Jun 30, 2009

Let your voice be heard

As most of you know, I am on President Obama's White House Health Reform Task Force. In order to understand completely what type of changes Arizonans would like to see, I've started a group on Facebook, Arizonans for Health Reform

I'm committed to reducing costs, preserving choice, assuring quality affordable health care for all Arizonans--and Americans.

Please join the group to add your voice to the conversation and to find out more about upcoming events and forums where we can further this discussion. I look forward to hearing your stories, opinions and ideas.

Jun 29, 2009

Republicans agree on worst budget deal in Arizona history

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and Republican lawmakers succeeded today in agreeing on the worst budget deal in Arizona history.

Brewer, who for the last several weeks vowed to not make deep cuts to vital services like education, has reportedly agreed to cut more than $600 million, including deep funding cuts to K-12 education. Republican lawmakers allowed Brewer’s tax increase of $438 a year for the average Arizona family after months of condemning it.

Both decided to harm middle-class families, Arizona’s economic engine, by increasing their income taxes on top of the sales tax increase.

“This is the worst budget deal Arizonans could have asked for,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “It cuts education and vital services to children and middle-class families, the elderly and the disabled while burdening them with high tax increases.”

Brewer had six months to solve the budget crisis, but she sat on her hands in the executive tower, waiting until the last minute, while Republicans planned massive cuts to education and vital services.

Then Brewer planned massive cuts herself — $60 million to health care for children and adults, $30 million to the elderly, disabled and others and $30 million from services for people like children with life-threatening conditions. But Brewer said otherwise, appearing in public and championing how her plan protects education and these vital services.

“After six months of wasting Arizona’s time and money, Gov. Brewer gave in to Republican lawmakers and decided to sign their budget that devastates education, children and middle-class families in Arizona,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “Arizonans wanted a better economy, jobs and education, but instead they got a destructive short-term plan that depletes stimulus money and creates an unstable revenue system, leaving a budget hole next year that makes us worse off than today.”

Instead of addressing the need to create a stable revenue system to ensure the state has adequate funding for education, Republicans’ plan appears to give away huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, while forcing the middle-class families to pay higher income taxes.

All the while, Republicans, including Brewer, refused to include Democrats in negotiations, isolating themselves in crafting a purely partisan Republican-ideological budget that furthers their own destructive January budget cuts.

“As Democrats, we recognized from the beginning that to solve Arizona’s budget crisis, we needed to work together to create a bipartisan, common-sense and comprehensive budget solution to create a stronger Arizona,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “Republicans, including Brewer, exhibited stubborn behavior, refused bipartisanship and now set Arizona on a path to economic destruction.”

Jun 26, 2009

We need a doctor

DJ Rekha, a hip-hop DJ with Reggaeton and Bollywood influences, has a good point. I can ask for affordable health care until I’m blue in the face (and in need of an oxygen mask at the rate of hundreds of dollars), but until a solution is presented that’s both affordable to everyone and profitable to the medical system, there’s likely to not be a whole lot of movement.

Trying to pass legislation that such as universal health care, or even trying to just keep health care the way it is, isn’t going to fly anymore. Compromises need to be made, the good of everyone involved needs to be recognized and kept in mind, and solutions need to find a common ground where everyone will benefit.

One way to ensure success is to let go of outcomes. If you’re so focused on a single outcome, you often will lose touch with the other’s views and you’ll end up just preaching to the choir.

With health care, it’s just as important to focus on business sustainability and profits, as it is to focus on providing affordable solutions to appeal to all those that are concerned with the issue. Letting go of specific outcomes (such as health care for everyone) and working towards common goals (such as affordable, yet competitive  health care) will only aid in uniting and conquering.

Jun 24, 2009

Brewer court squabble a waste of Arizona’s time, money

As you can see in the press release that was issued yesterday, I am getting quite upset with Governor Jan Brewer's refusal to negotiate. Her court case was a complete and utter waste of time, but more importantly, taxpayer's money. To find out more about the proposed budgets on each side, please visit Stronger Arizona.

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against Gov. Jan Brewer, who asked a third branch of government to step in and solve her budget spat with Republican lawmakers.

But the court case in the first place was a waste of taxpayer time and money for Arizonans who just want a better economy, jobs and education, House Democrats said.

“Arizonans aren’t better off today after a week-long court quarrel between a Republican governor and Republican lawmakers,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “This was just a waste of time for the whole state.”

Brewer had six months to solve the budget crisis, but she sat on her hands in the executive tower, waiting until the last minute, and then she chose the hard way, Lujan said.

Now, for Brewer, three options remain, said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema.

“Gov. Brewer can give in to the Republican legislators and help them pass a bad budget, shut down state government, or do the right thing and work with Democrats on a responsible budget solution that protects education funding and spares families a big tax increase,” Sinema said.

But the clock is ticking; Brewer and Republicans’ court tiff has left Arizona with only one week to solve the biggest fiscal crisis in state history.

“This kind of behavior is shameful and does nothing for Arizonans who want a better economy, jobs and education,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “Now, one week remains to solve the largest budget crisis Arizona has ever seen and taxpayers only have a lack of leadership to show for it.”

Jun 23, 2009

Report card for the Alliance for Climate Protection: A+

The Alliance for Climate Protection does an amazing job of convincing anyone that switching over to clean energy is a no brainer. They touch on solving three very top-of-mind issues, all through implementing clean energy solutions. As seen in the PSA, clean energy will help improve the economy and job creation, national security and will help stop global warming. Even if someone isn’t as concerned with global warming, national and economic security is likely to hit home.

And it shows, throughout all their projects, Repower America, We Can Solve It and This Is Reality, they have over 2.2 million supporters, including President Barack Obama and Will.i.am, who even made a song and music video to show his support.

Jun 22, 2009

Unite and Conquer was in The Arizona Republic Today

As it appeared in The Arizona Republic today:

State representative writes book on building coalitions

If you can't beat 'em - invite 'em to join you.

That's the message of a new book by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, whose "Unite and Conquer: How to Build Coalitions That Win - and Last" comes out in July from Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

With a forward written by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a 32-year-old state legislator could do worse.

But for Sinema, one of the youngest members of the state House of Representatives, necessity was the mother of invention.

After being elected in 2004, she says she spent her first months complaining about the injustice of her opponents' bills - or, in unofficial lawmaking terms, being a generally ineffective "bomb thrower."

"People were mostly polite to me and complimented my outfits," she wrote in her book of her first legislative session, "but no one wanted to actually work with me."

Miserable and disillusioned, Sinema spent the summer re-evaluating her approach and returning to her roots as a social worker.

In her second session, she says she forced herself to empathize with even her most radically different colleagues and slowly built the first of many coalitions that changed her career.

"A coalition can be me and one other person working together," she said in an interview with The Republic. "Rather than focusing on what we don't have in common, we seek to find areas of common ground."

This year, Sinema became the assistant House minority leader. She is perhaps best known for leading Arizona Together, a coalition that defeated Proposition 107, a same-sex marriage ban, in 2006. It was the only ballot initiative of its kind in the country that did not pass that year.

It was Sinema's ambition for progressive change that struck Johanna Vondeling, an editor with Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Vondeling met the legislator last January at a political conference in Washington. Vondeling had dropped in on a session at which Sinema was a panelist; by the end of the day, they were discussing a book proposal.

"As soon as she started speaking, I was just blown away by her energy and her enormous heart," Vondeling said. "To me, she just had 'rising star' written all over her."

Sinema is unapologetic about her unique style, and unabashed in her admiration for another young Democrat who embraced coalition-building.

She nearly jumps when talking about one of President Barack Obama's speeches.

In her office, quirky paper lamps illuminate the colorful "Si, Se Puede!" posters hanging next to a leopard-print bulletin board. A copy of "The Audacity of Hope" is propped up on a side table.

With chapter titles such as "Letting Go of the Bear and Picking Up the Buddha," Sinema hopes "Unite and Conquer" will appeal not only to politicians, but also to those who are interested in becoming politically engaged in other ways.

"That doesn't mean they have to want to run for public office," she said. "Maybe they want to organize around an issue, or volunteer for a campaign. There's a really broad range."

And despite literally seeing the world through rose-colored glasses - she sports a pair of dark pink Chanel frames - Sinema rejects assumptions that her generation is overly idealistic.

"I think we have deeply held beliefs," she said. "But we're not interested in sitting around and talking. We just want to get stuff done."

Report card for Downtown Voices Coalition : C+

The Downtown Voices Coalition is all for making sure that all things good in downtown stick around. They’re pro-mom and pop shops, pro-kitschy goods and art on the first Friday of every month and they’re pro-letting Phoenix grow but making sure it doesn’t get out of control. Now, I’m all for one-of-a-kind gifts and making sure Phoenix stays sustainable, but unfortunately the Coalition’s communication strategy mostly appeals to like-minded people.

Their messages need to appeal to businesses, all kinds of legislators, city planners and investors. They need to speak to the values behind growing Phoenix in a responsible and smart way that will appeal to people across the board. Some of those values could include:

  • Fairness and Opportunity – instead of selling off the land to massive corporations and big builders, provide opportunities for all variations of businesses.
  • Cooperation – working together with the existing community (who inevitably will be customers of the businesses that are looking to set up shop there) and the businesses and developers looking to move in.
  • Diversity – providing all types of businesses (small and big) to cultivate customer choice.
  • Common good – retaining the culture, arts and building upon public spaces to help build a stronger, more sustainable community.

They do touch on these issues, but often the communication is slanted towards people that already want to ensure small businesses thrive, the culture is maintained, and building a sustainable city.

Jun 19, 2009

Governor Brewer needs Unite and Conquer, ASAP

It's been over two weeks, and the state legislature is still at a halt. The reason? Governor Brewer and many Republicans are refusing to work with the Democrats and moderate Republicans. The Governor and the Republicans have been fighting in public and they're leaving the impression that they'd rather shut the state down than come to a negotiation.

I mean, I'm in politics and I can't believe this behavior. It takes me back to, oh, I don't know, Junior High. It's interesting that in any other profession, behavior like this would ultimately lead to the party that's refusing to work with others' termination. So many politicians take the view that it absolutely has to go their way or they won't budge (sounds like a childhood tantrum, huh?), but they need to adjust their attitudes and get over their specific goals and outcomes and focus more on coming up with a plan that we all can agree on, a plan that’s for the common good.

To find out more on what you can do to help influence the budget negotiations, please visit strongerarizona.com.

Jun 18, 2009

Green equals green

Reading Daily Kos last week, I found out that California and Texas ranked top in the country for number of clean-energy jobs. Industries vary from science to marketing, from engineering to financial planning, with very competitive salaries.

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts' study,

“…[the] clean energy economy grew at a national rate of 9.1 percent, while traditional jobs grew by only 3.7 percent between 1998 and 2007.  There was a similar pattern at the state level, where job growth in the clean energy economy outperformed overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia during the same period.  The report also found that this promising sector is poised to expand significantly, driven by increasing consumer demand, venture capital infusions, and federal and state policy reforms.

America’s clean energy economy has grown despite a lack of sustained government support in the past decade. By 2007, more than 68,200 businesses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia accounted for about 770,000 jobs. ...

"The clean energy economy is poised for explosive growth," said Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew Center on the States.”

Highlighting the economic benefits and opportunities within energy reform is crucial for any environmentally concerned coalition. As important as the environment is to you; business, profit, and economic growth is just as important to others, and when trying to convince them, it’s important to use messaging that highlights a common good for everyone: a more sustainable state, both environmentally and economically. 

Still taking strides towards equality

Although the administration's brief defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act is not what I had hoped for, I understand that the Department of Justice has to do it's constitutional duty in this case. However, I do commend the administration for taking the initiative to discuss the expansion of partner benefits for government employees, especially amidst all of the national problems--which proves that this is an important issue to the administration. In due time, it will come, we're working together to figure out how to ensure rights for gay people in America, while balancing the global fiscal crisis and massive health care reform.

As Representative Barney Frank stated, "Now that I have read the brief, I believe that the administration made a conscientious and largely successful effort to avoid inappropriate rhetoric. There are some cases where I wish they had been more explicit in disavowing their view that certain arguments were correct, and to make it clear that they were talking not about their own views of these issues, but rather what was appropriate in a constitutional case with a rational basis standard -- which is the one that now prevails in the federal courts, although I think it should be upgraded."

I completely agree with Representative Frank. I believe that, while this issue is one that demands change, the administration is obligated to uphold and defend the law when it has been enacted by appropriate processes and I know that the administration will enact laws protecting LGBT people from hate crimes and discrimination, as they have promised.

Jun 17, 2009

He doesn’t need to convince me, but Lt. Dan Choi makes a good case for repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”

I’m no avid supporter of war—camo doesn’t look good on me—but I recently came across a story about an openly gay lieutenant who is fighting to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Last week, Lt. Dan Choi appeared on CNN’s American Morning. He is facing dismissal from the military after graduating from West Point, learning Arabic to help while in war, and serving in Iraq. Lt. Choi obviously didn’t take notes from season five of The L Word, and won’t be pulling a Tasha. He’s fighting for his right to serve and is asking that “don’t ask, don’t tell” be repealed.

Instead of playing the discrimination, bigotry, and unaccepted card, Lt. Choi is focusing on values: dishonesty vs. honesty. Which got me wondering, “Dan, have you been reading my book?” While there might be a handful of dishonest people in the world, most of us would agree that deceit is not something that we value. Lt. Choi is taking the approach that “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed because it forces people to be dishonest, to lie about who they are. And those that are protecting our country should not be forced to lie or to give up their dreams and commitments.

Unfortunately, his case has been repealed, but he has taken to the media to help spread his message.

I'm in DC today to discuss Health Care Reform

I will be in Washington, D.C. today discussing healthcare with officials at the White House. I'm honored that President Barack Obama and his administration value my opinion. I will be fighting for quality, affordable health care for all at this meeting. To find out more about my views and the meeting, please read the press release and the letter to President Obama and Congress below.

Sinema to discuss health care with top U.S. officials at White House TODAY 
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema will present President Obama and Congress today at the U.S. Capitol with a letter calling for passage of comprehensive federal health care reform this year. 
The letter (attached) is signed by 650 state legislators from across the nation, including 16 Democrats from Arizona.
“Our nation’s health care system is broken and families and businesses are being crushed by high health care costs,” Sinema said. “In this letter, we pledge our support as state legislators and allies in pursuit of guaranteed, high-quality and affordable health care for all.”
Sinema recently was selected as one of 32 state legislators nationwide to Obama’s White House Health Reform Task Force (see press release). She will present the letter with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and other state legislators from across the country in conjunction with Progressive States Network, on which she serves as a board member.
Sinema then will join other state legislators at the White House for a press conference with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy-Ann De Parle, Director of the White House Office of Health Care Reform.
There, the task force will announce support for a public health insurance option and their action plan to talk with Americans to determine what they need from Washington, D.C. to get a workable, affordable, quality health care option in the United States.
“The effects of these health care problems stress state budgets, exhaust family resources and literally cause thousands of deaths per year,” Sinema said. “We must enact nationwide, comprehensive health care reform now.”
Press conference and Presentation of letter to President Obama and Congress
When: 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time (10:15 a.m. Arizona time)
Where: Russell Senate Office Building, Room 385, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.
Press conference with Secretary Sebelius and Director De Parle
When: 3 p.m. Eastern Time (Noon Arizona time)
Where: In front of the White House
Sinema will meet with Sebelius and De Parle as well as U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to discuss health care reform. She will also join White House Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett at the 2009 State Progressive Leaders Gala to honor the achievements of state legislators and advocates who have worked toward health care reform.
A Letter to President Obama and the Congress 
Dear President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Members of the 111th US Congress:
As leaders in state legislatures across the country, we urgently call on President Obama and the U.S. Congress to take up and pass comprehensive health care reform in 2009. The serious problems with health care in America – ever-rising costs, limited access, inconsistent quality, and waste and inefficiency – converge in the states. The effects of these problems stress state budgets, exhaust family resources, result in lost worker productivity, stifle entrepreneurial spirit, and literally cause tens of thousands of deaths each year. 
Our disjointed health care system has formed a choke-hold on our economy, limiting job growth and economic development. We cannot fix the economy without fixing health care. 
Over the past decade, state legislatures have debated and implemented a myriad of reforms to bring affordability, quality and fairness to health care in America – designing solutions that reflect each state’s unique economic, social, and geographic factors. States play a vital role in the health care for hundreds of millions of Americans, by administering and helping to fund public programs like Medicaid and SCHIP, enacting innovations to expand access to public and private coverage, and serving as watchdogs of health insurance companies and other players.
Yet, states cannot achieve guaranteed affordable health care for all without the investment, leadership and partnership of the federal government. Successful reform requires robust federal-state collaboration. 
Key priorities for reform are reflected in recent state initiatives and public opinion polls which show that Americans want more choices and options for quality health care. Americans recognize that the private sector alone has proven incapable of creating a high-quality, fair, and accountable health care system that works for all families. Therefore, a key priority for reform is the choice of a public health insurance plan that is available to businesses, individuals, and families. Another key priority is strengthening and expanding the Medicaid program with the help of enhanced federal support so that it can serve all low-income Americans. Related priorities include: guaranteeing affordability for individuals and businesses; preserving consumer choice of doctors; eliminating racial, ethnic, gender, and rural health disparities; ensuring shared responsibility among employers, individuals and government in financing health care; and, cost containment strategies that eliminate waste and inefficiency and improve quality, especially for people with chronic illnesses. 
Failure to pass national comprehensive health reform now will further jeopardize state and local budgets, undermining public services like education, public safety, and transportation infrastructure. The recently passed economic recovery package includes a number of positive health care measures, but these do not remove states from the critical list. Achieving a high-performing, affordable and quality health care system for all US residents is central to a sustainable economic recovery and to the health and financial security of all families, businesses, and governments. 
We, the undersigned, call on President Obama and the Congress to enact bold and comprehensive health care reform this year – based on these principles and a strong federal-state collaboration – and pledge our support as state legislators and allies in pursuit of guaranteed, high quality, affordable health care for all.  

Jun 12, 2009

The best way to fight hate is with hope

I'm sure by now most of you have heard the news about how Stephen Tyrone Johns was murdered by James W. von Brunn, who was a well known white supremacist and anti-semitic, this Wednesday. While, just as I am, I'm sure many are angry and upset that there are still people in the world today that are filled with so much hatred.

In this video, Mary Ann offers some insight into dealing with similar kinds of people and dealing with injustice and tragedy. If you're pressed for time, jump to about 3:00 minutes. If not, listen to the lovely and talented, Angelina Jolie.

Report card for the National Coalition for the Homeless: B-

Based on this video and their website, the National Coalition for the Homeless does a good job of appealing to progressives and republicans alike. The video features former homeless individuals that look like everyday people – those that look like they could be one of your neighbors.

While most progressives would immediately be in any support of helping the homeless population, the coalition does a good job of appealing to conservatives by showing that they’re not for offering homeless people monetary handouts, but they are for giving them the tools to get sober, cure illnesses, find a job and get their own home.

Also, on their website, they make it clear that the reason most are homeless is NOT due to laziness, but due to the fact that there is a shortage of affordable housing (over 5 million families use over half of their income to pay for just housing alone) and a simultaneous increase in poverty due to a lack of jobs. They also continue to dispel the myth that they are lazy by letting people know that over 17.4% of homeless adults in families are employed while 13% of homeless single adults or unaccompanied youth are employed.

Jun 11, 2009

Give me your tired, your poor

La Bruja, a poet, hip-hop/reggaeton artist and activist from the Bronx, makes an excellent point: our recent immigration policies often are hypocritical. After all, the statue of Liberty makes it pretty clear how we once felt, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Now, that doesn’t mean I think the entire global population could be supported within the United States, but as La Bruja points out, these people often risk their lives to come to the U.S., work back-breaking jobs, only to get deported. While people are very divided on this issue and there are many different possible solutions (but few that, so far, would appeal to everyone), it’s important to remember why immigration is so important, and why it has often fueled our country—and it’s something we all can agree on.

Immigration, and more importantly diversity, allow us to see the world in a new perspective. It brings new thoughts and ideas to the table. America isn’t a country that runs on a plan, it’s a country that was founded on an idea: freedom. And the beauty of an idea is that it is ever changing, it ebbs and flows with the times and with each influence a mind has on it. If history has taught us anything, it’s that great ideas can come from unexpected people.

So, you’re shaking your head yes, and wondering, “But how do I convince people that don’t agree with me?” Well, a sad, but very true principle in marketing is that you sell people their pain, meaning you find out what their problems are and tell them how your “product” will solve them. So, most unprogressives (yeah, I made that up), are most likely pretty sore about the economy (as are most of us), allowing bright, promising minds and people with tenacious work ethics to immigrate to our country will actually help America keep it’s competitive edge in the global market. Also playing into values is key to winning people over – we all can disagree on certain issues, but it’s much harder to argue about freedom, equality, innovation and opportunity.

Jun 10, 2009

Selected for President Obama’s Health Care Reform group

Yesterday, I was selected to participate in President Obama's Health Care Reform group. I'm really excited to bring my ideas to the table and to work with progressives and republicans across the country to bring reform to our country's health care system. Below is the press release...

Sinema selected for President Obama’s Health Care Reform group 

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX - Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema has been selected as one of 32 state legislators nationwide to help President Obama reform health care.


In a conference call today, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, told Sinema — the only state lawmaker chosen from Arizona — that real health care reform will come from Democrats and Republicans alike from across the country.


As a former state legislator himself, the President of the United States appreciates legislators’ unique perspectives on this issue, Jarrett said.


Sinema will work with other state legislators in the President’s health care reform group to share best practices and lessons learned from their respective states, which will help shape national health care reform. They will also work to create a dialogue between state leaders and the U.S. Congressional delegation and have weekly conference calls with the White House until the reform is implemented.


“I’m so grateful and honored for this amazing opportunity to truly reform our nation’s health care,” Sinema said. “Our health care system is broken and families and businesses are being crushed by high health care costs. The American people, including right here in Arizona, deserve better.”


Obama’s plan does three things:


  • Reduces costs to make health care affordable
  • Protects a patient’s choice of doctors, hospitals and insurance plans
  • Assures quality affordable health care for all Americans


Health care reform is one of Obama’s top priorities and he is committed to enacting health care reform this year, Jarrett said. 


State legislators are able to see firsthand in their states and communities how rapidly escalating health care costs are hurting family, business, and government budgets, which is why President Obama is looking forward to working with the group, Jarrett said.

For more information, please visit www.healthreform.gov.

School's out for summer...and they might be cut from the budget

It’s no shock that many states, and the nation, are facing large budget deficits. In order to combat these deficits, many legislatures are erring on the side of large budget cuts – often looking into making cuts in areas where people are most vulnerable, like education and healthcare.

Governor Jan Brewer’s plan would only mean cuts these areas. Just to go into education, decreased spending is very dangerous. The best way to communicate to legislators why education cuts can absolutely not be cut is to communicate values. Values associated with education include opportunity and future. If you’re lobbying for your state to not make cuts in education, make it clear that every child needs a great education in order for our country to remain competitive with other growing nations in the future. It also will provide them with more opportunities in the future, which inevitably will help affect our nation’s future economy as well.

As far as Arizona goes, budget cuts only mean that our education system will continue to be one of the worst in the nation, and will ultimately leave more students unprepared for college and future career opportunities.

Jun 9, 2009

If they just knew one

Kleenex anyone?

In addition, the Washington Examiner, among many other news sources, recently reported that Dick Cheney supports gay marriage. However, he believes that it is up to the states to make that become a reality. He stated, at the National Press Club, that his daughter, Mary, is a lesbian and that she and her partner had a son.

“"I look at it, obviously, in personal terms," Cheney said. "And my daughter, Mary, is in a, you know, I think a very commendable relationship with somebody she's known for a long time, and I'm strongly supportive of that."

Both Jerry Sanders and Dick Cheney, Republicans, have reversed their views and/or gone against their party’s views on gay marriage. The simple reason why is because they both had people in their lives that they were close to that were a part of the LGBT community. I truly believe, just as Harvey Milk did, that so many more people would be much more supportive if they just took the time to get to know one of us, and Dick Cheney and Mayor Jerry Sanders are proof of that.

Jun 8, 2009

Penciled in : Week number one of project unite and conquer

If you’re keeping tabs on me, you’ll know that last week, I was in Washington, D.C. for my first ever book signing! I also spoke on two panels at the America’s Future Now conference.  The first panel was a great discussion about initiatives and the power they have to shape politics in states.  I love working on initiatives (and have some interesting stories about initiatives in my book), and we had a very robust and interesting hour.  The second panel discussed states’ use of the federal stimulus package.  I’ve been very concerned about how Arizona is choosing to use it’s stimulus funding, and am still worried that Governor Brewer won’t maximize our ability to get funds into Arizonans’ pockets by accepting all the funds available for unemployed workers. This was a fun panel with my dear friend Georgia State Senator Nan Grogan Orrock, Ned Lamont who ran for U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2006, and Nathan Newman who serves as executive director of the Progressive States Network (Disclosure – I serve on his board).  It was a busy day - and my book got a shout out on ourfuture.org’s blog!  The book signing went really well – at the end of the day, the bookstore had sold a lot of books, and my hand was tired from all the signing!

Jun 4, 2009

Report Card for The Set America Free Coalition : A

The group ranges from extreme environmentalists, a former head of the CIA, republicans, democrats and leaders of religious movements. The value that they all share is prying America from its dependency on foreign oil, no matter what their underlying reason is. Viewpoints ranging from Gary Bauer, President of American Values, stating that “…we’re all aware that there are evil people feverishly working on ways to kill us. We are dependent on our energy resources from people who worship death and have drawn a bull’s-eye on our back,” to Deron Lovaas of the Natural Resources Defense Council stating that, “…we face immediate threats in terms of security in the environment. We need to do something now. The deficiency in alternatives to oil is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity to make this shift.”

The formed together to develop legislation that will reduce our dependence on oil and encourage fuel-efficient vehicles. And, based on their message, it’d be nearly impossible to find a politician that wouldn’t support it. Anne Korin, Chairman of Set America Free, states that, “…every major national security issue has roots in oil.” The wars and battles Iran and Pakistan are waging, within their own countries and against our own, are all funded by oil. As she points out we are at war with an ideology, radical Islam, and we cannot win the war as long as we are funding the other side.

They take the stance that investing in alternative fuel sources is good for the environment, economy, democracy and national security. I dare you to find a single American that won’t get behind improvement in at least one of those areas.

The Set America Free Coalition could have easily tailored their messaging to appeal to just tree-huggers or to appeal to the makers of Hybrid cars, but they understood that in order to be successful, they needed to appeal to a broader audience. And they do, as the former Director of the CIA, R. James Woolsey, says it is, “…a coalition of tree huggers, do-gooders, sodbusters, cheap hawks, and evangelicals.”

And for that, they get an A.

Jun 3, 2009

Someone should get Ray Anderson on an Environmental Coalition

In this TED talk, Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Global, describes the business logic of sustainability. The data he presents would sway any CEO or business owner to get on board for sustainability in the business sector. Since realizing the err of their ways and making the right changes, Interface Global has saved 70,000 tons of used carpet from landfills, created innovative systems used to recycle carpet, lowered costs by 400 million dollars, recreated their products so they are the best they’ve ever been, aided in having employees that are rallied around the products as well as the cause, became a leader in the marketplace and increased sales by 160 percent.

You see, while individual members of the business community may completely agree with being more (or totally) sustainable, as a whole, most businesses are concerned with cost and profits. Instead of letting them know how much good they will be doing for the earth and generations to come, it’s a lot easier, as Ray Anderson demonstrates, to sway them with numbers. Specifically, lower costs and higher profits.

As a side note, Interface Global is halfway to their goal of having a carbon footprint of ZERO, which they hope to have completed by 2020. Also be sure to check out one of their side projects, Mission Zero, a community where people can meet like-minded individuals and share innovative ideas and valuable resources, all with the mission of reducing our environmental impact.

Jun 2, 2009

The Funny of Die version of “Prop 8: The Musical” actually lays out pretty decent ground rules for Coalitions

Neil Patrick Harris is well suited to run any successful coalition. In this video, he appeals to the conservatives by showing them the impact gay marriage will have on the economy. While it might be an exaggeration of the truth (come on, we all know that no self-respecting lesbian would choose a lavender wedding hall), it’s actually a very strategic way to appeal to people that wouldn’t normally be for gay marriage.

Some people may view communication like this as selling out. Which, yes, in a perfect world everyone would agree that it’s ludicrous to deny such a basic human right as marriage to two people in love, but unfortunately, not everyone is there yet. So, with most political issues, appealing to the masses is the only chance a lot of groups have at winning.

Jun 1, 2009

It's official: Good book reviews are way better than compliments on shoes

I've been keeping tabs on the Daily Kos, a site that has become one of the premier political communities in the United States featuring guest writers such as President Barack Obama and President Jimmy Carter, for quite some time now. So, I was thrilled when Christopher reviewed my book on the site this weekend.

Proving that a good book review is better than any "Your hair looks fabulous," or "Where did you get that handbag?!" Christopher stated,
"If someone is starting out in politics and wants to learn, from Kyrsten's experience, both how to fail at gaining legislative victories -- and (more importantly) how to succeed -- then this is a must-read primer. If you're not a beginner but want to be reminded or want to strengthen your skills at building legislative coalitions, then this is also a useful text.

"Funny at times, this book is a well-written manifesto by an up-and-coming politician who's learning from her mistakes and her successes."
To check out the full review, click here.

Plenty of historical figures had sex lives (disturbing, but true), so why can’t Natalie Jones talk about Harvey Milk?

Last week, it was reported that Natalie Jones, a sixth-grader at Mt. Woodson Elementary School in Ramona, California, was unable to present a 12-slide PowerPoint presentation to her classmates without their parental permission.

The principal, Theresa Grace, decided that the presentation on the historically gay politician fell under the category of “lessons dealing with sex,” and that she had to follow district policy and notify parents in writing. While you’d be hard pressed to find a politician with a totally clean slate, I can’t say that too many of their life stories would be categorized as a sex ed lesson. So, why Harvey Milk?

As Natalie’s mother, Bonnie Jones, points out, it’s because he just happened to be gay. The principal sent letters to parents alerting them about the "sensitive topic," and after they had received parental approval, Natalie was allowed to give her presentation during the lunch recess but not in class. Only a little over half of the class attended.

Now, albeit, I’ll be the first to be up in arms about equality and always stand on the side of LGBT issues, and I truly believe the principal was in the wrong; however, the real issue at hand is freedom, equality and sympathy. Natalie’s first amendment rights were violated, and although schools have some controls over these rights, she was simply trying to inform her classmates about the slain gay rights leader.

Natalie was treated different than the other students, and most importantly, through their actions the school communicated to the parents and children that being gay is wrong, by requiring permission to see the presentation. As Bonnie Jones said, "First my daughter got called into the principal's office as if she were in some kind of trouble, and then they treated her presentation like it was something icky." Imagine, as a sixth grader, your school, the place where you spend half of your waking hours, gives you the impression that living a certain lifestyle requires written permission. It sends a very negative message to the entire school.

Regardless what a positive historical figure’s gender, sexual orientation, religion or race is, children should be granted the right to speak freely and share their knowledge.