Week in review 1/28/17

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Here’s a week in review for the week ending on 1/28. These snippets of news pieces are geared towards Florida politics and underreported stories. I’m purposefully not writing as much about what Trump is doing, not because it’s not important but because we’re being bombarded with news of his actions daily. If you’re interested in tracking him, Politico has a running list updated multiple times a day.


    • I have an ongoing list of bills of interest in the Florida Senate here. I’ll be updating it periodically as new bills are filed. A big one sticking out to me is SB534 which would preempt local hiring preferences and nullify sections Gainesville Living Wage and Alachua County Minimum Wage Ordinances. It’d also hamstring dozens of progressive ordinances throughout the state.
    • ACLU Florida is holding rallies in Miami, Orlando, and other airports on Sunday in protest of Trumps Muslim ban. (link)
    • Lots of people participated in Florida for the Million Woman’s march. Over 10,000 in Miami, 14,000 in Tallahassee, 20,000 in St. Pete. Gainesville had 1,500 and even smaller communities like Ocala, Paltaka, and Live Oak had actions. (link)
    • South Florida Counties that protected immigrants are folding to Trumps attacks on Sanctuary Cities. Miami-Dade is changing their policies while Broward and Palm Beech Countys are saying they never were and have no desire to become sanctuary cities.  (link)
    • Fivethirtyeight has an interesting article out on the reasons for increased hate crimes. They ran the numbers and say income inequality has a strong correlation. (link)
    • The University of Florida is under Title IX investigation for the mishandling of a sexual violence report. (link)
    • Florida Democrats walked out on Mark Krikorian,, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, which is a Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a hate group. He was there, of course, to spread lies about refugees and immigrants. (link)
    • SB120, the anti-immigrant bill that would 1 criminal charges against undocumented immigrants passed a major chock point on Tuesday. The bill passed 5-4 along party lines after the Judiciary committee amended the bill to only apply to charges violent offenses committed by undocumented people. The bill is much more likely to become law now.
    • Sen. Rubio won’t take the lead on a Dreamer bill. Trump has made it clear he’s going to let Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order expire. A bipartisan bill is being pushed by Sen Graham that would supersede anything Trump could do to the Dreamers but it’s a shame that Sen. Rubio isn’t making it a priority for him. (link)
    • Poor elderly people in Florida are in danger of having their services cut. The Florida Council on Aging is asking for $10 more remove 1,287 at risk elderly Floridians from waiting lists. The Government’s response was to ask them to trim close to $13 million from their budget. (link)
    • Relief might be on the way for poor people caught in the criminal justice system. Currently people who can’t afford the court fees get fined more and often have their licences revoked.  And without a licence many people can’t work and so fall further behind. SB302 would change that by limiting the conditions on which a license can be revoked and limited payment to 2% of net income per year. There’s issues with the bill but it’s a big step in the right direction. (link)
    • The Stand Your Ground on steroids bill (BS128) passed the Judiciary Committee. This was the major choke point for the bill so it’s likely to become law. The bill shifts the burden of from in stand your ground cases from defendant to prosecutors making it more difficult to even have a trial. (link)
    • The Florida Democratic Party seems to be changing gears under Bittel. In years past the strategy has been to turnout in SE Florida, the I-4 corridor, and ignore the rest of the start. Bittel’s FDP is offering $100,000 grants to small and medium counties to do voter registration and become better organized. (link)
    • Florida union membership dropped from 6.8% in 2015 to 5.6% in 2015. This 1.2% drop was a lot higher than the national 0.4% drop in membership. It still pays to be a in a union though as non union workers make on average 80% the wages of union workers. (link)

Florida Senate Bills to Look Out For – 2017

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Bills of interest from Florida Senate:

Updated 2/17/17

This is a working document being updated as bills come in. In order for a bill to become law the same version has to pass the House and Senate and be signed by the Governor. The House is unwieldy and harder to influence so I’m focusing on the Senate.  We expect some 1,500 bills to be filed by the filing deadline of March 7th. With only ~250 filed we have a long way to go. Please leave a comment with corrections, additions, deletions, etc. Contacting Senators now and attending committee meetings is paramount in influencing these bills.

Bolded bills are ones to look out.

Education:

  • SB2 : Major higher education bill. Would expand bright futures to cover 100% tuition, some fees, and $300 for books. Pushes students to graduate in 4 years, gives universities ability to adopt block tuition (pay for 15 credit hours no matter how many are taken), expands 2 year college to 4 year university pathway, expands scholarship program for 1st time students.
  • SB4: Adds ~$4 million to hire faculty at universities. Focus on medicine, law, graduate level business, and the like.
  • SB78 – Require recess in schools.
  • SB82 – Takes away in-state tuition to Dreamers (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
  • SB258: Up to $3,000 bonus for Advanced International Certification of Education. Makes the bonus a performance pay incentive based on students scores.
  • SB274 / HB403:  Forgives $16,000 in loans for STEM teachers after 8 years,  
  • SB286: Adds human trafficking awareness as requirement in schools.
  • SB436/HB303: Allowing prayer in public schools.
  • SB438: Forces school boards to review their out of school suspension policies.
  • SB468: Adds $10 million to voluntary prekindergarten through 3rd grade reading programs.
  • SB478 would shield university presidential searches from public records. Considering these positions are highly paid and often political in nature this should be opposed.
  • SB 538: Requires charter schools to show need in school district when applying.
  • SB604 increases the amount of millage a school board can levy.
  • SB688 establishes a scholarship for students who want to become teachers.

Environment:

  • SB98 – Anti-fracking bill.  
  • SJR108 – Another anti-fracking bill.
  • SB162 – Bans plastic bags.
  • SB422: Bans fracking. This one has legs.
  • SB532: requires that the Department of Environmental Protection notify the public about pollution.

Criminal Justice and Guns:

  • SB70 – would treat attacks on police as a hate crime.
  • SB128 – Expands protections under Stand Your Ground Defense. Puts onus on prosecutor as opposed to defended to prove Stand Your Ground not applicable in pre-trial.
  • SB260: Clarifies cyber bullying death threats.
  • SB 302: – would make it harder to arrest poor people who cannot pay court costs. It’s a good start but doesn’t go far enough. Have to show burden to pay fees before licence is revoked which could introduce bias. Also takes a lot for poor people to come before a judge to argue that they’re too poor to afford fees.
  • SB312: attempts to remove some bias with eyewitness identification.
  • SB418: Makes it a felony for causing damage to monuments for soldiers, law enforcement, etc. Could be used to target people going after Confederate monuments.
  • SB546: Withholds booking photos until convicted of a crime.
  • SB606: Makes it easier for inmates over 65 to get released early.
  • SB610: Let’s you sue people who don’t allow guns in their establishment.
  • SB616 allows people to essentially check their guns at courthouses.
  • SB618 allows people to carry guns in airports.
  • SB620 allows people to carry guns in legislative meetings.
  • SB624 sets guidelines for body cameras on cops. Problematic because it lets cops review footage before writing a report. 
  • SB626 allows people to carry guns to any county, etc, school board, etc. meeting.
  • SB640 allows people to carry guns into career centers.
  • SB644 – open carry of handguns.
  • SB646 allows firearms to briefly be displayed.

Healthcare:

  • SB102: Prevents retroactive denial of most claims.
  • SB328/ H543: Updates nursing licensing and continuing education requirements. 
  • SB614 – Medial Marijuana Act

Women’s Rights:

  • SB176 – Bill to make tampons tax free.
  • SCR 194: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US constitution.
  • SB252: Makes tampons, diapers, baby wipes tax exempt.
  • SB348: Fetal Pain Bill will ban abortions after 20 weeks.
  • SB412: Alimony reform bill. Could disproportionately affect women.

Worker’s Rights:

  • SB534: Preempts local hiring preferences and nullify sections Gainesville Living and Alachua County Minimum Wage Ordinances. Sponsor Sen. Perry.
  • SB410/HB219: Adds gender identity to anti-discrimination prohibitions in employment. Also adds the “Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act” which prohibits employers from asking about past wages or disallowing workers to discuss their wages with each other.
  • SB516: improves workers’ compensation benefits for first responders. 
  • SB636 and SB638 commissions a study on income inequality and allows state government agencies to prepare income inequality impact statements.
  • SB666 – crates the Florida Competitive Workforce Act which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to anti-discrimination clause.

Voting Rights:

  • SB72 -Would make it easier to register to vote through DMV.
  • SB74 – Proposes amendment to state constitution for the automatic restoration of rights for felons.  
  • SB242: Popular vote for US president.
  • SB270: Proposal to state constitution to restore voting rights for most felons. HB51 and HB53 in the House.
  • HB 409 would require county Supervisor of Elections officers to text voters on the first day of early voting and also on election day. This bill would increase voter participation so it’s unlikely the Republican controlled House, Senate, and Governor will support it.
  • SB544: Makes it easier to correct Vote By Mail signature errors.
  • SB726 allows people to turn in their vote by mail ballots to early voting sites.

Other:

  • SB80 – Makes it harder for lawyers to get fees for violations to public records requests.
  • SB120 – Anti-immigrant bill that would 1 up any offense an undocumented persons. Would make 1st degree misdemeanors a 3rd degree felony, 3rd felony a 2nd felony, etc.
  • SB140 – Open carry bill.
  • SB144: Prohibits use of phone while driving by those under 18.
  • SB160 Bill to increase minimum wage $1 plus inflation a year until $15 an hour is met.
  • SB254: Bans assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.
  • SB268: Updates housing discrimination law.
  • SJR 482: Adds proposal to the state constitution for term limits to Supreme Court Justices.
  • SB486: Increases the amount of tax-exempt income for corporate income tax and franchise tax.
  • SB578/HB273 – Bans conversion therapy for those under 18.

Study Guide: Collective Action for Social Change

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Collective Action for Social Change: An Introduction to Community Organizing by Aaron Schutz and Marie G. Sandy is a solid read for any community based activist (Here’s a PDF if you can’t afford a hard copy). Those new to organizing will appreciate the foundation, history, and theory within this book, while seasoned activists will find new frames to asses and improve their community organizing skills. 

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While reading this I couldn’t help but think that if I had read it 10 years ago I would have saved the causes I champion a lot of time and frustration. In this study guide I will draw out some of the most important lessons in this book, some of the theory behind this organizing model, and some prompts for further readings.

The book is broken up into 4 parts. Part I is a basic overview of organizing, Part II is some history and theory of organizing, and Part III is some case studies. Part IV is the main course though. There’ll never be a how to manual but this section gets pretty close.


Part I: Overview (Pages 1-44)

A key component of this approach to community organizing is that it exists to make change within the existing political and economic landscape. Within the first few pages the authors make it clear that:

“..the organizing tradition has always been reformist, not revolutionary. Organizing groups want influence over, not destruction of the social institutions that affect the lives of the oppressed”.

This doesn’t mean there is not conflict with power structures but simply that the goal is not to overthrow the system.

While this will cause more radical organizers to dismiss the rest of the book they would be mistaken. Whether it’s Mao’s Mass Line, Entryism, or the neo-Alinsky style of organizing found in this book the goal, at its core is the same: How can millions of oppressed people can be mobilized to exert political power in their lives.

Power is defined here as the ability to make change. How powerful an organization is is determined by how many people it can mobilize, how much money it has, what its reputation is, how often its input is sought before a decision is made, etc. The basic formula laid out here to build power is to have an organizer bring community leaders together under a type of coalition or new group and have everyone agree to collective goals through a shared values.

Organizers are usually paid staffers who have training in this area while the leaders are the real decision makers. The organizers shouldn’t push their agenda or try to mold leaders into adopting their views. Organizers’ goal are to move leaders to a collective yet vague value set such as justice, peace, or equality. Leaders are the the ones who decide what the problem is that conflicts with these collective values, how to cut this problem into tangible issues, and how to break those issues into an actionable strategy. Of course the organizer has her/his opinions, views, and expertise that influence their leaders but this cannot be stressed enough: An organizer’s job is to follow leadership.

From here the win/loss of the campaign is consolidated through organizational growth and increased power. And this is the major takeaway from this section. The most important thing for an organization isn’t winning but growing the organization so that it can make more and bigger wins in the future. This means that how you win is more important than actually winning. I’ve been part of many groups that have won a campaign but fizzled out within the year because it didn’t consolidate its victory into growth.

The authors take some time to go over activities that do not fall under the organizing category. Most of the critiques against these types of activities are that they don’t build power or challenge the existing power structure. While this is true, many of these often add to organizing efforts. In most cases organizing without any of these elements would be impossible. Activities the authors don’t consider organizing are: 

  • Legal action
  • Mobilizing
  • Activism
  • Political campaigning
  • Advocacy
  • Community development
  • Direct service
  • Community building
  • Movement building
  • Nonpartisan dialogues
  • Lifestyle changes

Quick takeaways:

  • It’s a truism that you can only gain something for one group of people if another group gives something up. This means that there will always be opposition to any organizing effort.
  • Organizations need to use one pagers. No one has time to read a 25 page white paper.
  • Targets are always people. It’s the university president -not the university. It’s the Mayor –  not the city.
  • Organizations need a depth of knowledge about their opposition. Their opposition’s reaction determine how you win.
  • Advocates speak on behalf of a group of people. They get people to carry their water while activists work with the affected community to empower them to make the change themselves.

Prompt Questions:

  • What are the limitations to focusing on reforming public institutions as opposed to taking them over? What are some of the pitfalls of being reformist? Of being radical?
  • What are some other ways to measure an organization’s power?
  • What are some ways an organization can build power over the short term? The long term?
  • What is organizing vs other forms of community involvement discussed here? How do they add to organizing? How do they take away from it?

Part II: History and Theory 47-107)

Organizing is an American tradition. From the early days of the Industrial Workers of the World to the 60’s Students for a Democratic Society to today’s Black Lives Matters, organizing is how we’ve accomplished our collective goals. Learning from what did and didn’t work for those that came before us is one of the best was to grow as an organizer.

This part of the book is very interesting and frustrating at the same time. Some of my favorite organizers are left out and others’ importance are overblown. But the purpose of the book is to give a brief overview and it does that pretty well. I’ll only point out a few things that I feel were missed or are too important to pass up.

The Labor Movement organizing section highlights the Industrial Workers of the World and states matter-of-factly that their ideologies ran counter to traditional values of American Workers which gave an excuse for government repression. While this is true a great lesson of today’s labor movement can be drawn out. Many of the radicals in the IWW were recent immigrants and brought their traditions with them. A similar situation is arising today in the labor movement with more and more immigrants, many undocumented, joining not only the workforce but often times the labor movement too. Although traditional unions such as the UFCW and Culinary Workers Union have a lot immigrant workers, many more immigrants are joining workers associations and centers such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

In the section titled “Organizing the Middle Class: The Last Years of Alinsky’s Organizing (1964-1972)” showcases the limits to this style of organizing. A quote from Alinsky himself is

“One thing I’ve come to realize,” he said, “is that any positive action for radical social change will have to be focused on the white middle class, for the simple reason that this is where the real power lies.”

Alinsky also fancied himself the moderate voice in the 60/70’s and was critical groups such  as the Black Panther Party for not having a “coherent strategy for building power”. I have a major problem with this shortsightedness and dismissiveness of more radical groups. Radical organizing focuses on the most oppressed peoples because, in their view, this is the only place revolution can come from. This is key to understanding the frame upon which neo-Alinsky style organizing fits.

There are major limits to organizing only within one specific group of oppressed peoples without linking up with allies. Radical in the 60/70’s knew this and tried to overcome it by having black, brown, and white radicals come together into unified organizations. To gloss over the richness of their achievements robs us of their valuable lessons. A good read on some of this history is Hillbilly Nationalists and the Making of an Urban Race Alliance.

But alas, Alisky cuts to the core of the issue. To him the potential for making reforms can only come if the white middle class is involved because this is where the current power structure lies.

More notes:

Question Prompts:

  • What are the demographics needed to make meaningful change? Where does the potential for power come from?

Part III Case Studies Pages 111-177

A great way to learn about organizing is to study the mistakes and best practices from the large number of groups working for social change. Many of the stories in this section are worth the read. 

An important lesson many liberal activists learned is from the 2008 Obama campaign and the 2012 Organizing for America program. Both of these campaigns were wildly successful at this but they did little to build the Democratic Party into a party that could do more than win the presidency. Almost all governors and state houses are run by Republicans today, in part, because these campaigns focused on electing an individual as opposed to growing the parties power. That said there are still many good lessons to draw out of his campaigns and electoral politics in general.

The most important lessons learned from the Obama elections is that storytelling is an art form. It’s the way humans have conveyed information since before we came out of the caves. When we hear a moving story we feel emotions and we are much more likely to act. Facts and figures don’t move people to action, stories do.

This is why Obama canvassers were told not to get into policy discussions with potential voters and instead direct them to the website. The goal of canvassing isn’t to sway voters with logic or facts but instead to have an emotional connection. And this isn’t just Obama, it’s all of politics. The emotional anti-Obama vote is just as real as the “yes we can” vote. Stories are also why all good speeches start from the “I”, a with a personal narrative; move to the “we, a collective experience; and finish a with a shared vision and how to achieve it. The Obama campaign did this masterfully.

Storytelling is important for getting out the vote for a candidate or moving people to take an action but by itself it doesn’t build power in a community. The Democrats won the white house but have been beaten in nearly every state and local election.

Questions:

  • What are some lessons you have drawn from other organizations that you have worked with?

Part IV: Key Concepts 181-283

Chapter 11:

This is the “how to manual” for organizing that people were looking for when they bought this book and it doesn’t disappoint. 

A key concept for this organizing approach is understanding public and private relationships. Private relationships are those you have with your friends and family. These relationships are built on loyalty, love, and are for the most part unchangeable. Public relationships on the other hand are built on self-interest, accountability, and respect. Confusing the two will make your life hell. Politicians and organizers alike try to bend each other into the personal category to get what they want. How many times have you heard someone say something to the effect of “how can you be so hard on the Mayor, he’s such a nice guy”. Understanding the rules of the game is paramount to earning a seat at the table.

Some of the pitfalls that happen when we confuse public and private relationships.

  • We refrain from criticizing public officials publicly.
  • We look for love and loyalty from politicians when this should never be expected in the public sphere. The trite saying that “there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics” holds true.
  • We don’t bother, annoy, picket, etc. the public sphere because this would be rude in the private sphere.

The private and personal relationships dovetails perfectly into one of an organizers most important tools: the one on one in which an organizer meets with a community leader. Every one on one meeting should have 4 goals.

  1. Uncover self interest.
  2. Develop a relationship.
  3. Evaluate leadership potential.
  4. And recruit to the organization.

When doing one on ones there are three main types of people who you will identify based on  their self interest:

  • Selfish people want to get something from the organization such as individual power and more individual respect in the community. They won’t stick around during the lulls in organizing and will only show up for the cameras. They’re unable to put what’s best for the community ahead of their own selfish needs.
  • Selfless people on the other hand want to give their left arm for the cause. They’ll come to every meeting, every sign making party, and every action for months until they burn themselves out. Their major flaw is that they are not seeking to exert their own self-interest in the public sphere for the long haul. Organizing is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Self-interested people are in it for the right reasons. A persons self-interest is a person’s passion. This is informed from their stories, who their friends/family are, and where they came from. Tapping into this is key to recruiting people to any organization for the long haul. A method that progressives borrowed from religious community is the “coming to Jesus” story. Asking someone to tell you the story on how they became an anti-war, an education, worker rights activist, etc. is a great way to reveal someone’s self interest.

Through this process a relationship is formed. The reason developing a relationship is important is because people are accountable to other people. If someone tells you they’ll be at a meeting they are much more likely to attend than if an organization sends them an email blast. The type of relationship developed through one on ones can start out as public and end up in the private sphere. Many of my closest friends including my partner I’ve met through organizing.

Next, figure out their leadership potential. The main goal of an organizer is to develop leaders and this starts with figuring out what kind of leader they can be. Native leaders are those who already have followers such as pastors or heads of organizations. If you are meeting with native leaders than your goal here is to move them to your organization’s values.

Leaders can either be the loud type or the quiet type and space in any organization needs to be made for both. Most of the time an organization’s leaders are not the ones with the most followers, the best at public speaking, or the policy wonks. Most leaders in any group, more often than not, are the people most willing to ignore their everyday lives for the organization. These are not always the best leaders so as many barriers for those unable or willing to ignore their everyday lives needs to be made. This means having onsite childcare, providing dinner, meeting in the evenings, etc.

But in the end a leader justifies their position because they represent their constituents. Without these leaders then an organization becomes an advocacy group.

Notes:

  • The Iron Rule: Don’t do for others what they can do for themselves. Don’t forget that an organizer’s job isn’t to be the workhorse but to equip its members with the tools to exert their own power in the community. Of course, there’s always special circumstances in which you’ll have to jump in and make sure something is done before a rally but more often than not someone else can and should do the work.
  • Leadership and democracy is tricky. Consensus based organizing is good and all but it breaks down at a certain point. If an organization is to grow to a size that it can exert real power in a community than it needs to have a hierarchy and delineation of responsibilities. The Tyranny of the Structureless should be required reading for an organizer.
  • Strong leaders are often ridiculed for creating a “cult of personality” but often times they are a frame in which the organization exists. This isn’t necessarily bad as long as the leader isn’t dominating the organization and is aware of her/his position.

Questions:

  • Where does consciousness raising fit into the public and private spheres?
  • What type of leader are you? Have you been in organizations that didn’t respect your type of leadership?
  • What are some of the limits to consensus based organizing. What about an organization with limited or no constituency input.

Chapter 12: Power and Targets.

Saul Alinsky defined power as “the ability to act”. Simply put, without power there’s nothing that an organization can do. The ability to influence the political process can be bought with money or earned through organizing. If you are reading this you likely don’t have the kind of money needed to buy power. You know you have power when those with power (elected officials, CEOs, etc) recognize your organization as a legitimate participant in policy decisions.

All participants in policy decisions are targets for organizing. The individuals who can make the decision, whether it be a vote or policy change, are the primary targets. Those that influence these targets such as donors, their church, and important voting blocs are the secondary targets. Sometimes the best way to get a target to change a position is to influence a secondary target.

It cannot be overstated how important it is to pick the correct target. To confuse targets makes your organization look sophomoric, ill-prepared, and is very embarrassing. That said, if you know the president of an organization has the power to make a decision that doesn’t mean that they won’t shift responsibility to someone else.

So how do you know who to target? First of all, targets are always people. It’s the CEO – not the bank. It’s the commissioner not the commission. And in order to influence a target an organizer needs to be able to identify with them. If your target is very religious then shaming their position based on religious grounds will strike a nerve. If they’re a dyed-in-the-wool realpolitik type of person going after their major financial backers will make them see that it’s less expensive to support you than to oppose you.

At the start of any campaign the organization should do a power analysis to determine your target:

  1. Who has the ability to make the change (primary target).
  2. Who has influence on this person (secondary target).
  3. What are the self interests of potential targets.

Once the correct target is picked out it’s time to polarize the target. Even though someone might support you 40% of the way, at the end they’re going to have to say “yes” or “no” to your organization’s demands. This doesn’t mean that you burn bridges or don’t compromise. You have to work with these targets again in the future and every campaign has some type of negotiations. Also remember that the larger goal of organizing is to get a seat at the table with the other decision makers. If your organization makes a major win but is seen as irrational they’ll stay sidelined in future policy decisions.

Notes:

  • Ask for a timeline from the target which will make sure that they’ll get back to your organization. This will keep them from punting on the issue.
  • Taking public credit for the achievements of the organization grows power.

Questions:

  • Do a quick power analysis of an issue that your city or county can influence.
  • If the goal is a seat at the table then what is too radical? Can attacks be too personal?

CH 13: Cutting an Issue:

The world is a messed up place. We have global climate change, institutional racism, poverty, and enough war to make anyone sick. These are all major problems that we all face. Problems make us feel small. They make us feel like there’s no way that we can possibly influence something so encompassing.

There’s a commonly held belief that the reason we have so many problems in the world is because people don’t care enough to stop them. I’ve met enough people, even those that feign being a-political, to know that the great masses of people care deeply about these problems.  The perception of apathy is because the masses of people don’t know how to change these problems.

This is where organizers step in to break these problems down into issues that can be acted on. Climate change goes from an amorphous collective angst into issues such as a new bike path through the city, protecting state land from oil drilling, and stopping a pipeline. These issues can be acted through campaigns and doing so can grow the power of an organization. While none of these alone, or even together, will solve climate change it adds to a shared vision and builds an organizations capacity to make larger wins in the future.

The issue that an organization chooses must have a solution. If an organization doesn’t have a solution then the solution will be imposed. For example: when an organization presents an ordinance as the solution then the onus is on the commission as to why this isn’t a reasonable remedy.

Tips for picking issues:

  • An issue either needs to excite or piss off your constituency.
  • If the issue doesn’t build power for the organization it isn’t a good issue. A good issue should do some of these:
    • Grow membership.
    • Improve membership skills.
    • Increase finances.
    • Develop relationships with powerful people.
    • Educate the public on your organization and the issue(s) they focus on.
    • Threaten the self interests of powerful people.
    • Enhance your negotiating power.
    • Build your organization’s reputation.
  • Good issues have the ability to generate controversy and outrage among the public. This in turn brings attention to your actions and solution.
  • GOOD ISSUES ARE WINNABLE! Good issues are tangible. Remember, the problem might not have a clear solution but the issue should.
  • People care about good issues. If the majority of people are educated about an issue and still don’t act on it, it’s not a good issue. Starting with issues that people care about is important. The goal of an organizer isn’t to make everyone share your rankings for important issues: it’s to empower people to make these changes himself.
  • The simpler the ask the easier it is to hold the opposition accountable and educate your members.

Chapter 14 Tactics and Strategy:

Now that we have an issue and targets it’s time to talk about tactics and strategy. A tactic or action is anything that puts pressure on your target. The sum of all the tactics in a campaign is the strategy used to win your issue. Aside from being critical to winning an issue actions also keep members involved. People tend to fade away is there’s nothing happening.

Criteria for a good tactic:

  • Puts pressure on the target or secondary target. This doesn’t necessarily need to be direct and could be something as simple as a press conference.
  • Includes a specific demand. There’s nothing more deflating than having to be asked what your organization wants. Powerful people know that expressions of collective angst fade quickly. If you’re only goal is to make noise they’ll weather the storm and wait for your organization to dissolve into the next thing.
  • Is outside the experience of the target. You want to challenge their comfort zone in one way or another.
  • Is within the experience of your members. If your members are uncomfortable with a tactic it’s the wrong tactic for the organization. What an organization is comfortable with changes throughout a campaign though. A group that doesn’t feel comfortable taking a street one week might be willing to shut down an intersection the following month.
  • Involves a large number of people. It’s only through being involved in an organization that new members are consolidated. It’s also usually through actions that new members are found.
  • Is fun and engaging otherwise no one will come back.
  • Educates members and develops leaders. You can only truly learn to fight power by actually fighting power. In order to educate and develop leaders your organization must:
    1. Involve a range of members at different leadership levels in the planning and carrying out of the action.
    2. Include an educational component. A speaker on the topic or a handout should be given explaining what the issue is and why it’s important.
    3. Have a summation at the end. Every action needs to end with an evaluation of what went well and what didn’t. Write these evaluations down and refer to them when planning future actions. The act of being self critical is a the best way to improve an organization.

Some examples of tactics are:

  • petition drive.
  • letter writing campaigns.
  • in-house media (videos, blog posts, etc).
  • turnout events (rallies, pickets, etc.).
  • visits with public officials.
  • public hearings.
  • accountability sessions.
  • citizen’s investigations.
  • educational meetings and teach-ins.
  • civil disobedience and arrests.

When developing an action it’s easy to fall into routine that is comfortable. If all an organization has ever done is petition gather then that is likely that they’ll propose to gather more petitions for a new campaign. Being creative is important for the success of any campaign but creativity for the sake of creativity can be silly and serve as a distraction. Over the long term your power comes from your reputation to powerful people. If this perception is damaged then so is your power.

Once the action is set and carried out the opposition will react and it’s very likely that the opposition will try one or all of the 7 D’s of Defense:

  1. Deflect – most powerful people surround themselves with layers of bureaucracy that make for easy scapegoats. The best way to combat this is to be prepared by being sure the target has the ability to act on the issue.
  2. Delay – I’ve never had a meeting with a politician that hasn’t tried to delay an answer. Always set a deadline for their response.
  3. Deceive – there’s lies, damn lies, and statistics. The people you are going up against are better funded and have teams of people with degrees in deception. They will try to baffle you with mistruths and you can only combat this with research. This is also why membership needs to be well informed so that they are not mislead by this counter tactic.
  4. Divide – If the organization or coalition doesn’t practice good discipline and solidarity the opposition will pick off a group of individuals to negotiate with. Often times when this happens the solution is imposed by the opposition with a splinter group accepting it as a compromise.
  5. Deny – this is usually done by denying meetings or saying no problem exist. To combat this organizations need to escalate tactics and apply more pressure.
  6. Discredit – the better funded opposition will likely attempt to discredit your findings or stance. Organizers should be prepared to defend this with good research and by maintaining the moral high ground. Even in this day in age it’s not uncommon for powerful people to red-bait organizations.
  7. Destroy – this happens when leaders or members are arrested or threatened. This is especially common for immigration rights groups being threatened with deportation. To counter this the organization needs to strongly support any person, from their own or any other group, who is facing this type of repression. Solidarity will not only help the individuals but also has the potential to expose the issue and organization to a wider audience.

Sometimes actions appear to just happen for people who just show up. But those who organized he action know it took 10 times as long on planning as it took to carry out. It takes a lot of work but it pays off to be prepared.  

Notes:

  • Power is not what you have but what the opposition thinks you have. The threat of an action is sometimes enough to get the result. The risk though is that if you cannot follow through then the organization’s perception is damaged.

Week in review 1/21/17

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Trump was sworn in yesterday. There’s a lot of news on that and the protests, but I’m not going to write about it. Below is some news from the past week that’s important but a lot less widely shared.

Week in review (1/21/17):

  • Bittel is the chair of the Florida Democratic Party. The so called establishment was supporting him due to his ability to raise lots of money. There’s a lot of nuance here but the short and long of it is that nothing much will change. The people who supported the current chair, Allison Tant, are the same people who supported Bittel. Hopefully he’s more responsive to the progressive voices in the FDP even though the didn’t support him. (link)
  • The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is failing according to a report  released by the US government. DCF was privatized in 2005 and we were told it would save money and provide better service. Children are literally dying because of this this rabid privatization ideology. (link)
  • The Florida Supreme Court refused to take up the teachers unions lawsuit about the school voucher program. This program siphons off tax payer money (up to $560 million a year) and gives it to parents to send their kids to private, mostly religious schools. This isn’t a ruling and the constitutionality of the program is still not resolved. What the Supreme Court did was keep in place the lower court ruling that the union didn’t have standing. The NAACP, parents, teachers… a lot of people were co-plaintiffs on this lawsuit. If non of them have standing then who does? (link)
  • Turnout in Florida went up ~4% in November 2016. In 2012 turnout was 73.1% and in 2016 it was 77.1%. Hispanic turnout went from 63.1% in 2012 to 68.9% in 2016. Black turnout dropped from 72.3% in 2012 to 69% in 2016. The overall result was a less white electorate. In 2012 the vote share for whites was 68.4% in 2012 and 66.8% in 2016. (link)
  • Former President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning on Tuesday. (link)
  • Here’s two good reads on Betsy DeVos, Trumps pick for Secretary of Education. She’s on the board of Focus on the Family, pro private school voucher, pro guns on campus, pro-charter school, and she has a host of finical conflicts. People are also worried she’ll roll back protections to trans students. (link1) (link2)
  • The Sabal Trail pipeline is growing as a flash point in the environmental movement. The natural gas pipeline stretches over 500 miles through Alabama and down Florida and crosses the Suwannee River near Live Oak. Last Saturday a couple hundred protesters staged a massive protest and 8 people were arrested on Monday. Acts of civil disobedience are going to continue over the next few weeks. (link1) (link2)
  • Florida is a human trafficking hub. The state had 1,892 reported cases last year. (link)
  • 43% of the 165,000 out of school suspensions in ’14-’15 were black students even though they only make up 23% of enrolled students. A lot of people/organizations say they’re doing something to address this but it’s usually just hot air. (link)
  • Florida is the 12th worse state to establish a family, according to WalletHub. The reasons? We’re 45th in child care costs, 43rd in housing affordability, 40th in median family salary, and 34th in percent of families below the poverty level.  (link)
  • Florida is attempting to beef up it’s already problematic Stand Your Ground law. This controversial law was under fire during the shooting of unarmed teenage Trayvon Martin. The law kicks in under pretrial evidentiary hearings and shields the shooter from prosecution. Under the bill filed by Sen Bradley the burden of proof will shift from the defendant to the prosecutor making it all the harder to even have a trial. Here’s a comprehensive list of the gun related bills in the Florida House/Senate. (link)
  • Florida will likely be trying to repeal the “certificate of need” requirement for new hospitals. Essentially this regulation forces hospitals to show a need before being built. The repeal is part of a free market, supply side approach to heath care. Also being considered is direct primary care in which a person or employer contracts with a physician (or group of physicians) for healthcare. (link)
  • Florida Gov. Scott went all out for Trump’s inauguration by hosting a ball and attending events. He’s using his “Let’s Get to Work” political committee money to fund it all. This is all about his 2018 US senate bid. (link)
  • The repeal of the wet-foot dry-foot policy has Cubans feeling like immigrants. (link)
  • Republicans in DC are going to attempt to roll back, if not fully repeal, the endangered species act. (link)

Week in review 1/14/17

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Week in review (1/14/17):

  • SB120 – The anti-immigrant bill  is on the move in the Senate. The bill would  1 up any offense an undocumented persons. Would make 1st degree misdemeanors a 3rd degree felony, 3rd felony a 2nd felony, etc. It was just agendaed on the Judiciary committee for 1/24 at 2:00 PM. Senator Greg Steube chairs the committee and is the co sponsor of this bill. If you could make one phone call through call Senator Anitere Flores at (850) 487-5039 and tell her to vote no. If the 4 dems and Sen. Flores vote no the bill dies in committee.
  • Florida Kid Count released it’s study on child poverty in Florida. (link) Some interesting bits about my Alachua County:
    -28% of households have high housing cost burden.
    -48% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
    -Black students account for 71% of all disciplinary actions.
  • Trump going to try to build a 700 mile fence on the US-Mexico boarder. Mexico isn’t paying for it. (link)
  • There’s a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand the lobbying ban for legislators from 2 years to 6 years. If passed it would still need to go to the voters in 2018. (link)
  • Obama just ended the wet foot, dry foot policy that allowed Cubans to stay in the USA without a visa and gave them an easy path towards citizenship. It also encouraged risky behavior that resulted in thousands of deaths. (link)
  • The accreditation process for for-profit schools is changing. This will likely result in lose of accreditation for many scam schools who take advantage of veterans, foreigners, and poor people. (link)
  • Governor Scott outlined his higher education plan for the 2017 legislative session. Among other things he’ll be looking to cap student fees, eliminate sales taxes on textbook purchases, and extend Bright Futures scholarships to summer classes. (link) The Senate released their plan too. While it echos the Governors it does differ in a few places. It would give more to Bright Futures, expand a scholarship program to first generation students, and push block tuition. Block tuition is charging students for 15 credit hours a semester no matter how many classes they take. It was tried at the University of Florida years ago but was abandoned due to the student outcry. (link) 
  • The Florida legislator might nix five 9th grade state mandated exams. (link)
  • Sleepy Creek, the massive cattle operation in Northern Marion County  (aka Adena Springs Ranch) was set to have a massive water request approved on Tuesday but environmentalist have sued to slow it down. (link)
  • The race for the chair of the Florida Democratic Party will be decided Saturday. Recently 4 of 5 candidates united against the front-runner Bittle. In a strange show of solidarity they took turns berating Bittle but to what end? Does the FDP use ranked voting or something? (link)
  • Because there was a shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport two lawmakers want guns allowed in terminals. (link)
  • Children of same sex couples will have both their parents listed on the birth certificate now thanks to a lawsuit brought on by Equality Florida Institute. (link)
  • Florida Department of Corrections overpaid CoreCivic (formally Corrections Corporations of America) over $16 million over the past 7 years for it’s youth prison in Lake City. This is just one contact of many and it wasn’t a mistake. Florida tax payers were overcharged and billed for ghost services in an act of deliberate fraud. While poor and working peoples needed services are being cut large corporations are making off like bandits. Literally. (link)
  • Trump has tapped Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head up a commission on vaccines and autism. This is bad. Thousands of people have died because of the anti-vaccine movement and it’s only going to get worse. If you don’t know, then read up on herd immunity to understand why this is so dangerous. (link)
  • Pew has a very illuminating survey out on policing and race. Of the finding: 92% of white officers think the country has done enough for blacks compared to 57% of all white people. It’s 29% for black offices and 12% for all black people. Also, 69% of black officers view the protest movements as a desire to hold the police accountable vs 27% of white officers.  (link)
  • The United Faculty of Florida (UFF) is growing fast. In 2016 it picked up 3 new chapters and now represents faculty at all 12 state universities, 11 of 28 state colleges, graduate workers at 4 state universities, and faculty at the private St. Leo University. This is happening in part because of the backwards policies being pursued by the state government but also because of the leadership of UFF president Jennifer Proffit. (link)
  • The Florida Supreme Court is hearing a case regarding a 2011 law that prohibits local governments from enacting gun control ordinances. This is a classic home rule vs state law case that has pretty broad consequences. (link)
  • The US Supreme Court is hearing Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman over corporations freedom of speech. The case seems pretty simple; should businesses be allowed to add surcharges to credit card transactions. But if the Supreme court rules in favor of corporations it could open up the flood gates against things like warning labels, nutrient facts, etc.  (link)
  • Choice is under attack again in Florida. This time the bill would lower the amount of time a woman has to seek an abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. The bill HB 203 doesn’t have a companion in the Senate yet. (link)
  • An ROTC instructor in East Lee County High School is likely not be fired over anti-Trans comments made to a student. The reason the administrative law judge gave is pretty ludicrous. The judge believes his anti-Trans comments came from a place of compassion not hate. Oy vey. (link)

WEEK IN REVIEW (1/7/17)

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As always: here’s a poorly written news roundup from the previous week.

Week in review (1/7/17):

  • Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana for certain conditions,  went into effect Tuesday (1/3). The Florida legislature and Department of Health have to pass some rules so there’s not a lot that you’ll see until after session most likely (May). In order to get a prescription you have to go to an approved doctor and to an approved dispensary. (link)
  • The House Republicans tried to handicap the the Office of Congressional Ethics but backed off due to a massive outcry. Even Trump was against this. Apparently he wants the swamp concentrated on the hill. (link)
  • The Bright Futures Scholarship program might get an revamp this year. Over past decade the requirements have gone up leaving more people out and funding levels have been cut. It’s also important to remember that this scholarship program is funded by the state lottery which tends to be played by poor people while the students receiving the scholarships tend to be upper and upper-middle class students. (link)
  • Fake news. It’s not about facts vs. fiction but a social phenomenon between how people view the world and it’s reality. This is why people read fake news but there’s a lot more behind the plethora of fake news and Five Thirty Eight has a pretty good read on it. (link)
  • The NAACP president along with others were arrested at the Mobile Alabama office of Senator Jeff Sessions. The sit in was in response to Trump naming Sessions to the cabinet position of Attorney General. Sessions has a long and checkered history of racism. So much so that a Republican US Senate rejected his federal judge appointment in 1986. This sit in is a taste of things to come during the Trump administration? (link)
  • Ford was to open a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico but will instead put some $700 million to expand a plant in Michigan. Trump is taking credit for this like he did about saving a plant that was never going to close in Kentucky. The company is expanding a plant in Michigan mostly due to the cheaper cost of automation and AI in the US with union labor as opposed to  cheap labor in Mexico. (link)
  • Republicans are going to try to repeal Obamacare. The NYT has a pretty good read on how they’re going to try to do it but the first stop gap happens in a budget resolution next week. They need to add a rule that will stop the 48 Democrats from filibustering. If that happens they have until Jan 27th to pass legislation that would gut Obamacare… in 2 to 4 years. This would give them time to pass a replacement. The worse part is that they’re likely going to stop payments to the states that expanded Medicare. (link)
  • The Florida public pension system projected return is subject to political manipulation. The short and long of it is that if the projected return is lowered then it needs to be funded more and the unfunded liability increases. The projected return is 7.6% right now but if it was lowered to 7% it would create a $38 billion unfunded liability and would by 79% funded. At the current projected rate of 7.9% it’ll be $90 million unfunded liability and 85.4% funded. Why is this important? Because lowering the return rate will increase the contributions to the over 630,000 people paying into it and gives ammo to the privatization crusaders (link)
  • Governor Scott want’s the Obamacare Medicaid reimbursement rate of $0.90/$1.00 (currently $0.61/$1.00) without expanding the coverage as the law requires. (link)
  • From the Verizon strike to the increases in minimum wage; 2016 wasn’t all terrible for working people. The AFL-CIO has a good list of major victories here. (link)
  • Five Thirty Eight has an interesting piece out on who didn’t vote in 2016. The exit polling they look at says that young people and people of color staying home cost Clinton the election. The article points out that young black voters stayed home at the highest rate but they turned out in the primary for Sanders. People that are trying to blame young people and people of color for Trump are missing the forest. I blame Clinton for not giving people something to turnout for. (link)
  • The Florida Swamp is being partially drained… into DC. Pam Bondi, the Florida Attorney General who dropped the Florida investigation into Trump university after he gave her $25,000, is getting an appointment in his administration. (link)