Friday, May 3, 2019

Episode 8 When Merit Guides Governance - Ralph Hough Radical Centrist

When Merit Guides Governance

An Interview with Former New Hampshire Senate President Ralph Hough

For those who long for more civil times when Republicans and Democrats saw one another as the loyal opposition. State Senate President Ralph Hough gave New Hampshire a Senate to remember in 1992.

Named as a Defendant in the nationally renowned Claremont v NH lawsuit over educational funding because of the constitutional office he held, Hough was a profile in courage when, he filed a brief on behalf of the Plaintiff School Districts and testified before the NH Supreme Court, asking them to side with the Schools. That year the Supreme Court Ruled on behalf of the Schools and the Children, though the struggle continues, this decision will set the precedent for a new lawsuit recently filed once again.

To my mind Ralph Hough is a hero and a living example of a Radical Centrist. Seeking to build consensus, to create both common ground and to build new ground upon which people of good-will could stand to find solutions to challenging problems.

Dance of a Woodland Elder
There is a lot of talk lately about how the 2018 election was the start of a shift in the fortunes of Republicans and Democrats . . . maybe so. But there is some early evidence that the shift may be nothing more than an exchange of one group of ideologues for another. If this is the case we will be no farther along on our new American journey than we are today and the divisions that plague our country will be just as stark.

However, there is a third way and the model for it can be found in the 1992 New Hampshire Senate. It affords an example for every legislature that is closely divided or where people of good will in both parties are willing to challenge the established dogmas to create meritocracies where what you know is more important than who you know . . . where allegiance is to country and state, not to political party.

In 1992 the NH Senate elections left the body divided 13 to 11 with the Republicans holding a slight advantage. In the typical spoils system that has afflicted us all too often, this would usually have resulted in the election of a Senate President and the Senate leadership from the majority party. Likewise all committee chairs would also be of the majority party, no matter how little they knew of their assigned committee’s responsibilities.

The Shadows We Cast Haiku

Just after the election then State Senator, and now US Senator Jeanne Shaheen and I, two Democrats, along with Concord’s beloved Senator Susan McLane and Ralph Hough of Lebanon, two Republicans, met quietly in Madbury to craft a bold plan: To create a Senate where party took a second seat to merit and where Democrats and Republicans worked together for the good of the state.

I honestly don’t remember who contacted whom with the idea and it doesn’t matter. Senator Hough had a reputation as a moderate to progressive Republican whose political hero was Teddy Roosevelt, Susan McLane was a progressive Republican, undeterred by the slings and arrows from the far right within her own party. Both represented the great historic tradition of pragmatic Republicans in the mold of Warren Rudman, Perkins Bass, Sherman Adams and Charlie Bass.

Senator Hough we surmised would not have won an election among Republican partisans, but if the 11 Democrats held together, along with at least 2 Republicans he could win.

Ultimately, that is just what happened; but on that day in Madbury we asked ourselves the more fundamental questions. How would we create a legislative body where people worked together; where Chairs and Vice Chairs were chosen for their expertise and their leadership ability; where fairness, transparency and achievement were the rule and not the exception?

At first we toyed with the idea of dividing everything equally between Republicans and Democrats, but that just seemed to be the same old wine in a different bottle.

We decided that parity would be considered a value but not the be-all-and-end-all. We obviously needed to have a Senate President as a presiding officer but what required us to have vice presidents, or other titles that established some kind of formal or informal pecking order within the Senate? So in our brainstorming – and later after Senator Hough had won, we did away with all these titles.

Since the goal was to create an atmosphere where Republicans and Democrats worked together for the common good developing consensus where possible and respecting differences where matters of personal principle made consensus impossible, we considered completely eliminating the separate pre-session caucuses, an age old tradition that generally has been a partisan planning session.

Senator Hough felt that he did not want to issue an edict preventing either party from gathering together when they felt it was important. Instead he announced that the entire Senate would be invited to lunch together before the session, in effect creating a bi-partisan caucus where we would have a final opportunity to develop consensus on contentious issues and if consensus were not possible to civilly alert one another that we were going to have a “floor fight.”

It was at these lunches that I developed a real and abiding respect for many of the Senators whom I had previously seen in a very adversarial way. Suddenly Senators, whom I had viewed only as adversaries, were no longer political enemies but colleagues with whom I often disagreed but who were human beings with whom I could break bread, talk, and, from time to time, compromise.

Senator Hough began the Senate term with a team building retreat for the entire Senate challenging us all to move beyond the constraints of party and to take risks for the good of our state. The retreat included not only Senators but staff members as well.

That year, as the country struggled to get its economy moving again the New Hampshire Senate – with a full sponsorship of both Republicans and Democrats passed five omnibus economic development bills creating an Office of International Trade; supported the creation of The Center for Earth, Oceans and Space at UNH - one of the first institutions in the Country to initiate studies of Climate Change - , expanded the Port of New Hampshire, strengthened the Business Finance Authority, took the first steps toward development of a Community College system throughout NH among other things, all while balancing the State’s budget

By the end of the two-year term I considered many of my former adversaries among the finest, most principled people with whom I had ever served. They had not changed. The dynamic had.

In years past, legislators had opportunities to experience one another as human beings, whether it was because they would gather together at the Highway Hotel for dinner or because they carpooled to legislative sessions. Today it is harder to find such opportunities but with some effort this small group of Senators upended years of partisan tradition to create what I believe was the most collegiate and cooperative group of Senators that I had seen in all my 12 years in the NH House and Senate.

I will never forget what Ralph Hough said at the end of one of our early meetings. “They will probably throw us all out for this, but it will be worth the ride.”

I won’t represent that we changed the face of politics in New Hampshire – we didn’t.

In the next election, Newt Gingrich's Contract with America election, Republicans dominated the election and the Senate returned to business as usual, more partisan than ever. It may have been the same if Democrats had dominated. But for one brief, shining moment, we glimpsed how things might be if change were built from the center out.

I hope that Ralph Hough still thinks it was worth the ride. I know I do.

Alton Washday Revisited

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Episode 07 Ripples of Hope - The Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative PAREI

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. 
Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." Robert F. Kennedy

This is a joint podcast of The Radical Centrist and New Hampshire Secrets, Legends and Lore and cross broadcast on both podcasts because of the unique nature of what PAREI has achieved and the tremendous promise that the work they do holds not only for the state of New Hampshire but as a model for similar organizations all across the country.

In this podcast - part 3 of our "Beyond Carbon" series I interview Peter Adams and Sandra Jones, Founders of what may very well be the first non profit in the country to focus exclusively on sustainable energy and conservation. Since their founding in 2003 a growing army of community volunteers and environmental patriots has worked with Peter and Sandra to help others plan their energy future. No one is asked what their beliefs are, what they drive, their political party, who they voted for. There are open arms and open hearts beginning with Peter and Sandra and the infectious effect of that openness and acceptance has spread throughout not only the organization but the community. It is one of the most important keys to their success.  Another is the axiom, "don't talk . . . do."  Experiment, take risks, make mistakes, learn from them and move on, celebrate your victories by sharing your knowledge so that others might benefit from it all. Today as many as 150 other communities from across America have requested the primer developed by PAREI to form their own Energy Initiatives.

So when Sandra and Peter and the army of PAREI began it may have seemed at times a lonely business, but in part from their efforts, A Renewable Energy Revolution has flowered. That Renewable Energy Revolution taking place in this country has many points of light, to use a phrase from President George H.W. Bush, each of them spread their warmth and illumination moving us with growing momentum and enthusiasm toward a distributed energy future that will allow us to live comfortably and still care for the planet and our neighbors, both humans and critters of all shapes and sizes, or as Free Joseph says, the earth and all its inhabitants.

To me, Sandra and Peter are living proof that heroes and patriots walk among us every day in our own communities. People who recognize that the changes we make here at the grassroots are the ripples of hope that build to create change at every level. 

Now if they were here right now, both of them would deflect the attention from themselves to the hundreds of volunteers now engaged with them in the work of PAREI. Of course they are right. But without the catalyst; without the stone dropped into the pond, the ripples would not rise up.

If it seems like I am immensely proud of my old friends, I plead guilty. How could I not be when their work gives me such hope for the future. For as long as citizens reach for the stars, it won't matter that our leaders are temporarily lost in a black hole of partisanship and ideology. Time and again throughout our history we have seen that If the people lead, the leaders will surely follow.

Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative (PAREI)
Solar energy equipment supplier in Plymouth, New Hampshire
Address79 Highland St, Plymouth, NH 03264


RFK Ripple of Hope Speech

Episode 6 - New Hampshire’s Outsized Role in The Renewable Energy Revolution

Radical Centrist

By Wayne D. King

Last year as the fleeting pleasures of a North Country summer were quickly yielding to the bittersweet days of autumn along Rattlesnake Ridge where I live. I was ruminating on the book I had just finished "Sacred Trust" and thinking of how Autumn always seems to summon forth the highs and lows of our inner spirits; one moment we want to run and jump and throw our hands in the air, rejoicing at the beauty of the world around us and the next we are close to tears, often for reasons that seem completely unfathomable . . . careening between joy and sadness, though I suspect that the passage of time, more acutely felt, is the primary motivating force.

In a week or two the hills would be ablaze with color. At least so we all hoped. The effects of climate change seem to be having an effect on autumn foliage, but we really don’t know what the effect is. Some climate scientists say it will enhance colors, at least in the short term.

Others insist the leaves will turn from green to brown and simply fall off the tree, but we don’t know how much of that is because of climate change and how much is because of an extremely dry summer and fall. Scientists differ wildly in their predictions of the effect but there is not the slightest difference on the causality side of the equation . . . the changing climate of our earth mother.

In Sacred Trust, an existential environmental time bomb, in the form of a massive powerline, is about to explode an entire way of life for the people of the North Country. Nine unlikely oddballs: rock climbers, paddlers, a deer farmer and a former spook, are all that stands between the people and the powerline.
The Whisper of Wind - Signed Original

Most readers find themselves praying for the Oddballs. . . If the storyline sounds familiar it is at least in part because I was seeking a vicarious way to express my own frustration with the current situation here in New Hampshire, but also in states across the nation where the same scenario is taking shape.

The novel is somewhat unique, I think, in that the story divides itself between the heroes – citizens engaged in creative civil disobedience as the last defense against the powerline; a group of writers, calling themselves the Gazetteers, writing against the powerline project in the style of the authors of the Federalist Papers; and, finally, a serious-minded journalist who is writing a well researched analysis about both the project and the national and international challenges of the advancing “Age of Electricity.”

Dance of a Woodland Elder

It was, and is, my hope to create a work of fiction that was enjoyable to read but that also helped readers to understand some of the challenges and nuance of the world in which we are all living and the world we are beginning to see emerge . . . the post-carbon world. Whether this education occurs on an individual basis or as a creative tool for the classroom, or both, it was my hope that art could be harnessed to facilitate change and dialog.

In doing research for Sacred Trust I learned a great deal and found to my delight and surprise that New Hampshire played an outsized role in today’s Renewable Energy Revolution. Furthermore, there were some civics lessons that also could be gleaned from the process that has brought us to this place.

Most of the remainder of this column is taken, almost verbatim, from Chapter 57 of Sacred Trust, in which journalist James Kitchen discusses the renewable energy revolution and New Hampshire’s role in its genesis.
Changing Course

Kitchen begins by describing a shifting paradigm that replaces carbon-based energy sources with sustainable green energy and some of the choices, challenges and dilemmas associated with the changeover.

Understanding the choices that our nation faces as we struggle to build a new energy paradigm requires that we have at least a basic understanding about how we got to where we are today and that journey – strangely enough – winds right through New Hampshire. In more ways than one . . .

Most politicians and even most citizens in New Hampshire consider the place of our state in the national election process as sacrosanct. The First-in-the-Nation presidential primary provides a jolt of cash to the state’s economy every four years but most people, particularly the staunchest defenders of the Primary, will tell you that there are more important reasons for protecting our place as first in the nation.

They will explain that only in a small state like New Hampshire does a candidate with limited money – but a great message – have a chance. In larger states, where the election is dominated by big business, big labor, and exorbitant media costs a great candidate without deep pockets will never have such a chance.

New Hampshire folks take their role in the process of winnowing down the field of candidates in their primary very seriously. They study the issues, they vigorously question the candidates, and then, once they have made up their minds, they roll up their sleeves and get involved in one campaign or another.
Lakota Prayer Fine Art Poster

To understand where we are today we need to go back to the mid 1970s. Richard Nixon had resigned, to avoid being impeached, and Gerald Ford, appointed by Nixon after the untimely (and from many accounts unseemly) death of Nelson Rockefeller, was our first unelected President.

The Presidential primary of 1976 saw a very crowded contest among Democrats. Depending on who you count there were almost twenty people testing the waters or outright campaigning for the nomination. From that process, an unknown Governor named Jimmy Carter emerged and swept to the nomination as the “un-politician.”

Carter won in Iowa and during the last three weeks of the New Hampshire Primary, capitalized on his Iowa win and zoomed from a 2% standing to over 30%, capturing New Hampshire. These two wins would serve to create a groundswell and Carter would go on to win the Democratic nomination. By the time the General Election rolled around James Earl Carter had sold himself as the first “outsider” candidate of the modern era and he won handily over Gerald Ford.

Carter’s one-term presidency was roiled by controversy and crisis, from an Arab Oil Embargo to the taking of American hostages at the American Embassy in Iran and a disastrous attempt to rescue those hostages.

The Eye of the Stone

Hidden in the layers of these controversies and crises is a legislative record that created the framework for a renewable energy revolution that has, of late, taken the country by storm. Carter’s team shepherded through Congress the landmark Nation Energy Policy Act, including a section called PURPA – the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act. These massive pieces of Federal legislation included the first national policies on renewable energy and energy conservation, among other things.

Two years before Carter ascended to the Presidency, New Hampshire held an election for a United States Senator to replace the retiring Norris Cotton. A close contest between the Democrat John Durkin and the Republican Louis Wyman led to two recounts; the first won by Durkin, by ten votes; and, the second, won by Wyman, by 2 votes. Any citizen who wonders if their vote counts, need only look at the outcome of this election. Finally, at an impasse, a new election was declared by the US Senate an election that Durkin won handily. Two years later, as the Carter Energy policy was moving through the Congress, John Durkin quietly and without fanfare, added an amendment into the PURPA act. The amendment required that utility companies purchase power – at market rates – from any producer of electricity generating fewer than 80 megawatts from a renewable energy source.

Durkin originally believed that he was helping to establish a foothold for wood to energy biomass and trash to energy co-generation, and he was; but the door that he opened with his amendment turned out to be big enough for every dreamer and entrepreneur, with a viable idea for generating electricity renewably, to walk through. Thus began the renewable energy revolution.

Soon proposals for small hydro (also called low head hydro), solar power, wind power and other renewable resources were on the drawing board and underway.

The Energy Policy Act passed the Senate by 1 vote. Again, a civics lesson in the importance of every vote in a democracy.

The Rising Too

Over the years since then a few changes have been made to the Energy Act, but all continuing to move the country toward the day when renewable energy would account for a larger and larger portion of the power produced.

The changes of the 70s represented the first step in a changing relationship between America’s public utilities and the people and businesses who consumed the energy. Utilities no longer held complete monopoly power over both the sale and the purchase of electricity as well as its transmission.

To be fair to utility companies, it is important to note that these changes have created serious disruption in the model that they had been employing to govern their business plans and for many would come to represent an existential threat to their economic viability.

Different utility companies have approached the challenges posed by this deregulation in different ways. Almost immediately Vermont utilities formed a working group among utilities to come up with approaches that would allow them to create sustainable business models and one of the first things they did was to add ratepayers and citizens to the process to create forward momentum and a consensus building approach that made everyone a participant in a process that strengthened utility companies and encouraged the development of renewable energy.

Those who simply tried to squeeze more from a diminishing set of profit centers hastened toward crisis. The changes that have taken place over the past twenty years represent an existential challenge to many utility companies. They are casting around for ways to generate more profits in an era of shrinking opportunities.

The Gathering Storm Haiku

The more progressive utilities are doing this by working to build an infrastructure that enhances the opportunities for renewable energy and the organic job growth that comes with it. Others are simply clinging to the past and trying to enhance their bottom line through transmission proposals that link together large generators of power with lucrative markets.

There are many lessons to be learned from the approaches employed to enhance their sustainability by utility companies all across America. But there is no doubt about one thing.

One short paragraph, authored by John Durkin and his team, had successfully wrested monopoly control over the electric grid from the utility companies and opened the gates for a flood of small alternative power producers and eventually individual homeowners and businesses.

For the first time the American people, just beginning to experience a growing environmental consciousness back in the 70s, had a say in the kinds of energy that we were using and could participate in the creation of that energy. For that we can thank Jimmy Carter, John Durkin and the 95th Congress of the United States.


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In the Clouds

Hikers in the Presidential Range of NH find themselves in the clouds buffeted by winds and rain. Printed in a signed limited edition of 25 prints on fine art rag paper with archival inks. To purchase the original or open edition prints or a poster in one of 2 sizes, email or click here:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Beyond Carbon: Part 1: The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act.

Episode 05 Show Notes
Beyond Carbon: Part 1: The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act.
Featuring: Flannery Winchester: Citizens Climate Action Lobby


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What do Steven Chu, Bradley Whitford, George Schultz, James Baker, Don Cheadle, William Boicourt and Fortune Magazine have in common? Support for an idea for reducing CO2 output by more than even the Paris Accords goals in two decades that essentially holds most middle class, working class and poor families harmless (70% of the population)to slightly higher costs on carbon-based products.
Flannery Winchester - Citizens Climate Action Lobby, Communications Coordinator 

Forget the band-aids! The most comprehensive bi-partisan measure ever proposed in the United States Congress is also the one attracting broad bi-partisan support (it also takes a big step toward dealing with income/wealth disparity!). The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (Very similar to the Baker Schultz Carbon Dividend plan first proposed by American statesman George Schultz and and James Baker) HR 763 is gathering steam and support from across the political spectrum. A fascinating market-based solution that even carbon-based energy companies are starting to get behind. Real change may be on the horizon. Bucky Fuller would have loved this one!

Beyond Carbon
Ep 05 Carbon Dividend Flannery Winchester CCL 2 by The Radical Centrist

The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act
HR 763

Welcome to Episode 5 of the Radical Centrist.
There are literally hundreds of major issues that our country and our world faces today.

Some of these problems are what I'd call process issues finding ways to make our democracy work for every citizen and the economy serve everyone and not just those at the top of the food chain.
change and income disparity are among those. we don't take dramatic action on Climate change in two decades we will reap the whirlwind, literally and figuratively. reverse the dramatic and growing income disparity among Americans our political system is going to continue to melt down. For 50 years the gap between the top 10% of citizens and the remaining 90%, comprising the middle class, working class and the poor has grown. More and more Americans have fallen through the cracks.

Today, for the first time in more than 100 years the middle class is shrinking, not
growing as it should be in a vibrant democracy. personally, is not the cause of this. He is the symptom. A symptom of the fear and anxiety that so many Americans feel today about their future.
elsewhere, they do of course, but as the old saying goes "Physician heal thyself" . . . We need to address our own income disparity issues and allow other countries to find their own way based on their own political and economic systems.

The longer we wait to take serious steps the more painful the process will be. But let's not
delude ourselves. The imperative to heal the planet is not really to protect mother earth - she will be just fine in the end. Until the day that our sun explodes and engulfs the planets within the solar system, Mother Earth will carry on. The only real question seems to be will she carry on with us or
without us?

Our imperative is to find a way that we can be resilient with her. To protect ourselves and every living species on the planet today - all of us endangered by the recklessness of one single species Homo Sapiens.
A Child's Dream Among Lupine

To protect ourselves and every living species on the planet today - all of us endangered by the recklessness of one single species Homo Sapiens. hundred thousand books, documentaries, films, blogs, speeches and conversations.

Humanity's recklessness is documented well in a hundred thousand books, documentaries, films, blogs, speeches and conversations.

But for every tale about our recklessness, beginning in the modern era with the work of Rachel Carson and others, who issued a clarion call to action, there is a story about extraordinary people who's love for the planet and our people are healing the planet. Led at first by individuals like Carl Sagan and his brilliant wife Ann Druyan, Winona LaDuke,  Buckminster Fuller, Jane Goodall,  Kurt Vonnegut, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Edward Abby, Dian Fossey, Paulo Soleri, Wangari Maathai, todays heroes have picked up the torch and moved forward at every level to play their part. 

No one person, no one act, will suffice. There is no magic bullet, no genie's lamp to halt the Climate Change that will make Mother Earth uninhabitable to her current tenants. There is only us.

As Bobby Kennedy said in his famed Ripple of Hope Speech:

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. 
Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." Robert F. Kennedy 1966

In the end, there is only us. The random ripples that we make can create the current that brings real and lasting change. 

These ripples of change must come from every level: from individual acts of courage to collaborative efforts at the community, state and federal level. 

In this Episode we will begin what will be a multi episode series entitled "Beyond Carbon" starting with a look at what is surely the most sweeping and innovative approach to dealing with climate change ever to emerge from the United States Congress.

In the next "Beyond Carbon" Radical Centrist podcast we'll introduce you to Peter Adams and Sandra Jones whose local Energy Organization PAREI is creating its own ripples of hope and a lot of Buzz around the country. Stay tuned for that.

That was Flannery Winchester Communications Coordinator for Citizens Climate Action Lobby a non profit solely focused on addressing the issue of Climate Change and now leading the charge for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
So now . . . Beyond Carbon
The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act
HR 763

For the first time since Climate change came onto the national and International agenda there is a bi-partisan proposal in the US Congress that will dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and actually meet the climate goals of the Paris accord using market forces and democratic oversight. It will also take a first major step toward addressing the massive income disparities that are destabilizing our democratic system of government.

In a happy coincidence, it may also be the first step in addressing the savage income disparity that has developed over the last half-century as well. Intrigued? Listen on. . .

I know, this is a big claim, particularly with the hundreds of small band-aids that have been put forth in Washington and state capitals around the nation in the hope of giving the appearance of moving toward a carbon free future.

The genesis of this idea came from two American statesmen, Former Secretary of State James Baker and Former Director of Office of Management and Budget and Secretary of Labor George Schultz.

This policy puts a fee on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. It starts low, and grows over time. It will drive down carbon pollution because energy companies, industries, and consumers will move toward cleaner, cheaper options.

Dance of a Woodland Elder

So how does it work?

  1. Carbon Fee
    This policy puts a fee on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. It starts low, and grows over time. It will drive down carbon pollution because energy companies, industries, and consumers will move toward cleaner, cheaper options.
  2. Carbon Dividend
    The money collected from the carbon fee is allocated in equal shares every month to the American people to spend as they see fit. Program costs are paid from the fees collected. The government does not keep any of the money from the carbon fee.
  3. Border Carbon Adjustment
    To protect U.S. manufacturers and jobs, imported goods will be assessed a border carbon adjustment, and goods exported from the United States will receive a refund under this policy.
  4. Regulatory Adjustment
    This policy preserves effective current regulations, like auto mileage standards, but pauses the EPA authority to regulate the CO2 and equivalent emissions covered by the fee, for the first 10 years after the policy is enacted. If emission targets are not being met after 10 years, Congress gives clear direction to the EPA to regulate those emissions to meet those targets. The pause does not impact EPA regulations related to water quality, air quality, health or other issues. This policy’s price on pollution will lower carbon emissions far more than existing and pending EPA regulations.


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The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends

Current Sponsors - If your rep is not here he or she should be! Ask them why not.

Energy Innovation Act Q&A

Starting a Local Chapter
CCL chapters form the backbone of the CCL organization. People from all walks of life who understand the urgency of climate change have started local CCL chapters across the world. This training points to resources to help get a new chapter up and running.

Regional Coordinators

Students for Carbon Dividends

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The most comprehensive and innovative Climate proposal in history is gathering a head of steam. First proposed by Goe Schultz and James Baker: Ep 05 The Radical Centrist:

Mr. Lincoln's Legacy

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Episode 4: Putting Community Back in Community Economic Development

Glen Ohlund has been a Community Economic Development Practitioner for more than 25 years. During that time he has been involved with efforts to help build affordable housing, to establish community based agriculture, to assist the tenants of mobile home parks with the purchase of their parks to provide them with home ownership and stabilize their housing costs and to develop sustainable housing. His formula for success has been to respect people and to recognize that creating sustainable change requires listening to all of the voices within a community and to work to build solutions based on shared values and consensus.

Wayne D. King1

Glen Ohlund 

Glen Ohlund (above), Community Development Director of Rural Development Inc./Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Linked in Profile:

Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The Whisper of Wind Quote Poster

Dance of a Woodland Elder

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Episode 3 Steven L. Dawson - The Pinkerton Papers and the Changing World of Work

Steven L. Dawson
Episode 3 Steven L. Dawson - The Pinkerton Papers and the Changing World of Work

An interview with one of the nation's most respected thinkers about work, job quality and creation.

Steven L. Dawson has worked in the field of low‐income community and cooperative economic development for 45 years. He has helped create and lead a range of for‐profit and nonprofit social enterprises and written extensively on low‐wage workforce issues.

In that time he has become one of the nations most thoughtful and respected voices on workforce development.

He has been a Senior Fellow at the world renowned Aspen Institute; co-chaired the NYC Workforce Strategy Group’s “Re-envisioning the New York City Workforce System,” and was a member of Mayor de Blasio’s Jobs for New Yorkers Workforce Task Force. In 1978, he founded the Industrial Cooperative Association (now The ICA Group), which consults to worker- and community-owned enterprises. 

In 2013, Steven Dawson was inducted into the National Cooperative Hall of Fame for his decades of leadership in developing low-income worker cooperatives.

Dawson was a key figure in laying the intellectual and structural groundwork of the worker cooperative movement. He helped found two nationally significant organizations: the ICA Group, the first professional consulting group for worker ownership, and Cooperative Home Care Associates, the largest worker co-op in the U.S. His work has changed the lives of thousands of workers and some of the foremost worker co-ops in the U.S. attribute their success to his influence. Dawson also understood that much of what affects the quality of work for direct care workers emanates from public policy and so helped start the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a national research, policy analysis, and technical assistance organization that works for the benefit of all direct care workers.

The Pinkerton Papers

Bad Jobs: "a bad job is not simply the absence of a good job. A bad job destabilizes the individual, her family and the community. . . . "In short, bad jobs are a core driver of inequality, and it is left to the rest of us to pick up the costs."

Making a bad job better can start with relatively simple investments:
> A redesign of scheduling procedures to provide greater consistency and predictability of hours.
> Access to financial literacy and financial planning assistance.
> Review and enforcement of strong safety standards.
> A company-sponsored emergency loan fund to cover a few hundred dollars in an employee’s unforeseen expenses.
> Employer-facilitated access to public benefits and tax credits—particularly the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which can provide a working family more than $6,000 in federal cash benefits annually, and even more in those

“Success for low-income workers should be broadened to include helping families move from instability to stability.”

Show notes: As Dr. Zeynep Ton of MIT has underscored in her job-quality research the logic is that employees must be treated “not as expenses to be minimized, but assets to be leveraged.”

Show Notes: What are the implications for workforce practitioners? First, workforce developers must not sell themselves short in their transactions with employers: High-quality practitioners who can deliver carefully selected, well-trained applicants are of increasing value to employers, particularly within a tightening labor market. Second, workforce development organizations must expand their range of technical capacities in order to know how to help employers make bad jobs better. And third, workforce developers must join other organizations whose missions are aligned with strengthening low-income communities—from community development financiers to social entrepreneurs, and from labor organizers to “high road” employers.

Show notes: "More Jobs—but Wages Remain Stagnant...” Yet it is worth reading beneath that headline. Stagnant wages nationwide do not mean that the wages of low-income workers have remained stable. On the contrary, over the past five years the occupations that employ the largest numbers of low-income youth and adult workers have experienced higher than average real wage declines—from -5.0 percent for retail workers, to -6.6 percent for personal care workers, to -7.7 for food prep workers."

Instead, the true street-level narrative of low-income work for many in America is one of near-constant instability: part-time work; seasonal work; variable hours; unpredictable schedules; wage theft. A detailed study by the U.S. Financial Diaries of 235 low- and moderate-income households revealed that 77 percent stated “financial stability” was of greater importance than “moving up the income ladder.” And a 2015 Pew Charitable Trusts study of 7,000 U.S. households noted: “When asked whether they would prefer to have financial security or move up the income ladder, the vast majority of Americans (92 percent) chose security…”


1. Building a job-quality narrative: Craft a unified public narrative that insists on the necessity for decent, stable jobs—simultaneously benefitting the worker, the employer and all residents within a region’s economy. The province of defining job quality should not be ceded solely to employers, but should in addition be articulated by all those in the community who seek an equitable society and a robust economy.

2. Support a unified policy agenda: Advocate an interconnected set of public policies, including minimum wage levels, essential benefits, safe working conditions, and worker self-advocacy guarantees—along with aggressive enforcement of all labor laws protecting low-wage workers.

3. Negotiate quid pro quo investments: When offering public or philanthropic resources and investments in specific businesses, require in return job-quality benefits for frontline workers. Those public/philanthropic resources can include not only access to well-trained applicants, but also investment dollars from community development finance agencies, and expanded markets through public-agency purchasing agreements. In return, practitioners can leverage not only “The solution to bad jobs is not education— at least not education alone.” The Pinkerton Foundation 4 The Pinkerton Papers higher wages and benefits, but also other essential job-quality elements such as predictable scheduling, better supervision, safer workplaces and greater worker voice and participation.

4. Build business expertise: Offer to employers a sophisticated level of technical expertise to craft a combination of business and labor strategies that benefit both the employer and the frontline workers. As noted earlier, these strategies can range widely, from a simple emergency loan fund and employer-facilitated access to public benefits, to more extensive job redesign and self-managing work teams. Admittedly, this “business expertise from a labor perspective” is not easy to find, but to date has been drawn from such disparate sources as semi-retired social entrepreneurs, progressive management consultants, and former union staff with decades of experience in sector-specific training and labor-management partnerships.

5. Highlight exemplars: Identify and lift up both high-road employers and low-income workforce initiatives that offer concrete examples of how good jobs can be beneficial to all. A few nationally-known examples are listed at the end of this paper, but with a bit of asking around, many more exemplars can be found, even within the local community.

"Social enterprises: In a burst of entrepreneurial spirit, the workforce development field is showing new enthusiasm for an old idea: creating “social enterprises” to employ low income jobseekers. The theory is enormously appealing. We can create good jobs for constituents who have a hard time finding work elsewhere and the profits will help fund our nonprofit organization. The reality, however, is far more complicated. "

Show Notes:

"For 45 years I’ve worked to create better jobs for low-income workers. I have supported African-American enterprises in rural Virginia and North Carolina, worker buy-outs of threatened factories in New England, and large-scale service cooperatives in the inner cities of the South Bronx and Philadelphia. In those 45 years, I have never witnessed a labor market as tight as today’s:

> Hilton Head hotels in South Carolina are bussing workers with five-hour commutes to meet tourist industry demands.1

> In Wisconsin, one out of seven direct-care positions is vacant, forcing nursing homes to turn away elderly clients— and in several cases, to close completely.2

> Zimmer Biomet—a manufacturer in Indiana’s Kosciusko County where the unemployment rate is 2.0 percent—recently “invited” 30 workers from Puerto Rico to join their company.

> During President Trump’s “Made in America” week, his Mar-a-Lago Club requested U.S. Department of Labor approval to hire 70 foreign workers, claiming they could not find enough U.S.-based cooks, waiters and housekeepers.

> This spring, the Governor of Maine commuted the sentences of 17 prisoners, explicitly in response to the state’s labor vacancies. This isn’t just an opportunity for workforce developers, it is a call to action. The self-interests of low-income jobseekers and employers are now wholly aligned—a once-in-a-generation convergence. To take lasting advantage of that alignment, job quality, not just job placement, must become the primary goal of our workforce field.

Show Notes:

"Change the Public Narrative about Employer “Success.” Unfortunately, today’s image of a savvy employer remains a business person who pays his or her workers as little as possible. Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, that image is still embraced not only by the public, but by many employers as well. When labor was abundant, perhaps that image was justified. If your competitor down the street is paying $9.00 an hour for store clerks—scheduling those workers with “just-in-time” software, and failing to train them adequately—why should you do anything differently? That is, so long as neither of you is having trouble recruiting workers.

The calculation changes, or at least should change, when the labor market tightens and people are no longer lining up for your jobs. Workforce organizations must fundamentally reverse the prevailing public narrative about what makes a “smart” businessperson: Today’s successful entrepreneur is one who creates a market advantage by building a quality workforce. Today’s smart employer not only invests in his or her workforce, but then leverages that investment to maximize productivity, efficiency, and market share. It is the second half of that equation—knowing how to leverage investment in the frontline workforce—that is all too often forgotten. As Zeynep Ton of MIT has emphasized, compensating and supporting frontline workers well is essential, but insufficient. To leverage those investments, the wise employer must also redesign other core operations, from information systems to inventory control, and from cross-training to frontline decision-making. Only then will the costs of higher investments in job quality be justified by generating the efficiencies and opportunities necessary to secure higher productivity and profitability. Simply paying people more, but then failing to create “operational excellence,” is exactly what gives job-quality strategies the reputation for being softhearted, if not plain softheaded. Our workforce field must instead articulate and drive a hard-nosed, sophisticated public narrative that emphasizes both sides of the job-quality equation. Essential to that narrative will be profiling small- and medium-sized employers who are already implementing successful job-quality strategies. There are a number of examples—such as the 200-worker Universal Woods manufacturing company headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky16—and we must position these pioneers to share their own stories directly with other employers.

The Pinkerton Papers: All Papers


A bad job is not simply the absence of a good job. A bad job destabilizes the individual, her family and the community. A bad job not only fails to pay enough for decent food and shelter for a worker’s family, it can risk her health, disrupt any chance for a predictable family life, undermine her dignity, and deny her voice within the workplace.

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“Employer engagement” is the current battle cry of funders and policymakers as they urge workforce practitioners to become ever more “market driven”— meeting the needs of employers and, in the process, providing lasting benefits to low-income jobseekers.


Workforce dollars are precious—particularly those targeting low-income jobseekers. The woman of color with a fifth-grade reading level; the returning veteran; the out-of-school youth with no employment experience; the immigrant laborer without papers; the court-involved; the individual recovering from addiction—their challenges differ, but each is seeking the stability and respect that steady employment can provide.


In a burst of entrepreneurial spirit, the workforce development field is showing new enthusiasm for an old idea: creating “social enterprises” to employ low income jobseekers.

Read More →


How do you train hundreds of unemployed women of color and provide them stable jobs? You build a company that embeds training and employment within a single, seamless strategy. For over 30 years in the Bronx, Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) has honed that strategy, producing off-the-charts results: Of 630 jobseekers enrolled annually, 94 percent graduate with a portable credential and 85 percent are employed as home health aides. Of those, 68 percent remain employed after one year.

For 45 years I’ve worked to create better jobs for low-income workers. I have supported African-American enterprises in rural Virginia and North Carolina, worker buy-outs of threatened factories in New England, and large-scale service cooperatives in the inner cities of the South Bronx and Philadelphia.

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Today, our workforce is engaged in a renewed examination of equity within our field. Philanthropy is hosting “equity in workforce” webinars, workforce organizations are arranging equity trainings for their staffs, and workforce conferences are mounting panels to reassess our field through an equity lens. Nearly without exception, this examination of equity is defined primarily in racial, and sometimes gender, terms. Which is, without argument, essential. But what is missing?


To reach and engage young people has long been the quest of youth justice interventions. We write this paper as strong advocates for credible messenger mentoring— an approach with great promise not only to disrupt the tragic spiral of incarceration and recidivism that traps so many young people but also to strengthen communities disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration.

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In 2012, ExpandED Schools and the Kelley Collaborative approached The Pinkerton Foundation for funding to launch a NYC STEM Education Network. Building on the work of a Noyce Foundation-supported group in New York City called the Science Alliance, the newly-established Network brought together STEM educators and leaders from a range of professional development organizations for after-school and summer STEM providers.
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Steven L. Dawson was founding president of PHI in the South Bronx, and currently consults nationally to foundations and workforce programs on job-quality issues. In March 2016, he was appointed Visiting Fellow at The Pinkerton Foundation.

Contact information: This opinion brief is the first in a series on job-quality issues for The Pinkerton Papers. For reactions, disagreements, questions and competing strategies, go to the Pinkerton Papers tab at, or directly to the author at:


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