Friday, February 11, 2011

The Road to The Conference

As we approach tomorrow’s conference, us here at the Hankster asked a few activists about their stories. Joelle Riddle, Ramon Pena, and Michael Lewis agreed to answer a few questions and paint a picture for us about the different roads that have lead them to tomorrow’s conference.

Joelle Riddle

How/Why did you become an independent?

Joelle had been an independent her entire life and ran as a democrat in 2006 when she won office as county commissioner of La Plata. Three years later, on August 21st, 2009 she switched to the independent party. Although she wasn’t able to run for office after her term was up because of an eighteen month rule between a party change and election run, she doesn’t regret it in the least.

What is your current grassroots activity? (What does your grassroots base look like?)

Joelle is the founder of independentvotersforcolarado.org; a place for independents to gather and discuss agendas without the distraction of partisan issues. She has taken direct action while in office as well; she started and continues to work on a ballot initiative for 2012 that is modeled after California’s Proposition 14 dating back to October 2009.

What are you expecting from the Feb. 12 conference? - Any message to Hankster readers?

“I’m really excited. It’s going to be great to meet other passionate independents and learn what others are doing”.

“Keep reading and get involved!”

Ramon Pena

How/ why did you become an independent?

Ramon had been a Democrat his entire life, but never voted. He disliked politics for a significant amount of time until independents he met during George Pataki’s gubernatorial campaign helped stimulate his interests. Through his activities during that campaign he came across Cathy Stewart, Manhattans county chair at the time, and through her briefings he gained extensive knowledge of the independent movement. After a few months of listening and seeing the state of politics in east Harlem, he re-registered.

What is your current grassroots activity? (What does your grassroots base look like?)

Networking is the key part of Ramons grassroots activity. Through phone calls, meetings and sites such as Facebook, he reaches out to everyone he can. He believes that this is the key to progress for independents because theye’re fighting against the media. Independent’s don’t have a strong enough voice yet to use the media as a tool which itself is currently saturated with partisan viewpoints. Furthermore, the media paints a picture that independents just jump parties; for example right now independents are supposedly leaning towards “the right”. “We aren’t republican or tea party” he says, “We have an agenda”.

What are you expecting from the Feb. 12 conference? - Any message to Hankster readers?

“The program sounds great! I’m looking forward to speaking to other, passionate Independents. I really appreciate everyone who’s making time to travel to New York for this Conference”

As for the Hankster readers, he thinks they all need to continue to come together and reach out to as many people as they can. Independent’s don’t have the political power yet and those with power are too busy fighting amongst themselves.

Michael Lewis

How/ why did you become an independent?

Michael was raised in Louisville, Kentucky in a non-politically active household. He however became interested in politics but never found that he fit into either party. He always considered himself an independent and cared about the issues at hand, not the partisan line that divides politics.

What is your current grassroots activity? (what does your grassroots base look like?)

As an independent in Kentucky Michael found himself in quite the minority as independents there did not have a home. In 2006 he started doing research and stumbled upon independentvoting.org and learned there were 180,000 independents in Kentucky. He took it upon himself to create a home for them with independentkentucky.com, a place where independents can come together and talk without having to be critiqued. Networking and providing information this way, he believes, is the best way to help the independent movement grow. His website has been so successful that opposing activists have even tried to hack into it.

What are you expecting from the Feb. 12 conference? - Any message to Hankster readers?

He is looking forward to meeting with other independents and learning what they’re doing, seeing other platforms, and making more connections. The fact that it will be a friendlier atmosphere with other independents simply adds to the excitement for him. In addition, Michael thinks Hankster readers should continue to learn and to keep reading; the site has great information. “You should be the change you seek” he tells us, quoting John Avalon.

By: Charles Perez

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