Monday, September 29, 2008

Protecting The Vote: Live From Main Street Columbus

By Laura Flanders

Voter registration deadlines are just over a week away in many states. Polls open in just over a month. In an election that could well be decided by new voters, voter registration efforts are in overdrive. But signing people up might be the easy part: after that, there's voting. As the last two elections have shown, just showing up at the polls isn't a guarantee of a smooth ride to the ballot box.

In 2000 and 2004, all across the country, thousands of voters were removed from the rolls, without their knowledge, in official purges of voter lists. On Election Day in 2004, boxes of registrations remained unprocessed in at least two cities we know about -- Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio. On the radio that election night, I received calls from Columbus voters who had stood for hours in line because of a shortage of voting machines in the inner city, even as, in nearby wealthy suburbs, voters were able to cast their votes in a matter of minutes. As one caller put it, "Jim Crow isn't dead."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

What’s That Smell? Burning Trash Isn’t Clean Fuel

By Debra Fastino and Lee Ketelsen

It’s commonly known that burning anything isn’t good for the environment, because whatever you incinerate doesn’t actually disappear. Wafting through the air, pollutants often become even greater health hazards. That is why Massachusetts took great strides toward a cleaner environment when it imposed a moratorium on new incinerators in 1989. The state made the right decision to emphasize recycling and waste reduction, which is far better for the environment and the economy than burning garbage.

The policy still makes sense today, considering what we know about climate change and the need for clean energy. However, Governor Patrick’s administration is now looking into lifting the ban on new incinerators. Such a move would tarnish our state's efforts to clean up the environment with clouds of toxic smoke.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Revitalizing Our Communities and the Environment

By Susan Estep and Bethanie Walder

After all those fights over “jobs versus the environment,” people have finally realized that the color of money and the color of environmental protection are on and the same: green.

The emerging green economy is all the rage in political and media circles, and especially in discussions about how to fix the ailing economy while also fixing some of our energy/climate problems. But this new economy, at least as currently envisioned, is quite urban, and energy focused. What about rural America? What about forests, rivers, grasslands, and deserts that need restoration, and the economic benefits of that?

We’ve spent more than a century extracting resources from our public lands and it’s time to invest some resources back into these special places.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Chicagoans Should Benefit from Olympics, Not Just a Privileged Few

By Jay Travis and Diane Doherty

Eulonda Cooper is in the eye of the storm. A spirited, hard-working mother of four who lives in an affordable rental unit in the Kenwood Oakland community, she is being denied the safety and security that any hard-working American deserves. She sits on the local school council of two elementary schools and is a member of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

In a community that has rapidly gentrified since the mid-90s, she is concerned about the impact the Olympics would have on the price of housing in her neighborhood. Many of the people she knew in the neighborhood are gone; priced out due to escalating rents or moved out due to the CHA Plan for Transformation, which resulted in the loss of over 3,000 rental units. "The Olympics cannot be used as a tool to finally push all of us out. I want my children to live in stable, quality housing in this neighborhood." For her, the fear that the Olympics could mean very real.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Building a Foundation for Success

By Sharen Hausmann

A new school year is underway and with it brings continued hope and excitement, particularly for the youngest of learners.

For many children though, that excitement is replaced by nervousness -- they are not ready for school.

By most national estimates, about a third of the children who are starting school aren’t ready. Unfortunately, by the time they reach third grade, many of these students will still be falling short of what their schools expect them to be learning.

As they make their way through grade school, middle school, and high school, many under-achieving youngsters will continue to lag behind what their classmates are achieving and their schools are requiring. Worse yet, they will fall far short of what the job market will be demanding at a time when the new economy places a premium on high skills and the ability to adapt to new technologies.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Important Life Decisions Are Private Family Matters

By Friedrike Merck

Sarah Palin and I have a lot in common. We were athletes and both became hockey Moms, we have held public office in small towns, we like to fish, (I am proud of my marksmanship skills but just can't seem to rustle up what it takes to shoot for sport one of God's creatures), we both have a can-do attitude and serious spiritual lives but we disagree when it comes to matters of privacy and family planning.

Maybe it's my independent New England roots or the tolerant Quaker in me that planted the simple belief that personal choices across a range of important life decisions, like when to have children, are absolutely a private family matter. The choices other people make about the size and timing of their family is never anyone else's business to talk about. Where I come from that’s called gossip. Neither is it anyone else's business how a family chooses to cope with the issues of dignity in dying, that's morbid prying. It is no one's right, in this country at least, to insist that there is only one way to believe in or to name a Higher Power, that there is only one way to honor the sanctity of life, that's the kind of holier than thou attitude that drove our ancestors from distant lands to this place of hope for individual liberty.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Using Pseudo-science At HHS

By Kathleen C. Barry

I thought the battle for women's rights had largely been won but the extremists are coming out of the closet with their real agenda, the assault on birth control. This fringe has won converts for its warped pseudo-science at the Department of Health and Human Services, where a proposed rule would codify that anyone receiving federal funding could not be required to provide birth control under the basis that it might violate their religious views.

The new rules would mean that all health care providers -- including pharmacists and medical staff at hospitals and clinics, medical schools and even family planning centers -- could refuse to provide all forms of contraception. Women’s rights are being put at the whim of their providers who could now claim a “conscience” clause to refuse to cover birth control in medical plans or provide pregnancy prevention to rape victims.


Georgia is Pushing Gun Law Boundaries in Wrong Direction

By Alice Johnson

A few months ago, Georgia made it legal for people with permits to carry firearms in a concealed manner into state parks and recreational areas, onto public transportation and into restaurants that serve alcohol.

The General Assembly passed these very serious public safety provisions even though no committee ever held a meeting about them. There was no scrutiny by any professional law enforcement personnel or restaurant owners, never any opportunity for public comment.

The language was added in a conference committee on the last day of the session -- a committee that met without posting any notices, in a room in the basement of the Capitol, without openness or oversight. And 60 percent of legislators voted for it two hours before the session ended on the most hectic and chaotic day, as the clock wound toward midnight and the end of the General Assembly for another year.

Currently, the Senate Firearms Law Study Committee is preparing to remove what is left of the “public gathering” section that the new law decimated -- making it possible for firearms to be carried in churches, in schools, on college campuses and in government-owned buildings. Their plan is to allow carrying concealed handguns anywhere, at any time, by anyone who can pass a fingerprint background check and pay the $15 application fee the state requires.

Does it make sense to do these things? Is there a public safety imperative that justifies these changes in the law? Can we trust a permit holder to shoot straight, know safety rules and practice emotional good judgment when no training is required to get a permit? Why do these kinds of crazy bills get passed?


Severe Poverty Hiding Behind the Brighter Headlines

By Carol Spruill

The Census Bureau recently announced the good news that the official poverty rate in 2007 was "not statistically different" from 2006.

But upon digging deeper into the Census Bureau’s full 71-page report the “not statistically different” poverty rate was an overall national increase from 12.3 percent to 12.5 percent. This meant that the number of additional people living on incomes below the poverty line in this country had increased in one year by over 800,000.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why North Carolina Needs A Pay Equity Study

By Polly Williams

The recent passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the U.S. House of Representatives has drawn national attention to the continuing disparity between women’s earnings and men’s. Equal pay for equal work is fair -- we all seem to agree on that -- yet women’s wages continue to lag behind. The gender gap has narrowed so that women now make 77 percent of what men do, yet even recent gains for women only appear because men’s average earnings rate went down.

Since our state government, with about 90,000 employees, is North Carolina’s largest employer, wage disparities between men and women are, or should be, of prime concern to legislators. Yet The Studies Act of 2008 failed to include the proposed Pay Equity Study Commission. The proposal would have resulted in a study of wage disparities by both gender and race. Four such proposals have been introduced in recent years, without result.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Art Drives the Vote in Missouri

By Sue McCollum

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a giant squid?

When you look up in the sky while driving Missouri’s highways during the next few weeks, don’t be surprised if you see something unusual. You won’t catch a glimpse of Superman, but you may encounter a giant squid brandishing gas pump nozzles like a six shooter, Captain America or a field of sunflowers--all super-sized images with one central message: to encourage Missourians to register and vote in this November’s election.

Featuring the work of eight contemporary artists, 70 billboards with the language, “Vote: Your Future Depends On It” and, began appearing across Missouri in the beginning of September. Look for the billboards on major highways across the state and in urban areas like Kansas City, Springfield, Cape Girardeau, Hannibal, St. Louis, Kirksville and Columbia. The billboards are sponsored by Art the Vote, an initiative of the Missouri Billboard Project, which is using art to inspire voter registration and voting in this November’s election.

The billboard images, sometimes subtle, sometimes provocative, reflect the artists’ thoughts on many of the key issues facing our state and nation, including fuel prices, the environment and the war. The billboards were created by seven nationally renowned artists and the winner of an Art the Vote online billboard competition. Four of the artists are Missourians--Tom Huck, Peregrine Honig, May Tveit and competition winner Karen Kay. The other artists, Annette Lemieux, Willie Cole, Mark Newport and Martha Rosler are known for their political artwork.

Like all art, the images on the billboards may receive mixed reviews. Some may like it. Some may not. But, whether you like the art or not, we all can agree on the importance of the billboard’s message and the artists’ desire to inspire young voters to register and vote this fall.


The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy

By Joan Lamunyon Sanford

Much has been said about 17 year-old Bristol Palin’s pregnancy and the so-called “right” decision she made to choose parenting over abortion. But we should remember that what is the right decision for Bristol may not be the right decision for all young women with an unplanned pregnancy.

Bristol is fortunate to have loving parents who support her decision, and all of our youth deserve the same. Loving parents who will support them in whatever decision they make. Sadly, this is not always true.