Chris Hardie

Blog, Tech, Business and Community Building

politics

November 13, 2013

On the healthcare.gov rollout failures

Low DangerThere's already been much armchair quarterbacking of the botched rollout of healthcare.gov, so I doubt I have much new to add to the mix.  But as someone who's led or programmed the creation of web tools for much of my professional life, I can't help but share a few observations:

First, I must give thanks that whatever times in my work I thought I've had a client who was difficult to work with or a painful "design by committee" situation that was getting out of hand, at least I've never been hauled before a Congressional Oversight Committee to answer questions from bureaucrats about the intricate details of website development. NIGHTMARE. However badly they may have messed up, I still feel a little bit sorry for the people who now have to go through that grilling.

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September 20, 2013

RP&L misses opportunity to engage on energy policy

EnergyIn a guest column in today's Palladium-Item, Richmond Power and Light missed an opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion about the future of energy and power generation in our region.   Instead, General Manager James French took the unfortunate approach of appealing to ratepayer fears about increased energy costs or drastic lifestyle changes, and the politicization of U.S. energy policy.

If President Obama’s plan is enacted, every flick of a light switch, every running of an air conditioner and every spin of your dryer will cost you more and at the expense of manufacturing jobs in the United States.  Consumers will be faced with either paying more for their bill or doing without several of their everyday conveniences.

Scientific, economic and environmental data all point clearly to the ways in which coal-based power generation is not sustainable, and perhaps more importantly, the public health and environmental risks that it increasingly poses.  As the Obama administration and many other public and private organizations try to work toward policies and practices that are sustainable and practical, it's important to make sure we're talking about the real facts and options in front of us, and to make sure the public is educated about those along the way.

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November 11, 2012

8 ways for the Wayne County Democratic Party to be more effective

Capitol Dome'Tis the season for political reckonings.  As the national Republican Party performs a messy post-mortem on its failed strategy to get Mitt Romney elected President, the Democratic Party in Indiana is also asking itself what it needs to do to be more effective.  The Indianapolis Star says that "Indiana Democrats have plunged to their lowest level of power in decades after Tuesday's election."

This week the Palladium-Item's editorial page rightly took the local Wayne County Democratic Party to task for being too quiet and minimally effective in local politics. (I am on the P-I editorial advisory board but I did not contribute to that piece.)  Today's edition features some analysis of the local party's current leadership, with about the amount of internal finger pointing you'd expect from an organization in some disarray.  It's the candidates! It's the leadership! It's the unions! We just need to get on Twitter!  And so on.

I've followed local politics for a while now, perhaps never so closely as last year when I was a candidate myself running on the Democratic ticket.  It was an eye-opening experience in many ways, including discovering first-hand the significant organizational deficiencies in the Wayne County Democratic Party (and how well-organized the local Republican Party is, due in no small part to the tireless efforts of its Chairwoman, Misty Hollis).  Unfortunately, I've seen some of those deficiencies come into play again in this year's campaigning.

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October 14, 2012

Wayne County 2012 election candidate information

Tim Russert's Office

(This blog post has been updated since the original publishing - see details below.)

This coming Wednesday at the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce candidate debates I'll be participating in some post-debate analysis with my colleagues on the Palladium-Item Editorial Board.

As a part of researching for that and for my own voting, I went in search of information that state and county candidates have made available online about themselves and their views, especially in contested races.

What I found was disappointing: state and local candidates are barely making any information at all about themselves and their views, plans and credentials available to voters.

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June 6, 2012

Getting specific about local government transparency

Magnify Glass and MoneyThe idea that we need more transparency in conversations about the future of the city of Richmond, Indiana, especially from government entities and other influential community building organizations, seems to be gaining traction. That's a good thing!  I wrote just a few months ago during Sunshine Week about how important this is.

At the same time, I'm seeing the word "transparency" used in a lot of different ways, some of which skew the meaning in unhelpfully, possibly harmfully.  I've also had a few people ask me for specific ideas of what more transparency might look like in this community.

So, while I've no illusion that any definition I suggest here will be broadly accepted, I think it's worth trying to clear away some of the fog about what kinds of transparency we (those whose futures are intertwined with that of the city) could expect and ask for from our leaders.  I also think it's worth taking stock of how well Richmond leaders are doing at being transparent.
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April 9, 2012

Take the money and run for office

Chloe's Future is So BrightIf there's any part of you that remains hopeful about what national political systems or government can do for the average resident of this country, I invite you to have your soul crushed by this excellent and compelling hour of reporting from This American Life about the incredible role money plays in U.S. politics and governance today.

Some of the stories and interviews are in and of themselves shocking, but the general theme probably doesn't feel like anything new or surprising: money powers political considerations, political considerations determine who has money.  For me, the compelling parts were the simple narratives and examples of just how much time and energy the people who ostensibly represent U.S. citizens spend thinking about and raising money, and what distasteful things they have to do as a part of that.

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March 12, 2012

Sunshine Week: disclosure's benefits justify potential sting

Del Mar RestaurantAs a pat of my role on the Palladium-Item editorial board, I have a viewpoints piece in today's paper about Sunshine Week 2012, a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

If you've followed this blog you know that I am a consistent advocate for transparency in government leadership, and the topic was raised a number of times during last year's election season.  I appreciate the paper bringing focus to this issue, and look forward to the conversations that result.

Here's the full text of my editorial submitted for today's edition:

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January 31, 2012

Framing and Right to Work

WorkerThe Indiana General Assembly is advancing the so-called "Right to Work" legislation, with the state Senate expected to vote on the proposal Wednesday that the state House approved a version of last week.

Putting aside the substance of the legislation for a moment, the whole debate has been a fascinating exercise in political framing:

Using "Right to Work" as a label is a clever and strategic way to frame what the legislation is about.  If you are "for people having jobs," how could you dare be against their "right to work"? Any critic of "right to work" laws has to try to find some other meaningful label to use for themselves that isn't derived from the original name, but in doing so they lose some of the attention of voters.  (From what I can tell, the phrase "right to work" was introduced when a group of business owners in the southern U.S. formed the National Right to Work Committee in the 1970s to try to work against union efforts.)

The "Big Labor" bashing that happened last year across the Midwest set the stage for the "Union" label itself to be tainted to some degree in the minds of many voters ("Wait, are those unionized teachers really just trying to squeeze out every last taxpayer dollar while they sit around in luxury doing nothing? Golly!"), and so at least in part because of this association, I don't think unions have succeeded in being the rallying point for those who oppose these proposals.

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January 3, 2012

Removing straight party voting in Indiana - SB146

Hi-tech voting technologyIndiana Senator Mike Delph from District 29 has introduced Senate Bill 146 which would remove the option of straight party ticket voting from Indiana election ballots.  As Doug Masson notes, this change would probably favor the Republican party in most districts.

I think straight party ticket ballots generally only do a disservice to Indiana voters.

At best, it enables a kind of impulsive loyalty to a vague label that can mean very different things to different people.

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January 2, 2012

President Obama and the NDAA signing

Obama 2008 Presidential CampaignOn Saturday December 31st, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which authorizes indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens, among other things.  The president's signature was accompanied by a signing statement noting serious reservations, saying "The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it."

For the moment, let's put aside the horrifying fact that such a bill was even earnestly discussed or advanced in Congress, or that indefinite detention without a trial of anyone is something we're willing to entertain as acceptable.  Let's put aside the disturbing practice of folding fundamental changes to U.S. military and legal policy into what are essentially administrative budgeting conversations.  And let's pretend that the president didn't sign such a groundbreaking bill on a holiday, a Saturday when most of the country was known to be preoccupied with celebrating the particulars of the Gregorian calendar.

All those things aside, President Obama still signed a bill that he says he disagrees with.   That's fine if the bill says that unicorns might exist or that the White House will be painted green; sign it, put it in a file somewhere, work out the details later.  But a bill that authorizes the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without trial seems like it deserves a lot more than the "I don't like it but I guess it's what we have to do" treatment.

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