Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Dwight Pelz blog would be more than an official state party publication

Over at Evergreen Politics Ken's good idea for a state party blog is getting a thorough airing. Good for Jon for putting it up there. Anyway, I put up this comment that I think bears posting here and some additional explanation:
I agree with Ken and Jon that there is a huge benefit for the Democratic party to have a blog, and especially to have Democratic officials (generally speaking) blogging.

Check out Dan Slater's Blog (http://demnotes.com/), he's the vice-chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. It is conversational, personal without being "look at the pictures of my new puppy," and it pulls to cover off of what the Democratic Party is doing in that state.

I would encourage folks to read "Naked Conversation." There are some interesting points about blogs in a business setting that I think also apply to the Democratic Party. One, especially, being that having a blog with comments (and replying to those comments) says you want input, you want conversation.

It is odd that a political party wouldn't want to deliberately foster online conversation.

I am a bit puzzled by how this converation is being framed, that we see this "state party blog," in whatever form it would take, as a risk to be handled and not an oppurtunity. Writing a blog in the most typical sense, accepting and replying to comments, encouraging folks to link to you stuff, is about opening your organization.

Whether the state party blog is a young staffer copying and pasting press releases into MoveableType or actually a Dwight Pelz or someone else up there actually blogging, the point is that it pulls back the curtain that some people see, instead of the actual party.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

LD websites (blogs)

From what I can tell from a frantic tagging session this morning, 31 of Washington's 49 (give or take) Dem legislative district's have websites. This is pretty cool.

If you're into tagging on del.icio.us, use the WA_LD tag if you see that I missed one.

Dwight Peltz's reaction to Ken and blog reality

(yeah, I know I spelled his name wrong, but it is just easier this way to keep all that good Carl traffic headed my way)

Ken Camp has a good idea about a state party blog, and chairman Pelz responds saying that he would be afraid of what people would use it for. Comments and all.

Here are a few notes on why Mr. Pelz is probably wrong.

1. Of course, we know that all three major national Democratic institutions (the DNC, DCCC and DSCC) all have blogs in the traditional sense. They order posts from most recent to least, trackbacks and allow comments.

2. In the last few days, the King County Dems recently revamped their blog to put it front and center on their website and to also allow comments, trackbacks and all that good bloggy stuff. Apparently, neither the DNC, DCCC, DSCC or the King County Democratic Party think along the same lines as Mr. Pelz, that "(i)nvariably some comment will be posted there, and then attributed by someone as being from "“an official State Party publication"”. A scandal is then born."

3. Also, in Colorado, the state party's first vice-chair Dan Slater writes a blog. It isn't just a personal blog that he sometimes adds stuff in about what he does with the party, but rather it is a blog about being the party's first vice-chair. It's pretty humanizing for a state party official to put down his thoughts without sounding polished or PR-ish, and to encourage conversation. It is also pretty cool that Colorado state chair Pat Waak has been blogging at Dan's site as well (here, here and here).

4. Here in Thurston County, our county party treasurer Jane Johnson also maintains a couple of blogs. Her major work, SeaJane, isn't about being the county party treasurer, but is about politics in general. And, I'm almost sure if you had a local question, she would respond there. Jane also maintains a blog for heprecinctct, Bigelow 107. PCO blogs are just a good idea.

I guess my point is that not only are blogs a good idea for Democratic Party organizations, but they alreadexistst in many places. The fear of someone saying something uncouth or non-PR like is something people are already used to, and when you think about it, the point of blogs anyway.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Let them eat blogs

Ken Camp has an idea that he passes on to the chair of the state party, who writes Ken back:

One point that concerns me is to have an official Party blog. Invariably some comment will be posted there, and then attributed by someone as being from “an official State Party publication”. A scandal is then born.

There is currently a very good network of liberal/progressive/Democratic blogs.

Thanks again.

Dwight

Ken is right that the party needs to invest in the netroots.

What Dwight is telling me is thanks but no thanks. What Dwight is telling me is that he’s happy to keep the Washington State Democratic Party in the Stone Age, while 21 out of 50 state Democratic Parties have blogs and have moved into the 21st century. And Dwight goes on to say that there is currently a good progressive online community in Washington, implying that we bloggers can do the work for him.

Let them eat blogs

Ken Camp has an idea that he passes on to the chair of the state party, who writes Ken back:

One point that concerns me is to have an official Party blog. Invariably some comment will be posted there, and then attributed by someone as being from “an official State Party publication”. A scandal is then born.

There is currently a very good network of liberal/progressive/Democratic blogs.

Thanks again.

Dwight

Ken is right that the party needs to invest in the netroots.

What Dwight is telling me is thanks but no thanks. What Dwight is telling me is that he’s happy to keep the Washington State Democratic Party in the Stone Age, while 21 out of 50 state Democratic Parties have blogs and have moved into the 21st century. And Dwight goes on to say that there is currently a good progressive online community in Washington, implying that we bloggers can do the work for him. I’m happy to help, as are my fellow bloggers, but the Party needs to engage in the discussion too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Washington state is untapped netroots

I just finished reading Ken's piece on why the Washington state Democratic Party should invest more directly in the netroots and forget about their current "let them blog" attitude.

Part of this attitude seems to be coming from a perception that there really isn't anything to be gained from going onto the internet in a big way. How wrong they are.

Washington the biggest netroots state per capita. For example, over at Since Sliced Bread, there is a list of ideas submitted to the site by state. Pretty typical list of large states (New York, California and even Texas) until you get down to number six: Washington State.

Washington, which has less than half the population of Illinois, submitted more ideas to a Common Sense Idea project sponsored by the SIEU. If any state is ripe for some political investment into the netroots, it is Washington.

We're out here, come and get us.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I'm so famous

Matt Stoller at MyDD picks up my idea. I'm, like, wow. Thanks.

Modest proposal: The Netroots Legislative Agenda

Let's see if anyone bites:
At Noeme's suggestion, I'm going to put out there something I've been thinking about the last couple of days. The only way I can name it is "The Netroots Legislative Agenda," though I'm not in love with that name.

(As a way of background, I came to this idea after pondering Ken's diary on "Blogging isn't enough" and the pre-caucus issue forums I helped do in Thurston county and my recent thoughts on caucuses.)

Here's what I'm thinking: We set up a website along the lines of Since Sliced Bread, the "Common Sense" idea contest that the SEIU ran early this year. The end result, by November, will hopefully be a series of bills that we (the netroots) want passed in the next legislature.

Just to start sketching the idea out, we could start soliciting ideas as soon as a site is up, with conversation enabled of course, and folks could work on improving and sharpening ideas as we go along. Sometime in the fall, we could start separating wheat from chaff and figure out what our top priorities are.

In November, we'll hold an election (just like real politicians) and the top five ideas (or so) will rise to the top.

Then we write bills. I'm not sure who among us would feel comfortable doing that, but I assume we could convince some willing progressives among the political elite to throw us a bone. How hard could it be anyway, I mean they publish a how-to guide on the leg's website.

Throughout the process, I also don't think its a bad idea to go offline and hold some in person conversations either.

How we get there, and how specific we get, is another question all together.

My first thought would be to limit ideas to a small section of policy, say, election reform. If we do that, I already have my pet idea.

Then we get down to business and start supporting our own ideas down in Olympia. Maybe a Netroots Day...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Adele Ferguson's mea culpa on the "slavery was the hand of God" column

Well, not really a mea culpa in the true Latin sense, but she does share and rebut her readers' views on the topic. From The (Collville) Statesman-Examiner, one of the papers that still prints Adele:
Okay, so I failed to get much, if any, agreement on my supposition that the blacks came to America by the hand of God, albeit by slavery, and wonderment that they vote overwhelmingly Democratic when the D's have done so little for them.

Ruth Hansten of Port Ludlow was "deeply saddened" by my "impugning God with the wretched acts of enslaving Africans. My God, I believe, as a Christian and a Democrat, is one of abundant grace, peace, love, goodness, forgiveness, power and freedom."

Many strange things happen under the watchful eye of God and we are cautioned not to question the whys and wherefores. Why did God permit the Holocaust? Did the Holocaust hasten establishment of Israel as an independent state in 1948?

A city council that blogs?

Portland is pretty lucky to have not only members of its city council blogging, but also their mayor. And, they're not just using blogs as another (rss feed strengthened) way to get their well oiled opinions out there, but they're blogging with comments on. Which means they're having conversations, or at least encouraging conversation between folks.

I wish we could have this in Olympia.

One way to encourage participation by elected officials on Olympia's online communities is to lay out a set of ground rules to discourage abuse. Mayor Tom Potter's blog lays it right out, saying that people should agree to a code of conduct before commenting. Over at Better South Sound, we're starting to write a comment policy and over at Olyblog, Rick has put into place a way for folks to rate comments, so abusive commenters find themselves ignored.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Caucuses aren't enough

This past weekend at the Thurston County Democratic convention we were all done with writing our platform, almost ready to go home, when we considered one more resolution: to cancel the 2010 precinct caucuses. The reasoning behind the resolution, which ended up failing badly, was that this year's precinct caucuses were too expensive, too stiff and too poorly attended to justify holding caucuses again during an off year.

While I understand why the resolution failed, I still think reforming our caucus system is important. In an non-Presidential year, the precinct caucus process is there to start writing the county party's platform. People don't typically show up because they see little at stake in simply writing a party's platform. In an era of low participation and nearly non-existent turnout to caucuses, the process rewards people who stick through the entire process, not good or popular ideas. An idea only needs support among the few that show up to the convention, not the majority of Democrats in any county.

The caucus system decades ago, when people were politically engaged, when more people simply showed up, were an important way to ensure local interests where represented in state and national platforms. But, today, there are different ways to do things.

Thurston County and the 43rd LD both held topic specific pre-caucus issue forums to kick-start the conversation on writing the platform. I think we should pull the platform writing process out of the caucuses in 2008 and 2010 and do more of what happened in Thurston County and the 43rd. In addition to developing online tools, we need to move away from the stiff caucus/convention format to write our platform.

More conversation, more informal.

UPDATE: here is the actual resolution, for your reference.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Yelm makes me think of Thurston County Pt. 2

I am wrong, or was wrong, about counties not having a mechanism to change the number of commisioners once they pass a certain population. RCW 36.32.055 allows for the following:
(1) The board of commissioners of any noncharter county with a population of three hundred thousand or more may cause a ballot proposition to be submitted at a general election to the voters of the county authorizing the board of commissioners to be increased to five members.

(2) As an alternative procedure, a ballot proposition shall be submitted to the voters of a noncharter county authorizing the board of commissioners to be increased to five members, upon petition of the county voters equal to at least ten percent of the voters voting at the last county general election. At least twenty percent of the signatures on the petition shall come from each of the existing commissioner districts.
So, there is a way. The first way calls for us to grow to a population that, according to the Regional Planning Council (pdf file), we'll pass somewhere between ten and fifteen years from now.

The other path, not from the commission itself, but from the citizens, can happen at any time.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Yelm makes me think of Thurston County

There was an article in the Nisqually Valley News last week (you'll have to take my word for it, its not online) about how the city down there is considering adding two additional spots on their council, increasing the size from 5 to 7. The logic is to get beyond a requirement that would make them expand anyway when the city's population passed 5,000. They are just about there now and increasing now would allow them to arrange elections for the positions instead of having to nominate them by the council.

The logic of the state law that requires cities larger than 5,000 to have larger councils is that the workload for larger cities is better handled by larger councils. A few more representatives allows more deliberation, more representation and better government.

I wonder why the same requirement isn't made of county governments? Since Thurston County was founded in 1852 to today we've had the same number of commissioners representing us.

In 1890 there were less than 10,000 Thurstonians and 3 county commissioners. In 2006 there are over 220,000 Thurstonians and 3 county commissioners.

There was a home rule effort a few years ago to rewrite the county charter that have expanded the number of commissioners or established a council, but that fizzled out.