Monday, March 17, 2014

Why we need to focus on MORE and BETTER Democrats at a state and local level

First, I apologize to the Tennessee Democratic County Chairs Association for not properly advertising the terrific event they had in Clarksville over the weekend.  I heard that they had a good turnout and people shared ideas on how to pull this state out of the death-grip of the Koch Brothers-owned Republican Party.  Right now, the TNDCCA is at the forefront of the movement, and I urge you to check them out.

I realize that people are disappointed that no one is challenging Governor Haslam other than his own party, but now is not the time to waste a run unless someone just wants to throw $10 million into a race.  Haslam is part of the problem, to be sure, but not the biggest part of the problem.

Until we regain a majority of the seats of one of the houses of the legislature, we can do nothing.  I am fully aware that it's very difficult right now the way the district lines have been drawn, anything we do is going to be an uphill fight.  That fight HAS to be fought, though.  This, year, next year, and every two years until we get control of the Assembly back in our hands.

It's going to require a lot of organizing and ground work, something that a lot of us seemingly have either forgotten how to do or gotten tired of doing it.  Unless you sell your soul to ALEC or Education "reformers" (see Deberry, John), you're not going to get much money with which to run for the legislative offices.  Given that we are in a post-Citizens United era, that makes life hard on those of us who do not believe in neo-feudalism and economic servitude.

What that means is that we have to change our message, change it to a message that will startle people at first, one the challenges people that vote against their own economic interests.  It means we need good candidates who aren't necessarily slick and who don't rely on messages that won't offend the wealthy, which means there are people in Nashville who won't be making money off the TNDP pushing neo-liberal or Blue Dog messages any more.

It means looking at some less-than-middle-class person who quit voting Democrat because we had the temerity to nominate and elect a person of color and saying this to him:


Sure, he will be pissed at first.  Then strike up a conversation where you talk to him about the GOP's economic vision is killing everyone but the 1% and ask him how rich the Republicans made HIM.  Until the culture is challenged, it won't change.  And if the culture won't change, then it will take all of us down with it.

We need people to run for the legislature that KNOW these things and can COMMUNICATE them.  Sure, at first, it will be tough.  But we have to stay on message and keep repeating it, just like the right-wing does.   Once you start, you can't stop.

One other thing.   The right-wing got control by running for smaller offices and working their way up, and that's what the left needs to do.  That's how you build a bench and that's how you train people to run.  Few things in life make me shake my head than to see someone who has no experience in politics run for a big office and then fall flat on their face, then bitch about politics.

It is a LEARNED SKILL, people.  You gotta work at it and pay your freaking dues.  Just because you look good or have money or you have people who follow you around and flatter you does not mean you should run for a high office off the bat.  Start with School Board, City Council, State Representative races.  Learn how to do it, and maybe you will catch a break and get elected.  Then, you learn the most important skill, one that most of the GOP in Nashville lack, the skill of GOVERNANCE.

Then, you can actually do what people sent you there to do: HELP THEM.

That's all for now, more in the next day or so.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Reginald Milton for County Commission, District 10

If ever someone's time has come, it's Reggie Milton's time.  Although he has never held elective office, his non-profit organization South Memphis Alliance has been a ground-breaker in bringing necessary social services to low-income families at, of all places, a LAUNDROMAT.  As this is widely used by the residents of the area, it helps them to access needed services that they might not otherwise be able to access.

Reggie is a pioneer in South Memphis and has worked with local officials in every area of government, making him particularly well-suited to serve the constituency of District 10.  I trust him to do the right thing and I know that not only is he the best candidate in the race, he will be the best public servant.

His primary opponents are former MCS Board member Martavius Jones and Jake Brown, who did some work for the State Party here before leaving to work for Liz Rincon's firm, which he has also left.  Jones did the right thing by voting for the MCS charter surrender, but his overall body of work on the Board was not, in my opinion, much more than adequate.

Brown is attempting to get the white Democratic vote (which, given the number of Midtown Democratic activists lined up behind Reggie, is rather puzzling) and has also been seen with folks formerly associated with, but now against, Congressman Steve Cohen.  THAT won't help Brown in Midtown, that's for sure.

It will be a heavily contested race, as Jones does have some well-heeled backers.  However, Milton does as well, and I think that the combination of organization and work-ethic that Reggie has displayed for all the years I have known him will carry the day.

I trust Reggie Milton, I support him and will vote for him for County Commission.  I hope that you will as well.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

It's all in how you prepare and how you respond

It took me 16 hours over two days to get from Dallas to Memphis.  Part of that was because I-30 was slowed to a horrible crawl yesterday between Greenville and Sulphur Springs, a 25-mile drive that took four hours.  Dallas was fine, and after Sulphur Springs we made great time all the way to Bryant, AR, where we stayed the night.

We stopped there, even though Memphis, under normal conditions, would only have been two hours away.  However, even then we knew that I-40 was a virtual parking lot between Brinkley and West Memphis, because the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department had not adequately prepped the roads for the winter blast of Sunday night. (we got that in Dallas, too: it was 82 on Saturday, 22 on Sunday).

Also, the I Drive Arkansas app would not work at times, so I drove on US 70 between Hazen and Shell Lake, and drove on roads that were covered in ice, and I STILL kept moving and making better time than I-40, which paralleled US 70 for a good portion of the trip.  We made that part of the run in roughly 3 hours.

We got back on 40 at Shell Lake about 2:45 PM, only a few miles outside of West Memphis.  It moved well until we got to near the Airport exit and everything stopped.  From that point, it took two hours and 30 minutes to get across the Desoto Bridge because of the road conditions.  We couldn't get good information, and the Crittenden County Sheriff's office hung up on me.

The AHTD and the State Police pretty much had a complete failure.  They KNEW this was coming, and they didn't pre-treat the roads, and we had the disaster that we had, and I-55 from the Bootheel to West Memphis was even worse.  There is no excuse for this situation, and this is what limited, reduced government of the type the Tea Party wants to force on us will bring you.

If taxes have to be raised to ensure that the state of Arkansas has the infrastructure necessary to prevent a recurrence, then RAISE THEM.  I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis is said to have the HIGHEST percentage of semi-truck travel in the UNITED STATES.  Their failure to prepare and then react has affected the commerce of the entire country, which matters more than a frustrated middle-age couple going from Dallas to Memphis.  Hell, there are trucks and people STILL on the damned expressways over there with no real idea how they are getting out of it tonight.  All the truck stops in West Memphis are FULL.

One of the things I thought of while driving in the middle of all this was that how this might have been different if, A) they had prepared properly, and B) we had TWO more bridges across the Mississippi River in this area.

It's time to COMPLETE THE BELTWAY.  Let's extend I-269 West from Millington,around the north end of Shelby Forest, around the junction of I-55 and US 63/I-555, then down on the western side of West Memphis, down around Horseshoe Lake, and across the river to meet the western end of I 69 near Tunica.  This would greatly ease the truck traffic around the city, and might have helped get rid of the slowdowns.

(Cue SMART CITY MEMPHIS screaming about sprawl!)

Too late for that, what sprawl we have has already taken place on the eastern edge of I-269/TN 385.  I seriously doubt that if this were to take place, Turrell, Arkansas would suddenly have 50,000 people move there, and same for Horseshoe Lake.  We need serious infrastructure improvements, and this would be spectacular.  It also would reduce the in-town semi-truck traffic for Memphis, and that is something we would all like.

Add to that the building of I-69 from here north to the Kentucky border, which is necessary AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, and we might just have something.

It's time to start building SOON.