Thursday, December 24, 2009

Senate passes health care bill...Merry Christmas

At 7:16 this morning, the Senate concluded its vote on H.R. 3590 with a vote of 60-39. Majority Leader Harry Reid said he suspects he will hear "an earful of wonderment" from the folks back home who will no longer be denied health care because of preexisting conditions. Reid also invoked Ted Kennedy, saying, "The work goes on; the cause endures." Indeed. The House and Senate now need to reconcile their differences: whether to offer a public option, to what extent Medicaid will be expanded, how to deal with insurance plans that include abortions and more. Both Reid and Minority Leader (and health care bill opponent) Mitch McConnell agreed: this is just the beginning....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Voice: New Video!

When it rains it pours. Yesterday I was talking to my mom about the week in politics after being away from communication for a while. She told me that between upscaling the Afghanistan war, more blocks on healthcare reform and static employment figures that things were getting a bit overwhelming. The situation seems helpless.

It was extremely encouraging to return home and see the final edit of our video about Community Action Agency (Accion) in Little Havana. Despite all the foot-dragging and pauses on reform in Washington, HSC is sparking action in Miami. It's raining cats and dogs right now. Maybe this video can brighten up your day:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Miami, get involved!

Former governor and senator Bob Graham will be at Books and Books tonight promoting his book, America: the Owner's Manual, Graham's guide to civic engagement. Such guidance is greatly needed here in South Florida: The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area ranks 50th out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States in civic participation, according to the 2009 Florida Civic Health Index released by the Florida Joint Center and National Conference on Citizenship (read more). The study took into consideration indicators such as voter turnout, volunteerism and the number of participants in public meetings.

HSC has its own guide to getting involved: sign up for our programs, like the Parent Leadership Training Institute, the Neighborhood Leadership Program or Advocacy Corps Training.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Year's Resolution for Florida: Fair Elections

Thirty-five percent of Florida's districts were uncontested in the 2008 elections. Do we really have so few citizens willing to step up and run for office, or have these districts been gerrymandered so successfully that running is considered a waste of time?

I'm not sure what to do about the first problem, but for those interested in solving the latter, Fair Districts Florida has a campaign worth looking into. They want to put two ballot measures up for vote that would demand districts be "as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible...make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries." Sign their petition or donate soon...they're on a deadline!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

HSC in Little Havana

Today I went by Community Action Agency in Little Havana to shoot some interviews for our upcoming newsletter podcast. If you're signed up for our newsletter, you'll see more about that later (shameless newsletter plug), but I wanted to say a few words about my experience this afternoon. Upon entering the organizations doors on 8th avenue and West Flagler (858 W Flagler), I was met with greetings and enthusiastic chatter. The building was bustling with young and old alike attending the monthly meeting on community affairs. And that's what I immediately saw - a community. The Human Services Coalition has put a lot of resources and manpower into the organization that offers services ranging from adult education to tax help. I can say now after visiting that the resources are appreciated and being put to good use. Maintaining and building community is one of the key aspects of the work we do in Miami, and Accion on West Flagler exemplifies that principle.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The devil is in the data...follow the money

Ed Bender, from the National Institute on Money in State Politics was at HSC this morning to teach us how to use the tools on These free databases organize reported information about campaign contributions from across the country in an accessible manner.

Something you might observe if you are poking around the site:

In 2008, 7% of Florida's state elections were competitive (meaning, no candidate was unopposed or raised twice as much as his competitor). This is striking compared to states like Arizona, where 62% of races were competitive (and there is a robust public financing program.)

We will be posting the presentation on our website soon, but in the meantime, Follow the Money.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

National Service: Strong Economy/Strong Future

I have started to tweet, and invite you to join me as I share the many wonderful opportunities and ideas I discover in my life's journey. And I am eager to learn from you too, to create a gigantic learning community of fellow travelers, seeking ways to end suffering and promote peace and prosperity in our world. Check it out at CatalystMiami on Twitter.

My latest post comes from John Podesta and

We are honored to host 30 Public Allies, a transformational young adult leadership program, 3 VISTA volunteers, and 3 senior volunteers in service. And we are looking forward to bringing on some additional service members through the national Community Healthcorps to work with us to promote nutrition and wellness for those receiving SNAP (formerly Food Stamps).

Listen in and join the conversation.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Letter to the Editor: healthcare subsidies for public employees

In response to a recent Miami Herald article about the subsidized healthcare of Florida state legislators and other public employees, our very own Julieta Romero sent this letter to the editor:

Yesterday's Herald article on State legislators' defense of their taxpayer-funded health coverage was eye-opening. The irony is even greater given the preparations they are making to slash coverage for State workers and vulnerable Medicaid recipients next legislative session. Perhaps most telling was future Senate President Mike Haridopolos' unbelievable comparison: "It's not like we pay nothing...It's not like Medicaid.''

For starters, hundreds of thousands of Medicaid recipients do pay out-of-pocket just like Senator Haridopolos. It's not clear whether the Senator was unaware of that fact or whether he just wants to continue the practice of blaming the very poorest and sickest Floridians in lieu of fixing our broken tax structure.

The fact is, it only takes a couple of copayments to spend more than 1% of a typical Medicaid recipient's below-poverty income. By comparison, given Senator Haridopolos' publicly funded salary as a legislator and professor, he would need to pay at least $1,000 a year in co-pays to reach even a comparable burden.

The article shows that legislative leaders lack more than the revenue they need to meet Florida's basic needs. They lack a basic understanding of the lives of real Floridians.

We're thankful for our awesome co-workers

Last week, we had our annual Thanksgiving potluck. It was a great opportunity for us to bond over a delicious meal.