April 26th, 2009

Dem Donkey


Came up late on Thu night after getting out of a Kinko's at 11pm. Crashed at dragondawn420's place at 1am. Got to the Convention Center a bit after 9am Friday. Helped set up Hilary Crosby for CDP Controller booth. Hilary is a CPA whose practice for three decades has been working with nonprofits. She helped get the books in order, and streamline fiscal processes, for the California Democratic Council (which is basically a statewide alliance of grassroots clubs). Spent a bunch of time at the booth, handing out stickers and such. We were running a little contest, guessing the number of chocolate-covered espresso beans in a jar, next to a sign that said, "Wanna know how many beans there are? Hire a bean counter!" (Hilary's incumbent opponent, although a nice guy and a good fundraiser, is not an accountant, and many of us felt that he had been lax about identifying and calling out some shady practices in terms of how funds were transferred to Nuñez when he was Assembly Speaker.)

Went to Business and Professional Caucus. Got elected Treasurer. There was a bit of drama, because our Secretary and Chair did not arrive until minutes before the caucus was scheduled to get underway. This, combined with the fact that the party doesn't schedule any time between caucuses, led to chaos in the sign-in process, and the Chair was trying to drive the agenda forward as fast as possible as soon as people got in. The autocratic approach backfired, and folks nominated a new secretary, who won the vote 19-12. He seems like an OK guy to me (and since I'm going to have to work with him to keep our records in order -- McCain-Feingold violations are a VERY BAD THING -- I'm trying to smooth things over and get along) but our chair and ex-secretary are, understandably, fairly ticked off...

Went from caucus to B&P dinner event. Dinner was problematic as well. We'd had something like 50 people originally signed up to fill the room we'd reserved, plus a waitlist; we actually got moved to a room with space for ~70, to accomodate some of the waitlist. But then, in fact, about half of the original 50 failed to show up -- maybe waylaid in the Progressive Caucus (which is always a madhouse), or maybe just folks who aren't so good at keeping commitments -- GRR). We ended up with 37 diners, but we were on the hook for a minimum of 50, so we'll have to send out a letter to the folks who signed up but didn't show, and explain that it's between them and their conscience whether they help make up the dent that put in our treasury.

(On the bright side, the dinner itself was delicious -- a light green salad, ravioli in a champagne-cream pesto sauce, chicken with lemon beurre-blanc, mustard-buttermilk mashed potatoes, and some steamed carrots and brocolli and yellow squash.)

Christa arrived towards the end of the dinner; she'd had to work, but then came up on the train, which dropped off right near the restaurant where the B&P dinner was. We went over to a cocktail party, where Jim Dean was appearing in place of Howard (who was arriving late, I guess due to travel issues?), along with Kamala Harris. The venue had no speakers/mic -- technology FAIL! -- so the poor speakers had to try to hollar over the crowd, with folks at the back refusing to shut up when shushed -- respect FAIL!

Saturday I did some more work with Hilary's campaign (putting together signs, marching around for visibility; standing with a gang of sign-wavers in front of the podium with a sign when she was speaking to the General Session). Her speech, about her history, and the need for grassroots involvement in the party structure, and the importance of turning numbers into a narrative about how the party is doing, who our base is, etc, was really good. When I'd heard her speak when she was doing house parties and my County Committee, she'd been persuasive -- but this was inspiring. She did an amazing job framing the debate -- for all of the CDP officers, actually. The Vice-Chair and Chair races were also basically fought around transparency, responsiveness to the grassroots, using our donations effectively, funding a 58-county strategy where we help train a "farm team" of local officials to rise out of "red" areas, etc. Also got to run around completing the B&P's certification process, to ensure the caucus would continue to exist. Ran into Anna Eshoo while working on all that; I really need to talk with her at some point to see whether she'd be a reference for the resumés I'm sending out. :-)

Saturday night we went to the Take Back Red California dinner, where we actually did get to hear Howard Dean (though he gave a very short speech, so he could also go speak at another event as well, and to save material for his floor speech) as well as a bunch of our recent congressional candidates (including Jerry McNerney, who won, and Charlie Brown, who missed by a tiny margin). Xta had lost her VPN token, and was stressed throughout dinner. Fortunately, after dinner, I was able to find it for her -- it had been turned in at the CDP staff room. So that was good. Then went home and typed up the summary sheet to be turned in with B&P dues.

Christa didn't come back this morning, b/c she had to fly off on work travel; I think DD drove her to the airport. Will not be seeing her again til the end of the week.

I got here early, at 8am, and discovered that the Kinko's by the Convention Center is the only one I've ever seen that is not 24/7 -- it doesn't open til 10am on Sunday. You'd think that with the Conventions Center right by it, they'd get steady business any time there's a weekend event. I ended up going over to help pack up Hilary's booth, then went back out later. I ended up missing about two-third's of Howard's floor speech -- very annoyed. Turned in dues. Now am on the floor in general session; heard from Debra Bowen, and the head of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Now we're hearing debate on the propositions. I'm kinda torn about them. Fundamentally, the question is whether we should accept the unpleasant compromise that was worked out with the SINGLE sorta-moderate Republican (which ties our budgeting process into even more knots, with a spending cap that very likely means that funding would wither as it lagged inflation), or whether we should kick things back to the legislature to try to come up with another budget. If we do that, my guess is that there will be no budget, and the government will shut down. That may be what we need to get through to the people of California that the two-thirds rule needs to go. But it's also hugely risky, both politically and economically. So tempers are pretty heated, and I have no idea what the outcome is going to be -- there seems to be a fair amount of noise in response to both sides, though it sounds like the Con side is more riled up, probably in part because the legislators and "establishment" types (who worked out the deal in the first place) are for it, so the grassroots types who are against. I've been waffling, was considering voting no endorsement. But it's really tough to vote, in the middle of a recession, for a collapse of gov't spending. Ended up voting for the Yes resolution, but it failed, 58-42. So, no party endorsement. Which I'm OK with.

May be tied up here for a while; we have to go through the rest of the propositions, and some bills before the legislature... Eventually I hope to get out of here and take DD out to dinner, since she put us up and saved me hotel costs.

Edited To Add: A friend who is in opposition to the props points out that, if they fail, one possibility is that the Dems will re-pass some revenue sources that Arnold previously vetoed. This was an argument over the definition of "fees" (which can be passed on a majority vote) versus "taxes" (which require a two-thirds vote under Prop 13). Arnold took the position that the stuff the Dems had passed was not really fees. The Republican legislators are actually apparently telling constituents to vote for the props because if they fail, Arnold will pass the Dems' revenue increases. Interesting stuff...

This special election is really important, and complicated, and is flying under most people's radar.

ETA: I think we're taking no position on 1A or 1D, endorsing Yes on 1B and 1C. 1E is currently being counted -- and the votes are just in, and we have no endorsement...

ETA: Back at DD's now. My guess won the jar of chocolate-covered espresso beans. Yay. Also, 1F was supported.
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    busy political

While you were out...

Catching up on Paul Krugman's blog, I learn that the nation's top expert on economic inequality received a major award, the torture memo judge basically confessed (though he doesn't seem to understand that what he did is actually a problem), and Iceland elected a lesbian prime minister.

Back on convention news, I forgot to mention that I had met Eric Bauman, the new party Vice-Chair, at the Red to Blue Dinner. I saw him as the dinner was getting over, and went by to congratulate him, and mention that the PYD Endorsements Committee had been very impressed when we interviewed him, but our endorsement had become moot because his opponent dropped out. He apparently actually runs his own Facebook account, because he recognized me from my photo there. In any case, he seems to be pretty dedicated to getting his people down in SoCal active in red counties, along the same lines as the assistance that folks around here gave to Jerry McNerney. Very encouraging.

On the negative side, or maybe just the weird side, California Republicans declared over the weekend that we are not having a drought. In fact, in the print version of the story, there's a banner headline: "McClintock Doubts Drought". Never mind that the pumps that normally pull water into our plumbing are literally high and dry, with the water having withdrawn to several feet below them -- there is no drought! Rejoice! That headline was being passed around the convention floor, for laughs. McClintock is the carpetbagging SoCal career politician who just barely edged out Lt. Col. Charlie Brown -- a decorated Air Force veteran who has served with both the police dep't and the public schools in Roseville -- because apparently the GOP'ers in that district are that scared of "socialism". Perhaps McClintock and his fellow wingnuts will next solve our oil problems by declaring that cars run on fairy dust, and that homes can be heated by thinking warm thoughts.
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    pleased pleased