Monday, April 03, 2006

Election 2006: Getting local

Just finished the last bit of a 325-house literature drop, and boy are my arms tired. Local elections are this politics addict's bread and butter -- there's usually a real chance of winning, which is a nice change from the typical Libertarian Party campaign. I get my ideology fix in the "big" elections, and I get my victory fix here at home.

After tomorrow, I expect to be three for three in two local elections. As is usual at this point, I'm actually starting to feel my oats and considering the possibility of actually running for office again. Hopefully I'll get over it before the next opportunity to do so arises (it's conditional on the incumbent deciding to move on and the seat being "open" anyway) -- if I ran for the office I'm considering I'd win it, and that, my friends, is a scary thing to contemplate for everyone involved.

Here's what's in front of my little city's voters:

- One of my ward's two positions on the board of alderpersons (two-year terms, staggered elections). The incumbent did a surprise "I'm not running again," and it's an all-"write in" campaign. The opponents are Mary A. Gay, a friend and neighbor, versus Karen Pierre, who lives a few blocks away. Both nice people, both long-time residents, both with nice credentials.

I'll be voting for Mary; I expect Karen to win. This may be a damning disclosure. I don't want the new alderwoman mad at me, nor do I want my friend and neighbor to think I lack confidence in her. However, I believe that Karen will understand personal loyalty and that Mary will understand why I think she's going to lose.

They're both solid citizens, but Karen has pulled out the stops and drawn on her allies for support: She's the secretary of a prominent local Democratic club. She's done multiple lit drops/door knocks, a mailing, yard signs and a campaign event (hot dogs and soda with herself, a sitting state senator, a former state senator and the sitting county executive -- that is what being an active volunteer will bring you when you decide to run). I also expect that she'll be doing "Get Out the Vote" phone canvassing and polling place work tomorrow.

Mary is just as personable and has just as impressive a background, but is apparently not quite so hooked into the area's political clubs and Democratic Party. She's done the multiple lit drops and door knocks herself. I expect she'll work the polling place. In a typical city election, she'd be a shoo-in (to put this in perspective, in the same ward in 2004, the balloted incumbent won by only 40 votes to 31 ... against a write-in candidate who, as best I could tell, campaigned only at the polling place on election day), but Karen has a pre-existing, politically-inclined network behind her. Even so, it may be close, and I may be wrong in my prediction.

- The proposition. I beat it last time, and I intend to beat it this time. Here it is:

Shall the City of Greendale, Missouri, eliminate the elected office of City Marshal, whose duties with respect to enforcement of ordinances concerning fence regulations, sign regulations, zoning, building codes and building regulations, minimum housing standards, weeds, high grass or other vegetation, dead or decayed trees, and businesses, will be performed by a Compliance Officer appointed by the Mayor, subject to the approval of the Board of Alderpersons, to be effect May 1, 2006?

In 2004, I campaigned against the proposition on a simple point: An elected marshal is at least accountable to the voters. If he or she is out there writing tickets hand over fist for no good reason, then the voters can turn him or her out of office. A "Compliance Officer," on the other hand, can only be fired by the board.

Now, it may seem that the board would be susceptible to public pressure on the matter, but if you watch local politics, you know better. If Citizen A complains to Board Member B about the "Compliance Officer," Board Member B can always quietly explain that sure, she would like to do something about it, but that Board Members C, D and E would be in opposition and there's no point bringing it up and losing. Better to "pick our fights" and go at it another way, another day. Meanwhile, of course, Board Member C is telling Citizen F the same thing about Board Members B, D and E, etc. It's easy for alderpersons to justify not taking an action without losing votes over it.

In any case, the proposition went down in 2004, by a vote of 93-54. I honestly don't think it would have if I hadn't fliered every door in the city and worked the polling place. I did so again this year. I also have a reasonably well-crafted sign for use at the polling place, and expect to beat the proposition again. The only fly in the ointment is that the city ballot issue is labeled "Proposition A," and so is a higher-level fire district proposition which is likely to do well. So that may tighten it up a bit.

Bread and butter, or maybe sausage being made. But I'm still hooked.

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