Monday, October 17, 2011

Farheen Hakeem and the 99%

Hilarious and pathetic defines last Sunday's Star Tribune Op-Ed section. Except this time Jason Lewis was telling it like it is and Lori Sturdevant was spinning partisan lies. Then again, they alternate between their opposing roles. Both enjoy leaving out vital information that might actually serve to inform voters - what the media is meant to do.

Without mentioning Farheen Hakeem, Sturdevant attempted to paint Hayden as the savior of Minnesota. The one politician who will channel the Occupy Wall Street movement into Minnesotan politics. The one person who can save the day when people clearly have given up hope.

Hayden says in the article, "You don't hear any longer about good governance or negotiating or 'try to get along. People are very fed up. They see the Tea Partiers as obstructionists, and they want us [DFLers] to be tougher on them. ... These people see their community starting to erode, and they want to fight for it." So what has he been doing the last few years? Obviously constituents expect more than a politician who toes the party line and refuses to push new and creative agendas.

I got a call today from a DFL activist. She said that I should vote for Hayden because he is a "true progressive champion." Pondering the article I had read only yesterday, I asked her what his stance was on Occupy Minnesota. She knew about the occupation but didn't know his stance. She then stammered "I don't really know him or what he stands for. Check his website for more information." Asking her if she even lived in Minneapolis, she replied that she lived in northern Minnesota. Partisans without a cause are not the type of leadership people look up to.

For a progressive champion, I would expect the DFL candidate to actually BE at Occupy Minnesota. Except, he wasn't. His opponent Farheen Hakeem was there. She spoke at the opening day rally about the need for real political change.

Fortunately, I saw one individual there who was wearing a Hayden shirt several days into the occupation. I pointed this out to some of the individuals I had been chatting with. "He's a pretty sorry representative" was the response with nods of agreement. These were not fellow Greens, but individuals who were hyper aware of politics. They see through the DFL-speak,  where a "true progressive champion" doesn't really mean anything.

So, with all the anger people have these days against injustice, do we really want to vote for another corporate shill? A guy who keep taking money during a government shut down? Or do we want to vote for someone who proposes economic and environmental policies that would benefit the 99%? Only Farheen has relentlessly brought up that we need to tax the rich to resolve systemic inequities. She would advocate for her constituents while spearheading a new agenda that Minnesotans have long awaited. Minneapolis voters can choose more of the same OR vote against the 1% by electing Farheen Hakeem.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Democratsy is Failing but Opportunity for Real Change Exists

"The people who are controlling our economy, are controlling our democracy," says Dan McGrath of Take Action Minnesota. Those with money are clearly the ones with power in our society. Unfortunately, McGrath did not elaborate on the DFL endorsement process -  or his organization's. The conversations not occurring and the lack of shared power with the average person says a lot about ruling class perceptions.

We have two special elections in Minnesota. One is in south Minneapolis and the other in Brooklyn Center. While the media has given these races some attention, there is still little discussion of them. What I find disturbing is that the DFL executive committee has overruled their local parties from endorsing, deciding themselves who is best fit for the state senate. Some within the DFL, who were unable to vote on endorsement, thought the process was fair if unusual.  Others were quite appalled at being a delegate or precinct chair without a say.

Take Action Minnesota has decided to take a similar stance. On Thursday, September 8th they choose to endorse only one candidate in the senate district 61 race. None of the other candidates were invited to screen or compete against him in their endorsement. If this is not a flawed process, I do not know what one is.

 Most of my friends and neighbors in the district aren't hearing much. Yet, they don't seem enthused about the DFL primary, either. The election is this Tuesday and there is complete silence. Okay, I know a few people who support candidate X or candidate Y. A concerted campaign by anyone is what I have not seen. In the blogosphere, there is only one post from the SD61 DFL chair. This scenario bodes well for either the candidate with the best name recognition and/or who can mobilize the most voters to show up. I expect extremely low turnout, perhaps 1800 voters.

I could be wrong, as residents could be mobilized to vote. Senate District 61 is in one of the economically impoverished parts of the state. Minnesotans for a Fair Economy door-knocked here earlier this summer, with fantastic results. The organization wants to mobilize the working-class and unemployed to change our political system as the Tea Party folk have. With a long-term weak recovery followed by another potential recession, there is no better group of people to get involved in politics.

Minnesotans for a Fair Economy has a goal of rectifying the unfair economic system we find ourselves in. They have been quite honest about the predicament we are in. However, if someone is inspired to run for office after attending their events - would this group support them? Donna Cassutt is their executive director but has also spent time as the DFL associate chair from 2005 until early this year. Likely their real motive is to inspire a Tea Party movement of the left and funnel solely into the DFL. If they get involved in the primary or general special election, they will only do so for the DFL endorsed candidate.

So those who are without a job or are struggling, can they trust a corrupt political system? Sure, they can run for office. However, it's not what they know but who they know that will get them institutional support. Also, these very same voters have no idea how they have been continually robbed the opportunity to hear about other candidates.

Am I the only one who find this situation disturbing? If local party delegates and even political candidates themselves are stifled, can we still call our partisan democracy functional? Or do we call it efficient and open to those with wealth and social connections. If what Dan McGrath says is true, then closed door groups of Democrats and Republicans decide our politicians and control our economy.

Our state government shut down this summer to the detriment of everyone. Our Federal government also faced a near collapse. Democrats and Republicans continue to play partisan games while families can barely make it pay check to pay check. They blame each other while continuing to do nothing to change our country's direction.

Things could be different... 

The sad predicament we find ourselves in need not be so. I attended an endorsement today that did not shut its doors to non-executive committee members. The Senate District 61 Green Party endorsed Farheen Hakeem for Minnesota Senate. She has raised over $10,000 and will be mounting a campaign over the coming weeks to change the direction of our state.

Minneapolis voters who want a progressive champion at the capitol need look no further than Farheen. She will be a fighter for the working class and unemployed who feel voiceless and discouraged. Essentially, she won't take her position for granted and be content with the status-quo.

Some of what Farheen Hakeem stands for:

  • Single-payer universal healthcare - healthcare for everyone in Minnesota
  • Uninterrupted and increased E-12 funding
  • A moratorium on foreclosures so people can stay in their homes
  • Lower and affordable college tuition
  • More rights for undocumented workers and saner immigration policies
  • Alternative energy and green jobs
  • A fair tax system that includes taxing the rich
  • Protecting the environment 
  • Ending the achievement gap
  • LGBTQ rights
Minnesotans have changed the trajectory of America's politics many times. Through the Farmer Labor Party we pushed for such things as Social Security. Hubert H. Humphrey brought social justice issues onto the national stage. The election of Jesse Ventura may have "shocked the world" but it also led to our first light-rail transit project. 

Our current well-known politicians project hyper-individualistic values. T-paw's anti-tax governorship has bankrupted our state, with the DFL refusing to fight against his un-allotment.  Michelle Bachmann makes us look intolerant and ignorant. She serves as comic relief and a glitter bomb target. Is this the Minnesota we want projected forward?

Let's imagine a different future scenario. A green movement that empowers people by prioritizing our collective needs. A movement that provides sustainable jobs that pay a living wage. A state that cares about all its people and would never relegate them to 2nd class. What we need is a positive movement in these dire times.

Things do not seem to be getting better and they never will unless we do something about it. We are heading down the road to failure but we can still take the path towards shared success. A vote for Farheen Hakeem sends the message that we want a better vision to represent our future. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nonfeasant Politicians

With the government shut down, it is apparent that partisan gridlock is not working. Neither side can seem to agree on how to resolve the impasse that creates greater challenges for Minnesota each day. Republicans are opposed to any taxes to resolve the budget crisis. Dayton refuses to give in as Margaret Anderson-Kelliher and other DFLers did during Pawlenty's last term. 

The Republicans want Governor Dayton to "call them back to work." However, he will likely dismiss any bills they give him that do not include a tax increase. And what work did Republican achieve while "working?" It is laughable to say the Republicans were focused on the budget "like a laser" as House speaker Amy Koch claimed. They passed Constitutional amendments requiring photo identification to vote and an anti-gay marriage bill. Neither of these will save Minnesota any money long-term and could have been brought up next year when the budget is less an issue. Minnesotans wisely chose to focus on biennial budgets so that the first term could focus on budget issues. Republicans, primarily elected on fiscal issues, chose to push a social agenda Minnesotan voters have little taste for. 

What Minnesotans want is for government to work for them and not against them. Voters have a civic duty  to elect representatives who will represent them and theoretically hold them accountable for their actions. Yet Minnesota has a growing body of elected officials choosing to ignore their duties. These representatives and senators choose not to vote at all.

Voter anger over the government shut down is only beginning to stir. Some are asking what are neighbors in Wisconsin have and are beginning to do: How do we recall these good for nothing politicians?

 Minnesota was the first state in the country to pass a Constitutional amendment allowing for the recall of elected state officials. It essentially states, "State officers can be recalled for “malfeasance,” “nonfeasance,” and “serious crime.” So breaking the laws are clearly problematic but so is the issue of nonfeasance. Nonfeasance is defined as, "...intentionally and repeatedly not performing required duties of the office." Since elected officials are intended to represent their constituents, when they choose not to vote, are they not in derelection of their duty? I would certainly consider this a form of nonfeasance. 

Are state politicians really not voting when, in fact, they should be? People can miss all sorts of things. Democrat defenders of Bobbi Jo Champion claimed he had "family business back home" and could not vote on the gay marriage Constitutional amendment. We could ignore the fact that his district in predominately African American, a community that appears to support homosexual oppression.It's an astute political move enabling him to keep the label of a "progressive" within his party, while simultaneously prevent a primary threat in his own district. Senator Obama also chose to not vote on most controversial bills while running for President, so there appears to be legitimacy and precedence for not voting. 

Which elected officials "forget" to vote?

As you can see from the graphs below, most politicians miss out on voting. Next time you forget to vote, remember that even our politicians do not consistently. The average house DFLer missed 6.4 votes in this year's session(8.7 in the senate). The average house Republican missed 2.8 votes (3 in the senate). The clear outliers are who I would like to point out. 

There were a total of 164 bills (111 in the senate) that were voted on during their third reading. In the Minnesota House, On the Republican side you have Steve Smith (Mound) who missed 25 votes, Rod Hamilton (Mountain Lake) 21 votes, and Bob Gunther (Fairmont) 19 votes. On the DFL side, Carolyn Laine missed 45 votes, Bobby Jo Champion (Minneapolis) missed 37 votes, Kerry Gauthier (Duluth) 21 votes, and Karen Clark (Minneapolis - 61A) 19 votes.  The Minnesotan Senate was much more proficient in completing their duties.However, Republican Senator Geoff Michel (Edina) missed 12 votes, and DFLer Senator Roger Reinert (Duluth) missed 40 votes. 

During the government shut down, Governor Mark Dayton and some state senators and representatives are foregoing pay. Would you believe ALL of those mentioned above, except Carolyn Laine, are collecting paychecks during the government shutdown? This should be appalling to the constituents in these districts where your elected officials are refusing to fully represent you.    

In a perfect world, these politicians would be docked pay for not doing their job. For all the talk from Republicans about government being run like a business, it never applies to politicians. They are not the ones out of work right now and collecting unemployment. They are not worried about paying bills this month or next when the rental rebates are being held back. Politicians seem to be the last to feel the pain of the people, living in an immaculate bubble of delusions. 

Another solution that would still allow districts to be represented in each vote, would be to have alternate representatives. The candidate who received the second most votes could easily do this. If a Democrat or Republican chose not to vote for their district, one of their opponents could step in. This would be a boon for constituents who lack a voice in the legislature, to include major and minor parties. (Let me interrupt with a shout out: I'd love to have fellow Greens Farheen Hakeem and Dan Craigie at the state capitol to voice what is being ignored by the corporate parties!) 

There are currently no actions to take against these officials apart from a recall. Twenty-five voters in a district could sign a petition stating their purpose for recalling, submit it to the secretary of state and get things started to recall their malfeasant elected official. If approved, there would need to be an organized petition effort to attain 25% of those who voted in the district's election. This is not an impossible goal if constituents are angry enough. If the government shut down lasts for too long, what was once unthinkable will manifest.