Ohio campaign finance and the A.D.A.

On Thursday, Oct 20, 2016 I made the journey to Columbus to throw myself at the mercy of the Ohio Elections Commission. The local Montgomery County Board of (S)Elections had turned me in for failure to file my 2014 annual campaign finance report. Only thing is, I didn’t run in 2014- or 2015, or collect more than $1000 either year.

But, that’s really just a moot point, since the whole system is really just a kangaroo court of fake transparency. Starting with this:

The Elections Commission holds regular meetings. The schedule of the Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting for 2016 is listed below. All meetings are held in the Riffe Center located at 77 South High Street, Columbus, OH 43215. Please contact the Commission staff for suite numbers for all meetings of the Elections Commission. As a scheduled agenda for a meeting is made available, Commission staff will do its best to post it below.

Source: Ohio Elections Commission

There isn’t a single agenda posted.

But, they were going to fine me $25 a day for every day I hadn’t filed- for both years, or some such. But, let’s talk about those filings, because I did. I recorded it for this blog- and to make a case for a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the filing and recording of campaign finance reports across the state of Ohio.

Now, why is the ADA so important? And why is this is a farce?

Because if public documents aren’t ADA compliant- ie- machine readable- they are also not google friendly. This means, PDF documents, filled out on a computer are the minimal standard. But, wait, said one of the commission members- what if you don’t have a computer? Seriously? In 2016- if you don’t have a computer, you shouldn’t be:

a) running for office
b) asking for campaign contributions

Secondly, it seemed that I wasn’t the only scofflaw that was naughty. On the agenda, that wasn’t posted, there were 38 others from Montgomery County- out of 67 statewide.

That should tell you something. And, many of them- are sitting in office right now.

Our local board of (s)election would rather play “Gotcha” than help people run for office. They’d also prefer it if, frankly, you didn’t run- because we can pick everyone ourselves between the party chiefs without voters to make it difficult- but, uh- that’s another matter.

I found it odd that while they had no problem filing against me for my 2014 annual- the organization shilling issue 9 didn’t file at all this year- “Neighborhoods for Dayton’s Future” weren’t in trouble- or being chastised. Why is that?

In reality, even if everyone files, all the stinking pre-election, post-election, bi-annual, annual, etc- with the board of (s)elections, there is still no easy way to quickly find or analyze any of it. You have to know what you are looking for because they are posted as scans of printed documents (sometimes handwritten) to the site  http://www.mcohio.org/government/county_agencies/board_of_elections/candidate_tools_election_issues/CF_Reports/

Where you have to know what year, what report, and then you can look down the list and download the non-ADA compliant report.

So when we hear that the Redflex traffic cam president is being hauled off to jail, for donating money to politicians to install her cameras with a nice split of ticket revenue, you’d have to go in and pull each and every politicians report, one-by-one, for days and weeks in order to find her name, or her  lobbyist ,John Raphael, donating to anyone.

Contrast that with the still pathetic, but workable Federal Elections Commission database (they have a new beta site that looks better) where you can search by donor, by candidate, by PAC and get reasonable data of all donors meeting the $250 threshold. Or, you can go over to use the more useful Open Secrets site that reformats and pivots the data so that it’s really useful.

To recap: The Ohio Secretary of State has crafted a whole bunch of reporting forms that make the IRS look like user experience design gods- with a slew of different, nonsensically named and numbered forms, that aren’t computer ready or database connected.

And, yes, I know there is a column called “Fillable PDF” but it really isn’t.

A true document designer would have a single PDF that walks you through questions, and lets the committee fill out each area that is needed, and the form does all the calculation and error checking. You’d fill out the candidates name once, his committee name once, his treasurer name once, and you would enter data in (or import it from a CSV file) for donors, or expenses, that would automatically fill in the fields, and step and repeat as needed until the document was complete- at which point you would click file- and it would electronically send the file to the BOE- and enter all the data into a searchable database. If this sounds like a website- it’s because, that’s really how it should be done- but, PDF’s were invented before the Internet as we now know it- and can do all of these functions also.

There is no need for 35 forms. Only insurance companies and Jon Husted could come up with something that insane for a basic accounting report.

Another problem is the idea of closing campaign committees to stop from having to file these stupid annual filings via document hell. Since the new post 9/11 banking rules took effect, the opening of campaign bank accounts, linking pay pal accounts and all the miscellaneous stuff behind a campaign is incredible difficult and a barrier to running. There should be a simple check box at the top of the site- “I didn’t run for office this year or receive more than $1000 in donations. I understand that if I receive more than $1000 or choose to run again, I will have to file a report of transactions for the years I didn’t run.” Simple. No one should care about these small money accounts being held open to pay for things like keeping a URL and website up.

And, if this is all built properly, the system would automatically send out emails letting you know that a filing deadline is coming up and that you should go see if you need to file. This isn’t rocket science. The fact that 38 people from Montgomery County missed their deadlines says something isn’t working.

Lastly, there are fines levied on people who don’t file. What difference does that make to someone who has raised tens of thousands or even millions? Not much. To the small campaigns- a lot. Is this really democratic? Or is it punitive? And, what about the sneaky PAC running issue 9? What do they care if they get fined- since they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pass their tax increase so public tax dollars can be doled out to private enterprises who are probably backing it?

How about this, if you don’t file, and you win, you lose and are banned from running for a year, or putting a similar issue back on the ballot instead of fines? If campaign finance is really about transparency and integrity, this makes more sense than the hand-slap, after the effort fine.

Of course, the OEC isn’t just taking care of finance reports, they are also the ones who go after people for having signs without the small disclaimer print, the mailings that go out at the last minute that slander people and throw elections etc.  All of which are window dressing on the system that is rigged for the 2 major parties to continue to have it their way or their way.

And while I don’t believe for one minute that our voting system is rigged the way the Donald claims it is, I do know the rules governing small campaigns are rigged to put as many obstacles in place as possible for free-thinkers to run.

If you’d like to hear my monologue to the OEC- here it is:

 

 

 

 

Killing cops: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter

I left the US for Israel for a short trip, just after the police shootings in Dallas where 5 cops died at the hands of a black military veteran. I said on Facebook, that I never thought I’d say that I ever thought I’d feel safer in the Middle East than in the Midwest- but, here we are in 2016 and that’s what was on my mind.

In Israel, there are guns everywhere. Soldiers, male and female, with M-16’s slung around their necks- some of the girls in a uniform with a skirt even. The fully loaded clip is usually either attached to the butt or barrel of the weapon- with an elastic band, or some have them on their belts, on their back left side- often with a dummy cord attached.

Then you’ll see some with the clip in. I’ve yet to figure the rhyme or reason to who does what. It’s almost as if it’s a matter of personal preference. And it’s not only M16’s- it’s M203’s (an M16 with a grenade launcher), or the new Israeli weapon- the Tavor, a badass looking bullpup. Often, the weapons look well used, and have night sights. Even on guard duty- soldiers seem relaxed and at ease, sometimes playing with their phones, with head phones in. It’s a creepy casualness while under arms.

There are also people in civilian clothes- carrying a pistol- in the restaurants, next to the swimming pool. You have your bags inspected when going into a bus station. There are zig-zag checkpoints where they ask you to roll the windows down and look in the car.

On the Kibbutz, I asked what a block building with no windows was. “Bomb shelter” was the answer. They don’t use those as much anymore- since every house built since 1991 now is required to have a bomb shelter built in.

Along the highway, you may see a pillbox at a bend in the road, or a small fortress. Thin gun slits, reinforced roofs. Even going into a restaurant area, there is a guy with a shirt that says “Security” in English sitting next to a gate to get into the area. No gun visible, but probably within quick reach in the small gatehouse he’s leaning against.

The Communications Center of the Palestine Mobile Force (PMF) was located in this building. On April 25, 1947, Isaschar Huberman and Rahamim Abalak , two Lehi fighters posting as telephone repairman managed to drive a car bomb into the compound. It's denotation )sic) led to the destruction of the center and several casualties among the British Policemen."The first historical marker I came across when leaving the train station from the airport, in Tel Aviv said this:

The Communications Center of the Palestine Mobile Force (PMF) was located in this building. On April 25, 1947, Isaschar Huberman and Rahamim Abalak , two Lehi fighters posting as telephone repairman managed to drive a car bomb into the compound. It’s denotation )sic) led to the destruction of the center and several casualties among the British Policemen.”

With Dallas fresh on my mind- I took the photo. Thinking, this is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. A terrorist attacks civilians, a freedom fighter, attacks men in uniform- combatants.

And then here comes Baton Rouge. 3 officers killed.

Violence against the police, Mr. (Gov. John Bel) Edwards said, “doesn’t address any injustice, perceived or real.”

 He continued, “It is just an injustice in and of itself.”

Source: Baton Rouge Shooting Jolts a Nation on Edge

Yet, the shooter is quoted in the same NY Times article from his social media postings:

“One hundred percent of revolutions, of victims fighting their oppressors,” he said, “have been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed. Zero have been successful just over simply protesting. It doesn’t — it has never worked and it never will. You got to fight back. That’s the only way that a bully knows to quit.”

“You’ve got to stand on your rights, just like George Washington did, just like the other white rebels they celebrate and salute did,” he added. “That’s what Nat Turner did. That’s what Malcolm did. You got to stand, man. You got to sacrifice.”

Gavin Long, an African-American military veteran- alleged shooter of cops in Baton Rouge

Like it or not, police are the easiest targets and the people who have been doing the dirty work of a system that has gotten out of control. Our nation has been divided since the “War on Drugs” started – a lame excuse for imprisoning millions of people- mostly for being poor and black.

The real targets own the media, the banks, the wealth and control the system. A system that has profited wildly by distracting people from their true enemies. Sure- we can say Osama Bin Laden was a terrorist, but his targets were the scions of commerce, of the military industrial complex tasked to keep war a multi-billion dollar industry. A stock market rigged to allow a few to pilfer the savings and futures of an entire country.

Unfortunately, the police are just the pawns in the game, and so are the politicians.

And when you think about it- the rich have their own police forces, their own safe rooms, their gates, their security. The cops don’t. They are just sitting ducks. And soldiers coming back from an endless pointless war are taking up arms- but, it’s harder to kill a bank president than it is a cop.

Americans are about to go to vote for a new president holding their noses. A law passed against keeping the last true hero of the people prevents Obama from running for a third term. He’s far from perfect, but a better choice than either of the two leading contenders.

In Israel, much like the US- I talk to US citizens who have been here a long time- they aren’t worried about abortion, guns, or bathrooms- it’s about Israel- and they are more likely to vote for Trump than Hillary. Bernie, the only Jewish candidate, gets a thumbs down- because he wasn’t pro-Israel enough- as if he could have succeeded anywhere near what he did if he’d let his religion be front and center.

Right now our country needs to realize that the first shots of a revolution have been fired, and there will be more, until we stop trying to sugarcoat the misdeeds of a system that has created a permanent underclass, of people without hope, without power, except by the barrel of a gun.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter isn’t new.

We need to have a real discussion of what kind of America we want. Because what we have isn’t working for an awful lot of people, and in the last 2 weeks, some have taken up arms to send that message. It’s up to real leaders to acknowledge it and respond appropriately.

We have two choices: create a siege mentality, and set up security gates, ID Checks, and lose any semblance of the freedoms we swore allegiance to, or begin to level the playing field- putting the real criminals in prison and letting the pawns out.

Philandro Castile was the symbol, of a revolution. An everyday guy, who was loved in his little world, who had been systematically singled out by a society for little infractions, that turned into a death sentence. Meanwhile, the Wall Street criminals, who stole our pensions, our homes, our tax dollars and ruined the global economy- causing job losses and global instability- walk scott free.

It was never gun ownership that gave you freedom, it was what you do with one.

Gavin Long may think he’s a freedom fighter, but he missed the real targets.

We don’t need anymore police killed. Rome has been burning for a while. It’s time to take down the emperors, not their soldiers.

Measuring the wrong damn thing. Valuing the wrong measurements.

heisenberg-mesureI never got paid more for doing better on a standardized test- I got paid more for bringing unique solutions to the table.

When we hear people talking about running government like a business, most of the time, they are really trying to say “put some measurable, quantifiable metrics on government, so we can keep things under control.” Unfortunately, because most people are of average intelligence- when a Republican says “I’m for smaller government” that translates to “smaller means less to control” so it must be “better.”

Reform, be it school reform, government reform, health care, welfare reform, judicial reform all require an assessment of what the real objectives are, and how do we set meaningful measurements to work toward. In fact, to have a conversation about anything with large ramifications- the first question should always be “what is the right goal- and how do we quantify it.”

A long time ago, I read a business book with profound impact on my approach to solving business problems- “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack. It tells the story of a young MBA sent to a failing re-manufacturing plant that International was looking to close up. When Mr. Stack got there- he realized that no one knew the goal, or how score was kept. Kind of like trying to play football without understanding what a first down was, or how you scored. He decided that if the employees knew how the score was kept- profitability, they could all work to make sure the parts they rebuilt, were in fact valuable- i.e. the cost to make them, was less than the cost to sell them. This was “revolutionary” thinking. He taught everyone how to read a balance sheet, how to track costs, how to apply costs, and how to value their contribution. The story continues on how he and a group of managers, hocked their homes, bought the plant, and turned the business into an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan).

Guess what, our government was supposed to be an ESOP. We pay taxes, our investment, and we hire our managers, the politicians, and we’re supposed to get a return on our investment, but we all know this hasn’t been working out well- especially since we’ve seen the value of our votes diluted by our overly expensive system of picking our managers.

Bringing this down to the local level. I’ve spent a ton of time the last few months, working as an advocate to get services delivered to a veteran. I’ve tangled with the VA and their SSVF program, the Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission and a few people in between.

The measurements that we’re supposedly focused on in this country is slowing the rate of veterans committing suicide and making sure they aren’t homeless.

First question is that really what we should be measuring?

There’s a philosophy called expectancy theory- which says if you believe something to be the expected outcome, that’s what you get. I expect Dayton Public Schools to have a 35% drop out rate- so I’m going to focus on “Dropout prevention.” That’s what we’ve done. Maybe if we focused on making the diploma the goal for all, and looking in every available nook and cranny on how to make that diploma the most valuable and attainable goal, we’d do better?

How about working the system on veterans homelessness a different way? Maybe it’s cheaper to create a way for businesses to hire and support veterans with incentives- like having the government pick up the first $20,000 of tax liabilities on at risk veterans? Or working with veteran owned businesses to have a competitive advantage in hiring and protecting low functioning veterans? One thing about hiring a veteran- there is no health care costs, since they have coverage through the VA. We already know small businesses struggle with health care costs (because our system is broken) – so maybe offering to pay for a civilians health care costs for every at risk veteran you hire- giving them a two for one deal?

I’m not saying these are vetted solutions- but, they are a different approach to the problem.

With our local system, it took the MCVSC almost 10 days to issue a check for “emergency food assistance” – thanks to some help from Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, that’s not going to be the case anymore. It took longer for a food stamp card- and we still don’t have the “Obama Phone.” All these things that are mission critical to a successful transition from homeless to homed, are falling through the cracks of a system that is measuring the wrong things. Delivering food stamps to the veteran is the current measurement- but how fast isn’t. See the problem?

How does Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen measure the success of the economy to make decisions about interest rate hikes? She’s got a ton of complex data that she relies on. How do I? Look at gas prices. We do well when gas prices are low, since so many of us are car dependent to get to work. One veteran I work with is currently living on $238 a week take home. He lives in an apartment in Trotwood costing $485 a month, he drives to his job paying $14.02 in Lebanon (he pays $600 a month in child support). He’s facing eviction because he was cut off from SSVF for “making too much money” – and when you figure in food, utilities and gas money, you can see where a 50 cent swing per gallon of gas makes or breaks him each month. Janet Yellen doesn’t understand that. Nor do the government income guidelines.

The first objective in any problem solving is making sure you are using the right measurements and valuing the correct data.

This is what the point of “Moneyball” was in picking winners in pro sports. Measuring the wrong things doesn’t get you the right results.

I can think of lots of things we’re not tracking correctly, but I’d like to hear yours in the comments.

Feel free to talk about abandoned houses in Dayton, unemployment figures, heroin overdoses, or graduation rates. I’d like your 2 cents.

I’m David Esrati, and I don’t approve this message

David Esrati portrait 2016

I took my own mug shot.

It’s happened a lot recently. Randomly, I’ve connected with someone who said “Aren’t you David Esrati, I read your blog.” Not necessarily read it every post, but, have read it. One of my hockey teammates even said it was helpful to him when he looked for “Where to get Baklava in Dayton

A very pretty, sweet woman walked up to me, and said she was touched by the piece I wrote in the Dayton Daily news about the Kettering Ice Rink. When I asked her name, she said she was nobody- and only gave her first name.

A conversation in Kroger yesterday turned to politics, and I was asked again- am I done running? Right now, I’m running a business, taking care of elderly parents and 5 pieces of real estate, and then there is this book I’m neglecting right now. I’ve yet to see a whole bunch of people show up and say they want to help me run. I also had to hear again about how our County Auditor thought it was OK to make me the punchline at the Dems’ big fundraiser. It didn’t sit well with some of the people who buy tickets to these things because they lobby- not necessarily agree with the party and its politburo of friends and family.

Others tell me, you need to stay out of politics. Retire the blog. Just concentrate on your business. Make money.

But, then the brilliant minds at Cox- owners of the newspaper, a TV station they call “the leader” and a bunch of radio stations- decide to can 27 people in copy editing- and hand it over to some farm team. I’m the son of a copy editor- and know how important it is that the people editing the people reporting the news actually know the city, the people, the players and even the pronunciations of street names, and if it’s a council or a commission- and if the mayor can vote or not on an issue. I guess their buy-one-give-away-five subscription plan failed to boost eyeballs- like everything else they do- other than give us better quality content- meaningful content.

This Tuesday is the most important primary I think I can ever remember in my lifetime, and could be one of the most pivotal in our country’s history. In a country where less than half the people vote- and less than half of those vote in primaries, we let a very few people chart our course, while we all bitch about the outcomes.

I get pissed when I get an email from the Montgomery County Democratic Party, of which I’m a member and on the central committee- telling me to vote for Hillary. I don’t recall a vote at any meeting where we decided whom to endorse.

You should get pissed too when people tell you who to vote for. But, you should get even more pissed when people just don’t vote. To think Nan Whaley was elected by such a small proportion of our population- is testament to how screwed up our system has become.

Everything I’ve done with the close to 2,500 posts I’ve published here- is to try to make people think, to engage, to make them more aware of what, who, and why our city is where it is today. Tuesday, you can do your part to set a course for our country’s future.

And, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. But, for me- the only two candidates I’m sure of are Bernie Sanders and PG Sittenfeld. I just wish I had other choices in other races- and knew that I wasn’t going to be one of a small number of people setting the course of this next election.

And, while I can think of other things to do, instead of writing this blog- I can’t imagine living in a city where the only source of news and insight is coming from one place run by imbeciles.

Love or hate me, I am my father’s son. He, with the master’s degree in Political Science- and the knack for language, and the many years of reporting real news, and teaching his son the importance of checks and balances provided by the “fourth estate.” Today, the old man turned 89, and he’ll still find something to fix in this post after I finish.

Happy birthday pops.

The $20,000 house problem solution

Yes, you can buy a house for under $20,000 in Dayton. I bought three of them.

The problem is that our system isn’t set up for buying $20,000 homes. In fact, banks don’t want to give loans on them, insurance companies don’t want to insure them, and for the most part, people don’t want to live near them- for fear their “comps” will be brought down- devaluing their home.

And I’m talking about the homes that are habitable- not shells, waiting for demolition.

The city is backed up with a demolition list that will never get cleared. We’re spending an average of $11,000 to tear each one down- with no real return on that investment. It’s money down the drain.

In the meantime, we’re giving incentives to build new units to people like Sims Development, and Crawford Hoying, to build more housing. Desirable, “market rate” housing. The problem is- our population is stagnant and declining- not just Dayton proper, not just Montgomery County- but the entire state of Ohio. We’ve lost congressional seats because of it.

What happens when you add housing inventory when you have declining population? Simple rules of supply and demand apply- housing inventory loses value, market gets flooded. The other problem is that the inventory isn’t exactly lining up with the demand. Poverty isn’t decreasing- but the supply of low-income housing is decreasing as subsidies have been cut. Numbers of jobs that can afford to support a normal mortgage have decreased, young college-educated home buyers are already carrying significant college debt. If this sounds like the setup for another economic collapse based on a screwed up housing market, you’re paying attention.

A simple solution

Currently, one of the economic measurement tools that economists love to bandy about is “new home starts.” A strong construction market is considered a jobs stimulator, since the construction industry is still considered a low-tech, blue-collar employment engine- i.e., you don’t need a college degree or even a high school education in their minds to build homes. The reality is you don’t even have to be an American anymore to build homes- with immigrant labor owning the roofing, sheet rocking and masonry work forces for most building developments. That’s both illegal and legal immigrants by the way

What is missed is the effect on supply.

What Ohio should do is put a moratorium on new unit construction unless the state has an increase in population exceeding 2% annually. The only way to build new units, is to buy up and demolish old units with a ratio of one structure for every 2,500 square feet of new construction. The “structure” definition could be variable based on location- more on this later. While this would add approximately $10,000 to the cost of each normal sized new building, it decreases inventory and in the end helps drive up property values.

The worst homes would be demolished first, and the values of marginal homes would rise as new construction credits rise. This would help low-income people recapture some of the value sucked out of their neighborhoods by the foreclosure crisis. It would also stop government from diverting money for services to making empty lots.

Along with the demolition credits, the state could issue credits to rehabbers- for taking old buildings and renovating them- effectively incentivizing rehab. The credits for rehab- would be at double the rate of demolition- i.e., rehab 2,500 square feet, get to sell the equivalent credits of 5,000 square feet of new construction. Why this incentive? Because rehabbing old infrastructure and bringing it back online, doesn’t require government to run new water and sewer lines, nor does it require adding police patrol areas- or, even in the case of infill new construction that wouldn’t require these either- it doesn’t fill up a landfill with demolition debris. It also makes it more affordable for rehab which often has higher costs due to compliance with new construction code .

Incentives can be placed by changing the credit awards structure- with some neighborhoods getting double credits for demolition, and others, fractional credits. Same can go for rehab projects.

Even as population begins to grow- the credit system can be kept in place based on where you are building. Any place where new utilities or infrastructure is required- would continue to require trade credits- infill to existing developments, no. If your county isn’t growing in population, swaps will still be required.

This system is sort of in-place with Historic Tax Credits- but generally is only used on large-scale development. The idea of this new system is to force value back into the worst communities where developers haven’t gone because of the policies of banks and insurance companies.

Do you have a better idea?

The cost of stupid

There used to be a time when facts presented without empirical evidence weren’t called facts. Now, we’re inundated with unsubstantiated statements that are shared and talked about – without paying any attention to the source, validity, or even common sense.

It’s a world gone mad.

Or it’s just entropy on steroids.

The arguments against gun control in this country make no sense. People actually believe you are safer if everyone had a gun. Seriously.

People believe that our health care system is the best in the world, yet every other industrialized country with universal health care has better medical outcomes and longer life expectancy.

The costs of a college education have skyrocketed in the last 25 years, while a motivated individual with a computer and an internet connection can self teach almost anything. Pay for college graduates has stagnated or dropped.

We believe our “Democracy” and “Democratic system” to be the model of government- yet, it’s become clearly evident that “pay to play” is the de facto standard- and legislation is bought and sold like a commodity. I remember being taught about the inefficiencies of doing business in countries like Russia when bribes were the norm- as if that never happened here (and I believed that).

America still proudly proclaims itself the “land of the free” when facts say we imprison more of our population than anywhere else. Sure, we don’t run Gulags or Concentration Camps, but, why is it that our prisons are filled with poor minorities. Also, we seem to have a serious problem with killing people without judge or jury in the name of justice. Isn’t that what happens in third world banana republics? Not at Walmart in Beavercreek?

There was a time in history when insanely bright people were respected and consulted. Leaders were chosen for their integrity, intelligence, and track record. Now, it’s more like a popularity contest where your Q-score counts almost as much as your bankroll. Climate change scientists are routinely called heretics by people with zero scientific training.

Speaking of scores, we’ve been going round and round with what testing tool is appropriate to judge student achievement on something we now call the “common core.” There is a different educational strategy coming out daily. Hell, I even have one or two of my own. Yet, when you look at the evidence, one factor determines educational outcomes in the United States more than any other- poverty. Yet, fixing that one would require a shift in wealth distribution- and that just isn’t “the American way.” We continue with the fallacy that poor kids have a chance to make it in the NBA, or become a rapper- when the odds are way better that they get shot, imprisoned or become just another poor family.

When we talk about selecting our next president, we don’t even realize that the system doesn’t provide for a way for a single office holder to really change anything in our system- he needs a whole network of elected helpers to make things happen. So even if we elect Trump or Sanders- neither, will have the votes to make the changes they promise. The system was designed that way. It hasn’t changed, even with all the corrupting influences.

And of course, this post is full of unsubstantiated statements presented as facts- because, well, you know, the academic rigor it would take to find, evaluate and cite would take too long, and I’m intellectually lazy.

But, you know I’m right. Right?

Our future rests in the hands of people who believe that if they saw it on Facebook- it must be true.

The costs of ignorance are high. It affects us in so many different ways. Fundamentally, our democracy relies on an educated and informed electorate, yet we now know that’s been tossed out the window. What else is left?

More and more, George Orwell had it right in both “Animal Farm” and “1984”- and we’ve done nothing to stop it. Both of these books were required reading for me in high school. I wonder if they are still being taught- or only to rich kids?

When we look at the cost of incarceration, of social systems to support our underclass, of the checks and balances like Title IX or Equal Opportunity lending, or quotas and all the systems put in place to shore up a house of cards built on trust in government and our economy and our social structures- there is only one real investment that fixes so much of it- smarter constituents.

Only when we have an enlightened electorate will we see the change that makes sense, that is definable, substantiated, and effective. Fixing our education system has to be our first priority if we ever hope to tackle the rest.

 

 

 

Republicans making sense…

If you listen to the “debates” of those who want to be our president, you hear a lot of banter. You hear a lot of he said/she said. You hear things that are pulled out of their rear ends for shock and awe and front-page headlines. Very rarely, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, do you hear a case being presented for solutions that challenge the way we think or should think about issues.

I had a hard time accepting Arnold Schwarzenegger as a serious candidate for governor of California for all the wrong reasons. Just having a high Q-score should not a candidate make, but read this post he had on Facebook- and see if it makes sense to you. He reframes the discussion of renewable energy, dependence on fossil fuels in a way that even a moron should understand, and for that, he deserves a gold star.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change.

December 7 · Public I see your questions. Each and every time I post on my Facebook page or tweet about my crusade for a clean energy future, I see them. There are always a few of you, asking why we should care about the temperature rising, or questioning the science of climate change. I want you to know that I hear you. Even those of you who say renewable energy is a conspiracy. Even those who say climate change is a hoax.

Even those of you who use four letter words.
I’ve heard all of your questions, and now I have three questions for you.
Let’s put climate change aside for a minute. In fact, let’s assume you’re right.
First – do you believe it is acceptable that 7 million people die every year from pollution? That’s more than murders, suicides, and car accidents – combined.
Every day, 19,000 people die from pollution from fossil fuels. Do you accept those deaths? Do you accept that children all over the world have to grow up breathing with inhalers?
Now, my second question: do you believe coal and oil will be the fuels of the future?
Besides the fact that fossil fuels destroy our lungs, everyone agrees that eventually they will run out. What’s your plan then?
I, personally, want a plan. I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.
A clean energy future is a wise investment, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either wrong, or lying. Either way, I wouldn’t take their investment advice.
Renewable energy is great for the economy, and you don’t have to take my word for it. California has some of the most revolutionary environmental laws in the United States, we get 40% of our power from renewables, and we are 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. We were an early-adopter of a clean energy future.
Our economy has not suffered. In fact, our economy in California is growing faster than the U.S. economy. We lead the nation in manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, entertainment, high tech, biotech, and, of course, green tech.
I have a final question, and it will take some imagination.
There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.
I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.
I’m guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice – who would ever want to breathe those fumes?
This is the choice the world is making right now.
To use one of the four-letter words all of you commenters love, I don’t give a damn if you believe in climate change. I couldn’t care less if you’re concerned about temperatures rising or melting glaciers. It doesn’t matter to me which of us is right about the science.
I just hope that you’ll join me in opening Door Number Two, to a smarter, cleaner, healthier, more profitable energy future.

Source: I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change.

I got the lead on this from subscribing to Seth Godin’s blog. I find it a nice daily reminder that there are other intelligent people out there questioning the status quo.

Now, does my “Walk to work tax credit” sound sensible to you?

 

An outsider’s prescription for Dayton

Infrastructure

The ignored secret behind successful organizations (and nations) is infrastructure. Not the content of what’s happening, but the things that allow that content to turn into something productive.

Here are some elements worth considering:

  • Transportation: Ideas and stuff have to move around. The more quickly, efficiently and safely, the better. This is not just roads, but wifi, community centers and even trade shows. Getting things, people and ideas from one place to another, safely and on time is essential to what we seek to build.
  • Expectation: When people wake up in the morning expecting good things to happen, believing that things are possible, open to new ideas–those beliefs become self-fulfilling. We expect that it’s possible to travel somewhere safely, and we expect that speaking up about a new idea won’t lead us to get fired. People in trauma can’t learn or leap or produce very much.
  • Education: When we are surrounded by people who are skilled, smart and confident, far more gets done. When we learn something new, our productivity goes up.
  • Civility: Not just table manners, but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion. Clean air, not just to breathe, but to speak in.

Infrastructure and culture overlap in a thousand ways.

At the organizational level, then, it’s possible to invest in a workplace where things work, where the tools are at hand, where meetings don’t paralyze progress, where decisions get made when they need to get made (and where they don’t get undone).

It’s possible to build a workplace where people expect good things, from their leaders and their peers and the market. Where we expect to be heard when we have something to say, and expect that with hard work, we can make a difference.

It’s possible to invest in hiring people who are educated (not merely good grades, but good intent) and to keep those people trained and up to speed.

And it’s essential for that workplace to be one where the rule of law prevails, where people are treated with dignity and respect and where short term urgency is never used as a chance to declare martial law and abandon the principles that built the organization in the first place.

Yes, I believe the same is true for nation states. It’s not sexy to talk about building or maintaining an infrastructure, but just try to change the world without one.

Here’s something that’s unavoidably true: Investing in infrastructure always pays off. Always. Not just most of the time, but every single time. Sometimes the payoff takes longer than we’d like, sometimes there may be more efficient ways to get the same result, but every time we spend time and money on the four things, we’re surprised at how much of a difference it makes.It’s also worth noting that for organizations and countries, infrastructure investments are most effective when they are centralized and consistent. Bootstrapping is a great concept, but it works best when we’re in an environment that encourages it.

The biggest difference between 2015 and 1915 aren’t the ideas we have or the humans around us. It’s the technology, the civilization and the expectations in our infrastructure. Where you’re born has more to do with your future than just about anything else, and that’s because of infrastructure.

When we invest (and it’s expensive) in all four of these elements, things get better. It’s easy to take them for granted, which is why visiting an organization or nation that doesn’t have them is such a powerful wake up call.

Source: Seth’s Blog: Infrastructure

As I sat stuck in a traffic jam yesterday reaching from Downtown to Moraine, on I-75 N at 4:30 pm, I thought about who was the idiot who has I75, Main St, Warren Street- all covered with orange barrels at the same time? Who wasn’t working proactively, right then- to not just clear the blockage- but, trying to re-route as much traffic onto alternative roadways, and also- how did we allow the I-75 downtown reconstruction to shut down all the exits to downtown for so long…

But, then I realized the answer is nobody, because we don’t have leadership with the vision to see the implications of our pettiness, because it’s all we know. We have, and have had, leadership for so long that’s arrogant, unresponsive, and hell bent on their political future more than our regions. And then this piece comes out from Seth Godin this morning.

What started me on my political highway of failure at the hands of an uninformed and underinformed voter base, is summed up in Seth’s fourth point- Civility.

After crossing the gods of garage door appropriateness,  I went for help from my elected leaders with the asinine notion that they would listen and help.

Seth: “but an environment without bullying, without bribery, without coercion.”

When I went to the City Commission out of frustration about garbage collectors working 30 hours, getting paid for 56- and got shut down- and then the Commission had a secret, illegal meeting to discuss ways to block citizens from speaking at City Commission meetings- I expected a groundswell of support as I brought this issue to the forefront. Instead, I was arrested, mocked, and locked into a prolonged legal battle when all the resources were stacked in their corner.

Seth: “we expect that speaking up about a new idea won’t lead us to get fired.”

Our City (Dayton – the location on the map, not the one divvied by political fiefdoms that battle constantly) would do well to look at Seth’s list of four simple elements of “infrastructure” to learn how to put things back into order.

It’s not about highways and civil engineering – it’s about civility.

It’s not about big ideas- it’s about being free to express them, without fear.

It’s not about education- it’s about the values we place on it.

And lastly, it’s not really about infrastructure as much as it is about values we hold sacred.

For the benefit of all of us, not just the inner cabal of the  Monarchy of Montgomery County.

Thank you Seth Godin.

 

 

Bernie Sanders will change American politics

It’s July 29, 2015, in Ohio. Our primary isn’t until March 15, 2016 – and there were close to 100 people gathered in a union hall to hear Bernie Sanders give his “grassroots organizing kickoff” speech.

No slick camera work. His podium- a music stand. No teleprompter- just his notes on a yellow legal pad. The backdrop- a bunch of Bernie signs taped to a wall behind him. If I could find the link- I’d post it, but it’s not up yet.

As unpolished as it gets. And that, of course is the point.

His speech was about 10 minutes. Take out his repeating of the words “enough is enough” and you get it down to under 8 minutes. And not a word about himself. None of his personal experiences, or story telling- just straight facts.

  • Banks that are too big to fail are too big to be around.
  • He’ll name Supreme Court justices who will bring the end to “Citizens United.”
  • Sandra Bland shouldn’t have died for a traffic violation- (never mind the travesty of Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati) and we have to end institutionalized racism.
  • A path to citizenship.
  • No hiding of corporate profits by U.S. corporations.
  • Free public college for all.
  • End the state of incarceration.
  • Single payer healthcare for all.
  • Double the minimum wage so that a 40-hour workweek can actually keep you out of poverty.

There may have been a few more- but, this is the same message he’s been sharing for the last 30 plus years.

When did we mix up the idea of looking and sounding good is more important than good thinking in this country? When did we stop electing people based on their ideas instead of their fundraising or telepresence? Some say it goes back to the first big TV debate when JFK beat Nixon by wearing makeup and not looking like he needed a shave.

Bernie can’t win say all the pundits- mostly because he doesn’t give them the fodder or the money that other candidates do. Had this been Hilary’s kickoff- she would have dropped a few hundred thousand just on “production values” instead of on our values as Americans.

She lost Iowa 8 years ago to a black guy with a Muslim name. She won’t win in New Hampshire this year. The only people she’s fooling are the people who give her the money that she wastes on looking good instead of just being the voice of the people. Bernie has that job locked up.

Now all you have to do is listen- and spread the word. This is a fresh change of circumstances for American politics and the American people. Get ready for a change that you will actually be a part of, instead of just believing in.

 

How Bernie Sanders could contribute to changing political campaigns

When the Green Party wanted to take over Canada in 2005, they put a lot of money and work into an open source software project, CiviCRM, which was built for managing voter data and running a data based campaign.

CiviCRM manages donations, communications, building walk lists, organizing events, tracking voter preferences and more. It also can be used to do case management for non-profits, or even run a School District’s student information system.

The Canadian Greens were working with an early version of Civi, and developed some very useful tools like the canvassing/walklist generator. Unfortunately, after the Greens took office, they never updated or upgraded their system to match the development of Civi. 10 years in software is like the technology changes of 50 years in cars and airplanes.

The CiviCRM project is still going strong, doing all kinds of good things for non-profits and small money politics. If Bernie Sanders truly believes in leveling the playing field, and making running for office more affordable for all, he would take some of his $15 million war chest- and put it toward two critical upgrades that need to happen to Civi- or even fork it-

  • A responsive backend interface
  • A mobile device integration for canvassing/data collection.

The cost to do this would be less than half a million, and could even include some needed UI improvements.

If he really wanted to transform politics, he’d build the ultimate database of every registered voter, with their voter history- which is already in the public domain- and geo-code every household and allow voters to opt-in to political email to help cut the costs involved in reaching them. If the database was really slick, it would also contain a list of every office you vote for based on your location/ward/precinct/district- and who is in it- complete with your local polling location and process for absentee vote baked in. Right now- it’s almost impossible for most voters to find that stuff out- and it could be improved by also putting the job description, salary and instructions on how to file and run in one centralized place.

The Obama machine built a system capable of running campaigns, but, despite promises of “Hope” and “Change” they kept their data to themselves- and the tools that make it possible to elect other progressive candidates. Each new candidate has to either buy into expensive proprietary systems from private companies like NGPVan, VoterVault (now GOP DataCenter), NationBuilder etc- or start from scratch.

Here’s a video by NGP Van to explain what these systems do:

Democratizing the tools/weapons of politics would be a giant start in the right direction. The amount of money to bring these tools online- from data importing, geocoding, and phone/email matching is an insane waste of money, and it’s done every cycle for every contested office.

Watching locals trying to organize without a handbook, a tool box and the data management tools needed to run a modern campaign is sad. Not giving them the keys to get a campaign running ahead of your own campaign is a tactical mistake, because enthusiasm can’t be put on hold, until you are ready- it’s gotta be there for when the voters are ready.

It’s time someone put their money where their mouth is in reforming our election process. Improving CiviCRM would help every small candidate be able to compete.