends who had championed him.
3:33 - I got hushed for laughing
Yassky says he has thought it through and "A twelve year term limit is much better than an eight year limit."
I suppose if it's your job, that's true.
I thought it was funny enough and I laughed out loud. I mean at -- not with -- him.
Gotbaum just had to hush Yassky. "But, Madame, I only have one paragraph left." "David, I have to maintain time limits."
Not a proud day for him. Scolded. And shamed.
3:36 - I wish I had video of Letitia James
She just railed against those who say this is about giving voters "choice." When you have an incumbent whose aides brag of $80 million in a campaign warchest, as she argues, that "obliterates choice."
Then something weird happened with Lew Fidler. Called on, but didn't want to speak. Not clear what that was about.
3:40 - One of the dumber arguments
Vacca just complained that until two weeks ago, his office got calls about police issues. Then he started getting flooded with calls, from both sides, about term limits. Therefore, he thinks it's time this debate ends.
What? Because his constituents care about an issue, they distract him from what constituents care about?
He then quoted his mother's fear: "Jimmy, you mean I won't be able to vote for who I want?"
3:44 - Avella Rising
"Why did they wait for now?" Tony Avella exlaimed. And he's right -- if the Council Members wanted this, why did they vote -- as he claims, so they could argue that there isn't enough time for a referendum.
He then said he thought they all should be voted out.
Cheers from the balcony; gavel; threats of being removed.
Gotbaum: "Are you finished, Council Member?"
3:46 - Blowhard
Recchia just praised the Council for getting work going on redevelopment of Coney Island. "But if I can't be on Council, how will I know that the work will get done?"
Um...by ensuring other capable people are elected; by remaining involved in your community; by checking your ego at the door...
He then tried quoting Lincoln too, urging people not to swap horses mid-stream. Which is why I favor another term of Bush.
I was wrong before: quoting Lincoln is not always a winning idea.
3:50 A real argument
I've now seen Koppell speak twice on this issue -- Tuesday night at a forum, and today. And while I totally disagree with him...I respect his argument. He lays out that the law does provide for several ways to amend term limits and gives the Council the right to do so; he notes how little we decide by referendum in this city; he makes a case for representative democracy.
I think he's making an honest argument about this.
That said, the point de Blasio hammered him on during Tuesday's debate was the illegitimate process by which this is being rushed through: backroom deals, limited public comment.
With these two minute statements, there's no debate...no back-and-forth...I'd like to hear Koppell respond more to those issues. I think he'd have trouble.
3:59 - Debate Over
Alan Gerson gave the final comment. Disappointing. He made an interesting argument: now that a referendum has been shut down, he -- as a legislator -- has two choices: vote for or vote against extending term limits. He can't choose something that isn't an option.
I don't buy it. And I don't like that he brought up the "these are tough times" argument. There have been other tough times that we've found our way through. It's a really weak argument.
Now the vote is happening. Roll call.
Barron is explaining his vote: "To my colleague, Dominic Recchia, we got to prioritize the will of the people over the fish of your aquarium."
He then thanked the people for attending, and we applauded ourselves.
4:03 - Brewer...
She's explaining her vote -- didn't speak in the debate...
4:04 - Brewer's dilemma
She gave a long-ish comment. She's opposed to limits, but thinks there needs to be a fuller debate, and thinks this approach was lousy, and is not immune to attacks of hypocrisy.
She's speaking over her time -- ignoring Gotbaum. She keeps going.
She thinks 12 is better than 8. But she thinks she has to listen to her constituents.
Gale votes No.
4:08 - One More Note on Gale
I loved Gale's final comment, nearly lost in the gavel clatter: "I am no profile in courage." She's not holding herself up as some exemplary judge in this matter. She was honest about her conflict. And unlike some of the other extremes -- on both sides -- she recognizes, with some humility, her place in a larger landscape.
Compared to Council Members who think they are needed by their constituents, Brewer is a profile in modesty.
And the thing is that she's a great Council Member; and loves being a Council Member. She'll probably, after all this, get re-elected.
4:12 - It passes
Tish James is speaking now. But the vote is basically over. (Unless I'm really off in my count, but my neighbor here is keeping a checklist on a Council scorecard.)
I'll be offline after this, hearing what's being said outside: especially, what's the next step?
Will provide some updates when I'm back online.
James just got applause.
4:14 - One surprise
Lappin just voted No. I don't think we expected that. Not sure where the count stands, but I still think we're over.
Miguel Martinez just said, "If my constituents don't like the way I voted, they'll vote me out." Peanut Gallery shouted back: "Yes, we will!"
It's note-worthy, and maybe not surprising: up here, all the exclamations are against the Mayor's plan. Down there, the Council is for the plan.
4:33 - West Wing
The vote is over, but you can stay involved in the fight at ItsOurDecision.org.
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 12:43pm.
Is "Prop 8" a dirty word for you yet? It should be. It's the effort to take away marriages from same-sex couples in California. It's anti-American. It's ugly. It's absurd.
So, you should vote No On 8.
Oh, but you're not a Californian? Well, it's a pretty damn big state, so chances are you know one.
The No On Prop 8 folks just launched a great tool to message your friends. Yes, it's pretty standard to pass a call-to-action along. What I dig is the transparency: there is a running counter. They tell you how many people have sent the message.
And when you send the message it goes up. It's incredibly satisfying.
You know what else is satisfying? Marrying the person you love. Go send some messages to Californians right now.
Submitted by Justin Krebs on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 9:29am.
Our economy's broken, despite McCain saying it's strong,
Our healthcare's broken & the GOP's prevented
Iraq is broken, but McCain insists
And now amidst GOP race-baiting & fear-mongering,
If the Powell doctrine was "You break it, you buy it,"
We are still buying beer & spreading cheer
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