Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Networking/Media in Campaigns

Social media has become a force in the dissemination of news, opinion, and information. It has also begun to play a significant role in politics, as the advent of online fundraising and word-of-mouth movements are becoming important parts of candidates and causes getting out their message. All of this got me to thinking: could a person with no political experience who is neither well-off personally (and thus able to self-fund) nor well-connected in the political arena use social networking and the media platforms of such (Twitter and Facebook being the primary ones) as both the starting point for and the main vehicle in a campaign for public office? I am looking at this through the lens of developing a campaign strategy for an potential candidate for an open seat in next spring's local elections.


To me, using Twitter and Facebook as the first step in getting a campaign off the ground begins with friendraising. I define friendraising exactly as it is written, being the raising of friends. The relationship aspect of social networking I don't believe has been fully utilized in coalescing a group of individuals who know a person and care about him/her to then act upon their behalf in the political arena. I have seen it work well in generating funds and advocacy for charities and non-profit organizations via the power of existing relationships and feel that a similar approach can work in politics.

So how do you use friendraising to lead into a campaign? First, let's take our potential candidate. The person is fairly well-known in the Twittersphere (follows 1800, followed by over 2000) and has been active in cultivating relationships there. I believe a person either considering a run for elected office or a political consultant seeking out a candidate can tap into this existing network as the first piece in the puzzle. In this case, the consultant has started to talk both via social media and in real life with the potential candidate and their crossover network (people known by both the candidate and the operative) about running. The crossover network creates the energy and I believe some of the key manpower (treasurer, campaign manager, PR) to make a run viable. In effect, these people form the campaign committee for the candidate. Additionally, this network becomes the opening source of funding for the candidate, because they are and will be his/her friends regardless of how the race goes and there is no quid pro quo involved.

Public Relations

Much is already written and known about using social media for public relations, so I won't delve too far into that other than to lay out how I could perceive it being used with this potential candidacy. Starting with the crossover network, these individuals tap into their own personal bases of followers/friends on behalf of the candidate, talking him/her up and promoting their candidacy. Groups on Facebook and lists on Twitter are great way of developing these types of coalitions to rally around an individual in that the privacy settings allow one to do through social media what used to be only available by means of face-to-face meetings or email (document sharing, strategizing, planning). On top of that, blogs are a useful way to get a candidate's positions into the public sphere without needing to go to mass media at the start. More so, "word-of-mouth" advertising (I tell my followers, they tell theirs, etc.) and "whisper campaigns" via Twitter gives a candidate a much quicker and broader reach than traditional advertising, democratizing access to the public's consciousness.

One thing that I have not seen in political PR via social media is the candidate being accessible to the populace in a way that is quick, transparent, and reflects the truth of the person and not a facade or persona. Taking the last two weeks' worth of tweets of two potential candidates (one who has run in the past, one who hasn't), there is a serious contrast. The former's tweets are very neutral, informational, deal a little with home life but give no hint as to personality, positions, or who the person is, which is a traditional approach to politics and Twitter. The latter's stream is a rich tapestry of family life, political opinion, jovialness with friends and followers, and invites the reader/follower to interact. I am hoping that this level of candor can be maintained as it would reflect a shift in how candidates use social media to not just get their message out, but also to make friends of their supporters.

Hitting the Streets

Friendraising and public relations are great, but campaigns are won and lost on the streets. Knocking doors, appearing in town halls, and attending community events are how candidates are able to meet the people and give them the ability to put a face to a name. Candidates that are well-known and have special interest involvement in their campaigns have a distinct advantage in this area, as they can put more "boots on the ground" both in terms of numbers and times of day/week. To match those numbers, the power of social networking must be brought to the table. As with public relations, word-of-mouth through social media platforms gets the need and necessary information out to a large number of individuals in a very short period of time, which allows those people to pass along the word. People who know you (either virtually or in real life) are more apt to brave the weather during spring campaign season (signature gathering in December, campaigning in January and early February) and will stay in contact in between events than those who are motivated by organizational self-interest.

I must say, this is in a way a rough draft of how I'd look at harnessing the power of social networking and media to make friends, influence people, and win elections. Feel free to give me suggestions, ideas, or real-life experience from past campaigns that will make what I say work better. Remember, ANYONE can run for office!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Milwaukee County Redistricting Proposal

Now that the 2010 Census results have been received, Milwaukee County has begun the process of redrawing the lines for the County Board of Supervisors. The Redistricting Committee asked the citizens who attended their first hearing last week to bring suggestions, ideas, and/or maps to the next meeting (to be held this Friday at 4pm at the Washington Park Senior Center). Hence, here is my proposal for the re-draw, one that creates districts that are compact, contiguous, and make sense when looking at the population and demographics of the community while also addressing the ability of communities of interest to elect candidates of their choosing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

10th District County Supervisor Candidates

One of three special elections to be held this spring is for the 10th District seat on the County Board of Supervisors, made vacant due to the incumbent, Elizabeth Coggs, winning election to the State Assembly in November. Five candidates filed nomination papers and submitted to requisite number of signatures to appear on the ballot on February 15th. I contacted the campaigns and asked them to answer a few questions for me about their vision for Milwaukee County and how they would fix the problems we currently face. Below are the answers from three of them.

Legend: AP - Armchair Pundit, CJ - Cavalier Johnson, EB - Eyon Biddle, CA - Charisha Allen

AP: Given that the 10th district includes a portion of Milwaukee's central city, Downtown, East Town, and Marquette University, how do you plan to be a champion for the entire district, specifically for the southern and southeastern portions of it that tend to be neglected in campaigning and policy formation?

CJ: It seems very fitting that I am seeking a post that includes places not only in the Central City but also areas downtown. I've lived in and around the portion of the district that covers the Central City all of my life. But, much of the development that has helped me to become a leader happened by my attendance and participation in YMCA programming taking place in the southern/southeastern edge of the 10th District. I'd be remiss if I were seeking a spot on the Milwaukee County Board but neglected a portion that not only encompasses Milwaukee's central business district but also a place that has meant so much in my own growth. There are great institutions, businesses and residents that run throughout the entire 10th District - including in the southern/southeastern portion. I know that there is room for cooperation and connectivity between businesses, organizations and residents that will help us to create an expanded network while bringing all areas of the district into the fold.

EB: From living and growing up in the district and walking it now, I have gathered that the 10th District community has been ignored all together. If elected County Supervisor, I will represent the whole district, not just specific parts. I have a background in community organizing, so I will use those skills to engage residents from all parts of the 10th District continuously. I am passionate about mobilizing and organizing my neighbors around the issues that affect us all and making the people an integral part of the governance of Milwaukee County. Together, we truly can move Milwaukee County forward.

CA: I will be a Supervisor for ALL the people and bring my passion to representing them on the County Board.

AP: With Milwaukee County's financial picture such that, in 2016, every dollar derived from the property tax levy will go to pension and health care obligations for county employees and retirees, serious consideration must be given to both reducing costs and increasing revenue. How would you propose doing both of these as a County Supervisor?

CJ: This, obviously, is one of Milwaukee County's most pressing issues. Living outside of our means and not carefully directing revenues generated will result in a Milwaukee County that can only afford to pay health costs to employees/retirees rather than providing services to the constituency. Ultimately, it becomes an issue of reconciling expenditures with the revenue that Milwaukee County brings in - and working along with our partners and workers to stabilize costs. Milwaukee County workers and their representation are great. But, we all need to work together and share in the tough, smart choices that will help Milwaukee County to remain a solvent, service delivering level of local government. In regards to increasing revenue, Milwaukee County is a vast real estate owner and the operator of a number of great attractions. I'd like to bring folks together to see what sorts of ideas we can come up with and implement here in Milwaukee. There are excellent examples all over the country with best practices that we can tap into. We don't need to reinvent the wheel but we do need to change with the times and take advantage of what is already in place elsewhere while also producing our own unique ideas to generate additional revenue for Milwaukee County.

EB: We have to find ways to eradicate waste and redundancy in County government. We also have to look at our most profitable assets like the Airport, and find out how we can maximize those systems to bring in more revenue. We need to come up with a strategic plan for Park East. I also believe we should sell off non-park land to pay off long-term liabilities. A sales tax for transit, parks and EMS will help lower the strain on the property tax levy. Hopefully health care reform implementation can help make health insurance more competitive, bringing down costs.

CA: In order to fix the current picture regarding the county’s finances, we as a community need to work together to find ways increase revenues and decrease costs. I plan to work with others to bring new ideas to the fore and help the county move forward.

AP: Are you in favor of the creation of a regional transit authority for the Milwaukee County Transit System and/or a regional parks authority for the Milwaukee County Parks as a means of gaining them dedicated funding through increases in the county sales tax, thereby not having them funded by property taxes as part of the county's general budget? If these entities were created, what would be an acceptable tax rate for them?

CJ: Nothing says no to growth, investment and economic development like an under funded transit system for one of America's largest cities that constantly hikes fares and slashes service. It doesn't make much sense to have a city/county that runs on a model grid system and not have the transportation infrastructure to move people, goods and services along these arteries. We not only need to focus on creating jobs for people in Milwaukee County but we also need to focus on creating a dedicated funding source to keep the wheels on the bus moving. The Milwaukee County Parks system is one of our most sacred jewels. Every family may not ride the bus but I'd have to think that every family spends a fair amount of time in our parks. It is important that we keep our parks in great condition so that all Milwaukeeans may continue to enjoy our proud tradition of public parks. We mustn't forget though, that there are great parks that offer welcoming green space and play space throughout our entire county. So while we continue the conversation about our parks, remember that Veterans Park and Bradford Beach are not the only parks in the system. Washington Park and Tiefenthaler Park are also a part of the system and these community-serving parks deserve attention as well. In 2008, the electorate of Milwaukee County accepted a referendum that allowed for a 1% sales tax increase that would fund Milwaukee County Parks and the Milwaukee County Transit System. Let's continue to pursue that and move on from there.

EB: I am in favor of RTA, and dedicated funding for transit, parks and EMS. I am not supportive of a Regional Parks Authority. In my current capacity, I lobbied for RTA and dedicated funding in the past legislative session. I am disappointed that it was not made into law. Research has shown that the funds from the sales tax would have brought down the property tax levy, made those entities self-sustaining and given the County the opportunity to tackle the drastic deferred maintenance problem within those systems.

CA: I am in favor of both of these as they will be self-sustaining and reduce property taxes while also providing the necessary funding to reverse the neglect the Walker administration enforced on transit and the park systems.

AP: How can Milwaukee County provide a viable and sustainable economic and social safety net for its least-well-off residents in these tight economic times?

CJ: We can provide a social safety net for our residents by working with the various municipalities in our county. We need to work together to spend money smarter. While doing this, we need to be weary of those that become wholly dependent on social services and essentially drain resources without doing their part. A vigilant system with county and municipal cooperation, timelines for participation with the availability for extensions that hones in on accountability will help us to shed fraud and create a stronger, more respectable social safety net system.

EB: There are viable and sustainable programs like Childcare, BadgerCare, FoodShare and other income maintenance programs. I hope that the County would be able to manage those services directly in the near future instead of the State. Milwaukee County has a farm ran out of the House of Corrections, which is managed by the Hunger Task Force, that provides food to different pantries. More importantly, we have to look at how Milwaukee County can play a bigger role and coordinate with other levels of government to stimulate job creation and economic development. I want to work with the all stakeholders including 10th District residents, community groups, elected officials, and the business and labor community to find ways to encourage economic growth. There are big parts of the 10th District, and other communities outside my district, that are in dire need of a vision and a strategic plan to bring jobs to the area. We have to focus on increasing the working class, encouraging home ownership, and empowering people economically. I truly believe that the 10th District is a great place to live and we need to work harder to develop it to its full potential.

CA: We can maintain an economic and social safety net in this county through teamwork and collaboration between private and public entities.

AP: What would you suggest to improve the quality of life in Milwaukee County and how would you forge positive relationships with cultural entities in the county (e.g. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee Art Museum)?

CJ: To improve the quality of life in Milwaukee, we need to get to the core of what shapes people's immediate outlook. We need to focus on finding ways to help people realize that they can be proud of who they are, where they come from and where they live. There used to be a time when folks could own their homes. They had jobs that supported them and their families. The commercial districts in their neighborhoods were filled with life and young adults could make honest money by working in the shops there. That community dynamic has changed so much. Homeowners, people that have a strong and vested interest in the well being of their neighborhood, have been replaced mostly by people who view their neighborhood as where they currently live - not home. Good paying jobs, engines that powered neighborhoods, have seemingly dried up. Thriving commercial districts that were the pride of neighborhoods have traded in small family businesses for boarded windows and young people have turned from making honest money to a life on the street and apathy. The key to improving quality of life in Milwaukee is making sure that our government is doing all that it can to grow our job market so that all Milwaukeeans can get to work and have stability in their lives. Cultural Attractions in Milwaukee County like the Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee Art Museum, etc are bona fide community treasures. I'd like to strengthen our relationship with these places by fighting for grants that allow them to do more. I'd like to link our cultural institutions with high performing institutions similar to them in other places. I'd like to push the imaginations of young Milwaukeeans by encouraging the schools to keep engaged with our cultural institutions, which will help to grow their relevance for maturing groups and future generations. Getting folks to work is only one part of the puzzle to growing a stronger and better Milwaukee. Our cultural institutions can provide the means to create a more competitive and "well rounded" Milwaukee.

EB: Milwaukee County has positive relationships with those different cultural entities. The County provides some level of funding to those organizations, so we need to make sure that we continue to receive some community benefits. We have to make sure that we protect those assets and make sure that they are accessible to all residents of Milwaukee County. I also believe that we need to find ways to market those cultural services more to the people in the 10th District.

CA: We need to find ways to allow more people to access these cultural treasures through the lowering of prices and a wider range of free days for the Zoo and museums.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Grab Bag

Today's entry is a grab bag of things that have transpired in the past couple of weeks. We're covering the Mayfair incident, the tragic shooting in Arizona, and the GOP forgetting what November's election was about.


The events which took place at Mayfair Mall on January 2nd leave a lot of us in the community bewildered but not totally surprised. A lot of blame can be passed around for the conditions which created the potential for a large group of individuals to choose the lack of proper comportment when in public, but in the end it is those individuals who must accept final responsibility. The lack of "congregational space" within the city limits, combined with the lack of premier shopping options, in a way force people to head into the suburbs. Add onto that the ease of door-to-door service to Mayfair via the #21 and #60 bus routes (which is NOT the case for Southridge, Brookfield Square, or Bayshore more or less) and it is easy to see that, should one WANT to create trouble in the public square, the Wauwatosa mall provides a fertile ground for it.

I am more interested in finding solutions that deal with the mischief and will not go into whether society as a whole needs to bear some of the burden (lack of jobs in the central city, lack of venues to congregate, hypersegregation being some "arguments" for why people boil over and have to act out), so here are a few things that can be done by Mayfair.

* Implementing their Parental Guidance Required (PGR) policy 24/7 rather than just on the weekends.
* Place limits on the number of unsupervised youth that can be together (not sure how one would define together, but other malls have such a policy as well as storefront businesses regarding numbers).
* Pare back Milwaukee County Transit System access to Mayfair.

The first two are pretty self-explanatory, so I will delve into the final solution. Currently, four MCTS bus lines serve Mayfair (the aforementioned #21 and #60, along with the #28 and #31). Being that both the 21 and 31 overlap one another at 87th and North, there is really no need for BOTH buses to provide access to Mayfair. Hence, much as is done with the #22 stopping service on 60th and Center and the #57 providing service from 60th to 92nd Street on Center, the 21 can stop service at 92nd and North with the 31 providing continuing service onto Mayfair. The westbound route of the #60 runs along Burleigh out to 124th, but dives off on 108th to Mayfair, which I feel is unnecessary being that the #28 runs on 108th Street. A person who wants to get to Mayfair from 108th and Burleigh can either walk the 4-5 blocks or transfer to the 28. Perhaps there will be some unintended consequences of this solution (disturbances in the areas where passengers would be transferring comes to mind as the most obvious), and though this solution does not in any meaningful way restrict access to Mayfair, it does make it a little bit more difficult and time-consuming.

Arizona shooting

There is really nothing good to say about this. 6 people killed (including the Chief US District Court Judge in Tucson) and 12 people injured (one of which being Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) at a "Meet Your Representative" event outside a grocery store puts a exclamation point on the ever-escalating vitriol in the public square brought on by the ability to shield one's self from hearing opinions with which you may not agree through the Internet and partisan media. I am not in ANY WAY absolving the shooter from FULL responsibility for this vicious act, but I am also not going to give a free pass to those who might have stoked his hatred or delusional thinking. In the battle for our country's soul, the two major political parties (and their commensurate ideologies) continually add fuel to the fire by characterizing their opposition as anything from ignorant, unrefined, clueless pablum eaters who accept the spoon-fed rhetoric of a movement that is defined by "God, Guns, and Gays" to elitist, unamerican, One World Government heathens who would let people outside our border tell us how to live. Whereas the left tends to attack the ideas/policies of the right, the right chooses to attack the character and even humanity of those on the left. I think the analogy of right-wing media's call to arms being similar to "yelling fire in a crowded theater" goes a bit too far, but the tactic of equating political disagreement with treason only ups the ante on what is an "acceptable" means of addressing these disagreements. That, combined with the populace upon whom this rhetoric is dispensed, makes for a volatile mixture that CAN lead to more incidents such as the one in Tucson this past Saturday. Everyone, tone it down a bit and try to win your points and positions through debate, not violence.

Bucky's Turned Red

November 2nd brought a new political landscape to Wisconsin, with Republicans seizing the governorship as well as majorities in both houses of the Legislature. The cause of this shift was the poor leadership of the previous administration as well as the state of the state and federal economy. It was about jobs and nothing else. The GOP seems to have forgotten that already, as they believe they have a mandate to enforce social as well as economic change on this great state. Legislation to restrict voting access, to make civil liability harder to prove and less putative on wrongdoers, and to overturn laws passed by previous legislatures are off the mark when the pressing need is creating jobs and bringing economic vitality back to Wisconsin. Add to this a blatant attempt to re-district the state for purely political gain and we see how the new majority in our state has lost the plot. Stick the economy and maybe you'll be able to keep your majority in 2012. Get off track and your beloved leader in the mansion might be removed before his four years are up.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Opening Day

(updated January 4, 2011) With yesterday's resignation by Milwaukee County Executive (and Governor-Elect) Scott Walker, I consider today to be the official start of the 2011 spring election season. Despite other races on the ballot (notably two seats on the County Board of Supervisors made vacant due to Elizabeth Coggs and Chris Larson winning election to the State Assembly and State Senate, respectively) and signature collection being underway for most of them, the County Executive one will dominate local media, discussion, and punditry from now until the April 5th general election. I will give a quick run-down of these contests as well as the one for the State Supreme Court seat currently held by David Prosser based on who has actually announced their candidacies.

Milwaukee County Executive

At the present time, announced candidates to complete Walker's term include Acting County Executive Lee Holloway of Milwaukee, State Representative Jeff Stone of Greendale, former State Senator Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa, Argosy Foundation CEO Chris Abele of Milwaukee, Don Wadewitz of West Allis, and Ieshuh Griffin of Milwaukee. Others might enter the race in the coming days, with 2,000 signatures due by January 11th in order to appear on the ballot for the February 15th primary.

10th Supervisory District

Announced candidates to complete the term of State Representative-Elect Elizabeth Coggs are Eyon Biddle, Priscilla Coggs-Jones (daughter of Elizabeth Coggs), Ieshuh Griffin, Cavalier Johnson, and David King. King ran unsuccessfully for the post of Secretary of State this past fall. As with the county executive's race, all signatures (200 min.) must be in by January 11th.

14th Supervisory District

Announced candidates to complete the term of State Senator-Elect Chris Larson are Gregory Dickerson and Jason Haas. Haas ran unsuccessfully against Larson for this seat in 2008. Same rules apply for this race as the 10th district.

State Supreme Court

Current State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser will face the winner of a three-way primary in the April 5th general election. Those candidates are Assistant Attorney General Joanne Kloppenburg, Martha Stephens of Shorewood, and Joel Winnig of Madison. Signatures are due by January 4th.

As more candidates enter, I'll update this and will post more comprehensive information about these races onces the filing period expire on January 11th.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Political Entitlement

As a self-described "Milwaukee Socialist" in the tradition of Victor Berger, Dan Hoan, and Frank Zeidler, I believe in good government, administrative frugality, and investment in the public good as a way of elevating the quality of life in the community. Part of this philosophy includes fair and open access to the means of enacting these policies (that is, the electoral process). What I noticed in this past fall's federal and state elections, as well as in the run-up to local elections this spring, is a disturbing increase in the notion of political entitlement amongst candidates. This concept, which I define as the belief by a person that, due to one or more factors, he/she is entitled to an easier path to gaining political office, has begun to spoil the political process in this country because it limits the number of competitive primaries (and therefore the range of opinions and options available to voters) by forcing out good prospective candidates as a result of this "entitlement". Following are a number of examples from this past fall, along with a few from the current crop of announced and prospective candidates for local positions, of this.

1) Biding one's time and being a good solider by standing down in a past election does not entitle one to their party's imprimatur the next time around.

2) The ability to blank-check a campaign does not entitle one to late entry to a race and then a free pass to the general election.

3) A wealth of experience in multiple positions in local, state, and federal government does not entitle one to bypassing a primary challenge by way of the involvement of one's state and federal parties.

4) Being hand-selected by a long-time politician and leader as their successor does not entitle one to a clear path to the general election.

5) Serving a community for over two decades in local government and being closely associated with a member of state government does not entitle one to "inherit" the seat of a long-time advocate for the downtrodden without a serious challenge.

6) Losing a past election for a position in local government does not entitle one to not have to fight for the position the next time around.

7) Being the child and grandchild of past and present local and state officials does not entitle one to be gifted a position in government because the present officeholder won election to a higher office.

8) Holding a leadership position in the legislative branch of government does not entitle one to a promotion to the executive branch.

I'd be interested in seeing if any of you can ascertain who is being referenced in these examples.