Mar 31 2009

SCDP – Moving Forward

Posted by Steve Ross in SCDP

Now that county re-org is done, and the weekend has likely been spent recuperating from the hard work, and probably harder celebrations that followed, it’s time to start talking about the inevitable “what next” issues that come with winning.

The past two years have been tumultuous, to say the least, for the SCDP. From the Richard Fields debacle that started the past committee, to “ballotgate” and eventually, the ruling from the state party that took the party from a proposed 71 to an eventual 83 members, there are some hurt feelings and a good deal of distrust between different groups that need to be tended to.

There are also some structural issues that need to be looked at. While the bylaws that govern membership in the Executive Committee may not break after the 2010 election, like they did this year, there’s a possibility that they will. The SCDP would do well to either come up with a new plan to distribute these members, or set in stone the standard set by the TNDP.

One of the biggest challenges facing the TNDP is the perception that it is a stagnant, dying body. The truth is, the SCDP does a lot of things, but for some reason does a poor job of getting that message out to rank and file Democrats. There are a lot of issues that would likely fix themselves if the SCDP made a conscious choice to reach out to local Democrats. I would be willing to bet that fundraising and volunteer participation would jump exponentially if the SCDP made a consistent effort to reach out. All it takes is dedication. Not all of the solutions take money.

The simplest thing the SCDP can do is start, and promote a facebook group. Right now there is a Shelby Co. Democratic group, but it’s not for TN, it’s for Shelby Co. IN, population 44,000. Why can’t a party that serves nearly a million people do something that a party in a county of 44k can? This group would be a super easy way for both Execom Members and rank and file Democrats to communicate with each other and open up the process for interested individuals in the community.

Another thing the SCDP needs to consider, is borrowing a proposal from Jay Bailey and start now organizing precincts. This doesn’t have to be some elaborate plan or anything, just a simple phone tree that starts with Executive Committee members and works it’s way down to voters. This also creates a communication structure to get info to more voters. Just because Jay was the opposition at the convention doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a good idea.

Finally, the SCDP needs to consider is engaging elected officials and work with them to not only get the message about the party out, but also to help repair the image of the party, and provide assistance in identifying potential Democratic candidates.

2010 will see the County Commission up for election, as well as all the State House and the odd numbered State Senate seats, and the Governor. This is a HUGE election for Democrats throughout the state. If the Democratic party statewide cannot take back the House, we’ll likely lose at least two congressional districts to Republicans, not to mention the gerrymandering that will certainly occur here in Shelby Co. Building a bridge with elected officials now can help build trust for the election season, and help build an army to support our candidates.

I have a lot more ideas, but these are the three that I see as most critical. Different people will have different ideas about what needs to get done. The key is to keep Democrats in the loop and involved. If the SCDP can accomplish theses two simple things, they will have achieved far more than in previous terms.

Good luck, and Godspeed.

Mar 28 2009

The Lion that Meowed

Posted by Steve Ross in SCDP

What was stacking up to be one of the most contentious Shelby County Democratic Party re-organizations in quite some time, turned out to be an orderly exercise in the Democratic process.

At issue, the race for SCDP chair between Jay Bailey and Van Turner. While the race between the candidates had been civil, the behind the scenes maneuvering turned into a contentious battle over the number of Executive Committee members to be seated on the body. For more information on this, check out this previous post as well as this and this piece from LWC.

In the end, the SCDP decided to follow the order of the TNDP and allow 83 members on the Executive Committee, an issue that was at question before the Convention started.

The election of Executive Committee members occurred with few problems, though some former members did express displeasure at the way their districts were handled after the meeting.

In the end, Van Turner won the Chair of the SCDP, 49 to 32, with one absent, and one abstention.

After the Vote, Mr. Turner took the stand and recognized Jay Bailey, who asked the party as a whole to come together, put aside old differences, and get to the business of electing Democrats.

No one knows if his supporters will heed his call for unity, but we’ll likely find out on April 6th, the first meeting of the newly re-organized SCDP.

Congratulations to all the new members of the Execom, and Van Turner, and remember, the bloggers are watching! ;-)

Mar 27 2009

Feel Good Friday

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized
Mar 18 2009

Sunshine in Memphis – Part 3

Posted by Steve Ross in Shelby County

On Monday I talked about the online transparency efforts of the City of Memphis. Yesterday we touched on Shelby County Government. Today I want to focus on the Shelby County Election Commission.

Before I begin, I have to say that nearly every interaction that I have had with the staff of the Election Commission has been positive. To be honest, I’ve made some pretty annoying requests of some of the people in the Election Commission office, often times with little knowledge of what all goes in to fulfilling the request, and the people at the downtown office have always delivered, though sometimes it did require some clarification. In short, you guys do a good job.

The Shelby Co. Election Commission’s site serves two basic purposes. The first is to educate and inform voters on how to register, and where to vote. This information is readily available and easily accessible. In fact, the new design of the site actually works in ALL BROWSERS. This is a HUGE improvement over the site that existed just six months ago, and perhaps the most functional area of the site.

The second thing the site is supposed to do is provide access to election results and reports. This is where it really starts to suffer. First of all the Java JRE 5.0 plugin doesn’t work in all browsers (Safari on the Mac), though it does seem functional in Firefox. This is something that they should note on the first page to ensure people don’t go chasing their tail trying to MAKE it work.

Accessing the Election Reports is simple enough, though I notice that the Precinct Report for 2008 looks like it was scanned. Why not just download the copy from the State Site, or generate a PDF from the original document?

While accessing the reports are easy enough, doing anything with the data is a painful experience. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to copy and paste anything from a PDF to Excel or a Text document, but really, it’s borderline stupid. I don’t know what’s technically involved, but if a program can generate a PDF, one would think it could also generate a delimited text document, or CSV, or Excel spreadsheet. It would be nice if these things were made available on the site, for people like myself who are trying to learn the intricacies and trends of Shelby County voters, in some way, outside of the conventional wisdom. Further, it doesn’t seem like it would cost anything more to do something like this. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

There’s a third purpose that the Election Commission serves, but offers absolutely no web support for whatsoever, and that’s collecting and maintaining financial disclosures for local candidates. This is something that I really want to be made available on the web, but I know will be a HUGE undertaking. Still, since the state passed a law allowing counties to set up electronic financial disclosure filings, one obstacle is out of the way. The other obstacle is getting the candidates to actually file electronically.

I’ve looked at and had copies made of some local financial disclosures, and I’ve gotta say, the methods are all over the map. Some campaigns simply attach an Excel spreadsheet to the disclosure form, instead of using the actual 4 entries to a page form provided to detail the contributions and expenditures. Some actually hand write every single contribution and expenditure on the detail list (you know who you are). This presents a challenge for the Election Commission to make these records available electronically. Folks, this challenge isn’t lost on me, but that also doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t happen.

Currently, if you want to view a financial disclosure you have to truck on down to the office, fill out a form, and then you can see the disclosures. If you want a copy, that’ll be 25 cents a page please. If you’re trying to assess a trend, or look at who’s giving money to whom, this can represent a HUGE expense. Making these documents available online would be a great boon to transparency in electoral politics in Shelby County.

The long and the short of it is, the Shelby County Election Commission does a pretty good job of handling it’s core responsibility to voters, educating them about the voting process and making voting results available to the public. There’s room for improvement, in these areas, and even some simple fixes that could be done for easier access. The third area, financial disclosures, represents the biggest opportunity for the body online. Whether this happens or not is more an issue of funding and educating elected officials more than anything else. I hope, as the economy improves and local budget deficits are resolved, that monies will be set aside for this improvement. With County and City elections coming up in 2010 and 2011, it would be a great asset to Shelby County voters, and set us on the cutting edge of local financial disclosures in the south.

Ed. Note: Posting over the next several days will be limited as I am traveling through the 25th. Enjoy the rest of Sunshine week!

Mar 17 2009

It’s Time to Put in Some Work

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

Update:Email address links fixed. Sorry for the syntax error.

Steffens over at LWC has made his case for wine to be sold in Grocery stores. I couldn’t agree with him more.

Today, Red, White, and Food, an organization supporting the effort, put out a list of Senators and Representatives, and their position on the matter.

Memphis has an opportunity to make a big difference on this matter. With 21 Representatives and Senators out of 132, that’s 16% of the entire legislature. Below is a list of Shelby County legislators ordered by their support, or lack thereof. If your legislator supports the measure, send them an email thanking them. If your legislator is either opposed, or has not announced their position, head over to the Red, White and Food media center and get educated, then write your legislator.

This is simple stuff. If beer is ok in grocery stores, why not wine?

Note: If you use a web based email system (Yahoo, AOL, hotmail, Gmail, etc.) right click on the appropriate link below and copy the link, then paste it into a new email. If you use an email client like Outlook, Apple Mail, or something like that, just click the link and a new email will appear with the recipient’s address in the “to” field.

Supporters

Sen. Paul Stanley, Memphis
Rep. Karen Camper, Memphis
Sen. Beverly Marrero, Memphis
Rep. Larry Miller, Memphis
Rep. Jeanne Richardson, Memphis
Rep. Larry Turner, Memphis

Undecided

Rep. Brian Kelsey, Germantown
Rep. Steve McManus, Cordova
Sen. Mark Norris, Collierville
Rep. Barbara Cooper, Memphis
Rep. Lois DeBerry, Memphis
Sen. Ophelia Ford, Memphis
Rep. G. A. Hardaway, Memphis
Sen. Jim Kyle, Memphis
Rep. Joe Towns, Memphis

Against

Rep. Jim Coley, Bartlett
Rep. Ron Lollar, Bartlett
Rep. John Deberry, Memphis
Rep. Ulysses Jones Jr., Memphis
Rep. Mike Kernell, Memphis
Sen. Reginald Tate, Memphis

h/t LWC, and Braisted