I’m an elected member of the Democratic Party

Hello readers. Today is my first day as a member of the Democratic Ward Executive Committee in Ward 18, Division 16. What is that, how did I get here, and what are my plans moving forward?

What is that?

You will never  read “member of the Democratic Ward Executive Committee” on this blog again. I am what is called a Committee Person. According to the Committee of 70, a committee person is:

A committee person is his or her political party’s representative in each division. Committee people serve as a point of contact between the voters in a division and elected officials and their political party. Committee people are considered party officers – not public officials or government employees. They are also volunteers and receive no taxpayer-funded compensation.

Committee people have a core responsibility to help “get out the vote” for their political party. But you can make the job as big or as small as you want. Some committee people just choose to work on Election Day. But many committee people are in touch with their party and their neighbors all year long.

https://www.seventy.org/uploads/files/19302649368555322-committee-person-manual-2014.pdf

Philadelphia is made up of 66 wards. Each ward has its own leader and committee (Philadelphia, oddly has 69 of these, rather than 66. However, this does not mean anything to me, so let’s move on.) Each ward is then subdivided into something called divisions or precincts. I was elected to represent the Democratic Party in Ward 18, Division 16. There are actually two committee people for each division.

How did I get here?

Have I always been a registered Democrat? Yes. Do I love the Democratic Party? Not always. Do I blame the party for the Donald Trump? They definitely get some of the blame. I generally don’t trust people who’ve made careers in politics. It has always felt like a bunch of privileged children reducing the real life consequences of organizing to a game. It’s probably why I love everything that Armando Iannucci makes. If you’ve seen Veep, than you know that Dan Egan is deplorable and dumb. Let me tell you that he is very real. These are the many reasons I chose labor organizing as the vehicle for change and not party politics. Yet, here we are.

What made me run? A few months ago, my neighbor Scott reached out to 2 of us on the block and encouraged us to run. That ask, made me actually sit down for a second and think about running for an office. The first thing I wanted to know was, “Is my other neighbor running?” I did not want to run against her. She’d be really good, the neighborhood would be lucky to elect her, and there are enough elected people that resemble me. She declined and I decided to stop being bitter about the Democratic Party for a minute and told Scott, “Yes. I will run.”

This led me to Jon Geeting of Philadelphia 3.0. He is a political organizer that started a democratic club in my area called Riverwards Area Democrats – RAD. Their goal was to promote an open ward (I’ll explain that in the future), and get some fresh faces as the committee people. Jon told me about the process to get on the ballot:

  1. Get some blank petitions.
  2. Get the signatures of >15 registered democrats in your division on said petition.
  3. Ge the petitions notarized. (now you are on the ballot)

I did what he said and a few weeks later, I found out that I was on the ballot. I also was surprised to discover that there was only one other person running for committee person, so barring a serious write-in campaign it looked like a victory was on the horizon. Since I did not have a challenger I decided to do 2 things in preparation for election day.

I made my first piece of campaign literature and had it printed. This cost me $135.00. I then organized a canvass of my neighborhood. Sam, Cathy, and a few neighbors went around the division on the Saturday before the election. They knocked on doors, handed neighbors my post card and reminded them to vote. Cathy reported that one person on 2nd Steet said, “A committee person has never knocked on my door before.” Sam spoke a ton of Arabic on Mascher Street and I met some enthusiastic folks on Hancock St. It was a good time on the doors.

The next thing I did, was stand in front of the polling place after work on Election Day. Personally, I felt this to be a waste of time that day. I know better and should have just started to knock on doors in the neighborhood. It started to rain, so I spent the last hour at home texting people that I knew in the neighborhood and reminding them to vote.

At the end of the night, Sam and I refreshed the http://phillyelectionresults.com/ every couple of minutes until the results were posted. I got 63 votes and won the election.

Moving Forward

Today I started serving my 4 year term. I think I am going to document what this experience, so other people can get some insight into what it means to be a committee person in Philadelphia.

I am interested in recruiting a block captain for every block in 18-16.   I think this will be a good way to keep the neighborhood clean.   I’d like to host a community meeting this summer, so that we can collectively identify some neighborhood priorities.  I’ll be reading lots of Paulo Freire to prepare in the meantime.  I hope to work closely with my co-committee person.  His name is Michael Bradley.  He is young and enthusiastic and I think that will be greatly needed in the years ahead.

I have no interest in stating what the priorities for 18-16 are or should be in the future.   We can figure those out together, and we can work to solve the most immediate problems at hand.

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Philadelphia, we need to talk.

Today I need to have a courageous conversation with a loved one. Philadelphia, I love you and we need to talk. There are inappropriate times to chant E-A-G-L-E-S.  A concert 3 months after the Super Bowl is one of those times.

Let’s talk. Last night, Sam and I saw Keb’ Mo’ in concert. I’ve wanted to see him perform live for many years and this was my first opportunity. He’s a great musician and he puts on a good show. I prefer him without his full band, and his first couple of songs were just him and his drummer so I was thrilled. I wanted to hear his cover of Dylan’s The Times They Are a changin’, but no luck for me.

Between songs, there were a few people who felt like it was ok to yell at the stage. At first it was words of encouragement (he didn’t need them, he commands the stage like a pro), then it devolved into a weird conversation when Keb decided to respond.

Dude in crowd: “You go this Keb!”
Keb’ Mo’: “Thanks man. I hope I do.”
Dude in crowd: “Oh you do!”

Then it got weird and obnoxious. Someone decided to yell out, “Go Eagles!” That gets the biggest reaction from the crowd of the night. Keb’ Mo’ responds with, “oh yeah. Go Eagles! (chuckles) I need to tell you a secret. I don’t know much about sports.” He then starts his next song. During that song a man wearing an Eagles jersey walks up and throws his Eagles hat on the stage.

The crowd roared and I cringed. The classy and super talented musician, now takes off his fedora and puts on the cap for a 15 seconds. He is a hell of a showman, because he gave the crowd what they wanted. People loved him for it. He then he took it off, set it on the front of the stage and continued with the concert.

Between songs, people tried to get the E-A-G-L-E-S chat going a few other times but it it did not catch on.   However, the yelling at the stage continued. At one point, someone tried to diffuse the football chants by starting a K-E-B-M-O chant, but it did not take.

Philadelphia, I love you. You know that I do, but football had nothing to do with the concert. The musician you came to see told you that he was not interested in your team. Just listen to the music.  I like that this great town is full of weirdos. I love Philadelphia passion, but it was poorly weilded last night.

The Super Bowl was on 2/4/2018. That concert was on 5/18/2018. It’s cool to be proud, but check it a little bit.

This cat now has a permanent home with us.

Sam and I recently adopted a cat.    We lost Josephine in November of 2016 and in recent months I started to pine for pet. I follow a cat rescue that focuses on cats with special needs called Philly Kitty.   A few weeks ago I saw this post:

Her profile information made me laugh a lot. Her name is Monkey.  Her foster mom brought her to our house over Easter weekend and she is still here.  It’s hard not to think about Josephine with another cat around, but they are very different and it’s fun to learn about her personality.

Let’s talk about the name Monkey.  I did not love it at first. I always liked human names for pets, so I advocated changing her name to Stormy Daniels. Sam liked the name Monkey and it grew on me, so it looks like we are keeping the name Monkey. My sister hates the name Monkey. She told us that her pre-adolescent female patients refer to the vagina as a “monkey”. This is a funny a weird anecdote that is I’ve learned is commonplace in the healthcare field. Well I do not hate the name Monkey, but I do hate the idea of adults being too nervous to say the word vagina.

There is a cat named Monkey living at our house.   She is sweet and playful.   She has a penchant for leaping on our feet at night.  She does not meow a lot.  She likes to crawl under the covers. In short, she is a fantastic addition to our home. I hope that she is here for a long time to come.

Monkey, welcome to our home.

Should I switch from .com to .org?

Warning. This post is nerd talk. My blog is hosted for free at wordpress.com (this is free). I was thinking about moving to wordpress.org (this would cost me money), so that I could install a more interesting theme and a few plugins. I spoke to a friend at Sequal Consulting in Pittsburgh, PA and he told how easy it was to use a WordPress by Bitnami on Amazon Web Services. I tried it out, and it seemed to work really well. I then tried it on Google Cloud Services and it worked well on there, but I had some hiccups with the import function. I briefly looked at bluehost, but the AWS solution was the easiest and cheapest of the pay options.

I decided to pull back and reevaluate. Why do I want to do this? Do I care more about writing or the tech the writing goes into? Am I going down this path just to distract myself from doing the hard thing I want to do and actually write a little bit every day? Should I spend money on something I have been doing for free?

I seem to be ok with the limitations this free version of wordpress offers, though there are some cute modern themes I like a lot. Can you think of a good reason I should be moving to wordpress.org from wordpress.com?

Did you buy your ticket to Vietnam yet?

Vietnam is a must visit country for any traveler. It’s beautiful, diverse, and full of great people. Even with our bad experience in HCMC, we all loved this trip. There is a little bit of everything in Vietnam. You can have outdoor adventures, urban shopping, or lose hours in a museum. If you are a budget traveler than Vietnam will be a very good fit for you. It’s cheap to travel there (so be generous with your tips).

Obviously, Vietnam makes any American quite reflective. We forced a war on this country and by almost any vantage point played the role of villains. What we did was wrong, hell even McNamara admitted to that obvious fact! The war with the United States came up in conversation a few times. People acknowledge it but did not focus on it. They delight knowing that an American is enjoying Vietnam today. The war is in the past and introducing Vietnam to the world is for today.

I am surprised by the number of Americans who still refer to North and South Vietnam. Vietnam unified in 1976. That is 42 years ago! How poorly my fellow Americans are with history should not shock me, but this fact is astounding. I do get the feeling that we Americans are living in the past and stewing on a lost a war. While, the Vietnamese will never forget it, but focus on living in the present. I don’t have evidence for that, but it feels real.

I was very glad that we watched The Vietnam War by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick before we left for the trip. Go and buy your ticket now. Use this blog as a guide. Email me with questions and start watching this documentary to get ready.