Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sweet Tea and Delicious Discussion

Last week we had another meeting of "Independent Voters" here in central Arkansas. We had great discussions over McAlister's sweet tea. A very enthusiastic independent who is campaigning for Ralph Nader dropped in, and he added much needed ideas for the future of our organization.

Some ideas that came out of the meeting: We will start putting together an agenda to bring before the new Presidential Administration as well as the state legislature this Spring, which would include ballot access, voter registration, and open debates . None of us are shy about writing "letters to the editor", so that will be coming soon. We also would like to start working with other groups who are pushed outside of the two-party process here in Arkansas. By reaching out to the libertarians, green party, and others, we are hoping to form a "Ballot Access Coalition" for the future. We think that by joining together, we will make a bigger impact on the process and get the message out more clearly that voters DO (and should always) have more choices. Independents are the perfect group to lead a non-partisan push for more open access to the political process.

There were more detailed discussions, but I'll save you the time reading them and encourage you to contact us for more info. Although, I do want to mention that our voter registration drive on Sept. 27th went great. We had about 30 people fill out registration applications, got a few individuals signed up on our e-mail list, and handed out more than 100 "Voter 101" booklets, and informational pamphlets, cards, and flyers. Lots of people stopped by to ask questions or thank us for what we were doing. It was a very satisfying day.

We are really excited that there are some independents (and a couple of green party candidates) running for the state legislature this year. We are also hopeful that this presidential election cycle and the economic crisis is helping to get more people interested in their government and politics. Maybe when the nation really hears the wake-up call, people will start to realize that there are more than two sides to the story.

Courtney Terry
independentAR@gmail.com

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Messy September

UPDATE ON PLANS:
Saturday morning, September 27th, We will set up an information booth at the Little Rock River Market, and conduct a voter registration drive. Helpers are needed, so please email me if you would like to contribute to that effort.

Thursday, October 2nd, at 6:30 PM, We will have our second meeting, at McAlister's Deli in North Little Rock (4842 North Hills Blvd.), at the corner of North Hills and McCain. Feel free to just show up, or drop me a line and let me know you plan to come. I will have a sign on the table.

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September is usually my favorite month of the year. It's the month when our weather (here in the south) starts to get much more comfortable. There's really no big holidays to stress over, for our family anyway. Kids are back in school. And, it's also when Starbucks brings back the "Pumkin Spice" latte...yum.

However, this has been one crazy month, for me and most of my "fellow americans". The markets went crazy, taking everyone on a bank failure-induced rollercoaster ride. The weather went crazy, with Gustav and Ike pounding on the nation's midsection like a world champion boxer. For my own family, Hurricane Ike worried us a lot because we still own a house in Houston and have many close friends and family that were in the path of the storm. (Although it turned out well for most of us.) We have also been hit by a kind of psychological tsunami called "autism" lately as well. We will be having my 3-year-old daughter evaluated soon, because we think she is showing signs of Asperger's syndrome (on the "high-functioning" end of the autism spectrum).

The presidential campaigns could be described as "nuts", too. My attention has been diverted a bit from the campaigns lately, because of my daugher AND because the media coverage has become rediculous (although some might say it did so a long time ago). The "lipstick on a pig" fiasco is just one reason I decided to cut down on my mainstream media time in the past few weeks. I enjoyed watching live, unedited, coverage of the national conventions, but beyond that was just too much. I guess I'm just more disappointed as the election date nears.

Choosing the President, and Vice President, of the United States is a very complicated thing. Even I, a person who studies Public Administration on a daily basis and reads the news like it's going to save my life, have a hard time deciding who to vote for. I am pretty sure who will get my vote this year, but I KNOW that there are thousands of voters who will go cast a vote based on myths and false assumptions, or just stay home that day because they either don't care or don't understand. We all should be concerned for the future of our democracy if citizens are not presented with enough basic factual information about candidates (at all levels) for voters to select the person who truely has their best interest in mind. We should also be concerned that so many voters are left out of the political process altogether, because they do not ascribe to a set of values put forth by any particular party. In Arkansas, we have open primaries (where independents can vote in the primaries), which is more than what some states have, but there is much more it than that. Apathy, misinformation, and voter registration issues are just some of the things we need to work on.

Before you dismiss my comments, or lay in to me for being too _(fill in the blank)__, I want to acknowledge the fact that this is all a learning experience for me. I admit that I am not an expert on politics, government, or Arkansas. The reason I am trying to organize a group of independents in our state is so that I can network with others who may not necessarily be "like-minded", but at least won't dismiss me because of my opinions. I want to learn from others who have different experiences and ideas, and my motivation is mostly out of concern for those around me. I believe we can make this a better place if we put our heads together and overcome our divisive nature.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

You Have to Start Somewhere

I headed to a local Starbucks for my first "meeting" on August 31st, 2008, with every intention of putting up my new little sign and then studying until some brave soul had the courage to ask me "What's the Independent Voters of Arkansas?". One ad for the meeting ran in The Arkansas Times, and I posted electronically a couple of places, but had no response. However, after ordering my venti, non-fat, no-whip, 2-pump mocha, I mentioned my plan to the barista, and she said that someone else was there for the meeting, too.

Gene, who associates himself with the Green Party for now and supports Cynthia McKinney for president, also says he identifies with independents and the issues that we stand for. He is running for a state legislative position as a write-in candidate, and has done so (unsuccessfully) three times in the past. Like me, he is interested in helping to bring outsiders into the political process here in Arkansas. While we sat discussing things, my sign drew another man's attention.

A native of Little Rock who now lives in Nebraska stopped by for a long chat. He had interesting things to say about Obama (it was just after the DNC), about being an independent African-American voter, and about the federal financial situation. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all he had to say. I gave him my card and I took notes for future reference! So, I am happy with how the day turned out. It was unexpected, but satisfying. It's a work in progress, but it IS in progress and that's the important thing.

We are planning the second meeting for September 18th, time and place TBA.

Courtney Terry
independentAR@gmail.com

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