Tag: Infrastructure

ENDORSEMENT: Susie Lee for 4th Congressional District of Nevada

As Democratic voters in the 4th Congressional District of Nevada go to the polls today, I’ll take this opportunity to encourage voters in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, which includes the northern part of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, to vote for Susie Lee in the Democratic congressional primary.

While Bernie Sanders has been busy trying to sell former gangster and convicted car thief Lucy Flores to progressives, the truth of the matter is that a majority of general election voters in the 4th Congressional District aren’t going to vote for someone with a felony record. People simply don’t like being represented in Congress by criminals, so a vote for Lucy Flores is effectively a vote for Crescent Hardy, who is nothing more than a right-wing rubber stamp for right-wing Republicans like Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. I’m saying this as someone who voted for Bernie in the Illinois primary.

While there are a total of eight candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, only three of them have a realistic shot of winning the nomination: Lee, Flores, and Ruben Kihuen. Of those three, only Susie Lee is actually a current resident of the 4th Congressional District of Nevada. On the issues, Lee supports building an interstate highway between Las Vegas and Reno (currently, one has to drive through either California or Utah in order to drive between Las Vegas and Reno without having to drive over mostly two-lane roads), and Lee also supports protecting Social Security and Medicare.

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The Donald does a better job of attacking The Walker than most Wisconsin Democrats

I would never vote for an overt racist like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but I will say one favorable thing about Trump: He’s far better at attacking Scott Walker than most Democrats in Walker’s home state of Wisconsin:

He went down a list of criticisms that seemed the result of an overnight opposition-research effort. “Wisconsin is doing terribly,’’ he said. “The roads are a disaster because they don’t have any money to rebuild them, and they’re borrowing money like crazy.’’

He cited figures for the state’s budget deficit. “I wrote this stuff all down but I don’t need it because I have a really good memory,” he said.

He also accused Mr. Walker of flip-flopping on the Common Core education standards, having once supported them. “Scott Walker changed when he saw he was getting creamed, so now he’s not in favor,’’ he said.

While I am a Bernie Sanders supporter, I disagree with Bernie’s support for Common Core; in fact, it’s one of only a few issues where I disagree with Bernie. I don’t like the idea of wealthy people like Bill Gates determining every state and school district’s curriculum and academic standards.

Anyways, back to the main subject of this blog post…while Trump is a blowhard and a half, he’s right when it comes to how awful Scott Walker’s far-right agenda has been for Wisconsin.

However, trying to find Democrats in Wisconsin who are even half as effective as Trump when it comes to attacking Walker is like trying to find a tennis racket at a golf pro shop. Most Democrats in Wisconsin tend to focus on only a few issues like reproductive rights and student loan reform, and they usually try to sound as nice and moderate as possible. When most Wisconsin Democrats criticize Walker, they usually come across as weak, tepid, defensive, too mild-mannered, and appeasing toward Republicans. There are a few exceptions to this, mostly Democratic/progressive elected officials from the Madison area and many progressive activists throughout Wisconsin.

Additionally, Trump’s far-right agenda isn’t much different, if any different at all, than Walker’s far-right agenda or the far-right agendas of the other Republican presidential candidates. For Trump to enact his political agenda nationwide would likely be as bad, if not worse, than Walker’s agenda has been for Wisconsin.

Also, regarding Trump’s remarks about roads in Wisconsin being terrible, he’s actually right…only Connecticut and Illinois have a higher percentage of roads in poor or mediocre condition than Wisconsin.

Trump’s rise in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination has prompted Walker’s supporters to get really desperate, even using left-wing attack lines of their own against Trump:

A fundraiser for Scott Walker’s presidential campaign called Donald Trump “DumbDumb” in a fundraising invitation and said electing the New York developer would be “a total and complete disaster for the country.”

“As you’ve seen Gov Walker is now well ahead of everyone not named DumbDumb (aka Trump) in the national polls,” wrote Walker fundraiser Gregory Slayton, a New Hampshire venture capitalist who served as consul general to Bermuda during the George W. Bush administration. “He’s also a plain spoken member of the 99% (as opposed to someone pretending to be so)…and that will be a (key success factor) in 2016.”

Walker may not be a member of the 1%, but his policies benefit the 1% and virtually nobody else. Electing Trump, Walker, or any other right-wing Republican to the White House would be an unmitigated disaster for this country…Wisconsin has basically been a lavatory (pun intended) for a far-right political agenda for the last four and a half years, and it’s been an absolute disaster there.

Chris “Capper” Liebenthal has an excellent post about Trump’s attacks against Walker here.

Bernie Sanders draws massive crowd to Madison, Wisconsin rally, lays out progressive vision for America

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America’s future in front of a roaring capacity crowd at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum (also called the Alliant Energy Center) in Madison, Wisconsin last night.

Here’s a couple of photos of the crowd at the event:

Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie's appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Crowd filing into Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin prior to Bernie’s appearance (photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Defender Twitter account)
Bernie Sanders Madison WI Rally Crowd Doug Cvetkovich
Massive crowd at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin during Bernie Sanders speech. Sanders is standing at the podium on the stage at the bottom left of the picture. (photo courtesy of Doug Cvetkovich)

I’m going to share a video of Bernie’s speech from the YouTube channel Bernie2016.tv (which is not directly affiliated with the Sanders campaign), but I want to make two notes before I do so: First, I’ve set the video to start playing at around the 42:20 mark, which is about 20 seconds or so before Nichols takes the stage to introduce Sanders. Second, several technical glitches occur during the video, most notably the first part of Nichols’s introduction not having any audio at all and an audio echoing issue occurring in at least one segment of Sanders’s speech.

Here’s the video of Bernie’s speech:

Bernie did a masterful job outlining a progressive vision for America. In his speech, Bernie called for reducing income inequality in America, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, expanding workers’ rights, protecting women’s reproductive rights, getting big money out of politics, ensuring that women are paid the same as men for the same amount and type of work, reforming the criminal justice system, opposing free trade deals, providing high-quality education to Americans without burdening them with student debt, raising the minimum wage, and enacting many other progressive policies. Bernie energized a large crowd in Wisconsin’s second-largest city, and I think he can win the general election for president.

According to arena officials and Sanders campaign staffers, the attendance was 9,600, although I’ve seen reports on social media that so many people tried to show up at the 10,231-seat arena, some people had to be turned away from the event because the venue couldn’t handle any more people than the stated capacity. Sanders was introduced at the event by John Nichols, a progressive political author and columnist for The Nation magazine. Nichols mentioned during his introduction of Sanders that Ed Garvey, the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Wisconsin and the founder of the annual Fighting Bob Fest progressive gathering, Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), and Wisconsin State Representatives Terese Berceau and Melissa Sargent (both D-Madison), were present at the event. Of those four, Sargent livetweeted Sanders’s speech, in which Sanders talked about issues like money in politics, climate change, education, higher education, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, income inequality, poverty, criminal justice reform, the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, breaking up “too big to fail” banks, and international trade. Here’s every one of Sargent’s tweets about Sanders’s speech in Madison:

Note that there is an apparent typo in one of Sargent’s tweets (the one she sent at 8:05 P.M. about Sanders talking about how climate change affects our future; Sargent likely meant to type “We must leave this planet in a condition that is habitable for our children”); other than that, Sargent did an absolutely fantastic job paraphrasing Sanders’s speech and livetweeting the key points that Sanders made. Please also note that Sargent has, to my knowledge, not formally endorsed a presidential candidate.

It is perfectly fitting that Bernie Sanders laid out his progressive vision for America in the hometown of Wisconsin progressive legend Fighting Bob La Follette.

Monticello, Illinois officials caught pumping raw sewage into city streets

There has been at least one documented instance of officials in the city of Monticello, Illinois, which has a population of slightly over 5,000 people and is located in Piatt County in the central part of the state, pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into city streets, where it flows through storm drains and into the Sangamon River. Now, the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is suing the city over it:

The city (of Monticello, Illinois) is accused of pumping raw sewage into its streets. Now the state is taking the city to court. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office is suing the city of Monticello. Court documents state the city pumped almost a million gallons of raw sewage into the Sangamon River.

One city council member says it’s been happening for years. Court documents state it all started with a thunderstorm. On July 12, 2014, Monticello got three inches of rain and the city didn’t have a place to put all of the water.

Pictures residents took that day show water being pumped from the sewer into the streets. Normally, rainfall is supposed to flow into the storm drains, which eventually goes into the Sangamon River. The drains can’t handle a lot of rain and it gets diverted into the sewer lines, but when that happens the sewer could overflow.

Guess what Monticello, Illinois is spending its money on instead of investing in a new water treatment plant to replace the nearly 80-year-old water treatment facility…:

“Until now, nobody’s really paid attention,” said Alderman Joe Brown. “We’ve been putting money towards athletic fields instead of our sewer lines. So hopefully they’ll take it serious. Hopefully we’ll re-allocate the money so that we can fix our infrastructure.”

(emphasis mine)

The city of Monticello, Illinois clearly has serious problems with its sewage system, yet the city is spending money on athletic facilities instead of new sewage lines or a new water treatment plant. It’s clear to me that officials in Monticello clearly have the wrong priorities.

Sadly, what is going on in Monticello is only a microcosm of what is going on in the entire country. While stadiums, arenas, and other athletic facilities get millions of dollars in taxpayer money, our nation’s roads, rail lines, water lines, sewage systems, and other forms of infrastructure are falling apart.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin officials release the party’s own autopsy

A 22-member Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) committee, led by DPW Second Vice-Chairman Jeff Christensen, released its own internal report on the 2014 midterm elections in Wisconsin yesterday. You can read the full report here; it’s a 14-page PDF file.

According to the DPW Administrative Committee, here’s what I’ve interpreted as being the main points in the report:

  • Since 1990, Wisconsin has become an extremely polarized state, with a very strong two-party system and the top-of-the-ticket race in November general elections in Wisconsin having a huge impact on downballot races.
  • The DPW should provide more support to candidates in officially non-partisan local elections in order to build a bench of Democratic candidates for state legislative and statewide elections.
  • The DPW shouldn’t meddle in contested primaries unless it has a very good reason to do so (such as scenarios involving known Republicans/conservatives running in a Democratic primary or a candidate who is clearly unfit for public office running in a Democratic primary).
  • The DPW leadership should explain its proper role in the political process and management of the party more effectively.
  • The Republicans’ message in Wisconsin is to effectively paint the Democrats as the “party of government”, even if Democrats aren’t in power.
  • Democrats should rebut the Republicans’ talking points more effectively.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin have focused too much on attacking Scott Walker and not enough on promoting a positive message of any kind.
  • To use terminology that was used in the report, Democrats in Wisconsin have “played nice in the sandbox”, leading to Democratic candidates who are too defensive.
  • While Democrats should focus heavily on tailoring a positive message to rural voters, both rural and urban voters in Wisconsin regard education, infrastructure, and jobs as three important issues.
  • Election fatigue is becoming a major problem among Democratic activists/volunteers in Wisconsin.
  • In regards to the DPW’s field operations, the DPW should find various ways to optimize voter turnout.
  • Three programs created as part of the “72-county strategy”, regional field organizers, Spring Forward (support for known Democrats running in officially non-partisan local elections in Wisconsin), and Red-to-Blue (support for Democratic state legislative candidates in Republican-leaning or heavily-Republican areas of Wisconsin) should be expanded.
  • The most important point of the report is that “the path to a new progressive era (in Wisconsin) is entirely possible”.

While some of these points are specific to Wisconsin, some of the points also apply to state-level Democratic parties in other states as well.

The report strongly suggested that the DPW should run statewide candidates who can run on a positive, progressive message, as well as relate to both urban and rural voters. However, the report didn’t suggest any potential statewide candidates for future elections in Wisconsin, and there aren’t that many Democrats in Wisconsin who could pull off such a campaign. Lori Compas, who was the recall organizer and Democratic candidate in the 2012 recall attempt against Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, is the first person that comes to mind for me. However, I don’t think that Compas is interested in running for public office again at all. The second person who comes to my mind is Kathleen Vinehout, a state senator from the west-central part of Wisconsin who was the third-place candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary in the gubernatorial recall election. Vinehout nearly ran for governor last year, but injuries sustained in an automobile crash prevented her from running for governor. There’s probably a few others out there as well.

Additionally, while the DPW’s report didn’t touch on any of these points at all, I do have several suggestions of my own:

  • Democrats in Wisconsin should run against income inequality, preferably by using “1% vs. 99%” messaging and supporting ideals such as raising taxes on the wealthy and ending tax breaks and other forms of corporate welfare for businesses.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should run on progressive ideas and values, and, even more importantly, they should explain how progressive policies would benefit all or the vast majority of people.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should stop speaking favorably of Republicans, as well as stop ignoring and criticizing progressives.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should emphasize restoring local control to counties and municipalities over issues that are best dealt with at the local level.
  • Progressive-minded Democrats in Wisconsin should, as much as possible, distance themselves from fellow Democrats who are opposed to progressive ideals and values on many issues, most notably Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin, should, if possible, use the own words of Republican elected officials and candidates against them.

One thing is clear from the DPW’s autopsy: The DPW, in its current state, is one of the weakest state-level Democratic Party organizations in the entire country. A Second Progressive Era in Wisconsin is certainly obtainable, although it’s going to require progressives to hold the DPW leadership accountable to many of the points they made in their own report on the 2014 elections, as well as require Democrats to run progressive candidates who can appeal to a wide coalition of voters.

ENDORSEMENT: Bernie Sanders for President of the United States

I am pleased to announce that multiple media outlets are reporting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will announce his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination on Thursday.

I’m also pleased to announce that I am probably the first person in the entire country to officially endorse Bernie’s presidential bid.

While most Americans are not yet familiar with Bernie and his style of politics, those who know him know that he’s a progressive firebrand who wants to put the American government in the hands of the people, not just political elites and the wealthy. As Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie helped make Burlington one of the most attractive places in America to live. As a member of both houses of Congress, Bernie has fought for progressive policies to rebuild the American middle class, protect American consumers and workers, and provide for the well-being of all Americans. Most recently, as a U.S. Senator, Bernie has railed against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fast-track authority for President Obama’s Global Trading Regime. The TPP and other proposed free trade deals, if fully implemented, would destroy much of what little American economic sovereignty remains and cost America thousands of jobs. In his upcoming presidential campaign, Bernie has promised to make universal health care, rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, making the U.S. Tax Code more progressive, and putting Americans back to work.

For those of you who doubt Bernie’s ability to win the Democratic presidential nomination, the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nomination contest of any kind in the entire country, usually see extremely low turnout, which means that, if Bernie can get Iowa progressives to turn out in a big way, he could very well win many of Iowa’s delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC). After Iowa is the New Hampshire primary, which will be held in a state that is trending more and more Democratic thanks to people from Bernie’s home state of Vermont moving to New Hampshire and bringing their progressive political views with them. If Bernie can win both of those contests, he’ll be in a hotly-contested race for the Democratic nomination, if not the favorite for the nomination.

I hope that I’ll be able to vote for Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in the Illinois primary next year. I’ve longed for a Democratic presidential candidate who is more than willing to make the wealthy and the political elites squeal, and now we’re going to have one!

Bruce Rauner and his allies raided Illinois transportation funds

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author of this blog post has no intention whatsoever of running against Republican Illinois State Representative Chad Hays and is not in any way affiliated with Better Roads Ahead.

My governor and state representative, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) and State Rep. Chad Hays (R-Catlin, IL), helped raid hundreds of millions of dollars from funds collected from state gasoline taxes, which are supposed to be used to pay for road construction and maintenance. In typical Illinois fashion, Rauner, Hays, and their ilk decided to use the money for other purposes.

A political front group called Better Roads Ahead, an organization that supports repairing and replacing Illinois’s structurally deficient bridges, sent my household this mailer attacking Rauner and Hays for putting the lives of Illinoisans at risk:

Better Roads Ahead Flyer - Front
Better Roads Ahead Flyer – Front
Better Roads Ahead Flyer - Back
Better Roads Ahead Flyer – Back

To give readers of this blog post a general idea of how terrible the condition of our nation’s infrastructure is, I strongly recommend reading and viewing this 60 Minutes feature about our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. You’d be absolutely shocked at how terrible the condition of our nation’s roads, railroads, and bridges are.

I find it highly disgusting that Rauner, Hays, and their ilk would use taxpayer money collected from state gasoline taxes, which are supposed to be used to fund road construction and maintenance here in Illinois, and use the money for other purposes. I would only support raiding transportation funds and using them for other purposes if our state’s politicians literally had no other option available to them to balance the state budget. The actions of our state’s politicians could result in bridge collapses that could kill tens of people. After all, if it happened in Minnesota, it could certainly happen here in Illinois.

To put it mildly, Illinoisans simply cannot afford the Rahm-Rauner-Hays corporate agenda, especially when it comes to transportation.