Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Colorado Caucus and the need for a neighborhood bipartisan praxis.

When it is functioning properly, each of the two major parties for each precinct has leaders who recruit block and/or apartment captains who welcome newcomers into the neighborhood and offer help when needed to neighbors.

These precinct leaders  meet with their block captains regularly, often in a once a month meeting where the district captain, county chair, sometimes even the state chair stops in and says a brief hello. One way of looking at this is Colorado Caucus as praxis.

The problem (or opportunity, depending on how you look at it) is that most issues in neighborhoods cut across party lines, things like problems with the street, street lights, trash removal, etc.

What if there was a third organization in each precinct that would function as the servant of the precinct leaders, that would be neutral on issues and candidates, but only serve to welcome newcomers and connect them with the precinct or block  party of their choice? The task of block worker and precinct leader, meeting monthly, could be thought of as a neighborhood praxis;

the practical - making judgements - praxis
This illustration is taken from this explanation of what is meant by praxis: 

Neighborhood precinct as praxis. Starting right now. The name may change. It may be best to be totally independent of the SBCC. But it is clear to me this will happen by the 2016 Colorado Caucus.

Please contact me if you are a supporter of the caucus-assembly system, if you aren't actively involved now in a political party, issue or candidate committee, and especially if you have experience as a precinct leader you'd like to share.

Contact me if you'd like to be part of this effort. I expect we will make a media release tomorrow and your thoughts about this now could make a big big difference.

Call me at the phone number below and leave a complete, confidential message. I'm the only one with the code to the voice mail box. I'll get back to you as quickly as possible, but it may not be until next week, so tell me your ideas on the voice mail message, I guarantee they will be heard and considered as we put together this new statewide neighborhood organization.

Thanks for your support.

John Wren
Co-founder, Save the Caucus (which defeated Amendment 29 in 2002 and then disband.)
Founder & CEO, Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
Founder, Neighborhood Praxis (working name, this is only use so far)
1881 Buchtel Blvd #501

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cause or effect? Do people learn to join in caucus states? Or is it just something in the water?

"...Primaries draw a very different type of voter than a caucus does. In a paper on this topic, Eitan Hersh shows that primary voters and caucus-goers aren't necessarily different ideologically—caucus-goers aren't more extreme or less tolerant—but they do differ on other dimensions, specifically political engagement. Caucus-goers are joiners. They're more likely to attend meetings and join organizations than primary voters are."

Monday, May 4, 2015

The people of Colorado win!

Today the Colorado Senate Appropriations Committee voted to not send SB15-286 to the floor of the Colorado Senate for further consideration.

What I've done to help stop this very misguided idea from becoming a reality has very much been in the spirit of Save the Caucus, the committee that was formed to fight Amendment 29 in 2002. Despite being outspent 1400 to 1 (yes 1400 to one) Save the Caucus won big 60% to 40%.

SB15-286 was brought to the Senate last Friday in the closing hours of this session. I've been monitoring such a possibility for the entire session after the Denver Post editorial created the idea of a Presidential Primary in Colorado.

Some reporter needs to dig into what triggered the idea of a Presidential Primary with the with the Denver Post? Was it something that came out of their advertising department? Ad revenues would sky rocket with a primary election, that's for sure.

Is Colorado better off with our Colorado Caucus than we would be with a Presidential Primary? Absolutely! Look at the states with our system (down to 17) to those that powerful forces have driven to the darkside and what do you observe? Here's what:

"Primaries (as opposed to selection of delegates via a caucus system) have probably fostered exactly the kind of television-driven, sound-bite-heavy, attack-oriented presidential politics Americans deplore,' writes Christopher C. Hull in his Stanford University Press book "Grassroots Rules."

"The last three decades' drive toward more representativeness (the illusion created by a Presidential Primary instead of the Caucus system) may be not only be selecting worse candidates but harming the country's politics."

I did the little that was possible for me to do myself, posting here on the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, and this educational website that has been my personal project for a few years, making phone calls, and, most importantly, getting Corky Kyle and others involved in fighting it..

This fight about how Colorado selects our delegates to the national nominating conventions of the major political parties is far from over.

More about what might happen next tomorrow.

Thanks again to Corky Kyle and all the others who gave our wonderful Colorado Caucus a reprieve so it has that tomorrow.

Kill Colorado Senate Bill 287 Before It Kills Our Colorado Caucus!

Oppose SB15-287

Save the Colorado Caucus
Fact Sheet- SB15-287


Issue: The bill creates a presidential primary in Colorado for all major political parties. The state must reimburse counties for the costs of the presidential primary election in the same manner as for elections with statewide ballot measures based on the number of active electors affiliated with the parties participating in the primary.

The bill increases costs in the Department of State by $1,677,689 in FY 2015-16 and in
future presidential election years. Based on current law, these costs may be paid from either the
Department of State Cash Fund of the General Fund. These costs are summarized below:
Expenditures Under SB 15-287
Cost Components FY 2015-16 FY 2016-17
County Election Reimbursement $1,620,000
Computer System Modifications 47,689
Travel Expenses 10,000.00
TOTAL $1,677,689 (DECEPTIVE!!!)

Statewide, county clerks will have costs of approximately $4.0 to $5.0 million to conduct
an additional election during presidential election years, based on the costs counties currently incur to conduct the existing June primary election, a mail ballot election of similar size and scope. Costs to counties will include the printing and postage for mail ballots, the operation and staffing of voter service and polling centers, and other administrative and operational costs. Of this cost to counties, $1.6 million will be reimbursed by the Department of State.

The bill takes effect August 5, 2015, if the General Assembly adjourns on May 6, 2015,
as scheduled, and no referendum petition is filed.
Effects of Proposed Legislation:  Please consider the following:

1. There are three days remaining in the 2015 legislative session.  Such a major policy change should be carefully considered by all stakeholders to this process and not decided in the last three days of the legislative session.

2. The expense incurred by the Secretary of State’s office and all of the county clerks for adding an additional election is excessive. Again this decision should involve all parties involved in the process to adequately address planning, cost, and implementation of an additional election.

3. This additional election was implemented several years ago and it was discontinued because of budgetary issues with the state.  Is it appropriate to create these costs again and have small business and others, which use the services of the Secretary of State to have their fees increased, to pay for this election, without any input into the process.

4. Other states are going the other direction, going back to the caucus system.

What you can do!  Oppose the passage of SB15-287, START WITH YOUR LIKE AND SHARE OF THIS!

 Use the interim to bring stakeholders together and working with Secretary of State, determine the feasibility of this policy change.

For more information contact: Corky Kyle, MPA, CAE, The Kyle Group, 303-263-5422 or 1410 Grant Street, Suite B304-1, Denver, Colorado  80203.

(We will be re-registering Save the Caucus with the Secretary of States office if this gets out of committee, we might need to do it anyway. As most know this Facebook Page has been my personal project, along with, until the last few days of fighting the Colorado Caucus Killing SB 287, we have just focused on education with the goal of more informed voters no matter what their position on issues or candidates. I've recruited Corky Kyle, a very well know lobbiest, to help us protect the last, best hope for the average citizen to serve in elected public office, the Colorado Caucus. Watch for more news about Save the Caucus and it's rebirth soon.  John Wren (303)861-1447 or cell (720)495-4949.)


Friday, May 1, 2015

Save the Caucus? Why?

Why is it worth fighting for the Colorado Caucus?

No one has ever explained it's value better than my friend Sue:

  Caucuses aren't for ciphers.
  October 6, 2002
  by Sue O'Brien, Denver Post Editorial Page Editor

cipher - a person or thing of no importance or value; nonentity - New World College Dictionary

So, what will we choose to be: ciphers or individuals?

Ciphers are faceless. They have value only as something to count - a signature on a petition or a vote to tally by machine. It's easy for ciphers to hide out.

Hey, they're just part of the mob...

Individuals, by contrast, stand out. They take responsibility. And they rarely hide.

We have a sovereign opportunity to become ciphers this November.

One of the few mechanisms left in modern politics that rewards individual initiative - the precinct caucus - is on the brink of being eliminated in favor of a political nominating system that would let wannabe candidates get on the ballot only by collecting - and counting - petition signatures.

It's a lousy proposal put forth by an otherwise admirable organization: the Bighorn Center for Public Policy.

Now, I have nothing against getting on the ballot by petition. But why eliminate the choice - caucus or petition - that our present system provides?

It's not as though there's something inherently wrong with the caucus. And, even though these grassroots conclaves have seen declining attendance in recent years, there's a lot inherently good about them.

Look around modern society. We have a woeful lack of what Harvard scholar Robert Putnam calls "social capital" - the dynamism that comes from doing things together and making community decisions together.

Yet the spate of election "reforms" we're seeing these days almost seems designed to stomp out the last vestiges of community collaboration.

"Voting and following politics are relatively undemanding forms of participation," writes Putnam in his influential "Bowling Alone."

"In fact, they are not, strictly speaking, forms of social capital at all, because they can be done utterly alone." We can be utterly alone, too, when we perform the two other actions modern politics seems to want to limit us to: writing checks and watching attack ads on TV.

We're systematically replacing "social capital" with plain old monetary capital.

Colorado's traditional caucus-convention system, in contrast, rewards the shoe-leather and diligence. It provides a low-cost way for aspirants to work the neighborhoods, investing energy instead of dollars.

Recent proof of this pudding came in the race for the GOP nomination in the 7th Congressional District, where Rick O'Donnell captured first line on the primary ballot with a low-budget campaign that focused on traditional caucus and door-to-door campaigning. O'Donnell eventually lost the primary to the better-funded Bob Beauprez, but his achievement in getting on the ballot was impressive.

But even more important than the caucus' benefits for candidates is its benefit for ordinary citizens. It's a vibrant neighborhood forum for hashing out ideas - the last remaining arena in which you can get on the first rung of the ladder toward political effectiveness by just showing up.

I've covered precinct or town caucuses in Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Mississippi as well as Colorado. My favorite memory is of escorting a big-deal network analyst to his very first caucus in an American Legion hall in Iowa.

This was a political expert well into his 50s, yet he'd never seen a caucus; primaries had always been his beat. He was blown away. For the first time in years of covering politics, he told me, he'd seen the true face of America.

He was right. Caucuses offer a peculiarly intimate view of a community and its people. They'll amaze you with the quality of caring and thought participants bring to the discussion. And sometimes, if you're very lucky, you'll see new, young leaders find their first toehold in the process.

Why is the Colorado caucus withering? First, because the legislature, in an ineffectual grab for national headlines, created a meaningless presidential primary that eliminated the headline race that once inspired much caucus activism. Second, because we're all getting good at sitting on the sidelines.

The Kettering Foundation's David Mathews once reminded readers that the word idiot comes from the Greeks. Privacy, they thought, was akin to stupidity. "Idiots" were incapable of finding their place in the social order.

Why bow to the trend of letting the next guy do it? Why sell out to letting money replace shoe-leather at every level of American politics? Why not keep the caucus as an open door to involvement, while continuing to provide the petition alternative?

Bighorn's goal may be to increase the number of people peripherally involved in the process - but the initiative will never replace the quality of participation the caucus can provide. Good
political talk … is where we recognize the connectedness of things - and our own connectedness. …

Good political talk is also where we discover what is common amidst our differences. -David Mathews, "Civic Intelligence"
Sue O'Brien was editor of the Denver Post editorial page. See passed on not long after writing this. We miss her.