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The Mechanics

Education Mon Nov 05 2012

The Threat and Promise of an Elected, Representative School Board

My friend and much-beloved one-time political consultant Mike Fourcher published an editorial in the Center Square and Roscoe View Journals urging voters to vote against a non-binding advisory referendum on the ballot in many Chicago precincts: whether there should be an elected, representative school board (ESRB).

Mike makes some compelling but ultimately unsatisfying arguments as to why voters should reject this referendum. His arguments, both in the piece and in the comments, are compelling enough to merit a response.

The thrust of the argument against the school board is three-pronged; first, direct elections of technically- or specialty-oriented board are not desirous because of the outsize influence of interested parties; second, more democracy can cut against efficiency; and finally, there is sufficient control over the school board via election of the Mayor.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (4)

Bottom of the Ballot Fri Nov 02 2012

The Bottom of the Ballot: Cook County Offices

bottom of the ballot - cook county offices - chicago electionsWhile "Dogcatcher" isn't on the ballot in Chicago, there are several positions that may leave you wondering, "What exactly do these people do?" In particular, the heads of several county-wide agencies that will be up for a vote next week. While some of these positions may seem obscure, they actually do play a major role in the day-to-day life of Chicagoans, especially when it comes to legal or property-related issues. Here's an explanation of what they do and who the candidates are.

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Mike Ewing / Comments (0)

Bottom of the Ballot Thu Nov 01 2012

The Bottom of the Ballot: Referendum-Palooza

bottom of the ballot referendums chicago illinois electionsIf you're registered to vote in Chicago, you won't just be selecting candidates. In addition to national, state and local office holders, you will also directly vote on at least four ballot measures: one that could alter the state constitution, one that could lower your monthly electric bill, and two non-binding, advisory votes of debatable significance. Depending on where you are registered in Chicago, you may even get to vote on additional neighborhood-specific questions.

So here's an explanation of each referendum that could appear on your ballot.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (0)

Bottom of the Ballot Wed Oct 31 2012

The Bottom of the Ballot: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

bottom of the ballot - Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District MWRDAs the fifth largest governing body in the state of Illinois, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District race, while not typically prominent in the election cycle, is an important one. The MWRD serves the City of Chicago and 125 suburban communities, and is primarily responsible for wastewater treatment and managing stormwater runoff. It's an agency that has been slow to change, resistant to EPA regulation, and hesitant to adopt green technology and infrastructure.

And yet, it has been an exciting year for the MWRD. In June the MWRD agreed to disinfect effluent going into the Chicago River, ending a decade long battle. In early October CDOT announced the opening of the "Greenest Street in America." MWRD partnered with CDOT to design a streetscape capable of capturing 80% of typical rain showers instead of sending that water into the city's sewer system.

There is plenty of more work to be done. Stormwater management will be important in this next term. Projects like the Pilsen roadway project point the way, while voters wait for the completion of the Deep Tunnel Project (formally known as the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, or TARP). Still decades away from completion, TARP is vital, but a hallmark of old methods of stormwater management. Chicago needs a MWRD that is a leader in innovation and green infrastructure.

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Julie Davis / Comments (0)

Bottom of the Ballot Tue Oct 30 2012

The Bottom of the Ballot: Judging the Judges

bottomoftheballot_judges350.jpgWith only a few weeks left until the elections, you've probably heard enough about those two guys vying for the top spot on the ballot. There has been an immense amount of attention to this year's presidential election -- but what about the other positions that are up for grabs? Specifically, who the heck are all of these judges that you, as a voter, are expected to vote for (or against)?

Judicial elections are a bit awkward, democratically speaking. Most people try their best to stay as far away from judges or courtrooms as possible. And yet it is up to to Illinois voters to decide who is fit to judge; who should join the big leagues, and who should stay on the bench. Here are some tips for judging the judges.

Continue reading this entry »

Mike Ewing / Comments (1)

Election 2012 Wed Oct 24 2012

Third Party Candidates Debate in Chicago

The day after the final debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, four third party candidates made their case for why they should be the next president of the United States at the Hilton Hotel here in Chicago.

Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party answered questions put to them by moderator Larry King that were submitted via social media.

Hosted by the nonprofit Free & Equal, the debate was not picked up by any major U.S. networks, but was shown through a live stream as well as on Al-Jazeera and the Russian Times.

Issues discussed included electoral reform, climate change and civil liberties -- many topics never mentioned during the four preceding presidential and vice presidential debates.

Continue reading this entry »

Mike Ewing / Comments (1)

Election 2012 Wed Oct 17 2012

The Other Presidential Debate

free and equal foundationWhile millions have tuned in to see President Obama and Governor Romney debate, next Tuesday's presidential debate here in Chicago will be lucky to attract voters' attention at all. That's because it won't receive national television coverage, and it won't feature the Democratic and Republican Party candidates. Instead, the candidates participating are all the others -- the "third party" candidates shut out of the big show.

At 8pm on Tuesday, Oct. 23, the Chicago-based Free & Equal Elections Foundation will host a presidential debate at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. All six presidential candidates were invited; Obama and Romney are not expected to show (they'll be holding their third and final debate the night before), but Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party will be participating. Larry King will moderate.

The debate will be broadcast on Al Jazeera and streamed live on Ora.tv, Russia Today and freeandequal.org/live. Viewers will be invited to submit questions via Free and Equal's website, or on Twitter using the hashtag #AskEmThisLarry.

The Hilton's ballroom holds approximately 2,000 people. "People in attendance will be mostly students, voters... left leaning and right coming together," said Antonia Hall, a spokesperson for Free and Equal. The foundation will be selling a limited number of tickets to attend the debate on its website beginning Thursday, Oct. 18.

Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

Election 2012 Tue Oct 16 2012

Demagoguing the Death of an Ambassador

Parts of the world are dangerous, and some professions are even more so in such places. It would be nice if politicians and commentators would use context to cool passions rather than fuel flames of outrage, Islamophobia, and jingoism as a result of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which ambassador J. Christopher Stevens died. Instead, I was struck, as I watched the vice-presidential debate last week, how the first question out of the box was angry demand for some sort of mea culpa on Libya, and I am still struck by how the event is still being exploited for political fodder, a meme we can expect to see continued.

The context that responsible leaders would provide is this: serving far from home has its risks even when the placement is a Paris or London, but the risks are greater when the host country lacks the stability or other amenities we take for granted, and doubly so when the US had a role in that instability. Chris Stevens was hardly the first diplomat to die, and he won't be the last. The US foreign service lists 236 people who have died in the line of duty. For decades, the greatest risks were of disease: yellow fever, cholera and the like took many lives of embassy personnel in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.

Victor Stanwood, a diplomat murdered in Madagascar in 1888, might have been the first US diplomat to die unnaturally, but since the 1960s, most US consular deaths have been violent. Gunfire, bombings, and outright assassinations mix with an unusual number of plane crashes to account for most diplomatic fatalities.

It's ridiculous to blame one administration for this. We lost US ambassadors under Presidents Johnson (John Mein, Guatemala), Nixon (Cleo Noel, Sudan), Ford (Rodger Davies, Cyprus; Francis Meloy, Lebanon), Carter (Adolph Gubs, Afghanistan), and Reagan (Arnold Raphel, Pakistan). Nor does the US have a monopoly on this occupational hazard. Worldwide, hundreds if not thousands more have given their lives in the service of diplomacy.

What does stand out in the list of US foreign service dead in the past 50 years is how many of the incidents have been in countries where the US has intervened in a civil war, has actively bombed or sent troops, is conducting covert operations, or has been a participant, right or wrong, in the violence or strife that claims citizen-victims of the host country. The 1998 African embassy bombings stand out as exception but are also linked to US presence in the Middle East.

Worldwide, terrorism against American makes up less than 8% of all terrorist attacks; however, attacks on US personnel over the past 40 years account for over 28% of all attacks on diplomatic targets. As recently as July, 2012, an IED was detonated outside a US embassy in Libya, a country where the US actively participated in the overthrow of a regime, and where the State Department's own website advises of instability and violence throughout the country. While the US maintained that its role in the 2011 war was not regime change but to be an "interlocutor" for "genuine transition," the subtle distinction might be lost on survivors of US Tomahawk missile and drone strikes on Benghazi.

Chris Stevens's death was thus tragic, but not actuarially unpredictable. Likely only in America, where it seems all tragedy now requires recrimination if not litigation and legislation, would his death become fodder for political attack or Monday-morning-quarterbacking. The attending physicians say Stevens died of smoke inhalation. The fire apparently was started by a rocket attack. Having more security at the consulate itself would not have prevented the fatal fire.

Worldwide, the National Center for Counterterrorism shows that terrorism fatalities have actually declined every year that Barack Obama has been president. Still, to accept a post in a place like Libya, that was inflamed most of 2011 in a civil war, takes some courage, and to recognize Ambassador Stevens's courage requires agreeing that his posting carried risk, including risk of death. It is not at all clear that the so-called global war on terrorism has done anywhere near as much to reduce such risks as has disengagement from Iraq; worldwide, terrorism had a dramatic increase after the US invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq. Those two countries, along with neighboring Pakistan, a country with which the US is not at war but where the US has now also killed hundreds, became the locus of more than half the terror attacks in the world.

No one should demagogue the Libya incident and use it as excuse for further escalation of rhetoric or military action, a deeper plunge into a cycle of violence. Those who do are just making the job of the diplomats like Chris Stevens all the more difficult, and all the more dangerous.

Jeff Smith / Comments (1)

Chicago Public Schools Tue Oct 16 2012

Does Chicago Need an Elected School Board?

This November voters in hundreds of Chicago precincts will be asked if they think Chicago needs an elected school board. This same question will be the topic of conversation for a town hall meeting taking place Tuesday October 23 at 7pm in the Logan Square Auditorium. The town hall will include a panel of three speakers: CTU President Karen Lewis, Chicago Reader journalist Ben Joravsky, and UIC professor Pauline Lipman.

Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE) is organizing the event. CODE identifies itself as a coalition of parent, community and teacher organizations. CODE has been working to add a referendum to Chicago ballots asking voters if they are in favor of moving to an elected school board. This November, a non-binding referendum will be on the ballot in over 300 precincts across the city. This is an advisory referendum aimed to solicit the opinion of voters on a question of public policy. The next phase of CODE's campaign will be a legislative push in Springfield. To see if the referendum will be on your ballot go to the Chicago Board of Elections website to get a sample ballot from your precinct. The referendum, if included, will be toward the bottom of the ballot.

"When I go door-to-door, people don't even know that we have an appointed school board," said coalition member and CPS parent Wendy Katten in an interview with WBEZ earlier this year. Chicago is the only school district in Illinois without an elected school board, and nationwide, 93% of schools have an elected school board. However of the 6% of school districts with appointed boards, many are in major cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Baltimore among others. Since 1995 the CPS school board has been selected exclusively by the mayor. Prior to that an elected committee proposed board nominees to the mayor who made the final selection.

In the wake of the teacher strike earlier this fall and the appointment of a new chief executive of CPS, education deserves to be top of mind for Chicago area voters this November. The town hall will start at 7pm in the Logan Square Auditorium on 2539 N. Kedzie Blvd. The event is free but if you plan to attend please RSVP via email or facebook.

Julie Davis / Comments (0)

Election 2012 Mon Oct 15 2012

What's Going on with Jesse Jackson Jr.?

The Chicago Tribune reports that Jesse Jackson Jr. is still absent from his office and his campaign trail, with no hint to when he will return to duty. Since June, Jackson has been officially MIA as he has sought treatment for a bipolar disorder and some gastrointestinal problems. However, Gawker recently reported that he was spotted drinking two separate nights at a bar in D.C. with unidentified women.

Coincidentally, he became unraveled just as he found himself in a House Ethics Committee investigation for his associations with Rod Blagojevich and the Wall Street Journal has reported that he may face a criminal probe in a separate investigation that he illegally used campaign funds to decorate his home. This of course, is not good news for anyone present and future represented by Congressman Jackson. We would like to believe that his illness(es) have nothing to do with the investigations, and that there is a good explanation for why he was allegedly seen barhopping when he has claimed to be too ill to work, but given the lack of communication coming from Congressman Jackson, voters are forced to assume the worst. His wife, Alderman Sandi Jackson, has been tight-lipped on Jesse Jr.'s status beyond stating that the congressman needs to rest. The growing tension was apparent in late September when she demonized the media attention her husband was getting, calling a group of reporters outside of a fund raising event "jackals." That may have alerted the media and public to the frustration with the situation, but it certainly isn't a tactic likely to garner sympathy from either.

Regardless of the Jacksons' perceived intrusion of privacy, it's the media's duty to ask questions that are in the public interest, just like it's Congressman Jackson's duty to consider stepping aside if he is unable to do his job in Washington. In a representative democracy, voters should be able to choose candidates whose ideas and platforms they agree with. However, more base than that, voters should at least be represented by someone capable of serving. Political ideology, policy, party-affiliation -- all are moot if the congressman is unable to even show up for the job. Suppose Jackson gets re-elected in November, but still will be unable to work? Who will speak for the 2nd District in Washington? Isn't it a disservice to his constituents to campaign for a job, that no one is sure if he'll be able to work? At the very least, voters deserve specifics. When Gabrielle Giffords tragically took her hiatus from congress, she was transparent with her progress in treatment, and eventually resigned to focus on recovery. Illinois Senator Mark Kirk has also been equally amicable with media inquiries about his progress recovering from his stroke. Yet Congressman Jackson's status and timetable remain a mystery. We hope that if Jackson legitimately needs medical care, he receives it. But voters have a right to know why they don't have a representative and even if he does go back to work, he has a litany of questions to answer to earn back the public's trust.

His seat is contested. Both his challengers Republican Brian Woodworth and Independent Marcus Lewis appear capable of going to work on day one, should the voters send either to Washington. It's too close to the election to wait for the Jackson camp to open up with details - voters need answers now. Ironically, the most recent press release on Jackson's Congressional website is titled, "Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned." We don't know if Jackson is fiddling or recovering. We do know that Chicago and the United States as a whole are facing significant challenges, and the representative for Illinois 2nd district isn't working to help his constituents. Aren't voters entitled to leadership that shows up for the job?

Christopher Jones / Comments (0)

Democrats Tue Sep 25 2012

Corruption No Longer a Negative Trait for Candidates

State Rep. Derrick Smith is projected to win his bid for re-election over his challenger Lance Tyson.

To an outsider, that may seem like a banal statement to read in the last month or so of campaign season. To a Chicagoan, it's just another strange moment in the history of our patented style of politics, considering that Smith has been expelled from the Illinois General Assembly and he's under federal indictment for alleged bribery. Nonetheless, the Sun-Times's Dave McKinney reports that he has a lead of 48 percent to 9 percent in one election poll. Should he win, this race may have one of the most maddening election outcomes since John Ashcroft lost his 2000 race to retain his senate seat to a deceased Mel Carnahan. McKinney points out that Smith's affiliation with the Democratic Party alone (in a race with no other Democrats, and one independent) might explain his extremely high polling numbers. Yet, his poll numbers almost defy logic for a candidate that comes loaded with considerable doubts to their ability to govern ethically.

Perhaps the blame for this apparent level of misinformed public opinion may lay in the hands of other Democratic leaders who have actively defended Smith since his arrest in March, asking the public to consider his innocence and let the justice system play out, in what appears like an apparent strategy to retain Democratic numbers in the house at all costs.

Of course, Rep. Smith has yet to be convicted. Regardless of political affiliation, the United States law assumes all people are innocent until proven guilty in court. He will have an opportunity to defend himself. But until then, voters are left only with the realities of the court of public opinion. We know that he has been accused of bribery, and expelled from the Illinois Capitol. This is more than enough to give voters hesitation. The Feds don't typically arrest public officials on a whim -- see Ryan comma George or Blagojevich comma Rod for further. Rather than guide our decisions at the polls by the party we affiliate ourselves with, shouldn't we first and foremost consider the integrity of the candidate? Do we really want to elect someone who may end up in jail? In Illinois, where we are weary -- almost numb to corruption, shouldn't that be one of the most important questions we ask of candidates before we vote for them?

Similarly, don't Democratic leaders have a responsibility to preserve the integrity of their party, and demand honest leadership from their peers? Rallying to protect a seat in the general assembly for someone who eventually may be legally ineligible to sit in it has tremendous potential for backfire -- particularly in the state of Illinois where we have a bit of a corruption problem. We're not likely to solve voter apathy until our faith in government is restored. That isn't easy when we often find the people we elect on the other side of the law, and we see so few leaders taking a stand against corruption.

The outcome of this race may have more implications for Illinois politics than we think.

Christopher Jones / Comments (2)

Election 2012 Tue Sep 25 2012

Are You Registered to Vote Yet?

The good news is that Chicago and Illinois don't face the same controversial voter ID laws that will render millions of people ineligible to vote in this year's election.

The bad news is that the city's voter turnout this year may be proportionately low, anyway.

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Prechtel / Comments (0)

Republicans Tue Sep 04 2012

Do Major Romney Donors Like Rahm More Than the Chicago Republican Party?

chicago republican partyOn Sunday, the Chicago Republican Party called on Rahm Emanuel to cancel the speech he will give tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. In a statement, Party Chairman Adam Robinson wrote that it would be inappropriate for the mayor to leave Chicago while the city was still dealing with a looming Chicago Teachers Union strike and a seemingly never-ending murder epidemic, and demanded that he "provide immediate, visible and specific leadership to address the twin crises facing our city."

Originally, Rahm planned to arrive in Charlotte on Tuesday and stay through Friday. But yesterday, he announced that he would cut his trip short and return to Chicago on Wednesday night -- denying that his new plans had anything to do with public pressure.

While the Chicago GOP makes a valid point about the mayor's priorities, there might be another underlying reason why the group is so eager to attack him: Rahm Emanuel gets more time, money, and attention from the rich donors funding Mitt Romney's presidential campaign than they do.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (2)

Election 2012 Thu Aug 30 2012

Campaign of Division?

In a speech in Chillicothe, OH earlier this month, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, "Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago, and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America."

Ahead of Romney's speech at the Republican National Convention tonight, Overbites Productions decided to head to Division Street (get it?) to ask Chicagoans what they thought of Romney's statements -- and whether they'd ever heard of him, for that matter.

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Republicans Tue Aug 21 2012

Chicago Young Republicans Parody "Call Me Maybe"

chicagoyoungrepublicans_callmemaybe.jpgThe Chicago Young Republicans have made "The CYRs Are Calling, Baby," a parody video of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" to get local folks to volunteer to make campaign calls for Mitt Romney.

Beyond the free pizza and beer mentioned in the video, the CYRs are holding contests for phone bank volunteers, who can win such prizes as an iPad, sports tickets and restaurant gift cards for meeting call goals.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Elections Fri Jun 08 2012

The Error of an Era: The End of Elections

The failure of Tom Barrett to beat Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election was probably about a lot of things. For social historians of this era, though, it will be this: a miscalculation of epic proportions, an error that defines the post-Citizens United era.

The public rage after Governor Walker instituted his de facto recission of public workers' collective bargaining rights was palpable and widespread. It was by no means universal, but it brought together lots of people who felt targeted, misled, and who saw the legislation as an existential threat to their economic security and well-being. Wisconsin's public sector after all is storied--Wisconsin passed the country's first public worker collective bargaining law--and public sector workers in that state came from all partisan stripes and economic classes.

The direct action that resulted, occupation of the capitol building, was a reasonable response. The decision to turn all of that activist energy into an election campaign was fatally misguided.

I argued, on the heels of the Citizens United decision, that the left could finally admit that elections are not a feasible method of obtaining particularly economic goals, and that it should begin exploring alternative, direct action methods; particularly, occupations, work stoppages, and boycotts:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Illinois Thu Jun 07 2012

Preview: CPAC Chicago

cpacchicagologo.jpg

It's a big week for Midwestern conservatives. Days after WI Gov. Scott Walker's victory on Tuesday in the recall election against him will be a weekend double-whammy of the Friday-Saturday Illinois GOP convention in Tinley Park and Friday's regional installment of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Rosemont.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (1)

Democrats Mon Apr 09 2012

Guzzardi Calls for Vote Recount

State representative candidate Will Guzzardi announced today that he will be pursuing a recount in his campaign against incumbent 39th District Representative Maria Antonia "Toni" Berrios.

Guzzardi, a former journalist, did not concede the race on March 20. At that moment he was only down by 72 votes and a precinct had yet to be counted. Currently, Guzzardi only trails Berrios by 125 votes, or 1.6 percent of the vote.

In a press release, Guzzardi said, "We are committed to ensuring that every single vote is counted accurately. At the end of the recount process, we may have won, or we may fall short. But we owe it to the people of this district who showed up to vote to make sure their voices are fully heard."

According to the press release, Guzzardi's campaign received reports of "possible indiscretion or inconsistencies at polling places on Election Day and during early voting."

In a phone interview, Guzzardi said that the main reason for the recount was to follow-up on the reports made to his campaign.

If Guzzardi still has fewer votes than Berrios, the campaign will "Look at our options from there," according to Guzzardi.

Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Election 2012 Fri Mar 30 2012

Cook County Regular Democratic Disorganization: Guzzardi and Berrios

by Caroline O'Donovan

The precinct captains, who had been preparing for election day for weeks, arrived at headquarters at 5:30am. A box of Dunkin Donuts, a campaign staple for liberals and conservatives, incumbents and challengers alike, was already waiting. Polls would open at 6 and not close for 13 hours; the day ahead would be long. Each captain was given a stack of door hangers, a list of addresses and a few volunteers while coffee brewed. The sole goal was to find as voters who had said they would support Will Guzzardi for state representative and ensure that they went to the polls.

To have informed the group of people assembled at Guzzardi headquarters that morning that voter turnout in the 39th District would be a record low this year would not have disheartened them. A low turnout rate could actually have been in their favor, because it meant that the machine operation of incumbent State Rep. Toni Berrios and her father Cook County Democratic Party chairman Joe Berrios, was underperforming.

Tellingly, it was not with voters on the street who campaign workers had the most fraught interactions last Tuesday, but with election judges at the polls. From reluctantly reported voter lists to lost tape to delayed results, many of the individuals who were voting and campaigning in the 39th district last Tuesday pointed to gross mismanagement on behalf of the Board of Elections. This claim made the final count, with Berrios leading Guzzardi by 111 votes, suspect to a number of Guzzardi supporters. The slim margin is frustrating to volunteers, some of whom have found it difficult not to want to find a connection between the strangely unprofessional behavior of the election judges and a loss that was just too close.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Election 2012 Tue Mar 20 2012

Why I Almost Didn't Vote

IMAG2155.jpgI generally do not like primaries or caucuses.

My disdain for primary elections comes from living in Iowa. After turning 18 and moving back to Iowa--I had been living in Chicago on my 18th birthday--I obtained a new driver's license and registered as an independent. June arrived and I drove over to the University of Northern Iowa bookstore to vote.

I was asked if I wanted a Republican or a Democratic ballot.

There was a problem with this: There were some Republican candidates I wanted to vote for due to their stance on multiple issues and some Democratic candidates I wanted to vote for. Flummoxed, I said "Democratic" and voted with a party I did not belong to.

Continue reading this entry »

Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Election 2012 Tue Mar 20 2012

Why I am Not Voting

Unless a last-minute change of heart overtakes me, this will mark the first election I miss since becoming eligible in September of 2000. Since then, I have voted in every primary, municipal, and general election I was eligible to vote in--though I do think one of my "provisional" ballots was thrown out because I voted in the wrong precinct after moving.

voteno.jpgMaking the decision not to vote was a difficult one, not cavalierly reached. Voting is both a duty and a right, to my mind, and I personally support universal, compulsory voting on the Australian model. That's not the system we have, though, and with each passing election the meaning of my vote has tranmogrified into something ugly: a negative speech act against the apparitions and shades conjured up by those nearer to me on the political spectrum--my supposed ideological allies--rather than for any principles I can actually support.

In other words, accepting the proposition that a vote is essentially an act of speech, the dictum that if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all, would apply. Perusing the sample ballot, I see little nice to say.

I do consider voting a duty, but in all honesty my compulsion to vote in each cycle was more motivated by partisanship than civic responsibility. I was a Democrat full of visceral dislike and distrust of Republicans, to the point of virulence. Like most partisans, I built a shabby intellectual structure to house what was really little more than a set of strong emotions. I saw historic Democratic sweeps in state and federal governments, historic elections; I saw local activists whom I knew personally and admired get elected to local office; I breathed sighs of relief when campaign season predictions of Republican governing apocalypses were narrowly avoided by key victories. Years passed. And there was little meaningful progress toward any fundamental change; not only that, but the case for fundamental change wasn't even being articulated. From my remote vantage, peering through the window into the halls of power, the pigs and the men were increasingly indiscernible one from another.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (8)

Election 2012 Fri Mar 09 2012

Out of Turn: The Story of the Will Guzzardi Campaign

By Caroline O'Donovan

"Loving Chicago is like loving a woman with a broken nose."
—Nelson Algren

will_guzzardi1.jpg"Do you want a beer?" Rebecca Reynolds, campaign manger for Will Guzzardi, shouted at me from across the back room of Cole's bar on Milwaukee Avenue. "I usually buy so many beers for people during a campaign, but I haven't this time. I need to catch up!" Last week, 20 days before Election Day, the Guzzardi campaign, an agile, grass roots operation that is fighting for its life against the Berrios family and the Chicago machine, held one of its final fundraisers. Between the craft brews and the Guzzardi supporter wearing magenta velvet, a campaign button and stilts, the mood could best be described as jubilant.

Six months ago, Will Guzzardi announced his candidacy for state representative in the 39th District in that very same room. That night, the bar was filled with his friends, a large group of 20-somethings, and Will Guzzardi, with a new haircut, a red tie and a pressed suit, became a candidate.

Guzzardi, looking eminently more comfortable but infinitely more tired up on stage Thursday night, drew a narrative of how far he and his staff had come since he called the incumbent Representative Toni Berrios and told her he'd be challenging her in March.

"I sat down with a lot of people when I was getting started," Guzzardi said, "And I remember one of those conversations like I was yesterday. Someone said to me, 'You'll get 20-30 percent, and you'll be out of Chicago in three months.'"

Everyone booed. One of the most noticeable differences between this crowd and the one that gathered back in September are the call-and-response style shout-outs. The noticeably older, new supporters come from political organizing backgrounds, from groups like the Illinois chapter of Democracy for America and the local Democratic organization, 1st Ward First. That group, a project of Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, assembled at Cole's as a tacit endorsement of Guzzardi. With the alderman's blessing, they will continue to work with the campaign through Election Day, shoring up Guzzardi's efforts to Get Out the Vote.

Continue reading this entry »

Mechanics / Comments (0)

National Politics Tue Jan 03 2012

Illinois Pols on the Romney Train in Iowa

by Tyler Davis

DES MOINES, Iowa - Many prominent Illinois political figures, including four in the U.S. Congress, and Illinois business-people have endorsed former Gov. Mitt Romney, but endorsements may not have much of an impact on Iowa caucus results, said some Iowa Republicans.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, a Republican representing Illinois' 18th district, joined Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.

"We were in Davenport on Tuesday, and we criss-crossed around the state on Wednesday," said Schock. "I introduced him at each stop and told why I support him."

Schock has endorsed Romney because "he's the most qualified to take on President Obama," and that, "once he is elected, he can do the job."

Schock is also on Romney's national finance committee, where he helps raise funds for the campaign. He will be campaigning with Romney in Iowa on caucus day.

First-term Illinois Senator Mark Kirk also endorsed Romney, as well as U.S. Reps. Judy Biggert and Robert Dold, former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, according to Romney's campaign website. Rutherford is also the Illinois chairman for the Romney campaign and has donated $2,500 to the campaign.
Biggert donated $1,000 to the Romney campaign.

Hastert and Rutherford also endorsed Gov. Romney in 2008.

Iowa caucus participants, however, might not be paying much attention public endorsements and fundraising numbers.

"Endorsements don't make a huge difference in the long run [in Iowa]," said Kevin McLaughlin, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party in Polk County Iowa.

"What I think is a bigger deal are the people who stand up and speak for a candidate at the caucus," said Polk Count GOP chairman McLaughlin, referring to a portion of the caucus where individual representatives give a pitch of their candidate at each precinct.

"A prominent heart surgeon in Des Moines, Dr. Ronald Grooters, will be standing up for Newt Gingrich," said McLaughlin. "That might sway some people, especially if he's performed surgery on them."

"Endorsements might matter to the people who have been here [in Iowa] volunteering for months.The people who are more politically active," said McLaughlin.

Romney also has strong support from businesses in Illinois.

Of Romney's $32.2 million raised nationally, $679,714 of it came from Illinois, according to the last campaign finance report covering April through September of last year, the latest the data was available. Seventy-eight percent of the funds from Illinois came from contributions of $2,000 or more.

Chicago contributions account for $202,933 of Romney's funds raised in Illinois. Many in the Chicago business community have contributed, from attorneys and investment bankers to owners of Chicago restaurants like Tamarind in the South Loop and Arun's Thai in Irving Park, according to the campaign finance report. Neither restaurant owner could be reached for comment.

Also traveling with Romney last week were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, said Schock.

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