Category Archives: Uncategorized

That Swamp is Just Getting Wetter….

One thing we can say with confidence about the incoming Administration: anyone who still thinks Trump and his cronies are going to “drain the swamp” are beyond delusional.

The latest evidence that we are getting ready to turn the keys to the country over to a pack of looters and con men (and women) comes via reports that Trump is planning to find a White House position for Pam Bondi.

In case you don’t remember, Bondi is the Florida Attorney General whose office was preparing to investigate claims against Trump University when she accepted a sizable campaign contribution from The Donald, and suddenly concluded that there wasn’t really enough evidence to justify going forward with the intended lawsuit.

The contribution was not only sizable–it was illegal. As The Week reported, 

In 2016, Trump paid a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service for an improper $25,000 donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to a campaign group supporting Bondi, who had solicited a contribution from Trump while her office was deciding whether to join a fraud lawsuit against Trump University. After receiving the donation, Bondi “inexplicably decided not to pursue charges against Trump University,” RedState writes, and Trump “held a posh fundraiser for Bondi at the infamous Mar-a-Lago estate.”

Bondi has claimed that she solicited the contribution before her office knew about the Trump University lawsuit, and that the investigation had never been brought to Bondi herself, that instead it had been considered by lower-level staff who made the decision not to pursue the case.

Even assuming the accuracy of Bondi’s version, however, an ethical lawyer would have returned the contribution when she was alerted to the conflict. Numerous media outlets reported upon the sequence of events and the illegal nature of the contribution. And a lawyer with any sensitivity to ethics–not to mention a political figure concerned with the appearance of impropriety– would not have allowed herself to benefit from a fundraiser held by a recent target of her office’s investigation.

Bondi is an attractive blond–I don’t know if she’s a “ten” in Trump-talk, but she’s probably at least a seven or eight–and physical appearance clearly counts with our incoming Commander in Chief. I’m sure he also finds her willingness to place political and financial considerations above the public service dimensions of her job to be equally attractive, judging from the gang (and I use the term advisedly) that he has assembled.

That swamp just keeps getting wetter…..No drain in sight.

 

 

The Morning After

So much for the American experiment.

So much for the belief that in a marketplace of ideas, people would choose the better ones–or even be able to distinguish among ideas, propaganda and conspiracy theories.

So much for e pluribus unum and the lovely fantasy of a diverse citizenry coming together around a civic table.

However you characterize the deep cultural and educational divide that led to this place,  no one who actually understood what the government does and how it does it could  have voted to put a person like Trump in charge of it.

Last night, a lot of us lost the country we thought we lived in, the country we wanted to hand down to our children and grandchildren. What happens now is anyone’s guess, but one thing is sure–it will be very ugly.

Speaking of Cities…

Citiscope (a site I highly recommend to those readers who care about urban policy) has been focusing on Habitat III, the next major U. N. conference on cities.

Habitat III is to be held next month in Quito, Ecuador. For more than a year, global networks of mayors and local governments have been gearing up for what amounts to the Olympics of urbanism. Habitat III is arguably the world’s most important conversation about the future of cities. And it’s taking place at a time when rapid urban growth on all continents, especially Africa and Asia, makes that discussion more crucial than ever.

Officially known as the U. N. Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III is a rare event in global policy circles — the one time every 20 years when heads of state and national ministers gather to discuss and debate urban policy. (The first Habitat conference took place in Vancouver in 1976.)

The gathering in Quito is expected to produce a sweeping but nonbinding global strategy on sustainable urbanization. Known as the “New Urban Agenda,” this strategy will include recommendations for fighting urban poverty, devolving authority to local governments and bolstering streams of municipal finance, among other issues. Diplomats are still negotiating the details, but once finalized in Quito, the document will join last December’s Paris climate agreement and other recent accords to create a global framework for sustainability.

The problem is that, thus far, U.S. Mayors are nowhere to be found. If the governance of cities is becoming increasingly central to the national and global future, “opting out” should not be an option.

In a different article, also posted to Citiscope, respected political scientist Benjamin Barber explains what he sees as the role of urban areas:

In my 2014 book “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities”, I proposed that cities may be to the future what nations were to the past — efficient and pragmatic problem-solving governance bodies that can address sustainability and security without surrendering liberty or equality. If, that is, they can work together across the old and obsolete national borders. And if they can assume some of the prerogatives of sovereignty necessary to collaboration.

In fact, cities are doing just this. A few years ago, the United Nations announced that a majority of the world’s population lives in cities, while economists recognize that 80 percent or more of global gross domestic product is being produced in cities. From the United Kingdom and China to the United States and Italy, authority is being devolved to cities.

One of the reasons that scholars like Barber have high hopes for cities is their recognition of the importance of civic trust (an essential element of social capital); polling shows that citizens’ trust in city governments remains high while, on average, only a third of citizens around the world say they trust their national governments. Two-thirds or more of those same citizens say they trust mayors and other local officials.

Although Barber doesn’t address it, I think one reason for higher levels of trust in city governments is the perception–largely accurate–that individual actors can influence local government. That perception is in stark contrast to the widespread conviction that ordinary citizens have no voice on the national stage. Much of the anger and hostility on display in our national politics comes from a feeling of powerlessness–a recognition that systemic and institutional forces are beyond the ability of average citizens to modify or control.

Cities, too, face institutional impediments.

In the United States, federalism has meant devolution of authority to states, not cities, and as a result, in states like Indiana that lack meaningful home rule, urban areas lack political power to decide their own fates. If the scholars who write at Citiscope and the political figures who support Habitat are right–if cities are going to be central to future governance– eliminating the barriers to genuine home rule will be critically important.

I don’t know about other cities in other states, but in Indiana, where cities are firmly in the thrall of our “overlords” in the state legislature, gaining the right to self-determination won’t be easy.

 

On a Lighter Note…

Taking a “vacation” from my obsession with the state of our politics….

I was cleaning out my desk files in preparation for the upcoming semester, when I came across this PERFECT visual description of how a bill really becomes a law. It was shared with me several years ago by a government affairs professional.

Enjoy!

Sheila[2]