Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Insider Perspective of the Utah Caucus System

Count My Vote Caucus Meeting Utah
There is a tremendous amount of debate in Utah about the "Count My Vote" initiative that seeks to eliminate the need for neighborhood caucus meetings and move towards direct primaries.  Supporters of the caucus system will argue this removes real choice and discussion from the voter because now "big name ID" and "big money" can buy the election from uninformed voters.  Count My Voter supports argue a small group of delegates can't represent their neighborhoods affectively.  I am here to give you personal experience as a delegate recruiter, trainer and converter and in my experience how big money is no different, if not worse in the caucus system.

For some quick background: I have been a state delegate, county delegate, and caucus chair.  I have believed in this system because I have seen it work in my favor in the past.  I am not a career political operative; however, I have worked or consulted on a number of political campaigns since 2000 in various roles from volunteer to full time staffer.  Two of these campaigns would be considered major political campaigns.  In the campaign I am about to share with you I was hired as the Statewide Advance Team Director.  Now I will preface my experience with the opinion that this candidate was and is an amazing person and I would say the most honest and hardworking candidate I have ever seen.  Needless to say, we played the delegate game like everyone else.

Dan Liljenquist State Delegate Training DocumentDuring this campaign I really had two jobs, one was to organize events for the candidate and prepare the venues before the candidate arrived.  My second job was related to delegates.  Every week for months prior to the neighborhood caucus meetings I would recruit as many people to attend delegate trainings.  Every candidate holds these trainings and it is considered Utah Politics 101.  Some of these meetings would be filled with food, drink and always printed instructions on how to go to your caucus meeting and get elected as a State Delegate.  Lots of time and money is spent in organizing these events.  Invitations are made, people are called, locations reserved, instructions printed, and food is often provided.  Each staffer on the campaign had a quota of delegates they needed to bring to the convention, but we all worked as a team to recruit and convert. 

You see the life of a delegate is fun.  One of the big selling points for us in our delegate recruitment was the power to make decisions in the political process, the second selling point was the royal treatment you would receive.  Candidates we will wine and dine you to get you to vote for them.  

As part of our recruitment process we often looked for the following type of people because of their ease in getting elected: young, college bound, first time caucus attendees and the innocence of no political agenda. In fact you were instructed to never give your full allegiance to any candidate in the meeting (though secretly you had been recruited and essentially paid off with glory and promises of free food, t-shirts galore) and make sure to tell them how you look forward to voting with what the neighborhood wants.  You were instructed to bring as many of your friends as you can to vote for you and if possible rehearse the nomination process.

This process is still in affect today as you can see from the previous senate races.  Interesting to note that Dan Liljenquist didn't even get elected as a state delegate in his own caucus meeting.  Why?  Senator Hatch has way more experience (and money) in recruiting delegates for caucus meetings.  They were well trained to take Dan out.  

Having attended dozens of these meetings, I can tell you these delegates rarely get out and talk to their neighbors.  Many never return and report, some will never return to another caucus meeting once their candidate has been elected.  Some delegates may return, but it is rare.  Of all the delegates I recruited none of them returned to their caucus meetings.  Most of these delegates would report to me after their election and tell me how their caucus meeting went and how they were able to get elected easily by following our simple instructions.

Once the caucus meetings were over, I then moved into Delegate Conversion mode.  Campaigns will then spend every penny possible visiting delegates and treating them to meetings, dinners, and speaking events.  Some events took place at nice restaurants others in the homes of delegate supporters.  Part of my job was to organize meals, t-shirts, invitations, and donations for all these delegates.  Essentially buying their vote through food and prizes mingled with education of the issues.  Seasoned delegates new this process well, they would milk it for every penny.  Some asked for extra food, additional drinks and would even hold you hostage if they didn't get the right t-shirt size or their steak cooked medium rare.

After a few months of delegate missionary work we moved our efforts to the convention.  The plans for the state convention go back all the way to delegate trainings.  Our booths are chosen and paid for with big bucks because one must pay to play in the world of politics.  Then marketing firms are hired to design and plan the perfect booth.  Our campaign spared no expense on food and brochures, since we were going up against people with bigger name ID and way more money.  Our plan was to have chocolate chip cookies baking while people came in so they would connect the smell of home baked cookies with our candidate.  However convention rules required us to use the food services of the convention center.  Being the Advance Team Director, I was tasked with the duty of solving this problem.  I called the food services director and asked them how much a cookie cost on their menu, we then agreed we would purchase a cookie for every cookie we gave away if they allowed me to bring my own (the same went for the milk that was donated by a local dairy).  They agreed to the deal since this wasn't about their food and more about big money. 

The day of convention delegates act like it is Black Friday.  They go booth to booth scooping up hats, t-shirts, bags, food and more.  People visit the candidates they hate simply to get their swag.  You can see them walking around like tourists returning from a hard day at Disneyland.  Covered in buttons, stickers and literature, many waddle around talking to candidates not even in their district to pick up their prizes.  Some will be in the main hall debating rules and procedures but the rest will play their candidate bingo card and get all they can.  Many campaigns will setup a private room for their staffers and candidate to sit and relax; in addition, special delegates and donors are invited to come and partake of the free food that will be in there.  This particular time we had a chocolate fountain (back when they were a novelty and not a household appliance) and we were told to invite special delegates who were 100% confirmed to swing by for a quick snack if needed (this usually meant they were donors as well).

Now this process may have changed a little, but having attended all my caucus meetings since this time and many before (note this will be the first I will miss in many years) I will say the process has not changed much.  Remember I had one of the more conservative and I would say the most honest candidate in this race.  So imagine what the rest were doing.  Currently special interest groups are now more involved and they will also train and push for delegates related to their cause as well.  Banks and Credit Unions are the most famous for this as of late. 

In defense of the system, it is wonderful to get together with your neighbors and discuss politics and the future of our state and country.  However in my opinion, nearly everyone who comes to these meetings has a secret agenda of who they want to vote for and who campaigns have trained them to vote for.  

So if you think this is a fair representation of your neighborhood and you don't mind these delegates will essentially be trained operatives for the candidate, bought and paid for--then the caucus system is for you.  If you think otherwise of the caucus system, you're naive at best. Direct primaries will in reality cost the candidates more money since you no longer have to focus your time on a select group of 4000 people but instead on a much larger group.  But from my insider perspective, big money and big name ID affects the caucus system even more when it is limited to small group of people.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

More Waste In Utah - Senator Aaron Osmond's Pledge of Allegiance Bill

This year is starting out to be a great year for Utah waste, with wasted textbooks, trashed school lunches and now my favorite message bills. In 2010 I posted about the 27 lengthy steps on how a bill becomes a law.  Feel free to go back and review it if needed, since it shows the long process and cost involved with making a bill and passing a law in Utah.

This year Senator Aaron Osmond, out of complete bordem with his chair position on the Economic Development and Workforce committee, has had decided that we need to remove the comma in the pledge of allegiance.  SCR 01 in all it's glory is bound on wasting our short legislative session in all it's glory debating this hot topic.

Oh and yes it was debated, while your child choked to death on toxic air in downtown SLC, your senator was debating a joint resolution on commas.  Essentially the pause just before the word "under God" is just too much.  So to celebrate those words and their 60 years of controversy we are now wasting our time discussing how they should be said--with or without a comma.

This continued waste frustrates me to no end.  In a few short weeks the legislature will close for the year and any bill that isn't debated will miss out.  Things like discrimination, pollution and education spending are put on hold for Aaron Osmond and his desire to get his name in the paper.  Well Mr. Glory Hound Osmond, Fox 13 has done a story for you, Aunt Marie and Uncle Donny would be proud of ya!

When can we stop this waste and get back serious issues.  See my previous posts on waste and message bills by former Rep Wimmer.

Comments on Waste Welcome.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Has Dixie State University's Website Been Hacked?

As my Alma Mater pushes forward for a new university president, they are advertising on Facebook and other areas to encourage public participation in the new selection process.  Today I noticed that their link to Dixie.edu has an interesting description:

Actual Screen Capture from Facebook - 
I guess the President Requirements include Kamagra use?
I think their website code has some problems...don't you?  I have sent this on to them, but I think it is funny enough to post about it.

Using your standard view code option in my web browser I found this code in the dixie.edu news page. http://dixie.edu/news/news.php?id=1259

Not Good...someone hacked their code?

Friday, February 7, 2014

More Wasted Money in Utah Schools - Canyon School District Shelves New Books.

Columnist Paul Rolly today pointed in his column that Canyon School District just blew thousands of dollars in new text books for the 2014-2015 year.  How did they waste all this money?  Well apparently know one reviewed the new health textbooks when they were purchased and when they arrived they contained questionable material.  Weird since these were "Custom Canyon School District Editions."

More wasted money on this book
No one read me before buying me!
What questionable material was inside these books.  Apparently the books talk about STD's in a way that is against Utah Law and District Policy.  Yeah, you heard that correctly.  The district purchased text books that violates their own policies and state law.  Regardless if you agree with the law or not; who ever is in charge of curriculum and purchasing over there is clueless to what they are doing. Oh and remember, they asked for a special edit.

So the solution!  Cut the pages out!  Yeah totally destroy any chance of resell or return; just rip those pages out.  Well these were custom editions so who knows if we could have sold them.

But then when the teachers reviewed it again...they hated that the summary was still in there about sexual orientation and practicing safe sex, etc.  So the end solution...shelve the books.  Word is maybe the will use them in the next year instead of 2014-2015; but I doubt they will ever be used.

According to the FCC report on textbooks and ebooks, Schools spend nearly $8 billion a year and average $250 to $1000 per student. Sounds like Canyon just blew a big chunk of change.

This coupled with the school lunch scandal, worries me who is running these schools.

We might as well just through cash in the trash along with little kids school lunches.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Update on The Lunch Room Scandal at Uintah Elementary

Screw Nutritional Guidelines for
Students, you ain't eatin'
As a follow up to the overreaching Godfather like powers the Nutrition Office has at the Salt Lake City School District (which we posted about last week), the School Board held their public meeting yesterday to discuss the bullying of 40 kids into coughing up lunch money.  The Salt Lake Tribune gave us a nice breakdown of this breakdown in basic department management.

According to Kelly Orton, the Nutrition Department Director, the district switched to a new billing system since, "it was difficult to get info from the old system and the new system is better at keeping costs down and is faster in processing payments."  Well apparently not!  We can't even get a list of who hasn't paid without giving the kids a lunch and then throwing it away.   The sunk costs in the negative publicity alone makes the old system sound like a Retina Macbook Air.  Not to mention they have now admitted many parents did not receive notices that they were even in the negative.  The old system had automatic email alerts for parents; apparently the new system didn't automatically transfer these settings and parents had to go in and setup e-alerts again.  Mr. Orton admittedly said, "the new system requires more effort to set that [e-alerts] up -- something of which parents were not aware."  In addition they now know many parents were not alerted or not properly alerted in the first place.  Most likely they failed to pin the bill to the kids shirt when they went home and mark them with a "Scarlet N" for negative.

Who created this system?  Seriously!  One of the first questions I would have asked when evaluating new software would have been, "Can we print a list of students who need to pay?"

if they don't take the kids lunch, 
they will be fired!
It also appears school nutrition officers are given absolute power to make discussions in the school since the principle wasn't even consulted on the decision to send kids to debtors prison with milk and an apple.  School Board members Michael Clara and Rosemary Emery cite a history of bullying from the school district to adhere to their evil commands which has lead us to this horrible event.  

Either they obey the Godfather or pay the price and I think this issue should go all the way to the top starting with the Superintendent and then the Nutrition Director.  They run their departments and they need to know what is going on in the field instead of playing candy crush behind doors.  Someone has given these orders to the foot solders to act this way.  I would expect more heads to roll on this national issue.

Monday, February 3, 2014

El Salvador Presidential Election Results

In what was considered a peaceful election, the El Salvadoran people have come out in full force.  With an estimated 44% voter turnout the polls opened early on Sunday morning and went until 5 pm.  The final results show neither candidate earned the required 50% + 1% needed to take the presidency and so the top two candidates will move to second election in March.

As you can see above, FMLN came in with 48.92% giving a 10 point lead on ARENA.  This data holds true to the national polls that were done over the past two months and shows the country is leaning heavily towards FMLN.  Tony Saca, the real loser in this first round, now has the deciding power to endorse a candidate and push a large portion of his votes to one candidate or the other.

More importantly for this country was the dramatic changes in how the elections were controlled through media and technology.  The results were being tallied in real time on the election website and there was live coverage of polling locations and candid interview with top party officials.    Though it was no Tim Russert,  it was amazing to see the process unfold as this country pushed for democracy. A promise to have results up by 10 pm held true and brought a strong sense of legitimacy to the election and voting process.  I was impressed to see the country move towards these improvements to get information to the people.

The uphill battle of winning 10% more will be difficult for ARENA,  looking over all the 15 departments (aka states) ARENA only wins one - CabaƱas.  This isn't good news for Quijano because this department is the smallest populated and one of the most impoverished.  Not to mention it is in one of the highest, coldest areas of the country.  Makes you wonder if they were the only ones who didn't know 100% what was going on.  ARENA will need to work no stop to win UNIDAD votes and turn this election, with FMLN winning 14 out 15 Departments many with a 10 point margin, this election is all but over before it starts.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The "Ley Seca" of El Salvador aka Election Prohibition

As El Salvador heads into the craziness of election weekend, the citizens are preparing to vote for their favorite candidate. The previous election boosted the power of social media; however this time more citizens have been able to tune into their first televised presidential debate as well as countless YouTube videos and more, creating more informed citizens. Since I work mostly with college students and more of the middle to upper class of El Salvador the overall feeling is none of the candidates really know what they are doing.  Head over to Tim's El Salvador Blog and read the document posted on the breakdown of the debate for the upcoming elections.  This will help you to see what I am talking about.  Outside of the city the talking points can easily get lost.  Have no fear if you are unsure who to vote for, the Ley Seca is here to help you make a smart decision.

Courtesy of Elsalvador.com
El Salvador has a Prohibition on Alcohol during all elections lasting from Midnight Saturday morning to Monday. This interesting law essentially means the following:

  1. No one can sell or distribute any alcoholic drinks during the black out period.  The also they all must be covered up or moved from their location.  Makes the Zion Curtain of Utah sound great huh?
  2. If you are drunk you can not vote, and you will be given a fine.
  3. If you are caught selling alcohol you will be fined or if you continue to do so after being fined you can have your business sanctioned or shut down.
  4. If you are throwing your own party, police can intervene and confiscate any open alcohol.  No fines will be charged.

Fines range from $111 to $1,150 US dollars.  So if you are planning on drinking to celebrate or to just watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, do it at home and be quiet!  The idea is to avoid any drunken public protests or violence and to make sure everyone is sober upon voting.  Looking at the candidates and watching the debate many El Salvadorans have told me they wish they could be drunk when they vote.