Democracy, coming to a town near you

Speak Out Californa!With all the frustrating and regressive things happening at the national level, there are some reasons to be hopeful that the public may once again weild power. IRV or Instant Runoff Voting is looking very likely in Takoma Park, Maryland this election cycle. If this intiative passes, Takoma Park will be the 4th city in the US to adopt this major election reform. We had IRV in effect here in San Francisco as of last year for the local Supervisors race. What this means is no more spoiler charges, no Ralph Nader to kick around anymore. It means that you can vote your conscience for someone that probably won’t win AND vote for the lesser of two evils. Since you rank 3 choices, your vote will automatically apply to all the candidates you pick. This also has the effect of encouraging more people to run for office. It allows a voter to truly express their intent and vote for whom they really want to win.

There is still that nasty issue of whomever raises the most cash, wins problem. That is being address here in San Francisco with campaign spending limits and something called Voter Owned Elections. In a nutshell, Voter Owned Elections is public financing for a given race. Public financing removes the corruptive process of raising private funds to pay for a campaign. Historically, whichever candidate can court enough private special interests, wins. Public financing levels the playing field for all viable candidates. We already have it here for the Board of Supervisors races, now it’s time to bring it the Mayor’s race as well. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi just introduced a resolution to the Board to do just that. If you live in San Francisco, contact your Supervisor and let them know you want this.

On the California tip, we’ve got this lame ass special election happening this Tuesday. Thanks Arnie! It shouldn’t be happening and most likely no one will turn out for it, which is a bad thing. Conservatives usually cash in during low turnout elections. Speak Out California!’s recommendations pretty much sums up my views on the California props. Just remember to ‘nix the first six’.

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Matt Gonzalez – One Year Later

It’s been just over a year since the runoff mayoral election last year in which Matt Gonzalez almost pulled one off against the machine. I can still recall vividly, the Dems scared at the prospect of losing a major city election to a Green, calling on Bill Clinton AND Al Gore to swoop in and stump for Gavin Newsom. Newsom did win, though mostly due to early absentee voters as Matt rocked the city at the polls on election day. The Progressive Voter Project was born as an answer to the absentee problem.

Two books have been published centering around the Gonzalez campaign. The Political Edge, from City Lights Press, is a collection of essays covering different points of view from volunteers of the campaign, local journalists and long-time activists. I’m interviewed by David Rosen for his piece, “130 Parties in 30 Days:” The Matt Gonzalez Mayoral Campaign & the Restructuring of the Culture Industry. He explores the idea that the culture of the campaign is what brought people together. Matt’s cultural identity is something that resonated with many of us thus driving his unprecedented support manifested in the form of spontaneious house parties, raffles, poetry readings, art auctions, rock shows, and yoga benefits to name a few.

The other book is called Go, Matt, Go edited by Nicole Walter. It’s also a collection of essays, blurbs, poetry, manifestos and interviews from many more volunteers of the campaign. Self published and editorially raw, it’s a good window into feeling of those short couple of months. I have a short essay that describes my experiences and emotions of the campaign. Both books are well worth picking up.