Growing up in Northern New York. I realize the majority of the country isn’t aware we exist. After all, there’s not only New York City, there’s Long Island, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Albany to think about it. I live in the Adirondacks, where the nearest Wal-Mart is an hour away and most of the kids I grew up with have never even been 8 hours south to the Big Apple.
Every state, red or blue, has pockets of rural life. Here, when it comes to watching the news and keeping up with the Jones’, we tend to shake our heads and keep things local. Yet sometimes what happens in these big cities, rips the rug out from under us.
On March 1st the deadline passed and the nation took on the “sequester” cuts. Washington’s inability to compromise cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions and millions of cuts to government programs across the board.
On a local level, my area hospital is being hit with over a $1 million being cut. Adirondack Medical Center has already faced big cuts the last few years, yet now they may be forced to shut down an Emergency Room service in the next town over (Read story on our local NPR station: NCPR). My mother works at AMC and we’re so fortunate her job’s not in jeopardy. Yet she and many others will experience shift changes to reduce costs. Because workers are paid more when ‘called in’ the hospital has set a schedule of rotation so there is less call and less workers on at the same time. Hits like this strike our small community and make it harder for the area’s working families.
As an intern at Democracy for America I now watch the news like it’s my job. Following the Sequestration debates up to the March deadline was difficult. It seemed everyday nothing was happening. Sure, warnings were issued from both sides. The media obsessed over the classic novelty: the blame game. Yet it was like watching a car drive into a wall in slow motion. You keep hoping they’ll hit the breaks, but they don’t. Just like that car, Congress’ inability to act is senseless. There is nothing quite like watching your government fail to do the right thing. This is not the first time nor will it be the last but American families deserve better. We deserve politicians that stand for the people and our rights to healthcare and education.
When the sequester happened most American’s probably didn’t notice much. However, when the effects take their toll—they will. Communities across the country that can’t afford such cuts will be the ones most affected, just like my home in the Adirondacks—Sadly, the government is most likely to do absolutely nothing about it. A wise infographic once read, if our representatives saw such momentous cuts to their personal salaries—a deal would have been struck ASAP.
My home in upstate New York is a beautiful place where people often come to experience the great outdoors. The area is known for it’s rich camping experience, clear lakes, and the 46 Adirondack Mountains. It’s my hope that Washington will come together and we won’t see cuts that hurt communities like mine. The petty culture in congress needs to end. That’s why I fight for progressive candidates who really do make a difference. Progressives work tirelessly to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and education. I can only hope moving forward politicians will realize communities like mine matter. We need a Congress that works for the American people not for party politics.
Efforts to reduce gun violence made some headway today on the Senate panel. In the wake of the deadly shooting in Newtown, CT the push for new gun laws has been stronger than ever. Today the committee convened and voted 10-8 (with all Republicans opposed) on the measure to expand a requirement of background checks for gun sales between private parties. The committee also approved a measure providing $40 million a year to school safety programs in a bipartisan vote 14-4. In addition, last week, a vote 11-7 made “straw” purchases (aka gun trafficking) a federal crime that will carry long prison terms into the bill.
Yet the proposed ban on assault weapons and a limit on high capacity ammunition magazines was postponed—however, not indefinitely—Committee Chair Patrick Leahy of Vermont said he expects the panel to move on such a bill by the end of the week. Proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the assault weapons ban under consideration would ban 157 types of military assault weapons. Unfortunately, this measure faces strong opposition from the NRA and many senators—including some Democrats from “pro-gun” states.
Furthermore, according to the Associated Press, “Leaders of the GOP-run House have said the will wait to act until the Senate passes legislation. House Republicans have expressed little interest in requiring background checks for private sales.”
However, USA Today reports “Sen. Charles Schumer, said he is work with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va) and Sen. Mark Kirk (D-IL) on retooling the background check bill so that it might attract bipartisan support when it is considered on the Senate floor.
What do you think about the gun violence prevention bill? At Democracy for America we want to here from you. Please, write your stance on gun violence prevention in the comments.
When I was an idealistic student activist at the University of Wisconsin (go Badgers!), I saw Michael Moore speak at an environmental conference. The only thing I remember from his address was his admonishment to 'Stop holding meetings! Meetings are a waste of time! Go out there and get the work done!'
I imagine that anyone working in politics - a field known for its verbose, opinionated workforce - has at one time or another looked around a meeting and asked herself 'What the eff am I doing here? How is this helping me achieve my goals? What is the point of this meeting?'
The thing is, I'm not sure Michael Moore was right. Getting the appropriate players together to collaborate on a project is necessary for success; we are political organizers and don't work in a vacuum. We have ambitious goals and can't do it all ourselves. We often need our teammates to keep us accountable to our deadlines. And there are ways to make meetings work.
Carson Tate offered some tips in a recent column in the New York Times and Allison Green of Ask a Manager wrote a post ages ago with some great advice on this topic. Here are my favorites from each, plus a few things I myself have learned over the years.
Determine if the meeting is necessary in the first place. What is the point, what will you accomplish in this time together? What actions will result from this meeting? Could you achieve those accomplishments or actions without holding a meeting? If all you want is a round of updates, could that happen in a memo to the whole group? If you’re looking for quick answers to just a few questions, could you do that with a simple email survey?
Prepare. Write an agenda that flows from the goals you have for the meeting. If you don't have an agenda, that's a good sign you don't need the meeting in the first place (see point one above). Your agenda must be specific. Each topic should have the outcome you want to see as a result of it being on the agenda, and the amount of time you are allotting to that topic. Share the agenda with all participants. This way everyone who is part of the meeting knows the expectation going in and will be as committed as you are to a productive meeting. [ED: I remember this being extremely helpful when I was a student organizer, but somewhere in my career I forgot about the usefulness of this technique and stopped doing it. I started back up just recently and the meetings I run have become far more efficient and productive.]
Prepare. Make sure you have all the information and materials you need to support the discussion. If there are others who will play a role in the meeting (i.e. making a presentation or doing some research ahead of time to answer questions), check in with those folks prior to the meeting. Give them enough leeway to get themselves prepared. In some cases, it will take you the same amount of time to prepare for the meeting as the meeting itself.
Start on time. Those who arrive late will get the message, or they will miss the content you have to cover and that’s their problem. If you start late, all meetings will eventually begin to start later and later, wasting more and more staff time.
Stay awake. When was the last time you were in a meeting and didn’t zone out? As the facilitator, you have to pay attention to every single speaker, to ensure each remains on topic and is contributing toward the end goals of the meeting.
Parking lot. This is a great technique for dealing with the topics that come up which weren’t on the agenda and aren’t related to the goals of the meeting. You can come back to them at a later time, but they are not what this meeting is about. It’s important to note that sometimes issues will come up that you didn’t include on the agenda but are related to the goals of the meeting. In those moments, you as the facilitator can make the call to let the conversation play out or shift the topic to a different point in the agenda or put it in the parking lot.
Take action. Every meeting ought to end with clear, actionable items, a delegation of responsibility of those items and a deadline for completion. You or your designated deputy should record this in the minutes of the meeting and share it with all participants.
These all seem pretty obvious, right? However, I bet as you read them you were remembering a recent meeting at which they DID NOT happen. Running productive meetings - or, as I like to call it, “Getting Shit Done” - isn’t rocket science. But it does require thorough thought and planning, which takes time. And you don’t have to believe me when I tell you that the investment up front pays off big time, just try one or two of them with the next meeting you organize. What have you got to lose?
What about you? Have you got any meeting horror stories to share? How do you manage to make meetings work for you? When was the last time you were satisfied at the end of a meeting? Have you ever not attended a meeting that had no agenda?
Fox News' Chris Wallace calls Rep. Paul Ryan out for writing a budget assuming Obamacare will be repealed.
Wallace: Are you saying that as part of your budget you would repeal — you assume the repeal of Obamacare?
Wallace: Well that’s not going to happen.
You know things are rough when Fox News disagrees with a Tea Party Sweetheart and potential 2016 presidential candidate. It's troubling that Ryan would put such effort forth into the budget that assumes the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will be repealed-- after all the act has failed to be repealed over 30 times not to mention being authorized by a Supreme Court ruling. Ryan's nonsensical ideology will leave Congress in worse fix to come up with a real responsible budget for the American people.
Democracy for America has proudly supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren from the beginning. DFA believes in Sen. Warren strong advocacy for the people and her fearlessness to call out the powerful banks and hold corporations responsible for their actions.
On The Colbert Report, Elizabeth Warren spoke out about her support for financial regulation that will put laws back in place and rein in Wall Street, as Chair of Congressional Oversight Panel.
At her first DNC ever, Warren gave a strong speech declaring: “Corporations are NOT people!” Warren was a strong force as a candidate for the US Senate, as showcased in her speech her commitment to progressive values is why DFA stood by her.
Now the Senior Senator of Massachusetts, Sen. Warren is a powerhouse on the Senate Banking Committee. Her refusal to let the banks slide sets her a part from any previous committee member. DFA is a proud supporter of her progressive voice. Warren's efforts are exactly those which she campaigned on and she is doing exactly what she set out to do from the beginning of her run.
Elizabeth Warren has only been in the Senate for two months and already we have seen her in action doing exactly all that she promised. We're proud to have supported Senator Warren. She represents an honest candidate who acts on all her promises to the American people and citizen's of Massachusetts. Her unwavering support for American families is highly commendable.
We support candidates like Sen. Warren who truly make a difference and bring about real change. What's your favorite Elizabeth Warren moment?