The sad reality about poverty in our country is the most disturbing remnant left behind by Katrina. Hurricane predictions stated that over 100,000 people would be unable to leave New Orleans because they would not have the means to do so. Yesterday on a conservative radio show, I heard a caller say the government is not responsible for helping the impoverished people now dislocated by the devastation. He said the government has been hurting those people for years by giving them hand-outs. I was absolutely outraged by the detached attitude of the man and the agreement from the show's host. Their ideologies blind their compassion, and more seriously, blind them from acknowledging the basic realities of poverty and its causes.
There are a lot of fingers that can be pointed as to what led to New Orleans becoming a No Man's Land. New Orleans's Mayor has the right to be so enraged by the slow government response time that he is now swearing in interviews. I have been watching a lot of the news coverage and I think the press is doing a pretty good job so far of raising questions about preparedness and the President's reaction. I suspect these events will further hurt his approval rating.
But as Democrats we must not exert all our energy on the preparedness mistakes of our opponents. We are Democrats because fundamentally we believe all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The basic necessity of "life" has been trampled upon, and the stampede started long before Katrina made landfall.
Our job as Democrats, the Party of Progress and the Party of the People, is to work for a better future for all Americans. Our job is to provide hope and empowerment for the poor so that together we give everyone the means of getting themselves out of harms way when their lives are threatened. The poor of the South have been denied the right to life and their futures hang in the balance. Saving their lives goes beyond airlifting them off roofs. We cannot leave them to wonder Texas, spirits broken by being treated as second-class citizens by their government's relief efforts.
This is our chance to convince Americans that poverty is a real issue, impacting real families, and that poverty is a cage that traps Americans not only from finding confidence and hope, but from being able to save their children from a forecasted disaster.
I encourage everyone to write letters to the editor of your papers, not simply attacking President Bush, but encouraging social change that can prevent so many people from falling into poverty. President Clinton says 30 percent of New Orleans's population was below the poverty line. This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report on poverty, and the numbers are growing. You can find more information on report in the Talking Points section of this site or by checking out this article.
Remember why we are Democrats. We believe in the basic rights of every person as designed by our Creator and laid out by our Founding Fathers. As Americans we believe in helping families victimized by circumstances, whether they were working in the World Trade Center or living in a bayou in Louisiana.
Gas prices are driving heavy discontent both in Nebraska and across the county. We don't know how far down the road it will be before prices become stable and come back down to earth. It's nice to know that local Democrats are working diligently to find ways to make sure we don't go down this path again.
State Senator Matt Connealy's plan for an ethanol mandate was front and center in the Omaha World Herald Thursday. Requiring 10 percent ethanol in all gasoline sold in Nebraska could save folks as much as 8 cents a gallon, not to mention a long list of additional benefits. Check out the article for all the details.
Blogging from DC, where I've been meeting with national Democratic leaders and organizations in preparation for what promises to be an exciting 2006 election cycle.
The DNC remains committed to its state party partnership program, and were thrilled to see how extensive and far reaching our "93 County Strategy" has developed. In fact, after some cajoling, i'm happy to report that the NDP will be hosting some DNC officials at our State Central Committee meeting in Scottsbluff. The DNC's National Training Director and their Regional Political Director (my former colleague who orchestrated a wholesale Democratic takeover in Montana in 2004) will attend our meetings and events in late September, in additon to conducting the training at our NDP Grassroots Academy from 1:30 -- 5. Stay tuned for more information about the training and the Gathering on the Great Plains event that evening.
I also met with the Devorah Adler, the DNC's Research Director (and my former Research Director in 2002) who agreed to come to Nebraska late in the year to extensively brief all of our candidates, party officials and activists on the issues that will dominate the 2006 elections.
I've also had meetings with the Democratic Governors' Association, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in order to lay the groundwork -- early -- for the Victory 2006 Coordinated Campaign.
Literally minutes after I left the DNC yesterday, Governor Dean called an emergency DNC conference call to announce that he was postponing our Fall Meeting scheduled to take place next weekend in Phoenix. Amidst our nation's worst ever natural disaster and the Republicans spending millions on ads encouraging Congress to repeal the "Estate Tax", Governor Dean rightfully thinks it would be inappropriate to hold a political meeting when so many of our brothers and sisters in the Gulf States are in need. I was in Senator Nelson's office yesterday and ran into his Deputy Press Secretary, Jena Longo, who had literally just arrived back in DC after a harrowing three days riding out the storm and the floods in New Orleans, her home town. I cannot begin to describe to you the genuine fear and concern on her face as I spoke to her about her family, and her story of survival in the hotel directly adjacent to the NO Convention Center (now a morgue for thousands).
I'll be back in Nebraska next week after what I think has been a very busy and productive trip. Until then, please don't hesitate to contact me or comment here if I can be of assistance, and say a prayer for our fellow Americans in the Gulf (both Gulfs).
The following post was sent to me by Lee Clausen from the State Fair Booth:
The Nebraska Democratic Party booth at the State Fair has been really active the past couple of days. So many Democrats have come by to have their voices be heard and are looking forward to giving feedback on the Nebraska Democratic Party Memo about the 93-County Plan.
It is great to hear the voices supporting Sen. Nelson's willingness to reach across party lines to get things done. A number of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents have said that they admire the way Sen. Nelson took the lead, in a bold and decisive manner, to avoid partisan squabbling on judicial nominations.
The response has been amazing for local candidates and office holders as well. Yesterday, a U.S. Air Force Lt., said that he admired Sen. Abbie Cornett's work in Bellevue to help military families living off-base to get the support and resources they need from state government.
Everyone is really excited about the candidates, especially our Congressional candidates of Scott Kleeb in C.D. 3 and Jim Esch in C.D. 2. A Buffalo County Dem was glad to see Scott at a recent meeting and to see that he is working hard across Nebraska to build the Nebraska Democratic Party. Jim Esch economic development credentials have really gotten people talking.
Everyone who has stopped by has stressed the importance of and the admiration of the Nebraska Demcoratic Party to work hard for working families by spreading a message of quality jobs, quality health care, and quality retirement savings and social security benefits for our seniors.
As one senior citizen, who was a very friendly elderly lady pointed out, "Make sure the Nebraska Democrats tell Pres. Bush to keep his damn hands off my social security". She didn't want to be rude, but she said that she felt very strongly about that.
The State Fair continues through 6pm on Labor Day, September 5, 2005.
For the last few days, I have been mesmerized by the incredible video coming out of the South. When I see thousands of homes buried by water, it's hard to believe that two days ago families were living in those structures. So far 68 people are dead. I just learned on the news that New Orleans is being completely evacuated because water levels keep rising. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced.
Even though the loss felt by Katrina is so immense, it is still inspiring to see the men and women hard at work rescuing those trapped in their homes. And don't forget the volunteers helping to feed and shelter the families who now have nothing but each other. Check out the latest news updates and if you feel so inclined, here is a link to a list of legitimate organizations taking donations to help support the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The American Red Cross is as usual at the top of the list.
These are the times we must remember that our community is more then just the neighborhood we live in. Our community includes our brothers and sisters in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi who no longer have a neighborhood to return to. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the emergency personnel, and the volunteers as they continue to battle the remains of the most costly natural disaster in American history.
Fellow Democrats --
Yesterday, we received the unfortunate news that our friend, Sonny Foster, passed away. Sonny served as Senator Ben Nelson's Omaha District Director, and as his campaign manager for his two gubernatorial campaigns.
Since arriving in Nebraska, Sonny has been a personal mentor to me. His sage advice on numerous issues, as well as his institutional knowledge was a trememdous resource. Recently, he was instrumental in helping to create what is now the Nebraska Democratic Black Caucus. He truly took me and our entire staff under his wing, and I can't begin to tell you how shocking and saddened we are.
My greatest memory of Sonny will be his positive outlook on life and his infectious smile. He spent his entire life trying to make the world a better place for all of us -- not just Democrats or Republicans -- but all of us. Nebraska has lost a true champion.
UPDATE Sonny's service will be on Monday, August 29, 2005 at 1pm at the Salem Baptist Church, 3131 Lake Street, Omaha, NE. Sonny's cousin, Bishop Lance Foster will officiate.
Senator Nelson was a hit at the Arrows to Aerospace Parade in Bellevue this weekend.
Barry, Ian, and I were among about 20 volunteers who joined the Senator to walk the parade route. I kept busy running between folks who wanted to get their hands on Senator Nelson stickers. Barry brought his son along, and the little guy loved throwing candy to the crowd.
The warm welcoming from the folks in Bellevue was encouraging to all of us. It was the first parade for Congressional candidate Jim Esch. He had a great time interacting with the crowd and looks forward to the many public appearances he will be making in the future.
Everyone walking with the Senator wore buttons in memory of the Senator's close friend and advisor, Sonny Foster. When the parade was over, Senator Nelson told all the volunteers, "This was for Sonny."
Last night, Omaha attorney Chris Jerram was elected as the new Chair of the Douglas County Democrats. Chris has been a great friend of the Democratic party locally and on the state level, and we're looking forward to working with him to move the county party forward.
Make sure to check out our Event Center for information regarding the Douglas County Party's "Fall Frolic" on September 29th, featuring the Nebraska Wine Festival. Congratulations, Chris!