Change candidate, establishment candidate.

Back in 2006 I was a candidate for a seat on the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees. One of the people who supported and made a donation to my campaign asked me if I was running as the change or the establishment candidate. It was a rhetorical question, that he wanted me to answer later.

My opponent, who was the incumbent, was that establishment candidate. The problem was, he and I agreed on virtually every issue. The difference was our priorities and approach to working on those issues. I believe this was one of the reasons I didn’t win the election. Since I was not a change candidate that offered a different vision of the Alamo Colleges, my own ability to stay passionate and committed to running often wavered. After the election my opponent would introduce me to other board members and encourage me to attend and speak up at meetings as a citizen to be heard.

This story about myself leads me to this; in the fall of 2003, a friend asked me to pick who’d be the next president. Early opinion and polls showed a toss up between Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton. Realizing that voters would be inclined to support a change candidate after 8 years of Bush (and 8 years of Clinton) and that the nation was in an economic recession, I said Sen. Barack Obama would become president if he decided to run.

I would also note that I believed that Governor Tim Pawlenty would offer the best choice for the GOP in 2012 as a change candidate against President Obama, by now the establishment candidate. Pawlenty dropped out early after a miserably showing at the Iowa GOP straw polls. A move he later regretted. I would argue that this played the largest part in Gov. Mitt Romney becoming the nominee and Pres. Obama being able to shed the establishment label and run again as a change candidate. Romney essentially serving as a continued surrogate, like McCain, as part of the establishment of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld. I believe if he stayed in the race Pawlenty would have been a stronger opponent that Romney. Even in defeat Pawlenty, more than Sen. Rick Santorum, would have pushed Romney to establish his identity early as a change candidate.

It is too early to pick nominees for 2016, however, at this point it’s Secretary Clinton’s election to lose. She is in a unique position being part of the old guard establishment in Washington on one hand, but being a change candidate in contrast to both Obama and Speaker John Boehner the leader of the Republican Party. However, especially if Clinton runs, the story to pay attention to will be this one…

Sen. Bernie Sanders, as an independent running for President. Sanders has said he would put serious thought in running for president if there is no strong run by a liberal Democrat in the primaries. So far, aside from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, I don’t see any Paul Wellstone-esque Democrats considering a serious run for president. Warren supporters have suggested she may run, but I doubt she will because of the success she’s had as a senator. She may find that she will, and has, done more good in Congress.

If this happens and Clinton runs and is essentially anointed as the Democrats nominee, I expect Sanders to run for president. As and independent and the only elected Socialist in Washington, he is not only a change candidate to the establishment of Obama/Bush/Clinton, but represents a unique contrast from the possibility of Tea Party candidate coming from the GOP. Any Tea Party candidate would try to run as a change candidate. A Sanders campaign as a Socialist and an independent would make both Clinton and whoever is the GOP nominee, establishment candidates. Sen. Bernie Sanders would also be a positively contrast to the change offered by GOP should they nominate a Tea Party supported candidate. That could very well marginalize the GOP and turn it into a race between Sanders and Clinton.

I’m certain many of you will disagree with this early assessment but, looking back at 2008 and 2012 I think I have a better than average track record on this one. Also if you’re wondering who I think the Republican frontrunner is for the nomination in 2016, it’s not going to be Gov. Chris Christie or any other governor or former governor. As with 2012, the GOP primaries will be large, brutal, and trend further to the right than it normally would. Right now, look for a senator, most likely Rand Paul.

Representative of the Poor

For the past twelve years I have served as an elected Representative of the Poor on the Community Action Advisory Board in the city of San Antonio, Texas. The board, made up of fifteen members, five of whom are elected Representatives of the Poor, advise the city on poverty related issues and provides oversight of the Community Action Programs run by the city’s Department of Community Initiatives. The work is meaningful and as one Congressman once put it in regards to my rather obscure elected position, it is the most important political office in the city that no one has ever heard of.

This is true, I have been through several elections for this position and except for the first couple, my elections have been uncontested. Even in those early elections when there were opponent, very few people have voted. To be honest, I have been term limited from running again, but due to a current lack of interest, I am a holdover for the position.

During the last twelve years, a lot has happened and changes as Community Action in San Antonio and in our nation moves forward. As some may know, Community Action was the only agency targeted for cuts in President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address. This is unfortunate but this program, dating back to President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, has often been the target of cutbacks and elimination.

The role of Community Action is simple, helping low-income families help themselves out of poverty and into self-suffiency. This is done primarily through emergency and transitional assistance. For my part, I have tried to be an voice for the poor in a part of town that often forgets that poverty can and does affect everyone in both small and big ways. I live in and represent the north side of San Antonio, for the most part a part of town economically better off than the rest of town. This has caused my share of occasional frustration as I voice concerns over poverty and current and effective ways to address the issue and improve that quality of life for the entire community I call home. Poverty is not talked about where I live, for many neighbors it doesn’t exist. It in fact, does but that is getting harder to community, even in these tougher economic times as we push forward with our lives out of a deep recession.

This will likely be my last year on the Community Action Advisory Board. In my final year I have taken on the role of Vice-Chairman of the board and will now look for ways to communicate the work of Community Action where I live and in other neighborhoods and communities throughout San Antonio.

May is National Community Action Month

What is National Community Action Month?
National Community Action Month in May was created by the national office of the Community Action Partnership to highlight Community Action Agencies’ role helping low-income families achieve economic security.  Each year, Community Action Agencies serve 20 million people in rural, suburban, and urban communities across the country through a variety of targeted programs, such as Head Start, Weatherization, job training and placement, financial education, housing, energy assistance, and transportation.

During National Community Action Month, Community Action Agencies truly make the Promise of Community Action—to help people and change lives—come alive by hosting events that help put a “face” on the families living in poverty and the dedicated Community Action staff and volunteers who are helping them achieve economic security. Success stories are honored and personal achievements are recognized. Many governors, mayors, and other elected officials proclaim May “Community Action Month” in their states, cities and counties.

Community Action Agencies also use National Community Action Month to call attention to poverty related problems and solutions. As Community Action Agencies are showcasing their programs, they are also giving local residents—many who are unaware of the poverty in their communities—a firsthand look at the struggles low-income families face and how Community Action programs help them.

Celebrating National Community Action Month 2011 Amid Community Action’s “New Realities”

This year’s National Community Action Month theme is:
Community Action 2011: Working for Opportunity and Economic Security in America. This theme was selected prior to Community Action being the sole program singled out for budget cuts during the January 25 State of the Union address.

These “New Realities” also mean that we will have to, unfortunately, try to do a lot more with a lot less—because budgets and resources are being cut while at the same time, demand for services has soared.

The poverty rate is also growing: 2009 Census Bureau figures indicate that nearly 44 million Americans have incomes below the poverty level. And it gets worse: unemployment hovers near 10 percent, one in seven Americans is on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), home mortgage foreclosures have reached epidemic proportions in many states; and home, commercial energy and food costs are up.

Now more than ever, we must show that we are part of a strong network of Community Action Agencies across the country with a unified voice and message: for the last 47 years, we’ve had a proven track record of ongoing effectiveness helping America’s low-income population— seniors; children; military veterans; families; and workers—in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the country—achieve economic stability.

We’re proactively responding to our communities’ ever-changing needs—especially during the Great Recession, which brought several new faces to our agency: people who have fallen on hard times and never thought they’d have to ask for assistance. We develop and tailor our programs based on the individuals and families we serve in order to maximize opportunities for them to become economically stable and live a better life.

We need to maintain and enhance funding and resources on the local, state, and national levels for programs like Community Action that are helping low-income residents across the county achieve economic security.

Even as the economy and budgets remains uncertain, Community Action is and always will be committed and dedicated to helping America’s most vulnerable citizens.

I am not certain who wrote this memo, it was handed to me by an official with Community Action here in San Antonio. I wanted to post it because much of the work that Community Action does in San Antonio and throughout our nation is not understood or even known by most citizens.

Where am I going?

On the Tumblr site I have been following up on the mishaps of the Bexar County Democratic Party and in particular its chair, Dan Ramos. While reading and then posting these articles I have been pondering my own place in local politics. Currently I sit as a Representative of the Poor on the Community Action Advisory Board. I am going to say you haven’t heard of such a position. I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t, the work of CAAB and its elected Representatives of the Poor and other board members are way under the radar in San Antonio, Texas. This my twelve year on the board, and most likely my final year as well.

Where am I going after sitting on CAAB? I have been thinking about running for a seat on the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees again. I ran for a seat last election, in 2006, and only got 20% of the vote. But I would like to believe that I have learned from past campaign mistakes and will be in a better position to run, if in fact that is what I want to do in 2012.

If I do make the move to run again, I would expect this site to change, as it has been my previous campaign website. You can also expect me to make more relevant use of social media networks, in particular Facebook and Twitter.

So, when will I make a decision on running? I expect at the earliest it would be later in May and at the latest sometime in November, 2011. The election for the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees is in May 2012, after the Primary elections in March, so like last time I could expect this one to be another low turnout election, even if it is in the midst of what I expect to be a contentious presidential election year.

Signs are up

I have recently noticed that Elisa Chan‘s campaign has been putting up their campaign signs around the district. I would also note that the campaign website has been subtly updated to reflect her recently announced campaign. With this in mind I have begun to wonder what it would take for an underfunded and relatively unknown candidate to win an election over the better funded and known incumbent.

My first thought is making aggressive use of the internet through a website and social media to reach out to likely voters. But I have also thought that with a lack of money to match what someone with resources would do in a traditional “big money” campaign, how would a “no budget” candidate make use of netroots and grassroots kind of campaigning. These things do come to mind as I look at 2012 and the possibility of another run at the Alamo Colleges board of trustees.

Right now though are the municipal races for San Antonio and other smaller cities and districts in the area. Where I live, Elisa Chan is my city councilwoman and is running for reelection. She has drawn one opponent that I am aware of, Jose Valadez Jr., hopefully I will have more thoughts on his campaign.

No, I am not running…

With Cafe College as a backdrop this past Sunday, Mayor Julian Castro announced his bid to run for reelection as mayor of San Antonio. In his announcement, Mayor Castro laid out a pair of priorities for another prospective term of office. He called for the cause of educational readiness and the need to reorient San Antonio’s economic development model. Both of these priorities have been illustrated in the recent SA2020 initiative where citizens from throughout the city came together to lay out a common vision for San Antonio in the next ten years.

While it is certainly early to speculate if others will step up to run for mayor against the Castro. Lets remember it has only been a day since candidates for municipal elections can officially file for office. It would appear that the mayor will likely face only marginal opposition in the upcoming election. So far, there has been little if any discussion of major candidates stepping up to make their bids for mayor of San Antonio.

It is with Mayor Castor’s announcement that I look upon my own city council district here in town. City council member Elisa Chan has been touted for other political offices, from a possible opening in the state legislature, to a future run for mayor herself. In the meantime, she has held steady as my city council representative in district 10, which encompasses the north-central corridor of San Antonio. A conservative district, I have sometimes pondered how a liberal, such as myself, can hope to win a municipal race here.

I do have some political experience in this district, I serve as the area elected Representative of the Poor with the city of San Antonio. Despite holding an elected office, it is little known and does not get the type of attention that being a city council member would get. I do serve my community as best I can and do at times look onward at the city council someday. However someday is not now, I am not looking at a run for city council at this time.

I still find that it is difficult to articulate the importance of the issues at the center of my life and how those issues matter to this north central district. Issues such as poverty, community, and civic engagement seem to be beyond the scope of issues that would seem to matter to my district, even if I believe strongly that they are very meaningful to the economic and social well-being of our city as a whole and within the neighborhoods that I call home.

This is not to say that I am going to simply ignore the issues that matter right now, and not pay attention to the upcoming election in district 10. I do expect Elisa Chan to announce her own reelection campaign for city council, as well, I do not expect any serious contention for her seat at city hall. With that in mind, even if she runs unopposed, I will be closely following the issues that are at the center of my district and will blog on the upcoming campaigns and issues within my city council district.

Dharma Talk on the Order of Interbeing

This Tuesday, Gaylynne Carter will do a dharma talk about the Order of Interbeing, which is an institution established by Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1966. This is the Buddhism tradition that Gaylynne first took her lay practicioner vows and commense her devotion to the three jewels (the three jewels are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha). Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most respected Buddhist masters up next to the Dalai Lama.

The Dharma talk will be on Tuesday, February 1st beginning 6:30 PM at the Ecumenical Center on 8310 Ewing Halsell Drive in San Antonio, Texas.

This is a talk that I am looking forward to, I am a practicing Buddhist, following the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh through the Community of Mindful Living. This is one of the events that I will be going to leading up to, and continuing after Tet, the Vietnamese New Year which is this Thursday.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, I will be making the drive up to Austin, TX to get some food for the new year. Wednesday night I will be visiting the Buddhist Temple of San Antonio near the medical center for new year activities and festivities. Finishing the week I will be spending the day at the Institute of Texan Cultures celebrating the new year at the Asian Festival.