Executive Director's Column
September 12, 2008
Over the past two weeks, since the last U.S.Mayor went out, it has been a tumultuous ride.
First, was the Denver Democratic National Convention with both The United States Conference of Mayors and The National Conference of Democratic Mayors hitting the convention hard with a message that our issues, our Ten Point Plan, being pushed at lunches, press conferences, forums, podium speeches, state caucus breakfast, and all over Bronco Stadium.
Our baseball caps, ten point buttons and Manny Diaz dog tags permeated the convention thanks to The Conference staff and key mayors who served on our distribution team.
At Bronco Stadium, 45,000 dog tags were distributed with President Diaz message: America’s Problems Demand America’s Investments.
We thank all who helped us in the successful political messaging operation.
We congratulate Host Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver and his team for a splendid success. We also thank Sky Gallegos who assisted our team with logistical support that helped us tremendously.
While we saw fewer Democratic mayors on the podium than in recent conventions, Conference President Miami Mayor Manny Diaz in his speech raised the issue as to whether a 6 year old today has the support he had when he, at the age of 6, came to America from Cuba on a Freedom Flight with his mother. Mayors Daley of Chicago and Hickenlooper of Denver represented all of us in their remarks and convention Co-Chair Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin made us proud as she officiated over a jam packed Pepsi Center.
Senator Hillary Clinton made it clear to the delegates that she will be there campaigning for her nominee. And the American flags hit the floor waving furiously as the delegates cheered President Bill Clinton welcoming him home and back to campaign for the nominee, Senator Obama.
Perhaps the two speeches one will never forget was Beau Biden, the Attorney General of Delaware who introduced his father with a narrative of his father, Veep nominee Senator Joe Biden, that touched our hearts and brought tears of pride of him and his father revealing a most intimate look of the tragedies and triumphs of the very strong Biden family.
And we will never forget the Governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer who was ranting and raving like an old time orator politician He wasn’t on a teleprompter; he was high octane and he brought back memories of great spontaneous speeches, quite different from the carefully scripted boring speeches we hear today due to the handlers who over prescribe and douse the fire within the belly, all afraid that someone might misspeak instead of letting some of the great charismatic orators entertain us.
The Bronco Stadium Event, where 84,000 poured in to hear Senator Obama, was a night that will go down in history. Many thought the logistics would be a mess; they were wrong. It turned out to be an enjoyable event smooth entrances and exits. A rather last minute decision to move the Convention from Pepsi Center to Bronco Stadium worked. And the question now is whether any Democratic nominee will ever give his or her acceptance speech in a basketball arena or Convention Center. In the future we will probably see more acceptance speeches in football stadiums after the historic night, August 28, 2008.
St. Paul and Hurricane Gustav
Upon leaving Denver, Hurricane Gustav was moving toward New Orleans. Fears that we would have another Katrina caused immediate changes to the Republican Convention. What a contrast, to leave the hoopla in Denver, and to arrive to a quiet St. Paul with the GOP nominee Senator McCain expressing his profound concern that our eyes and hearts should be focused on our citizens of the Gulf Region. The press circulated reports there that the Convention might be cancelled. Conference President Manny Diaz, concerned about the hurricane, cancelled his trip and our press conference releasing our national report on infrastructure was also cancelled.
My staff and I, ready to push our messaging materials through the Convention, converted our headquarters room into a Gustav Command Center. USCM Second Vice President Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz was there to help us and give us leadership and encouragement. Conference President Diaz began a series of conference calls with written and emailed bulletins after hearing from Gulf Mayors Sam Jones of Mobile, John Robert Smith of Meridian, Mississippi, Ray Nagin of New Orleans and the hardest hit mayor, Kip Holden of Baton Rouge, who needed 250,000 tarps to cover damaged homes in his city of 500,000 people. As US Mayor goes to press, we have worked hard to cut through obstacles and assist Mayor Holden as he continues to lead his challenged city through a difficult time of pain and suffering.
Before Gustav hit, evacuees were airlifted to sites across the nation. After New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called his citizens over national TV to come back home, 1500 evacuees at the Louisville’s Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center with furnished TVs blaring heard this. That put Mayor Jerry Abramson of Louisville with a serious challenge to airlift 1500 evacuees back to Louis Armstrong Airport to be delivered to their homes in New Orleans. The airlift was a challenge. Misinformation caused chaos but we finally got FEMA directly involved and after conflicting information, clarity was given by FEMA officials and the airlift over this past weekend finally happened and was a success. Mayor Abramson’s leadership, understanding the timing and logistics of such an operation and his patience was remarkable throughout this crisis. We thank FEMA Director Paulison, Mr. Bob Powers and Mr. Ed Cash, our liaison with FEMA.
The United States Conference of Mayors staff and our mayors always come through when called upon. But after it is over, we must continue to raise communication issues and the movement of needed supplies across state lines and FEMA district lines to cities and people in need. The agility and mobility of our staff, and our mayors’ organization provided great service to the mayors and cities affected by Gustav. The work continues. Hurricane Ike now heads toward Texas. Our prayers go out for the Texas mayors, their cities and their people.
We are fortunate to have as our President this year at this time, Miami Mayor Diaz. No doubt, he is a hurricane mayor because Miami sits right there in hurricane row as hurricane after hurricane comes blowing through with destruction, devastation and death. His leadership and action during these challenging times has indeed made a difference.
St. Paul – Hurricane Sarah
While Hurricane Gustav hit hard and Hurricane Ike threatened, in came another “hurricane” which gave new wind and energy to the somberness hanging over St. Paul. A woman named Sarah lifted the convention up with excitement. The press and media, accused of not being fair to Senator Hillary Clinton, now had another woman on their hands and they didn’t know exactly how to handle her. She’s a former beauty queen, a sports journalist, former mayor, Governor of Alaska that was a fisherwoman, is a rifle shooter, Bible clinger, moose killer and moose eater who once smoked marijuana and has a four month old Downs syndrome child and an unmarried pregnant daughter; and has been married for 25 years to a “hunk” who is a champion snowmobiler and who looks like one of the country music singers you see on the grand ole opry stage down in Nashville.
The press immediately belittles her experience as a mayor and makes fun of her being Governor of a less populated state, Alaska. But no matter what the press does or what they say, the people liked her in the Xcel Center in St. Paul and even more in television land where we live across the nation as the white women voters surged to the McCain ticket, according to a Washington Post National Poll released this week. The pundits just won’t stop. And that’s exactly what the tough Republican campaign strategists want.
Senator Obama this week seemed like a fighter in a ring that had been hit in a bad place as he staggered around talking about lipstick on a pig. He had a chance to put lipstick on his ticket. He refused. Now he’s got lipstick on the other side to deal with. And no one this week seems to know how to deal with it.
No doubt, as the days dwindle down in September, things will settle down. The national polls favor McCain as he emerges with the Sarah surge coming out of St. Paul. But we all know the national polls mean nothing. It’s the electoral vote. Ask Al Gore.
The so-called battleground states before St. Paul are shifting and they continue to shift. Virginia, once an Obama-favored state, experienced thousands showing up for a record number this week with Senator McCain and Governor Palin enjoying the ride.
So even though it’s 50 days away until November 4, that time period will give the Obama campaign time to get their sea legs back and up and running with the fantastic team he had to wipe out both Clintons. Soon the national polls will be back “neck to neck” as we head toward general election day.
Democratic Mayors and Obama
Democratic Mayors who want to strengthen the Obama political operation say that Obama must not overlook the Democratic mayors especially those who know a little bit about getting the vote out and winning. Presently, there is a reported lack of nexus to the political capability of many Democratic mayors. The Obama folks seem to be counting on getting new voters registered and getting young voters out in throngs. A wise and proven strategy. Some observers say Obama has overlooked the ability of mayors and their organizations to get the machines running to activate those established and already registered and especially older voters, many of them white women.
Many Democratic mayors are waiting for the Obama campaign to reach out for a more comprehensive political strategy. Some observers say the Obama camp might say to some mayors we didn’t need you to win the nomination. We did it ourselves as we won the nomination; we don’t need you now either. We can win without you.
But then there are the women who live in our cities, many of them white over the age of fifty and some without transportation needs to get to the ballot box.
It was interesting back during the nomination that a respected TV journalist before the South Carolina primary said that the black women would decide the Democratic nomination. And now they are saying that white women will decide the presidency by their vote in the general election on November 4.
Oh Politics! We love you. David Broder, one of the few journalists left in America, wrote yesterday that it will probably be well into October until we know who will succeed George W. Bush: “Some find this unsettling and unacceptable, and they give full license to their emotion of joy or despair. He goes on to say that he finds it “wonderful, even inspiring. This has been – and remains – the election of a lifetime.”
We haven’t seen yet the negative and craftily designed TV ads either. They will hit us around Halloween. Bring ‘em on! We are waiting. Let’s not disappoint the talking head pundits. What would they do without the smear ads to exclaim over and express their “My Gosh” and “aren’t they just terrible” comments while they long for them; they ache for them; they love them and they couldn’t exist or live without them.
On a weird and positive note, we are hearing the word “Mayor” on TV like we never heard before. Former Mayor/ Governor Palin is forcing so many to utter the word, “mayor”. Most interesting. In last night’s National Service Forum, moderated by Time Magazine’s Managing Editor Richard Stengel and CNN veteran Judy Woodruff, McCain said “Mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America.” Obama said while Senators yak in Washington, mayors fill potholes, trim trees and pick up the trash. At least Obama’s comments are a little bit better than President Bush’s usual salutation rendered where a mayor is on the dais or somewhere on the stump --- “Hello Mayor! Lets keep those potholes filled!” Your jobs are a little bit more than that! But at least the job of Mayor is being discussed in the wonderful world of “journalistic” television.
Meantime, before the Halloween season of negative TV ads start and things get nastier and uglier; don’t forget our Mayors Ten Point Plan. If you need additional brochures, buttons, dog tags, embroidered baseball caps and visors, please let me know. The clock is ticking! Soon it will be over and the transition and pre-governing period before the Presidential oath will be upon us. Mayor Diaz’s leadership of our Third Campaign continues and we will be ready to hand off to the next President sound proposals for our nation that he will not be able to refuse. Change continues to be promised by both of them. And the hope I have is they can take the change we’re going to give them. It is and will be our moment and we must seize it.