Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wyoming Education Association withdraws Balow endorsement

The Casper Star-Tribune reported this last night:
A political group representing Wyoming teachers announced Monday it has withdrawn support for GOP schools chief candidate Jillian Balow based on attacks she made against Democratic opponent Mike Ceballos in a campaign fundraising letter sent last month.  
On late Sunday afternoon, the Wyoming Education Association's Political Action Committee for Education, decided to pull its support of Balow, said Kathy Vetter, who is both president of the 6,000-member WEA and chairwoman of the PAC. The group is composed of WEA members who voluntarily donate to the PAC and make decisions on which candidates to support. 
The PAC had previously endorsed both candidates for superintendent of public instruction, Vetter said.
You can read Balow's fund-raising letter on the CST site. Its content won't be surprising to anyone familiar with Republican tactics in Wyoming. She links her Democratic opponent, Mike Ceballos, with unions and those liberals in Washington, D.C., such as Pres. Obama and education chief Arne Duncan  who "hand-picked" Ceballos to "federalize" education in Wyoming. Balow also asked for campaign contributions, which is what candidates do, but writes that she will need the money to blunt attacks by her liberal opponent. I've been campaigning for Ceballos and haven't seen any attack ads -- or attack letters -- from his team.  
As for his ties with all those wicked liberals inside the Beltway:
Ceballos has said the only people he knows in Washington are Wyoming’s all-Republican congressional delegation.
No surprise that our Repub trio in D.C. have all endorsed Balow and, by inference, her tactics. They've all used the "blame Obama for everything" approach in their own campaigns. They're reliably anti-union. This union member wonders why all of these inside the Beltway conservatives always take the side of corporate interests over those of working people such as teachers and state employees.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Another great reason to vote -- the future of mental health care

Voting on Nov. 4 is important for so many reasons. For us Democrats, it's an opportunity to get our message out and to elect progressives to our Republican-dominated legislature which, frankly, often appears as if it's lost its ever-lovin' mind. Right now, Democrats hold 14 of the 90 seats in this august body. We need new voices, ones that represent women, ethnic minorities, the LGBT community and a younger demographic. We have Democrats running in all of those categories this time. We need them in the legislature. We also have great candidates for governor (Pete Gosar) and superintendent of public instruction (Mike Ceballos). Social-justice advocate Charlie Hardy is running for U.S. Senate. Vote!

There are other good reasons for voting. It gets you out of the office for an hour or two -- if your employer deigns to have this benefit. You see old friends working the polls -- if you're a certain age (mine!). You get that nifty "I Voted" sticker for your shirt or blouse.

Here's another. Mental health care depends on voting for the best candidates.Those candidates are usually Democrats. Don't expect Republicans or Libertarians to give two shits about the mentally ill. What about Dems? Well, our country's mental health system is terrible. Blame Obama! He gets a sliver of the blame, but he also gets credit for the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity Act. Give some credit to George W. Bush for the latter. There are Republicans that have had mental health challenges and others who have mentally ill family members. But their ideology often gets in the way of logic and compassion. You need a structure to care for those who need it. That usually means gubment. Just saying "get over it" or "cowboy up" won't do it. Wishing it will go away doesn't cut it. It doesn't work for other threats, such as terrorists or Ebola or cat-five hurricanes. You need a sensible structure to deal with these threats.

Republicans have also worked overtime -- with their SCOTUS pals -- to disenfranchise voters. You can count the mentally ill in the category of marginalized citizens. Also include the poor, the undocumented, the elderly, those who speak English as a second language, etc.

And then there's the lack of Medicaid expansion, mostly in red states such as Wyoming.

Dania Douglas wrote this recent post for the NAMI blog. I decided to publish it intact on this blog. Call me lazy. Call me concerned. Just don't call me late for dinner.
Go Vote. Mental Health Care Depends On It
By Dania Douglas, NAMI State Advocacy Manager 
It’s that time of year when various colored signs start popping up on lawns and medians across the country. Going to the farmers markets or getting on and off public transportation most likely means you’re going to be handed a pamphlet of sort. In other words, it’s election season. Political advertisements fill the radio airwaves and newspapers are bursting with election-related articles. So what does any of it have to do with mental health? Each year elected officials make decisions related to health care, education, housing and employment that will directly impact the lives of people living with mental illness. Today’s candidates will become tomorrow’s elected officials, with the power to make important decisions. As voters concerned about mental health care, it is critical that we learn about issues, educate candidates about the importance of mental health, and use our votes to elect representatives that will help improve mental health care in this country.
Be Prepared
There are a few important steps you can take to make sure you’re ready for Election Day! Check to make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure you know where to go to cast your vote on Election Day as local polling places can change. Make sure your voter ID is up to date.
Get to Know the Candidates
Do your homework. Listen to what candidates are saying about mental health. Better yet, ask questions. If you feel that candidates are not addressing important issues contact their campaign. Ask them about the issues that are most important to you. If you don’t know where to start, check out our materials for sample questions. Be ready to educate the candidates, to dispel myths or stereotypes, and to explain why mental health issues are so important. If you have a chance tomeet with your candidate in person, take advantage of that opportunity. If not, email, call or write. Visit NAMI’s website for more important tips on talking with candidates.
Know Your Rights
Voting is a Constitutional right and the foundation of our democracy. People with mental illness should have full and equal access to polling places. Unfortunately, misinformation and misunderstanding about mental illness can lead to discrimination. However, there are numerousfederal laws that help safeguard your right to vote. Learning about these laws can help you make sure your rights are protected. Voters with mental illness also have the right to have assistance on voting day. If you need assistance with voting, federal law gives you the right to choose the person, such as a friend or family member, who will help you cast your ballot. In some states, people can be disqualified from voting if they have a guardian or have been declared incapacitated by a court of law. NAMI has created a guide to state laws that affect the voting rights of people with mental illness.
Election Day, Go Vote!
Nov. 4, 2014 is Election Day. Make sure you show up to the polls or find out how to cast an absentee ballot. Every vote counts. Your vote is your voice. Use it to tell candidates that mental health care matters!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

For Democrat Charlie Hardy -- Have lights, will travel


Wyoming Democrat Charlie Hardy doesn't have the funds for fancy billboards, be they old-fashioned variety or the new e-versions. However, he does have some old stage lights and a "Charlie Hardy for U.S. Senate" template. He takes his jerry-rigged projection system around Wyoming on a refurbished 1960 city bus festooned with campaign signs. He projects his electioneering slogan and the simple "Vote!" on the sides of buildings around the state. His favorite screen is the front of Wal-Mart stores, when he can find one.

The projection medium above is one of the many excellent outdoor murals in Laramie, where Charlie and his red-white-and-blue bus prowled last weekend during University of Wyoming's homecoming weekend. When he's not campaigning, he parks the bus in the corner of the most visible intersections in his hometown of Cheyenne.

Charlie is an ex-priest. He ministered to flocks throughout Wyoming then, from 1985-1993, he ministered in poverty-stricken areas in South America. He lived for most of those eight years in a pressed-cardboard-and-tin shack in a barrio on the edge of Caracas, Venezuela.

Charlie's opponent in the U.S. Senate race is incumbent Republican Mike Enzi. He's a kindly gentleman, an indie businessman, a dedicated reader and long-time arts supporter. Problem is, he votes with the right-wing loonies 98 percent of the time. He has to go.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Don't miss Wyoming author Mark Spragg this Friday at Booklovers' Bash


Plan to attend the Booklovers’ Bash, the primary annual fund-raiser for the Laramie County Library Foundation, on Friday, October 24, 6 p.m., at Little America Hotel & Resort in Cheyenne. Featured speaker this year will be well-known author Mark Spragg.
Mark Spragg grew up working on Wyoming’s oldest dude ranch just east of Yellowstone National Park and is a graduate of the University of Wyoming.  His memoir, Where Rivers Change Direction, won the Mountains & Plains Book award for nonfiction in 2000.  He is also the author of the novels The Fruit of StoneAn Unfinished Life and Bone Fire. All four were top-ten Book Sense selections and have been translated into fifteen languages. An Unfinished Life was made into a major motion picture starring Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman in 2005. Spragg and his wife Virginia co-wrote the screenplay. The couple live in Cody, Wyoming.
There will be silent and live auction items.Tickets must be purchased in advance. Call 307.773.7221 for more information. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wyoming Liberty Group threatens state retirement plans

A big thanks to Patrick Crank for his fiery op-ed in Saturday's Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, "Liberty Group threatens state retirement plans."

Crank, a local attorney and former attorney general of Wyoming, attended the Wyoming Liberty Group's "Pension Reform Summit" Oct. 6 in Cheyenne. In case you don't know, the Liberty Group is a right-wing fringe organization funded by ultra-conservative Texas gazillionaire Susan Gore. Its sole purpose, it seems, is to destroy the state's excellent retirement system to further marginalize the state's workers.

About 25 firefighters covered by the state retirement plan showed up at this so-called summit. They were denied entrance. Crank and one other retired firefighter finally were allowed to observe the meeting. Keynote speaker was State Rep. Donald Burkhart (R-Rawlins). Rep. Burkhart has a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and was selected by the speaker of the house to serve as liaison to the Wyoming Retirement Board.

He was joined at the summit by a batch of Republican lawmakers. Two of them are legislative liaisons to the Retirement Board: Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) and Rep. Mike Madden (R-Buffalo), The others were Republican representatives Sue Wilson of Cheyenne and Marti Halverson of Etna and Republican senator Cale Case of Lander. Not sure where the Democrats were, especially those from Laramie County, home to a majority of state workers. Perhaps their invitations were lost in the mail.

Who else was at the meeting?
Other than these legislators, virtually everyone else at the meeting appeared to be either Liberty Group staff and members and paid out-of-state lobbyists.
This is a key element of the Liberty Group -- its funded by out-of-state money, run by out-of-staters and it employs out-of-state lobbyists in an attempt to destroy Wyoming's excellent retirement system. One has to wonder why all of these people from Texas and Colorado and elsewhere don't have something else to do, such as foreclosing on widows and gaming the stock market. They're doing that too. I'm just surprised that they have time for little ol' Wyoming retirees.

Patrick Crank wonders about that too:
Why are ultra-rich right-wing groups, financed by multi-billionaires, attacking our ability to have a reasonable income during our golden years? 
Why are they attacking our children's ability to obtain a reasonable retirement plan for their years of work yet to come?
We also have to wonder why so many of our Republican legislators are eager to sign on to the Liberty Group/Susan Gore agenda? Yes, they hate gubment and think state employees such as myself are bums. These right-wingers are angry as hell and aren't going to take it anymore. Just why they are angry when they seem to have it all is another question entirely.

Republican-dominated and sparsely-populated Wyoming must seem like a juicy test case for these out-of-state interests. They may look at us as some sort of backwater that can be turned into a colony for oligarchs served by an army of compliant serfs who get paid peanuts and go into their golden years without a farthing. We are, after all, the state with the highest number of billionaires per capita. Hey, it's only six, but all of their pals are looking to the future to see how subservient they can make the population, how compliant they can make our Republican-dominated legislature.

Crank wrapped up his op-ed succinctly:
It is wrong that ultra-right-wing millionaires, with the assistance of elected representatives like Mr. Burkhart, have chose to attack this benefit of work life that has served the United States well for the last century.
It is wrong.

Time to talk to your legislator about this issue. BTW, Rep. Burkhart's e-mail is Donald.Burkhart@wyoleg.gov. You can find more e-mails and phone numbers of legislators at Wyoming LegisWeb.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Campaigning for Mike in Cheyenne

Walked neighborhoods for Mike Ceballos this afternoon. Mike is the Democratic Party candidate for superintendent of public instruction. A fine candidate, as I told anyone who was home and not off at the UW homecoming game in Laramie. People tend to be friendly in Cheyenne, even when you're coming to their door and possibly disrupting the arc of an Indian Summer Saturday afternoon. I kept thinking: Why am I not in my backyard, sitting in an easy chair under the shade of my big elm, reading a good book, golden leaves falling around my shoulders? But here I was, knocking on doors, talking to people, and strolling down quiet streets.

The Ceballos campaign will be busy from now until election day. Some TV ads, and some GOTV events are planned. His Republican opponent has been running attack ads on TV and radio. She must be getting desperate.

Check out Mike's web site for more info.

And remember to vote on Nov. 4. You can vote early, too.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday round-up: Heating up -- Political races & Cheyenne's downtown

Newspapers and online sources seem to agree that the Wyoming political races are heating up. This week, Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Pete Gosar went on the offensive against Matt Mead at the debate. And Democrat Mike Ceballos and Republican Jillian Barlow went at it regarding some critical social media comments. At this point, three weeks and two days away from election day, races should be heating up. Facebook may be the best way to follow Pete and Mike's campaigns. As for the debates, Wyoming PBS will simulcast those this week and stream them online. Get more info here.

The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle punctuated its week-long series about Cheyenne's downtown with its lead editorial this morning, "DDA must focus on the essentials." I knew it was important due to the very large headline. Downtown way be the most important issue Cheyenne faces. As downtown goes, so goes the city. I agree that all of the entities involved need to do this: "Time, energy and money must be targeted, not shotgunned out in hope that something good will happen."

Speaking of downtown... My work colleague, artist Camellia El-Antably, and artist and educator Mark Vinich, staged a "soft" opening of their new gallery space on Thursday during Art Design & Dine. Called Clay Paper Scissors Gallery & Studio, these artrepreneurs have created a striking, well-lighted space geared to featuring regional artists. Go by and see the new space at 1513 Carey Avenue. See for yourself how downtown can become a more vital and artful place.

A reminder that Democrats are holding a FUNdraiser today from 2-4 p.m. at Joe's house, 3626 Dover Rd. If you truly want to see the campaigns heat up, come on by, meet the candidates, contribute to the cause and eat some scrumptious desserts, such as Mike and Jeran's homemade pumpkin cheeesecake.