Why downballot candidates matter

One of the things I’ve learned, as I’ve become more politically engaged the past four years, is just how important local elected officials are.

It’s primary time here in Arizona, so I thought I’d talk about why a few of the most-overlooked, county-level offices on the ballot matter in all communities, as well as giving some recs for the candidates in my community, Pima County.

Starting from the very bottom of the ballot:

Constable

Why this position matters: Constables serve papers— including eviction notices. That potentially puts them at the forefront of eviction policy reform—where they have power to help more people stay in their homes, and to provide more support to those who are evicted.

A dedicated group of Pima County constables have done just that. They launched a pilot program that gives those being evicted several days notice instead of the fifteen minutes that had been standard—time that helps evictees accept the reality of their situation make plans. The constable have also worked to get more resources to those being evicted, including information about housing grants, and they’ve pushed for a freeze on evictions during the Covid-19 crisis.

Four years ago I had no idea what constables did. Now I know they literally have the power to save lives, if they choose to use it.

My recommendations: Joe Ferguson (JP 9), Kristen Randall (JP 8), and Bennett Bernal (JP 6) have been at the forefront of eviction reform here. They deserve to—and Pima County needs them to—continue this work.

County Recorder

Why this office matters: The county recorder handles all things voting—registration, polling places, mail-in ballots, and so on. She’s also in a position to address barriers that keep people from voting and to make voting more equitable—things at the very heart of our democracy.

My recommendation: Gabriella Cázares-Kelly has a long history of voter outreach within the Tohono O’odham reservation and throughout Pima county. She has a master’s degree in higher education, experience encouraging civic engagement as a co-founder of the grassroots organizing group Indivisible Tohono, and is president of the Progressive Democrats of Southern Arizona.

She’s also one of the most dedicated people I know, and as county recorder she’ll work tirelessly to make voting more accessible in underrepresented communities.

County Attorney

Why this office matters: The county attorney oversees the local criminal justice system—and so has the power to reform it.

My recommendation: Laura Conover won’t settle for maintaining the current status quo. She’s committed to criminal justice reform and opposed to maintaining the status quo. A former public defender now in private practice, she promises to end the county’s policy of pursuing felony prosecutions for minor, nonviolent crimes.

County Supervisor

Why this office matters: The county board of supervisors (in some places called the board of commissioners) oversees county services and controls the county budget. They set policies related to public health, economic development, community safety, management of natural resources, and countless other things (including, in Pima County, the local animal shelter).

Supervisors also have the power to accept or reject grants, something that became critical when community members drew attention to Pima County’s routine acceptance of Operation Stonegarden grants, which fund collaboration between local law enforcement and border patrol—and in doing so both harm vulnerable families and cost the county money via indirect expenses. Thanks to community engagement, the county ultimately rejected these funds, a move with not only local but also national implications.

Wherever you live, give your downballot candidates some attention and research and love this primary season—and in November. In the end, they truly do have as much power to change lives as the upballot headliners do.

Some less frequently quoted words from Reverend King

Because as powerful as the “I Have a Dream” speech is, many of Martin Luther King, Jr’s other words were powerful, too.

“A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
“Beyond Vietnam,” Riverside Church, New York

 “For here on either side of the wall are God’s children and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact. Whether it be East or West, men and women search for meaning, hope for fulfillment, yearn for faith in something beyond themselves, and cry desperately for love and community to support them in this pilgrim journey.”
Sermon at St. Mary’s Church, East Berlin

“It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho Road is a dangerous road … And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around … And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” Bishop Charles Mason Temple, Memphis

“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.”
“Letter from Birmingham Jail”

“But there was never a conflict between religion and science as such. There cannot be. Their respective worlds are different. Their methods are dissimilar and their immediate objectives are not the same. The method of science is observation, that of religion contemplation. Science investigates. Religion interprets. One seeks causes, the other ends. Science thinks in terms of history, religion in terms of teleology. One is a survey, the other an outlook.”
“Science and Religion”

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”
“Beyond Vietnam,” Riverside Church, New York

 “Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”
“Letter from Birmingham Jail”

“On some positions cowardice asks the question, ‘is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
“A Proper Sense of Priorities,” Washington, DC

Split Borders (a found poem)

Split Borders

Parents are property,
Children an immediate danger.
Mean, this humanitarian crisis.
The democratic republic
Separating parents from children—
Families fractured by policy.

Unconstitutional,
Cruel,
Unlawful,
A violation
Of due process and
Equal protection.
Vexing.

The administration appeared
Unprepared for the fallout
“The child has rights,” a spokesman conceded.
“This is a complex situation.”

Amid the chaos,
The president continued to rail against
Those fleeing danger and persecution,
Asylum claims,
Our land,
Judges,
Laws.

An unmistakable message:
“You can’t come in.
“Don’t come at all.”

Respond, lawmakers.
Shift focus,
Keep families together,
Lean into that vote,
Cross that bridge.

Take action.


Poem found in “Federal Judge in California Halts Splitting of Migrant Families at Border,” The New York Times, June 26, 2018.

Unprecedented (a found poem)

Unprecedented

A choreographed
Freewheeling wager.
Flattery,
Cajolery,
And a slickly produced video.

A bulletproof confrontation.

Diplomatic language,
Recycled statements,
Verifiable missiles.

Sleep well tonight!

A showdown with diplomacy:
Three hours of meetings
Plus a lunch of prawns and crispy pork.

Provocative vague details,
A thumping soundtrack
Of benevolent peacemakers:
An inspirational view.

Aides fidgeted.
Reality TV?
Science fiction?
A buddy movie.

At ease with each other,
They walked on a balcony,
Smiled occasionally,
Heaped praise.

Human-rights abuses?
Hardly a priority.
It is a rough situation over there.

It’s rough in a lot of places.


Poem found in “The Trump-Kim Summit Was Unprecedented, but the Statement Was Vague,” The New York Times, June 12, 2018

War Crimes Honored: A found poem

War Crimes Honored

The camp,
Holding 32,000 Union soldiers—
The fifth largest city in the Confederacy—
Was dire.

The prisoners,
Never issued clothing,
Wore their uniforms until the pieces fell off,
Lived in holes they dug in the ground.
One reportedly used a pocket knife
To amputate his own gangrenous feet.
The death toll reached 13,000.

The man who presided over their deaths,
Captain Henry Wirz,
Was put on trial for war crimes.

Stories began flooding the Northern newspapers:
Photographs of survivors starved into living skeletons,
Like nothing the world had seen before,
And would not see again
Until the end of World War II.

Wirz was found guilty of
Cruelty,
Shooting,
Beating,
Turning dogs loose on prisoners,
Such nameless blasphemy and ribald jest,
As to exhibit him rather as a demon than a man.

So why erect a monument to a demon?

To recast him as a martyr.
To rescue his name from the stigma attached to it

By embittered prejudice.


Poem found in “Weekend Read: Executed for committing war crimes—then honored with a Confederate monument,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 8, 2018

Asylum: A found poem

Asylum

In a bare compound off a dirt road:
Bureaucrats
Borders
Migrants.

They want to escape:
Dust
Joblessness
Poverty
Persecution.

If the answer is yes,
They are spared the risky journey
Through the desert
And on the deadly boats.

“We’re here to stop people from dying,“
Said the deputy,
But few are actually approved.
The message:
“Stay home.
Do not risk a perilous journey
For a claim that would be denied.”

Humanitarian ideals
Striking out:
New methods,
Questionable results.
Something has shifted.

The bus stations are empty.
The police check identity documents.
A sign outside bears the flag
And warns passengers not to travel without papers.

“Those with legitimate claims have a chance.”
But it is very low.
“We can’t welcome everybody.”
It is a policy without heart.

The smugglers herd together:
Beat them,
Rape them,
Extort money.
Some are sold into slavery
Before being loaded onto rickety boats.

Officials look for cases
Whose persecution might qualify.
In a day of interviews
At the sweltering center
Candidates waited pensively
Looking resigned as they sat on benches.

A refugee
Showed scars on her body
And on her 2-year-old child.

A woman
Asked whether she ever phoned her family:
“I never tell them where I am”

A girl
Who spent time in a camp:
“If I return, they will put me underground.”

After nearly two hours a verdict finally came:
“You will have the right to enter legally,
You will be granted a residence permit,
You will be given accommodations
You will have the right to work.”

Barely.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Poem found in French Outpost in African Migrant Hub, Asylum for a Select Few, The New York Times, February 25, 2018

Inauguration day linky

Text of President Obama’s inaugural address: As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

Tag cloud of the inaugural address.

Weekly presidential videos are the new fireside chats.

The White House blog already has an lj feed (someone beat me to it, of course): whitehouseblog.

Whitehouse.gov’s new look kicked in at noon eastern time.

ETA:

President Obama’s speechwriter also works in coffeeshops. (via mitchwagner.)

Elizabeth Alexander recites the inaugural poem. (Via April Robins.)

Dr. Joseph Lowery’s inaugural benediction.

Complete lyrics of “This Land Is Your Land” as sung as the inaugural concert.

Jonathan Carroll on the inauguration, the power of the hat, and, of course, Obama: And so he asked for our help, which is what you do in a democracy when you can’t see your way out of a dark room. Maybe someone out there knows where the switch is – or maybe we all just have flashlights that we are once more willing to use.

Letter from Jenna and Barbara Bush to Malia and Sasha Obama. (Via penmage.)

And most importantly, choice of puppy narrowed down to two breeds. (Via lnhammer.)