Monday, July 7, 2008

Creative Yard Signs

Exercise your voting rights early this season! And have fun doing it. My Yard Our Message is a project sponsored by the Walker Art Center, MN Artists, and the UnConvention. And you get to vote and the medium and the message.

Scores of artists and designers were invited to submit yard signs around the theme of what it means to actively participate in a democracy. Their wildly creative proposals deal with information access, the cost of ignorance, get-out-the-vote messages, the war in Iran, tragedy in Darfur, the environment, and virtually every other concern facing voters in a democracy.

Here’s the offer you can’t refuse: You, your family and friends, check the FaceBook rendering of the artists’ proposals. And then you get to vote for the signs that you would be willing, nay eager, to post in your yard!

I spent almost an hour yesterday weighing the messages, the neighborhood, and my willingness to put the yard sign where my mouth is! Virtually every artist’s creation gave me pause and a keen sense that I’d like to talk about this with the neighbors!

The votes will tabulated (and the process monitored with due diligence….) The top fifty vote-getting designs will be announced August 1. They will then be made available to order as a full-sized political yard sign for $20. Top designs will also be available as free downloads. The frosting on the cake -- the Walker and MNArtists are going to print the winning yard signs and place them around the TC’s , with particular emphasis on neighborhoods immediately surrounding the habitu├ęs of the visiting RNConventioneers.

Cast your votes now (yes, you get to vote for more than one) by clicking here!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Play it again, NCMR

In several conversations during the past few weeks I’ve heard people mention that they wish they’d been able to attend the June 6-8 National Media Reform Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Never mind the Strib reporter and Bill O’Reilly didn’t appreciate the opportunity - in fact, their negative take might have expanded the audience.

Take heart - all of the keynote and other major talks are streamed online. You’ll see and hear Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, author Amy Goodman, political analyst Bill Moyers and a host of other speakers on the NCMR website. There’s also an audio file, transcripts, photos of participants and speakers, and an expanding collection of follow-up reports and developments.

Access sine qua non

The lynchpin of access to government information rests in the hands of every voter. Still not everyone votes, and not everyone knows how to get access to the voting systems. There’s lots of get out the vote information, of course, much of it sponsored by organizations that would like to advise you on how to vote.

Two national groups rise above partisan ship to provide the public with easy-to-use and understand guides to the election process, including information about the rights of voters, the process, local rules and regs. I thought I was tuned in because I know I’m registered and I can find my polling site -- but I just spent two hours plumbing the depths of these resources. There’s an amazing amount of information here, carefully aggregated and analyzed by trusted national organizations.

The League of Women Voters has a great guide in the June 2008 issue of The National Voter. It’s replete with information on where to look for voter registration information, polling places, guides to PSA’s, involved organizations, and links to scores of resources.

OpenTheGovernment has also gathered a ton of information about the complexities of voting in its Election Resource Center., everything from a discussion of “caging” to how to challenge an election.

Minnesota has a history of poll site registration and other open policies. Still, not everyone who can be is “in the loop.” These two nonprofit organizations, and others, have done the research to ease access to the system. Before you post that get-out-to-vote sign in your front yard you might want to know where to send would-be voters for the facts. You don’t have to know the answers, just know where to look.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Mourning Coalition of Journalists for Open Government

As readers in cities around the nation lament the cuts to their local newspaper, their primary source of accurate information and reflection, I am mourning the demise of a related organization, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government. I got to know the CJOG through Sunshine Week activities, a project in which CJOG was a major force. The Coalition also provided a forum for collaboration and communication among the many journalism organizations that stand up for open government, particularly at the federal level.

The work of the CJOG will be picked up by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, headed by Minnesotan Lucy Dalglish, and by the National Freedom of Information Coalition; Sunshine in Government will also continue to post information on federal open government issues. These are good, reliable -- but very busy -- hands in which to leave an important function.

Needless to say, the reason for closing the virtual doors at CJOG is money. Long ago I learned that people/organizations will pay for goods first, then services, and almost never collaboration. There’s no tangible, visible product, just the payoff of shared responsibility, division of labor, and the powerful impact of collective wisdom. Sometimes those benefits get in the way of other agendas, e.g. obfuscation of facts and empire building.

Thanks to Peter Weitzel for his efforts on behalf of open government and for his continued involvement at the federal level.