June 1, 2007

Making the Commitment to Obama

I just viewed Obama’s speech in Detroit, and now I know I want Obama to be President for sure. My former hesitation came from my radical roots and weariness with political rhetoric, but like many who’ve worked hard to change our political, economic, environmental and social downslide in the past, I’m tired of reacting with equal vehemence as my Neo-Con opponents. Truly I am finally sold on Obama’s incremental but steady change with more allies than opponents, and on his knowledge and ability to lead our country through that difficult but necessary transition. I even dare feel optimistic about it! (See http://www.barackobama.com/tv/ under “Obama Speeches” Address to the Detroit Economic Club.)

Obama’s address to the Detroit Economic Council was the most comprehensive I’ve seen and finally touched on almost every issue that so matters to me. Yes, there were the myriad, really well developed solutions for:
• Cleaner alternative and higher efficiency energy
• Increased modernized industry and jobs
• A cleaner safer environment and focus on averting global warming
• Ending our dependence on oil imports by 2020
• Helping the business bottom line and people by providing the same level of health care coverage for everyone as a Senator has
• Providing quality and preventative, efficient and safer health care affordably and with government subsidies to create group rates to cover every individual, but ending monopolies and restrictions that profiteer from providing medical access.

But finally, at the end when Detroit’s Mayor raised the questions about an urban agenda, I remembered, I am still urban, in the Bay Area now even if on an island literally, born and raised in the Bronx NY, having lived in San Diego, CA and Seattle, WA, near one of two opposite borders at one time or another. That said, it was Detroit – immigration wasn’t raised.

As Obama’s address concluded, Detroit’s Mayor raised the question of what to do about fixing our rustbelt and our generally dilapidated cities, and Obama said all I’ve scarcely heard discussed in this campaign, never mind so well thought out. When he sounded like he was promising to fund many programs, I remembered I read an article evaluating his first run for Illinois Senator that said Obama was tenacious about accountability for program outcomes when he was in charge of or on boards of programs in the South Side of Chicago. He’s not an amateur. He knows how to prevent waste and fraud from the start and throughout the process. Obama doesn’t want to just hand out dollars, he wants results! http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/archive/barackobama/

I saw that Obama saw affordable housing for the crisis it is, pointing out something that creeps in the back of my mind still, but was right up there making me nervous day and night when disability almost made me homeless: There is not one city in all the US where a minimum wage worker (or for that matter someone living solely on any government program for retirement, disability, unemployment or general un-employability) can afford their own even modest apartment – all must either share or pay more than the recommended 25-30% of take-home income. Obama recognized there are lots of creative ideas for solving that without segregating low-income renters, and that it requires the federal government’s leadership and financial assistance to coordinate all the groups willing and able to help: non-profit construction companies, city and rural housing administrators, and faith-based organizations. Finally he supports reinvigorating the Block Grant program, much decimated by this Administration, to fund business and commercial development.

I heard him recognize the need to give people who made mistakes and broke laws but paid for their crimes a Second Chance – how bold in this punishment-centered era (even torture – we’ll see our Civil Rights expert-President Obama eliminate that disgrace fast!), how sensible and what a model of truly reasoned generosity instead of penalizing and wasting lives! He’s proposed Second Chance legislation in the Senate with bipartisan support to end legalized employment discrimination against people free but with a record, thus bringing a huge proportion of unemployed exploited urban youth and adults ready to turn their lives around, who are already in our communities, back into the workforce with training, jobs and guidance for transition.

Obama can rattle off the program for fixing education faster than I’ve ever heard, and I’m an Education doctorate-all-but-dissertation specialist! Increase funding for and modernize with proven-best-methods all public education, Early Childhood on; pay teachers more and train them better to replace one million retiring in the next decade; and for both education and urban businesses, wire the city for 100% access to broadband – a notion that left many in the audience a bit stunned, as if not expecting a high-tech recommendation. He didn’t mention he’d proposed and helped pass legislation to increase college grants and hopes to do much more to make higher education more affordable.

All of his plans take into account the twin realities of a history of opposition, and the need to move forward or get run over in the global environment we now live. All of it is to be done in increments, but inexorably forward to a safer cleaner environment, with increased industry and jobs, health care for all with a public and private foundation, and oil import independence and a new alternative energy industry that will help agricultural as well as industrial cities and towns within years of his taking office in 2008. At every stage every participant gets rewards, and penalties if they refuse to lead the country into an alternative energy and employment future.

There was one exception, and it was a big one, I'm the first to say it and write him about it: He called Venezuela's President Chavez a dictator, getting very little positive feedback on that comment, thankfully. We have to stop calling other countries' elected officials dictators just because this administration and corporate interests say so. That said, I hope and believe Obama will be much more open to reasonably discuss Chavez and a viable collaboration to help Venezuela benefit from and expand their economy beyond petroleum once he's out of this miserable campaign spotlight - certainly more so than Hillary, who is simply too indebted to lobbyists and corporations to be independent. And on his energy proposal, I'm not in favor of increased reliance on coal and nuclear power. I'll have lots of company pressuring him on that!

All in all, Obama’s rich background and experience were in full display, and his full grasp of the complexity and finesse needed to push through so much change convinced me. I went from “OK, he seems to be the best we’ve got who can win” to “We need him and only him right now. I will help others working for Obama to win, from now until 2008.” It's a relief that I can really like and have some confidence in the candidate I'll be volunteering for this year. The rest of the Democratic presidential candidate crew sure doesn't give me a thrill.

And we almost lost Detroit this time… from CD “Glory, The Best of Gil Scott-Heron”

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