Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Great turnout. Forward!

These are NOT official minutes. These are notes from someone who attended the meeting about about how the local party is heading into the future and how we Coulee progressives can get more involved. All descriptions, requests for your input, etc. are from the note taker and not from the LaXDems.

There was a great turnout at tonight's La Crosse County Democratic Party meeting. Many new faces, much new energy, lots of new ideas.

Here are some highlights including plenty of action items! 

JD Wine, this year's co-chair of the La Crosse County Democratic Party introduced our local elected Democratic officials, state senator Jennifer Shilling, and state representatives Steve Doyle and Jill Billings. Each spoke about the new legislative session and challenges ahead. See Shilling health care action items in a previous post. Jennifer pointed out that she received just 61 more votes than her opponent in the last election which emphasizes the importance of getting and being involved and in voting. Doyle talked about his leadership role in the Assembly and how he hoped to push rural issues, like broadband access. Billings noted she has six committee assignments this year: tourism, workforce development, transportation, small business development, family and children, and (I think!) health care.

JD introduced committee chairs - board members who have taken on extra duties to develop and grow opportunities to include and reach more people in our community. If you have a talent or interest in any of these areas, please join! These committees can really make a difference. Please email the chairs to find out about the next meetings and ongoing projects. (OK, true to form, some info at the official Dem site is not yet updated so I don't have all the email addresses for committee heads. I will update as possible. In the meantime, I have linked the email of co-chair, JD Wine to people for whom I don't yet have an email address). Please put committee name in subject: line.

Membership - Dave Wulf heads this important committee. Every person who votes and is in favor of supporting public schools, a clean environment, econonomic and racial justice, respect for our diverse community and world should be a member of this party! If you have particular connections with a specific organization or demographic, please join and help grow the party and the influence of the people the party represents!

Fundraising - Diane Wulf will take charge of this vital committee. Not only will our current officials need funds for their next elections, but we will also need to help defend progressive officials like Tammy Baldwin. In addition, we need to start growing our party, our presence, and our bench of candidates who can grow into leadership positions in the future. Please join, especially if you have great fundraising ideas and./or lots of connections with potential donors. As we know, money can't always buy elections, but it does help.

Communications - Obbie King will take the lead here. As a professional web designer, Obbie has plans for the current website and more. He learned that the LaXDems Twitter account has not been used since 2010! There are new ways of communicating and we need to take advantage of all. Please contact Obbie, especially if you have communications and/or social media experience or training.

Outreach - Sara Bentley is going to work to make sure every person in the county who supports Democratic programs and values knows about the party and is welcomed to join the party. Sara and her team are especially interested in making better connections with rural La Crosse county and with young people, women, communities of color, veterans, environmentalists ... in short, anyone  who has a stake in political decisions made today and into the future. Are you connected? If yes, please join Sara and her team.

Volunteers - Jeff Wildt will work to develop a team of member volunteers who can take the lead when events, outreach, programs, activities, etc. need set up, pick up, drop off, flyer posting, equipment-getting, and everything else. Of course as someone noted at last night's meeting, we are all volunteers, but this team will be able to take the lead and make events more efficient and successful.

Union Outreach - Ed Burgess is a member of Carpenters Local 1143 and is heading up the team that will re-connect with union members around our county. Are you a union member or a retired union member? Are you worried that the whole nation is headed in the disastrous direction pioneered by Scott Walker - anti-union and anti-worker? Ed needs you to help him restring the web of strong union support, input, and leadership in the party.

Events - JD Wine is planning to work with our elected Democratic representatives to make sure the party is including rural voters and rural issues in the party's work, planning and legislation. Broadband access and transportation funding (not just roads, as Obbie pointed out, but also public transportation like the very successful (and soon to be expanded ) SMRT (Scenic Mississippi Regional Transit) system). JD also mentioned that there might be interest in a Dem film series that could help with education and motivation to get involved. Events also includes fundraisers, so JD will work closely with other committees and others in the community to make sure the Dems are well represented.

Not a committee, but also important, Roz Schnick will be the La Crosse Dems' liaison with DPW chair, Martha Laning.

FUNDRAISER FOR TAMMY BALDWIN! Tammy Baldwin's election is coming up in 2018 she will be targeted. Roz Schnick is hosting a fundraiser for Baldwin on March 10. More details will be coming. [Editor's note:  you don't have to wait for March 10 to start contributing to make sure Baldwin remains a strong advocate for progressive issues (mostly) in the US Senate.]

New Business (all proposals will go to the executive committee and return to the membership at the February meeting)

Public funds for religious purposes - Hank Zumach would like to see a national bill introduced that would prohibit the use of public money to fund organizations, institutions, and programs that advocate or facilitate illegal acts. For example, public money currently helps to fund private schools, some of which teach children that women are not equal citizens and Muslims should be killed! Steve Doyle pointed out that past Supreme Court rulings, in the case of school vouchers at least, have tilted toward the argument that the public funds are being given to individual citizens who then decide how to use them (rather than directly going to the offensive institutions). However, Zumach would like the focus and framing of the issue to change to reflect what is truly happening.

Polling places in La Crosse - Peter Gorski noted that when La Crosse redistricted, it left fewer and often, less convenient polling places. Some people must travel from the north to the south side to vote and some polling places are in churches where, studies show, Democratic party candidates are at a disadvantage (it's mental!) Peter suggested the party form a group to identify better polling places and work with the city clerk and council to make changes. Another speaker pointed out that the party should really push and help people participate in early absentee voting in person. 

Messaging - A press-connected speaker noted that Dems have a big issue with messaging, even within the state. He mentioned George Lakoff's work and pointed out that it's more important now than ever to ensure that Democrats frame issues in a way that truly conveys their goals and agenda. He offered to help with this and to connect local Democrats to national news outlets.

Local Candidates - As JD noted, all of our state elected officials stared out as local elected officials. We really need to grow and support a new crop of leaders and several were highlighted at last night's meeting.

Nick Dutton is running for La Crosse City Council in the 7th District. Three others (including the incumbent) are also running. Nick highlighted three issues important to him: 
- alternate side parking injures those without access to off street parking. Nick said that in November, where there was no snow at all, more than $35,000 was collected in alternate side parking fines. 
- chromium 6 is an issue in the whole of La Crosse. While there is no national standard, Nick pointed out that the level of this "Erin Brokovitch" cancer-causing chemical in La Crosse's water is much higher than the standard proposed by health watchdogs in California.
- memorial pool is important even though it's not in Nick's district (but adjacent). Nick says that the closure of this pool continues to adversely affect small businesses in the area (the Eagle's Nest is closed and Gracie's is hurting, too).

Laurie Cooper-Stoll is running for school board. A UWL sociology professor, Cooper-Stoll has demonstrated commitment to public education, diversity, and inclusion. She received recommendations from two Dem party members - a former student and a colleague.

David Marshall is running in the 4th district. He's a veteran and a self-professed progressive. Marshall has received recommendations from several local progressives. He is running against incumbent Bob Sequist who has, in the past, worked to limit opportunities for citizens to address city council representatives at council meetings. This election will not have a February primary.

Other candidates were also mentioned including Jacqueline Marcou challenging incumbent James Cherf and Allen Pruitt, also running for the school board. We will update as more information becomes available.

The Third CD Convention will be held on March 25 in at Prairie du Chien Wauzeka. Registration costs $25. This is an important gathering not just for networking, but also because, according to the DPW bylaws, "Those persons selected to serve as delegates and alternates to the congressional district convention shall serve as delegates and alternates to the state convention." In addition, "A standing platform and resolutions committee shall be composed of three members from each congressional district and one alternate elected at the district conventions." In addition, changes may be initiated in the platform and rules form the district conventions, and several important votes occur at the state convention. So, please contact JD if you might want to attend.

Americans for Prosperity is in forty states, including Wisconsin (including La Crosse) and they are already gearing up for the next elections. A party member brought a glossy brochure detailing their further plans for Wisconsin and noting that they are organized and they have lots of Koch cash to push their agenda. (Note their "Wisconsin works" [sic] page lists Act 10 as one of their major victories and uses ALEC benchmarks to assess our state's rank for things like "best economic outlook." (for whom?) The message - BE AWARE!

A resolution urging WI Dems to vote for Keith Ellison as DNC chair was introduced by Jessica Thill and Monica Hofmann. See the new post about this - includes an action item!

Ron Kind update Ron Kind's campaign person gave an update.

College Democrats have elected a new chair for the new semester. Sarah Semrad will hand over the gavel to Anna Kivi.

Events coming up

February 4 - Progresstival

February 8 - Citizens Water Lobby Day in Madison (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) Buses going from La Crosse but SIGN UP ASAP!

February 16 - Reginald Betts presentation in support of La Crosse Reads. Betts, an American poet, memoirist and lawyer, is author of A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison (Penguin/Avery, 2009), Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books, 2010), and Bastards of the Reagan Era (Stahlecker Selections, 2015). The event will be held in 2160 Bluffs Room, UWL Student Union. Book-signing and reception immediately prior at 6 p.m. More events around the La Crosse Reads program are shown at the link.

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