Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Readers of this blog should have read Part I (LINK) prior to reading this blog.


It all begin back in July of this year.

A non-profit civic organization named Jefferson Action (JA) brought together an effort to enable and empower voters in the 16th congressional district to know the candidates better.

This is how JA describes beginnings of its project:
On July 27-29, the first Citizens Election Forum met to discuss the economic problems facing Ohio’s District 16 and identify the most important economic issues for the Renacci and Sutton campaigns to focus on. Twenty-four citizens randomly selected from the district worked hard over the course of three days to identify three economic issues they want the Renacci and Sutton [LINK] campaigns to address. In the end the group agreed that weak economic growth, unemployment and the federal budget/deficit are the economic issues the candidates should address.
The SCPR believes that a major impediment to everyday citizens interacting in a critical/analytical way with their elected representatives is their unprepardness.

We all know the feeling.

Unprepared for anything equals insecurity.

Oh yes, if the citizen has a particular problem they can and often do scream and yell at their elected public official.  But to do so is to risk coming off as a "hot-head" not to be taken seriously and thereby plays right into the hands of an experience-advantaged politico who has no answer.

A citizen/politician match up in terms of prior preparation is in fact a mismatch.

If nothing else, the official will have honed up on his/her talking points and likely thereby to make onlookers see the citizen as being a politically ignorant person.

Accordingly, it was very empowering for Jefferson Action to have gone out an gotten nine experts (the September 20 -23 sessions) in economics and politics to meet with its 24 randomly selected across the 16th congressional district citizen-participants.

To repeat, the framework for the Q&A with Renacci and Sutton was centered on three broad issues of the candidates' respective campaigns.
  • Weak Economic growth,
  • Unemployment, and
  • The Federal Deficit and Debt
For you and I, carefully chosen experts are seemingly not in the cards.

Accordingly, the Jefferson Action model (as put together as its 5th project) is  not a realistic one for ordinary citizens in that respect.

However, there may be a viable alternative.

In this day and age of a vibrant Internet, one can become, if so disposed, self-educated on the issues in any campaign.  But there is no doubt about it, it takes a lot of time and effort to do so.

A threshold consideration is therefore:  whether or not it is realistic to expect folks busy with their work-a-day worlds will have the time and resources to take advantage of the Internet (and other) resources?

The SCPR thinks not unless a ready-made resource is put together that is easily accessible.

Perhaps Jefferson Action could lead the way in the following ways:
  • for starters, being a rallying organization for the creation of citizen groups in competitive congressional districts across America which meet at centrally located public libraries and thereby able to have Internet access,
  • to make available web-accessible "simple to use" organizational materials,
  • to make its staff available via various mediums as consultants and resource persons for citizen groups to avail themselves of,
  • assisting citizen groups formed to obtain commitments from congresspersons running in the chosen districts to participate in a format like that employed by JA in the Renacci/Sutton exercise,
  • in developing an web page which everydays access to ask questions of a panel of experts assembled by JA,
  • to provide document templates which provide content and timeline structures which lead the citizen groups from the preparation process through developing vetted and highly relevant issue Q&As, and
  • helping the citizens to evaluate the Q&A responses and provide a web-based depository for anyone to access as an aid to deciding in who to vote for in the chosen districts.
Jefferson Action has made a tremendous contribution towards facilitating a reasoned public dialogue in the conduct of political campaigns in its five projects.

However, unless the organization creates a follow-up, sustainable and continuing effort, it could be remembered for doing a good public work that has life only as a fading memory of those who participated in and witnessed parts of it.

Here are a series of videos published by Jefferson Action showing actual preparation stage sessions of its 16th congressional district citizen group.

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