Monday, August 31, 2009

ISSUES FIRST Campaign-Action alerts-8/31


The Issues First campaign rolls on as we continue our efforts to inject something new into the 2009 special election race for Mayor, the ISSUES. Tomorrow on CHANNEL 3 LIVE AT NINE we will join with Rev. Rebekah Jordan Gienapp of the Worker's Interfaith Network to talk about the serious issue of wage theft right here in the city of Memphis. Rev Jordan and WIN have done amazing work on this issue and Issues First is proud to stand in support of increasing cooperation from Law Enforcement in preventing and fighting cases of Wage theft against the workers of the Memphis community. As such Wage theft is a plank within our PEOPLE'S AGENDA, a platform of issues centering around four of the main underlying problems within Memphis today. POVERTY,PUBLIC HEALTH,JOBS,CRIME AND VIOLENCE

This week our campaign will officially kickoff with a press conference at the corner of Cynthia and Pontotoc near the downtown area. This vacant lot near Vance Middle School and residential areas has lead soil ratings as high as 1760ppm. That level of contamination is considered high by the federal EPA standard where 300-400ppm is considered the high end threshold for areas where children play. As of today we have learned of another vacant lot just around the corner on Laurderdale that also has Lead soil rates as high as 1200ppm in it's soil as well.
The sad fact is that a great many of our neighborhoods in lower income areas of the city have a host of environmental problems that need to be addressed. Lead poisoning causes neurological disorders, as well as learning disabilities in children, in fact some studies show causal links between long term lead exposure and criminal behavior.
We are asking the community and the candidates to join us and make a public commitment to addressing the dangerous situation of Lead contamination in our community.

So join us Thursday Sept 3rd at 2pm at the corner of Pontotoc and Vance to support the rights of all Memphians to live in communities free of trash, blight and toxic environments.

This Weekend ISSUES FIRST registering new voters and passing out campaign materials at the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival and the WLOK Stone Soul Picnic.If you would like to volunteer and join us in this campaign to focus the conversation on the issues, please feel free to contact me at any time.


Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center

Friday, August 28, 2009

Feel Good Friday.....Post debate jam

This about sums up my two cents on the issue...except for my disappointment that Mongo, of all people was the only candidate to speak about Homelessness.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No more College Republicans at the University of Memphis...

New College Democrats President Fred Day informed me today that the College Republicans no longer exist as an RSO (Registered Student Organization) at the University of Memphis.

Apparently there didn't seem to be any interest...

Monday, August 24, 2009

ISSUES FIRST-Mayoral Candidates forum, Call to action.


The surprise resignation of W.W. Herenton shocked the Memphis community and set in motion a series of events leading to the upcoming special election on October 15th. On this day the people of Memphis will go to the polls and choose a new Mayor to lead this city into an uncertain future. Currently there are over a dozen declared and potential candidates for office, and yet so far this process has been devoid of a serious conversation about the issues,with only three of the current candidates having platforms explaining their vision for how they seek to move this community, YOUR COMMUNITY forward.

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center wants to know...have you had enough?...aren't you sick of it? Do you want the Candidates in this race to stop the name calling and the hollow rhetoric and focus on the ISSUES? It's not impossible, it's not a dream, it can happen, but it's up to you. The Peace and Justice Center is calling on Memphians from all walks of life to join us in our campaign called ISSUES FIRST. Our Campaign is founded and dedicated to focusing the attention of the public, the media, and most of all the candidates on what's really important, the issues and challenges that the people of this city live with day to day.

The fact is, in an off year election, and with such a crowded field of candidates, your vote is more valuable, more powerful, more desirable than in any other local election within a generation. That means you have the power to make this election a positive conversation about solutions to our many challenges from Poverty, to Public Health, from Jobs to Crime and Violence, these are the issues that our community grapples with everyday and we want the candidates to join with us in a pledge to make these issues a priority in their administrations if elected.

Here's where you come in, this Thursday August 27th, Action News 5, the Main Street Journal, Opera Memphis, and the League of Women Voters are hosting a SPECIAL ELECTION DEBATE, and we'd like YOU to attend to stand up and send a message to all the candidates that we urge them to stick to the issues. We are asking that you join us at Opera Memphis ,6745 Wolf River Parkway at 6pm and bring your friends family and neighbors, outside this event from 6pm-7pm at the corner of Kirby and Humphreys. to greet the candidates as they arrive.

We will be providing some signs, but please feel free to make your own with ISSUES FIRST at the top, with the particular issue that matters most to you underneath from any of the issues in our platform, "MATA REFORM, WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, HOMELESSNESS, PUBLIC HEALTH,IMPROVED CODE ENFORCEMENT,WAGE THEFT,LEAD ABATEMENT,URBAN BLIGHT, NUTRITIONAL POVERTY.JUVENILE CRIME and SEXUAL ASSAULT."

Please Watch this space for more information on the ISSUES FIRST CAMPAIGN and Campaign events. It's your city, join us as we try to ensure that this process focuses in on the issues that affect all of our communities.

Event-Mayoral Debate
Date Thursday August 27th
Location-outside of Opera Memphis, at the corner of Kirby Parkway and Humphreys*

*NOTE Please let's not block the entrance to the event, and stay on the sidewalks nearby. Let's also conduct ourselves in a calm and polite manner.

Please feel free to contact me at any time about joining our efforts

Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

County Commissioner Mike Carpenter's Reply on the issue of Metro Consolidation.

My thanks to County Commissioner Mike Carpenter for sharing his thoughts about this process. Commission Carpenter has shown himself to be a open and accessible elected official, and I appreciate him adding these thoughts to the discussion.

Subject: Metro Govt


Read your post and wanted to respond to you directly. You are welcome to post this response or keep it between us.

You have some valid points about the inherent dangers of an appointed versus elected charter commission. When asked my opinion, I urged Mayor Wharton to go the route of appointed. For clarification, I am sure he asked others their opinion as well.

My reasoning is that even as important as this issue is, an election for charter commission members would be extremely low turnout. The chances of a diverse group of individuals would be lessened in my view and I don't just mean racially diverse, but from various walks of life and segments of our community. Secondly, in theory, a county-wide election could net more anti-merger folks or even a disproportionate number of suburban Shelby county residents. I believe the odds for the most representative group are better with appointed.

To their credit, Mayor Wharton and Commissioner Malone asked for recommendations from Commissioners. I submitted six names that included liberals, conservatives, business people and activists, city dwellers and suburbanites. Besides diversity, my criteria was "good thinkers" -- not necessarily people who agree with me, but people who can think creatively and see what impact their decisions will have beyond the here and now. There is no guarantee any of my recommendations will make the list, but I will judge the "slate" on the same criteria I used to recommend.

To answer a couple of your questions, Mayor Wharton can appoint his 10 from anywhere in Shelby County. They don't have to be only city or county residents or in any particular proportion. Based on the fact that 10 of 13 Commissioners represent majority City districts, I am comfortable he won't bring a slate that is weighted too much toward suburban Shelby County. On the other hand, too much weight for Memphis will doom passage in the County. Also, the Commission may reject any or all appointments at which point the mayor would bring a new nominee(s) to the Commission. Yes, there is the possibility of some wheeling and dealing on some nominees, but not all. Ultimately, if the charter commission does a bad job the voters have the final say. Also, under the resolution the maximum expenditure for the charter commission is $50,000 versus the cost of a special election countywide.

Those are my thoughts. Let me know if you need any clarification or other information. Thanks for all you do.

Mike Carpenter

Don't say that I did not warn you....Pt2

UPDATE-Ross is back with with other thoughts as well. Check him out..Here

Continuing our discussion about some potential challenges for City County consolidation,there was another article in today's Commercial Appeal that highlights other concerns over this current plan. Once again while I am a supporter of City County consolidation I have some serious concerns over the process and am worried that knee jerk reactions on both sides of this issue will cloud the public's judgment and potentially lead to reasonable concerns being dismissed as somehow dilatory.

If you will please take a moment to check out the CA's article in tuesday's paper right Here

Now the article brings up a good point about questioning if the Council or Commission will have the ability to block any appointment, and while I am sure Mayors Wharton and Lowery will both make sincere and good faith efforts to select consensus candidates, I dunno,admittedly an appointed board just rubs me the wrong way....

Secondly, there is the issues of why an appointed board at all? According to State law, there is an option for the proposed Metro Commission to be elected by the voters just as the Memphis Charter Commission was back in 2006.
Now I know and fully understand that due to the expense of a special election it might have been decided to go another route, but on an issue this important, maybe it's worth the money. Otherwise the finished document might not have as much legitimacy with the public, if there is a perception, "fair or unfair, true or false" of anykind of behind the scenes dealmaking. This is an open door for those opponents of consolidation who do not have reasonable concerns.

I urge everyone to monitor this process to ensure that if such a body is created in this manner that it is a body made up of a diverse group of sincere individuals,who's first priority is serving the process and the interests of all county residents.

I also have concerns about the Ten appointed County members of this commission in regards to residency, in other words, must all ten of those Commissioners be County-"non City" residents?
I'm checking into that.If that's true, then this is a major problem. Still not sure if this is the case.

The Election option calls for a ten member body elected at Large countywide,with the top ten candidates being elected to be on the Commission.
This method, warts and all would be more representative of the residents of Shelby County.
However, i'll have to double check as there was a legal challenge to this back during the Memphis Charter Commission elections in 2006, if memory serves in the end those members were elected at large, in the creative manner of representing districts, while being elected at-large. In other words, you had to win your district AND make Top ten.

The bottomline here is that consolidation of government also would have the effect of consolidation of political power as well. That process needs to be carefully and thoughtfully navigated otherwise you'll have a process that is doomed to either end in failure, or succeed in tightening the grip of special interest in our Government, and altering the political landscape in some negative ways.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Don't say that I did not warn you....

UPDATE-Check out Ross post for more info. Legitimate Concerns

Today I attended the City Council's Personnel, Intergovernmental & Annexation Committee meeting just about an hour ago. One of the issues discussed was a motion to approve the creation of a NEW charter commission to begin the creation of a Metro Charter for approval of the voters in 2010. The Commercial appeal wrote a good piece about this which you can read HERE
Original Post

Now you may be thinking, "Gee Brad, what's the big deal here?...don't you want consolidation?" Well my answer to that is,"What kind of consolidation are we talking about?" I am very concerned about this for a variety of reasons,some of which I described earlier this year in other posts. Here is bit from my post back in January of this year.

Now consider that in a Consolidated Government, all the old rules no longer apply, as County/City Term limits,the Ethics amendment and all of the New City and County Charter amendments will be basically null and void.In fact as the County has partisan primaries, then that alone would effectively neuter Instant Runoff Voting from the proverbial "Get Go". So the question is, will these same amendments be added into the new Metro charter, and if so, what would be the procedure for creating this document? Who would be on the inside of that issue, and most importantly, would this be an open process and would the public be allowed to have input?....more likely arguments like this one will be boiled down into, "If your not for this proposed Metro Charter, then you are against consolidation!" The same Either/Or type thinking that the establishment always uses to stifle debate, no matter how reasonable. Don't fall for it Democrats...or Republicans for that matter.

There are some other issues potentially at stake here. For one , I am not a Lawyer, but I have concerns if an appointed Charter Commission is even legal according to home rule amendments of the State Constitution. Which details the manner in which a Charter Commission is elected. Can the Council and Commission and both Mayors appoint such a body.
I honestly can't say for sure if the can or cannot.

Also Section 9 is vague on when the term of a Charter Commission ends, so it's possible that this may face a challenge from the already existing Memphis Charter Commission, elected by the residents of Memphis back in 2006, which placed 6 of the ten amendments on the 08 ballot. Technically this body officially ceased to exist on Dec 31st of 2008. This body is still tasked with some incomplete minor Charter "clean up" which amounts to modernizing Charter language and some content rearrangement.
In fairness, this body has not met in a long time, but according to Charter Commissioners Sylvia Cox, and Janice Fullilove, they still have some minor details to complete. I also am concerned that with an appointed Commission that the time line for this body to work will be so short that you end up with a document that will not be fully explained and presented to the public.

I plan to keep an eye on this and encourage everyone to maintain awareness on this too.

I leave you with some friendly advice from my previous post on the subject.

One thing that needs to be considered carefully by us all is that Consolidation is not simply an issue of governance, but also of personal and ideological political agendas. Consider this,we are currently in a rare "Opening Window" of political opportunity here in Shelby County. Indictments, term limits and retirement have created a vacuum that has and is being filled as elected officials "move up the ladder" of political office, and a slew of newcomers are entering public life. Now, in a consolidation scenario, you have a challenge here. By consolidating government you decrease the number of political offices that current aspirants can advance to.This combined with County and now City Term Limits forces out a number of the old guard without leaving them a spot to move upward too. Mark my words local Democrats, this will be a matter of extreme importance to you in the next two years.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Cohen Town hall meeting tomorrow! and a note about possible disruptors

I do hope that every one of you who can will attend the Cohen town hall meeting on Health Care Reform at Bridges is at 477 N Fifth St.--corner of 5th and Auction at 10am-noon. There will also be a pre event meeting at the Edge Coffee shop at 394 Watkins, Memphis TN St. (Corner of Watkins and Overton Park) at 9 am.
I also want to ask for your help in assisting to prevent any incidents with "disruptor" tea bag protesters, many of which are not even from District nine. Please read below and pass this advice on to others who will be in attendance.The important thing is do not allow yourself to be baited, and be sure to take up the role of peace maker to avoid any counterproductive confrontations, between your friends, and the possible disruptors.

Brad Watkins
Organizing Coordinator
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center

1. 1. Do not debate on their "policy" points. Remember, they are seeking a platform to distort the truth about reform by making health care about abortion, rationing, euthanasia, etc. Rather than try to reply with the truth (which won't move them anyway) we should respond with our message and at every turn re-focus the agenda on communicating with the Member of Congress.

2. Interrupt them when they get disruptive and refocus the meeting: Line up a number of people who feel comfortable interrupting and prepare them with statements like:
* "Excuse me, I came today to listen to Representative XXX explain how this bill is going to make health care more affordable for me and my family. We're being gouged by insurance companies that just want to make more profits while we struggle to keep up with premiums and co-pays. Representative, how are you going to fix that?"

* "I'm retired and can't afford my prescription drugs because I'm on a fixed income. Representative, how is this bill going to affect me?"

* I want to hear the Representative speak. He's the one voting on the bill. Representative, how will this bill help people who already have insurance at work?"

* "What I'm worried about is how we're going to keep the insurance companies from continuing to charge people more for being sick and keep them from taking away coverage when we need it most. What's the plan for that?"

3. Don't get into a shouting match with them. Instead, prep people on our side to keep raising the questions that we want answered. Repetition is the key. We need to arm our side with questions that play to the strength of our message and make sure we keep bringing them up over and over so that the press recognizes those central themes. We should also phrase those questions strategically to help move the message.
* "Over the last XX years, insurance company profits have risen XXX %; in this bill you would regulate insurance companies so that they can no longer deny people with pre-existing conditions and would have to play by fair rules. Isn't that right, Representative XX?"

* "Isn't it true that this bill would guarantee everyone a choice of public health insurance option that will lower cost overall in the system?"

4. Address the MOC directly with a positive message: Remember, these Members need cover and they are getting beaten up by right wing zealots in these meetings. We want to let the Member know that we appreciate his efforts to hear constituents and that we, the majority, agree with him.

5. We should demonstrate that we are the majority by chanting: When the other side gets too loud, we should shut them down with chants that counter their message like "Health Care Can't Wait!" and "Health Care Delayed is Health Care Denied" and prep people to chant at key points when the other side gets most disruptive.

6. Follow up with the Member one-on-one: This experience may have been trying for your MOC. Make sure that you thank him and that you let him know that the majority is with him. He needs to know that we will provide cover and support him at every turn for his leadership on this issue.