Archive - 2012
For the past few years, my wife and I have always looked forward to the Greek Festival at St. Barbara's Church. Over the years, my daughter has gone from looking forward to the loukamades to looking forward to saganaki. This year, she was all about the grape leaves.
She likes to pick up a stuffed animal or some other trinket at the treasures and trinkets, as well as see some of her friends dance.
This was my first year going to the festival as a candidate. It felt a little awkward, because St. Barbara's is the church my opponent goes to and many people there are good friends with her. Yet campaigns are about more than just good friendships and I wanted to talk with people about why they should consider me when they vote in November.
As I spoke with friends and neighbors, I ran into a new friend of mine, the campaign coordinator in the Third Congressional District for the Chris Murphy for Senate campaign. Chris was on his way.
When he arrived, he spoke with voters with an easy and confidence that was truly inspiring. As is often the case with candidates in state wide races, his staff let him know when it was time to head out to the next event. Labor day weekend is a very busy one for politicians. Chris took time for a few last quick conversations and headed off to the next event.
Events like the Greek Festival at St. Barbara's Church provide a great opportunity for people to come together as part of a community. It is a great time to speak with those who seek to represent us, either up in Hartford, or off in Washington. It was an honor to accompany Chris Murphy in Orange.
For my friends who are counting on consumers reviving the economy, it is a weekend to go shopping. To my friends in the labor movement, it is a time to remember struggles for better working conditions, the forty hour work week, and an end to child labor. For others, it is a time for festivals at church, picnics or barbecues with the family, and heading back to school.
For politicians, it is a time of campaigning. I'm working on events, contacting voters and honing my positions on various issues. It seems like every day, I get a half dozen new candidate questionnaires from various organizations. They are good in that they help me think about the issues. Unfortunately, too often, the responses do not become public. So, I'm trying to distill some of my responses into blog posts.
Since it is labor day weekend, it seems like a good time to talk about collective bargaining. The first question in Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association's questionnaire says, "In 2008, the General Assembly introduced legislation (SB 685 AN ACT CONCERNING THE CREATION OF A STATE MUNICIPAL FINANCE ASSISTANCE COMMISSION, 2008 Session) that would give extraordinary powers to Special Review Boards when impaneled to assist municipalities in distress. This bill legalized the abrogation of collective bargaining agreements and the curtailment of collective bargaining as possible remedies for these situations. Would you: SPONSOR - SUPPORT - OPPOSE legislation that permits this type of treatment of workers.
I also received a questionnaire from ConnCan. Their questions were less pointed, for example asking if I agreed with this statement: "School administrators and teachers should be held accountable for classroom performance and student achievement". Personally, I can't imagine people not agreeing with this statement. However, it says nothing about what should happen legislatively. How do we determine classroom performance and student achievement? Legislation that bases such a determination solely on standardized tests would be misguided. Legislation that doesn't consider how others, besides teachers and administrators, are accountable to a student's achievement would also be misguided, and legislation that would abrogate collective bargaining agreements or curtail collective bargaining would likewise be misguided.
You see,when we are dealing with key issues that affect our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, we need people to work together. We need firefighters working together to save a structure. One firefighter, by himself, cannot put out a three alarm fire. We need teachers, administrators, parents and members of the community to work together so that our students can be as successful as possible.
Collective bargaining is one way in which firefighters, teachers, and others work together. Collective bargaining should be viewed as part of our first amendment right to peaceably assemble, and for those working in government jobs, it should be viewed as part of the first amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
Granted, there may be times when those bargaining, either for employees or for employers, are not doing so in good faith, yet that does not mean we should curtail collective bargaining.
So, this weekend, I'll do my campaigning, and I'll stay on message about the importance of all of us working together for the sake of all Americans.
Happy Labor Day.
Various people have asked me my opinion on term limits and the politically expedient response would be to support term limits. After all, my opponent has served as a State Representative for 14 years, longer than the maximum term for a State Representative in any of the 14 states that have term limits. I can see why people might want term limits, but really, I don't think they are the best solution to the problems we face.
The first issue is, what problem are we trying to fix? The biggest issue seems to be that too often, when a person is in office too long, they may get caught up in their own self-importance and lose touch with the people they are supposed to represent. Instead of imposing mandatory term limits, making elections more competitive seems like a better solution. This includes programs like the Connecticut Citizens Election Program which helps level the playing field between incumbents and challengers, at least in the aspect of fundraising. A stronger fourth estate, both in terms of traditional media and new, online media, provide another opportunity to help level the playing field.
Interestingly, it is often people that would like to see government run more like business that call for term limits, but this seems contradictory. There don't seem to be a lot of companies that have term limits on their CEOs or board members, and many people calling for term limits would probably be upset at the idea of applying them to companies.
Related to all of this is our relationship to government. Many people call for 'smaller government', over looking that our government is supposed to be of, by and for the people. We are all supposed to be involved in our civic life. Often this lack of connection with government, such as people not even knowing who their State Representative is, or bothering to vote in local elections adds to the problem of long serving incumbents and finding ways to increase voter participation is another way to keep elected officials responsive to their constituents.
Unfortunately, yet again, we find a contradiction. Many of the people who support term limits are the same people that support voter identification laws and other laws that make it harder, not easier for everyone to vote.
There is an important downside to term limits that needs to be considered. Long serving incumbents may be long serving because they are, in fact, the best people to represent their constituents. They also bring an institutional knowledge that is important. As an example, states that have term limits of less than ten years generally don't have elected officials who have been through redistricting when it comes around every ten years, so the legislatures need to start over each ten years.
Now, you might feel inclined to chalk up my lack of support for term limits to a different political expediency. You might imagine that I'm thinking about twelve years from now and whether I should step aside, even if term limits are in place.
I won't make any promises limiting the number of times that I'll serve, but I will tell you this: We should always be seeking to find the best person to be our representative. I believe that we must have competitive elections, and it is this desire for competitive elections that got me to enter in the first place. Serving as a State Representative is a civic duty, similar to jury duty or paying taxes. It isn't something we should be seeking to make careers out of, and we should gladly step aside when a better candidate emerges.
Yet tied to that is the belief that every candidate needs to have, that they are the person best able to serve at the current time. I believe I am the person best able to serve as State Representative in the 114th Assembly District in this election. As long as I continue to believe that, and my constituents continue to believe that, I will be willing to serve as State Representative. With that comes the willingness to step aside when a better candidate comes along and I hope I will be able to do that when my time comes.
Well, we did it. Our first batch of Beach Plum Jelly. Each morning, during our vacation on Cape Cod, I would walk to the beach. On my way there and back, I would pass beach plum bushes. Initially, most of the plums weren't ripe. Slowly, they ripened and I started picking a few, first for me to eat during my walks, then to share with my wife and daughter. Towards the end of our trip, the many beach plums ripened. I started carrying bags to store the plums in, and ended up gathering about a gallon and a half of beach plums.
Back home, we followed Sean Sullivan's BEACH PLUM JELLY: ORIGINAL GOURMET RECIPE. We put the gallon and a half of beach plums in a crock-pot and let them heat through for the day. In the evening, I strained the juice, ending up with about five cups. If I had been more diligent, I might have been able to get a sixth or even seventh cup out, but instead, I plan on saving the pulp for some further cooking experiments.
We added eight cups of sugar and brought it to a full boil. We then added a little more than a box of pectin, let it work back up to a build again for a little over a minute, and then let it cool. I skimmed off the foam; there wasn't much to skim, and then started putting it into half pint jars. We only had eight half pint jars, and we filled up all of them, and still had jelly left over, so we filled up a different jar which we will use immediately.
The jelly appears to have set nicely and the canning jars appear to have sealed, after flipping them over while they cooled.
We took a little of the remaining pulp, mixed it with vodka, sugar syrup and a little tonic water and had a great cocktail. I'm thinking of adding the rest of the remaining pulp into my first or second batch of hard cider this season. Beach Plum Hard Cider, sounds like it could be a great concoction.
So, that's our first experiment with beach plums.
Having recently returned from Cape Cod, my thoughts are again occupied with the thoughts and goals of the early settlers, as well as of later visitors to the aforementioned land. In November, 1620, some of the pilgrims signed a social contract with one another to
"covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony"
It seems as if, in these current days, we have lost touch with these founding ideas of a social contract. What are the agreements we rely upon today for the general good of our community? In fact, how do we understand what is the general good of our community? What are the ends which we wish to further?
It seems as if so much of the dialog of these current days is so far removed from these ideas, so far removed from Lincoln's government, "of, by and for the people" that many mindlessly repeat talking points about smaller government without thinking about their own roles in the governments and businesses, as voters, taxpayers, employers, employees, consumers, stakeholders and beneficiaries of the general good of our community.
What social contracts should we be adhering to? How do we get more people to think about their place in the fabric of society? I'd love to hear your thoughts.