Sunday, June 12, 2011

Speech at Civil Union Law Celebration--06/12/2011

I had the honor of speaking at a celebration of the passage of SB30, the Delaware Civil Union Law, jointly held by the Newark and the Mill Creek Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations, at the Mill Creek church this afternoon. Speakers included Mill Creek leader Linda Lucero, state Senator David Sokola, state Representative John Kowalko, and state Representative Mike Ramone.

My remarks follow:

good afternoon. my name is Paul Baumbach. today I am a man with three hats.

My first hat is as a UU. I am a Unitarian Universalist, a member of the Newark congregation, and chair of UUFN's social justice committee for seven years, through March of this year. During those years I have seen UUs from up and down the state join together, stand up, and speak out, often with one voice. And during those seven years I have seen our state become more just.

Today we are celebrating what we have done in the past. But what lies in our future? That is up to each of us here today. Will UUs and others, up and down the state, sit on our laurels, Or will UUs and others, up and down the state, remain committed to bringing justice to Delaware and our country?

My second hat today is as a Democrat. I serve as the president of the Progressive Democrats for Delaware. We have built and joined coalitions, and have succeeded in opening up our General Assembly, improving our drug laws, pushing for economic justice, environmental justice, and have generally worked to enable us to be proud of our government, or at least a bit more proud. Work like this isn't easy, and doesn't end. But it is very satisfying, and it is critical. What do you currently do, which is satisfying and critical? What new work will you begin tomorrow, that is satisfying and critical?

My final hat today is as a board member of Equality Delaware, which provided me with an opportunity to see an incredible collection of people and organizations. I really cannot say enough good things about Equality Delaware. A thesis could be written on the civil union legislation's game plan, and its execution.

The passage of SB121 required a League of Justice, a collection of super heroes. Many of them are here today, and i apologize for not mentioning each. I would like to spotlight just a few. Who can forget the sight of Representative Melanie George OWNING the floor of the house, as bad mendment after bad amendment was struck down? Several Republican legislators supported this bill, heroically standing up to their caucus colleagues, recognizing that doing the right thing occasionally needs to trump party unity. Charles Campbell King coordinated the phone-banking that empowered our wonderful volunteers to call the legislators who most needed to hear from SB121's supporters. For when the people lead, the leaders WILL follow. Mark Purpura dissected the state legal code, line by line, and created a bill that was incredibly thorough, and then he worked with every critical stake-holder to ensure that their concerns were addressed. The sign of a great leader is that after working together, you would sign up to work with them again in an instant. Lisa Goodman is such a leader, having led this incredible coalition with grace and respect.

Martin Luther king Jr made famous a wonderful quote from the Unitarian Theodore Parker, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Parker was speaking about slavery, but he could have been speaking about relationship equality, the right for each adult to share their life with the person they love.

The path that brought us to this point has been long, but it is unmistakable that in Delaware, it bends towards justice. What will you do to help it bend further toward justice?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Three Items of Note--05/09/2011

School Board Elections—Tomorrow is election day for our School Boards. The School Boards are typically non-partisan elections, HOWEVER, there are differences between candidates. In many cases, candidates who are Democrats support quality education in ALL schools, while candidates who are Republicans support vouchers, weakening our public education, and often strengthening charter schools (which redirect money away from other public schools, and which often reduce pay for teachers and other employees). In Red Clay District, I support Democrat Jack Buckley, a great progressive who has been active in PDD in the past. In the Christina School District, I urge you to vote for Democrats Gina Backus and Fred Polaski.

Fairness in State Budget—In my comments in the article, I noted my view of the proper priorities for utilizing the recently boosted state revenues. Within a few days, Governor Markell has released his proposal. I strongly disagree with it—most especially its tax giveaway to the rich. Read about this issue in the spirited Delaware Liberal thread . I suggest that you take Governor Markell at his word and share your views with his office at . In addition, please reach out to your state Representative and your state Senator, and Speaker Gilligan, and share your views. My view is that service cuts and state employee salaries should be restored before any Democrat should propose cutting tax rates for our state’s high bracket taxpayers. Democrats should be championing the rights of middle-class and lower-class Americans. Democrats recognize to boost hiring, employers need customers, customers with money in their pockets, and that restoring state services and salaries will more effectively boost our state’s economy and produce more jobs than will padding upper-income taxpayer’s investment accounts.

Civil Union Bill Signing—This Wednesday evening, May 11th, the Civil Union bill will become law. Learn the details of how you can witness history at . If possible (but not required), RSVP to

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Civil Union Bill--The Final Stretch--04/10/2011

Civil Union Bill—The Final Stretch

Senate Bill 30 (SB30) will introduce Civil Unions to Delaware, providing the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-gender couples (but without it being marriage, as that would violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act). Miraculously, SB30 passed both the committee and the full state Senate last week. Onto the House.

It is expected to come before a House committee this Wednesday (the 12th) and the full House on Thursday (the 13th). You can find out more information on the bill at and

We need YOU. If you have just a little time, please reach out to your representative. Many of them are already sponsors—they need to be thanked! Those who aren’t sponsors may be ‘on the fence’ and need to hear from YOU to remind them that Delawareans, by a 2:1 margin, support Civil Unions. Go to to find out how to contact your representative—it even knows whether your representative is a sponsor or not.

If you have a little more time, we will be phone banking in New Castle and Rehobeth on Monday and Tuesday nights. If you have time, email and ask for details. Tell him Paul sent you.

Newark City Council Elections THIS TUESDAY--posted 04/10/2011

Newark City Council elections—this Tuesday the 12th

If you live in west Newark, you may live in District 1, in which case you will be able to vote in Tuesday’s election. Paul Pomeroy has been the council person for District 1 for several years, but he is not running for re-election. There are four (count them, four) candidates for this seat. Voting takes place from 7am to 8pm at Pilgrim Baptist Church at 1325 Barksdale Road.

I am not endorsing either candidate, but would like to share some information about them, especially the two which appear to be the most viable.

I heard three of the candidates at the UUFN/Newark Post candidate forum ( All three present candidates were very nice, and I appreciate each being willing to serve in this often-underappreciated role. Michael Conway did not participate. Kevin Brown did, however I did not find him as prepared to serve as the other two.

Robyn Harland is a very worthy candidate. She is retired, and has volunteered for area senior programs, and has served on a city committee. She has a passion for justice, and is always willing to stand up for her convictions. She is similar in her approach to Newark City Council to council person Ezra Temko, who has endorsed her. If you like Ezra, you will likely like Robyn.

Mark Morehead is also a worthy candidate. I would characterize him as similar to Paul Pomeroy, caring about the city and the community, and also placing fiscal responsibility as a high priority. I suspect that Mark will ‘work better’ with the rest of the current city council than will Robyn. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.

One of my top concerns with city council in recent years has been the balance between the city and the University. I have found that the city council has refused to stand up for itself, and has permitted the University to roll over it. The most egregious example is when the University Bookstore was approved by the council without requiring that the University provide the $1 million to be used to ameliorate the parking problems that have grown in recent years and which will be sharply worsened with the Main Street location of the new Bookstore.

If this same type of situation were to come up, I suspect that (if elected) Mark Morehead would side with the University, and Robyn Harland would oppose it.

Perhaps you will find this information useful when you cast your vote on Tuesday.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Time for Action on Civil Unions--03/28/2011

Last week we saw the introduction of Delaware's "Civil Union and Equality Act of 2011", which allows same-gender couples to have the rights and responsibilities on the state level that accrue to opposite-sex marriage. There is a nice article on the issue in today's Wilmington News Journal, at|topnews|text|Home.

The bill is now in the state Senate's Administrative Services/Elections Committee. To continue its progress and ultimately be successful, it must, as the first step, be voted out of that Senate committee, and be allowed to the Senate floor for a vote.

Three of the members of the committee are sponsors of our Civil Unions bill, so please prioritize contacting the other three members of the committee who are not sponsors and who have not publicly declared their support for the bill:
• Senator 302-744-4117
• Senator 302-492-1511
• Senator 302-744-4168

BOTH the State Senator and the State Representative for your district NEED TO HEAR from each registered voter in their district that supports the Civil Union bill.

Go to to find their contact info, and for a sample script for what to say.

Don't delay, please do this as soon as possible.
• If you do nothing else, it is vital that you contact Senators Booth, Lawson, and Marshall and ask them to at least let the bill go onto the full Senate floor for a vote.
• For further information and help, visit Equality Delaware and "like" Equality Delaware on Facebook.
• Feel free to forward this email, but only to friends and allies, not to your entire address book. Anti-equality persons should not receive this, and spam is unhelpful.

Thank you for helping Delaware move toward equality!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Delaware's New Civil Union Bill--03/22/2011

There's a link on the Governor's page at (try to find me in the second picture--next to Rep. Kowalko. Yes, our backs are to the camera.

There's coverage at at

Most importantly, Senate Bill 30 (SB 30) is now online, at

It is assigned to the Senate Administrative Services/Elections Committee--with three firm YES votes (sponsors/co-sponsors), including the bill's prime sponsor, Senator David Sokola.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

PDD Call for Action--03/12/2011

On Tuesday House Bill 19 (HB19), the Ned Carpenter Act, aka the Drug Law Reform Bill will come to the full House for a vote. It is the result of a large amount of work by a slew of stake-holders, including Attorney General Beau Biden and SURJ (Stand Up for what’s Right and Just). SURJ’s executive director Joanna Champney spoke to PDD at our February meeting on this issue, of returning discretion to our state’s judges, and of the process for this bill.

Please contact your state senator and state representative, and to urge their support for the Drug Law Reform Bill. I recommend that before you call, you go online ( and see whether your elected officials are already co-sponsors. If so, thank them for their support, remind them of the House vote on Tuesday, and encourage them to ask their colleagues to join them. If they are not already a sponsor/co-sponsor, ask them to read up on the bill, contact Representative Melanie George (the bill’s sponsor) if they have questions, and (if they are a representative) vote for its passage on Tuesday.

This upcoming week the Delaware civil union bill (not yet numbered, as we haven’t yet closed the doors on co-sponsors) is being finalized, to be introduced the following week. The lead sponsors are Senator David Sokola and Representative Melanie George (do you notice a trend here?). Again, please call your elected officials in Dover, and ask for their support. Encourage them to co-sponsor the bill by reaching out to either of the two lead sponsors. Please send your feedback (ie, they were lukewarm, hostile, supportive, whatever) to me ( so that I can pass it onto Equality Delaware, whose two board members spoke to us at the March PDD meeting (I am also the Treasurer of Equality Delaware).

There is a Rally to Save the Working Class at the Circle in Georgetown also on Tuesday the 15th, from 5:30-6pm. See For questions, call Ann Nolan at 302-644-7128.

By the way, as a result of the Press Release we issued on Thursday about the New Castle County Council’s recent actions, I am having an interesting e-dialog with Councilman Smiley.

Friday, March 11, 2011

PDD Statement on NCCounty Council--03/10/2011


(Wilmington) The Progressive Democrats for Delaware (PDD) commends the New Castle County Council's passage earlier this week of Councilwoman Lisa Diller’s proposal requiring rule changes to be submitted to council members in writing a week in advance and Councilman Dave Tackett's proposal to require that all agenda titles (including consent calendar titles) clearly describe the items to which they refer. The fact that these two measures were adopted nearly unanimously (Diller’s measure passed 12-1, and Tackett’s measure passed 13-0), shows how indefensible secretive and closed government, devoted only to the interests of developers, is. Delaware voters want open and transparent government, a cause which PDD has long championed.
The New Castle County Council should continue to adopt measures reforming the way it does business. The next action that must be taken is the reconsideration of the measure that led to this conflict: the unknowing waiver of a series of deed restrictions on the proposed site of the Governor’s Square III shopping center in Bear. This measure was passed secretly, without several members of the Council knowing that they had approved it, as it it was placed on a section of the agenda for noncontroversial items that are voted on in bulk and without discussion-it was a Trojan Horse. What’s worse, the public also had no knowledge that this measure had been approved at the meeting. PDD agrees with County Council President Tom Kovach's refusal to sign this measure, as it was approved in a dishonest manner. The County Council must reconsider this project, and allow for public discussion, debate and a public vote.
Open and transparent government is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It is a good government issue. We applaud the members of the New Castle County Council who have taken steps to make the council more open and transparent, rather than less so.
Progressive Democrats for Delaware(PDD) is a grassroots Liberal action group pledged to support a wide range of progressive legislation and candidates at the local, state and federal levels.
Contact: Paul Baumbach, President 302-562-4546
PDD Website:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Environment-loving people needed next Wednesday morning in Dover--03/03/2011 post

Local environmental-focused blogger Tommywonk ( shares the following:

I don't know if you are aware of the concerted backlash against renewable energy here in Delaware.

The 9-12 Delaware Patriots, Progressive Growth Alliance and the Caesar Rodney Institute have been showing up for recent meetings of the Renewable Energy Taskforce (of which I am a member). They are pushing to roll back recent progress in promoting renewable energy here in Delaware.

We supporters of renewable energy to show up for these meetings.

The meeting is Wednesday, March 9 from 9:30 to 12:00 noon in the Public Service Commission office, 861 Silver Lake Blvd Ste 100, Dover, DE, 19901.

Here is the link:

The proceedings can be fairly technical, but citizens are given the chance to address the taskforce at the end of the meeting. We have seen in recent years that most citizens support renewable energy. It is important that supporters show up, and not allow a small, vocal and poorly informed minority divert us from moving forward.

According to the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) submitted to the Public Service Commission by Delmarva Power, the health benefits of reducing coal power and deploying more renewable energy will be $1.8 billion to $4.3 billion over the next ten years. The figure is based on epidemiological estimates for health effects (such as lung disease and cancer) of reduced emission of NOx, SOx and particulate matter from power plants.

This is why renewable energy matters, and why we need supporters to show up.

For more on the IRP, see


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Response to Comments on Inside Job--03/02/2011

As I prepared thoughts on the comments from Tom, I exceeded the limit for a comment, so I am instead presenting it here as a (new) full post.

On the big screen excesses appear larger than life. Scale is lost.

The incentives for Wall Street execs have been outrageous for many years, and this continues to grow--this was partially addressed by Sarbanes-Oxley nine years ago (well it was exposed then, not stopped). That said, their armor is chipped away with each blow-up, and society is slowly building up the resolve to stand up against it. It is close to a miracle that the financial reform law was passed last year. The process is painful to (almost) all involved, but as Martin Luther King, Jr, said, the arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

The money culture on Wall Street is unchanged (hence the Wall Street II movie last year). I agree that the culture on Wall Street is toxic. This became clear in the hearings after the blowup, where brokerage firms were selling what they knew was crap to their customers. One noteworthy such broker was Henry Blodgett from Merrill Lynch, who was banned from the industry, and yet is "now the editor and CEO of The Business Insider, a business news and analysis site, and a host of Yahoo TechTicker, a finance show on Yahoo." Slowly consumers are wising up to the built-in conflict of this culture, as witnessed by the decline in the brokerage industry.

Wall Street is indeed working (and spending) hard to dismantle the financial reform law. When I was in DC last April lobbying for the bill, I was impressed that the Delaware Congressmen and staffers that I met put more weight into the voice of Joe and Jane Citizen than the lobbyists (or at least the Democratic Congressmen and staffers). I am hopeful that this very battle becomes a clear line between the Republican and Democratic Party, and helps to strengthen the Democratic Party, which I feel is required to properly balance necessary Wall Street regulation.

I disagree with Ferguson on some of his attacks on Obama's team. First, I feel that there is a vast difference between Greenspan and Bernanke. Greenspan is a libertarian, laissez-faire, and was staunchly hands-off on the regulation front. Bernanke, in my opinion, was very proactive in addressing the meltdown, much to the country's benefit. Summers doesn't do anything for me, however I generally like Geithner. Note that if you refuse to hire someone with advanced public and private credentials, the highly-paid and highly-incented financial wizards will be able to dance around you.

I do agree with Ferguson that Mary Shapiro's appointment by Obama to lead the SEC was an awful choice, a true choice of a fox to guard the hen house.

On the issue of greater concentration of financial firms, Ferguson failed to mention a major development. Each of the investment houses changed their charter to become bank holding companies during the meltdown, to be eligible for bailout funds, subjecting them to additional regulation. The law still needs to be adjusted to build in 'too big to fail' protections, likely a 'pay your share' fee to cover adequate insurance against such failures, fees which could well be large enough for large firms to force them to split up.

When I said that much of the information didn't surprise me, I didn't mean to say that I knew that it was all going on. However, as Mark Twain noted, history doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes. Much of the excesses were uncovered and documented in the bust, which was largely co-caused by Wall Street excesses.

The crap inflicted on us by the evils depicted in Inside Job was ultimately overcome by 1) significant actions by governments and central banks across the globe, and 2) basic economics, which calls for goods and services to be produced as needed by the world's population. Despite the gross mismanagement of financial firms, the world's economy has grown (after inflation) by 3.3% since 2007 (pre-meltdown).

I know that I am an optimist. I consider myself more of a 'glass half-full' optimist, than a 'rose colored glasses' optimist.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thoughts on Inside Job movie--02/27/2011

I attended Saturday night’s showing of ‘Inside Job’, along with contributors Cassandra_M and Unstable_Isotope, and a pretty full Theatre N. As I work in the financial industry, there weren’t too many aha moments for me, but there were for many in the audience. The film does a nice job of presenting some pretty advanced financial shenanigans in a clear manner. The part that alarmed me the most was the indictment of the academic institutions, where some leading universities appear to have no conflict of interest policies, and turn a blind eye when their senior faculty publish ‘research’ paid for by those being ‘researched.’ It is quite reminiscent of the anti-global climate change research paid for by Exxon Mobil, and anti-lung cancer research paid for by big tobacco.

However what alarmed me more than the film itself were some of the concerns raised by the audience during the discussion that followed the film on Saturday night. One woman asked “don’t banks have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that a mortgage loan can be handled by the borrower?” That night I offered two comments. First, banks don’t worry about this when they have no plans to retain the mortgage on their books, if they plan to sell it off immediately afterwards. Secondly, I noted that, just as brokers, bankers (loan officers) are likely held to a ‘suitability standard’ rather than a ‘fiduciary standard.’

Fiduciary, per Wikipedia, is the ‘highest standard of care at either equity or law.’ compares this to the suitability standard (which in the case of brokers, means that ‘they must suggest investments that are appropriate for their clients, but could pick a suitable investment that also happens to earn them the highest commission’).

Now that 24 hours has passed, I recognized what a teaching opportunity I failed to utilize. Here is what I wished that I said

Bankers, and mortgage brokers do have a fiduciary responsibility, but not to the borrower, but rather to their shareholders. They are responsible to do their best to enable the company to earn the most money. If this means selling a high commission/high fee mortgage that would be flipped to an investment bank the next day, and which the borrower would be unable to afford in two years when the teaser rate expires, so be it.

Similarly, the over-leveraged investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers, had a fiduciary responsibility to their owners, not to the investors they ‘serve’ (by selling products to).

This is the fundamental premise of capitalism, that businesses operate to make profits for their owners. In many cases it is in their economic interest to make their customers happy, and in many cases it is in their economic interest to make their employees happy. However job 1 is maximizing profits.

Capitalism is fine, as long as its strengths and weaknesses are understood, and its weaknesses are addressed in other venues.

This is why we have government, to rein in the excesses that such single-minded focus on business profits can have over the welfare of consumers. The carmakers can make incredibly fast cars, however the government makes rules that ensure that all cars sold to our citizens are ‘street safe’.

The Financial Reform Law was an attempt to better rein in the excesses of Wall Street. This is why it is critical that this law, with its many, many weaknesses, is fully funded, and why we need to remind Congress that failing to fund the new regulations will shorten the time until the next Wall Street-led meltdown.