CARSON CITY, Nev.: Do the right thing for homeless

Tents and cardboard shelters sprouted up on the lot next to the state’s Legislative Building, Feb. 18, as over 200 homeless people, advocates, religious leaders and three state legislators demanded that the state provide $20 million to care for people without a roof over their heads.

“I have my tent and sleeping bag,” said Assemblyman David Parks. “I think this will definitely draw attention to the homeless issue.”

When Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) presented his $6.5 billion budget to the Legislature, not one dime was earmarked for homeless residents.

State Rep. Sheila Leslie (D) spoke to reporters as she set up her tent. She introduced legislation for increased funding. Leslie works for the mental health court in Washoe County and has seen firsthand how a safe place to sleep and call home can turn lives around.

“We have seen homeless people who in a year or a year and a half you never would have known they were homeless,” she said. “I know it can be done. It is the right thing to do.”

Former state Veteran Services Executive Director Chuck Fulkerson was another camper. Dressed in his Army uniform, he said, “I am here because there are 200,000 veterans tonight across the country who are homeless.”

FRANKFORT, Ky.: Look homeward, Sen. McConnell

As the Senate was preparing to vote Feb. 17 on a nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush’s 21,000-troop surge to Iraq, the Louisville Courier-Journal released its “Bluegrass poll” indicating 61 percent of the state’s residents said no to the increase. Specifically, 54 percent said Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, should have voted yes to the resolution.

McConnell and 21 other GOP senators will have to defend their seats in 2008.

Being out of step with constituents didn’t seem to bother McConnell. “I think I can say pretty confidently that nothing that happens in February ’07 is likely to be the defining issue in November ’08,” he said.

Yet, even right-wing political observers believe that to be wishful thinking. While conditions in Iraq can change, the odds seem to be “better than even that Iraq’s a worse mess a year from now than it is today,” said Norman Ornstein, senior analyst with the American Enterprise Institute.

MESA, Ariz.: Councilman refuses pledge to protest war

City Councilman Tom Rawles voted for Bush in 2000, soured on the Iraq invasion and voted for someone else in 2004. In the wake of the president’s escalation plan, Rawles decided to boycott the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each council meeting. Beginning with the Jan. 22 meeting, Rawles kept his seat and remained silent during the pledge. He vowed to continue the protest until the troops come home.

Mesa, near Phoenix, is considered a conservative city of 400,000. Forty-eight percent of voters are registered Republican and 26 percent are registered Libertarian. Rawles has faced criticism — and even death threats — for his stance.

“Standing for the pledge and reciting the pledge is very much a public demonstration of support of what’s going on,” Rawles said. “It doesn’t mean I’m disloyal to my country or that I don’t love my country. If I don’t have the freedom to not stand for the pledge, standing for the pledge means absolutely nothing.”

BOULDER, Colo.: Old enough to serve, old enough to be elected

Eighteen-year-olds pay taxes and serve in the state’s National Guard but are denied the right to run for the state Legislature. That struck state Rep. Michael Garcia, 32, as wrong. He will introduce a law into the Legislature to lower the age from 25 to 18 for candidates seeking a seat.

“This is an issue of fairness and equity,” said Garcia, who was elected at age 26 and teaches at the University of Colorado (CU). The measure has picked up support from a group called Coloradans for Equal Representation.

“It’s essentially taxation without representation,” said CU sophomore Ryan Biehle, 20. Biehle serves as legislative affairs director for the school’s student government.

Approval by the state House would only be the first step. Ultimately, voters would have to change the state constitution to lower the age requirement for state office.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @