A group of candidates for political office have joined me in challenge to post 100 days, or at least daily until election day, things they are grateful about in their communities. James Maroney, who is running for State Rep in the 119th Assembly District in Connecticut posted, “I’m proud to live in a community that values history and tradition”.
Whitney Hoffman, who is running for State Rep in the 160th district in Pennsylvania posted
I am so glad that we live in a Country where you can go door to door and meet people, talk to them, and ask for their vote. Meeting my neighbors and community members has been one of the best things about campaigning for office. Hearing people's stories and putting names and faces to issues we face is eye-opening and a true privilege.
Let me start off my political gratitudes saying how glad I am that people get involved in their government, whether it be voting, volunteering on campaigns, contributing to campaigns, or running for office. We need to give people choices in the voting booth for our democracy to mean anything. We need to have campaigns where small donations mean a lot, like we do in Connecticut, thanks to the Citizens’ Election program. We need to have meaningful discussions about the issues our country faces.
Thank you, James, Whitney, and everyone who helps make our democracy work.
Recently, I received a candidate questionnaire from the Connecticut Realtors Political Action Committee. Their first question is:
Connecticut presently permits eighteen distressed communities to add an additional local option conveyance tax on home sellers. This tax should be repealed as it is regressive tax that unnecessarily increases the costs of selling a home in Connecticut. Would you support repeal of this regressive local option conveyance tax?
A regressive tax is one where the rate decreases as the amount subject to taxation increases, yet as I understand the local option conveyance tax, it is a flat rate no matter what the selling price is. I wonder if they really meant to say that it is a tax that hits poorer people harder since their homes are often a larger percentage of their wealth.
It raises some interesting questions. Does this tax hit poorer people harder? What sort of effect does this tax have on communities in terms of house sales, house prices, economic opportunity or the health of the community? Would changing or eliminating this tax make health and opportunities more equitable? How would it affect house opportunities for different people or how would it affect smart growth plans. If such a tax were removed, what would be used to replace the money necessary for our already cash strapped communities?
I’ve read through their Public Policy Statement which doesn’t seem to address these issues. I will follow up with them to see what they have to say on these topics.
On Facebook, today, a friend, Miles, posted a link to the Thai Life Insurance Company commercial, “Unsung Hero”. Please, take a moment to watch this commercial and think about commercials in the United States.
With the link, Miles posted,
America today seems to be all about money. I don't think that was always the only thing we valued, and I hope we find our way back from that delusion.
Just before his post was one from Zephyr Teachout. Zephyr is running for Governor in New York State. I met her through Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign over a decade ago, which is also how I met Miles. They live on opposite sides of the country, but share a lot in common.
Over 1,000 ALL-VOLUNTEER Teachout-Wu petitions came in this weekend from Long-Island!
These are teachers and parents who are determined not to allow Governor Cuomo to keep taking money from schoolchildren to give away in tax breaks for banks. Your committed fight for our children and future is inspiring. Thank you.
They volunteers are the unsung heroes that the Thai Life commercial talks about. They are those who have stepped away from the delusion that money is the only thing of value.
Another friend, Ed, posted a picture of an Italian Renaissance painting at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, talking about visiting the Met as being a wonderful way to spend the day and after that, my friend Elia posted a cartoon with a signpost. One direction pointed to Truth, Justice and Wisdom. The other pointed to 99 cent burgers. The crowds were all headed towards the burgers.
Perhaps the crowds will vote for my opponent in the election this fall. Perhaps the crowds in New York State will vote for Zephyr’s opponents in the fall, but I will stand for Truth, Justice, and Wisdom, for Unsung Heroes and appreciating the arts, even if all I do is to get a few more people to sit back and wonder what their lives are really all about after all.
On Friday, I filed my SEEC Form 1 with the State Elections Enforcement Commission. This form, along with others, provides the SEEC information about how the candidate is complying with campaign laws and provides the public an opportunity to find out who is influencing the candidate, at least in terms of financial contributions.
Yet with campaign finance reform in Connecticut, at least for state offices, the effect of financial influence is not as significant as it used to be, and it may be time to look at other forms of influence. We are all influenced by our family, friends and neighbors, and what we see in the media. An interesting book that explores this is Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications by Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld. It was first published back in 1955 and is perhaps even more relevant today as we think about influence online. This book influences my own thoughts about how we can work together for the sake of our community, state, and country.
Another key influence shaping my run for State Representative is the Connecticut Health Foundations Health Leadership Fellows Program. I became a fellow in this program last year. A key focus of the Foundation and the program is ‘Expanding Health Equity’. The program provides many great opportunities to gather with thought leaders to find ways to address health issues in Connecticut.
One opportunity was when Francois de Brantes from the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute spoke to fellows about payment reform. In preparation for the talk, the fellow read the policy brief, Improving Incentives. It is well worth the read. What incentives can we offer to medical providers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and others to reduce the cost and improve the quality of healthcare in America? As an example, are their incentives for medical providers to encourage caesarean sections when natural childbirth would provide better health outcomes? Are their incentives to have a caesarean section prior to 39 weeks, even though, as the March of Dimes notes, at least 39 weeks is best for your baby.
Through the fellowship, I’ve connected with people at many great organizations, the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, the Connecticut Multicultural Health Partnership, the Commission on Health Equity, the Connecticut Health Policy Project to name just a few.
Yet there is much more that needs to be considered when we think about the wellbeing of our community, state, and country. On Friday, I spoke with the producer of Conversations on Health Care about an upcoming guest, Elizabeth Bradley, who wrote the book, The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More is Getting Us Less. While we spend more per capita than any other country on health care, our results are not as good as other countries. Why is this? Perhaps some of it comes from failing to spend enough of what leads to healthy societies, like good food and housing. Perhaps some of it is due to flaws in our educational system or transportation system.
These are the issues that we need to be thinking about. We need to find incentives that will help our communities, our state, and our country be stronger and healthier. This is where you come in. Who influences you? Who do you influence? Who has good ideas that need to be brought into the conversation? What are those ideas? Let’s talk. Let’s use this as an opportunity to work together for better communities.
“Do Not Fold, Bend, Mutilate or Spindle” The old phrase about computer punch cards in the sixties came to my mind Thursday as I attended OMMA Video as part of Internet Week in New York City. As experts talked about buying online video advertisements, based on increasingly sophisticated demographic information and programmatic buying, I had to wonder if the concern about being reduced to a number had far surpassed the greatest fears of those fifty years ago who protested the depersonalization that computers with their punch cards had brought.
Now, I understand the argument that improved targeting doesn’t depersonalize advertising, instead it makes it more specific, more personalized, but my mind drifts to the work of Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”. Increasingly, our interactions have become transactional. They are losing the personal touch, the “I and thou”, the chance for transformation.
Perhaps that is because everything is becoming more and more about the numbers. We focus on ROIs, KPIs and how all of this ultimately relates to our “net worth”. At one point, I tweeted, “The talk about data, measurement and automation makes me think of Wittgenstein: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
In contrast to all of this, the keynote speakers touched on something else, creativity. The first speaker, Mike Monello, CCO of Campfire, referenced Spreadable Media, Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. It sounds like I book I need to get.
Monello spoke about the reason people share content, to elevate their status, to define their community, and to strengthen bonds. It seems like this returns us closer to Buber. He spoke about putting the audience in the middle of the story, breaking down the fourth wall between the advertiser and the consumer and noted that people look for experiences, not content.
All of this comes to mind as I think about my campaign for State Representative. People are tired of politics, of the strategists that carefully run the numbers and craft messages to appeal to the largest demographic. I’ve been getting into discussions about this on Facebook recently.
For example, Whitney Hoffman, whom I met through Podcamp years ago, is running for State Representative. Recently, she wrote,
there seems to be a big gap between what politicians think folks need to know and what's effective, and how voters feel about it. For example, direct mail is a staple of politics, and data typically shows direct mail has a 1% conversion rate in retail, but very few people I talk to pay much attention to the glossy information that comes in the mail, and often toss it right away.
I had a great discussion with Whitney about this. It does seem like things like yard signs, bumper stickers, campaign websites, and direct mail, have little impact, other than showing that you’re a credible candidate. It is the same old politics by the numbers. But what we really need is politics that people will want to share, to define our communities and strengthen our bonds.
When people talk about content that gets shared online, they typically talk about cat videos. Cat videos make us feel good. Jane McGonigal talks about looking at pictures of cute animals in terms of building emotional resilience. It seems like there is an ever increasing need for emotional resilience, especially if you are at all politically active. So, the question that I asked of Whitney, and that I ask here is, how do we build emotional resilience into political discourse? Instead of sending out glossy direct mail, how can candidates reach out with messages that makes us emotionally stronger and builds our communities? What are the cat videos of your campaign?
Thank you. I know that there is a Board of Selectmen meeting coming up as well as other conventions this evening, and I have to get to a Vestry meeting, so I’ll try to keep my comments brief.
It is an honor and a privilege to receive, and accept, the Democratic Nomination for State Representative in the 114th Assembly district of Connecticut, serving Woodbridge, and parts of Orange and Derby. It will also be a lot of work, but it is work that must be done.
At the Democratic State Convention last Friday, the person nominating Denise Merrill for another term as Secretary of State talked about the importance of civic engagement saying, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.” Unfortunately, too few people vote in our state.
But as leaders, there is more to this that we need to hear, “if you don’t provide someone to vote for, don’t complain.” I am not running just because I want to, I am running because it is important work that needs to be done.
Some may say, “Why is he running, he doesn’t have a chance.” That is like saying, “Why should I vote, my vote won’t make a difference.” Wrong!
When I ran two years ago, I received 36% of the vote, yet when people asked me the outcome of the election, I told them that I had won. I hadn’t gotten elected, but I had won. I won by giving people a choice. Over 4,000 people voted for me last time, and I want them to have someone to vote for this time.
I won by discussing the issues. And I am going to win again this fall, whether it be with 56% of the vote, or 36% of the vote.
Some people are bound to give me advice about how I should change my looks. I should lose some weight, I should cut off my beard, I shouldn’t wear those dorky looking Google Glasses.
I feel too much of politics is based on is based on looks, personality, and popularity. We should be spending campaign funds on talking about the issues, not buying giant pictures of ourselves. If I try to be more popular or better looking than my opponent, I have less of a chance of winning, not only the popularity contest, but also the more important goals of talking about the issues and giving the voters a real choice.
So, what issues are most important to me? We can, and will, talk about health, education, civic involvement, the environment, transportation and so on, but I want to start off by talking about the underlying issues. Who are we as a people?
A lot of the discussion these days have been fiercely independent, with people waving flags saying “Don’t tread on me”, talking about freedom and individual rights.
Freedom to do what? To be self-centered, to be concerned about “What’s in it for me?” No, that is not what made our country strong. With rights come responsibilities. Our freedom should be the freedom to help the downtrodden and vulnerable amongst us.
We are privileged to live in a wonderful community. Many of us are privileged to have been brought up in well to do families, with parents that cared for us, and made it possible to go to college. We have responsibility to preserve this wonderful community, and to provide opportunities for those less fortunate than ourselves.
So, the campaign begins. Thank you for your support this evening, and more importantly, for whatever level of support you’ll be able to provide during the coming months.