Sunday, January 20, 2013

Deadlock? Or differences?

People complain about deadlock in Washington, with Republicans controlling the House and Democrats holding the Senate and the White House.  It seems that the two parties agree on nothing and are largely incapable of compromise.

And it is true, the parties seem more polarized than in a very long time.  It HAS been worse in the past, notably the period leading up to the election of 1860 and an unpleasant time known as the Civil War. That time too reflected two wildly different views of society and the role of government, so that compromise, the lifeblood of governance, became impossible.

But are these simply the rough-and-tumble of two parties contesting for power?  Or are these more deeply-held beliefs?   Perhaps some of both.  But at the national, and perhaps the state level, it does seem that the parties hold totally different philosophies of government, how it should operate, and whom it should serve.

  • Democrats believe in the greatest good for the greatest number.  Republicans say they believe that too, but only if it benefits corporations and the wealthy, whom they call "job creators".
  • Democrats believe that government belongs to all citizens and should serve all of us.  Republicans believe that benefits for wealthy elites benefit all of us, eventually.
  • Many Republicans believe in being armed to the teeth, with any and all weapons a person can afford.  A lot of Democrats like guns too, for hunting, target shooting, and home defense, but don't believe in armed anarchy.  
  • Democrats believe that women should make their own reproductive choices, and that abortion is a personal moral decision, not that of the government.  Republicans believe government should prohibit women from making these choices.  (The reversal of the usual roles in what government should and should not do is ironic, and noted at length by many). 
  • Democrats believe in a higher tax structure for the wealthy and lower for the middle class, or a progressive tax structure.  Republicans complain that the wealthy pay too many taxes, and the poor too few.  
  • Democrats believe in making voting easy.  Republicans believe in making voting hard for people they don't agree with, under the pretense of "preventing voter fraud".  Unless of course it is one of their own caught committing vote fraud.  

I could go on and on.  And there IS more than a little sarcasm here.  Not all Republicans, nor all Democrats, believe all of these things, either way.   But there is more than sufficient truth that these ARE the kind of differences that make compromise so hard in Washington.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Yet another business leaves Fishers

Yet another in a recent string of businesses leaving Fishers has been announced.  Keihin North America has announced that it is leaving the Crosspoint Office Park in Fishers and relocating its headquarters to Anderson. Their corporate announcement is here:

The Fishers Town Manager and Town Council's major recent initiative has been the "downtown" redevelopment, which features the somewhat controversial idea of placing apartments and retail shops in the green space in front of Town Hall.

It seems to have escaped their attention that "economic development" means moving businesses and jobs INTO Fishers, not out.  Economic development is something the Town has sorely lacked, leading it to have only about one-third the assessed property value of neighboring Carmel.  Further, the new downtown would not add to the tax base in any meaningful way, as it would be supported by bonds paid for by a new TIF (tax increment financing), which dedicates the increased property tax revenue of the area into paying off the bonds, not to the general public treasury.  

Perhaps the Town administration should work on filling in the considerable amount of vacant space for business development by attracting businesses to USA Parkway and the Exit 5 Office Park.  These areas are in the geographic heart of Fishers, with interstate access.  Since business property pays three times the property tax rate of residential property, that seems the best way to grow the tax base and create jobs in Fishers.  

Whether or not the recent election of new leadership on the Town Council will change this direction in a positive way has yet to be seen.  Time will tell, and doubtless will have an impact on the 2015 election for the first Mayor of Fishers.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Future of Hamilton County Democrats

I have given this some thought recently based on the results of the last few elections, and comments made to me by fellow Hamilton County Democrats.  While our numbers continue to increase, the stark fact is that we are a minority party in Hamilton County, holding no county offices and no offices in any of the major cities of the county, Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, or Westfield.  In fact, we struggle to put candidates on the ballot.  I don't remember the last time a Democrat ran for a county office other than judge.  When we do get candidates to run, usually for city or township office, the county Democratic Party gives no official support, because they have no support to give.

So here are some thoughts on where we go from here.

1.  We MUST fill precinct committeeperson spots.  And those people need to be "community organizers" for their neighborhoods, not just people who fill precinct election worker spots twice a year.

2.  We must have a regular and ongoing fundraising system.  There are between 35,000 and 50,000 people willing to vote for the right Democratic candidate, couldn't we average $1 per year from these voters?  No money means the party has no resources to support candidates.

3.  Once fundraising is established, obtain and staff a county headquarters, where candidates and activists can work and hold meetings.

4.  Improve communications.  And this should be not only from the county chairman to the precinct committeepersons, but to all active supporters, and in the other direction, from the grassroots up.

5.  Hold regular meetings.  If nothing else, make these organizational brainstorming sessions.

6.  Give grassroots volunteers something to do!  Hold an event just to be holding an event.  Hold regular phonebanking to support ongoing fundraising. Have a pitch-in dinner.

7.  Grassroots training for precinct committeepeople and other activists.  Teach them how to reach out to their neighbors with the Democratic message.

8.  Put candidates on the ballot, even if the odds seem long.  This is a tough one.  A lot of qualified folks are reluctant to put their names on the ballot when they know the odds are long.  But the Libertarians do a better job of this than we do, and they are a tiny fraction of our numbers.

Some of these suggestions are for the county party leadership.  Some are for the grassroots rank-and-file.  And this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all that could, or should, be done.  But with party reorganization coming up in March, this is absolutely the time to have a discussion about this and other issues.