Saturday, October 16, 2010

NYC video on how they are improving quality of lives today

The core message of the video on how the Bloomberg Administration has worked to improve the quality of lives -- today -- of New Yorkers is to change the perception of streets from existing for automobiles to exist instead for people. The other message is to transform their bus network into a surface subway system by increasing speeds, removing bus stops, putting fare collection at the station (instead of on the bus) and implementing traffic signal prioritization to hold a green light for a bus.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New website: Register to vote until October 26 with the grace period

The Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly have worked over the last few years to reduce the barriers that the government puts between citizens and their right to vote.

For many people who move every year (especially people under the age of 30), letting some obscure government agency know their updated address a month before each election is a real burden that creates an unnecessary barrier to vote. The deadline to register is a month before the election. Recognizing that this bureaucratic rule has been keeping citizens from voting, the Democrats (led by Robin Kelly, James Meeks and Will Davis) have created a three-week grace period where citizens can register to vote after the regular deadline if they do so in person at the office of the election administrator.

This year, the Democrats have taken the program a step further by putting grace period registration on each college campus.

I'm excited to promote a website my friend Abby Abraham set up that promotes the new grace period registration. It's . Please check it out and spread the word -- especially to people who may not be registered to vote at their current address.

This is what government is supposed to do: serve the people by reducing *their* administrative barriers to voting. I appreciate the Democrats (and the very few Republicans) in the General Assembly who have voted for these bills -- and the Democratic governors who have signed the bills into law.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Illinois voters may decide US Senate control. Vote Alexi

On the one hand, it is a little thrilling to have a general election where my vote actually matters. I'm not used to that in Illinois. Since 2002 or so, every general election in November has been largely a foregone conclusion with an unbroken streak of Democratic statewide victories for the last three general elections.

Not in 2010. We are now a purple state where almost every single statewide contest is a close one. Two two most important elections are for Governor and for U.S. Senator and they are both neck-and-neck.

The U.S. Senate race between Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk is particularly important, because it looks like it may be the decisive race that determines whether Democrats or Republicans will control the United States Senate. Democrats control 60 votes in the Senate today, and Republicans are going to win at least half a dozen seats. If Democratic voters in blue states don't show up and vote, then Republicans can win even more. And one of their high-water marks for the biggest victory for their agenda would be a win in Illinois of Mark Kirk over Alexi Giannoulias. That is a very real possibility. Today, polls show Kirk is ahead.

The federal Republican Party supports the agenda of corporate America and rich people. Bottom line. That's why they want the George Bush economy where the rich get richer, the corporations do whatever they want and the middle class get pummelled.

The Democratic Party is what makes the middle class. That's where affordable education comes from. That's where affordable health care comes from. That's where middle-class jobs come from. That's where upward mobility comes from. Government shapes our economy, like it or not. And when the Republicans run the government, they shape the economy to benefit the rich and powerful.

If we don't elect Alexi in Illinois by coming out to vote in the next few weeks, then we are likely handing control of the federal government to the rich and the powerful, guaranteeing that our standard of living will continue to stagnate while the rich will get richer.

It feels more like a chore than making history this time, but that's what work is. It is work to build a middle class. And the work for the next few weeks is getting you and a dozen others like you to vote Democratic.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Fix the filibuster (if we can't abolish the US Senate)

The most undemocratic legislative body in the Western world - the United States Senate where the half million people of Wyoming get as much power as the 12 million people of Illinois - has a particularly bad rule that has stifled popular will from becoming the law of the land.

That rule is the most recent incarnation of the filibuster where one Senator (who represents a tiny fraction of the people) can block the rest of the people from implementing their will.

This filibuster, which is not in the Constitution and was most famously used to block the implementation of civil rights legislation for years in the middle of the 20th century by southern racists (then Democrats), has grown in its destructive power to block the ability of a majority of citizens from shaping government to their vision. It locks the status quo in place. And it needs to be tamed.

I've signed this petition and I encourage you to do the same so that leaders of the Senate, when the convene in January and have an opportunity to fix the filibuster, will be more likely to do so.

Elections should have consequences. The 2008 election should have had more consequences than it did, and the reason why the country has not gotten as much of the improvement that we voted for is because of these radical anti-change legislative rules like the filibuster.

Help fix the filibuster by signing this petition.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Why should Bush tax cuts expire? Great explanation from White House

This is a great explanation from a natural communicator on why President Obama and the Democrats are right to push end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Why would we borrow money from China to give to American millionaires a tax cut of $100,000 each? That's what Republicans are pushing to do.

Language that doesn't favor cars over transit or people: excellent memo on objective language

Language matters. It shapes how we approach politics and governance.

And to reduce our dangerous reliance ("addiction", as President George W. Bush put it) on foreign oil, our country needs to burn less gasoline by driving and flying less.

That means we need more trains and buses, from local transit to high speed rail, for our transportation network.

And that means our transportation officials need language that doesn't favor the automobile. We need to use objective language.

Jarrett Walker on his blog Human Transit found an excellent example of a memo from the City Administrator of West Palm Beach, Florida to all Department Heads directing them to use objective language to describe transportation choices. He accurately notes that most of our transportation language is biased in favor of ever-more investments in automobile traffic, which distorts the public will.

A few paraphrased examples:

Instead of referring to a car accident, refer to a car crash or car collision. After all, almost all car crashes are preventable with policies that create slower speeds or with better choices from the person at fault. The term accident suggests that nothing could be done to prevent the random occurence and lessens the drive to prevent future collisions in the future.

Instead of referring to an alternative to car traffic (which implies that non-car traffic is outside the mainstream), refer to non-motorized modes of transportation or be specific to refer to walking, biking or transit.

Instead of referring to an upgrade or improvement to a road, which implies that every investment in road capacity is a good thing, refer to the project objectively as a lane addition or a change in the road.

We still over-invest in roads and under-invest in trains in our country. Our 1950s-era language to describe road investments is a part of the reason why our policy hasn't caught up to our economic, national security and environmental objectives to spend more on transit and less on roads.