Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Landslide win for smart tax reform! 61% vote to make state taxes smarter (and subsidized by feds)

Just found out the good news: 61% of voters in the 17th precinct of the 43rd ward voted YES to the question: Should we raise the raise the state personal exemption from $2000 to $12000 and for the state to break even, raise the income tax rate from 3% to 4%, which would mean $200 million less federal taxes paid by Illinois residents.

There were 38 yes votes and 24 no votes.

It isn't online yet, but I hope the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will put it up soon.

That would be a great move. And if affluent Lincoln Parkers are willing to vote for this proposal, then this thing should have some traction!

Big article by Scott Turow on Barack Obama in Salon

Salon has this article on Barack Obama.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Great article on the Welfare Sox and what to do with all that public money

(That's my term -- the Welfare Sox -- since we taxpayers subsidize each White Sox ticket to the tune of $20.20. That's every single ticket sold to a White Sox fan -- we pay $20.20.)

Anyway, here's the article by the Metro Chicago Information Center.

The main point: with the ridiculous amount of government money spent on sports stadiums, wouldn't we be better off spending that money on theatres and orchestras, if the point is to create tourist destinations that keep money in the Chicago economy? We could subsidize each ticket for a Chicago play by $20.20.

Good article on the Dean campaign's fall in The Atlantic

Thanks to Paul Froehlich for the tip, here's a good article in The Atlantic from a Dean pollster (Paul Maslin) on how the campaign fell from front-runner to third-place.

I think they overstate the "problem" of young, out-of-state Dean campaigners in Iowa -- 3500 young volunteers is an asset, not a liability. Looks like my experience in Dubuque with the Kerry campaign fits with this narrative, as the Kerry campaign ran a traditional 'knock on doors, identify your core supporters and get them out to vote (or caucus)' while Dean didn't do that.

With 3500 volunteers, the Dean campaign could have had a precinct captain in every single precinct. And I think people respect a knock on the door (especially in the winter) more than a phone call from regional headquarters. Maybe the Dean campaign should have assigned each out-of-state volunteer to a precinct and had them walk every day. That walking also tends to instill a sense of humility and deference, which also plays well with older voters.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

6% tax on income >$250,000 gets a boost from Cindy Richards

Cindy Richards' column in the Sun-Times here promotes SJRCA 20 (the bill is here), which is usually called "The Pat Quinn Amendment" in the press. Cindy Richards neglects to identify the bill number, or the Senate sponsor, Maggie Crotty.

That's probably a sign of a problem for the smart idea -- when it is identified so strongly with Lt. Governor Quinn, and not so much with other lawmakers. I asked Senator Crotty yesterday what's going on with the amendment, and she says that she'll still enthusiastic about it, but I wonder why there haven't been any additional co-sponsors. Maybe Lt. Gov Quinn is hoping to cut a deal to get SJRCA 20 passed at the end of session, but I think he needs some Senators to start helping out. Soon.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Standardized insurance/billing forms

One more thing: why don't we force all insurance companies to use the same billing form? That would save a ton of money.

Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover (later President) crusaded standardization for all sorts of industries in the 1920s: "from milk bottles and auto tires to kitchen plumbing and gas meters" according to this site. We still benefit from his efficiency. In the Information Age, seems like we need some information standardization regarding health insurance to reap similar efficiencies.

Expanding health insurance through the state government

(Instead of getting some work done in the office today, I'd rather write about some innovative progressive public policy on how to expand health insurance. No wonder I'm broke. So, here goes:)

As the federal government is run by the corporate wing of the Republican Party, state and local governments are the places where we can expand health insurance. What are some good ideas out there?

Howard Dean had some good ones. In this interview, Dr. Dean says that states should cover everyone under the age of 25 through Medicaid, and the feds should pick up the cost of all seniors in Medicaid. I like the idea of the state covering everyone under 25 through Medicaid. Apparently, Vermont already covers everyone under the age of 18. Not sure how that happens.

In Illinois, the medical malpractice insurance is driving some doctors out of the state, especially in Southern Illinois. This is a growing issue; here's an article from Alton, Illinois that explains that one of the two Alton hopsitals might close because so many doctors are faced with very high insurance costs for medical malpractice.

So, the Republicans would like to cap medical malpractice jury awards, thinking that if a jury can't award a victim of medical malpractice $10,000,000 or so, then the insurance rates would go down. The Illinois General Assembly can cap those jury awards, and there are groups pushing to do just that, led by the Illinois State Medical Society (here is their fact sheet on the issue). When the Republicans ran state government in 1995 and 1996, they passed a cap on punitive damanges on jury awards, but that cap was declared unconstitutional by the Democratic-controlled Illinois Supreme Court a few years later. I'm not sure if medical malpractice caps would be constitutional under the decision. The Illinois Civil Justice League is a Republican group also arguing for caps and other reforms.

So, if it is possible to impose some sort of medical malpractice cap, what do we progressives get in return? Maybe universal health coverage. Maybe we put a cap on the tax expenditure spent on private health insurance plans to bring in more revenue (in other words, if a company buys a hugely expensive health care plan for the executives, all that expense is deductible from their state income tax, so they pay less in state income tax). We could put a cap on that state subsidy of private plans, to help fund universal coverage through expanded Medicaid.

One problems is that some Illinois physicians get sued over and over again, but they don't get their license yanked, according to this report by Stephen Roth.

The Illinois Hospital Association reprinted a good roundtable from the Joliet Herald-News here. Some good ideas that jumped out at me from the liberal Coalition for Consumer Rights: reduce actual malpractice through a more transparent, more aggressive Department of Professional Regulation that can yank the licenses of bad doctors. They have a report here on that topic. That seems like common sense to me, but just getting sued probably isn't the best indicator of a bad doctor. Then again, what's a better indicator than that? Maybe if we had more evidence of actual mistakes made by physicians, we'd be in a better place to know which doctors are bad. Seems like a smart state policy to force more disclosure of actual medical errors.

Well, that one took a different path. If anyone has other good ideas about expanding health insurance, send them over.

Laugh out loud nickname for Bobby Rush by President Emil Jones

From Kristen McQueary's excellent Sunday column in the Daily Southtown (I'll just clip from the column):

Even though his U.S. Senate candidate lost soundly — and the person with whom he maintains a rocky relationship won solidly — U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) of Chicago attended a unity breakfast the day after the primary.

Rush backed Blair Hull over Barack Obama. Many speculated at least part of the reason was because Obama challenged Rush for his seat in Congress in 2000.

Rush said he backed Hull because they share similar backgrounds, and they built a friendship. Rush stood by Hull even when divorce and drug allegations dragged him down.

Obama, new superstar of the Democratic Party, was the center of attention at the breakfast and thanked Rush publicly for being there.

"It's no secret we've had our differences in the past, so for him to extend himself in this manner is extraordinary," Obama said.

Senate President Emil Jones — who backed Obama — wasn't as cordial when asked later about Rush's attendance: "I should have told him not to come: Bobby 'Price is Right' Rush."


Jones was turned off that Rush got behind Hull — a millionaire who doled out checks to various organizations, including Rush's church, as he sought support for his U.S. Senate bid.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Pat Quinn's referendum on a 6% rate for income >$250,000 passes

Cal Skinner in the Illinois Leader covered Pat Quinn's Taxpayer Action Amendment's successful election on Tuesday in this article, where most voters approved of the plan that would:

a) impose a new 6% income tax rate on any income earned over $250,000 (currently we have a flat 3% income tax rate on all income, so there would be an additional 3% tax on income over $250,000

b) put half that money into an education trust fund that would distribute an equal grant to each school on a per-pupil basis (about $200 per student)

c) put half that money into a fund that would send a check to every homeowner as a type of property tax rebate (projected to be about $200).

I voted for it, but I think it isn't fair to renters, and I'd rather fund a higher personal exemption for lower-income workers than a home-owner check with that extra money.

This requires a constitutional amendment, so I hope the General Assembly puts an amendment like this on the November 2004 ballot. I'd campaign for it.

The opportunity for Jesse Jackson, Jr. to lead Cook County

Phil Kadner has an excellent column in today's Daily Southtown here on how the low-profile race for the Cook County Board of Review where Larry Rogers beat Roger Shaw shows that Congressman Jackson can take on all the Democratic Party stalwarts --Speaker Madigan, Cook County Board President John Stroger, Congressman Bill Lipinski -- and win.

I think there's something new in the Illinois Democratic Party. Barack Obama's stunning victory and Larry Rogers win in the south side shows that Democratic Party voters are ready to support good-government, progressive candidates over machine hacks. I smell an opportunity.

Quick thought: reward for school attendance of state investment in college fund

Problem: high school dropouts (and even missing one day of school) costs us all money, since school funding is tied to attendance.

Problem: low-income people often don't develop any assets, and then don't know to develop assets.

Problem: higher education is increasingly unaffordable.

Potential partial solution: reward perfect attendance with a state contribution to a personal college fund (are they called 537s?) in the name of the minor student to be used for college tuition.

I know we have these funds that parents can contribute to tax-free, but we can also have the state contribute to them, and if the state contributes $1000 to a fund for a 7 year old, ten years later that $1000 becomes more valuable (almost doubles, right?).

Comments and thoughts on this idea greatly appreciated.

Rail investments -- a high-speed network is overdue, cheap and very doable

Chicago is the rail capital of the country. Our airports are hitting capacity. About a fifth of all flights out of O'Hare are to cities within 400 miles (like Milwaukee, Champaign, Indianapolis, Detroit, Madison, St. Louis). This is dumb.

We should have high-speed trains to relieve congestion at the airports and to get more downtown-to-downtown trips possible.

There's a meeting on Saturday of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Coalition. I'm a member and I hope you will join as well (tell them DJW sent you).

And there is a plan (without any money so far) to alleviate the rail bottlenecks in Chicago (the downside to being the rail capitol of the nation is that lots of the tracks intersect). So, the Amtrak from Carbondale and Urbana-Champaign has to go backwards in Chicago, almost within sight of Union Station, costing an extra 20 minutes at least. These delays caused by ancient and under-invested infrastructure would be eliminated by the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE), a join program of the City of Chicago, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the major railroads (since all the rail is owned by private freight companies, not the government). The cost is $1.5 billion. And Congressman Bill Lipinski is leading the charge to get that money.

A news article from an advocacy group on the project is here.

If only we could call Union Station an airport (that uses trains instead of planes), maybe we could get some of the $12 billion (!!) that will go into O'Hare's modernization.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

It felt like history tonight

Tonight it felt like we were a part of launching a national statesman.

His speech (which, like all of them, are done without notes or a Teleprompter) felt like a national convention speech. I hope someone transcribes it.

With an entourage and a spotlight and a sense of mission, it felt like State Senator Barack Obama became someone different tonight. And he called it out. I think he felt it too. He said "You have put me in a mood! You make me feel like I can be a better man. You make me feel like we can eradicate poverty. That we can give every child the education he or she deserves. Yes, we can!"

I'm butchering his eloquent, inspiring speech -- more of a call to mission than a simple speech. But it reminded me of Clinton at his best, the way that it enveloped you and carried you forward and made you believe that yes, we do not have to tolerate poverty, and yes, we can end medical bankruptcy and yes, we can invest in people and provide dignity and respect to everyone and that it is all right in front of us -- we just have to grab it together. Because, together, we can. Only, when it was over, you still felt good about the call and the speaker, where with a Clinton speech, you'd feel like you were tricked again by a smooth talker (and marvel at his skill).

Barack Obama has that voice of eloquence and passion and justice. And I think he is even more compelling because he is clearly human. He is no son of a dynasty. He is lucky to be where he is, and so he is authentic.

He reminded us why we are here and the only measure of our success: if we can make the lives of regular people measurably better, we have succeeded. If not, we have failed. Because "audacious hope" in the face of real struggle and real despair and real uncertainty -- that is what we can deliver. Not the "willful ignorance" of President Bush and the Republican congressional leadership that solve poverty and racism by wishing them away. But hope for a better day, by shifting our priorities, away from "protecting the priviliged" and towards decency.

It was from the heart and without notes and I am not doing it justice. If you can send me a transcript of the speech, please do so I can post it here. It made me proud to be a part of the Democratic Party.

The Emperors have no clothes

The Democratic machine does a great job at convincing people (like me) that the one thing it can do is win elections.

And the machine is no longer monolithic, of course, but when several patronage-driven organizations with hundreds of public employees compelled to work on political campaigns all unite behind one campaign, I begin to fear for the opponent.

But I shouldn't.

The organizations can't deliver like they used to.

And their perception of power is what keeps them powerful.

I will no longer accept that perception. Neither should you.

I can't wait to get the ward totals to see which organizations actually produced the most votes.

Or more accurately, which wards have the most active voters, because increasingly, organizations can't deliver votes.

Obama's primary campaign shook up the Illinois Democratic Party. And now the good guys have to invest in the Democratic Party to make it live up to its promise, where it is -- at its best -- a party that makes life better for regular everyday people and gives voice to the voiceless.

Barack Obama called for these principles in his electrifying speech tonight. And the coalition that backed him -- all races, all incomes, all parts of the state -- can take control of the Democratic Party from those who still use it as a business and corrupt the ideals that give people hope.

This is a very exciting time.

Political earthquake. Barack Obama is the voice of a new spirit

I still can't believe it. I just got back from the Obama victory party.

Half a million votes. More than 50%.

A clean sweep. The consensus candidate.

I knew at 7:28 pm, when I got the results from the 35th precinct of the 43rd ward. This precinct in Lincoln Park (a stretch of Lincoln Avenue from Fullerton to Webster) is an affluent neighborhood. (Little fact: my parents lived in the precinct in the 70s before the money came into Lincoln Park). Another fact: Dan Hynes lived in the precinct until a few years ago. This was considered to be prime Hynes territory.

Obama received 122 votes. Hynes received 18.


That's not a landslide, that's a movement.

The precinct is probably 97% white, and 95% high-income.

The story was the same all over the state.

Democratic voters hungrily propelled an honest, intelligent black professor to the top of the party heap.

This was an absolute rejection of the machine.

This is huge.

I'm incoherent with happiness.

Monday, March 15, 2004

My prediction of primaries (part of Eric Zorn's blogger bowl)

Dem primary: GOP primary
Obama 33% Ryan 40%
Hynes 26% Oberweis 18%
Hull 16% McKenna 15%
Chico 11% Rauschenberger 14%
Pappas 10% Borling 4%
Skinner 2% Kathuria 4%
Washington 2% Wright 3%
Hill 2%
Turnout: 37% of registered voters

Friday, March 12, 2004

Why I'm supporting Barack Obama in the Illinois Democratic Senate primary

This column was published in the Third Coast Press, a new monthly that could have a long future in Chicago.

There are good Democrats and there are bad Democrats.

Or, at least, there are progressive Democrats and machine Democrats. Democrats that inspire and Democrats that bore. Those that make history happen and those that watch. Active crusaders for social justice and just another reliable vote.

It’s hard to tell the difference unless you pay close attention or get engaged with legislatures to improve public policies so you can see who works hard and who just shows up.

The Democratic primary election is a struggle to see which kind of a Chicago Democrat (and yes, all 7 candidates live in Chicago) we’ll select to help lead the Democratic Party, not just in Chicago, but in the whole country. Our election in March where 350,000 votes will win it will help to shape the direction of the country. Heady stuff.

Peter Fitzgerald, the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator who beat Carol Moseley Braun in 1998 has decided not to run again. This makes the race for the Senate an ‘open’ seat since there is no incumbent, and with Illinois increasingly a Democratic state, this is the number one opportunity for Democrats to pick up an additional seat in the Senate, where Republicans currently hold a majority of seats. Seven candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat, and we ought to pick a crusader from Illinois, and not settle for a decent, or competent, or adequate Democrat.

Blair Hull, a very wealthy man who is worth at least $400 million, is the one you’ve seen. . .everywhere. He’s spending eight figures (that’s at least $10 million) of his own money to earn your vote, and so far, it’s working. He’s leading in the polls. He’s a very smart man and I believe that his heart is in the right place. I think he fancies himself like a New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine who similarly spent tens of millions of his own money to win the New Jersey primary, and is now a main fundraiser for the Democratic Party. He is not, however, a particularly good Senator. Neither will be Mr. Hull.

It’s hard to be a good United States Senator. There are only 100 of them, so each one can make a big difference. There’s a specific set of skills to be a legislator – how to develop good ideas that attract support, build a consensus for the specific legislation and manuever through parliamentary procedure to get the bill into law. Mr. Hull has never been a legislator. He’s never been elected or appointed to any public position. I don’t think he has the skills to be a great legislator, even though he’s a quick study. Mr. Hull would be a decent senator, but would remind people that government is for the wealthy and powerful, not for the rest of us, as without his tremendous wealth, he would not be a serious candidate.

Nancy Skinner is in a similar position as Blair Hull, but without the money. She’s a bright, passionate, articulate progressive radio show host who can compete on air with anyone from Rush to O’Reilly. But she’s never held any public office. Joyce Washington, a former health care executive who cares deeply about health care for everyone, is also seeking to start her public career as a U.S. Senator, without ever winning an election or serving in a public body. To borrow a John Kerry phrase, the U.S. Senate is no place for on-the-job training.

Maria Pappas is our Cook County Treasurer. She’s an engaging reformer who has helped to clean up one of the county’s offices, but she’s very light on federal policy. If she were a Senator, I think she’d be a small ideas type of legislator. She’d support Democratic bills and she’d vote the right way, but she wouldn’t be able to lead the nation in a more progressive direction through the force of her intellect and persuasion. That’s what great Senators can do, and Treasurer Pappas wouldn’t be one of them. After all, a monkey can vote the right way and hit the voting button. We deserve more.

Dan Hynes is similar to Maria Pappas – he is the state’s Comptroller, just as Ms. Pappas is the county’s fiscal officer. He has won statewide election twice, and built a reputation as a voice of fiscal prudence and smart management by Illinois Democrats, which (I believe) helped the Democrats win so many state offices in 2002. I think Governor Rod Blagojevich owes a lot of thanks to Dan Hynes for helping to convince voters that Democrats can run the state more effectively and efficiently than Republicans, and wouldn’t just spend money on wasteful projects. Dan Hynes would make an excellent governor – almost certainly better than Governor Blagojevich – and it’s too bad that somehow Blagojevich managed to clout Dan Hynes into staying in the Comptroller’s office in 2002. Remember, in 2001, Dan Hynes who was elected statewide overwhelmingly in 1998 looked like a more natural candidate for governor than then-Congressman Blagojevich, he of the funny name who had only been elected from a district with 5% of the state’s voters where his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, commanded a massive patronage army. The inside story of how Blagojevich managed to keep Dan Hynes from running for governor is one I’d like to hear, but it had an unhappy ending. It left Dan Hynes without a natural promotion. Where does he go from Comptroller?

I get the sense that the U.S. Senate race is Dan Hynes’ second choice. Because he couldn’t run for governor in 2002 after Blagojevich clouted him out, he runs for the next available statewide seat: U.S. Senate in 2004.

Even if I’m wrong about that, I’m afraid the Mr. Hynes would become simply another reliable vote in the Senate. His core argument to progressives is that he is the most electable Democrat in November, as he is a proven vote-getter statewide with Downstate appeal. With the fuel behind John Kerry’s nomination almost exclusively the belief that Kerry is the most electable Democrat, Hynes hopes to tap into the same thinking. But Illinois is a much safer bet for Democrats in November than the nation as a whole. We in Illinois have the luxury of nominating a more progressive crusader for U.S. Senate than we do for President. Dan Hynes is not an inspiring candidate. He would be a competent and good U.S. Senator, but progressives deserve more.

That’s one of Gery Chico’s slogans: Expect More. Mr. Chico was the President of the Chicago School Board (appointed by Mayor Daley, who had previously hired Mr. Chico as his chief of staff). Gery Chico, with Paul Vallas, led the Chicago schools into a nationally-recognized revival in the late nineties, lifting the lives of tens of thousands of people and helping to keep Chicago strong. He’s extremely bright and forthright with his largely progressive views. He’s policy-oriented and accessible. But without any legislative experience, I think he’s not as capable as others at leading the nation as a Senator – and importantly, challenging the Republican majority. He’s my second choice candidate, as I think he’d made a good Senator. But not a great one.

State Senator Barack Obama has the potential to be great.

(Full disclosure: Obama was a professor of mine in law school and I have been campaigning for him as a volunteer for many months. This column lays out my thinking in deciding to volunteer for his campaign).

I’ve been lobbying the state legislature for a few years. I’ve seen how one legislator – committed, articulate, passionate – can almost single-handedly shape public policy. In fact, a surprisingly large amount of legislation is the product of one or two legislators working hard. And a lot of the progressive agenda that has recently been implemented in Illinois is the product of Barack Obama’s hard work.

Legislators work hard, build the consensus among electeds to invest in health insurance, and 100,000 more people are insured from medical bankruptcy. Every confession in the state is now videotaped so that rogue policemen won’t torture a suspect into a false confession. Tax relief for the people who are working for the lowest wages to lift more people out of poverty. These were bills championed by State Senator Barack Obama. Imagine what he can do in the United States Senate.

He is a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, so he will understands how important our civil rights and liberties are, and how to stop the government from getting more powers to spy on all of us in the name of fighting terrorism. He knows the dangers that extremist judges pose, and he knows how one Senator can block them from the bench. Especially since the Senate is likely to be controlled by the Republicans, we’ll need a Senator who already has mastered the skill of legislating.

There are some other obvious benefits. If elected, Barack Obama would be the nation’s only black U.S. Senator. The only one! He knows the centrality of organizing new voters to the future of the Democratic Party, instead of relying on the old interest groups for support. He’d combine the crusading of a Paul Wellstone with maverick reform appeal of a Russ Feingold. And he’d strengthen the progressive wing of the Illinois Democratic Party, since he doesn’t come out of any patronage organization.

I believe that the best vote we can cast in Illinois is for Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate nomination on March 16th. Because he’s not only a good Democrat, but he will be a great Democratic Senator.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

O'Hare modernization doesn't include any real high-speed rail plans

I'm doing some research for the Conscious Choice article on Chicago as the Greenest City, and have found that the plan to modernize O'Hare doesn't include anything about high-speed rail, or even anything that ensures that the new airport will take advantage of existing rail connections.

Here's the part of the Master Plan that discusses rail and public transit.

We can do much better. O'Hare and Midway should be connected up to a high-speed rail system, just as Newark Airport is. It's ridiculous that O'Hare is jammed up with flights to Champaign, Springfield, Milwaukee, Madison and lots of other nearby cities that are better served with rail, not air.

Lower the voting age. Teenagers pay taxes, live under laws. They should vote.

So, a 17-year old pays taxes. Will go to jail if she commits a crime. Usually goes to a public school. But can not help to pick the people who will make decisions on curriculum, taxes, crime, etc.

I think we should lower the voting age to 16.

But thanks to a tip from One Man's Thoughts blog at www.htsblog.blogspot.com, some California legislators are making me out to be disenfranchising Dan.

They want to lower the voting age to 14. Here's the article.

Here are some interesting aspects to it:

1. It's only for state and local elections.

2. It's only a fraction of a vote. 17 and 16 year olds get a half of a vote. 14 and 15 year olds get a quarter of a vote.

I'd have to say, I don't like the second part. I think that's unconstitutional under Bush v. Gore, as it treats voters unequally. And if someone gets the vote, they should get a full vote.

Senator John Vascocelles in California (one of the four sponsors) is a thoughtful guy, and has introduced a state constitutional amendment that would open up politics there (with fair redistricting, instant runoff voting, public financing of elections, none of the above and perhaps even fusion. I can't remember all the details.)

Here's the bill. It's SCA 14.

County budget over with two Stroger vetoes of smart amendments

The Chicago Tribune has a good story here on the end of the 2004 (or is it 2003?) county budget, that avoided a hike in the sales tax and a new lease tax, but did impose a 90 cent tax on cigarettes sold in Cook County.

There were two amendments (one by Quigley, one by Collins) that didn't get the 4/5 vote needed to override the President's veto.


What the -- ? That's ridiculous. Totally ridiculous.

The Trib article by Mickey Ciokajlo suggested that the 80% override rule is a county code, so presumably, the commissioners could pass an ordinance bringing that 80% down to 60%, as is common in almost every other legislature in the Western World. I hope they do.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Interesting bit on disenfrachised U.S. citizens -- children living abroad

So let's say that your parents are U.S. citizens living abroad. Maybe they are in the military, or they are working for some multinational company. You turn 18. You want to register to vote. How do you do it?

In a few states, you can register at your parents voting address.

Not in Illinois. In Illinois, you're stuck. At least, that's according to this article.

Seems like a good law to change (if the article is accurate).

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I'm still scared of the Hynes campaign (as an Obama volunteer)

I should be happy about the Tribune poll putting Obama as a 33% front-runner, but I'm not. I'm still scared that the Hynes machine will surprise us.

So I'd add 2 or 3 percentage points to every poll you see for Hynes support.

It's going to be tight.

New blog -- Kal's Gift Shop. Check it out.

A good friend of mine has set up a new blog. His description is:

A collection of musings and the public writing of Kal Lwanga: rabid liberal and devoted Democrat, pop culture junky, lover of literature, &c.

It is www.KalsGiftShop.Blogspot.com.

He'll be a published columnist sometime soon, so get in on his stuff early.

Urban Outfitters pulls Voting Is For Old People shirt

That stupid shirt (see below) is no longer for sale by Urban Outfitters. That's good news.

Here's a story from MTV News on it.

And here's my proof that Urban Outfitters isn't selling it anymore -- it's not on the website.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Today I interviewed Mayor Daley for a Conscious Choice article

This was really fun.

I had the chance to interview Mayor Daley in his office for about 20 minutes (along with a reporter from Metropolis magazine). I'm writing an article about the ongoing effort to make Chicago the nation's greenest city for Conscious Choice.

He was working at a long table filled with papers. He struck me a nice guy who is working hard to make the city a better place to live.

I'll post the article when it is published. In the meantime, Kari Lydersen wrote a nice article about civil liberties and featured my thoughts on the subject here, on Alternet.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Unbelievable lack of shame: Bush acceptance speech at Ground Zero

This one really takes my breath away.

GOP operatives are considering putting President Bush's biggest political speech for his re-election campaign in New York City in September. . . .at Ground Zero.

The Hill has a report on it.

There is apparently no shame among the campaign. Can you believe they would even consider holding a partisan rally at the site of a mass grave?

Good news on labor: two smart unions (UNITE and HERE) are merging

Two of the few successful unions (success defined as organizing new workers into a union to raise their standard of living, instead of losing members and shrinking as a percentage of the work force) are merging. This is great, because some of the problems with American labor are self-inflicted (too many unions is one of the biggest problems), and merging forces is a smart way to build strength.

Harold Meyerson has the story on Alternet here.

Berkeley votes to approve instant runoff voting with 72% of the vote!

The Berkeley campaign to approve instant runoff voting (the campaign website is here) won a resounding victory yesterday with more than 72% of the vote. Measure I amends the city charter to permit the Berkeley City Council to implement instant runoff voting.

This is the biggest election margin for instant runoff voting in the history of the country (I'd guess).

Currently, Berkeley uses a runoff election if no candidate earns more than 45% of the vote. These runoffs aren't cheap (more than $1,000,000 in total over the last ten years). Instant runoff voting allows the city to consolidate the two elections into one. Voters get to rank the candidates (1, 2, 3). If no candidate earns a majority of the first-choice votes, an instant runoff is held. Instead of voting again, they count the ballots again. The candidate who came in last is eliminated, and the supporters of that candidates have their vote count for the second-choice on the ballot -- just like a runoff election where the supporters of an eliminated candidate have to pick their second-choice among those still on the ballot.

No need to have a second election, however, with instant runoff voting. That's where the money-saving comes in.

This amendment doesn't implement instant runoff voting, but it does start the process (which will involve getting the county officials on board) in a big way.

If you'd like to get on a national listserv about instant runoff voting (moderated) with news from around the country on this growing movement to give voters more choices on election day, or just read the archives, that listserv is here.

And our effort in Illinois to authorize the use of instant runoff voting keeps on moving forward. We're working on passing HB 4011 or something like it), introduced by Paul Froehlich and supported by a bunch of great legislators like Barbara Flynn Currie, Art Turner, Julie Hamos, Dan Burke and Elaine Nekrtiz. It didn't make it out of Rules this session, but we hope to tack it onto another bill later in session.

Here are news articles on Berkeley's huge vote for instant runoff voting: one in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune and the Daily Californian.