Tuesday, February 20, 2007

OMG - We Have a Plan

One of the things I have really enjoyed about our Friday Morning Group is that it is not a very structured affair. People attend, or not, as the spirit moves them. There is no written agenda. It has just been a place where people could float ideas and get feedback from their peers.

That is not to say that nothing constructive has come out of the Friday Morning Group meetings. That is far, far from the truth. It has just sort of worked that individuals or small groups have taken ideas bounced around on Friday Morning and gone out and made something of them. You know who you are and what you have done.

The change started a couple of weeks ago. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and St. Petersburg City Council Member Leslie Curran joined us on the same day. Ken solicited our ideas for improving the community for artists. He got an ear load (or two). Fortunately for Ken, he couldn't stay long, he had a dentist appointment. But he did ask the Group to provide him something concrete that we would like to see happen.

This spawned a group of volunteers (a committee?) to do a little visioning to see what they might come up with in response to Ken's request. The response was a "concept paper" that included the Pinellas Prize as a major component. We talked a little about the Pinellas Prize last week ( http://localpoliticsisall.blogspot.com/2007/02/pinellas-prize.html ) . I don't have the position paper in front of me, and I don't want to do it an injustice by trying to paraphrase off the top of my weary head. Suffice it to say, it is an extremely intriguing idea.

Well, this past week, the Friday Morning Group subjected the "concept paper" to a more or less formal view. And the we did something really astounding - we took a vote! Those in attendance voted unanimously to support the "concept paper" and present it to Commissioner Welch. More than that, we agreed to go back to our various places in the world and try to get support for the provisions put forth in the "concept paper". Our hardy band of volunteers (our committee?) agreed to present the paper to Ken and to be available to him to respond to the questions he would surely have.

Now, I don't know about you, but all that sounds like we are getting awfully formal to me. It also sounds like progress.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Would You Give Money to This Man?

There is an effort under way, quietly, to make an impact on local politics. The goal is to get reasonable people who share progressive values elected to local office. The difference here is to not leave this to chance. This efforts' mission is to identify, nurture and finance these candidates early on in the process.

The business plan, including an initial budget proposal, for this effort has been drafted. Political goals for 2007 have been drafted. Most folks who have been asked about the idea and specific plans have been supportive, in theory.

The issue for this effort, now, is how to turn this theoretical support into concrete support. Unfortunately in realpolitik today, that means money. While many people are supportive of the effort and have added their ideas and encouragement, no one has stepped up to fulfill a financial commitment.

While the effort is designed to be somewhat under the radar, there is a face in the forefront. It is a face that really doesn't seek the spotlight. This might be part of the problem. So what we are going to do here is to describe this face:

  • Note: Here's a plea. If you think you know the identity of this person, keep it to yourself. Comments and suggestions are welcome, but please make them generic or issue related, not specific to the individual as much to as to the mission.
  • This guy has met and had both private and public discussions with every major Dem presidential candidate for the last three cycles. His history in this area goes back before that, but the current streak goes back to 1996.
  • He has travelled extensively with a former Senator and Governor during the Senators' short lived presidential bid. He feels fortunate to be considered a friend of the family. And while he loves the Senator, he thinks the Senators' wife walks on water.
  • During these travels with the Senator, he met an independent film maker who happens to have a highly placed mother (currently second in line of presidential succession). Because of this relationship with the daughter, the well placed mother calls the dude by his first name (even when he is not wearing a name tag) and has, from time to time, made her staff available to assist the guy in his various political efforts.
  • That brings us to what our guy considers one of his serious drawbacks. Most of his most intimate political experiences have been with unsuccessful efforts. However, he likes to think about Abraham Lincoln and Toby Ziegler. That may seem like an unlikely pairing, but consider this: Neither one had been particularly successful until they hit the big one.
  • Our guy has never considered himself particularly creative. However he was informed by someone who has been spectacularly successfully creative that he has it all wrong. This dude perceived in our guy an ability to recognize and act on a good idea when he hears it. While our guy did not consider this particularly creative, his creative friend told him that that is one of the most sought after capabilities amongst advertising and other "creative types". Our guy is still not totally convinced, but he does enjoy hanging out with creative types.
  • One of the dude's most cherished values is "community". Because of this, he has a burning desire to add value to the community that he loves so much. This is why he is willing to be the face of the subject effort when his preference is to remain securely in the background.

So there is a thumbnail sketch of our guy. Here are two questions for you:

  • Are you supportive of the proposed effort?
  • Would you let this dude control your financial contribution to this effort?

I truly am interested in receiving your feedback. Don't hold back. Let me know what you really think.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pinellas Prize

Last week, the Friday Morning Group talked about keeping our eyes on the Prize. What prize, you ask? Why the Pinellas Prize of course!

The week before last. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and St. Petersburg City Council Memeber Leslie Curran asked us to provde them something they could talk about. something they could vote on. Last week, several Group members met at The Studio@620 to do just that. The result? Why the Pinellas Prize.

The Group members gave Ken Welch quite an earfull the prior week. But we had a very small window to address the commissioner. Poor Ken. He had to listen to us immediately prior to going to the dentist. I can't imagine that he had a very good morning that morning.

Ken's response to our laundry list of suggestions and complaints? Give me something I can talk to my colleagues on the Commission about. He must have made this request at least three times. After Ken departed for his rendezvous with the dentist, Leslie Curran made it as clear as it could get. Give Ken what he asked for if we want to move forward with anything concrete.

Sandy Tabor led the group's committee that met at 620. Bob Devin Jones graciously provided the venue before he had to hop on an airplane and head for the frozen north. Herb Snitzer was there as well. Sandy gave us her report last Friday, including a brief description of how the Pinellas Prize would work.

If you want to know more about this - stay tuned.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What Every So Called Political Professional Needs to Know

Authors Note:

To spark conversation, I am issuing a challenge to our local readers:

How many of the politicians in this diary can you name?

Cross Posted from Florida Kossacks

Do you ever hear a phrase or a saying that just sticks with you? The kind of thing that keeps popping into your head at the weirdest times? Here is the story of one that should be first and foremost in the minds of every one who considers themselves a political professional.

I was standing in this room with a bunch of disgusted Democrats. It was early in 2003. They were still pissed off about the 2000 election fiasco in Florida. And they were absolutely steaming about the governors race that was so badly handled in 2002.

It was the 2000 elections that they were using as a rallying cry. The number 537 played a prominent part in this discussion. There was no crying over the spilt milk of 2002 here. This was all about 2004, and the lessons learned in 2000 and not applied in 2002.

It was a pretty interesting group. There was a County Commissioner whose mother was to run for the US Senate and who is now, herself, a newly minted Congresswoman. There was a former County Commissioner who ran a valiant but unsuccessful Congressional campaign in 2006. The campaign manager for the incumbent Congressman was there. There were some dudes there, but none of us were as impressive as the women in the room.

The matriarch of this group was the mother of the successful attorney who had graciously offered up her home for the evening. One of the interesting things we did that night was to go around the room and offer up our reasons for being a Democrat. That's a story for another time. As we were about to wrap up for the night, the matriarch said she wanted to leave us with something to think about.

Our matriarch was, at that time, a recently retired County Commissioner. She did not stay retired for long. She is now a very successful County Clerk. She wanted to leave us with something that had stuck with her for a very long time. It was something that was told to her by someone we all knew. This fellow was a former teacher and a union leader. He became a Mayor and then a Governor. He wasn't with us that night because he had changed teams in the midst of his rise to political fame and fortune. There were a lot of people in that room that night who had won, and lost, a lot of elections. But they all nodded when our matriarch relayed this pearl of wisdom to us:

If you have a dozen committed volunteers, you can win any

Now those of you who have worked on large campaigns are probably shaking your head at the perceived naivete of that statement. But think about it for a second. This wasn't a statement from some dude who just got elected dog catcher. He had been elected and re-elected as a union leader. He was the mayor of a major city. He was the governor of a significant state. If you still don't get it, maybe you should take up another profession.

At the end of the day, in a close election, what is going to make the difference? In my mind it is the ability to get more of your voters to the polls than the other guy does. In the 2000 presidential election in Florida, 538 more Democratic voters would have changed the history of the world. That's less than 10 votes in each county in Florida. Or for your dozen volunteers, less than 45 successful calls per person.

But the real power of the dozen volunteers is not just the work they do directly. It is the dozen volunteers recruited by each of them, and the dozen volunteers recruited by each of those volunteers. It is the fact that these dozen volunteers believe in you that sustains you. So let's not let these dozen volunteers down again.

Let's not ever lose another election because we did not put enough resources into our ground game. Remember what a difference 538 votes would have made in 2000. For all the mistakes of the Kerry campaign in 2004, they got that lesson, sorta. They got more Democratic votes to the polls than any other candidate in history. Their problem there was that the other guy did better than they did. Who'd a thunk it?

The 2006 election cycle was one that saw many wonderful victories for our team. But I keep thinking about the one we let get away. We faced a daunting challenge. Our opponent would raise and have spent more money on his behalf than in any other campaign in the country that cycle. He had run several statewide races before. This was our guy's first try at statewide office. And we were not going to get close in the money raising department.

Still for all that, we were closing at the end. We could have won this one. So why didn't we? We did not get more of our voters to the polls than the other guy did. At the end of the day that is the only story that matters. Our team made a conscious decision to put as much of the money as they possibly could into television. It's a huge state after all. You can't win statewide in Florida playing retail politics they said.

Well, they were wrong. You can do it. One of our greatest campaigners walked throughout the entire state. Another went out and spent days working ordinary jobs with ordinary people. That's retail politics folks. And ground is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. But that is where you leverage those 12 committed volunteers. You pay your organizers to look after their care and feeding and to give them some direction. Then you get out of the way and let them do their thing.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out.

And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

Arlo Guthrie, Alice's Restaurant.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Friday Morning Mojo Moment

This past Friday, February 2nd, may have been a watershed mojo moment for the Friday Morning Group. Not only were we honored to be joined by Pinellas County Commisioner Ken Welch, we were also able to extend a Friday Morning Welcome to St. Petersburg City Council Member Leslie Curran.

The admonition to arrive promptly at 8 AM was adhered to by a hardy group of talented folks and Ken started right off by asking how we wanted to proceed. Herb Snitzer laid out for Ken the nut of the issue for the Friday Morning Group artists - respect and recognition. Ken was also exposed to the idea of getting tourist development dollars to promote the City and the County as an art buying destination. That will help to support our Community Based artists, but also meets the Tourist Development Council and Convention and Visitors Bureau's missions of heads in beds.

Herb and Bob Devin Jones also expressed their disappointment that the Pinellas County Cultural (nee Arts) Council's failure to extend honors to any Little a artists at their annual awards banquet. Bruce Kotchkey was asked by Ken for his take on that issue. Bruce replied that the criteria for an award to an artist was based on community participation in the furtherance of the arts. Surely we had artists at the table Friday morning who met that criteria. Stay tuned on that one.

Ken must have asked at least three times, if not more, for the group to tell him what it is we wanted him to do for us. Ken left us at 8:30 to go to his dentist's appointment. When asked to comment on which he thought was going to be more fun, Ken was unwilling to declare. He has declared that he is running for re-election to the County Commission in 2008. Thank you, Ken, for taking the time to meet with us. Please know that you have an open invitation to join us any time that your schedule permits.

After Ken left us, Leslie Curran took out her hammer and beat us over the head, gently. She admonished the group to make sure and follow through to deliver our wish list to Ken. It was clear to Leslie, and she made it clear to us that Ken wanted to help us, but he needed guidance on exactly what we wanted him to vote on.

Sandy Tabor volunteered to lead a mission statement and goal visioning session and or sessions. This is to be the first step in creating a strategic plan for the Friday Morning Group. (Scary, isn't it?) Bob stressed that the mission of the Friday Morning Group needed to be focused on Little a artists and how to support them. Group consensus seems to have formed generally around that premise. The first strategic visioning session for the Friday Morning Group will be this Monday afternoon at 2 PM at the Studio at 620.

Leslie Curran could not have been more supportive of the mission of the Friday Morning Group. Seated on her left was Ann Wykel . In the category of two degrees of separation, Ann's very presence in St. Petersburg was due to the efforts of Leslie Curran. In her former incarnation on the St. Pete City Council, Leslie pushed for the creation of a Cultural Plan. Ann Wykel's position at the City of St. Petersburg came out of that Cultural Plan. Leslie is currently asking that the Cultural Plan be reviewed and updated, since it is getting nearly a decade old.

All in all, this Friday had to be one of the best meetings ever held by the Friday Morning Group. If you were in attendance and either agree or disagree with that statment, please let me know. You can either email me at gatordem at verizon.net or you may post a comment at Local Politics is All.

Until next week, here's looking at your art kids.