3-3-2007 Crunching the numbers

I‘m not sure if I‘m crunching the available numbers correctly, but I think I am.

I have at my disposal lists of registered voters by voting precincts. And since we’re voting by districts, I’m only concerned about my voting district, District E, which is made up of Precinct 5 (the eastern half of North End), Precinct 6 (the western half of North End), and Precinct 1 (Miners Mills and points north).

The list for my precinct, #5, contains the names of 1,020 registered voters, which I had to count by hand. The list for #5 is comprised of 21 pages of names. The List for #6 has 23 pages. And #1 has 20 pages. So if we round things out, each voting precinct has roughly 1,000 registered voters contained within it’s boundaries, and the voting district as a whole tops out around 3,000 or so registered voters. So of the approximated 8,500 residents in this voting district, only 3,000 or so bother to vote. Sad but true.

Now, according to the Bureau of Election’s updated 2007 Primary Unofficial Candidates Roster, as of this morning, District E has 7 “unofficial” candidates running for a city council seat. The roster is as follows:

D Ron Silkosky

D Virgil Argenta

R John Yencha

D Charlotte Raup

D Mike Merritt

D Shelley Soltis

D Frank Matello Jr.

So with only 2 short business days left to officially declare, and with the door-to-door politicking about set to begin in earnest, we in this voting district have 7 city council candidates seeking the votes of roughly 3,000 registered voters. And when we factor in voter turnout, which usually hovers somewhere between 35-50%, they could be fighting it out for far, far less votes than that. I think the interest among voters will be high, so I’m expecting a decent turnout at our three polling places.

Assuming that this race will not result in a lopsided landslide, I’m wondering how many votes it’ll require to elect our first ever Mayor of Nord End. Conversely, I’m wondering just how few votes the eventual winner might actually command.

If the race ended up being nip-and-tuck right down to the wire, and depending on the turnout, our first ever council person elected specifically to serve the needs of this district could be elected with less than 400 total votes. In fact, depending upon any number of factors, it could be even lower. Who knows? It might rain on election day. That’s a bit disconcerting to me.

Now, I know this supposedly serves the needs of the outside-looking-in Republicans that are about as popular in this city as clubbing newborn kittens is. But in a city of 42,000 people, 400 or 500 votes could put somebody in a position of leadership? That’s all? That’s foolhardy, that’s ultimately dangerous and it makes it possible for people who have no business leading anything more complicated than a Job Johnny cleanout crew to attain a position of some power. You voted for it. You got it. Now, let’s just hope it doesn’t blow up in your faces.

Of course, there are those that will defend this ridiculous set-up by giving us some tired spiel about ousting those evil, well-entrenched incumbents. And that’s all fine and good. We’re all entitled to our opinions, even if they’re frighteningly short-sighted. But my overriding concern, my foremost question is, replace them with what?

If every incumbent is unceremoniously swept out of office only to be replaced by people who do not fully understand the totality of running a municipality of this size, and who clearly would not have commanded any sort of political capital, is that really a win for the voters?

For instance, we’ve got a council candidate saying he’d work to boost the size of the police department to 150 officers within 8 years. While that’s sounds wonderful on it’s face, there is no way current revenues projections could support such an ambitious hiring spree. Our current elected leaders know it, our police officers know it and I know it. Yet, we’ve got a city council hopeful promising it. And if he manages to win in his district after making such an undoable boast, that’s an upgrade over the people that currently control the gavel? There’s realistic, and then there’s unrealistic. And with as few as 400 votes, we can elect those with unrealistic expectations.

We’ve got a number of hopefuls wondering why Such-and-such Street hasn’t been paved in ages, and if elected, they’re promising to do something about it. My thinking is, if you don’t understand why which funds can’t be used for what, and why damn near everything cannot be funded out of the general fund, you’re far less qualified than I am. Drop on by and I’ll learn ‘ya some. Sorry, but I want elected leaders who know what they’re talking about going in.

Some will mistakenly tell you that I am in bed with certain city politicians, but that couldn’t be further from the truth of the matter. I think our current crop is measured, realistic and capable. I think they have a collective vision for this city’s future and are working together to make it a reality. And I think most of them, that’s most, deserve another term. But if the lot of them were to be booted out of office in May, the beer store will still be open for business the day after. I’ll be okay. Although, depending on who might replace them, the trips to the beer store might become much more frequent out of necessity. And I might need to stockpile tissues as the unqualified prosecute mostly disastrous agendas. If enough of those unqualified sorts defy the odds and find themselves on the city’s payroll, perhaps the time might be right to beat it the hell out of here. The city is showing some signs of life of late, but that progress is a fragile progress until it’s seen through to it’s end.

So if you’re limiting yourself to voting for the candidate from your neighborhood only, or the candidate from your precinct only, you are probably set to do this city a great, great disservice. I did not endorse anyone, I’m just saying that for this historic election, voting on issues, qualifications and municipal knowledge needs to win out over voting strictly on territorial or popularity considerations.

This election with it’s restricted voting parameters and those that follow it command that the voters of this city start taking their responsibilities a bit more seriously. If we fail to vote for the best and brightest, we’re going to take that gargantuan step backwards that the referendum designed to carve this city into voting districts made a distinct possibility.

They tell us to the point of absurdity that we need to vote smart. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s now or possibly never. With the city at such a critical juncture in it’s long history, more than ever before, we need to get this election right.

Them’s my thoughts on all of that.

I‘ve been following this poll at the Times Leader Web site in which readers are being asked What was your favorite movie of 2006?

We all know that the movies garnering the majority of the awards are the movies that most closely fit in with Hollywood’s political agendas. Al Gore’s climate movie is a perfect example of such. The minute that production was even rumored, you knew it was destined for awards. And that’s exactly why we don’t bother to watch the awards shows anymore: Because they’re basically fixed along ideological lines from the very get-go.

As for myself, the nominated movies--the frontrunners--did little or nothing for me. I liked “Feast” and “The Hills Have Eyes” the best, but I’m said to be nuts, so my vote does not count. Mutilation, dismemberment and beheadings usually don’t win anyways.

Anyway, check the graphic I snatched from the Leader site:

When “Other” is the leading vote-getter amongst the unwashed hoi polloi, what does that suggest about Hollywood’s preordained blockbusters?

Flyover country! Jeez, can’t that hardscrabble place be forever divorced from the elite sections of the country?