Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sound Off: Stand Up and Speak Out

This Sound Off was submitted by Terry Riley:
I have demonstrated at many events in Albuquerque. I have participated in the State Fair Parade, the Christmas Parade and I have demonstrated at the Balloon Fiesta. There is a degree of frustration when demonstrating. The people who oppose you do not give you a chance to explain why you feel the way that you do and the people who agree don't ask how they can join you and work toward solving the problem. 

I can't afford to buy radio time, oh, and I can't afford to buy the US Senate or House. As you see I am pretty limited. I have attended meetings of some really neat orgainizations and I have tried to speak out and cheerlead people into getting involved, hopefully along the lines that I am working.

Please don't look at this as me trying to take credit for moving mountains all by myself. I am talking about how this effected me and what and how I did things.

On Saturday June 24th I tried something that I have never tried. I went to the Civic Plaza to the Summerfest. I walked through the crowd and handed out flyers that asked:

Want Cheap Gas?
Get Out Of Iraq!
Stay Out of Iran!
Before Iraq $1.55/gal!

On the back I listed the addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers of both of our Senators, Congresswoman Wilson and candidate for Congress AG Patricia Madrid. I also listed The Albuquerque Veterans for Peace, Stop the War Machine, Democracy for New Mexico and the Los Alamos Study Group as organizations that one should consider joining. I also listed several web sites that people could go for information - starting with the New Mexico Democratic Party followed by the New Mexico Republican Party. I want people to consider stepping up and speaking out to bring about the change that we need to save our country.

I passed out 80 of these flyers in about 20 minutes. I found 8 people who were not interested in looking at it, several of them seemed irritated by the information. Those are fantastic statistics.  Eight out of eighty, that is 10%! That sample was totally random.

In order to get people activated we need to get information to as many people as possible and it has to be useable. The flyer has to identify the problem, explain an action, give locations or contact information and provide support. People are lazy or afraid or embarrased. We have to make it easy for people to stand up. It also helps to give an example or two of past successes to further encourage people.

The Paper Ballot Bill in the State Legislature and the Minimum Wage Increase in Albuquerque are very hard to argue with. Now you go for the close, get the sale, ask the person to come to the next meeting and become involved. Clearly state to a person who is considering that the movement cannot succeed if people wait until it is strong or wait to see who gets on board. Success will depend on THEM standing up and speaking out.

I would like to do a lot more of this and I need volunteers to work with me on this.  Please contact me if you are interested at this email address.

Terry Riley

Editor's Note: Sound Off is a sometimes feature on this blog that provides readers, candidates and others with an opportunity to submit a post. If you'd like to submit a Sound Off, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the top left-hand side of the main blog page.

June 27, 2006 at 09:42 AM in Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sound Off: Perfection?

This Sound Off was submitted by Terry Riley:
Are you perfect?  I don't think so. I don't think that I am either. I am hearing people complaining that a political candidate is not perfect. I am concerned because I am hearing that so much lately.  We all read the news, so we know that no incumbent is perfect. Did we think that they were perfect when we originally voted for them? Would you like to learn how to make them better?

Attend meetings and rallies that feature the candidates and listen to their presentations. Take some time and wait around after their presentation so that you can speak with them individually. Tell the candidates what you really feel, what is important to you, and then listen to how they respond to you. If their response is not what you want, but they acknowledge your argument, then this is a good candidate. If this issue is very important to you, yet you did not convince them to support it, then you need to work on a better presentation so you can convince the candidate to think and work in the direction that you believe is best.

Once you understand your issue and where your candidate stands, you have to decide how you want to influence them.  Present your issue with supporting documentation and endorsements. This will get your candidate to better consider your side. If you support candidates who support your issues you have the best chance of getting your problems or issues taken care of after they get elected. The candidates NEED your vote on election day so be sure to tell them what issues are important to you and how they can earn your vote.  If you have others who stand with you when you present your ideas or issues the candidate immediately recognizes the importance to them of responding to you. 

If a candidate still does not agree on the issue that you are working on, then you have to evaluate their other positions on other issues to see if you can support their candidacy at all or if you need to support their opposition. Choosing to give up and not support or vote for either candidate completely invalidates your opinions and your rights. Things that are important to you will not be dealt with if you never stand up and ask for the support.

Candidates rely on rallies or town hall meetings to build their voting base. If you stand up and present your issue or question respectfully the rest of the people there will be interested to hear the candidate’s response. Present yourself well enough and the response of the other people at the event will convince the candidate that your position on your issue is going to help them get elected.  This is how you can help a candidate become your perfect candidate!

Now, let’s go back to the beginning of this. You want the perfect candidate. How much are you willing to do to get this perfect candidate and is perfection realistic?  You have to attend many events. You have to write out your views and deliver them to your candidate and their campaign staff. You have to find many people who support your views and have them accompany you on a visit to your candidate so the candidate can see what support your issue has.

After you have convinced the candidate that your side of the issues that you feel strongly about deserves their commitment, you then have an obligation to work to make sure that this candidate gets elected. You need to learn the rest of the issues that this candidate supports and meet with people on behalf of YOUR candidate. Convince as many people as you can to vote for your candidate.  Getting what you want is not easy. 

Griping about stupid politicians or dumb laws or government excesses is useless. Standing up for what you believe in and supporting candidates who understand and agree with you on your issues is how Democracy works. Please join me in reviving our Democracy, finding and improving on those almost perfect candidates, and in rebuilding the political parties. Put real ethics, work ethics and ethical standards back at the forefront of politics in America.

Terry Riley
Democracy for New Mexico, Democratic Party of New Mexico, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, etc.

Sound Off is a regular feature of the blog that provides an opportunity for readers to communicate their views on a variety of topics. If you'd like to submit a post, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand side of the main page.

June 13, 2006 at 10:34 AM in Candidates & Races, Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sound Off: A Broken Military

This Sound Off was submitted by Terry Riley:
Here is another example of how broken our military is today. From the beginning of basic training throughout their careers the brass are forever teaching kill, kill, kill. Now the outcome of that debased training reaches the civilian population and the brass responds with moral training. Maybe they will re-institute compliance with the rules of the Geneva Convention.

Nobody should join the military at a time when they cannot know whether their greatest threat is from obeying or disobeying orders. The responsibility of the leadership is to give direction and to lead by example. When the commanders have no morals then the individual soldiers will be blamed - again.

Editor's Note: I suggest people also read this , which reports that the Pentagon has decided to omit a key tenet of the Geneva Convention from its new detainee policies -- one that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment."

Sound Off is a regular feature of this blog that provides an opportunity for readers, candidates and others to publish a post on this site. To submit your Sound Off, email it to me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the main blog page.

June 5, 2006 at 09:16 AM in Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sound Off: Ethics in Politics - Wouldn't That Be Nice!

This Sound Off was submitted by Terry Riley, who attended yesterday's meeting of the appointed by Governor Richardson:

To be fair I want everybody to KNOW that as I have become involved in politics and political activism and lobbying that I have met and worked with and against some very ethical politicians.  Unfortunately there are a couple of really newsworthy ethics stories in New Mexico. The State Treasurer and now the director of the Department of Corrections. These are bad problems and the media is making a big thing about them. Governor Richardson appointed an Ethics Reform Task Force to prepare legislation for the 2007 Legislative Session.

I attended the first part of the first meeting of this task force. WOW! The people who attended had very impressive credentials. The comments that were made during the opening presentation! I have every faith that good things will come from this action and because these people are involved.  You should take time to come and watch for yourself. You could make a comment or two if you want, the task force meetings are open.

The first question that came to my mind after the initial presentation was who is responsible to enforce ethics violations presently. We find that there are jurisdictional difficulties but, for the most part, enforcement of ethics rules is the responsibility of the Secretary of State.

Secretary of State, Attorney General and candidates: I would like to point out that I do not believe that anybody was there representing the SOS office. I hope that I am wrong about that. I am sure that one candidate for the Secretary of State position in the upcoming elections was in attendance, Stephanie Gonzales. I believe that this is exactly how we should decide on who to vote for. I would also point out that there probably should be representation from candidates for the Attorney General position.

I would like to share this because I believe that the issue of ethics in politics is what is going to make more people willing to become involved.  Lack of ethics makes people not vote!

Editor's Note: The next meeting of the Ethics Reform Task Force is tentatively scheduled for June 28-29 in Santa Fe. We'll keep you posted.

Sound Off is a regular feature of this blog that provides an opportunity for readers, candidates, advocates, etc., to express opinions. If you'd like to submit a Sound Off, send it to me by clicking on the "Email Me" link on the upper left-hand side of the main page.

May 31, 2006 at 09:47 AM in Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sound Off: Gonzales Campaign for Secretary of State Reaches Out

The following was originally posted as a comment to a previous post that announced the endorsement of Stephanie Gonzales for Secretary of State by election reform groups United Voters NM and Verified Voting NM. These comments were submitted by William H. Mee. I transferred it here so that it can attract more readership as our June 6 primary election nears.

Dear All,
Let me make a disclaimer up front. I am a volunteer for the Stephanie Gonzales campaign, and I want to thank you for the your kind words. Also, I want to make an urgent appeal to you for your active support of Stephanie Gonzales for Secretary of State.

If you are concerned about the 2008 Presidential Election, the best thing you can do is ensure that we have the most competent Democratic candidate in this Primary Election on June 6th. I believe that is Stephanie Gonzales.

The other three women in the race are wonderful women who would make fine secretaries of state for New Mexico at any time in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But since the millennium the stakes have gotten higher and it takes a very competent and strong leader to administer that elective office.  You know that New Mexico will again be a battleground state, and the pressure will be on. Stephanie is clearly the most qualified and energized candidate to do this. She was the last one to enter the race and the first one with a formal plan on how to improve the office. Click to read The Eight Point Plan posted on her website.

We have a Statewide Primary to win and we need your help. Of course we need money for the campaign for visibility, but it may be too late unless you act quickly. More importantly --- we need feet, hands and minds. Feet to go door-to-door and to stand out on Election Day with a sign. Hands to do mailouts and put bumper stickers on. Minds to do letters to the editor, e-mailing and blogging, and give speeches at community events, plus to do Election Day observation. This is real grassroots democracy. Vote early to free up your time on Election Day (besides at many County Clerks offices it is on paper). If you really believe then call us in Santa Fe at 989-1811 or 989-1875; visit the internet at:


or send us an email at:


Thanks for your time.

Editor's Note: Sound Off is a regular feature of this website. It provides an opportunity for readers, candidates, officeholders and others to submit posts to be published on any and all topics. If you'd like to submit a post, please send it to me by clicking on the 'Email Me' link on the upper left-hand side of the main page of this website.

May 30, 2006 at 08:57 AM in Candidates & Races, Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sound Off: National Guard on the Border a Bad Plan

This Sound Off was submitted by Terry Riley:
When politicians want to look like they are dealing with a problem they throw some money at it. This knee-jerk response is almost always wrong and in the President's plan to send reservists to our border with Mexico it seems more wrong than usual. The really sad thing is that the "spin machine" has generated a lot of public support for this effort. I would like to ask anybody who supports this plan a couple of very serious questions.

The first question that I have is about the part of the plan that will have 6,000 reservists serving two weeks at-a-time along the border. How can we deploy 6,000 reservists along a 10,000 mile border every two weeks and have ANY success? Do you have any idea how expensive the transportation costs alone will be?  Will there be overlap periods while outgoing reservists are packing up and incoming reservists are unpacking? Will there be training? How much training can be done in two weeks?

My second question is about the description of the work the reservists will be doing. The president said that the reservists will be training the Border Patrol! Just who will be training who? Can there be any work being done if there is all of this training of the trainers who will be training the people who were already doing the job? I believe that our reservists are trained in the jobs that they are currently assigned to. I don't believe that we have more than a couple of reservists who are trained at Border Patrol, and their "regular job" is probably BORDER PATROL!

I fear that the immigration issue becoming such a hot topic has a lot to do with things that the administration is doing behind our backs again. I wonder if it is being trumpeted so that we will lose interest in wiretapping, or the investigations of so many Bush Administration "hit men," or the possibility that President Bush is launching a nuclear attack on Iran, or something else entirely. 

Please stand up for civility, thoughtfulness and compassion as we consider the problem of illegal immigration. The problem has been with us for a very long time and we need to solve it. We need to find a way to stop the illegal flow without killing people or destroying the lives of people who have become so desperate. Study the problem so you can solve the problem. Quick fixes are very expensive and NEVER fix anything.

This Sound Off was submitted by Terry Riley. Sound Off is a regular feature of this blog, and allows readers to post their opinions on any and all issues. If you'd like to take part, email your Sound Off post to me by clicking on the Email Me link on the top left side of the main page.

May 18, 2006 at 01:25 PM in Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sound Off: Spirit of the North Valley

From Terry Riley:
What a day it was Saturday at the Spirit of the North Valley event! The sun was bright, the sky was New Mexico blue, and people were smiling and chatting with people that they didn't know and people they hadn't seen for a long time. A community get-together. We need more of this. I feel privileged to have been a part of it, my first time. I could have gone every year for the last eight years that I have lived in the north valley, I just didn't think, I was "busy".

I went because I am politically motivated, I was spreading the word about Democracy for New Mexico, Voter Verifiable Paper Ballots, Bernalillo County Democratic Party, AND Veterans for Peace.  Many politicians were there glad handing anybody who would listen, kids were running around, hamburgers and burritos were cooking, it was just a wonderful place to be.

In the middle of all of this happiness we at the Veterans for Peace booth were able to talk with a lot of people about the risks of Bush's next war and the need to stop his current wars. Nobody who spoke with us was of a different opinion. Many were unaware that Iran is now on the horizon but they all expressed concern that we have no business trying to take over the world.

An opinion that I have was reinforced strongly. We no longer have to teach people about the mess that we are in. We now have to teach people that they can change things and we have to give them opportunities to be part of making those changes. I think that the things that we have been working on at the State Democratic Party are the kind of things that can be handled locally and that they are affecting things nationally. We do need to become more vocal and we need more people involved. Now is a good time to become involved.

Thank you for listening, Terry Riley

Editor's Note: Sound Off is a regular feature here, providing an opportunity for readers to submit a commentary on any political topic and have it posted. If you'd like to submit a Sound Off, email me your post by clicking on the link on the upper left-hand side of the main page that says Email Me.

April 10, 2006 at 10:00 AM in Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sound Off: Reaction to Open Letter to State Dem Chair

This Soundoff was submitted by V. Lamkin of Albuquerque in response to a previous Sound Off by Guy Watson entitled Open Letter to Dem State Party Chair:

I attended the March 4, 2006 State Resolutions/Platform Committee meeting with Mr. Watson and a handful of others who came to voice concerns and ideas to the committee members. One aspect of this meeting that stands out for me was the resistance by some of the committee members to even entertain issues that they perceived as "wedge issues." In other words: any issue that might be used by the Republicans against the NM Democratic Party.

During the course of this meeting we were given a chance to participate as long as we submitted our ideas in writing after each section of the platform was discussed by the committee members present. I myself am new to how the platform process works. I submitted several ideas that day in writing and they were included on the platform that was presented to the delegates on Saturday March 18, 2006. I learned a great deal from observing this process and I encourage others to become familiar with it. As the meeting started we were given several packets of resolutions that had been submitted to the committee from around the state. I did not have a lot of time once the meeting started to read all this information.

The day was spent discussing a platform that I thought was a compilation of the resolutions in the various packets. I found out afterwards that the platform discussed on March 4, 2006 was a version of the 1996 platform. I became more alarmed when I had a chance to read the submitted resolutions packets after the meeting and realized that many of the "whereas" that had been adopted from around the state had not even been considered or discussed by the committee on March 4.

There were many wonderful and courageous resolutions submitted that were not taken into consideration. Here are just a few:

Santa Fe presented a resolution that contrasted minimum wage workers and CEO pay. They made a great point about the suppression of local economic growth versus wine and dining of special interest lobbyists. Also the State Central Committee submitted 15 resolution pages under a wide-range of headings. Just to name a few: Profiteering from War, Fairness to the National Guard, the FCC and Reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, Predatory Lending and Payday Loans, and Resolutions to Bring Home the Troops. Rio Arriba submitted a resolution focused upon forbidding the buying and selling of votes.

I haven't even touched base with some of the incredible specific language that was submitted: Los Alamos submitted wording such as: the invasion of Iraq was based upon a false claim, Marriage is an institution that recognizes the lifetime commitment of two people and marriage is an institution that guarantees two people legal and economic rights not available to single people. They also submitted one urging congress to create a Department of Peace. Lincoln County submitted many resolutions focused upon Volunteer First Responders and providing them with Worker's Compensation Insurance etc.... In our state's rural areas most, if not all of the firefighters and EMT's are volunteers. Lincoln County also addressed the drought our state is experiencing with resolutions focused upon groundwater sustainability.

Do you find the above resolutions as compelling as I do? Why were these resolutions and all the rest not considered for inclusion on the platform during the March 4, 2006 meeting? I know this means spending more than one day on them but I feel this effort should have been made. Let me be very clear here. My intent is not to attack the committee members. I appreciate that these members of the Democratic Party have stepped up to the plate and volunteered their valuable time. I just feel the process has room for improvement. During this past Friday's meeting at Smith-Brasher Hall when Mel O'Reilly stated from the floor that more Democrats should get involved in the process -- I agreed with him wholeheartedly.

I among others attended the March 18, 2006 preprimary convention in order to fight for the concept that if we have a resolution adoption process then these resolutions should be included on the platform that is being voted upon. Whether they be mainstream or "wedge issues," if we insure this then we truly all are a part of a party that is inclusive.

In conclusion, I feel if we want more of a say in what is included on the platform -- so it is truly our platform -- then more of us need to take a stand and participate in the meetings where these decisions are made.

V. Lamkin
Albuquerque, NM

Editor's Note: Sound Off is an occasional feature on this blog that provides an opportunity for folks to express their opinons in a longer format than thread comments permit. If you'd like to submit a Sound Off for future publication, please send it to me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand side of the main page.

March 23, 2006 at 10:56 AM in Democratic Party, Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sound Off: Open Letter to State Dem Party Chair

This letter is from Guy Watson, Democratic Precinct Chair and Pre-Primary Convention Delegate. He sent it directly to Mr. Wertheim and others as well.

To: John V. Wertheim, Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman.

I am a Democratic Precinct Chairperson and was a delegate to today's Democratic Party of New Mexico Pre-Primary Nominating Convention.  During the discussion on the NM Democratic Party Platform you used a parliamentary maneuver to first table a delegate's amendment to the platform and then, when the Chair of the Platform committee refused to cut off the discussion you asked another  member of the Platform Committee to go to the mike and call for the vote on the main motion, a non debatable motion. This action assured there would be no discussion of the tabled amendment.You then called for a vote of the delegates to accept the platform thus killing the tabled amendment.  The amendment presented by Mr. Riley was a request to substitute the more specific and shorter wording of the twice passed Resolutions for the poorly worded and vague misstatement of the document arrived at during the Platform Committee's March meeting. Your maneuver effectively cut out an open  discussion of interest to at least half of the delegates.

I was an observer and participant in the March Platform Meeting. The wording agreed upon at that meeting is not the wording or the content that was today made the Platform of the NM Democratic Party. Following the Platform meeting in early March you or a member of the Platform committee rewrote the platform into an almost apologetic statement of vague "memories" of the original intent of the Resolutions voted on and approved in April 2005 and November 2005. As soon as you tabled the amendment delegates sitting around me made numerous disparaging comments to the effect that you can be counted on to shove through your view over the views of the rank and file Democrats.

I am angry that you refused to allow a vote on the amendment. I'm embarrassed that you reinforced a belief that the grass roots work by volunteers in the party is less important than the agenda of the State Central Committee's Chairperson. I was given a sticker to wear during the convention that said "You Matter". Observing your control over the Platform discussion today convinces me that the sticker is wishful thinking.

Guy Watson, Ed.D, Albuquerque, NM
Email: drguy@qwest.net

Editor's Note: An earlier blog post covered problems with other aspects of the Party's platform process. Sound Off is an occasional feature on DFNM. If you'd like to submit a post for this series, please email me by clicking on the link in the upper left-hand side of this page. We encourage your participation.

March 19, 2006 at 03:45 PM in Democratic Party, Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (15)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sound Off: Time for Outrage at Emperor Bush

This Soundoff is from Tom Solomon:


My friends,

It is time to be outraged.

By ordering the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without a judicial warrant, Bush has gone too far. He is clearly violating the law. He believes his authority is unconstrained by the Constitution he swore to uphold, and like Napoleon, he has crowned himself King. Well he is not our king, he is not our emperor and he is not above the law.

This is the time, if no other, when we must make our outraged voices heard. This is a democracy, damn it, with a Constitution that places checks and balances on our government. The people rule here, not Emperor Bush.

Our Senators and Representatives must exercise their oversight authority and demand that this illegal behavior be stopped and stopped immediately. We should flood their phone lines and email in-boxes with our outrage at this illegal violation of American's civil rights.

I urge you to take a few minutes today to call our NM Senators and Representatives and tell them in no uncertain terms what you feel. Please make it clear that they should require President Bush to:

a. immediately reverse this directive on domestic spying
b. promise to desist in the future from warrantless spying on Americans
c. cooperate fully with a bi-partisan investigation of the policy
d. release the texts of the directives along with the legal opinions they were based on
e. identify to the Senate all residents of the US who were targets of unconstitutional spying

Here are the phone numbers to call:
Representative Heather Wilson   DC: (202) 225-6316  or ABQ: (505) 346-6781
Senator Pete Domenici   DC:  (202) 224-6621 or ABQ  (505) 346-6791
Senator Jeff Bingaman  DC: (202) 224-5521 or ABQ (505) 988-6647
And in Sandoval County and points north,
Representative Tom Udall   DC: (202) 225-6190 or ABQ (505) 984-8950

It is also easy to send them emails by using Congress.org.

Please let's raise an enormous stink about this. Bush has placed himself above the law, and above the people. It is time to remind him who he works for.

Good background information, if you want to know more: Raw Story article; .

Editor's Note: According to another article on Raw Story, Sen. Barbara Boxer Boxer said she's asked "four presidential scholars" for their opinion on impeachment after former White Housel counsel John Dean -- made famous by his role in revealing the Watergate tapes -- asserted that President Bush had 'admitted' to an 'impeachable offense.' Also Senator Robert Byrd has released a scathing statement about the administration's intelligence abuses. And the LA Times reports the NY Times had the info on this story BEFORE the 2004 presidential election.

December 20, 2005 at 08:00 AM in Current Affairs, Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sound Off: A Party Out of Order

Picture this: A large, long meeting room dominated by a raised stage at the front where the Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and other Party officers sit or stand at a lectern high above the crowd of State Central Committee (SCC) members at their 11/19/05 meeting. The only microphones in the hall are at the lectern and in front of the officers. No provision is made for members in the hall to be heard if and when they are allowed to raise questions or make motions.

The Chairman announces, in a series of admonitions, that Robert's Rules of Order will be employed to control the procedings so that the views of both the majority and the minority will be protected. Hmmm. He introduces a "parliamentarian" he says will ensure that these rules are followed. Even at this early point in the meeting, it seems clear that formalized control of speakers and top-down authority will trump any rights of the members to express their views, propose actions or ask questions. The Chairman and other Party functionaries have established an intimidating physical environment coupled with threats of an intimidating enforcement of nitpicking rules to set the stage for a meeting of what used to be called the People's Party.

According to State Democratic Party Rules, it's the SCC that is charged with reviewing, analyzing and approving the Party's budget and spending, and it's designated as the governing body of the Party generally. The Rules state that, "The State Central Committee is the supreme governing body of the DPNM when regularly convened . . . It shall have general supervision and control of the political affairs of the party." Moreover, "It shall have the authority for appropriation of state party funds." The Party Rules also stipulate that "the Chairperson and the Treasurer shall present a financial report and proposed budget for the Committee's consideration."

Given such clearly delineated powers, you'd think a significant focus of those organizing any SCC meeting would be to ensure that members of the Party's "supreme governing body" have a chance to be heard, literally and figuratively. You'd be wrong.

Over many years, the so-called leadership of the DPNM -- Party officers, powerful elected officials, candidates -- has become accustomed to calling all the shots at SCC meetings and in almost every decisionmaking circumstance. Meanwhile, the SCC has been effectively demoted to the minor role of rubberstamping the decisions that come down from on high, and has generally been kept out of the loop as the Party retreated from anything but surface adherence to principles of transparency, accountability and inclusiveness. The Party Rules have not been changed to reflect this, but it's how the Party has been functioning -- as a top down, secretive collection of insiders.

Enter many new faces who were elected to the SCC after Kerry's loss in the 2004 presidential election, many of them grassroots activists of one persuasion or another. I, myself, am included in this new crop of SCC members. We showed up ready to rock and roll, return the Party to its roots and resurrect the Party's former bottom up power structure. As you might expect, we weren't exactly welcomed with open arms. Generally, we were treated like a rag-tag bunch of mouthy peasants who didn't know our place in the centralized scheme of things.

We started making noise, proposing changes, getting active, asking questions, studying the Party Rules and demanding they be followed. Having worked so damn hard since the early days of the presidential primary campaigns and continuing through the Congressional and Presidential races, volunteering, knocking on doors, phonebanking and donating money, we were dedicated to fixing the things we saw as broken within the Party. Unfortunately, many in the higher echelons of the Party saw this, and continue to see it, as a threat to the status quo, to their little kingdoms of influence, power and money that keep Party business running as usual, with the usual suspects in charge.

After learning alot about how the Party operates and what levers of power we could possibly use to implement change, we organized as an ad-hoc group called NM Grassroots Democrats. Not progressives. Not liberals. Core Democrats on the ground. We organized, held meetings, sent a letter to the other SCC members around the state, made phone calls, built a listserve, raised money and created materials for a table to attract support at the SCC meeting in Santa Fe last Saturday. We paid $150 for a literature table at the SCC meeting, the same amount charged to candidates.

Over several months, we developed a series of motions and inquiries to raise at the SCC meeting that addressed some of our primary goals. Most of these had to do with pushing the DPNM to follow its own rules. They included getting members named to the Rules Committee with a meeting scheduled within two months, reinstituting a meaningful platform process that encourages the input of ordinary Democrats around the state, following rules in getting resolutions approved, ensuring that accurate meeting minutes are kept and distributed in a timely manner, getting the required affirmative action committee back into action and obtaining budget and spending information in a format that allows the SCC to make informed financial decisions, as delineated in the Party rules.

Real radical, huh? You'd think so by the reception we got at the SCC meeting. Even though our group provided the Chair with copies of our proposed motions and inquiries before the meeting and made a concerted effort to follow Robert's Rules in presenting them, we were stymied at every turn by the Chair. It was evident that Chairman John Wertheim and the powers that be were hell bent on rushing through the meeting, calling votes on committee reports before any debate or discussion could occur and confusing those trying to participate with often incorrect applications of Robert's Rules. The so-called official parliamentarian was never allowed to weigh in.

To make a motion or ask a question, we had to jump up from our seats and try to get the chair's attention without benefit of a microphone or run up to the front of the room, below the towering stage, to beg a microphone from the table. This often resulted in the individual being rudely chastized, criticized, humiliated or ruled out of order while they stood alone at the front of the room with Chairman Wertheim looming above. Despite the Chair's statement that he would help participants navigate the complicated fine points of Robert's Rules, we were usually refused an answer when we tried to ask how best to get our motion or question addressed. Clearly, the plan was to isolate those who dared to try to speak, portray them as "troublemakers" who were disturbing the conduct of business and shoot them down using unevenly applied parliamentary procedures.

The Chairman would make a pronouncement and if a speaker tried to respond with a question, watch out. A couple of the more persistent questioners were even threatened with removal from the hall by security unless they immediately fell silent. Ah yes, real democracy in action. Which brings to mind this quote from Major Roberts, who wrote Robert's Rules:

"While it is important to every person in a free country to know something of parliamentary law, this knowledge should be used only to help, not to hinder business. One who is constantly raising points of order and insisting upon a strict observance of every rule in a peaceable assembly in which most of the members are unfamiliar with these rules and customs, makes himself a nuisance, hinders business, and prejudices people against parliamentary law. Such a person either does not understand its real purpose or else willfully misuses his knowledge."

Despite all this, we did manage to get a number of our motions approved in between the protestations of the Chair and the congratulatory appearances of candidates and elected officials, flowers for the departing Executive Director and the rushed committee reports. We found that rushing into a motion before the Chair could get a protest out was the best method. It worked much better in the earlier portion of the meeting, before the Chair knew what was coming. Later, the only way to get a complete sentence out was to get your hands on a microphone and bellow to the crowd despite the Chair's threats to have you removed.

End result of this long litany of undemocratic conduct? Creating more mistrust, anger and disappointment in the Party's rank and file members. Discouraging participation and action. Stifling energy. And for what? You have to ask what the Party is hiding, don't you? What are they afraid of? In a political environment rife with corruption and dishonesty on the part of the now resigned Democratic Treasurer and other Dems, you'd think that transparency, responsiveness and conducting businesss according to the Party's own rules would be paramount. Guess again.

--This is a personal Sound Off by Barbara Wold, SCC Member and Chair of Precinct 462. Sound Off is a regular feature of the blog that allows individuals to voice their views on timely issues and controversies. Click on the Email Me link on the upper right-hand side of the page if you'd like to submit your own Sound Off.

November 22, 2005 at 12:03 PM in Democratic Party, Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (29)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sound Off: Bird Flu, State Democratic Party & 2006 Legislative Session

Editor's Note: Here's an Open Letter to Progressive Democrats from Stephen Fettig. You're encouraged to read the entire post and respond as requested by the writer, who'd like to start a dialogue on this topic.

Dear Progressive Democrats:

I am asking that each of you listen to the October 19 program of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman.  You can download the program or listen to it on-line at https://www.democracynow.org/.  I don't make this request lightly.  I feel that the information presented in this program touches directly the topics of health care, security, mismanagement by governments (at all levels) and public trust in our political leaders.

The segment that I want you to listen to is the interview with Mike Davis author of the new book, "The Monster At Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu."  Davis says, "2005 is the year in which avian flu, now has acquired a critical mass amongst birds that it won't be eradicated and it's unclear whether it can be contained.  We are facing a clear threat in the next few year of a flu pandemic that could be more deadly than in 1918 when between 20-40 million people dead worldwide.

Davis makes these points among others:

1) The idea proposed by the administration to use the military to quarantine parts of the country, if needed, would not work.  People are contagious with the flu 24 hours before showing symptoms.  Also some people can be contagious and never show symptoms.  So a quarantine would not work biologically.  This is another example of the lies and poor planning proposed by our current leaders.

2) One of the largest threats to our population is the number of people without health insurance or access to health care.  These uninsured folks will increase the danger to the whole population because they will not be able to seek health care in an timely manner, leading to greater deadliness of any flu pandemic.

3) The government is wasting large amounts of money on biological threats that have an extremely low likelihood of happening, such as a biological terrorist event.  The known and real threat of a deadly flu pandemic is getting very little attention and funding.  We know that governments at all levels knew about the problems with the levees around New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina, but funding was still cut for action that would have prevented the disaster.  If a flu pandemic hits the U.S. we can expect our health care system to be hit with an event 30 times the size of Katrina.  We need realistic priorities for our public health and safety dollars, and we need those realistic priorities now.

4) The great flu pandemic of 1918 infected 28% of all Americans.  An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in world war I.  We can expect a similar death rate or higher because our government is not prepared:  We don't have the anti-viral drugs on hand and we are extremely short of hospital beds as a result of our current health care industry.

I'm asking that each of you listen to the October 19 interview with Mike Davis and then provide me with action suggestions for the New Mexico Democratic Party.  Can we use the information that Davis provides, then insist that the party and the governor make increasing funding for health care a core focus of the 2006 New Mexico legislative session?

Your thoughts?

Stephen Fettig
At-Large elected Member
State Platform and Resolution Committee
New Mexico Democratic Party

October 19, 2005 at 03:49 PM in Sound Off! | Permalink | Comments (0)