Gala doesn’t connect with most Iowans

Dear Friends,

Maybe the Iowa Democratic Party’s (IDP) big annual event was a success in terms of generating funds for the Party and enthusiasm for its candidates. But in several signifiant ways, it was a colossal failure.

1. The sound system performed horribly, with much of the speakers’ messages lost in an echo chamber of garbled sound waves.

A typical gala. Whew! No poor people!

2. Not allowing the Events Center’s wait staff to stay and hear Alec Baldwin reeked of elitism. The decision was made by the facility’s management, but the IDP should have objected. Heck, the wait staff should have been paraded up to the stage and thanked with a standing ovation.

3. The Gala was clearly a pay-to-play deal and the IDP milked candidates with the most money, notably Fred Hubbell and Nate Boulton. From what I could tell, these two purchased hundreds of tickets and spent possibly tens of thousands of dollars. Kinda reminds one of the much-maligned Republican Party of Iowa’s Ames Straw Poll, which Democrats have never been hesitant to slam.

4. Beyond the cost of admission ($50 just to sit in the bleachers and watch the higher-paying attendees eat), scheduling the Gala on a Monday excluded many rank-and-file voters, especially those far from Des Moines. As Paul Deaton of Johnson County tweeted, “#IDPFallGala schedule (Monday evening) not viable for working Ds outside Des Moines. Maybe that’s the point.”

5. Finally, the IDP’s decision to change the name of the event from Jefferson-Jackson Dinner to Fall Gala shows that the Party is pathologically out of touch with big chunks of Iowa’s electorate. A gala — defined as “lavish entertainment or celebration” — is not what the vast majority of struggling Iowans want or need right now. For further details, see Kevin Hardy’s excellent story in The Des Moines Register detailing the ravaging of most Americans’ incomes to benefit a thin upper crust.

From what I was able to catch of the candidates’ speeches, they all performed reasonably well — with the glaring absence of any discussion about the urgency of climate change. So far, Cathy Glasson has been the only gubernatorial candidate to speak out against the Gala’s pandering to money and privilege, saying, “People in our movement holding down two or three jobs and still struggling to make ends meet don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend for a fancy dinner.”

That’s not an endorsement of Glasson, but I appreciate her willingness to challenge the IDP.

Democrats are giddy with enthusiasm at their electoral prospects next fall. But the fact that many promising young progressives won nonpartisan city council seats this month means little if the IDP can’t connect with those who feel abandoned by both major parties. For now, the smart money remains on continued Republican dominance of the Iowa Legislature, statewide offices, and Iowa’s congressional delegation.

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Chickens Win Big on Election Day

Dear Friends,

The election winners in the City of Boone last night were . . . wait for it . . . CHICKENS! Of all the surprising and encouraging election results in Iowa yesterday, what happened in Boone tops the list. To be clear, no chicken’s actual name appeared on the ballot. But the right to responsibly own backyard hens was a pivotal factor behind voters’ decision to elect three new council members.

April Burch

Yup. Chickens have yet to win the right to vote, yet they sure made a difference in Boone this week . . . chickens and the fact that voters are tired of ineffective government, poor management of tax dollars, and politicians ignoring the life-and-death issues affecting more and more of us.

April Burch is one of 40-50 Boone residents who keep backyard chickens. I’ve seen April’s coop. It’s immaculate, spacious, and if I ever end up homeless again, I want to live there.

“Our flock has been an absolute blessing for our children,” says April. “Our kids have been through a lot in their young lives and what they call ‘chicken therapy’ has really helped them flourish and feel grounded here.”

Meme circulated in Boone prior to yesterday’s election.

For chicken advocates, the pivotal moment happened when a Boone police officer circulated a meme based on Gorillas in the Mist. It showed a rooster in place of the gorilla, and April in place of Dian Fossey, who was killed standing up against corrupt government officials complicit in poaching gorillas.

“The meme was shocking and carried a very sinister and implicit threat,” says April. “It felt like the officer was trying to silence us, maybe to keep us from appearing in front of the city council that night.”

On October 16, the group was scheduled to attend the Boone City Council meeting in response to 650 Boone residents who had signed a petition in favor of allowing chickens. The pro-chicken group’s request was quickly rejected by council members.

Josh Mandelbaum

The dismissive way the pro-chicken people were treated combined with the threatening meme led April to one conclusion: “The way the councilmembers and mayor treated us wasn’t reflective of our town’s spirit. They looked down their noses at us and wouldn’t even consider a compromise. They were brash and mean, and the officer was even threatening. I’d had enough, so I recruited a friend, Dean Erickson, to run against the mayor on a write-in campaign.

Though his name wasn’t even on the ballot and the write-in campaign was announced less than three weeks before the election, Erickson received 25% of the vote. On a write-in campaign! That energy helped translate into victory for three other reform candidates. 

Election results across Iowa were similarly positive. In Des Moines, renewable energy wizard Josh Mandelbaum won against a well-financed former city councilman. “Voters want someone to stand up for them in the ongoing water-quality debate. They want someone who’s going to create a more walkable, bikable city, too,” says Josh.

In Pleasant Hill, Ross Grooters squeaked out a victory for a council seat. I first met Ross during the Occupy Wall Street movement. Since then, he’s continued his unabashed efforts as a proponent of many progressive causes.

Kate Larson

In Dubuque, Kate Larson ran to replace the only woman on the city council, Joyce Connors, who was retiring after 16 years. “This is a working class ward with a lot of diversity in race and incomes,” Kate told me. “I won because I’ve been standing up for issues people care about, especially during my four years on the Parks and Recreation Commission. We worked really hard to run a positive, people-powered campaign, and that’s why people turned out and were excited about it. Turnout was 18%, compared with 8% two years ago.”

I’m still trying to process all that happened last night. I’ve heard of upbeat election results in Ames, Iowa City and Muscatine. If you’ve got details on what transpired in your community, let me know.

Going forward, here’s a big question: What, if anything, do these results say about the 2018 General Election? Kate says, “Last night’s results reflect an awakening. Progressive candidates winning shows momentum that will definitely keep going through the midterms.”

Let’s not merely hope that happens, let’s make it happen. As April Burch showed in Boone, one person —  ok, one person and a handsome flock of chickens — can make a huge difference.

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Vote Next Tuesday!

Dear Friends,

Kirsten Anderson

Kirsten Anderson is my guest on Monday’s Fallon Forum at 11:30 a.m. Kirsten’s the former Iowa Senate Republican caucus staffer who received a $1.75 million settlement in the high-profile lawsuit that exposed the “boys’ club” environment beneath the golden dome, where rampant sexual harassment was ignored by Republican supervisors and lawmakers alike.

Watch or listen to our conversation on Facebook, online, or at 1260 AM and 96.5 FM in the Des Moines metro.

Josh Mandelbaum and his family

And on November 7, wherever you live, please vote! Local elections don’t get nearly the amount of coverage as, say, an unhinged twitter fiend running for, say, president. But local elections are important, and city officials have a profound influence on our daily lives.

If you live outside Des Moines, I’d be interested in an update on candidates and ballot initiatives in your area. If you live in Des Moines, please support Skip Moore for the at-large council seat and Josh Mandelbaum for Ward 3.

Interestingly, The Des Moines Register’s endorsement of Josh and non-endorsement of Skip present the reasons you need to support both of them.

Regarding Josh, The Register praises “his knowledge of environmental issues and, in particular, clean water, one of the biggest issues facing Des Moines. As an environmental lawyer and lobbyist for the Environmental Policy Center, Mandelbaum entered the race criticizing [outgoing Council member Christine] Hensley’s support of the controversial Statehouse bill to dismantle the Des Moines Water Works.”

Skip Moore

I’ve known Josh since he was a student at Roosevelt High School in the mid 1990s and passionate about important causes. His life since has continued to show a deep commitment to working for a better world, particularly in the area of environmental protection and renewable energy. We could sure use more of that on the city council.

The Register’s non-endorsement of Skip says, “He’s been a strong voice for the neighborhoods… He can get in the weeds on such subjects as potholes, sewers and viaducts, but he can also speak forcefully for the interests of immigrants, minorities and others who don’t have a voice.”

Well, that’s enough reason to support Skip right there. He’s one of three council members I can count on to consistently return phone calls and follow through on commitments. Booting Skip off the council would be a huge step backward for Des Moines, especially since Josh will need Skip’s help addressing Des Moines’ water problem.

Thanks! – Ed

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