Friday, 19 November 2010 00:00
1. Several political races still undecided, possibly for weeks. Most of us are still decompressing from the assault on our senses and our inner peace by ugly, negative, generic and boring campaigns. Let’s keep it light for now with a few random thoughts.
2. Twice in the past several election cycles, in 2004 (Westchester) and in 2008 (Queens), we had State Senate races that weren’t officially decided until the following February.
3. It is your right not to vote in every race on the ballot. It’s much better if you vote for nobody rather than send the wrong message and stay home. At my polling place, everyone behind you could see the on-screen warning that listed contests in which you didn’t vote. An inspector, trying to be helpful, read off any “missed” votes. Screens should face the wall, and play-by-play is not appropriate unless someone asks for help.
4. The lever voting machines were better than these black-box computers. Ka-Chung. That’s the sound of voting. On the old machines, it sounded and it felt like the machines had counted my votes. Not any more. The ritual of voting is now no more satisfying or special than buying a Powerball ticket at the variety store.
5. Amherst is Buffalo’s best-known suburb and the largest township in upstate New York (about 116,000 residents). Amherst residents voted to reduce the size of their town board by two Councilmembers. Erie County voters also voted to reduce the County Legislature from 15 to 11 seats, which passed with 83 percent support.
6. Six towns and one villages in the Western end of New York have voted to reduce the size of their governing boards in the last two years. The anti-tax group pushing for these downsizings has been less successful in referenda to dissolve villages, losing votes to eliminate three villages this fall.
7. Eliminating political slots does not eliminate political maneuvering, or reduce the cost or size of government in a significant way. It’s a gesture.
8. Behind-the-scenes jockeying has begun as some elected officials in North Hempstead are anticipating not finishing their terms of office. Plenty of time now to allow meaningful participation by rank-and-file party committee members and the general public in any selection process. Gestures.
9. One of the root problems with our national House of Representatives, whose membership has been frozen at 435 for almost a century, is that there aren’t enough Representatives. After the next reapportionment in 2012, New York will have districts with over 700,000 people. That’s too large.
10. Massive districts encourage candidates to appeal to the largest common denominator, and new and diverse views disappear from our political campaigns. Campaigns are incredibly expensive and can never stop. Moneyed interests gain influence and constituents, even when forming groups, lose influence.
11. The House of Commons in London has 650 seats and each MP represents 95,000 people.
12. When Mr. James Madison ran against Mr. James Monroe for a seat in the House of Representatives, they traveled in a wagon together from town to town to speak before the voters.
13. Today we have recorded, autodialed telephone messages, especially anonymous attack messages. One “Robocall” innovation I saw several times this year is the common use of phony Caller Ids (such as “Cell Phone”) to trick people into actually picking up.
14. Just before Election Day, Comcast, the telecommunications giant, issued a statement apologizing to Massachusetts and New Hampshire customers for service disruptions. “Auto dialing activity” was “generating a massive number of inbound political phone calls” and clogging the network.
15. In 2009, the NYC Department of Sanitation began cracking down on political campaigns and other organizations that posted signs on lamposts, streetboxes and other illegal locations. Each citation cost $75. In 2010, there has been a noticeable decrease in signs, especially political signs, in public places throughout the city.
16. 37 out of 42 pieces of mailed campaign literature in my pile have no obvious reference to party designation.
17. Some disturbing stuff in that pile needs to be written about. Soon, not now. We’re decompressing.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: email@example.com