Tuesday, August 18, 2015

some ideas to make Chicago more progressive

Email from United Working Families yesterday:
Just a reminder that tomorrow is the North West Regional Meeting for United Working Families at 6:00pm at 1184 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL.

Please join the United Working Families and our partners and allies, including GIA Humboldt Park and One Two Punch, at the upcoming regional North West regional meeting tomorrow!

At the North West meeting we will be sharing exciting updates about our collective work both in the region and across the city. We will also help build UWF's platform to reflect our values and those of our neighbors across the city and state.This will be the working families' platform!

Come and help build an organization to hold our representatives accountable to the issues that matter to you and your neighbors.
I'm out of town, so I won't be able to participate. But I written some ideas for what should be part of the progressive agenda.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

a grassroots driven think tank based on NDFA model...

For a long time, I have been dissatisfied by US democracy.

Why can't regular citizens play a bigger role in writing legislation (and laws) without going through lobbyists & advocacy organizations?

I'm also a huge fan of the NDFA model of having the decision-making process of organization be driven by people who attend at least three meetings per year and do three volunteer activities.

What if there was a citizen think-tank that worked like NDFA?

There would be an agreement between members of the organization and members of the legislative body that would exchange:
  • Members of the organization would work on the re-election campaigns of the incumbents
  • The legislators would sponsor bills/ordinances that members of the group thought were good ideas

A member of the think tank has an idea on Issue X than s/he considers good public policy. S/he writes it and makes a presentation to the members of the think tank. If the idea is among the most popular, the think tank approves it and sends it to the legislators.

One of the legislators in the body (who was part of the agreement) would take lead. The other legislators who were part of the agreement would be expected to support the proposals emerging from the process. If they don't the think tank can withhold support at election time.

One reason this might be appealing to legislators is that they generally don't have enough staff to write bills. They often depend on the committee staff to write legislation. This means that it's hard to initiate legislation that doesn't have support of committee/part leadership.


Northside DFA: organizational responsibilities vs. winning elections

Yesterday at the annual Voting Member Retreat, there seemed to be some people who wanted to increase Northside DFA's winning percentage. The most grandiose version of this was suggesting if NDFA had done more then maybe Pat Quinn would have defeated Bruce Rauner or Chuy Garcia might have beaten Rahm Emanuel.

Northside DFA is responsible for recruiting new members* and getting members to volunteer on campaigns.

Candidates & campaign staff are responsible for winning. Deb Shore got her first endorsement from NDFA, but there were a whole bunch of things that contributed to her being elected that had nothing to do with NDFA. That sentence works just as well if you replace Deb Shore with John Arena or Will Guzzardi.

To use a metaphor from a movie (28 Days), Viggo Mortensen plays an alcoholic baseball pitcher in rehab with Sandra Bullock. He explains that pitching is about the mechanics of throwing a ball. Once the ball has left the pitcher's hand it's going where it's going. The pitcher can adjust things he controls. But there's a discipline to not being overly or inappropriately emotionally invested in results of things that have already happened or that can't be controlled.

NDFA has influence on how many people attend meetings and how many members volunteer. NDFA doesn't have enough control over whether individual campaigns win to make that a sensible metric for NDFA to evaluate the organization's performance.

When I was on a national PAC, Campaign for UN Reform PAC, I observed, it's easy to pick winners. How to pick winners?
  • endorse incumbents that are safe
  • endorse candidates with large warchests
  • wait until late in the cycle to make endorsements, eg Ameya Pawar
  • empower pragmatic people to veto endorsements of more ideological people
But, if your group or PAC seeks to move the discourse on issues, all these things are counterproductive.

I'll finish this blog entry with an idea from Rep. Jaime Andrade. Andrade said he got the following advice from a seasoned politician.
If you can't take their money and drink with them one day and then vote against them the next day, you shouldn't be in this business.
Here's the Carl Nyberg version:
If you can't deal emotionally with your endorsed candidate losing, stay away from electoral politics.

Friday, August 7, 2015

NDFA proposal: Issues Committee

Title: Issues Committee

Summary: To create a committee to deal with issues, especially issues pertaining to elections.

  • Cause NDFA to win more elections (or higher %)
  • To empower NDFA voting members
  • To improve NDFA's working relationship w/ other groups 
  • To keep NDFA members happy. 

NDFA proposal: Plans Committee

Title: Plans Committee

Summary: This committee would be responsible for the annual plan & planning for the future.

  • Improve Voting Member Retreats
  • Cause NDFA to be administered better 

NDFA proposal: Member involvement committee

Title: Member involvement committee

Summary: Create a committee that has a mission of recruiting NDFA members to be active on committees; has a goal of having at least three members on committees; provides support to committee chairs.

  • Cause NDFA to be administered better
  • To empower NDFA voting members
  • Will strengthen committees to accomplish more, plus NDFA members who are active on committees will have more sense of ownership. 

NDFA proposal: Chicago DFA, NDFA & SSDFA spin-off, an umbrella organization intended to support existing chapters...

This was submitted late in response to proposals titled Chicago DFA & splitting NDFA into Chicago DFA plus NDFA.

I propose working with SSDFA (and others) to form an umbrella organization to build our collective resources.  Basically reforging the national DFA model into a regional organization that is responsive to the local chapters.


NDFA & SSDFA spin-off, an umbrella organization intended to support existing chapters, cultivate new ones, and build the progressive grassroots in Chicago.

  • Volunteer board/steering committee has representatives from all regional DFA chapters
  • Will raise money to support programs
  • Does not make independent candidate endorsements
  • Cultivate DFA chapters in Chicago
  • Grow the collective volunteer base
  • Train the next generation of leaders
  • Increase the impact DFA has in Chicago