Archive - Aug 2012
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.
"Yes, of course, if it’s fine tomorrow." It was Mrs Dalloway, no Mrs. Ramsey's promise to her son about going to the lighthouse. I am sitting in a trailer in a campground in Truro, MA, not far from a lighthouse, as my wife fulfills a promise to Fiona; taking her shopping in Provincetown. I'm glad my wife has agreed to this, since I really don't like shopping. Also, it gives me a little time to decompress and reflect.
I've been thinking a lot about promises recently and the words from Guys and Dolls comes to mind,
You promise me this, you promise me that
You promise me anything under the sun...
My time on the Cape is an effort to balance two promises. Every year we go to the Cape, and I had promised to spend ten days on the Cape this year. Yet that was before I accepted the nomination as the Democratic Candidate for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District in Connecticut. That acceptance had an implied promise to the people who nominated me, to the people who contributed to my campaign and to everyone who has worked hard in my effort to get elected. I will work hard to get elected and if elected, I will work hard to represent the people of my district.
So, amidst my trips to the beach, I'm spending time contacting people, trying to move my campaign forward. I've worked on fundraising, on setting up my advertising campaign, and refining my positions on various issues. I'll go into more details about some of this later, but today, I want to think more about the promises I've encountered during my campaign.
A lot of people have been telling me, 'if I can do anything to help, let me know." I'm finding that this is too often a brush-off, an unkept promise in the making. It really came home to me when one person said this, and I pointed him to a pile of contribution forms and asked him to contribute to the campaign, even a small contribution. He quickly said, "Yeah, Yeah, I'll contribute" and walked away. I still haven't seen his contribution.
You see, to qualify for the state Citizens Election Program, I need to show that 150 people in the towns in my district are willing to go beyond simply saying they support me, that they are willing to contribute between $5 and $100 dollars. If everyone who had promised me they would contribute had kept their promise, I'd be done with my fundraising now and could spend my time talking with voters about the issues.
But promises are easy to make and easier to break, so I'm still trying to get people to contribute. Yeah, everyone chastises politicians for not keeping promises, and then they go on to break a million promises of their own. Don't believe me? Let's do lunch sometime. How many times have you heard or said that unkept promise?
"But, it won't be fine," Mr. Ramsey said. He was honest, brutally honest, so much so that his son could have killed him if there had been an axe handy. How do we balance honesty and compassion and keep as many of our promises as we can? Like others, I'm still trying to work that out, but perhaps struggling with these little issues, each and every day, instead of just shrugging them off is an important part of what makes life full and meaningful.
Recently, a friend shared an Op-Ed on Mashable entitled, Why Social Media Can’t Win Swing Votes. The title caught my attention, so I clicked on the link to see what the author had to say. Unfortunately, the title seems misleading and a better title might be, "Why Facebook Ads won't are unlikely to swing enough votes in the Presidential Election to make a difference".
It seems as if the Op-Ed makes a few significant mistakes. First, it seems to confuse social media with Facebook advertising. Social media is really about engaging people in conversations. An ad on Facebook might draw someone into the conversation, but most likely it won't. Some of the people who are starting to turn away from Facebook ads are probably people who haven't grasped the importance of engagement yet and are disappointed that their ads have been ineffective.
This continues on with the Op-Ed's discussion about numbers of followers. This isn't an especially compelling metric either. The bigger question is, how much are links to articles, videos or other content being retweeted.
The other big failure of the article is that it focuses on the Presidential race. Just about everyone knows who Obama and Romney are. There are a lot of people in my district that don't know who i am, or who my incumbent opponent is.
The article also seems to focus on elections as an either-or type decision. Either a person votes for one candidate or another. That is perhaps the biggest problem with electoral politics today, and a place where social media has the biggest potential to make a difference. As a nation, we need to move away from either-or thinking. We need to move away from thinking that electoral politics is just about which candidate you select in the voting booth.
Social Media is about conversations, and politics should be as well. How do you get people to think a little more deeply about the issues we as a people face? It is about moving people along a spectrum of involvement; getting the unregistered registered, getting the registered to vote, getting voters to become more involved in campaigns as volunteers or donors, and getting people who have been active in others campaigns to consider running for office themselves.
Social media, meeting people where they are, has a great ability to help with that. Or, it can simply be another advertising platform in a beauty contest of brands. In that role, the author of the Op-Ed is right. Let's not get stuck with that sort of social media.