Thursday, October 22, 2009

How The City That Gave Us the Cubs Was Shaped

Richard C. Lindberg. The Gambler King of Clark Street: Michael C. McDonald and the Rise of Chicago’s Democratic Machine. Carbondale, Il.: Southern Illinois University Press, 2009.

The Chicago Democratic Party of the 1870s was beholden to tavern owners, who wished to stop legislation that would close them on Sundays, and brothel owners who sought a lack of police enforcement. The Democratic Party also found support from laborers who patronized these establishments. The use of patronage built a political electoral machine. Thus, the leader of Chicago’s Democratic Party, Mike McDonald, was seen as a protector of criminal activity.

Nationally, Martin Van Buren helped create a Democratic Party that appealed to Irish immigrants, freeholders, and rural yeomen.

Mike McDonald’s travel agency was a front for gambling. A number of pro-Southern Copperheads plotted to liberate about 8,000 Confederate soldiers from a prisoner of war camp. Many of the plotters later became leaders of Chicago’s Democratic Party. It is unknown in McDonald was involved or not, except he was friends with the plotters.

A fire in 1870 killed over 300 people in Chicago. Groups emerged to make Chicago more safe and moral. Some religious groups claimed the fire was a warning from God against rampant immorality in Chicago. The city’s fire devastated parts were quickly rebuilt. The bars and illegal activities resumed.

Joseph Medill was elected Mayor in 1871. He got the legislature to increase gambling penalties. The Police Superintendent was removed for his hesitancy to close gambling establishments. Elmer Washburn became the new Superintendent. McDonald’s establishment was among those raided by the newly aggressive police. Washburn was an outsider distrusted by local police officers. The Police Commission fired him in 1873 claiming he made unauthorized raids. Illegal activities resumed operating un-raided. Mayor Medill suddenly resigned and left town right before it was disclosed over half a million dollars of city funds were diverted by Democratic City Treasurer Dave Gage to personal accounts. Political opponents spread a rumor that Medill was a coward who left to avoid a possible cholera outbreak. For here, a half century of strong machine and police corruption emerged that allowed illegal ventures to operation.

McDonald’s first wife Mary once beat a woman who made her jealous and threatened people with a gun or dagger. She almost killed a police officer shooting at him when he tried to make a raid. A partisan Judge acquitted her.

Michael and Mary had a stormy and violent marriage fueled by much alcohol consumption. She accused him of infidelity and traveled with an actor Billy Arlington to San Francisco, registering at a hotel as a married couple. Mike McDonald discovered this and greeted the couple with loaded pistols. Arlington took off and Mark told Michael the friendship was platonic. Later, she threatened to shoot him.

Brothers John and Michael Corcoran organized the 20th Ward Democrats as a strong group that was known for its voter intimidation. Political rivals were almost drowned in troughs. Rival political offices had stones tossed into them. The Corcorans lent their assistance in political battles across Chicago.

Four Garrity brothers, Hugh, John, Mike, and Tommy, enforced the will of McDonald and the Corcorans with brass knuckles and other violent means. A Tribune newspaper city editor Sammy Medill, the Mayor’s brother, was among those beaten.

In 1886, it became legal to use taverns as polling locations. Bartenders in 8,000 taverns were deputized to naturalize foreign residents. Foreign residents were given a free meal, gambling chips, and instructions on how to vote. Voters received free beer. Groups of people went from polling place to polling place for free beer and multiple voting.

Jacob Rehm became Police Superintendent. He favored minimal enforcement of gambling laws in areas where the Democratic Party wanted the police to ignore. The leadership of Chicago no longer was controlled, as it had been in the past, by upper class, high moral Republican Party Puritan-ists.

McDonald’s Sheriff, Charles Kern, charged the city 35 cents per day to feed prisoners and took 10 cent of each 35 cents for himself. He was never charged with a crime. City Controller Van Hollen stole a $100,000 of city funds to pay gambling debts to McDonald and others. He fled to Canada.

Mayor Harvey Colvin oversaw an administration rife with scandals about payoffs. Financial difficulties led to the city paying its bills in script and the city almost became bankrupt. A Charter change made the winner of the 1875 Mayor’s office to not take office until 1877. A moderate Democrat, Thomas Hayne, received 33,064 votes to 819 for the Peoples Party’s Colvin. Both men claimed they were Mayor and for 28 days both acted as Mayor. City Council called for another election in 1876, where Republican reform candidate Monroe Heath was elected.

McDonald pulled much of the People’s Party into the Democratic Party. McDonald, who had supported Democrat Horatio Seymore over RepublicanUlysses Grant, switched to support President Grant’s reelection in 1872. In doing so, Democrat McDonald greatly influenced Federal jobs patronage during a Republican Administration.

McDonald supported Perry Smith for Mayor in 1877. Mayor Heath had named Michael Hickes as Police Chief. Hickes sought to drive illegal gambling operations, especially McDonald’s. McDonald closed his gambling operations for awhile. Hickes, though, looked the other way in letting vice operations remain. Citizens upset over this sought to oust Heath and Hickes. Smith ran on education reform issues. Heath won by 11,000 votes. McDonald though had enough pull to get City Council to reject Hickes’s reappointment by 22 to 11.

Hickes, out of office, was critical of the return of gambling operations. He anonymously wrote letters about this and was heavily criticized when it was revealed he was the author.

The McDonald machine rigged bids to overpay friends. It even rigged grand juries Bribes won public contracts. Some stole from each other. The private banks were made public. A few people were charged with crimes but were acquitted.

McDonald introduced the Lundberg Process, or a 13 year courthouse operation. It was noted for shoddy repairs of crumbling limestone. A fire demonstrated the building was not properly fireproofed and a person died. A whole new building was proposed by planner Daniel Burnham, which was built from 1906 to 1908 and still stands.

McDonald supported Carter Harrison for Mayor in 1879. Harrison ignored McDonald’s illegal campaign activities yet had an independent streak. He disagreed with McDonald over appointment and which candidates to support. Plus, Harrison sometime supported raising gambling parlors. McDonald was fine with raiding competing gambling houses and running them out of town.

McDonald was accused of being connected to a major financial Ponzi swindling scheme. He was not indicted although others were.

McDonald and some business friends paid bribes to a corporation counsel and alderman for exclusive building rights along a West Lake Street elevated line. The bribery scheme went before a grand jury that about 13 Aldermen had been bought. No indictments resulted.

By 1885, the Cook County Board of Commissioners was composed of McDonald’s friends. Private companies paid Commissioners in order to be selected for contracts. A grand jury looked into these abuses. Once again, there was not enough evidence for an indictment for McDonald.

McDonald unsuccessfully tried to pack a jury hearing a case involving contractor bribes involving McDonald associates. They were convicted.

Reformers won brief control of the Cook County Commissioners. Yet the city government remained corrupt.

Mary McDonald befriended Father Moysant, who would give her opium before hearing her confession. The two left together for Europe.

McDonald was arrested for unduly influencing voters. The Judge declared the evidence was not enough to proceed to trial.

Mayor Carter Harrison was assassinated by Patrick Prendergast, who believed Harrison had reneged on a job offer. Most states Predergast was viewed as a crank and no offer had ever been made.

McDonald faced newly emerging challenges as well as strolling against uprisings from his own followers. McDonald sued a few failed business partners and he himself was sued. He remarried Dora Feldman, whom the press labeled a “ghetto girl”. She, though, was infatuated with a 13 year old boy. That relationship lasted a few years. Dora claimed the boy tried to blackmail her so she shot him to death.

Mike McDonald at first stood by his wife for several days. When he realized she had betrayed him, he became a broken man. McDonald collapsed from a weakened heart. He died soon afterwards in 1907. Dora later was acquitted. She and McDonald’s son spent over 18 years arguing over Mike McDonald’s will.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good Democrat, Good

Robert E. Hartley. Paul Simon: The Political Journey of an Illinois Original. Carbondale, Il.: Southern Illinois University Press, 200i.

In the 1940s, it was possible for small town newspapers to sell 400 copies a week and be profitable. Paul Simon, at 19, decided to publish and edit a weekly paper in Troy, Illinois. Simon was a college student at Dana College in Nebraska where he had organized the Young Republicans. The local newspapers in Simon’s Illinoins lone area went up for sale and Simon decided to quit college and go into the newspaper business in 1948.

Simon believed Troy should have a public library and a sewer system. He used his editorial position to advocate his positions, although not always convincingly. Voters turned down a library proposal he advocated.

Simon was upset about gambling and vices and how police looked the other way. He became disillusioned with Republican politicians and became a Democrat at 21. He, though, opposed the local Democratic Party machine. He established his key principles that all should receive basic needs, that incentive is important to get people to improve their lives, and that deficits should exist only during economic depressions.

Governor Adlai Stevenson directed raids on gambling establishments in Simon’s part of Illinois. Simon appreciated the Governor’s actions. Simon testified before hearings held by Senator Estes Kefauver on the connection between gambling and their contributions to politicians who let them operate. Simon was drafted and continued writing editorials while in the Army.

Simon at age 25 ran for the State House of Representatives. He challenged two incumbents where cumulative voting was allowed. By getting supporters to cast their cumulative votes for him, he came in first.

While in office, Simon made personal financial disclosure. This was before the law required such disclosure. Simon was a member of the Democratic State Group of liberals who fought the Democratic Party establishment. He would marry one of the Study Group members, Rep. Jeanne Hurley.

Simon fought racetrack legislation noting several legislators were investors in the track.

Simon learned of payroll abuse in Auditor General Hodge’s office. He advised his source to take the matter to the press. The reporters who wrote the story won a Pulitzer Prize and Hodge went to jail.

Simon further criticized the press for its lack of focus on undue influence in the legislature. Simon noted no full House journal was published and that roll all votes were seldom published in newspapers.

Simon claimed several legislators were corrupt. Senate Majority Leader W. Russell Arrington and House Speaker John Touhy refused in investigate. The Illinois Crime Investigating Committee, two thirds of which were legislative appointees, looked into the matters. It was co-chaired by Robert Canfield and Prentice Marshall. The Commission stated the charges were “virtually impossible to prove or disprove.” A minority report stated further investigation was warranted but that rules prevented further action.

Simon invested in a string of newspapers across the state. This increased his visibility to readers.

Simon opposed increasing the sales tax. He advocated for an income tax. He opposed the death penalty.

Simon ran for the U.S. Senate in 1968. The Democratic Party, strongly led by Mayor Richard Daley, slated him for Lt. Governor instead. Simon agreed, seeing it as a stepping stone. Some party regulars saw this as a way to end Simon’s career.

Simon supported peace in Vietnam while Daley supported the war. Simon was elected Lt. Governor while a Republican was elected Governor. Simon hired Richard Durbin, a future U.S. Senator, to his staff. Senate President Arrington took the largest space that was usually reserved for the Lt. Governor and forced Simon into a smaller office.

Simon visited mental health facilities and criticized when he found inadequate care. He called for more racial minority hiring in police, fire, National Guard, etc.

Daniel Walker ran for Governor as an outsider. He defeated Simon in the Democratic primary charging Simon was a part of the Daley machine without acknowledging Simon’s political independence. Walker was an unpopular Governor, which helped make voters wish Simon had been elected.

U.S. Rep. Kenneth Gray announced he was retiring. Simon was urged to run for feared being labeled a carpetbagger as he lived eight miles outside the district, even though the law does not require a member of Congress to live in a district. Simon moved into the district and was elected. Simon was criticized for taking out loans when his campaign ran out of funds, and some of the loans carried no interest.

Simon began writing books on his thoughts and views on politics. He challenged incumbent Charles Percy for the U.S. Senate. He won.

Simon ran for President in 1988. He came in a surprisingly strong second place in the Iowa Caucus yet could not raise enough funds to mount a strong campaign afterwards.

Despite All Their Planning, the Cubs Never Could Win

Carl Smith. The Plan of Chicago: David Burnham and the Remaking of the American City. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Daniel Burnham was the main force behind developing Chicago’s plan for urban development in 1909. It was advanced with support including Progressives and business leaders who desired planning order. Prior to this, Chicago had quick yet haphazardly with no overall plan. Developers were noted for creating some buildings were notable architectural features. Yet concerns over poor sanitation and other problems associated with rapid urban growth made people demand foresight in future growth.

Daniel Burnham had led the City Beautiful campaign that sought well connected and landscaped roads. There was public support for making the city more visually attractive, and they liked shade trees, beautiful buildings, and open squares that offered statutes and fountains. Some, such as Jane Addams, wanted more done to correct the social disorders that existed.

The Chicago Plan had its critics. Louis Sullivan, an architect, felt the plan gave too much favoritism to business interests. He also disagreed with the modern architecture it advanced.

Burnham had supported creating a six mile park along Chicago’s waterfront. This became part of the Plan of Chicago. The Plan looked ahead at what it thought Chicago should become. It looked little at what Chicago was like. The plan worried about speculation and unregulated growth. It was believed the quality of life of city residents was at stake.

The Plan called for more parks, wider streets, and more diagonal streets. It did not focus more on living and employment standards. Roads and transit lines were planning. Houses and businesses were left to locate according to market forces.

Daniel Burnham was hired by associations of business leaders to direct the creation of the Plan of Chicago. They saw the plan as a means to protect their interests. The Commercial Club was supportive of a proposal to expand Michigan Avenue and create two layers in that section of the city.

The Plan called for better schools, parks, and playgrounds to improve the lives of people in poverty and in slums.

Parts of the Plan were implemented. Michigan Avenue was developed, parkland increased along the lake side, and formal landscaping occurred in Grant Park, Wacker Drive was partially developed to plan, several streets were widened, and Union Station was constructed. Parts were not implemented, such as constructing a civic center at a recommended location. A Chicago Plan Commission plan in 1939 became the subsequent working Chicago planning document.

The Plan had its critics in retrospect. Lewis Mumford, a historian, believed the Plan was too favorable towards business interests that wanted real estate prices to increase. Jane Jacobs, an urban affairs critic, argued the Plan hurt neighborhoods when it should have been improving them.

Bad Democrat, Bad

Elizabeth Brackett. Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption into a National Sideshow. Chicago: Ivan R. Doe, 2009.

The author writes that aides to Governor Rod Blagojevich sought to financially gain from people desiring Gubernatorial appointments. This became a norm that continued through an attempt to make a financial deal for a vacant U.S. Senate seat. These deals have led to the indictment of Rod Blagojevich.

Blagojevich is seen as someone who enjoyed the political game yet did not like holding office. He took a populist approach to politics where he reached out to voters. Yet he failed to make connections with other office holders that might have helped him advance a governing agenda. Thus he had few political allies when his troubles developed. The State Senate impeached him by 59 to 0.

There were allegations that Gubernatorial appointments improperly went to campaign contributors. The Governor’s father in law was among those making the charges. The FBI wiretapped Blagojevich and overheard him declaring he wanted something in return for his U.S. Senate appointment. He was also recorded stating he wanted campaign contributions in return for state-awarded contracts and employment, which is known as “pay to play”.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzpatrick led an investigation into public corruption. Robert Grant of the FBI declared “if Illinois isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s certainly one hell of a competitor.” Illinois politics has historic roots in corruption. The previous Governor George Ryan was convicted of corruption. It was surprising to the author that the new Governor similarly acted in a corrupt manner, especially as numerous local officials were also convicted for improperly making political hires, and it was thought that should send a warning to others.

A single information claimed Blagojevich had been a bookie while also serving as a state’s attorney. Blagojevich and the local bookie’s street tax collector both denied this. That statute of limitations had passed and the matter was not pursued.

Blagojevich worked in office of his father in law, Alderman Richard Mell. The U.S. Attorney’s office investigated whether employees such as Blagojevich were ghost employees. No charges resulted. Ethics charges were brought against Blagojevich for allegedly representing personal legal clients before the city government for which he worked. The Rules Committee, chaired by Alderman Mell, dismissed the charges.

Blagojevich was elected to the state legislature. He seemed disinterested in the work of a legislator as he often had to be requested to appear for critical votes and he seldom attended committee meetings. He was elected to Congress where he was little involved in the legislative process sponsoring just one bill that became law.

Blagojevich ran for Governor. Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, brother of Chicago Mayor Dick Daley, was a leading possible candidate. Dick Mell circulated an allegation that Daley had a conflict of interest difficulty. Daley did not run. Blagojevich ran as a reformer and was elected.

Blagojevich had Christopher Kelly, who owned a construction company that conducted business with the state, as a fundraiser. He raised large contributions from enterprises that also did business with the state. The word was spread that “pay to play”, a process where contracts would be awarded to campaign contributors, would continue in Illinois. The FBI was investigating illegal contract deals.

Governor Blagojevich criticized House Speaker Mike Madigan for allocating $1.6 million for a private livestock exhibition. Blagojevich and Madigan did not get along from then on. Madigan was expert in the details of the legislative process while Blagojevich remained disinterested. The state budget faced a $5 billion deficit that led to much feuding between the Governor’s office and the legislature.

Blagejovich seldom went to his office as Governor. He declined to move into the Governor’s mansion. He left most of the operational control to aides.

Blagojevich severed his ties with his father in law. Some advisors thought the association with an old time politician could harm his future career. Blagojevich has state environmental regulators close a landfill that Mell worked for as a consultant. A further investigation found the landfill was operating properly and it was reopened.

Mell turned on Blagojevich and accused his administration of requesting $50,000 contributions in return for commission appointments. While Mell took back the allegations, they drew the attention of the U.S. Attorney and the state Attorney General.

The FBI tapes indicate Blagojevich was seeing what he could receive in return for nominating different people to a vacant U.S. Senate seat. It was discussed he could receive a position after serving as Governor paying $250,0000 if he nominated Valerie Jarrett. He would then work with Jarrett and this organization on health care issues. A key issue of his as Governor. Jarrett removed herself from consideration. Blagojevich wanted to know if U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. would raise a million dollars for Blagojevich’s political funds. The FBI arrested Blagojevich at this point.

The FBI tapes also indicate a Blagojevich aide and Blagojevich’s brother asked for a $50,000 donation to the Blagojevich campaign from a children’s hospital executive in return for $8 million in state funds to be given to physicians. Other tapes indicated alleged shakedowns of campaign contributions from horseracing executives in return for almost $30 million in return for campaign contributors.

Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What, There is More to Religion than What the Religious Right Tells Us?

Bob Edgar. Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

The author observes that many people do not see their spiritual values as being connected to political issues. Thus they do not vocalize their values during political discussions. This allows the Religious Right to receive most of the attention. Thus, the views of the Religious Right are overrepresented as the views of the religious communities.

Edgar observes the Bible mentions peace or poverty over 2,000 times, homosexuality twice, and makes no mention of abortion. He wonders how the Religious Right then places emphasis when speaking on behalf of the religious community that homosexuality and abortion are their main concerns.

Edgar, a minister who admits that church can be boring, believes God speaks to everyone in a manner that can be heard. He believes that “if we listen, we can hear the divine in the words of people like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, or William Sloane Coffin.” He states that America is divided into “two churches”, one that brings faith through love, and the other from the Religious Right that brings faith through fear. While Jesus taught people to love their neighbors, he fears that some politicians have co-opted the Religious Right movement for their own political goals which are not the goals of love that Jesus taught.

Edgar sees global warming as fulfillment of Revelation in how the world can be destroyed. He is proud that he wrote the Community Right to Know Law regarding informing people of toxic chemicals stored in the neighborhoods when Edgar was a member of Congress.

Edgar objects to those who used the name of Jesus to support the war in Iraq. He states Jesus would reject a preemptive, and not defensive, war where many innocent civilians are killed. He also sadly notes no Western country ever admitted that genocide was happening while it was happening. Edgar argues that Jesus, as well as other religions, all teach that “there is nothing more realistic than hope.”

How Republicans Tried to Limit Long Serving Democrats

Thad Kousser. Term Limits and the Dismantling of State Legislative Professionalism. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

As professionalism increased in state legislatures, as the positions paid decent salaries and had full time duties, incumbent legislators tended to work harder to retain their positions. This led to a higher reelection rate. In turn, supporters of the concept that state legislators should be citizens with non-political jobs rather than professional politicians started pushing to place term limits on state legislators. It was their goal that professional legislators could not be firmly established.

The author debunks some of the arguments for legislative term limits. Supporters of term limits state that term limits reduce political considerations as legislators lave less concern about reelection. A majority of term limited legislators run for other offices, so their thoughts remain towards their political careers. As much as 69% of term limited legislators in California ran for other positions.

Surveys of legislative occupations do not indicate a rise of “citizen” legislators following term limits. Ironically, the number of people listing their full time occupation as “legislator” increased with term limits. What is notable is there were more attorneys as legislators before term limits and more business people as legislators with term limits.

Even an early pro-term limit leader, Pete Schaborum has stated that “what I was hoping was that we would have 120 legislators who were actually private citizens willing to give a piece of their lives to public service. None of that is happening. It’s become a partisan cesspool.

By 2003, term limits existed in 21 states. Two states, Idaho and Utah, then repealed term limits and courts struck down state limits in four other states. Courts in Massachusetts, Washington, and Wyoming discarded term limits for legal technical reasons. The courts in Oregon decided that term limits were not proper.

The movement for term limits began as local efforts and over time spread into a national movement. The Utah legislature adopted 12 consecutive year term limits in 1994, yet did so under pressure that stronger term limits be enacted by voter initiative. As noted previously, Utah has since removed term limits.

The Louisiana legislature and voters then approved a state constitutional amendment creating term limits in 1995.

Term limits also limit the time that people may serve in legislative leadership positions. It is noted that internal politicking for these positions dramatically increases in states with legislative term limits.

Institutional knowledge is lost by having legislators serving for fewer years. This can lead to making legislative staff having greater influence as it often is the staff that has the institutional knowledge. It can also make lobbyists more influential as they become more influential as a source of institutional knowledge. A problem arises as the institutional knowledge of lobbyists is generally biased towards desired by the lobbyists. Further, this makes the administrative branch executives more influential as the holders of more institutional knowledge. In the New Mexico legislature, the administration supplies legislators will bill analyses. Term limits shifts knowledge, influence, and power from legislative leaders and committee officers towards administrators and lobbyists.

A study of the Maine legislature concluded that term limits increased the number of bills introduced into the Maine legislature but that comparable numbers of bills passed before and after term limits.

The author finds that term limits has brought “marginal increases” in the numbers of females and Latinos serving as legislators. Full time legislatures display more party loyalty and adhesion of legislative leaders. Term limits has been found to produce more legislation in some more controversial areas such as health care and public welfare as term limited legislators seem more apt to vote for controversial proposals as they approach their term limits.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back When There Were Republicans in Connecticut

Robert Satter. Under the Gold Dome. Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

Former Connecticut State Rep. Robert Satter has written a book about the Connecticut state legislature. Robert Satter served in the legislature during a time when the Hartford Times proclaimed “nothing can be praised about the conduct of the General Assembly in the last session except for the fact that the individual members have left town.” This is an interesting book in that is serves as both a guide to explaining to the public how the legislature operates intermixed with research and personal observations. It is unusual to find a descriptive book about the legislative institution from a former participant in the legislative process. This is a detailed and well written book that, for us, allows us to compare and contrast our legislatures.
The Connecticut legislature is part time and legislators are paid $28,000 plus expenses. This part-time nature guides many of the differences found between the Connecticut and Pennsylvania legislatures. Connecticut legislators meet for five months in odd numbered years. Special sessions can extend beyond that period, yet they are rare. A notable special session was held in 1991 that led to the creation of Connecticut 's state personal income tax.
In Connecticut , legislative committees are composed jointly of Senate and House members. This allows members from both chambers to hear the same hearing testimonies. Although a bill still has to pass both chambers before coming a law, having members from both chambers deliberating legislation together tends to reduce differences between the chambers.
Connecticut permits legislators to file legislation on line. 58% of bills introduced in 2001 were filed online.
The book tells the history of the Connecticut legislature as well as describing its operations. Each town in Connecticut until 1964 used to elect two legislators, from Union population 400 to Hartford population 162,175. 96 towns, representing 12% of the state's population, elected a majority of Connecticut 's state representatives. Further, the State Senate then had not undergone redistricting since 1903 in spite of a Constitutional requirement that it redistrict every decade. 31% of the state's population elected a majority of Connecticut 's Senators. This was of benefit to Republicans who controlled the House while the Senate reflected that the population that was more Democratic.
Connecticut slowly adopted its current legislative system. Failing to conform to a U.S. Supreme Court order that it adopt one person one vote, the Supreme Court canceled the 1964 legislative elections which forced a Constitution Convention in 1965. The Convention redistricted a new legislature and reduced its size of 294 representatives, which then made it the second largest state legislature in the nation behind New Hampshire . ( Pennsylvania now has the distinction of having the second largest number of legislators behind New Hampshire 's 400 legislators.)

For many decades, the leading political power in the Connecticut legislature wasn't even an elected legislator. J. Henry Rorabeck , Republican Party Chair, read ever bill in the morning and would approve which bills could pass every day from 1912 through 1933 until the Democrats took control of the Senate. He would sit outside the chambers and indicate, with a thumbs up or thumbs down, how the legislators should vote. Rorabeck continued influencing the House until his suicide in 1937. Democratic Party Chair John Bailey was a major influence on legislative matters from the 1946 until 1975.
The author notes that Bailey primarily was interested in electoral victory and did not personally benefit from legislation but was skilled in attempting to find compromises and keeping party unity. He often insisted that Senate Democrats vote as a unit once a majority was reached within the caucus. In fact, the author mentions that, because of this desire for party unity, sometimes an opponent could be appeased and receive more than someone loyal to Bailey . Yet, Bailey had a good memory and was known to extract political revenge later.
Rorabeck and his business friends, though, personally benefited from their legislative efforts. As a shareholder and officer of Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P), he saw the legislature benefited CL&P. He also defended business interests in fighting child labor laws and women's suffrage.
Political party chairs no longer have such influence. Indeed, when Democratic Party Char Ed Marcus, a former Senate Majority Leader, asked to meet with legislators, the authors noted that an “embarrassingly few” would even meet with him. The political party structure has severely weakened from decades ago. The author observes that political party allegiance in legislative voting is rare, except when insisted upon by legislative leaders on budget issues.
There are numerous procedural differences between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut legislatures. Bills, except budgetary items, in Connecticut are filed with a deadline early in the process versus our open filing date system. The joint legislative committees decide which bills are then drafted into formal proposals. Thus, it is noted the professional legislative drafters can wield some influence, which is a power seen less in Pennsylvania as our bills are drafted in bill form upon introduction. Bills given unfavorable recommendations by committees can move forward to a Chamber vote. Thus, sitting on a bill in committee, as in Pennsylvania , is the normal route to kill a bill. Also, unlike Pennsylvania , a bill can be referred to multiple committees and each committee needs to issue a report on the bill before the full Chamber can vote on it. The legislative leadership has the power to issue an emergency certification to bring a bill to a vote without committee action. Leadership seldom used this in the 1990s through 2002, although it was used several times in 2003.
Connecticut legislators, probably because they are part-time, invest less effort in their careers and thus have a higher turnover rate than in Pennsylvania . Incumbency and party endorsement still carries advantages. From 1990 to 2000, there were 101 primaries to nominate state legislators. The party endorsed candidate won 71 times and the challenger won 30 times.
The legislative process in Connecticut had its moments. The author recalls the day one legislator stood up to oppose a bill requiring vehicles to have only rear license plates instead of plates on both sides. The legislator argued that “this bill is an open invitation for guys to cheat on their wives. All they have to do is back their cars up to the motel. We can't let them get away with it so easily.” The bill passed in spite of this plea.
In sum, serving in the Connecticut legislature can be described as it was by Rep. Dorothy Goodwin upon retiring when she stated “the legislative experience is unique. I can hardly think of an adjective that does not apply: boring, dismaying, humiliating, exciting, exhilarating, ennabling…I would not have missed it for anything.”

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Republicans Came Alive in Florida in the 1980s

Manning J. Dauer (general editor). Florida Politics and Government.2nd Ed. Gainesville, Fl.: University of Florida Press, 1986,

Spain claimed Florida in 1513. Ponce de Leon landed in Florida before the British landed in Plymouth in 1620. Spain made its first permanent settlement in Florida in 1565. By 1620, St. Augustine had a six bed hospital, fish market, 120 shops, a fort, and a church. Native Americans lived amongst the Spanish settlers as the Spanish made no effort to take away Native American lands. Florida survived with food, supplies, and cash from Mexico City until 1763. British settlers, led by Gov. James Moore of South Carolina, raided parts of Florida and destroyed Catholic missions in 1702, 1704, and 1706.

Spain sides with France in the French and Indian War versus the British colonists. England seized Havana. Spain trade Florida to regain back Havana.

Florida was ceded to England in 1763. England divided Florida into two colonies: West Florida and East Florida. These colonies were loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War. Tories poured into Florida, boosting its population from 6, 000 to 17,000. The Spanish, who had supported the American Revolution, retook West Florida in 1779 and then gained East Florida by a treaty in 1783. Many Americans moved into Florida and carried with them thoughts of independence. In 1810, the Republic of West Florida was declared. During the War of 1812, General Andrew Jackson defeated British troops at Pensacola, defeated a Seminole army, and seized a Spanish fort at St. Marks. The United States annexed West Florida in 1813. In 1819, the US took over$5 million of debt that Spain owed to American citizens and gave up any claims the US had on Texas. This was ratified two years later and Florida was transferred to the United States in 1821.

The Florida legislature first met in 1822 in St. Augustine. When Western delegates nearly died in a shipwreck going to the second legislative session, Florida decided to move its Capitol to a midway point in a log building in Tallahassee.

Several wars broke out between Seminoles and Americans. In 1843, 3.824 Indians were shipped out of state. By the 1850s, there were under 100 Seminoles left, and those that were left had fled into the Everglades.

Florida was admitted as a state in 1846 as a slave state at the same time Iowa was admitted as a free state. Florida then elected the first person of the Jewish faith to serve in the U.S. Senate, David Levy Yuke.

Florida was one of the states that joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War, Florida passed the Black Codes which sought to put the former slave system back in place without calling slaves as property. Reconstruction entered Florida, which was marked by creating public schools and a criminal code. This was followed, beginning in 1877, with the Bourbon Era which saw much unrestricted private sector development, low taxes, and few public programs.

The Democratic Party dominated Florida politics until the 1960s, when the Republican Party developed into a competing party. The Democrats had two major factions, the Wool Hats, who were working class, lower to middle class, and progressive to populist in their leanings, and the Silk Hats, or Bourbons, who were conservatives. Florida politics was considered relatively non-ideological compared to other states. Candidates were more apt to appeal to voters according to their personality and style of campaigning.

Florida was also a state that was considered as having a gerrymandered legislature. Before the Supreme Court made one person, one vote a rule, 13% of the state’s electorate selected a majority of the Senate and 15% of the state’s electorate selected a majority of the House. Most Governors previously served in the legislature and were from North Florida or the Panhandle. Statewide candidates played to their regional appeals.

In 1969, the Florida legislature adopted a professional staff. Most legislators hold other jobs. Florida then met in 60 day legislative sessions with special session afterwards, although most of those lasted only a few days. There was an inconsistency as some House members were elected from single member districts while other districts elected multiple House members.

Seven Administrative positions, including Governor and several Cabinet positions, were elected so there was not necessarily a unified Administrative position on issues. This gave the legislature some more influence over the Executive branch.

The 1980s, when this book was published, finds Florida as one of the fastest growing parts of the country. More money was generated then by tourism than by manufacturing. Agriculture was a growing industry. It had twice the national average in the percent of retirees living in a state. Its labor unions were strongest among public employees, transportation, and building trades. The relatively smaller manufacturing base also meant there were few strong traditional trade unions. Florida’s Constitution requires it be a “right to work” state, meaning union dues and union strikes apply only to union members and that employees can decline to join a union.

Florida is a state that seeks growth and modernization yet its voters are not generally liberal. The conservative voting patterns translated into a relatively less demand for social services than found in other states. The African American population in 1980 was 13.6%, a sharp decline when half of Floridians were Black during the Civil War.

The Democratic Party dominated Florida politics until the 1980s. Republicans often failed to even run candidates in many local elections. Claude Kirk was a Republican elected Governor in 1966 followed by Ed Guerney who was a Republican elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968. Both men faced scandal in office which turned away Independents who had helped elect them. Democrats who were elected to statewide offices in Florida, such as Gov. Reubin Askew, Gov. Robert Graham, and Sen. Lawton Chiles took moderate positions which attracted independent voters back to Democratic candidates.

Florida then had no state income tax, a relatively moderate sales tax of 5%, relatively strict state environmental regulations, and about average support for education. Florida, as a growing state, had relatively more planning and conservation regulations than found in other states.

Florida saw many local governments, some with overlapping jurisdictions, with varying degrees of abilities and efficiencies. The state government took more control of roads, public welfare, and other areas where county government management was inadequate.

Views from the Extreme Left, or What Then Was Republican Modernism

Hugh Scott. Come to the Party: An Incisive Argument for Moderate Republicanism. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1968.

Hugh Scott, in this book published in 1968, traces the struggles between conservatives and moderates for control of Republican philosophy and candidates to the 1940 Wendell Willkie Presidential campaign. These “Tories” refused to embrace the Willkie idea that government could be reformed to operate better. Willkie was very critical of much of the New Deal yet wished to preserve those programs that helped the general public. The far right Tories instead wanted to tear apart the government as well as the Republican Party establishment.

A mistake Republicans did, Scott believed, during the 1930s was they rejected Social Security. Instead, Republicans should have taken to improve it. The continued fighting against any government program alienated the Republican Party with voters who found these programs were improving their lives.

Scott chides the “tyrannosauric Republicans” who turned their backs on moderate Republicanism. Scott notes the 1964 landslide defeat of conservative Barry Goldwater for President as an indication that conservatism is not a wise electoral direction.

Scott notes that during the 1960 Nixon for President campaign that far right zealots became more active in Republican politics. Believers in the Communist takeover conspiracy gained root in the Republican Party. Members of the far right John Birch Society became more prevalent in Republican circles. The Mississippi Republican state organization was led by white supremists.

The growing right wing of the Republican Party openly spoke against the “Eastern Establishment” that they claimed had some imagined control of the country. This offended many modern Republicans along the East Coast. In addition, the “barbarism of the lunatic fringe” offended Blacks and drove African Americans out of the Republican Party.

Scott served in Congress and was defeated for reelection in 1942. He then served active duty in World War II on the USS Mt. Olympus. In 1948, he was the only World War II veteran of the Republican National Committee. Thomas Dewey, the Republican Presidential nominee, saw the votes of veterans as important and he named Scott the Republican National Chairman. Scott in retrospect notes that Dewey tried to run a low key campaign with general positions, bland speeches, and passive statements. President Truman meanwhile used the “Turnip Day” to hurt Republicans by requesting the Republican majority Congress to enact the Republican Party platform. When Congress declined to do so, Truman attacked the Republicans for fearing to support their own policies. Truman won.

The Republican factionalized into several camps. There was the Robert Taft faction that attacked Truman and the Eastern Establishment. Scott resigned as Republican National Chairman in 1949. Taft supporters gained control of the Republican National Committee. Republican moderates asked for party unity but did not receive it. Republican Senator Charles Tobey of New Hampshire urged Republicans to stop attacking social welfare programs as socialism and instead “develop a heart as well as a head”.

Southern Republican organizations, in states which then were solidly Democratic, were mostly “paper organizations” according to Scott. They were not interested in developing an election operation for the Republican Party. They existed to bolster the national far right movement.

A problem with Taft supporters controlling the Republican National Committee developed during the 1952 Republican National Convention. Taft supporters were a majority of the Rules and Credentials Committee. The public objected to the heavy handed operations that the Taft supporters did on these committees. Uncommitted delegates who were leaning towards Taft was upset and switched to Dwight Eisenhower. During the first ballot, Eisenhower led with 595 votes to 500 for Taft, 81 for Earl Warren, 20 for Harold Stassen, and 10 for Douglas MacArthur. Eisenhower was nine votes short of the nomination when Stassen had 19 of his vote switched to Eisenhower, leading to a rally where the vote was 845 for Eisenhower to 280 for Taft before the nomination was made unanimous.

Eisenhower wanted someone young and from the West on his ticket, and he picked Richard Nixon as his running mate.

Scott believes that forcing Sherman Adams to resign as Assistant to President Eisenhower was too extreme a punishment for his accepting favors to influence policies. Scott does not condone the behavior but believe such behavior was more common than most realize and Adams was being singled out.

Scott notes the irony of the compromise that admitted Alaska and Hawaii to the union. It was believed that Alaska would elect Democrats and Hawaii would elect Republicans to Congress. The reverse in both states became the norm.

Hugh Scott was the only Republican in Pennsylvania who won a statewide election who he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Democrats nationally took away 13 Republican U.S. Senate seats, most of the defeats attributed to right wing Republican candidates. Scott became one of three new Republican Senators, all moderates, along with Kenneth Keating of New York and Winston Prouty of Vermont.

Scott reached across the aisle and did a bipartisan television with Pennsylvania’ s Democratic Senator Joseph Clark.

Hugh Scott chaired the Pennsylvania delegation to the 1960 Republican National Convention, defeating State Sen. M. Harvey Taylor by 46 to 22.

Scott observes that the Democratic Party, circa 1969, was having problems with its left leaning younger Democrats. Scott believes the Republican Party, back then, should have been reaching out and gaining millions of disgruntled younger voters. Scott and subsequent Republican Party nominee Richard Nixon supported the Vietnam War, which was an issue that would keep many of these voters from turning Republican.

Scott heralded the rise of modern Republicans. He observed how Governor Raymond Shafer helped provide Pennsylvania with a modern Constitution, how Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland implemented tax reform, how Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York reformed the state’s transportation system, and how Governor John Love of Colorado approved the country’s most liberal abortion law. Obviously, Scott probably would not have been happy to see the rise of the anti-abortion social conservatism within the future Republican Party.

An All Natural Medicine that Republicans Should Like

Dale Gieringer, Ed Rosenthal, and Gregory T. Carver. Marijuana Medical Handbook: Practical Guide to the Therapeutic Uses of Marijuana. Oakland, Ca.: Quick America, 2008.

This book is based on a data bank of over 9,000 patients.

Medical marijuana is legal in 13 states, Canada, the Netherlands, and Austria. There is also a pharmaceutical spray version of marijuana that can be used in 23 countries, but not within the United States. It is legally used by approximately 300,000 patients in the US. It is believe there are several million patients illegally using marijuana for medical purposes.

The use of marijuana has been found to be effective in treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, and pain. There are studies showing marijuana is useful for patients with hepatitis C, gastro-intestinal disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). There are some indicating that marijuana is useful for patients with cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s diseases.

A drawback to marijuana is it has toxins that can create a high effect that dulls mental senses. These toxins and the high effect can be removed by vaporizing the marijuana.

Marinol is a synthetic chemical available in capsules made from sesame oil that contains pure THC found in marijuana. It is allowed by the Food and Drug Administration to suppress nausea, while is a common ailment by patients who receive chemotherapy who need to fight nausea in order to take their medication. Patients state that medical marijuana is far superior to Marinol which lacks cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids found in marijuana that allow marijuana to be more effective. In addition, nausea patients have difficulty swallowing the Marinol capsules. Patients state they prefer inhaling such medication, which can be done with marijuana but not with Marinol. Inhalation also offer for better dosage control, whereas capsules have the dosage pre-determined. Marinol is also expensive, costing up to $1,000 for sixty capsules.

Sativex is a cannabis spray administered under the tongue. It is available for Canada and 22 other countries, primarily for multiple sclerosis patients.

Medical marijuana has been found to help stimulate appetite and repress nausea. This is helpful for patients with cancer, HIV, and AIDS. Six studies found marijuana suppressed nausea in 90% of people studied while one study found it suppressed nausea in 59% of people studied.

It has been suggested the marijuana can be useful in stimulating the appetite of people with anorexia and with morning sickness.

Marijuana was found in a study to reduce muscle spasms in 88% of patients studied with spinal cord injuries.

Marijuana has been found to reduce spasms with patients with epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, menstrual cramps, cerebral palsy and a number of other disorders. It also reduces tics faced by people with Tourette’s syndrome.

A study of 339 Parkinson’s disease patients found 46% of patients found substantial relief although it took almost two months of use before the relief took effect.

Marijuana has been found to relieve pain. Recent studies and studies going back to the 19th century have found this to be the case. In the 19th century, marijuana was prescribed for migraines and for pain from rheumatism. A number of patients experience pain related to several ailments for express pain relief from marijuana.

A study with a small sample size found that Marino diminished some of the negative psychiatric effects experienced by Alzheimer’s patients. An animal tissue study found it cannabinoids may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Marijuana may have positive effects for other psychiatric ailments. It may improve the mood of people with clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and chronic fatigue syndrome. A study of insomnia patients found that using marijuana helped them sleep better. It is noted that insomnia is often a side effect of withdrawal from heavy marijuana usage which can last for up to several weeks. Marijuana should not be used to alleviate stress as stress comes from external conditions.

The use of marijuana may help alleviate the symptoms of addiction withdrawal, be it alcohol, tobacco, or narcotics.

Marijuana decreases fluid pressure on the eyes of glaucoma patients. Thus using marijuana can prevent blindness from glaucoma. Among the few patients legally allowed by the Food and Drug Administration to use medical marijuana have been glaucoma patients.

There has been a study that indicated that the direct application of cannabinoids to some types of cancers in animals shrinks them. This does not mean that inhaling them would have a similar effect.

Marijuana increased heart rates which could pose a problem to people with heart disease. It can make some people feel faintness. Smoking marijuana can be harmful to the throat and lungs. It should be noted that the amount of smoke involved from typical marijuana users is far less than the amount of smoke involved in tobacco users.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arkansas Before and After Winthrop Rockefeller

Diane D. Blair and Jay Barth. Arkansas Politics and Government. 2nd Ed. Lincoln, Ne.: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

The authors note that, through most of Arkansas’s history through the end of the 20th century that Arkansas had many lower than average income residents who were more concerned with earning a living than they were, as compared to voters in other states, with public affairs. They desired general services and were satisfied to receive them. The authors state their central premise is that it has only in recent decades has state government begun to have an active and positive role upon Arkansas residents.

Arkansas territorial government was strongly influence by people with business and banking interests who controlled patronage. They also through corruption and mismanagement led to bank failures that created three million dollars in state debt.

The Federal government provided one third of the state’s land to the state government for public purposes. The school and roads many hopes would be built did not result. Poorly built levees did emerge yet they were constructed so badly they were swept away. In 1927, floods covered 13% of the state.

Arkansas was admitted as a slave union in conjunction with admitting Michigan as a free state. The Democratic Party was the primary party in Arkansas as the opposing Whigs never received over 33% of the vote in Arkansas Presidential elections from 1836 through 1856, whereupon the Whigs collapsed as a party.

Arkansas was slow to adopt public education. Governor John Roane, who served from 1849 through 1852, declared that “I am convinced, after investigation in to the history of the common school, that no possible good can come of it.” Affirmative action policies may have delayed in a state that descended from one led by Governor Jeff Davis, who served 1901 to 1907, who explained that “nigger domination will never prevail in this country…as long as shotguns and rifles lie around loose and we are able to pull the trigger”. Public education came to Arkansas but even Governor Junius Futrell, who served in 1933 to 1937, argued for public school funding to go only through the eighth grade.

Arkansas is also a state that descended from the leadership of Governor Orval Faubus who in 1957 attempted to stop the desegregation of Little Rock public schools by ordering the Arkansas National Guard to seize the schools and prevent the admission of African American students. It took President Eisenhower to command the 101st Airborne Infantry Division to see the schools admitted the students.

The authors, though, note that segregationist attitudes were stronger in other Southern states. There were few fewer race baiting instances in Arkansas than in most other Southern states. Arkansas voters initially were not as supportive towards succeeding from the Union as in other states as Special Convention candidates who favored remaining in the Union received 23,628 votes compared to 17,927 votes cast for candidates who favored succession. An initial vote to join the Confederacy failed by 139 to 25. It took the attack on Fort Sumter to switch the attitude of Arkansas representatives to favor joining the Confederacy, which passed 65 to 5.

After Reconstructionists were replaced by Redeemers, composed of Confederate heros, business leaders, and agriculture leaders, gained political control of Arkansas, it was their general philosophy that state government should be as inactive as possible while business interests were to operate with as little oversight as possible.

African Americans were allowed to vote in elections and even in primaries (often called “white primaries” in Southern states that excluded Blacks from voting in them) far sooner than in most other Southern states. A poll tax was initiated in 1891, though, in an attempt to lower Black voter turnout. “White primaries” ended in Arkansas and all other states with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1944. Governor Homer Adkins reaction to this court decision was to announce that “if I cannot be nominated by the white voters of Arkansas, I do not want that office.”

In 1940, 3% of African American adults paid the poll taxes. In 1948, 21% of African Americans adults voted. In 1970, 72% of African American adults voted.

The first traditionally all-White Southern state to desegregate was the University of Arkansas Law School in 1948. Charleston, Arkansas was the first former Confederate school district to integrate its schools in 1954. Even Governor Faubus appointed six African Americans to the Arkansas Democratic State Committee.

Attitudes began changing in Arkansas. State Rep. Paul Van Dalsem stated in 1963 “when one of our women starts poking around in something she doesn’t know about, we get her an extra milk cow. If that doesn’t work, we give her a little more garden to tend. And then if that is not enough, we get her pregnant and keep her barefoot.” Van Dalsem was defeated for reelection in an election where many women voted and took off their shoes as they went in to vote. Van Dalsem would later be elected back to the state legislature where he became a cosponsor of a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Arkansas was predominately a state where Democrats did well from 1900 through 1948, where Republicans at most received 15% of the vote for their candidates for Governor. From 1950 to 1960, Republicans were able to increase their top vote to 22%. In 1966, a Republican, Winthrop Rockefeller, was elected Governor. More recently, Mike Huckabee served as a Republican Governor of Arkansas.

Economically, Arkansas changed from a primarily agricultural state as of 1939, and prior to then, to a state that had more service and white collar occupations by 2000.

A Republican Who Helped Save Forests

Gifford Pinchot. Breaking New Ground. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1998 (originally published in 1947)

This is a description of early American public policy on forest management and conservation from a leading advocate and administrator of these policies, Gifford Pinchot, the first leader of the U.S. Forest Service during the Theodore Roosevelt Administration.

Pinchot notes that most Americans gave no thought to forests into the 1860s and prior other than the realization that forests existed. France had recognized three centuries earlier under Colbert, a minister of King Louis XIV, but this knowledge had not spread to America. As people cut into forests for their purposes, there was no consideration that any damage could arise from these actions. In time, beginning around the 1880s, it was realized there is a need to manage replanting of trees and management of forests is required.

Gifford’s father was one of the original advocates of forest management policies. The author calls his called the Father of Forestry in America. The author saw well managed forests throughout Europe. He made it his mission to inform his country’s residents about the advantage of proper forest management.

Half of all American forests were held in private ownership around the 1890s. Most owners sought to cut trees and sell lumber as quickly as they could. An underground market of stolen timber from government owned forest land existed, and the government did little to stop this practice.

The first U.S. forest law was the Yellowstone National Park creation in 1872 which made it illegal to cut timber within Yellowstone National Park.

In 1873 the Timber Culture Act passed allowed homesteaders to claim some portions of public land by planting trees on the land. This idea generally failed as most trees failed to thrive before the homesteaders were able to obtain title of their lands.

In 1881, the U.S. Agriculture Department created a Forestry Division.

Pinchot and Interior Secretary Hoke Smith created new forest reserve land. In 1897, President Grover Cleveland increased by more than double the amount of forest reserves to over 21 million acres. The author notes that no forest management plan was created for this land.

President McKinley saved the Cleveland Reserves. The Interior Secretary was designated as the official in charge of selling trees on national land and preserving forests from destruction. Most of the first appointments to administer this were on a patronage basis. They had little expertise on forest management.

Governor Theodore Roosevelt support creating state forest reserve preserves within New York. When he became President, his first Congressional message was to create a Reclamation Service. This was the beginnings of what would become the U.S. Forest Service. This service transformed much desert land into farmland.

Issues over grazing captured far more attention on reserve matters than issues over forestry. In tine, people became more aware that land had been overgrazed and forests overcut. President Roosevelt began charging for grazing on Federal land. This was soundly objected to be Western Congressional members yet Roosevelt refused to back down. The beginnings of a national conservation effort began under Teddy Roosevelt.

Teddy Roosevelt wanted land to be held for the greatest public good over the longest time. He held the nation’s first national conservation conference. He further had the first inventory of the nation’s natural resources ever conducted. He insisted that forest on Indian Reservations be held for Indian use.

Roosevelt ended many corrupt land use practices. This upset the corrupt politicians yet Roosevelt stood up to them. He created the largest deposit of phosphate rock ever, which secured its future use as fertilizer, and prevented politicians from exploiting this reserve for their financial gain. He halted selling public land with coal at undervalued prices. He stepped in and halted corrupt use of Indian land.

The author was upset that President Taft stepped away from many of Roosevelt’s land practices. Pinchot declares that “conservative is the application of common sense to the common problems for the common good.”

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Homeless People Spoil Republican Outings

Alex S. Vitale. City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. New York: New York University Press, 2008.

This excellent book analyzes homeless policies. Mayor Frank Jordan of San Francisco in 1993 began a campaign to remove homeless people from the city. Thousands of homeless people were ticketed by policy for minor crimes, hundreds of homeless were jailed, and homeless people were removed from public areas. Vitale argues this created more danger and hurt to thousands of homeless people. Mayor Giuliani repeated a similar campaign afterwards in New York. These programs are designed to improve the “quality of life” for residents but does nothing, in fact they make things worse, for homeless people. Penalizing a homeless person for being homeless solves nothing.

A Federal court in Pottinger v. City of Miami rules in 1991 that Miami could not make it a crime to commit an act a homeless person must do as a homeless person when the city offers no alternative to being homeless. The court ruled Miami had to designate an area where homeless people could stay without public government harassment.

Santa Monica, Ca. in 1993 passed a law that made it very restrictive to give free food to the homeless.

A major problem is that social programs for the homeless are severely underfunded. This invokes a contradiction when compared to the billions of public dollars spent on economic development. Another irony is the high costs involved in incarcerating a homeless person. Budget restraints have limited the ability of local governments to properly fund and implement social programs.

There is an increase in homeless worldwide. It is a result of global market changes. Local residents are understandably distressed by the increased number of homeless in their communities. Many communities have decreased the amount of low income housing, which has made the homeless problem worse. The author calls for greater social tolerance, social cohesion, social services that work, and regulating globalization.

Oh, No, Can Republicans Stand Up to Real Estate Interests?

Tom Angotti. New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate. Cambridge, Ma.: The MIT Press, 2008.

Angotti is an advocate of progressive community planning, meaning he rejects the exclusionary community planning that is for the wealthy and usually only for white people. It is planning that considers equality and assisting people with needs. Angotti notes that real estate interests have great influence in New York’s planning process and that many established neighborhoods are being destroyed by these powerful real estate interests.

Angotti favors using progressive planning for preserving communities rather than displacing its people and its businesses. Planning needs to consider the needs of all the economic classes and racial groups within a neighborhood. Angotti dispels the myth that planning is politically neutral.

New York has seen strides made towards inclusionary zoning that looks at what low income residents, working class residents, and people of color need. New York has seen environmental justice become part of its planning process.

Jane Jacobs in 1961 wrote how the traditional rational-comprehensive planning that was common that relied on scientific knowledge was used to create building height limits, parks, wide streets, etc. This planning led to large development that destroyed neighborhoods and the people living in those neighborhoods. Real estate developers profited from the physical determinism of this traditional Keynesian model that argued that massive building projects would lead to solving poverty. Instead, poor people were displaced as their homes were sold to make room for high priced development that served wealthier people.

The difficulties witnessed from the rational comprehensive model led to the rise of the neoliberalism movement in the 1970s. It argued public intervention was making things worse and called for land to be set to the free market, privatized public operations, removing government regulations, etc. This movement was grasped in the 1980s by the Reagan Administration.

Jane Jacobs set the stage for progressive community planning. Advocacy planning that encourages residents to plan for their own communities is at the roots of this movement. This idea has been expended beyond a legal advocacy It also incorporates sustainability planning that plans for future generations by protecting the environment.

Angotti calls for local progressive planning that includes concerns for equality, social inclusion, environmental concerns, and neighborhood land use. He argues for preserving land for public use, including nonprofit and public trust land, and seeing it is not turned over to private real estate interests.

New York has strong real estate interests. Many have become well known, such as David Rockefeller, Donald Trump. as well as Harry and Leona Helmsley. The New York real estate market has many global investors.

New York has a long history of large planning efforts and neighborhood organized opposition and input. Conflicts arise and the planning process often becomes one of much conflict.

The 311 phone system, is monitored by city government. It is a way residential complains are heard and is used to help guide city planning.

Developers continue to be strong interests. They are large forces in current major planning projects, such as rebuilding on the former World Trade Center site, developing Hell’s Kitchen’Midtown West, which included a proposed sports stadium that was halted, and Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn where local residents have objected to proposed large business developments. At Atlantic Yards, the developer agreed to make half of new rental units be for low and middle income tenants, a move that divided community opposition.

Angotti calls for maintaining affordable housing which includes resisting gentrification and other efforts aimed at displacement, connecting residents to clean and safe modes of transportation, food, and water, protecting the public interest, using land banks for long term planning goals, democratically regulating common areas for neighborhood needs, increasing the number of community land trusts to combat overdevelopment, making the quality of life a prime planning consideration, recognizing local, regional, and global roles, undergoing comprehensive planning, and considering generations ahead.

Is It a Republican, Is It a Democrat, Is It an Independent? It's Superwealthy Mayor!

Joyce Purnick. Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics. New York: Public Affairs, 2009.

Michael Bloomberg, the wealthiest person in New York, ran for Mayor by spending tens of millions of his own money to fund his campaign. As Jimmy Breslin declared, Bloomberg was buying the Mayor’s seat “like it’s a cup of coffee”.

Bloomberg was not known for giving stirring speeches or making convincing arguments when questioned. He did not appear to have empathy for others as he maintained his businesslike aura. The author describes Bloomberg as “the city’s first, and no doubt last, plutocrat.”

Bloomberg understood finances and he helped steer New York during the national economic crisis. He had the advantage of not owing any interests for his election or for reelection. He could act without needing help from contractors, unions, or other economic lobbies.

Bloomberg championed removing guns from the streets, banned smoking in more public places, and improved race relations. He attempted to reduce gridlock and improved the schools. He fought, and lost, to build a sports stadium in Manhattan and to ban private cars from MidTown.

Bloomberg grew up in Medford, Ma., was an Eagle Scout, faced anti-Semitism in an area where few Jews lived, enjoyed puzzles, science, and solving problems, received mostly As and Bs but with some Cs and Ds, was described as “argumentative” by classmates, attended Johns Hopkins, received a Harvard MBC, had flat feet that kept him out of military service, and went to work at Salomon Brothers & Hutzler bond traders as their first Harvard MBA. He observed the difficulty that existed in getting and information for work. After 15 years, he was eased out by a rival and received $10 million in severance.

Bloomerg used the money to start his own financial information company using computer terminals. It grew to a company with 2,300 journalists and editors in 140 bureaus, a 24 hour research phone line, and with 280,000 subscribes paying $1,590 a month. This phone line system would inspire Mayor Bloomberg to create 311, a number New Yorkers can call at any time to obtain government information.

Bloomberg’s company has no job titles, doesn’t advertise externally, gives no volume discounts, and Bloomberg himself has no assistance or secretary and handles his own business affairs.

Ronald Lauder used his own money to run for Mayor and outspent winner Rudy Guiliani by five to one in the 1989 Republican Primary. Bloomberg was more politically astute in entering his race as a candidate with no political background spending his own money in the race.

New York has a strong Mayor. The Mayor thus is more responsible for events than most other Mayors. Mayor Ed Koch used to say that “if a sparrow died of heart attack in Central Park that he would be held responsible.”

It is a tough job serving as Mayor. The public speaks loudly. Residents generally oppose building anything new except schools.

Once on the public eye, criticism arose of Bloomberg’s past behavior. News he faced sexual harassments charges became known. An old quote of his reemerged, where he stated “I like the theatre, dining, and chasing women. Met me put it this way: I am a single, straight billionaire in Manhattan. It’s like a wet dream.”

Bloomberg increased by double his charitable contributions before running for Mayor, giving $100.5 million to 200 additional organizations, 79 of which are in New York City.

Bloomberg entered the Republican Primary versus former Rep. Herman Badillo, who had few funds and as a former Democrat lacked a strong base. The primary on September 11, 2001 was postponed due to terrorist attacks. The Democrats required a run-off primary. Mayor Guiliani proposed moving the general election back due to the short time between that election and the second primary and also so Guiliani could continue directing post-attack recovery efforts. Bloomberg agreed with moving the election day, and swearing in, dates back. A leading Democratic candidate Mark Green at first was undecided and then agreed. This agreement caused Green to lose popularity amongst liberals (slipping from 70% approval to 50% approval) and African American voters (slipping from 80% to 65% approval). Green won the Democratic run-off primary with 52% to 48% for Fernando Ferrer, yet his electability had been reduced.

Bloomberg explained he wanted to be Mayor because he wanted to make a difference. The press dup up past Bloomberg quotes, such as his stating at a conference “I would like nothing more in life than to have Sharon Stone sit on my face” and if Jesus was a Jew, why does he have a Puerto Rican first name?” Voters were more concerned about the city’s finances and more voters choose Bloomberg, who received 48.9% of the vote to Green’s 46.6%,

Bloomberg took control of the Board of Education away from other city officials. He extended the city’s no smoking area in restaurants to banning smoking in all restaurants as well as bars.

Bloomberg used patronage only for a few former employees and two jobs for relatives. His sister and daughter received jobs for $1 a year, the same salary he took (although he never cashes the check.)

Bloomberg gave large campaign contributions to Republican legislators, especially ones voting on issues he supported.

Bloomberg was worried about reelection. He proposed a residential property tax cut of $250 million out of the city’s $1.8 million budget which would save each owners of a home, co-op, or condo about $400 a year. Large apartment buildings and nonresidential property owners were not included in this cut. The cuts passed City Council and Bloomberg’s approval rating increased from 44% to 50%. They had been as low as 24% two years prior.

Bloomberg sought to bring the 2012 Olympics to New York City. He wanted to build a sports stadium in a neglected neighborhood, Hudson Yards. He presumed State House Speaker Sheldon Silver would be convinced to support building the stadium only to discover he as against the idea all along. 58% of residents were against building a stadium and Bloomberg misjudged the public reaction. Ironically, killing the stadium may have deflected an uproar against Bloomberg that might have harmed his reelection chances.

Fernando Ferror won the Democratic Primary to face Bloomberg’s reelection efforts. Ferrer stated the police shooting of an unarmed Black was not a crime, a reversal from his pervious opinion. Before that statement in March 2005, Ferrer led Bloomberg in polls by 46% to 40%. In April 2005, after Ferrer’s statement, Bloomberg led by 51% to 38%.

Bloomberg tried to introduce congestion pricing to reduce midtown traffic. Speaker Silver supported this idea yet his potential opponent for the Speakership, Richard Brodsiy, opposed it. Silver then decided there weren’t enough votes to pass the legislation and he let the proposal die. While the proposal failed, it attracted national attention for Bloomberg.

Bloomberg switched from Republican to Independent in June 2008. Mike Bloomberg hired Symposia Group to create a Bloomberg for President website. Had the Republicans nominated a conservative, with Obama running as a liberal, some believed Bloomberg could have run as an Independent representing the political middle. McCain’s nomination as a centrist candidate ended talk of Bloomberg’s running.

Bloomberg decided to run for a third term. He had to first change, and convinced City Council to do so, a law limiting the Major to two terms.