As the Fourth of July celebrates wind down and we return to our regularly scheduled summer activities, I thought it would be useful to reflect on how the two should be related. One of the great slogans of the American Revolution was "No taxation without representation". While everyone wants their taxes to be as low as reasonable and taxes is always an issue in campaigns, I want to focus for a moment on the final words of the phrase, representation.
I am running to represent the people of Woodbridge, Orange and Derby in Hartford. To do this, I need to spend time getting to speak with and know as many of the people as possible. The fireworks in Orange provided a great opportunity to do this. As I walked around the crowd, I asked people where they were from to see if they would be in the 114th Assembly District. Orange is now split into parts of three different districts, so I asked people from Orange if they knew who their State Representative was. Many did not.
I had heard, years ago that as many as 80% of people don't know who their State Representative is, a disappointing number I found hard to believe. Yet as I talked to the people at the fireworks, it seemed that this may be accurate.
We have people represent us in our local government, up in Hartford, and down in Washington because most people are too busy with their daily lives to be fully involved with legislative processes. A representative democracy is a good way of governing, but to work well, we should at least get to know our representatives and share our thoughts with them.
At a minimum, we need to get out and vote, yet turnout in elections is horribly low. What we really should be doing is meeting those that wish to represent us at campaign events and town committee meetings. As part of my campaign, I've spoken at town committee meetings in Woodbridge, Orange and Derby. I've gone to campaign events for Rosa DeLauro and Chris Murphy. I hope many of you will consider doing the same. The next Woodbridge Democratic Town Committee meeting is Monday at 7 PM at the Senior Center in Woodbridge. It would be great to see more people attend.
As we look at the Revolutionary war slogan of "No taxation without representation" and seek ways to achieve the most reasonable tax rates, let us not forget the other side of the quote. Let's work together to make sure that we elect officials who will represent all of us.
It was a beautiful hot summer morning. The white clouds had piled up in the deep blue sky without a threatening tint of grey yet. The songbirds added their commentary as flies buzzed nearly and in the distance a lawn crew started their buzzing machines.
A large group of people gathered in the carefully manicured grass next to a gaping hole in the ground. The crowd was filled with dignitaries. The Lt. Governor, a former Lt. Governor. a former Secretary of the State, and a former State Senator who was now the head of the state Democratic Party. There was a State Representative, many activists and far more that I did not recognize.
My mind drifted to that great quote from the movie Norma Rae.
Also present were eight hundred and sixty-two members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and Cloth, Hat and Cap Makers' Union. Also members of his family. In death as in life, they stood at his side. They had fought battles with him, bound the wounds of battle with him, had earned bread together and had broken it together. When they spoke, they spoke in one voice, and they were heard. They were black, they were white, they were Irish, they were Polish, they were Catholic, they were Jews, they were one. That's what a union is: one
Yes, the union was there. There may have been representatives of one local or another, but it was the more perfect union that was there. These were people who had worked side by side
to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
It's how I had met Win, the mourning husband, as well as many of the others gathered to note the passing of his wife.
Traditions were observed and family members spoke. A woman sang a show tune from South Pacific that she had often sung with now deceased sister.
Dites-moi Pourquoi La vie est belle. Dies-moi Pourquoi La vie est gai, Dites-moi Pourquoi, Chere Mad'moiselle, Est-ce que Parce que Vous m'aimez?
Why is life beautiful and gay? Because of the love we have for one another; even in death.
There were the comments about the different deaths. The death of the body and the death of being forgotten. Carol was well remember at the service and my mind went to "Samuel Mendelsson: A Man Who Must Not Be Forgotten". It is a book about a man who died in the holocaust which was given to me by his great granddaughter.
The Kaddish was recited and my thoughts went to Allen Ginsburg's poem of the same name
Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on
the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village….
We formed two lines as the mourners passed between us, on their way back to their daily lives. But first, we all gathered for food. As one friend once said to me, all of Jewish history can be summed up in the phrase, "We faced great odds. We prevailed. Let's eat."
So as we ate, we talked about the great odds we continue to face in forming a more perfect union, the struggles for justice and domestic tranquility, and how we can best promote the general welfare.
Rest in Peace, Carol. Your life is well reflected in your loving husband, siblings and children.
Liability, Reputation Risk and Moral Hazards at the Beach
Yesterday, I headed over to the Country Club of Woodbridge to swim some laps and get a little rest and relaxation with my family. It was packed there. When we arrived, we could only find one seat beside the pool which wasn’t taken. I swam my laps, splitting the lap lane with a friend who also does many laps in the pool. I noticed lifeguards sitting in locations where they hadn’t been in previous years. There must have been half a dozen lifeguards on duty.
Things have sure changed a lot since my family and I joined the club shortly after the town took it over when the previous club went bankrupt. In those days when I swam laps, I was the only person in the pool being watched by the only lifeguard on duty. While I don’t have specific data, it appears as if the town took a risk in taking over the club and that risk finally started paying off as more people use the facility and the community becomes an even more desirable place to live.
Our lives are made up of risks. Every day we take risks based on calculations about possible outcomes. We might consider various liabilities our actions might produce. We might consider reputational risk, especially if our name is tied to some organization. We may encounter moral hazards when we take risks without considering the larger impact of our actions.
All of this came to mind recently, as I read stories about Tomas Lopez, a lifeguard for Jeff Ellis & Associates in Florida who was fired for aiding in the rescue of a person outside of the area he was supposed to be watching. A company supervisor was quoted on CNN as saying "We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area," The Jeff Ellis website talks about ‘Aquatic Risk Management”, and friends who have worked as lifeguards for Jeff Ellis here in Connecticut have commented about how they are all about the liability.
Yet this focus on the bottom line instead of the good of the community provides a useful illustration of reputation risk. It will be interesting to see if municipalities that contract with Jeff Ellis & Associates to provide life guard services will rethink their contracts.
Back at the Country Club of Woodbridge, we’ve got some great lifeguards, a great pool director, and all of this is in the context of an effort that goes beyond a short sighted view of the bottom line to a longer term view of the greater good. I hope to get a few more laps in real soon.
Note: A statement on the Jeff Ellis & Associates website says:
It has been incorrectly reported that Jeff Ellis & Associates was involved with the firing
of a Lifeguard in South Florida.
Jeff Ellis & Associates is an Aquatic Safety & Risk Management Consulting firm. Jeff
Ellis & Associates does not own, operate or manage aquatic facilities.
Jeff Ellis & Associates does not have a contract with the City of Hallandale Beach. Jeff
Ellis Management is a separate company that provides facility management services and
does provide service to Hallandale Beach.
The logo on the Jeff Ellis Management website includes the text "Jeff Ellis & Associates". This looks like hair splitting spin by someone to trying to mitigate against the damage done to the Jeff Ellis empire.
Here is another one of my longer blog posts thinking about what it means to run for office. It has also been submitted to the Bethwood Patch.
Recently, I wrote a blog post about being a participant observer in electoral politics. I'm running for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District in Connecticut, which includes all of Woodbridge, much of Orange, and the eastern side of Derby. Since that blog post, I've been very busy with tactical aspects of my campaign and haven't been writing as much as I would like.
This morning, I'm taking a few minutes to reflect on an aspect of running for elected office that I haven't found a lot written about, group dynamics.
I've had a long interest in group dynamics, especially as it relates to online communities and to group psychotherapy. It's a topic I've studied for over a decade and I'm a member of a mailing list of group psychotherapists.
So, let's try to look at this from a group perspective. I'm a member of a very large, non cohesive group. It is made up of about 15,000 members. It is the registered voters in the 114th assembly district. Like any large group, there are interesting subgroups to look at. There are the registered Democrats, the registered Republicans, the unaffiliated voters, and those that are registered with less known political parties.
There is the group of people who vote in primaries, the group of people who vote in municipal elections, the group of people who vote only in presidential elections, and the group of people who don't get out and vote at all.
I have chosen, perhaps because of some valence, to take up the role of candidate. For my friends with a group relations bent based, I am perhaps engaged in what Wilfred Bion would refer to as Basic Assumption - Pairing. My opponent and I are engaged in a discourse representing different views of how our community should move forward. The rest of the group watches, perhaps adding comments here or there, and hoping that the person whose views most closely match theirs prevails. We are seeing this dynamic intensify in U.S. politics as politics becomes more and more polarized.
The subgroup of those who are politically active and are hoping my views will prevail show a wide range of reactions. Some have contributed the maximum amount of money permissible to my campaign. With the Citizens Election Program in Connecticut, that is $100. They have spent time helping me get my message out. They express frustration that I have not been raising enough money, that I have not been contacting enough voters, or that I have not stayed closely enough to my message. They have high hopes for my campaign, and nothing will be enough to satisfy them until I get elected. Others, who are politically active and that I've hoped would be more involved in the campaign have resisted my requests for assistance and have expressed frustration at my repeated requests.
My job, assuming I get elected, will be to represent all of the people in the district. Not just those who share my views, or not just those that hold specific expectations of me.
At times, I hold the frustrations of my most ardent supporters, the weariness of my least enthused supporters, and I try to maintain the participant observer role in such a way that I might transform local politics.
How do we move away from basic assumption - pairing thinking, while at the same time holding fast to our hopes and dreams? How do we find common ground while seeking to differentiate ourselves from our opponents? How do we keep campaigning at peek performance without burning out?
These are the questions I struggle with as I campaign. Part of my stump speech is, don't vote for me because I have all the answers, parroted from party leaders or talking heads on cable television. Vote for me because I'll ask the tough questions. How do we understand the group dynamics of electoral politics and shift them to more of a working group behavior is just one of those difficult questions.
The following is the latest blog post I've submitted to the Bethwood Patch.
Earlier this month, the State Representative from the 114th Assembly District, which includes Woodbridge, shared a blog post on the Bethwood Patch about 'Legislative Acts Affecting Seniors'. I am running against her in the November election and I applauded her blog post. My campaign is about getting people more informed and more involved in their communities, including in what is happening up in Hartford.
In this light, I would like to expand upon her blog post. She mentioned three bills, but did not mention the bill numbers or how to get more information about them. I did a little research at the Connecticut General Assembly website, and believe I know more about these bills now.
The first bill mentioned was an Elderly Rental Rebate Program. I believe this was S.B. 105, AN ACT CONCERNING THE RENTAL REBATE APPLICATION PERIOD.
It was introduced by the Planning and Development committee, where no one voted against the bill. It had 11 co-sponsors, including Sen. Joe Crisco from Woodbridge. There was a public hearing on the bill in February, where the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Director of Elder Services for the City of New Haven expressed support for the bill. There was no opposition voiced.
The bill moved to the Appropriations committee where Rep Pat Dillon from New Haven moved the bill and Sen. Bob Duff from Norwalk seconded the motion. Like with the Planning and Development committee, the bill passed this committee with no opposition. My opponent sits on the appropriations committee, and with 51 other legislators, voted to support the bill.
The bill was voted on in the Senate with a roll call vote, and all thirty-six State Senators voted in favor of the bill. The CGA website does not list a vote tally for the House, so I assume it passed by unanimous consent.
The second bill listed, appears to be S.B. 138, AN ACT ESTABLISHING A TASK FORCE TO STUDY "AGING IN PLACE". This bill was introduced by the Aging Committee. It had 17 co-sponsors, including Sen. Joe Crisco from Woodbridge. The bill was moved by Rep. John Frey of Ridgefield and seconded by Senator Edith Prague of Columbia. Like the first bill, this bill cleared its committee unanimously. Several people testified in favor of the bill and there was no opposition.
Sen. Prague offered a minor amendment to the bill and it passed both chambers without any opposition.
It also was introduced by the Aging committee. Again, Sen. Joe Crisco from Woodbridge was one of the co-sponsors. This bill had 16 co-sponsors. Another of the co-sponsors was Sen. Gayle Slossberg from Milford. With redistricting, Sen. Slossberg's district now includes a southern portion of Woodbridge. Like the previous bill, this bill also passed Aging with no opposition. It went to the Public Health Committee where it passed with no opposition. It then went on to pass both chambers with no opposition.
I applaud the important work that the State Legislature did in passing these bills, and especially Sen. Crisco and Sen. Slossberg in being co-sponsors of these bills. I hope I will get an opportunity to serve with Sen. Crisco and Sen. Slossberg in co-sponsoring bills that helps our state better serve it's senior citizens.