Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All Minneapolis council incumbents seeking reelection won.


Barbara Johnson has again claimed the Fourth Ward seat on the Minneapolis City Council thanks to second-choice votes, a development that means all 10 incumbents seeking reelection will return to the council.

Johnson hit nearly 53 percent of the vote with second choices made by voters for Grant Cermak and Marcus Harcus, two candidates dropped after trailing in the first round. The hand-counted results of ranked-choice voting were released late Monday by city election officials.

As in the neighboring Fifth Ward, the only other where the incumbent missed gaining a majority of first-choice votes, Johnson won even though the last remaining challenger, Troy Parker, picked up more second-choice votes than Johnson. Parker gained an additional 331 to her 194, but because she tallied nearly 47 percent of first-choice votes, Johnson needed fewer votes to win than Parker, who finished with 38 percent.

Johnson is the current council president, but that didn't keep her from becoming one of the two incumbents to fall short of a majority in the first-choice vote count. The other was Fifth Ward Council Member Don Samuels.

Parker and Harcus portrayed Johnson as out of touch with the changing demographics of her ward. She campaigned on the city's recent drop in crime, water quality improvements and her leadership in holding accountable landlords who rent to disruptive tenants.

"I'm really very pleased, and I just can't say enough to thank the volunteers and the professionals who helped me," said Johnson, who won every precinct.

Johnson has been an opponent of ranked-choice voting, the new balloting system in which voters rank up to three candidates. She said she thinks the election suffered without a primary in which voters could vet candidates. Parker could not be reached for comment.

The results are unofficial until the city's canvassing board meets next month, but other council incumbents haven't needed second-choices to win.

Nine DFLers and one Green Party endorsee, Cam Gordon, will return to the council. Three DFL endorsees for open seats -- Kevin Reich in the First Ward, Meg Tuthill in the 10th Ward and John Quincy in the 11th Ward -- came out on top. Only Reich, who was close to the required majority for election, still awaits the results of hand-counting. A count released Monday showed Tuthill had accumulated 72 percent of first-choice votes to win her seat handily, and Quincy last week had 64 percent in his ward.

The first Park Board race result to be released was in the Cedar-Isles area, where newcomer Anita Tabb won. She was unopposed, but there were 131 write-in votes.

Copyright 2009 Star Tribune

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Do away with constituencies to end tribal politics

By Wangari Maathai

This country is threatened. And it is not because we have an unbearable Constitution or electoral boundaries. It is because we as citizens and micro-nations whose political, economic needs and interests are not being protected by the current Constitution and the electoral boundaries. That is why we are clamouring for a new political order.

Our politicians govern the country by mutilating and manipulating the Constitution and electoral boundaries as well as playing divisive tribal politics.

But every so often, we go through a ritual to collect and collate views from citizens even though we know eventually the constitution and electoral boundaries will have to be agreed on by tribal chiefs.

If politicians do not get the constitution or the electoral boundaries they want, they advise their ethnic communities to reject the document.

Unfortunately, we are doing the current exercise in the middle of long-standing deep ethnic divisions, suspicion and hatred. The post-election violence and the hovering ICC make the environment unfriendly. We are craving for a leadership that can provide security, equity and justice.

Some countries have created constitutions and electoral boundaries that have been protected from the greed and selfishness of politicians. Strong institutions have been put in place to prevent manipulation or mutilation of the constitution or gerrymandering the electoral boundaries.

The constitution of the US was crafted by leaders of vision. It has served them for more than 200 years.

The documents that will be crafted are not the problem. If there were selfless, committed and visionary leaders, they would have been improving on the independence constitution. Instead, the Constitution and electoral boundaries have been treated as a means to power and privilege. Therefore, they are constantly re-written to meet new aspirations, greed and selfishness.

What Kenyans have experienced is bad governance, ethnic-based politics, tribal clashes, massacres, gender violence, poverty, economic stagnation and impunity.

Legislators should compete along political party lines and parties should be forced to seek support on the basis of their agendas, not tribal affiliation. The number of MPs should reflect the capacity of the country so that MPs do not overburden citizens with taxes and debts. The party that will have the most number of MPs should form the Government and provide a Prime Minister.

Electoral commission

This will make every vote count and parties will work hard to ensure they get as many votes as they can from every part of the country. This would serve the principles of one man, one vote, and no taxes without representation. Every vote will be important to the party rather than to an individual MP.

To make representation fair and just, an independent electoral commission should look into other relevant issues such as geography, density and special needs. The number of MPs should be fixed. Parliament has already approved that constituency boundaries serve as administrative boundaries (districts) and be centres of local authorities for the devolved government. What is important here is to empower these local authorities, community leaders and interest groups by having their roles clearly defined and protected from interference. That way, they would be able to manage the day-to-day responsibility of the devolved government. The devolved government should create boundaries, guided by their capacities and resources.

Kenyans have clearly said they want to elect their President. The President should be sponsored by a political party, and like MPs, his constituency should be the Republic. Kenyans also want presidential powers devolved and to have a president who is popular and able to unite the country. The President should get 50 per cent plus one vote to be declared winner.

To eliminate transportation of votes or double voting, voters should be able to vote from any polling station as long as they have the necessary voting documents. This would also make gerrymandering of electoral boundaries an exercise in futility.

It is important to empower the three arms of Government by clearly defining their roles so there is clear balancing of power and responsibilities, and capacity to ensure they do not interfere with other organs of governance.

Eliminating electoral constituencies for MPs would put an end to tribal power bases (and warlords). Eliminating constituencies has the potential of detribalising politics and giving every vote the same respect and power.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Union election ordered at Foxwoods casino

By Stephen Singer
Hartford, Connecticut (AP) 11-07

The National Labor Relations Board during late October ordered a union election at Foxwoods Resort Casino, which has been targeted by the United Auto Workers in a drive to organize 3,000 dealers.

The decision could set the stage for one of the first unions at a tribal casino. Foxwoods, one of the largest casinos in the world, has 340,000 square feet of gambling space in a 4.7 million-square foot complex.

Peter Hoffman, regional director of the NLRB’s regional office in Hartford, rejected the argument by Foxwoods owners, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, that the tribe’s employment law has jurisdiction in the matter.
“In reaching this conclusion, I have fully considered but find no merit to the employer’s claim that its ‘inherent authority’ to regulate employment and labor relations on its tribal lands precludes” the NLRB’s jurisdiction in this matter, Hoffman said.

Hoffman also said he found “particularly unpersuasive” a claim by the Mashantuckets that a strike against the casino would severely disrupt the tribe’s ability to provide essential services to its members.

A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that Indian casinos are bound by the NLRB, and Hoffman cited that ruling in his decision.

The Mashantuckets said in a statement that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction “as the tribe is the governing body which has the inherent authority to regulate employment on its reservation and it has historically done so.”

Spokesman Bruce MacDonald said the issue is not about a worker’s right to organize.

“The issue is one of respecting the tribe as a government,” he said.

Foxwoods has 14 days to file a request with the NLRB in Washington for a review. MacDonald said tribal officials have not yet decided whether to appeal.

Bob Madore, director of UAW Region 9A, said the decision is a victory for Foxwoods employees.

“We were confident we would win this case,” he said. “It’s simple: Regardless of where you work, you have a right to form your own union. That’s the law, and that’s why the NLRB ruled in favor of an election.”

UAW officials during September filed for the election, saying it won a “supermajority” of the 3,000 dealers who signed cards backing a union drive. At least 30 percent of employees of a proposed bargaining unit must sign cards to force a vote, which is supervised by the NLRB.

A date for an election has not been set.

Foxwoods opposed the union’s petition to the NLRB for an election, prompting a hearing and the ruling that was issued.

Madore said UAW Region 9A, which represents university employees, legal aid workers and others in New England, New York City and Puerto Rico, decided to start its union campaign at Foxwoods with the 3,000 dealers. About 11,500 people work at a variety of jobs at Foxwoods, which opened in 1992.

“You walk before you can run,” he said.

Jacqueline Little, a poker dealer at Foxwoods for 15 years, said she was ecstatic at the news of the NLRB decision.

Little, of Coventry, R.I., said health insurance is inadequate and annual pay raises do not keep up with inflation. She even criticized cigarette smoke in the casino, which is exempt from Connecticut’s no-smoking laws.

Foxwoods and the nearby Mohegan Sun have been in the sights of unions for years. In 1999, the president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union declared Indian-operated casinos the new frontier for union organizing.

Both casinos have said unions are unnecessary because workers are paid well and receive good benefits. Tribal sovereignty also precluded unions, the Indian tribes said.

That argument was struck a major blow with the federal court ruling earlier this year.

Little said she believes the NLRB decision will pave the way for an ultimate union victory.

“It’s inevitable. We’re going to have a union at Foxwoods,” she said.

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