Functional Disenfranchisement

According to an AP story, President Obama has decided to refrain from issuing any executive orders on immigration until after the election.  The sources for the story are “two White House officials” who probably are floating the idea as a kind of trial balloon.

The President had promised immigration advocates that he would take action by the end of the summer, so they are disappointed and angry about the President’s decision.  The decision is expected to help certain “vulnerable” Democratic Senators who are facing tough reelection campaigns this year.  The story reports that the officials said that the President “concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul.”  At the same time, the President apparently says he will take executive action, without any congressional involvement, by the end of the year.

Does the President really expect anyone to believe that his decision is an attempt to avoid politicizing the issue?  That depiction of his motives is laughably false.  It’s obvious that the contrary is true:  the President recognizes that immigration is a hot-button issue, and issuing aggressive executive orders is just going to hurt the Democrats who — unlike the President — are facing the voters this November.  The effect of the delay in any action by the President is entirely political; it will avoid anyone being held accountable if the voters happen to disagree with whatever edicts the President issues.

We’ve heard lots of talk about people being disenfranchised by policies, for example, that limit early voting.  This decision is the functional equivalent of disenfranchisement; it’s just a more duplicitous approach.  Wait until after an election to protect incumbents, then have a lame-duck President issue executive orders and hope that voters are focused on some other issues by the time the 2016 election rolls around.  Reliance on executive orders of dubious constitutionality to make huge changes to federal law and practices is distorting the political process, encouraging Congress to do nothing except raise more campaign funds, and stripping us of our ability to influence national policy through our votes.

Mr. President, you’re not fooling me, and I doubt that you’re fooling anyone else.  If you are going to make huge changes to immigration policy, at least have the guts and fairness to do so before the election, so voters can have their say about your actions.

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Cool Stuff Coming Up

Those of you who live in the Columbus area might want to mark your calendars for two cool events that are coming up in two weeks:  Independents’ Day 2014, and Open Streets Columbus.

Those of us lucky enough to work on Gay Street know Independents’ Day well.  For years, it’s been held on Gay Street, right in front of my office.  It’s a great event that gives the “independents” in Columbus — be they musicians, artists, businesses, food trucks, or just about anyone else who wants to claim the title — a chance to show what they’ve got to offer the community.

IMG_2936This year Independents’ Day is moving to Franklinton, the part of Columbus just across the Scioto River from downtown Columbus.  Franklinton is where Dinin’ Hall is found — so it’s a great place by simple association — but it’s also an area on the uptick, where people are willing to try new things.  Although we’ll miss Independents’ Day on Gay Street, I think it’s great that Franklinton is the new location, so people can get a look at this up-and-coming area and what it has to offer.  This year’s festivities will be held from September 19 through September 21.

And here’s a terrific new twist on Independents’ Day:  on September 21, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Rich Street — between High Street in downtown Columbus and Starling Street in Franklinton — will be closed to vehicular traffic so that cyclists, walkers, joggers, skateboarders, and the casual strollers among us can walk down the street and across the new bridge.  They’re calling it Open Streets Columbus, and a chance to explore “a car-free urban playground.”  If you’ve never walked down the middle of a broad street and over a bridge without the thrum of traffic and the smell of exhaust affecting the experience, I can assure you it’s fun.

The Generic Conference Room Breakfast

If you’ve been to a meeting in one of our major cities that starts at 9 a.m. or before, you’ve seen something that looks an awful lot like this spread.  It’s the generic conference room breakfast.  You grab a plate, bleary-eyed, and shuffle on down the line.

There are certain staples.  There’s coffee, of course, with sugar packets and little plastic creamers and plastic stirrers.  Sometimes the coffee will have a little name plate telling you the type of bean being roasted, but more often it’s just coffee, period, served in a generic metal dispenser where you push down the big button at the top and the coffee gushes out into a generic paper coffee cup.  Who cares about the blend?  We’re here for a meeting, and we just want the caffeine.

IMG_2984If it’s a top of the line spread, there will be bottles of juice, but more often the drink options are coffee, coffee, coffee, water from a pitcher, and cans of soda.  If you don’t want to pump yourself full of coffee, you can enjoy an early morning Sprite instead.

Of course, there are always bagels galore, with some pats of butter, little tins of creamed cheese, and containers of jelly.  The serving platter usually features some baked goods like muffins or scones, too.  And, because we might conceivably want to eat healthier, there’s some sliced melon, and grapes, and a few other fruits tossed in to make the plate look colorful.

And sometimes there’s something, well, odd.   In this edition of the generic conference room breakfast that I encountered yesterday morning in Manhattan, there was a large bowl of hard pretzels.  Pretzels?  A chance to fill the blood vessels with salt at 9 a.m.?  Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it was New York.

Is all of this food even edible, or is some of it plastic?  Does the stuff that isn’t consumed — which usually is about 95 percent of it — get recycled or donated to the nearest homeless shelter?  How many businesses In New York City, and Washington, D.C., and Boston, are dependent upon baking up those generic bagels, and brewing that generic coffee?