Tuesday, April 21, 2009

14th Ward Independent Democratic Doters Club

The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club really should change their name. The organization is not very connected to the 14th Ward anymore. Although its few remaining active members live in the Ward they certainly do not represent the Ward's demographics. They have no young people, despite the many students and young professionals living in Squirrel Hill. They have little diversity, despite the neighborhood being an ethnic melting pot.

The organization certainly is not independent. It is controlled by a small self-perpetuating group that historically has been the alter ego of the Ward Chair of the 14th Ward Democratic Committee. As members of the Committee the Ward must support the party's slate. Often the majority of the 14th Ward Committee Members support candidates who do not get the party endorsement. The Ward Chair is almost always a Board member of the club and thus is able to circumvent the County Democratic Party rules by pushing the unendorsed candidates through the Club. Their endorsement election has become somewhat of a sham. A small number of people vote in their endorsement election, primarily the board members, relatives and friends of board members, supporters and workers of candidates who joined the organization to participate in the endorsement and a few misfits looking for free and often delicious food.

The Club is no longer operated in a democratic fashion. It does not promote equality or openness at all. The Club is controlled by recycled board members living in the past. All efforts to appeal to a broader base of 14th Ward residents have been quashed by the rigid thinking of the long time board members. The board members agree in advance as to candidates they want to push. They create their own rules based upon race, sex, sexual orientation and religious beliefs in deciding which candidates should get their endorsements. Then they run an Animal Farm like election to assure the endorsement for these candidates. An example of their initiatives was a letter sent by a number of former Presidents to select members asking them to vote for a particular candidate at the recent endorsement of the Club. They failed to send the letter to certain members who they believed supported another candidate.

Although the Club targets voters, they should seriously consider changing the name to include the word Doters. Read Merriam Webster's definition of the word "dote" and it fits this group perfectly:


intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s):
dot·ed; dot·ing
Middle English; akin to Middle Low German dotten to be foolish
13th century
1 : to exhibit mental decline of or like that of old age : be in one's dotage 2 : to be lavish or excessive in one's attention, fondness, or affection —usually used with on
dot·er noun
dot·ing·ly \ˈdō-tiŋ-\ adverb

This organization has become the Pittsburgh version of Swift Boaters. They are now a fringe group, using their finances to promote their candidates under the false pretenses of representing a larger independent group. The definition of the word "dote" certainly describes this group. The are "exhibiting as a group mental decline of or like that of old age". Rigid thinking by the "core" long time board members has sabotaged efforts to attract younger members and driven away any board members who were newer or younger (in this case between the ages of 30-50). Additionally they do "lavish attention, fondness and affection" on their pet candidates. They stack the deck at their endorsement election to assure that the Board's candidates win. Then they can print their mailing and send it to prospective voters, leading the voters, who don't throw out the mailing with other political junk mail, to think that their endorsement was some type of meaningful process. The total number of voters participating in their elections is a secret as closely guarded as the secret sauces in a Big Mac. Having counted votes at one of these elections, the total for certain offices is amazingly low i.e. less than 30 voters! When you consider that 19 of the voters are Board Members who solicit candidates, that leaves just a few other voters. Take away the relatives of the Board members and avid supporters of particular candidates who join and participate only to stuff the ballot for their candidate, and what are you left with? Also keep in mind that the candidates solicited by the Board make donations to the organization. So these people are certainly more doters than voters.
Fortunately the sham mailing is probably not read by many undecided voters. Also it is fortunate that the organization often supports worthy candidates, but perhaps not for the right reasons. A rigid thinking member stated at a recent political function that a particular candidate should not be considered for the position because of the color of her skin. When it was pointed out to the individual that her philosophy on the subject flies in the face of the recent Presidential election, the individual, who is quite influential in the Club, made a negative comment about the color of President Obama's skin. This individual is one of the long time leaders of the organization. Such actions and rigid thinking have made what once was a respected organization irrelevant.
From the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club website, the President states in his letter "The Club is the oldest continuously-operating independent Democratic club in the country." It is unclear whether or not this refers to the average age of the active members. Rumors suggest that they hold their meetings in the Express Line at the Murray Avenue Giant Eagle. Like many Pittsburgh icons: Menzie Dairy, Clark Bars, the Steel Industry, the Pittsburgh Condors, and Poli's, it appears their time and usefulness to our community has passed.
In today's world of social networking, the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Voters Club relies on the historic method of mailings. The Internet allows people to seek out information about candidates and interest groups that send out mailings. Hopefully this blog entry will be read by an equal number of potential voters as those who read the Club mailing so that people can make an independent and open minded choice, while understanding what the Club's Endorsed Slate really represents.


Analyst for Profit said...

I ran across your blog entry while searching for something else. Great stuff! It has the smell of truth about it, but Im worried it also has the smell of... sour grapes? For example, why did you wait to expose the failings of the Club AFTER they announced their endorsements. Everything you argue was presumably true BEFORE they announced, so a skeptical reader is likely to conclude that you have aired their dirty laundry because YOUR candidate didn't win.

This would still be OK with me and your other readers, provided: #1 you tell us who your favored candidate was and why he/she should be endorsed, and #2 you disclose whether your candidate is in fact also a member of the club. Otherwise, your just taking the dirty laundry outside because your unhappy. Even if I'm right, though, and my complaint is fair, I still want to complement you on a great post! Very vivid and nice use of details to make your point.

Pittsburgh Guy said...

Analyst - Thank you for your comment. I did not write the blog entry until after I learned that the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club was posting on various websites. Those posts suggested that the organization's endorsement was important, not just the opinions of a few people who showed up to vote in the election. When their posts were out in the webstream I felt it was time to state my opinions.

As far as my candidate, she specifically asked not to be considered for the endorsement of the 14th WIDC. They told her that it was not her choice and that she would be placed on their ballot irrespective of her wishes. So this isn't a matter of her not winning, it is a matter of her being forced to be on the ballot, which is another example of witch hunting tactics (not that "my" candidate is a witch - far from it). You are correct I am unhappy, but it is not because my candidate in that particular race did not prevail, it is because of the tactics. Further several candidates who I do support and who are close friends of mine won the Club endorsement. As a matter of fact I am listed on the letterhead of one of the endorsed candidates as being on his Committee.

As far as your two questions: My favored candidate in the School Board race is Christine Stone. I will write a blog entry about my reasons for supporting her closer to the election. She is a member of the Club, understood the tactics that were being employed and wanted no part of it - but did not want to do anything to hurt the Club. These opinions are totally my own. She was not consulted before I wrote it and probably is angry at me for doing it!

P.S. I like skeptics. Keep it up.

Pgh Voter said...

Analyst for Profit - just curious, where did you get your profile photo?

Analyst for Profit said...

While looking for a suitable profile picture, the search engine led me to your blog archive, I read your current entry, and posted my reply. In a previous life, before a close encounter with a fence and a closer encounter with marriage, I was a serious snowmobiler.

I guessed wrong about your motive: I assumed it was a judge endorsement that had "disillusioned" you. I doubt that anyone pays much attention to school board endorsements, or for that matter to the race, so you shouldn't worry too much about the practical effects. I suppose that makes your post more valid about "process" and less about "sour grapes", although I won't proclaim you completely innocent since I don't know you or your candidate.

Happy snowmobiling and (it looks like) biking!