Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Last night was our final and most successful committeeperson workshop.

Last night was our final and most successful committeeperson workshop.There were folks there from neighborhoods all around the city. City Commissioner Stephanie Singer and Deputy City Commissioner Tracey Gordon once again conducted a lively, very well-received workshop. Commissioner Singer actually manages to make arcane topics like the ways to avoid a petition challenge really interesting.

In addition to the workshops sponsored by the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Stephanie Singer and Tracey Gordon also conducted workshops sponsored by community groups around the city as well as one by Young Involved Philadelphia. I was very happy to hear about the Young Involved Philadelphia workshop as the Philadelphia Democratic Party’s old-school, top-down way of doing politics turns off so many young people and makes it so hard to get progressive young people involved in the Democratic Party. Increasing numbers of young people refuse to even register as Democrats.

In addition to the people who attended the workshops, I’ve heard from others who could not attend but were planning to run. There are also neighborhood campaigns to run candidates for committeeperson slots, not connected to the series of workshops run by Stephanie Singer and Tracey Gordon. Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez is running a slate of candidates for the state legislature in the 2014 primary election and I expect that also includes committeeperson candidates.

Something is bubbling up from the grassroots and there is the possibility of really shaking up the local Democratic Party.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fran Gilmore's Spiritual Journey to India

The many levels of the temple represent levels of consciousness.

I returned a few days ago from a month-long trip to India, a pilgrimage really, and I'm just emerging from the cave of jet lag. It's very hard to put into words what this experience was like--it was spiritual and deep. We stayed at an ashram with our leader Russill Paul whom we have known for many years, as a great musician, scholar and teacher.

We visited several Hindu temples, and a yogini center--all female yoginis who run a school for orphan and indigent girls, and also preserve some of the most ancient traditions in the world, in the form of detailed Vedic ceremonies. We witnessed one of these, and you'll see a few pix of it.
Yoginis carry on hours long Vedic ceremony

We also visited a village across the road from the ashram, which the ashram helps. They actually paid off generations-old debts of a group of "untouchables" who were skilled weavers, but really permanent indentured servants. Now they live in the village and earn a living as weavers. The ashram also supports a home for indigent elderly there, and provides milk for school girls. Indigent elderly supported by ashram

When we helped with chopping vegies, we were doing it for our own food and the elderly. They got exactly the same food as we did. It was a nearly all carb diet of mostly rice, beans and vegies. All fresh and organic. The ashram cows provided milk every day. Very grateful to them. I was VERY careful to limit portions, and actually lost 6 lbs.

We were a group of 27 pilgrims from all over the US and Canada, a wonderful group of people. We lived in spartan quarters, and had pretty structured days, including sessions with Russill of meditation, chanting and lecture. Toward the end we had a week of 24/7 silence, though we could speak when necessary, and still had sessions with Russill. I finally found deep internal silence on Day 6--the deepest peace I've ever felt. Hope I can return to that state.

We visited several Hindu temples, were well instructed in proper behavior, and were able to witness the innermost rituals. For the first and last 2 days we had transitional hotels in pretty luxurious beach resorts, and a mad shopping rush at the very end for gifts and whatever.

You can see a sample of pictures here Some of them have captions if you click on the picture.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Just came back from a long day at PA State Committee Meeting

At least from my perspective—as just an ordinary state committee delegate—on Friday there seemed to be very little tension. The general feeling seemed to be that the first tier candidates were all strong and could all beat Corbett.

That mood changed on Saturday. Some delegates—mostly supporters of candidates unlikely to be the top vote-getter at state committee-- argued for an open primary on the grounds that with seven candidates in the race it was highly unlikely that any one could get the 2/3 margin necessary for endorsement. This struck me as a good idea—admittedly one of my motivations was to go home early.

However, supporters of Rob McCord pushed for a vote count. They clearly knew what they were doing and to my surprise McCord made a very strong showing. The first vote was:

314 votes with 209 needed for endorsement

McCord: 146 votes, 46.5 % of total
Schwartz: 75 votes, 23.9 % of total
Wolf: 52 votes, 16.5 % of total
Hanger: 22 votes, 7 % of total
McGinty: 19 votes, 6 % of total
Litz: 0 votes, 0 % of total

According to party rules, the candidate with the least votes drops out and the vote is taken again. The second time around the results were:

321 votes (Several delegates who had abstained in the first round voted in the second round.)

McCord: 157 votes, 49 % of total
Schwartz: 77 votes, 24 % of total
Wolf: 59 votes, 18 % of total
Hanger: 16 votes, 5 % of total
McGinty: 15 votes, 4.7 % of total

As someone who voted for Schwartz, I was both disappointed and surprised by the results.

And the same process with no candidate receiving the necessary 2/3 margin for endorsement repeated itself in the Lt. Governor’s race. More on that later.

It was a very long day and I was impressed by the fact that almost all of the delegates hung in there for the duration-- a clearly hard-working, committed group.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Helpful information about running for Committeeperson

When NOW/ CLUW decided to hold workshops to run for Committeeperson, our goal was to get people to run in those divisions where there was no engaged committeeperson. Some divisions have committeepeople going door-to-door, making sure the voters in their divisions know that an election is coming up and have the information they needed to cast an informed vote. But unfortunately many divisions in neighborhoods around the city do not have committeepeople who provide this essential service.

As City Commissioner Stephanie Singer noted in her presentation at our Jan. 18 workshop on running for committeeperson, if there is an incumbent who is doing a good job—someone who regularly visits the households in the division to inform neighbors about upcoming elections—then you might not want to run against this incumbent. You might want to meet with him/her to join forces. Some wards make room for people who want to help with the work of the ward by appointing associate committeepersons; if there are already two committed incumbents, you might want to try to become an associate committeeperson rather than run against the incumbents.

Several people have asked me how to find out if there is an incumbent in their divisions, so I have put together some resources which will help potential candidates to find out.

First you need to know your ward and division. It is listed on your voter registration card. If you cannot find your card, go here and type in your address. This will give you your ward and division as well as the location of your polling place.

You can find out if someone was elected during the 2010 primary by checking the list of committeepersons (organized by ward and division) posted here This list includes all committeepeople who were elected for each Party in 2010-- the last time there were elections for committeepersons. Each division is allotted two committeepersons for the Democratic Party and two for the Republican Party.

Sometimes people are elected and then drop out. Sometimes a ward leader appoints a replacement and sometimes not. There is no database which indicates whether or not there is someone currently serving. You can sometimes get this information from your neighbors or from the ward leader --who may or may not be open to new people running for committeeperson. See a list of Democratic ward leaders here and a list of Republican ward leaders

To find out how much support an incumbent had in your division, go here to learn the vote totals for committeepeople elected in 2010. Select “results tables.” Under “select an election,” select 2010 primary. Then select your ward and division. Scroll down to the bottom for committeeperson results. This will allow you to get a sense of how much support a committeeperson elected in 2010 had in the division.

The vote totals also indicate how many people generally vote in your division. In many divisions the turn-out is depressingly low. These are the divisions most in need of an engaged, committed committeeperson. But even in the “high turnout" divisions, turnout is often lower than 50% in non-presidential elections and sometimes under 25% in off-year municipal election.

Committeepeople are in an excellent position to significantly increase voter turn-out.

Please share this information with anyone you think might be interested and encourage them to attend our follow-up workshop on Feb. 18!