Run for Public Office in West St. Paul: April 4

I’m organizing a run for public office in West St. Paul event along with some fellow citizens and the League of Women Voters-Dakota County. It’s a nonpartisan, informational meeting to learn more about running for city office, serving on committees, and volunteering with the city.

Mayor Jenny Halverson and a few city council members will be joining us to share their stories of running for public office and answer questions as a part of our moderated panel discussion.

The event is coming up pretty quick—Wednesday, April 4—primarily because the filing period is in May and there’s not a lot of time to decide if you want to run. Of course the event is open to anyone, whether you want to run this year or just some day.

Why?

I’m doing this because a lot of people don’t pay any attention to local politics. Yet the local level often has the greatest impact on your daily life. Roads, parks, trash collection, noise, and petty crime—that’s all local politics.

“If you love where you live (or if you hate where you live and want to fix it), you need to run for city council.” -Amanda Litman, Run for Something

Continue reading Run for Public Office in West St. Paul: April 4

Minnesota GOP Votes to Block Gun Safety & Their DFL Challengers

After the Parkland school shooting in Florida I’ve been pretty angry about gun violence. I was fed up after the Las Vegas shooting last fall, and yet again nothing happened.

This time feels different.

But it will only be different if we make it different.

After Sandy Hook I remember thinking, “Surely Congress will do something, so I don’t have to get involved.” Boy was I stupid.

Let’s not be stupid.

Why should the second amendment be more sacred than human life? There are some common sense things we can do to restrict gun use and keep people safe. The idea that we can’t touch guns and that somehow more guns will keep people safe is just wrong.

Gun Safety in Minnesota

Today in Minnesota we had an opportunity to move forward with two simple approaches to gun control, background checks and a red flag law that would temporarily remove guns from dangerous people. Continue reading Minnesota GOP Votes to Block Gun Safety & Their DFL Challengers

You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators

Three years ago—in 2015—I came up with an idea for a book giving a pep talk to church communicators. Last month we officially launched You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators by Kelley Hartnett and illustrated by Erica J. Hicks.

The Backstory

In 2015 I was in the middle of reading Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Robby Novak and Brad Montague. It’s hard to read that book without smiling and being inspired. It’s just full of such pep.

I’ve worked with church communicators as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks since 2004. If there’s any group in need of a pep talk, it’s church communicators. I read Novak and Montague’s infectious good cheer and thought we need this for church communicators.

So I put a proposal together for a pep talk for church communicators. Continue reading You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators

Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

It’s fitting that I close Black History Month by reading Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. It’s a quick read: one-page biographies (and fun illustrations) of 40 black women throughout history.

I quasi-intentionally read a fair number of black writers this month, including Luvvie Ajayi’s I’m Judging You, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Night Masquerade, Marley Dias Gets It Done, Ronald L. Smith’s middle grade Black Panther, They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery, and Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King Jr.

All were good, and while King and Lowery were perhaps the best examples of black history I read this month, Harrison’s Little Leaders really gives that broad taste of history that leaves you wanting more. Continue reading Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

25 Things You Didn’t Know About Billy Graham

The evangelist Billy Graham died today at the age of 99.

My first job out of college was working for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Once upon a time I had a blog about Billy Graham and tried to write a biography. I still have a box of Billy Graham memorabilia (“Billyobilia”?) from the waning days of the BGEA before it moved to North Carolina.

I’m captivated by Graham’s transition from fiery preacher to loving grandfather. I find his comfort and then estrangement with political power to be both inspiring and troubling.

I am sometimes bothered by the seeming simplicity of Billy Graham’s message or the emotional manipulation of plinky music and a stadium full of peer pressure. But that’s also the inherent contradiction of the gospel. It’s a simple message, but a lifetime journey. It’s the already but not yet.

In short, Billy Graham led a fascinating life.

As part of my research in working on a biography, I put together a list of 25 curious facts about Billy Graham. Since little ever came of that research, it seems worthwhile to share it today. Continue reading 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Billy Graham

Sexual Misconduct in Minnesota Politics: Lindsey Port Speech

You know what’s weird? Discussing sexual misconduct at the dinner table with your kids.

We’ve discussed a lot of politics in the past year or two, not because my family is especially political, but because the issues have demanded it.

It’s hard to describe the moment my son yelled out, “What’s a pussy?” or the face my daughter made when it dawned on her what the President of the United States had said.

Sexual Misconduct in Minnesota

That issue came home for me this fall when State Representative Erin Maye Quade and candidate Lindsey Port came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against two members of the Minnesota legislature. It seemed the flood of #MeToo stories heard around the country were coming home to Minnesota (that feeling would only deepen with the stories about Senator Al Franken and Garrison Keillor).

Lindsey Port’s speech at the Sexual Harassment Task Force Rally (transcript below):

Continue reading Sexual Misconduct in Minnesota Politics: Lindsey Port Speech

Minnesota Runs 2018: Women & Minorities Running for Office in Minnesota

Two years ago we heard nothing but complaints about our choices for who to vote for in the 2016 presidential election.

We hear complaints that there aren’t enough minority or female voices in the process.

People are frustrated that their views aren’t represented.

I’m a big believer in ‘stop complaining and start doing.’

We’re heading into the 2018 midterm elections, with all of the U.S. House, a third of the U.S. Senate, and control of state legislatures and governors’ offices around the country, as well as all kinds of local races on the line.

If you want to see candidates you support, now is the time to get involved. Here in Minnesota, caucusing begins Feb. 6. This is a byzantine process for parties to endorse their preferred candidate. It’s not the only path to office, but it’s a big one. So it’s time to start paying attention. Continue reading Minnesota Runs 2018: Women & Minorities Running for Office in Minnesota

Meeting Congressional Candidates: Jeff Erdmann

Tonight I went to another political meet and greet. Second one this week. And I took my daughter. Again.

I’m not sure what’s going on.

That’s not true. I’m angry. That’s what’s going on. This story broke about Minnesota House candidate Lindsey Port being blackballed  by DFL donors for speaking out against sexual misconduct.

So I’m feeling this push to be involved, to speak out, to let my voice be heard. I’m not just going to sit at home and complain.

Tonight Lexi and I walked to the coffee shop to hear from Minnesota 2nd Congressional District candidate Jeff Erdmann (“It’s spelled like ‘Nerdman,’ but take the ‘n’ off the front and put it on the back.”). He’s challenging 2016 DFL candidate Angie Craig for the DFL endorsement to face incumbent Jason Lewis in November.

I liked hearing Jeff’s story. He teaches American government to ninth graders at Rosemount High School. He teaches varsity football. He’s on reduced time at school in order to campaign (as reduced as he can and still keep health insurance) and his wife took a part-time job.  Continue reading Meeting Congressional Candidates: Jeff Erdmann

Senate District 52 DFL Gubernatorial Meet & Greet

I went to an event to meet DFL candidates for governor tonight. There are six candidates lined up so far: Chris Coleman, Tina Liebling, Erin Murphy, Rebecca Otto, Paul Thissen, and Tim Walz (Walz actually couldn’t make it, since he had to return to Washington for a vote).

The place was packed with a couple hundred people, all energized and fired up. It was a good chance to actually talk to the candidates and ask the questions you wanted to.

I’ve never been very involved in politics, but after the 2016 campaign when so many people complained about the lack of quality candidates, I think it’s important to get involved and be a voice in the process.

So Who’s the Best Candidate?

The challenge right now is there’s not a lot of difference between the candidates. They all have pretty similar positions. I liked Rebecca Otto going into this event, and I still like her. I also liked the energy of Erin Murphy and Chris Coleman.

I think Otto has some real practical plans—not just pie-in-the-sky ideas. As state auditor, she’s all about the numbers. She’s very practical, and I think that has pretty broad appeal. She’s also won state office before, by wider margins than both previous governors.

But I think I could get behind a lot of these candidates.

One thing I keep coming back to is I think it’s time for a woman to be governor of Minnesota. That’s not a deciding issue for sure, but when I see candidates that are pretty close on a lot of the issues, that becomes more important.

What it really comes down to is strong ideas to improve Minnesota. That’s pretty exciting.

The Next Generation

I also brought Lexi along with me tonight. We’ve talked a little about the gubernatorial contest and a lot about politics in general. Lexi doesn’t understand why there aren’t more women in these roles, so she’s excited to see more women running.

It was fun to bring her along and talk to some candidates and talk about some issues. Liebling talked about being inspired by Paul Wellstone, and mentioned talking to college students who didn’t know who Wellstone was. She said there probably wasn’t anyone here tonight who didn’t know Wellstone, though Lexi didn’t know.

So we got to talk about Paul Wellstone.

As a bonus, Lexi also won a door prize of a print with Wellstone’s famous phrase, “We all do better when we all do better.”

"We all do better when we all do better." -Paul Wellstone

We also talked about how politics actually does matter and changes things that impact our lives. The DFL passed gay marriage in Minnesota, making it possible for our LGBT friends to get married here. When Lexi started kindergarten she went half-day because we would have had to pay $3,000 to send her. When Milo started kindergarten he could go all day thanks to the all-day kindergarten the DFL passed.

We also talked about how ideas like help with college tuition will really impact Lexi’s future.

These kinds of things matter.

So it’s exciting to go to stuff like this and get involved and push for better things for our state and country. And bringing your kid along? Even better.

(Big thanks to everyone who worked to make tonight’s event happen.)

2017 Reading Statistics

In addition to tracking my reading, for 2017 I started grabbing some more stats.

The biggest numbers I’ve been tracking are for diversity, and I’ve been keeping an eye on those for a few years now. Being more intentional makes a difference (Just compare my favorites from now with a few years ago—if you have very few diverse reads among your favorites, you’re doing it wrong). If you ignore the numbers and hope it all works out, it’s eye-opening how it doesn’t.

Of course counting these numbers is tough: I base gender simply on the author, counting a book if any contributor is a woman. For race I count a book if a contributor or main character is a person of color.

This year’s numbers:

  • 64% POC books.
  • 55% female authors.

Here’s how that stacks up historically:

Books read by people of color and female authors

Here’s what that looks like compared to my total reading:

All time total books read, people of color authors, female authors.

I’m pretty thrilled to see those diversity numbers getting higher. If you think that’s silly or ridiculous, well, talk to my kids. It matters to them, and it matters to me.

Quick Trends

I also tracked some other details this year, which revealed some interesting trends:

  • New is always better: 75% of the books I read were published in the last five years. I only read 10 books that were more than 20 years old. (The oldest? A Wrinkle in Time, 1962.)
  • Nerds forever: As much as I love sci-fi, I don’t always read that much of it. This year I did. It was the top genre with 37% (last year it was 10%). Next came non-fiction with 18% (last year 6%). Then comes graphic novels and YA at 10% each, followed by fiction at 9%.
  • That’s how we’ve always done it: 82% of my reading was print books. Audio snagged 11% (mostly car rides) and digital 7% (thanks to the library not having Octavia Butler’s full collection in print; last year digital was only 0.6%).
  • Spring slump: For the months of March, April, and July I only managed to finish four books each month. For August I rebounded with 15. (Not sure that means much, and it’s easy to game, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I read the most during the month I took a vacation.)

If you want help reading more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.