Leading from the Left

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

He's Not the Only One

I couldn't have said it better myself.....

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Case for Not Squandering Credibility

The credit markets are drying up. It's not just 'chicken little' whining from the Bush administration. Last week both Wake and Durham Counties were rejected when they went to banks to borrow money for school construction and other community needs. Both have AAA bond ratings, both are very safe risks for credit. If that didn't get our attention, maybe this will.

In Europe several banks were nationalized over the weekend. Wachovia was saved from bankruptcy today when it was purchased by Citigroup. Other banks are reportedly on the brink of collapse. Read this.

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives failed to pass a rescue package. Republicans claim they lost more than a dozen votes after Speaker Pelosi made speech on the floor today that they viewed as partisan. Oh, puh-lease! As Barney Frank said this afternoon, "So they got their feelings hurt decided to punish the country?!" It's embarrassing that grown men would behave in such a petulant, selfish manner....particularly when the stakes are so high.

The stock market fell nearly 800 points after the rescue package failed. That's over $1 trillion in value, lost. Analysts are expecting more losses in coming days. Meanwhile, Congress has left town. David Gergen, speaking on CNN tonight, said Congress' failure to act was unimaginably 'irresponsible.'

I never thought I'd say this about President Bush, but I wish he hadn't squandered all his credibility. And that's exactly what he did--squandered every last bit of it. Look, right now we desperately need a President who can exert leadership, a President Congress respects enough to listen to, a President who can credibly communicate the magnitude of this situation to the American public.

But the stark reality is that no one listens to this President any more. Not the public, not Congress, and not even members of his own party. When we need him most, we're stuck with a President who tossed away his believability by misleading the country into war. He chucked American values into the trash bin by supporting torture and rendition. He ran up debt, mismanaged FEMA, abrogated Civil Liberties whenever he thought he could get away with it, and destroyed American leadership in the world.

And now, when the country most needs presidential leadership, we're stuck with a dunce who's limping across the finish line. January 20th can't come too soon for me.

Here Comes the Judge(s)

Virtually no attention has been paid to judicial races this year. The high profile NC races of Barack Obama, Kay Hagan, and Bev Perdue have sucked the air out of the room, and down ballot races have gotten virtually no attention. The judicial races have been completely ignored by the media.

And judges effect our lives in ways big and small. We often don't pay know their names or pay enough attention when they hand down decisions. But judges matter.

If you care about choice, or the environment, or civil liberties or just prefer judges who exhibit good, old fashioned commonsense, then this is the year to pay attention. Fortunately, we've got some excellent choices this year.

Check the judges here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Main Street and Wall Street

The choice now couldn't be clearer. The Republican ideology has failed. No oversight, no regulation, no control. And it's no way to run a country.

I don't see how McCain could possibly win the presidency at this point. The Republicans have been in charge for 8 years. In the process they've destroyed our economy, left our reputation in the world in tatters, run up unimaginable debt, ripped the constitution to shreds, and squandered America's credibility. It's not exactly a winning record.

The financial crisis on Wall Street tells us all we need to know. The Republican philosophy of laissez-faire corporate culture has left Main Street America holding the bag. Do any of us believe that Wall Street is going to get stuck with the tab? No, they will figure out a way that the rest of us pay the price of their greed. And who's more likely to steer our country in a different direction, more responsible, direction? John McCain or Barack Obama?

There are some 40 days left before the election. Go make it happen!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stripping Your Local Government of Authority

I've been receiving many emails about the possible relocation of Horace Williams Airport. People are deeply concerned that their land may be condemned for a new airport and that they have little say in the matter. I know how they feel. Here's the background, as I know it.....

UNC is looking to move the airport so they can construct a satellite campus at Carolina North. The most likely locations are outside of Chapel Hill and Carrboro in rural Orange County. And this past summer UNC got the legislature to pass a bill that sets up an airport authority with the power to site an airport and take land, if necessary, through eminent domain. The bottom line? UNC can locate an airport when and where it wants and the county government has no oversight. Our ability to ensure that development is done wisely and with the community's interest in mind, has been abrogated by legislative action. Unbelievable, right?

Now, many of the folks I've heard from have focused on UNC 'fat cats' who fly their private planes into Horace Williams for football games and the like. And condemning someone's land so a millionaire can get to game quicker is truly reprehensible.

It is important to remember however that UNC medical personnel also fly in and out of Horace Williams Airport as part of the AHEC program. Through the AHEC program they fly to other parts of North Carolina on a regular basis to bring much needed medical expertise to community's that otherwise would not have it. In my humble opinion, AHEC is one of the things we do best in NC, and we do need to make sure AHEC can function well.

HOWEVER, siting an airport in rural Orange County (or any where else for that matter) should be done with care and with sensitivity to the community. The County Commissioners, the folks elected to represent Orange County citizens and to balance broad community needs with individual rights, should be part of the decision-making process. Stripping us of our role in development matters is not transparent and not good for the process.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Time to Take Eubanks Road out of Consideration

Last night, the Board of County Commissioners held a work session on siting a Waste Transfer Station. One of the sites our consultant identified for consideration is the same Eubanks Road location that has caused concern in the community previously.

It's long past time to take that site off the list. The community has spoken with a loud voice, and the consensus is that the transfer station should be sited somewhere else. I believe that when we meet next, on October 21st, we will officially remove Eubanks Road from consideration. To get to that point, the next step of our process is crucial.

Last night we initiated the next step by directing the consultant to apply an additional list of criteria, what we call our "Community Specific Criteria." Environmental justice is one of these criteria, and when they're applied, most observers believe the Eubanks Road location will drop to the bottom of the list. For many in our community, that will be a great day.

For the advocates of removing the Eubanks Road site from consideration, the next four weeks will be a long wait. But, friends, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Long Summer Break Over

Well, as you have noticed, I took a long Summer break from blogging. School's back in session, today there is the first chill of fall in the air, and the leaves of the white poplar in my back yard are starting--ever so slightly--to yellow. Time to get back to work routines.

I spent the last week of August at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. As you might imagine, it was an amazing experience. Words can't really describe the week. It was historic, moving, inspiring, exhausting, emotional.

Now, the weeks since--the nomination of Sarah Palin and the insuing media frenzy, McCain's bounce in the polls, concerns over effectiveness of Obama's campaign--have been nerve-wracking. I predict we'll have another 7 weeks of ups and downs before election day, so fasten your seat belts.

The following may be a bit dated now, but here is a copy of an article about my experience at the Democratic Convention that I wrote for the Orange County Democratic Party newsletter:

Words can hardly describe the electricity coursing through Denver’s Invesco Field on the night Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for President.

We delegates stood on the field long afterwards, fireworks exploding above the stage, tears in our eyes, and the roar of 84,000 citizens washing over us. We all knew we’d just experienced an historic American moment.

One of the great honors of my life was being elected delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention; it was a gift to be able to stand on that field, at the culmination of an extraordinary week in American political history. What a week it was!

All in all, there were 8 delegates from Orange County: Michael Brader-Araje, Nancy Park, Graig Meyer, Jack Sanders, State Reps. Bill Faison and Joe Hackney, Congressman David Price, and I. We had a wonderful time representing Orange County values at the convention.

From beginning to end, it was a week filled with inpiring speeches and events that recommitted all of us to working as hard as humanly possible to elect the Obama-Biden ticket on November 4th. After eight long, long, long years of Bush-Cheney, we’ve got our work cut out for us. Republican mis-rule has left the country in shambles: massive debt, bogged down in war, a crumbling infrastructure, political polarization, high unemployment, and a faltering economy.

But the 2008 Democratic National Convention got all of us energized to take this country back, to end the polarizing political rhetoric of the last 8 years and to turn the page on the past and move—clear-eyed—into the future.

The convention week was a blur of caucus meetings, events, parties and speeches. For delegates the days were long, typically from 8am to after midnight. The North Carolina delegation began each day with an 8am breakfast at which we heard from leaders such as Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Governor Mike Easley, and all 7 of NC’S
Democratic Congressmen.

After breakfast, many of us would attend special events or caucus meetings. I attended the LGBT caucus meetings, but there were also women’s caucuses, seniors, Asian-Pacific Islanders, Latino, etc. One of the great strengths of the Democratic Party is our diversity; unlike the Republicans we don’t just TALK about having a big tent, we actually DO have a big tent.

I attended 3 meetings of the LGBT caucus. This year there were nearly 380 out LGBT delegates, just shy of 10%. We heard from Reps. Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, currently the only two openly gay members of the US House of Representatives. They will most certainly be joined next year by Jared Polis of Colorado who recently won his primary to represent a Democratic-leaning Boulder district. Polis also addressed our caucus meeting.

Of course the main event each day was the convention session itself, and we all looked forward to hearing from statesmen and heroes such as Ted Kennedy, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Clinton’s and the Obama’s. Michelle Obama’s remarks opening night, in which she introduced to America the Barack Obama she knows and loves, kicked things off just right. She had the audience eating out of her hand.

And the video tribute to Ted Kennedy, followed by his surprise appearance, left us at once grateful that the country has benefited from the leadership of the Kennedy family and a little sad than an era is coming to a close. It felt as if we were saying goodbye to an old friend, a friend we might never see again.

Tuesday night we heard from a pack of Democratic Governor’s. Montana Governor Schweitzer was the most memorable of the bunch, giving a stem-winder of a speech on energy that was direct, honest, funny and riveting. Tuesday was Hillary’s night, though, and she gave the speech of her life. She hit all the right notes and did everything she needed to do to unite the party, to demonstrate her commitment to the ticket, and to put the past behind us. For many us in the audience who’d waiting most of our lives to see a woman break through the hardest of all the glass ceilings, it was a bittersweet moment. Clinton’s persistence and competence on the issues forever opened the doors to American women. American politics will never be the same.

On Wednesday night, Bill Clinton reminded us afresh what it was like to have a President who was smart, competent, and focused on regular people instead of protecting the privileged. But the night belonged to Joe Biden. Beau Biden’s introduction of his Dad left no eye dry in the convention hall. Beau told the story of his mother’s death, and how his father took the train home from Washington to Delaware every night thereafter to tuck his two sons in. It was a story of familial love, first and foremost, but it was also the kind of story that tells us exactly what kind of man Joe Biden is---and why the country would be fortunate to have him as vice-president.

Thursday night was a night like no other. Barack Obama delivered as good an acceptance speech as any candidate has ever delivered. He hit the mark, driving home the message that after 8 long years it’s well-past time for a change. It was a memorable night and a memorable speech.

But the memories that will last the longest for me are those that reflect the barriers that are being shattered this year, particularly, a brief exchange I had that last night on Invesco Field. During that evening’s festivities, I sat next to an older African-American woman from Rocky Mount. Although I was far too polite to ask, I’m guessing she was in her late 70’s or early 80’s. She’d lived through Jim Crow and Martin Luther King, segregation and integration, and now was witnessing the nomination of Barack Obama for the presidency. Before Obama spoke, I leaned over and asked her if she’d ever thought she’d live to see this day. Her answer, as you might expect, was “No!” As she spoke, however, there was the slightest hesitation in her voice, as it she still couldn’t quite believe that it was really about to happen, that Obama would be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

Standing in that stadium, listening to the sound roar of history, you could almost feel the earth move. Win or lose, Obama’s nomination has changed America.