2 Voters, 3 Ballots!?

Today’s our lucky day. While most of you only get to vote once, we get an extra vote! The city or county must like how we think, otherwise why would they give us an extra ballot? I must have greased the right palms.

Yep, that’s right, we, actually Mrs. Wrongmont, got two ballots for the price of one. They’re identical in every way, so she wasn’t counted as two different people ( some might disagree). I’ve never seen this before, but if it could happen to us, what’s to say it hasn’t happened to other voters in the city/county?

Our extra ballot has a date with the shredder, but what would you do if this happened to you? Sell it? Submit it? Frame it? Would their election machines catch the duplicate? Is there a law against voting twice if you received two ballots?

Strange and interesting stuff.

Do Endorsements Matter?

Who do you trust with endorsements? They’re coming out of the woodwork right now for the upcoming election, and even one for the Lifebridge Annexation which isn’t even on the ballot.

Endorsements can either be a blessing, or the kiss of death, depending on your views. Something I figured was going on was verified in a recent letter in the paper: ” If you endorse this guy, I’m voting for the opposite!” was basically how it went. I’m going to assume most people figure in more than just that when picking a candidate, but you never know.

“Belonging” is important to some people. A club, a party, an association, a loose group of like-minded people, etc. Sometimes these groups, especially political parties, send out their mailers with their roster of picks. It’s so easy to just take this along with you to the voting precinct. Or take the suggestions of your little activist group, with the only question being ” how do we think and vote about this?” Yes, endorsements just make life easier – for the unthinking or easily steered.

Now to specifics on this election. The Times-Call has endorsed candidates Lange, Rawlins, Santos, and Finley and is in favor of the Lifebridge/Union annexation. Longmont’s Fraternal Order of Police and Longmont’s Firefighters’ Association have endorsed candidates Benker, Hansen, McCoy, and Levison. The anti-Lifebridge group, as far as I can tell, has only publicly endorsed Benker for Mayor, and of course is against the Union annexation.

While endorsements do have their place, usually in the back of your mind as you prepare to cast your vote, it’s okay to question those that would have you vote a certain way. Don’t be a lockstep lemming, even if you agree with your fellow lemmings 90% of the time. If you have to “walk off the reservation”, that’s alright, it’s called being in-de-pen-dent, give it a whirl.

Election’s Only The Beginning

There will be a special election in early 2008 in Longmont, we’re just not sure yet who or what will be on the ballot. If Roger Lange wins the Mayor seat, his ” at-large” seat goes up for grabs and Karen Benker remains the Ward 2 councilmember. This means more than likely the two candidates who didn’t win the “at-large” seat in November’s election will run for this seat. Not a bad deal, a second chance at winning a seat. So it’s possible that two candidates that go at each other very well could later be sitting next to each other in city council chambers.

On the other hand, if Karen Benker wins the Mayor seat, her Ward 2 seat needs to be filled by a special election. I don’t know if any of the at-large candidates actually live within Ward 2, but if they don’t, someone we don’t currently know of will have to hustle and get some signatures to run for it.

The other item is the Lifebridge Annexation question. The 10/17/07 Times-Call article may have left a few confused about what really happened in the most recent City Council meeting, hopefully as you read this or soon it will be a little more clear. They ” agreed” to put it to voters, but won’t actually ” vote” to put it on the ballot until October 23 or November 13. This may be just a small procedural issue, but if I’m reading past stories correctly about this, they may not necessarily vote YES to put it on the ballot. Then what happens?

I suspect they will vote to put it on the special election ballot, or expect pitchforks and torches at their doorstep. There always is the option of rescinding their earlier annexation vote and leaving it up the next council to handle it. On the surface this may seem a victory for the petition gatherers, as an election is not a sure winner. But in reality the new council may vote the same way, probably not 6-1, but 5-2 or 4-3 is very likely.

I’ll ask some of you to remove your rose colored glasses in your hoped-for election outcomes, and ponder this prediction. Here is the future (post special election) council: Lange (Mayor), Rawlins, Benker, Blue, Levison, and Santos. Ward 3 is too close to call, but even if McCoy wins, that’s not an anti-annexation friendly council. Of course this all changes if Benker becomes Mayor, but not by a lot. And it is just my prediction, which might not be worth the paper this is printed on.

Don’t be in a rush to cast that vote. Watch the candidate forum that is being played on Channel 3, visit the candidate’s websites and read their positions and platforms. Call or write them, see where they sit on issues important to you. Be suspicious of the ad pushing a ” block” of candidates, not saying you shouldn’t vote for them, but beware the ” package deal“. Unless you prefer someone else to do the thinking for you.

GUEST EDITORIAL

I recently received the following submission from a longtime follower of this site, Rich Yale. Over the years Rich has been a regular in the Open Forum section of the Times-Call and has always had something interesting to send my way. Here’s his latest, enjoy.

The 2007 Campaign by Karen Benker for Mayor of Longmont offers a fake cure for her phony charge Council “rubber-stamps” development applications. Rights serve as rules of interaction between people and Government, and as such, they place restraints and obligations upon the actions of collective Council actions as well as upon groups including Benker’s noisy minority. Continue reading

The Costs Of Elections

Some astute visitors to my site (aren’t they all?) voiced their concerns about the possibility of a costly special election to backfill a city councilmember seat. As some of you have probably read, three current council members are running for Mayor. If Roger Lange or Karen Benker win, their seat will become vacant and since there is a specified amount of time left in that position, another election must be held to fill it. This could cost between $50k and $100k at a time when we’re hearing about shortfalls in revenues and cuts in services in the city.

The third councilmember running is Doug Brown, who is being term-limited out of office. (Campaign Manager hat on: Doug, how often can politicians say they’ll save you money and/or save some city services if you “vote for me”, and really mean it, and can deliver on it? Okay, hat off). If Mr. Brown wins, basically the city saves a bunch of money. But there’s a two thirds chance we’ll be forking out for a special election. Since I’m sure it’s part of the city charter, there’s not much we can do about it. The only future options are to not allow current council members to run for Mayor, or to not backfill vacant seats, whether due to promotion (to Mayor), sickness, or death. I don’t see either of those options as realistic, so we’re stuck with what we have.

This got me to thinking about another costly ballot situation: The Union/LifeBridge annexation issue. Here we’re being asked, no, told, that we must pony up somewhere between $60k and $100k to put on the ballot a question of overturning a city council decision to annex this development into Longmont. This is not an up/down decision on whether it should be built, just if it should be part of Longmont. That’s an important distinction. I’ll assume the petition gatherers made that clear to the people who signed it.

One of the petition gatherers said ” the buck and a half it would cost per voter is a rare bargain to have the community speak on so significant a question.” Up until now I was pretty much staying out of this issue, but some of these people’s comments and tactics can’t go unchallenged (and no, I’m not a member of Lifebridge). Where to begin with this claptrap. First, 6,000 people signed this, that’s what, less than 10% of the population in Longmont? Yet they have the right to charge the rest of us a ” buck and a half” for anything? Who died and declared you…well I better not say “God” that might offend them. How about we divide the fee amongst the 6,000 petition signers, that’s only somewhere between $10 and $17 each, what’s the problem?

Second, that’s not just a charge ” per voter“, that’s something everyone who pays sales and use taxes will pay for. People complain about elected officials unfairly raising taxes, how about a small minority of unelected citizens? Is that okay?

Third, although I may at times disagree with council votes on issues, they were legally elected to represent us. How long has this been going through all the processes required? This wasn’t just sprung upon the poor, unwitting citizenry. And the vote wasn’t even all that close, 6-1. But some people didn’t like it. Well, I don’t like a lot of decisions they make, does that give me the right to force the rest of the city residents to pay for it? I don’t think so. Lastly, I suggest you Google “union annex”, and visit both sides’ websites and educate yourself. Check the maturity level, and if you’re easily offended, don’t bother. That is, unless they start deleting.

I’m not saying you should vote for or against this ballot question, I’m just pointing out that IF this makes the ballot, the damage’s already been done financially to an already weak city budget. I better not hear these same types complain when the city cuts another $60k to $100k worth of programs and services. At least we know in part who to thank.

Longmont ballot issues

Here are some anonymous opinions sent to my site about three ballot issues in the upcoming Longmont election.

AGAINST Longmont Issue 2C: Open Space Sales Tax Extension
Extending this tax until 2034 would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility in view of the tight city budget. Longmonters are already heavily burdened with three open space sales taxes from Boulder County. The last thing the city needs is to go into $31 million more debt with repayment costs of $59.5 million to buy bonds for additional open space. There are far greater spending priorities. This tax was narrowly passed by voters in 2000 with a term of 20 years. The issue should be brought back to the taxpayers when it expires in 2020, not now.

AGAINST Boulder County Issue 1A: Open Space Sales Tax Extension
After 89,000 acres purchased, three sales taxes and nearly $200 million debt, it’s time to put the brakes on Boulder County‘s runaway open space program. The commissioners have devoted far too many resources toward open space, resulting in money being siphoned away from vital county services such as infrastructure, public safety and social services. Excessive open space in Boulder County has proved to have many unintended consequences, most notably unaffordable housing in Boulder. The average sale price of a 3-bedroom home in Boulder is more than $525,000. Boulder also has a weak business climate due to high sales taxes and stifling environmental restrictions. The new Twenty Ninth Street retail center performed poorly in its first year. Broomfield formed its own county several years ago to allow dynamic projects like FlatIrons Crossing and the Broomfield Event Center to flourish. Defeat of Issue 1A would allow this portion of open space sales taxes to expire at the end of 2009 and help to reduce the stranglehold that open space madness has on the county economy.

AGAINST Boulder County Issue 1B: Transportation Sales Tax Extension
Issue 1B is an unneeded extension of a redundant transportation tax. A hefty 1.0% Regional Transportation District (RTD) sales tax is already assessed in Boulder County for transit needs. Road projects are also funded from state and federal sources. In the 2007 Boulder County budget, the commissioners granted a disproportionate $46.2 million for Open Space Funds compared to only $15.2 million for the Road Fund. County voters soundly defeated a similar “transit and trails” sales tax a year ago. The same should be done for this unnecessary sales tax extension.

Fantasy Politics

Fantasy Politics“. The title alone probably conjures up thoughts of insults thrown out at true believers, the naive amongst us (politically speaking), and so on. Ah, but that would be incorrect. I’m talking about a literal fantasy league for politics.

Intrade, the site I spoke of before that allows you to actually gamble (with real money) on all kinds of strange things, including politics, has teamed up with RealClearPolitics for RCP Fantasy ’08. It can be found at http://fantasy08.realclearpolitics.com . You get to buy and sell contracts on things like who’s going to be the next President, what will the voter turnout be, who will pull out of the race, Senate and Governor races, will Gore get in or not, etc. Thankfully it’s fake money.

I’ve done fantasy baseball (did okay), and fantasy hockey (back to back champ) and the key I found was to not get too attached or sentimental. That is if you want to win or place decently (why bother if you’re don’t?). For instance, in hockey I’d occasionally hold my nose and pick a Redwing. Sure, I felt soiled, but if it helped the overall good of my team, I’d lower myself to that. In baseball, being a longtime Angel and Dodger fan, it was tough to stomach any Yankee or Red Sox players, considering what they put my teams through in the 70’s and 80’s. But that’s all been erased by more recent and pleasant outcomes.

I’m not much of a fantasy leaguer, but what I found while playing is how much you learn about the game and the players, cause and effect and all that. No different with politics. Someone makes a gaffe or takes a hit in the polls, expect their fantasy stock price to dip. Someone gets an endorsement, or you think they may, buy some stock in them and ride the wave. The more you stay informed and ahead of the game, the better you do. And the more you stay informed, obviously. Sort of a circle.

Now, if this is too much for you, you can always bet on: do “Women talk 10% more”, when the BirdFlu will hit the U.S.A., when will Katie Couric leave CBS, or if O.J. will go on trial – yes, those are really things Intrade lets you gamble on. Me, I just bought 100 shares in Bill Richardson as Democratic VP Nominee.

More Electoral College Fun

The rumblings are building in the national press about changes in, or outright abolishment of, the Electoral College. Deflection may be the goal in Senator Diane Feinstein’s( Dem-CA) call to abolish it. A refresher: Senator Feinstein recently resigned as chair of a powerful military construction committee after reports that for years she abused her position to award her husband’s companies billions of dollars in government contracts. Yeah, you probably didn’t hear a whole lot about that, that’s no accident, but if you were her, wouldn’t you want to “change the subject“?

But let’s look into this option, a direct popular vote. First off, we’d go from ” battleground states” to a few ” battleground cities“, mostly large metropolises. Do I like how Iowa and New Hampshire have a disproportional impact on who makes it to the convention, and who’s sent packing? Not really, but at least in the early part of a campaign people can get up close and personal with the next president of the United States. Do you think that will happen in L.A.? No way. So say goodbye to grassroots activists in those early states.

In some editorials it’s been written that the winning candidate will have to win a majority (more than 50%) of the popular vote, not a plurality (more votes, but less than 50%). So what happens if it’s only a plurality? Run-offs? Comon, even though some people think our elections are on par with third world countries, this would guarantee it. What are the odds of an election not having a majority winner? It’s happened in three of the last four elections. Bill Clinton never won a majority in ’92 ( 43%) or ’96 ( 49.2%), and although Al Gore had more popular votes in 2000, he only had 48.2% of the vote. The fourth would be 2004 with George W. Bush getting 51.7% of the vote.

Before committing to this idea, we need to ask how we feel about someone becoming president with the majority of the country voting against him/her. Yes, this is still possible with the Electoral College as shown above, and has happened 17 times, most recently with Clinton, Nixon, Kennedy, and Truman. By comparison, the winner getting more EC votes while losing the popular vote has only happened 4 times in our history, most recently in 2000 as we all know. It’s that one election that is really driving this, and still driving some people nuts, as if it was some cataclysm that’s never happened before, please.

When looking at these types of calls for changes, motive and intent must be considered. Sometimes it shifts and consistency matters, well, to some people. In 2000, it was the rarity of the popular vote not deciding the outcome of the election, “the Electoral College must go!” But in 2004, it was a need to find 80,000 votes or something in Ohio to tip the Electoral College balance, and never mind the three million vote difference in the popular vote. Starting to get the picture or does it have to be spelled out? ” However it benefits us“, fairness and consistency be damned.

One final point coming back to Senator Feinstein. Using her logic, the U.S. Senate should be abolished. Why? It’s not a very representative bunch, those Senators. In the most populous state there are 2 Senators. In the least populous state there are… 2 senators. That could range from 1 senator per 250,000 residents to 1 senator per 17 million residents! She falls into that latter group, boy, what a bargain. Here’s an idea, how about she puts her unethically earned money where her mouth is. Nah, not likely.

Longmont Election ’07 update

This upcoming election will be a mail-in ballot election. You have to be registered by October 9th to receive a ballot. They can’t make it a whole lot easier, let’s see if we can bring up the low turnout numbers.

Here is an update of the candidates for Longmont City Council. Also, I want to share a link to a website I stumbled across that I thought was pretty informative.

http://community.livejournal.com/longmont/22611.html

It has a ward map, pictures of candidates, and something I haven’t touched on – ballot initiatives and school district candidates. I found this by accident, don’t know the author, and he doesn’t know I’m linking to it. But when I find something worth sharing, and/or when someone’s just done a better job, why not expose more people to it?

There have been a couple of changes to the candidates running:

Current council members Roger Lange, Karen Benker, and Doug Brown are the candidates for the position of Mayor. This is an at-large position, everyone in the city can vote for this spot.

One of the At-Large seats is up for grabs, the candidates are Gabe Santos, Paul Tiger, and Sarah Levison. Like the Mayor position, anyone can vote for this position.

Ward One Councilmember. To vote for this seat you must live in the ward. Aaron Rawlins, James DeVore, Brian Hansen are the candidates.

Ward Three Councilmember. Same rules apply as with Ward One. Sean McCoy and Bonnie Finley are running for this seat.

There are a lot of hot topics in this city. Figure out which ones are important to you and find out where the candidates stand on them. Instead of complaining that you were snookered by politicians after they’re in office, get your questions answered before you vote for them. This isn’t rocket science.

Predicting Elections

As I stated in an earlier post, I like to handicap and predict Presidential elections. Until the field is narrowed, it’s still too early to do much more than guess. Also, state referendums have a tendency to bring out a certain electorate, and make some others sit it out. There’s one in particular that isn’t actually during the general election that could have huge implications on who is the next president, regardless of who the candidates are.

First off, there are plenty of other websites that do this, with maps and trends, but also some wishful thinking. Last time around they did a pretty good job and I expect them to repeat that, I called 49 out of 50 states. There’s also at least one website that allows you to gamble on the election, Intrade, and currently they have the Democrat winning 288-243 in Electoral votes, some votes were too close to call. By my own numbers, I currently have the Democrat winning 284-254, but with several too close to call, or “in play”. Those would be Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, and Ohio. Intrade has the percentages very close on these states as well.

Here’s where my numbers and Intrade’s differ: Iowa, Colorado, and New Mexico I put in the Dem column (21 votes). Nevada and Ohio I put in the Rep column (25 votes). Intrade goes the other way on those, except for Iowa, which is currently a statistical dead heat. Once again, the state that could decide it all, and has been trending Democrat in the last few months is…….drum roll….. Ohio. Adding or subtracting those 20 Electoral votes makes all the difference in hitting the magic number needed to win.

Now here’s the kicker: There is a possibility of a ballot measure in California to split up the Electoral votes by congressional district. This would go to the voters in June ’08 during a probable very low turnout primary election, since the Presidential primary for California has been moved up to February ’08. How it would work is that 2 Electoral Votes would go to the statewide winner, and the rest ( 53) would be given to whoever won each congressional district. For example, in a 60% to 40% election, it would be a 32-21 split, currently it’s a winner-take-all whopping 55 Electoral votes. The most in the country, and usually a guaranteed 55 votes for the Democrats.

So with my numbers, the final tally would be Rep= 275 Dem= 263, Intrade’s would be Dem= 267 Rep= 264 with Iowa providing the missing 7 votes and the tiebreaker. I’ll dig deeper into this possible ballot issue in a future story, including Colorado’s attempts to change how we hand out our Electoral votes and where our local representatives weigh in on this. In review,they wanted to split up our Electoral votes in a somewhat similar way, or base it on the national popular vote, but I’ll bet money they sure don’t want this California idea to come anywhere close to reality. More political double standards.