InterfaceFLOR and A Community Voice Canvass in the Lower 9th

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Vanessa Gueringer directing InterfaceFlor volunteers

New Orleans It often takes a village and the good will of many people continues to overwhelm in the rebuilding and recovery of New Orleans. A chance connection of old friends and schoolmates from Canada (thanks, Judy Duncan of ACORN Canada) led Nadine Gutz, the Sustainability Director for InterfaceFLOR, a top of the line, environmentally sensitive carpet company, to me. It was an easy problem to solve. The annual sales meeting for more than 200 of their people was being held in New Orleans, and they wanted to lend a hand.

Several weeks later, 30 of their staff teamed up with A Community Voice leaders like Vanessa Gueringer and Franzella Johnson to fan out throughout the still devastated, and now iconic, Lower 9th Ward to knock on doors rather than knocking down doors. This was rebuilding with a message. InterfaceFLOR and A Community Voice were spreading the news about a program they had managed to reinvigorate for youth this coming summer in the Lower 9th for the first time since Katrina more than 5 years ago.

Everyone is happy after a good afternoon on the doors --
Everyone is happy after a good afternoon on the doors --

Working out of a church center on St. Claude, the folks from all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico it seems, were jazzed as they came in and dropped off the interest petitions from people who wanted to participate and enroll in the program. Rather than just squinting through tinted windows of a tour bus, they had gone two-by-two up and down the blocks of the Lower 9th spreading the word, Paul Revere style, with some good news for people.

  Franzella Johnson of ACV picking up the interest sheets
Franzella Johnson of ACV picking up the interest sheets

Thanks to InterfaceFLOR and A Community Voice – every little bit still matters, and it’s good to feel the love!

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Qualifying Parties via Internet

digital-signingNew Orleans In a piece about the feinting being done by billionaire NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Matt Bai in the New York Times correctly pointed out that not only money but “ballot access” was a huge impediment to alternative political parties and candidacies.  A throwaway comment though got me thinking when he mentioned that qualifying such efforts would be easier in the internet age because “…signature-gathering…is far easier to organize now, through online communities….”  Bai is simply talking theoretically about organizing efficiencies here, but what hit me like a brick was whether or not it was legal now – or would soon be legal – to actually qualify such petitions through direct internet signature gathering, which would be a revolutionary breakthrough.

I don’t fully know the answer about what might be possible now, though my friends at Google pretty quickly revved up their search engines and allowed me to piece together enough in a sideways fashion to determine that internet petition gathering is already legal in California in seems and at least Utah for a certainty.  I don’t normally associate Utah with progressive breakthroughs, so I would not be surprised to hear that other states (I would almost bet on Washington and Oregon for examples) have also joined the 21st century and allowed internet signature gathering to legally qualify candidates and parties.

I have sent a couple of emails out to colleagues who are mega-domes in this area since surely they would already know where this can be legally done, and when I hear, I will definitely share the news.  Whether just these two or another dozen, more interestingly it seems inevitable that within a couple of years or at most a decade, one could qualify alternative parties successfully on a state by state basis via the internet at a fraction off the cost thereby making alternative parties accessible in a way that has not been allowable since the 1890’s when the two-party stranglehold became embedded in law in one state legislature after another.

Visionary thinkers in political strategy and tactics, particularly among progressives, would do well to start tilling these vineyards.  This could be big and a total game changer!  This is a political forward pass in a landscape dominated by three yards, a cloud of dust, and a rock pile of money:  parties, programs, and candidates get ready to step up.

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