Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Follow-Up on "Bi-Partisanship" (or "This is Why Riskind is a Putz")

Johnathan Riskind at the Dispatch writes about D.C. both as a reporter and commentator. When he's not just being chummy with the Central Ohio delegation, he's wringing his hands about "bi-partisanship." I recently got annoyed with him for basically taking Pat Tiberi's opinion on SCHIP and using it as his own in a commentary piece. For now, though, let's assume that his concern actually comes from within...

Democrats came up with a SCHIP expansion that passed with a majority in both chambers. Republican President vetoed it. The Democrats worked to create a better bill, with more bi-partisan support. Republican President vetoed it. The razor-thin majority in the Senate was joined by enough Republicans to override the veto. The majority in the House was joined by more than 1/5 of all GOP Representatives, but fell 13 votes short of overriding the veto.

Democrats agree to extend funding of SCHIP and tackle expansion separately.

The response?

The GOP claimed victory. “It’s certainly another example of the Democrats caving to the Republican position at the eleventh hour,” said a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

I'm all for assembling coalitions, and the willingness of so many individual GOP congressfolk to join with Dems on this issue reflects very well on them. Mr. Riskind is also quite likely correct when asserts that health-care reform won't happen without some folks willing to break party ranks. But bi-partisanship? When the ranking member of the minority is a partisan hackhole, reaching out to Republicans as Republicans is not a virtue. Worse yet, it's not even productive.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fine. I'm a Secular Progressive.

I've been trying to keep my mouth shut. It hadn't been all that hard, as I haven't been blogging about much of anything lately, but it's been getting harder.

Ted Strickland ordered a religious display be put back up at two state parks after local officials had taken them down in deference to citizens who were unhappy with government initiated religious activity, particularly activity that implied a religious preference for Christ-Worship*.

The reaction from the Ohio blogosphere has been something other than what one may expect. The right-wing sites have apparently been largely silent. More surprisingly, Plunderbund, a left wing site that is generally, if anything, more adamant on church/state issues than I am, has been silent on the matter. The lone voice has been Jerid at BSB, who has been taunting the righties with Ted's surprise co-opting of their pet issue. It seems that this is a brilliant political move for a Democrat to make.

I have long argued that meta-awareness of politics hurts the internet-based activist community. My argument goes like this: Erstwhile progressive politician does something that pisses off progressives, say voting against Habeas Corpus. Progressive on-line community says, "yeah, that sucks, but he's just making a political choice, and deciding that angry progressives pose less of a threat to his election chances than do terrorfied independents... It's important to me that he gets elected, so I can't get too mad..." at which point the candidate should realize that it can never, ever be in his best interest to vote the progressive position. Pandering has NO DOWNSIDE if nobody gets upset when he does it, and he gets more votes for doing it.

So, I realize that Mr. Strickland has always been a centrist, and I also realize that Dems have finally begun to do well by emulating Reagan's 11th commandment. As such, I was hoping that somebody else would step to the plate. But they didn't.

The nativity scenes don't belong on state property. Period. I realize that there may be some constitutional leeway as determined by legal precedent for nativity scenes. Legal doesn't mean appropriate, and these displays seem to me to violate both the letter and the spirit of those decisions, regardless. Park officials made a reasonable decision to take down the displays, and there was no need for the governor to get involved. He took it upon himself to override the decision and declare that some religions are appropriate, and some aren't. If he were a Republican governor, I would have gone immediately ballistic. In deference, I've given myself a cooling off period. Now, Mr. Strickland, I can say quite calmly, that this was not what I hoped for when I touched the screen a year ago. I would like some tangible progress on school funding. I would like to know that, despite the situation last week, you do firmly support maternity leave for all of Ohio's working mothers. And I'd like you to put the religious pandering where it's traditional and appropriate for someone in my position to ask you to put it.

*I apologize for not using the word 'Christianity,' and in using an alternate term I intend no disrespect to the practice of Christianity or to those who worship Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I'm aware that some legitimate offense will be taken, and that is why I'm apologizing. For many people, the concepts "Religion" and "Christianity" are nearly synonymous, and it is difficult for them to take the perspective that their religion is one of thousands. My use of the term "Christ-Worship" was meant to amplify and clarify the difference between generic expressions of religion (which have, if no more ethical support, more legal support), and expressions specific to a particular religion or subset of religions (pretty much always a no-no for state entities), by naming it with a convention usually applied arbitrarily to non-mainstream religions.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rockin' the Suburbs

Apparently, the recount is done and nothing has changed, meaning that Joan Fishel has officially retained her seat on the Bexley Board of Education. Congratulations to Ms. Fishel, and to Michele Kusma as well, who ran a very strong campaign.

I've had a post-election blogging hangover. I'll be pushing forward, though. I can't disappoint the fans.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Prominent Men

Cheer up local retailers, we're all getting heavily patronized this season...

Jonathan Riskind continues to decry partisanship in Congress. It's an easy target. Elsewhere in the Dispatch this weekend my boss (well, my boss's boss's boss) discussed similar themes with Joe Hallett. I would like to make a thoughtful and articulate case that Mr. Riskind is being disingenuous and that the sweeping generalizations made by two of the most influential men in the community are unbecoming to their respective positions.

Unfortunately, I'm a blogger. As everyone knows, beyond having the thin skins and chips on their shoulders that lead them to link to articles like these, and even beyond their reliance on the sources of the linked material, bloggers just don't make thoughtful and articulate cases:

But surely, the Internet and a bazillion blogs have created opportunities for more participation and discourse?

"I don't see it as opening up more discourse," Gee said. "What I see it opening up are more opportunities for people to act pugilistically. I think what we have is a lot more hand-to-hand combat over inane issues. We don't have the kind of controlled political discussion we used to have. I miss that. I really do.

"What are the blogs about? Communicating, yes, but they're about communicating one's particular ideology. They're not about conversation. They're not about thoughtful conversations about what people should be doing and what the world is really like."

So rather than explain that when Mr. Riskind moves the goalposts such that Democrats can't be seen as governing in a bi-partisan manner until they can muster veto-proof majorities, that he lauds both the longetivity and willingness to compromise of Ohio's retiring representatives, but doesn't mention 2/3 of them have spent almost their entire careers in the majority party and are retiring the instant that their compromising must become primarily bi-partisan rather than with fellow Republicans, rather than patiently laying out facts and making a case, I'll just fling my ideological monkey poop.

See, Jonathan Riskind really annoys the crap out of me sometimes. He's not the worst reporter out there, and as I've said before, I think he's secretly jealous of bloggers, which comes through in his snarky posts at The Daily Briefing. But right now, I ask you to compare Mr. Riskind's words from this weekend to the words of one Pat Tiberi, as reported by Mr. Riskind in Monday's Dispatch:

Sunday's Riskind Column: Witness the standoff over the State Children's Health Insurance Program expansion. Democrats, it is true, can point to a bipartisan vote for the $35 billion expansion that fell 15 or so votes from being veto- proof in the House. But since then, Democrats have tried to steamroll Republicans in such a heavy-handed manner that they have been unable to make headway toward a veto-proof bill, even on legislation that Republicans know darn well stands to hurt them at the polls next year if it does not pass.

That's a somewhat bizarre point of view. Where do you think he got it?

Monday's SChip Article by Riskind*(helpfully titled "Squabble Delays Coverage" rather than "Continued Bush Veto Threats Delay Coverage") : - Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi of Genoa Township, who twice has voted for the $35 billion expansion, nonetheless accuses Democrats of "playing politics" with the issue by refusing to work with Republicans on issues such as giving more assurances that illegal immigrants would be barred from the benefit.

"They could pass a veto-proof bill tomorrow if they wanted to," Tiberi said.

So perhaps, yes, it is a less than perfect world, in which bloggers don boxing gloves and Congressmen don Sock Puppets and Senior Editors and University Presidents wring their hands over vague third hand accounts of the resulting discussion. A world in which discussions are partisan because the subjects of such discussions are themselves partisans. Where descriptions of one party as having "tried to steamroll" opponents complement descriptions of that same party "playing politics," and the words are coming from our traditional media opinion leaders and (gasp!) the very people governing our country.

Except that the world can't really be like that, because I'm the one saying it, I'm a blogger, and (Q.E.D.) I am incapable of discussing what people should be doing and what the world is really like.

You win, guys.

* Catherine Candisky appears to have contributed as well, but the web version omits her byline, and I'm guessing her contributions had more to do with Strickland.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Semi-Final Bexley Counts

Not surprisingly, the race to serve on Bexley's school board is not yet officially over. The final margin has Joan Fishel defeating Michele Kusma by 9 votes. The Franklin County Board of Elecions website is moving incredibly slow, so I'm not going to pull the report from last year's recount in the OH-20 race, but the point I was hoping to support was that several precincts had 1-2 vote shifts as a result of the recount. Assuming a similar rate this year, and that any discrepancies are random, it is possible though very, very unlikely that there could be a new result when the recount is finished next week.

I'll have more on the numbers tomorrow, as Matt Damschroder's shop there at the BOE continues to improve on the state's best data reporting with each election. For instance, in our city council race, each voter could vote for up to 4 candidates. The spread between 1st place and 5th place was less than 500 votes. The undervote, or the number of boxes left blank by voters, was greater than 5000. Just something to think about.

In other stuff that's been going on while I've been slacking, Joe Peffer over at Columbus Homes Blog says exactly what should be said about Bexley, local behind-the-scenes net-pro Paul Ackerman has decided to run for the statehouse in the 21st district, and the controversy over the Plain Dealer's blog experiment keeps sputtering on as they add a "blog roundup" to their own Openers blog.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Appropriate Level of Praise for a Congressman

Some commenters here have (perfectly understandably) bristled when I point out things that Pat Tiberi has done right. Mr. Tiberi is after all still a conservative, still a partisan Republican, and still enables President Bush in some of his most egregious policies.

On the other hand, Mr. Tiberi has, in recent months, made some votes that would seem to indicate a willingness to at least appear moderate and in touch with his constituency (not to mention get back in the good graces of the Dispatch... I mean, Riskind is not calling out anybody in particular, but Pat's professional behavior from last November until the SCHIP vote has made the CD's endorsement editorial look more and more tragicomic), and I'm not willing to play it both ways. It's pretty awkward for me to jump and scream at wrong-headed partisan votes (of which there have been plenty) and then insult him when he avoids making wrong-headed partisan votes.

To be fair to my critics, though, this attitude on my part runs the risk of the exceptions carrying more weight than the rule. So how to cover something like the recent ENDA vote, in which Tiberi broke ranks with the GOP and voted, commendably, to end workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation?

Well, I guess one could do it as the Washington Blade does:

Republicans from Louisiana, Ohio and Virginia were among the 13 who received Human Rights Campaign’s lowest congressional scorecard rating in 2006, yet voted Nov. 7 to support ENDA...

...“The people that we see on this vote is a sign of the progress we’re making,” he said. “It really is uncharted territory for some of these folks, and we appreciate the strong support they gave this bill.”

Sammon said Republican support for ENDA also shows some GOP congressmen are aiming to win over moderate voters next year.

“You have folks who are looking ahead to 2008 and they see the landscape is going to be very difficult and they need to reach out to moderate voters,” he said. “This is one issue to do that on...."

...Among the Republicans with zero scorecard ratings that supported ENDA were Reps. John Campbell of California, Tom Davis of Virginia, Phil English of Pennsylvania, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Vito Fossella of New York, Randy Kuhl of New York, Jim McCrery of Louisiana, John McHugh of New York, Candice Miller of Michigan, Jon Porter of Nevada, Jim Ramstad of Minnesota, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Patrick Tiberi of Ohio.

Makes Me Sick

There has been some significant ganging up on Bill Richardson last night and today (from the left as well as the right) for his claim during the debate that "Human Rights are more important than National Security." I haven't checked the national blogs, where I'm sure this is being discussed, and I'm not really defending Mr. Richardson's honor, as I am fearful he will spin his way into the same statement that everyone else made. The generic statement from the other candidates, Dodd and Clinton for example, made clear that Defending the Nation was more important than protecting Human Rights.

Now, National Security is extremely important, and appears higher up in the job description than Protecting Human Rights does in the Presidential Want Ad. Duh. But some things are, for lack of a better word, sacred. Take, for instance, the opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

So yes, we as a people get to choose what makes us safe and happy, but the only reason we have a government in the first place is to SECURE HUMAN RIGHTS. Without Human Rights, there is literally no reason for there to be a nation, and nothing to secure.

So, Mr. Dodd, Ms. Clinton, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Tim Grieves, the whole damn lot of you, you make me want to puke. For the candidates, it makes a mockery of most every criticism of W you made last night. And, for what it's worth, provides a decent piece of justification for America's enemies. You're pandering pieces of excrement. And yet, 3 months from now, I'll probably be doing my best to get one of you elected. And people wonder why I've had a hard time giving a crap about the presidential race so far.

Big Games and Little Ciphers

Hopefully, and I like to occasionally think hope eventually vanquishes ignorance, community triumphs over rivalry. Somehow, vocal arguments lose intensity and neighborhoods tighten.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You want more turnout?

I know I said I'd expand back out from the Bexley focus post-election, but this is excellent practice for the coming year. I had a commenter ask for precinct-level data, and if the commenter is a long-time reader, they probably knew I was already planning on it. Today's post is race-neutral background, I will add in analyses using actual vote data from the mayoral and council races later.

1) Precincts. I apologize for the quality of the map below. What started out as a map of Bexley was jigsaw-cut before I received it as 12 separate files. You can look at the individual pieces here, but for general reference, the map below should suffice:
If anyone has access to a better digital precinct map, I'd love a copy.

2) Turnout. When looking at turnout, you are always comparing one set of numbers to another set of numbers. The most common comparison is '# of votes' to '# of registered voters'. There are two main problems with the basic comparison, one for each set. The problem with determining '# of votes' is that even in a county like Franklin, which does a relatively excellent job of making the information available, you can almost never determine how many votes came from voters in a given precinct. The easy part is the number of votes cast at machines at the polling place on regular ballots. Then there are the votes that were cast at the polling place but on provisional ballots. These will not show up in the initial unofficial canvass. The ones that are counted will show up in the official canvass, the ones that are rejected, for whatever reason, may or may not be reported elsewhere. Then there are absentee ballots, which can be cast on machines at the Board of Elections HQ, mailed domestically, or sent from overseas (there may be additional, rare methods, such as accomodations for people hospitalized on election day, but we'll let those go). The domestic votes are tallied by election night, and the overseas ballots have extra time to arrive (as long as they were mailed prior to the election). These votes are often combined, but accounted for in their own category, separate from votes tallied at polling places. If you look at Franklin County data from past years, for instance, you will find that after all of the precincts are tallied, an extra line labeled 'absentees' will have a ton of votes which are added to the total. You can narrow down where those votes came from by looking at individual races - for instance in 2003 if there were 10000 absentee votes cast in Franklin County, you could look at how many votes were cast by absentee ballot in the Bexley mayoral race, and that would give you a decent (but most likely low) estimate of how many absentee ballots came from Bexley. You cannot, however, get precinct-level information from this except in rare cases where very local issues (some liquor licenses, for instance) come up. I suppose that the BOE might give you this info if you went down there and asked, but if you're willing to do that I've bored you to tears already... Anyway, this year the BOE has allocated the absentee ballots back to the precincts where the voter was registered, which is great, but it means that the numbers are not entirely comparable to past years' numbers. I will do so anyway (compare them, that is), but be aware. Oh, and this year's numbers do not yet (as of this writing), include accepted provisionals or all overseas absentee votes.


Then, there is the '# of registered voters.' This number is highly suspect, and is almost always higher than it should be. Some of those disgustingly low turnout figures you hear, especially by demographic, are due in part to this distortion. See, when a person moves to a new state, or dies, or commits a felony and goes to jail, they are no longer eligible to vote in their former precinct. It will take a while however, often years, before they are removed from the rolls. If you register to vote at a new address in Ohio, word will hopefully get back via the Sec. of State that you are no longer claiming to be eligible at your old address. But if you move to California, well, they've got better things to do. If you die, well, your loved ones have more important things on their mind, etc. And if you're just a young adult living from lease-to-lease and voting only in presidential elections, you probably won't get around to re-registering until next fall. So, in areas of high residential turnover, especially rental neighborhoods and college campuses, and in areas of high concentrations of senior citizens, there tend to be a lot of 'registered voters' who don't actually exist. In these areas, even if every adult resident came out to vote, turnout would look like 75%.

Having said that, I've pulled turnout numbers from fall of '06 (the most recent general election) and fall of '03 (the most recent Bexley mayoral election) and used them as baselines to test the assumption that "turnout was down" or that "turnout was light in South Bexley."

What we're doing here, first, is comparing the basic comparison ('# of votes' divided by '# of registered voters') across years. Most of the problems I've listed tend to stay constant from year to year, so comparing precincts to their past data is better than directly comparing precincts. Second, we're comparing the raw '# of votes' (remember why this may or may not be a great idea) from year to year, in part to compensate for the flurry of registration in Franklin County prior to th '04 election (which can make the same actual turnout in '03 look larger).

As you can see, turnout is lower across the board in an odd-year election. Furthermore, the majority of precincts are showing lower turnout numbers in '07 than in '03(remember, this includes bonus absentees in '07, but bonus provisionals/recounts etc. in '03 and '06). So, yes, it would appear that turnout was down. Was it particularly light in South Bexley? Well, it certainly wasn't confined to South Bexley, but to better make a determination, I've charted the drop from '06 (the peak value, treated here as the maximum expected turnout) to '07, both in terms of % and raw # of votes:

So, yes, the biggest drop by percent and number of voters was in my home precinct, 3-B. Turnout also dropped by quite a bit in 4-C, also in South Bexley, but not as much as in North Bexley Precinct 1-A. Even in Central Bexley 1-C, turnout dropped more than in South Bexley 3-A. The big story, then, is not where turnout was down, because that happened in all three areas. The story is where turnout was high: 2-A,2-B,4-A,4-B. Three precincts across the heart of central Bexley, and one sharing central tendencies along a strip of Broad St.

What does this mean? Well, if one were so inclined, one could take the vote percentages by precinct, assume that they would also apply to the undervote, multiply them by the 06-07 differential, add the result into each precincts total, sum, and voila - make a claim about what the outcome would have been with 2006 turnout levels. My guess is not much different, but if I have time I'll take a stab at it.

Or you could. I'd be just as happy.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Why you need bloggers

If you've been relying on the newspapers to cover the election results, you're probably a bit confused or blissfully misinformed:

1) ThisWeek reported that turnout was about 3,300 out of 10,000 registered voters, and they restated later that turnout was 33%. This is simply flat out wrong. They reported the correct percentage for Brennan, 24.86%, so they obviously had access to the right numbers, so there really is no good excuse for that. I can't be too hard on them, though, as even though turnout was better than 40%, it appears that I double-counted the absentees (the original count didn't include them, then the absentee report went up, and I added that number to the unofficial count, as (oops) did the BOE). So go to the Board of Elections results page, and do the math yourself. You'll find 4239 votes.

2) The Dispatch reports that there are several local races that could be subject to mandatory recounts, but they do not mention the School Board race here in Bexley. The election night margin of 13 votes between Joan Fishel and Michele Kusma is well within the 1/2% of the total votes cast. That margin does not include provisional ballots and there are potential overseas absentee ballots that could be added to the total. There are therefore three possibilities: 1) Joan Fishel could pick up enough extra votes (about 10 more than MK) in the official count to bump the margin to more than 1/2%*, and a recount would only happen if Kusma requested it. 2) The margin could stay roughly the same, and an automatic recount would be triggered to confirm a Fishel victory, or 3) Kusma could pick up 13 more votes than Fishel, and an automatic recount would be triggered to confirm a Kusma victory. I'll let folks know what I hear about updated vote totals.

3) The Dispatch speculates that provisional and absentee ballots could cause the mayoral margin to move into automatic recount territory. That's some ridiculously unrealistic speculation. You'd be looking at Lampke picking up approximately 30 more votes than Brennan. I highly doubt that there are even as many as 50 outstanding votes. Brennan and Lampke took fewer than half of the votes overall in the unofficial results, so giving them 80% of the outstanding votes is another stretch. Then, Lampke would have to defeat Brennan 35 to 5 among those 40 votes. Mr. Lampke is not talking like he expects a recount, and nobody else should be holding their breath, either.

*Thanks to those who pointed out the correct margin - I had said elsewhere that off the top of my head I thought it was 1/4%, which was incorrect recall on my part.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bexley Turnout

4567 Unofficially, 4239 votes were cast for mayor of Bexley, including 4239 3911 at polling places and 328 cast absentee. [Note on changes: I had updated the vote total with the absentee votes at a point at which the BOE had already gone back and updated the totals, resulting in me double-reporting absentees) A year ago in 2006, 4806 votes were cast at polling places in Bexley, and it is likely (based on the counts from the 20th house district), that approximately 1000-2000 more Bexleyites cast votes absentee for a total of 5800-6800.

I know people thought turnout was light today, and given the races we had, higher turnout wouldn't have been a shock. On the other hand, pulling 7060-75% of the most recent Statewide and Congressional in an odd-numbered year is actually not bad. 4567 is 46% 4239 is 42% of the number of 2006 registered voters.

And speaking of numbers of people... BB had 379 visitors/837 pageviews today, the busiest day in Blue Bexley's history... including Election Day 2006.

Blogging will be sporadic (again) this week, as I will be at the annual meeting of the National Council on Family Relations (which really sounds like a right wing 527/think tank/ministry, but I assure you is actually an academic/professional society).

Good Night.

The Curse of Blue Bexley

So I started this blog in 2006, a year in which Democrats made huge gains in Ohio and nationwide. They did not, however, win in the 12th U.S. Congressional District, the 3rd State Senate District, or the 20th Ohio House District. When the Ohio blogging community was ecstatic, I was moping.

So, it's not so bad this time, in part because I wasn't actually advocating for anyone in the Bexley municipal and school board races. But I can't help but notice that there are seven candidates with links over on the right, and the one mayoral candidate who didn't have his name permanently on the front page was... John Brennan.

The whole thing may seem to break down with the City Council race as Ben Kessler, the only council candidate to sit down for one of my October interviews, ran much stronger than many expected. But not really. Someone, unfortunately, had to be the odd man out in that race, and there was widespread surprise that it was Hanz. Hanz was the very first Bexley officeholder I met in person. Sorry, Hanz.

And finally, in the Bexley Board of Education race, we had some very good candidates. The one who sat down to talk with me missed by a small enough margin that it will probably trigger an automatic recount.

So, when I said "congratulations and otherwise" in the last post, that was "congratulations... and my apologies."

Congratulations and otherwise

John Brennan is the mayor-elect of Bexley.
Masser, McClelland, Morison, and Kessler have been elected to city council, Hanz Wasserburger has not.
Craig Halliday and Joan Fishel have been elected to the Bexley Board of Education. Unofficially, Joan defeated Michele Kusma by 13 votes, 2092 to 2079.

Congratulations to the winners, they're all perfectly competent and will do a fine job for Bexley. Best of luck to those who didn't win this time around, I have to say I'm still surprised at some of the results.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The last campaign interview

I sat down with Gene Weiss on Saturday morning. I was glad we got the chance, as the single least fair thing I had written in this campaign was about Mr. Weiss, and I was hoping to get the chance to write something else before it was all done. What I had written was that something about him had rubbed me the wrong way at the Chamber of Commerce's forum at the library, and then I just left it at that. The first thing he asked me Saturday was if I had figured out what it was. I haven't, and I've given up trying to figure it out. Every time I think 'maybe it was...' I run the danger of basically making something up and believing it for lack of a better alternative. Anyway, whatever it was, I didn't really pick up on it again this time.

We talked about this campaign and election, and how it really seems up for grabs. In any election, you have two sources of votes: people who will vote for you, if they in fact actually vote, and people who might vote for someone else, but might be convinced to vote for you (if they do, in fact, end up voting). So I asked Mr. Weiss: what is your base? How would you characterize the group of people who will vote for you if you can get them to the polls? He told me that he's been a Bexley resident for decades, and that most of the people he knows are the families of his children's schoolmates. Additionally, he cultivated many relationships during his tenure on the school board.

So then, what about the undecideds? What do you tell the people who answer the door on Sunday or are surfing the net for candidate info on Monday night? Mr. Weiss replied that you'll want to vote for him if you want Bexley's mayor to have a plan. At this point he gave as an example the Police Station and the cascade of municipal building conundrums this has engendered. In addition to explaining how having a long-range master plan means at minimum that you won't move forward with decisions about one building until you know how it will affect your other physical assets, he offered up his preference for a Police Station on Delmar and a Service Facility placed outside of the city limits. Without speaking to the merits of this plan otherwise, I immediately noted the way in which he explained in passing that the Delmar site creates a northside gateway, and that the proposed south-western Bexley site for the Service Facility would negatively impact the quality of life for residents there. It's pretty rare for a candidate to address the needs of residents in all of Bexley's regions without calling attention to the fact that they are talking about all of Bexley's regions. I liked that.

Not to short-shrift the rest of Mr. Weiss's platform and ideas, but much of the rest of our conversation dealt with the same sorts of things that always come up - cutting expenditures, developing Main Street, etc. We did talk a bit about making the city more friendly and receptive, both in terms of regulation and code enforcement. I thought about bringing up the FOP thing, but decided against it. I started some speculative conversation about how to work with Columbus to make the Eastside more of a priority (Mr. Weiss was cautious and skeptical, but listened politely). I sat and listened while folks came in and out and said hi, and I eventually had to take off.

This brings to a close my pre-election campaign coverage. For those who haven't been reading, I explain my methodology in this response to someone less than thrilled with my sunshiny approach (possibly given my less friendly approach to the state and federal legislators).

If you haven't already voted, please make sure that you take the time to exercise that right and privilege.

To all of the candidates, especially those who have taken the time and made the effort to talk to me as both a citizen of Bexley and a guy with a website, best of luck to you.

I'll be working my 9-5 tomorrow, but I will be blogging the election returns tomorrow night, live if I can swing it.

Election Eve

I've got one more interview to post on, as I sat down Saturday Morning with Gene Weiss to discuss his candidacy for mayor of Bexley. Before I do that post, let me take care of some business:

#1) The Franklin County Board of Elections has an excellent set of resources to answer your voting questions, including a form that will tell you exactly where you are supposed to vote, what ID you need, the hours the polls are open, and even a replica ballot, so you can do last minute research on the judges or read the text of the charter amendments before you step into the booth (this is actually the ballot from my precinct - other precincts have the same candidates and issues, but with different names at the top of the lists).

#2) I ran out of time at the end of the campaign to get to everyone who had wanted to talk, as I had to go up to Michigan and chaperone an overnight birthday party with a handful of sugar-buzzed pre-teen boys. I'd like to apologize to Joan Fishel, Travis Irvine, and Robyn Jones, all of whom made unsuccessful attempts to sit down with me. Hopefully we'll still get a chance to converse regardless of what happens tomorrow night.

#3) If you're not from Bexley, you still might very well have an important election tomorrow. I've had a chance to sit down and talk with all of the incumbent Columbus City Council Candidates with the exception of Priscilla Tyson, and my view from the sidelines is that they're all doing an exceptional job. If you live in Franklin County, you've got a chance to vote out Municipal Court Judge Amy Salerno and replace her with Joseph L. Mas. You may remember her as the judge who excoriated the Buckeye QB who was pleading not guilty in a solicitation case.

#4) If you're looking for endorsements from me in the Bexley races, you won't find them, I'm not doing them. I've decided, finally, who I'm voting for in each of the races tomorrow. Having said that, the odds are that the winner of the mayoral election won't be the candidate that I voted for, but I'm pretty confident I'll be comfortable with the winner, regardless.

Friday, November 02, 2007

In the Wider World

A young man named Aaron Dagres from Newark has thrown his hat into the ring in Ohio's 12th U.S. Congressional District. For the moment, I'm pretty much of the exact mindset as Jerid, on this. Mr. Dagres was probably inspired by the lack of a credible Dem candidate. That didn't last long. BSB is also reporting that Stonewall Democrats Columbus president Russ Goodwin will soon be officially getting into the race. Next week I will start looking more closely at the legislative landscape again. Right now I'm still as interested in the fallout from LaTourette's involvement with the Wide Open scandal at the Plain Dealer. As another blogger who has pushed at his Congressman, I'm quite interested in what happens when the Rep. pushes back, not just in cyberspace, but in the real world.

2008 starts next week, though. All of this can wait that long.

Woo-Hoo, Tuesday Night Live

As I'd told a bunch of folks over the course of the campaign season, I've got out-of-town commitments for work starting on Wednesday, and I've been scheduled to be in Pittsburgh Tuesday night. I had figured I would probably learn the winners of the Bexley races via a cell phone conversation somewhere between Zanesville and Wheeling.

The Wednesday morning schedule has changed, allowing me to cancel my hotel room for Tuesday and leave the next morning. Now I can be here election night, and blog the results from Bexley. Life is good.

More Multi-Media

It's easy to like a candidate when they are a likable person, and they are careful not to take any concrete positions. It's easy to like a candidate who takes likable, popular stands on issues. Then you've got Ben Kessler, a likable guy who says you should vote for him because he takes concrete stands on issues, some of which he has a pretty good idea won't be universally loved.

Judge for yourself. I've run into a bunch of people who have been impressed with Mr. Kessler, and I sat down with him this week to discuss his run for City Council. I'm not always sure I'm in agreement with him, but I've been impressed myself. He's the only candidate among the five who has never sat on the council, but he's been attending meetings and doing homework. It shows in the interview, which, although it spanned a number of issues from retail development to politics and campaigning, I've edited down to one question: How would you balance Bexley's budget?

You can hear Ben's (15 minute) answer here. As I summarized at the end, he's talking about increasing staff productivity, re-benchmarking budgets to 3% annual growth from 2004 levels, and engaging in long-term planning to increase the accuracy of budget forecasting, but if you want details, go to his website or grab your headphones and listen to the audio.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More Primary Sources

If you saw the latest issue of The Torch (not the one discussed at the school board candidate forum, but the 10/31 issue), you will find that the center spread is eight separate articles, each focusing on a mayoral candidate. The Torch instantly becomes the most in-depth source of reporting on that race. Sigh. Dang kids.

But I've got other races. I'm a utility blogger. Tonight's offering is a brief interview with school board candidate Michele Kusma. The school board race has been at least as rough and tumble as the other two, if not more so. My first view of the candidates came on Monday, but multiple people who saw both have said they thought Ms. Kusma was notably better on Monday than in the prior event. I can believe that, but she continued to do well for herself afterward.

Michele Kusma and I met up for warm beverages after the School Board Candidate Night on Monday. We started off talking about... me. For many of the folks involved in this election, it seems that I just sort of popped up out of nowhere one day. This is because I just pretty much popped up out of nowhere one day, a process that I described in more detail to Ms. Kusma as we transitioned into a discussion of the campaign, and eventually back into School Board matters. I started off by asking her to answer the question that she had most hoped would get asked but didn't. She first referred to a thick folder of notes she had brought with her. As she said, being the only candidate with a website might make her a little more accessible to folks with questions, but she had certainly received plenty, and had prepped the notes (in part) in anticipation of some of those questions being raised at the forum. She then decided on the hypothetical topic of Special Education/Gifted Education. There is apparently a segment of the population that believes Ms. Kusma is too narrowly focused on gifted education. Her response is that she has been vocal about supporting gifted education because it is an area of expertise for her, which has also led to her being asked to advocate for gifted education. She says that she is not overly focused on one group of kids, she wants to support all kids, and that all kids need support.

I was happy that she picked the topic, as I had only prepared a few questions, and the first one I was planning on asking was on exceptional kids, and which populations in Bexley would most benefit from extra attention. I framed it in terms of Special Education/Learning Difficulty kids, Gifted Kids, and "normal" or the "big middle of" kids. She answered that she was excited that the answer to the question was about to become much clearer due to "value-added" assessment and evaluation. [Value-Added (VA) refers to assessments that are benchmarked against a child's own achievement levels from the previous year, rather than to standards based on "typical" educational development. For example, under current assessment practices, Little Jane's education has been successful if she can read at "a fifth grade level" when she is in the fifth grade. Under VA standards, success depends on what Jane could do in 4th grade. If she was reading at a second grade level in fourth grade, then jumping two grade levels and reading at a 4th grade level in 5th grade would be a success. Likewise, if Jane was reading at a 6th grade level in 4th grade, and still reading at a 6th grade level in 5th grade, her education would be considered unsuccessful, even though she was testing above grade level - bonobo]. As Ms. Kusma pointed out, the data generated from this type of analysis can be used to make much clearer statements about achievement across the distribution of students.

The implications for classroom structure should at this point be obvious, and I asked Ms. Kusma what happens when you are a teacher tasked with teaching subject matter dictated by individual assessment level to a classroom grouped by chronological age? She comfortably discussed a range of methods that have been used here in Bexley and elsewhere, such as all classes sharing a common "math time" during which students are rearranged by math skills, etc.

All in all, she seemed enthusiastic and comfortable discussing the issues, and when I did throw her off a bit with DeRolph and then later by explaining how perceptions of the ways in which Bexley's schools interpret and enforce in-district eligibility made me personally uncomfortable, she responded cautiously but thoughtfully.

It was a pretty short interview, but it was following up two hours in which many of the good questions had already been asked. Next up: City Council candidate Ben Kessler.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

spooky, creepy, other-worldly

On a night when ghosts and goblins (or at least Venom and Yoda) come a calling, it's easy to entertain irrational beliefs. For instance, I recently wrote about something I really disliked, and then a blog with a prominent link up and to the left here went and did exactly the thing I hate. So I removed their link and replaced it with Wide Open, the Plain Dealer project bringing together 4 prominent Ohio political bloggers, 2 liberal and 2 conservative. A week later the Plain Dealer fires one of the best political bloggers in Ohio because Steve LaTourette doesn't like him. Needless to say, Wide Open is toast.

So now that I have decided that the spot up and to the left is cursed, I can go ahead and put the mother of all non-scientific methodologies up there. You can now take part in the only pre-election poll I know of for the three big Bexley races. Please vote once, and once only.

Clap if you believe in internet polls. Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

School Board Candidate Night

I haven't had any time to write, which is what I get for choosing sleep over blogging on both the front and back end of the night, but I attended the candidate forum for Board of Education candidates at the Cassingham Theatre last night. There were probably 50 people in attendance, and the males were outnumbered 2-1 in the audience, which was the second thing that struck me about the crowd, after I had registered that Michele Kusma had won the Matt Lampke Honorary T-Shirt Support Award by bringing a sizable and very visible contingent of supporters to the forum.

Opening statements were 3 minutes, and set the tone reasonably well for the rest of the discussion. Joan Fishel is an experienced board member whose undergraduate degree is in education, who has pursued a variety of professional pursuits but is grateful to be in a position that aligns with her lifelong interest in education. Sean French introduced himself by endorsing his opponent Craig Halliday, and then explained that he was running for school board not on issues, per se, but to remedy the lack of representation for South Bexley on the board. Craig Halliday had a great opening, recounting that the first time he was on the Cassingham stage was in a supporting role in the 1972 kindergarten production of Billy Goat Gruff, highlighting a lifetime of involvement with Bexley Schools, and the aforementioned Michele Kusma identified herself as the educator running for the board, touching on her professional experience as a teacher and segueing into a listing of a slew of prior volunteer positions in the district.

My somewhat impressionistic summary of questions (where a stand-alone question mark means that the question was some variant of "what is your view on... " the preceding statement):

1) Non-traditional learners. ?. SF says handle every kid case by case. CH says listen to teachers and parents. And parents some more. MK says we have a spectrum, and the new "Value-added" assessment requirements will influence education strategies across that spectrum, JF rhetorically asks if there is such a thing as a traditional learner, and suggests needs beyond academics (e.g. psychological well-being) need to be more fully addressed.

2) Best practices differ by elementary school... and CH says that's not good, International Baccalaureate has become a default standard now that the middle school is on board, and Montrose and Maryland should have been/should be brought along. Everyone else disagrees with Craig.

3) Bigger class sizes? MK says hire full-time subs to create a bullpen, JF says cost-benefit leads to tough choices and you can't please everyone, SF says if Bexley wants more teachers let the community decide where to shift resources, and CH lost me with an inadvertent comment.

4) "Sex in the Suburbs." The school newspaper (The Torch) apparently published an in-depth piece on adolescent sex, complete with names and descriptions of both sexual activity and alcohol/substance use. ?. I was pretty happy that most of the candidates answered with some form of support for students who want to publish responsibly produced pieces on important if controversial topics. S.F. insisted that it was not for school, but it was unclear what "it" was in the context. BTW, Blue Bexley would greatly appreciate the opportunity to review the original piece - two of the four candidates had not read it themselves, and it's difficult to judge the appropriateness of the piece third-hand.

5) Choice of the 3 Elementaries? yes.

6) technology needs... .?. SF says trust experts, CH says teach fundamentals, tech not a priority, something I didn't quite understand about how kids in high school have laptops, which should be addressed. MK says tech is absolutely a priority and that the hiring of Paul Ross as District Tech Director was a great first step. JF says to push the Superintendent forward with recommendations that have already been made, look to teachers who are using tech for inspiration.

7) Peter Yarrow blah wah blah wah blah blah. ?. There was an actual question in there, but after the Peter Yarrow part, nobody really heard it. Consensus: Bullying bad. Anti-Bullying Good. Angry Parents Bad. District Response Good. Vague on all other elements.

8) Foreign Languages Substandard. ?. MK says that the issue is known and is currently under study. JF would like to promote a World Languages approach, SF has been to 35 countries and thinks English is the only really important language, and CH thinks that classroom foreign language study is over-rated but that improvements could be made.

9) With possibly no new funding for years, um what? SF thinks money is good, CH explains mills traded for income before, maybe mills again in '09,'10, or '11, MK says yes, and JF says be accountable.

10) Full Day Kindergarten. ?. CH says it's a community priority, it's being studied, it will happen, it will need to be paid for. MK agrees, but suggests moving birthday cutoff up to Aug. 1 to help ensure readiness, JF adds that people like the idea because research shows benefits, and SF says that to the extent people want to have it, and they should be asked how to pay for it.

11) Are you willing to disagree, to advance a minority opinion? Everyone says yes. MK adds in history of speaking to board, JF extols consensus, SF vows to represent his constituency, and CH indicates that he has a voice.

12) Greatest challenge faced by district ? JF says maintaining excellence and continuing to improve, SF adds increased communication, CH says financing the excellence, and MK says all that, and meeting new performance standards (value-added).

Everyone gave closing remarks, and a reception ensued. I caught up with Michele Kusma afterward and she sat down with me for a half-hour interview that I will post tomorrow, where she had a chance to follow up and expand on some of the answers she gave (and didn't get a chance to give).

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Week Rising

Tomorrow night (tonight by the time I finish writing this) at 7:00 pm, there's a Bexley School Board Candidate Night at the Cassingham auditorium. I know I keep promising School Board posts, but now I'm actually working on it. In the meantime, I did a sit-down over coffee with Bexley Mayoral candidate Bill Minckler today. We talked about his new campaign video, and the questions I had after watching it.

Nobody would ever accuse me of being a hard-hitting journalist, but the audio turned out pretty well, so (why not?) you can listen to the whole half-hour interview here (mp3, 4Mb).

Some highlights - Mr. Minckler believes that from a marketing standpoint, a community becomes attractive by being different, distinctive, even unusual (within bounds). I later asked him, how will the typical Central Ohio resident view Bexley after four years of a Minckler administration, and actually I really liked his response "an intellectual and cultural center... a center of ideas, influence, and art."

Of course, of course, this is in the context of a well-maintained city, with good services, and the line held on taxes, etc. We talked about management, with Mr. Minckler emphasizing the need to have projects analyzed in complete and meaningful ways before committing resources, an approach he would also employ with consultants. This came up in the context of one of my pet topics, the Woodland Meadows property, which Mr. Minckler was uncomfortable expressing an opinion on due to what he felt are unknowns in the situation. Reasonable enough. We also discussed multi-level parking structures. It's a topic he's obviously spent more time thinking about, and he outlined the benefits of underground structures, of rooftop community gathering spaces, etc.

I asked if he saw this as a Bexley-owned structure, a partnership, or a Bexley-facilitated private structure. It's apparently a good question. I'm always getting ahead of myself.

So anyway, if you'd like Mr. Minckler's platform as he himself presents it, check out his video on, and if you want to hear me blather, check out the audio.

More of this sort of thing forthcoming. And rumors of OH-12 news to boot.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lunch Time

I have found a writing window!

In the real mayoral race, Matt Lampke continues to have the proverbial Friends Like These. The current issue of ThisWeek has a Bonnie Butcher story about the FOP endorsement that Mr. Lampke has been touting, and the impression among the other candidates that the FOP endorsed somewhat capriciously and without going through their typical notification process. Some of this can be attributed to the timeline, as Mr. Lampke was doing his endorsement interview before Robyn Jones or Scott Weinblatt had made official announcements, and within days of John Brennan's announcement. Bill Minckler and Travis Irvine, however, are both quoted as saying they were never informed, and they were both publicly declared candidates for several weeks at that point.

So, the FOP's credibility takes a bit of a hit from this. Even Mr. Lampke says he went out of his way to ask others about the endorsement process, and does not give any indication that he received written notification. It would appear that, at least by their own standards, the FOP fouled up the process this go-round.

It doesn't appear that Mr. Lampke himself fouled anything up. He pro-actively sought an endorsement and got it. Now, due to factors assumably beyond his control, the endorsement has lost some luster. I tagged his friends earlier over a pseudo-endorsement. The snarky part of me is forced to wonder if ThisWeek is pursuing the Conservation Voters' endorsement.

In the meantime, I'm more upset with the FOP for their efforts to create a special class of records that provide privacy for their members that is not afforded to the general public, or other public employees. I can understand their concerns, but what about judges? What about attorneys? What about teachers and principals? Who, exactly, will never make enemies? Our State Senator, David Goodman, expects their proposal (by expects, I mean he was in an expectative state last Tuesday, which has probably been replaced by actual knowledge in the meantime) to pass out of his committee, although the article doesn't attribute a position to Mr. Goodman either way. Of course, in today's Dispatch, Goodman does come out for greater openness in terms of legislators' emails. Perhaps I should send one of those public record electronic messages and ask him about his position on shielding/hiding public safety officials from the public.

In news of the other mayoral race, I told you so. As if on effing cue: Bill Todd.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Harvey, Naugle, Zherdev

Sunday Sunday Sunday. Most weekends find me playing the part of the man Frank the Tank has become at the outset of the movie Old School:

Frank: I told my wife I wouldn't drink tonight. Besides, I got a big day tomorrow. You guys have a great time.
College Student: A big day? Doing what?
Frank: Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we're going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don't know, I don't know if we'll have enough time.*

What's even worse is that unlike Frank, I don't break out of that rut through spontaneous regression to house-partying, I do it by chatting up a mayoral candidate, emailing with another blogger, and going to a hockey game, and I'm sincerely happy with, and exhausted from, the day at the end of it.

So to start - Bill Harvey. I'm planning on doing longer pieces/conversations with several candidates over the next two weeks, and this is the first. I wrote after the C of C forum that Mr. Harvey was a traditional mayoral candidate and that there weren't any surprises. Of course, there's a reason that traditions develop. Mr. Harvey believes that Bexley's significant problems are financial, specifically a potential 2 million dollar budget deficit. Furthermore, he believes that his financial experience exceeds that of the other candidates. So if you buy those two premises, he believes you'll vote for him.

It's a nice 30 second pitch that sounds better in person than from the table. After chatting about blogs, media, and electoral politics more generally, I should have pushed harder at the cost-cutting side of the finance equation, but I was more focused on revenue. We discussed how hard Bexley could be hit if the legislature isn't mindful of the consequences of Estate Tax reform, and he re-iterated his position that government buildings should not be getting in the way of commercial development on Main St.

Mr. Harvey hasn't spent a lot of energy working out plans for the North or South gateways, a subject he admits requires some more thought, but he did respond quickly when I asked about the Woodland Meadows property. Somewhat to my surprise he favors aggressively pursuing the parcel for the city. As he says, it's a one time opportunity to get that extra land, and even though it would take "real money, right now" to purchase the parcel during a period in which Harvey himself says budget cutting will be a priority, he believes that Bexley would regret passing up the opportunity. He suggested that some combination of the City, School District, Capital Univ., and perhaps CSG and/or St. Charles could collaborate.

At some point I cut the conversation short, as I had a hockey game to go to. It was a comfortable conversation, and that's not always easy to pull off.

It's even tougher when you start the conversation with insults. Matt Naugle of Right Angle Blog commented on the race last week, I took offense and commented on the comment. Mr. Naugle took offense in turn and emailed me. I sent a somewhat testy email explaining myself back. Mr. Naugle sent what seemed to be a sincerely friendly email back. So, I apologize for the insulting tone of my last post, and I hope that Matt and I can both be so friendly when we run into each other in person, which is apparently not unlikely in the near future.

I hope we can at least be more civil than Charlotte. You wouldn't believe the trash talk that comes out of that girl's mouth. Here she's saying "Hey Henrik, are you the okay Sedin twin or the one that sucks?"

Don't be too hard on her. Nik Zherdev gave up the turnover that led to the empty-netter right in front of her. It's enough to make anyone cranky, dream seats or no.

*Quote via commenter on this site.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Been taking a break

Lots of stuff going on all over. Not just with the campaigns in Bexley, but everywhere from my dining room ('soft duckling') to Sweden Norway (Gore goes for the Grand Slam). In between:

Columbus Blue Jackets Hockey. Want to know what's more depressing than losing at home on a late goal that forces you into a shootout shutout? Doing it front of 7,000 empty seats? Maybe, but perhaps what's most depressing is being in a city where the local paper feels that it's necessary to interpret during the following Nash quote:

"Everyone would like to have a (Daniel) Alfredsson, (Dany) Heatley and (Jason) Spezza line (one of the NHL's best, in Ottawa), but you have to be pretty lucky. Hitch is just looking for the right combinations." (emphasis added)

Perhaps they should have gone further - " Ottawa, a city in Canada where hockey is also played professionally." Argh. How to make the best of it? Well, I just picked up two tix for a weekend game, literally on the glass, for $50 apiece. The upside to low demand is a buyer's market. If you want to read hockey, go to the sidebar and click on the Neutral Zone Trap. She's my favorite CBJ blogger, and she can gateway you to the rest of 'em.

Another blogger I read, but who I don't actually link to: Megan Mcardle. She's a national blogger and fairly conservative, but that's okay, as she's an economist. I sometimes think I should have been an economist. More often I think that perhaps I should have worked harder to overcome the impediments to actually becoming a career cognitive neuroscientist, especially now that the work I was doing is coming out in a nice venue. But I'm more than happy enough to be doing research on higher education, which is my new gig starting at the beginning of next month.

Speaking of conservative bloggers, the walking blogger stereotype Matt Naugle has decided to weigh in on the race here. He's narrowed his endorsement field to 7.

And in a final nod to other bloggers, A Mere Detour has picked up my slack and expressed annoyance with Pat Tiberi.

If I did read more bloggers, I would probably have a better handle on how folks are viewing the Stephanie Groce/FCDP tiff. I liked her when I met her, but I'm really pretty neutral on the issue of whether she should have gotten the official endorsement of the party in the first place, given the set of issues that are being brought up now and the general inconsequentiality of the endorsement in a non-partisan race. The time for labor, however, to express an objection occurred a while ago. I'm not sure how long ago, but less than three weeks prior to the election is a late hit. And then, even if the unions just now realized that Groce supports charter schools and pay freezes, perhaps the party could have said to them "yanking our endorsement three weeks before election day makes us look petty and stupid." FCDP would have some unhappy friends, sure, but would have done less overall harm to the brand name.

In the end, the party keeps its foot soldiers morale up (good), and Groce (with her vastly increased name recognition) wins her seat handily (I really am not sure who would actually prefer otherwise, at least this cycle). And Bill Todd finally gets a coherent talking point on education (Ugh).

And speaking of Todd, the CD did a piece on the Columbus mayoral candidates (mis)use of crime statistics. In that piece, the author characterized Coleman's optimistic reading of the numbers as making Columbus "look like Bexley with three-quarters of a million people." A strange indirect compliment for our city, but a nice indirect compliment, nonetheless.

Back to the homestretch here this weekend.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

See, this is how it works - Updated

Like I said in the last post, candidates are welcome/encouraged to contact me if they need to respond to something in the comments. Bill Harvey has taken me up on the offer, with very good reason. As Mr. Harvey says:

I did not say anything to anyone about city employees and their future with the city other than this - which I have said (and will continue to say) publicly -- I will assume that every employee who works for the city is the best qualified person for their position until (a) I review their personnel records (b) I interview them and their supervisor and (c) I make my own determination reqarding their qualifications.

I don’t expect this to be something I will do quickly since, as I said, I am assuming the people who work for the city today are qualified. I also believe that these steps will be taken by anyone who would be elected. It is just good management.

The need for clarification arises because (pay attention) an anonymous commenter claims that another candidate had deliberately mischaracterized Mr. Harvey's position. While some people might have interpreted that accusation as simply an attack on that other candidate, the result was to inject that mischaracterization into the public discourse, creating the need to refute it. There's no independent evidence that the other candidate ever actually talked about Mr. Harvey's position (accurately or otherwise), so it is entirely possible that the anonymous commenter was going for a two-fer, smearing multiple candidates simultaneously.

As I've said, I'm more than happy to do it when asked, but I really don't want posts like this to have to become a regular feature, so please play nice.

Update - Matt Lampke has also sent a note regarding recent anonymous allegations:

I have run a positive campaign and am focusing on my ideas for Bexley's future and on the public and community service I have performed for Bexley in the past. I am committed to being your Mayor for the next twenty years if the Bexley residents will have me. If anyone would like to go to the source with their questions or concerns, please contact me at 231-8172 or by e-mail at

On Comments

Every few months I do a version of this post. As we approach Election Day it seems I need a re-run:

1) I allow any comments that are not spam, and I allow you to post them without leaving your identity.

2) If I could require that you at least use a pseudonym, I would, but I can't, so I will simply ask nicely and encourage strongly: If you don't want to use your actual name/nickname, don't choose "anonymous" when leaving a comment. Choose "other," and make up a name. I don't care what the name is, it could be 'anon1' for all I care. When you post anonymously, people reply anonymously, and then you get comments like "I agree with anonymous that anonymous doesn't understand what anonymous is trying to say, but anonymous does have a point." Please don't start conversations like that here.

Special NOTE!! There is no known-to-me limit on what name can be chosen. It is always good to be suspicious of the contents of anonymous postings, you should also be cautious about assuming posts from individuals with real names are actually posted by the flesh-and-bone person with that name. For instance, if someone named "David Madison" posted a mayoral endorsement in the comments, you can pretty much assume it's an impostor.

3) For those who are inexperienced at internet forums (like comment threads in blogs), it is almost always better to leave the trolls/cranks/etc. alone. Do not engage. They don't care about reasoned debate, they care about pushing agendas and/or picking fights. You don't really want to help them. You will be tempted, and on occasion you will give into that temptation. Then you will remember why people keep giving you this advice.

I say this now in particular because there have been some sensationalist and rumor-mongering type hits on some of the candidates that have been left as comments on this blog. When I read a blog, and a post has only one comment, I sometimes read the comment. If it has 10 comments, I will definitely check out the comments. Taking on the cheap shots only tends to help the cheap shot artist.

If a campaign would like to respond to such a commenter, however, they can email me, and I'll try to get them front page space if they want it.

4) It should go without saying, but I don't endorse any comments, nor do I necessarily even like the presence of any particular comment, unless I specifically say that I do. I do like to encourage readers to comment and converse, so I take the bad with the good. A lot of good discussions have taken place in the comments here.

5) Finally, I would like to congratulate Bexley on the cleanliness of the campaign so far. I got an email from someone in another suburb who had created a brand new anonymous email account from a computer at their public library for the sole apparent purpose of mailing embarrassing legal records regarding a candidate out to bloggers. That's the sort of thing that leaves a grimy film on every one involved. I'm not a fan of some of the anonymous comments here at BB, but it's nothing compared to that kind of sliminess.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Video from the Bexley C of C Mayoral Forum

Time Warner Cable will at some point have video from the entire event available on the Local-On-Demand channel (our consolation prize for not having the Big Ten Network, perhaps?), but until then I have this: One of the questions asked of the candidates was "How do we persuade residents with modest incomes to stay in Bexley?" I really like this type of question, as it is just left-field enough to elicit meaningful but unscripted answers that really give you some insight into the thoughts and values of the candidates. So I took video of the responses.

The videos kind of suck, and the audio is worse, but each of the candidates responses (in the order they gave them) are below:

Scott Weinblatt

Bill Minckler

Matt Lampke and Gene Weiss

Travis Irvine, Bill Harvey, Robyn Jones, and John Brennan

The Columbus Messenger already has a story up on their website. Reading their version of events leads me to believe that I really did say just about everything I needed to say in last night's post. So on and up.

Mayor's Forum, The Quick and Dirty

Good turnout. Matt Lampke won the initial impressions by having 5-10 people with his T-Shirt on in a room of 150-200 people. That stands out when t-shirts are scarce. Then the room grew to 200-250, SRO.

I've burned up all my energy trying to get a couple of video clips together. That's pretty much failed, but you should be able to take a look at some of the works in progress by searching YouTube for bluebexley(if you put 'em on your ipod you can even rotate them to the proper orientation all on your own).

In the meantime, pending a real report here which may or may not ever come, my conventional wisdom meter highly distorted personal sense of the race says that Lampke and/or Jones could have made themselves the favorite, but neither gave a knockout performance. Scott Weinblatt has to be commended for trying to make a real run at age 18, but he's trying a bit too hard to sound credible. Harvey and Brennan are both pretty traditional candidates for this type of race, and there were no surprises either way, there. Gene Weiss? Something about Mr. Weiss rubbed me a bit wrong. I can't put my finger on it, really, I'll have to catch the video on cable.

So the winners: Bill Minckler did well for himself, perhaps gaining back some of the early momentum, but clearly the best performance relative to expectations was Travis Irvine's. He's intelligent, knows the issues, and has near-perfect comic timing. That's still probably not going to be enough to win him this election, but the guy's got a future, and who knows?

So, FYI, everybody thinks we need fewer consultants, more alcohol at Jeffrey Mansion, and no new taxes. If those are your issues, you can't go wrong.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Forum Tonight

Just a reminder that all eight Bexley mayoral candidates will be answering questions in a structured environment tonight at our beautiful Public Library at Cassady and Main. Festivities start at 7pm, you're advised to be a bit early.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Psst - Obama's coming for cheap, too

In the inbox:

Friday, October 26
Columbus Convention Center
11 AM
Doors Open at 10:30 AM
General Admission $30
Students $15

Sign Up to Attend: under Upcoming Events

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In case you've forgotten, our governor is a psychologist

Not much you didn't know here, but Ted Strickland is a bit of a hero to the APA, as he is the first psychologist to head up a state government. They invited him to speak at their conference, which he did, and they interviewed him for the Monitor, which goes out to tens of thousands of researchers, students, and clinicians. He talks about mental health parity, the scientific method, and a disturbing letter from the parents of a bullying victim.

Just an FYI.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Races in Other Communities

Besides Bexley, there are several other Central Ohio municipalities that are also holding elections for Mayor and City Council. One of these is a town called Columbus, and this weekend I was invited to sit down with some guy named Coleman and chat with him and a few other folks about the race there.

Seriously, Jerid of BSB worked with the Mayoral and Council campaigns to have Columbus bloggers like Walker Evans (Columbus Underground), Paul Bonneville (Columbus RetroMetro), and the guys from the 270 and ColumbusIng do a Meet-The-Bloggers style forum with Mayor Michael Coleman, followed shortly by a group interview with Council members Mentel, Tavares, Ginther, and Craig. I was lucky enough to end up on the invite list, and on Saturday I went back to the old stomping grounds in the Short North. TryFresh/FreshLabs, a web innovation company, hosted in their very trendy office space.

The conversation with Mayor Coleman was a whole lot more interesting than I expected it to be. To be honest, the one time that I had met the mayor before, he seemed to be completely somewhere else. Looking back at the timeline, I can't really hold that against him, but it made for a pleasant surprise Saturday when he latched on to questions and was obviously very engaged in the conversation.

There's supposed to be audio and/or video available either soon or already, but by way of highlights most of the conversation dealt with downtown, which is what the Columbus blogging community tends to be focused on. In particular, Mayor Coleman was animated about the Streetcar project, and talked about the benefits of connecting the students to downtown. For those of you who don't obsess on transit issues, you may be surprised that this part of the conversation caused a mild tension at the table, which Walker Evans eventually jumped in and made explicit: No version of the streetcar proposal had ever brought the line north of Buttles - 12 blocks south of Campus. Mayor Coleman's response was the big "scoop" of the day, that meetings this week had led to the conclusion that any future proposal would run north to campus (although possibly at the expense of the proposed southern portion of the route. Mayor Coleman mentioned that it was making more sense to wait for a finalized I70/71 plan through downtown before proposing how a streetcar line would cross the new freeway).

Of course, as Mayor Coleman was quick to mention, streetcars are an exciting but currently unfunded idea. Without the cash, the changes in the proposal don't mean much in the short term.

When my turn to ask a question came up, I specifically moved the conversation away from downtown and over here to the Eastside. I thanked him for the bulldozers at Woodland Meadows, and asked: So what now? The answer: Good Question. In a nutshell, the city does not own the Woodland Meadows property, the city would love to work with a new owner, it may take a while to get a new owner, because Jorge Newbery has many debts and needs to maximize what he can squeeze out of his assets, so we wait. I asked if there was anything the city could do to make the property more attractive to potential buyers, and his reply brought a quick laugh: "I think I already have." He clarified the quip, though, and I was glad. The humorous interpretation was that he simply got rid of the ugliness. The real meaning of the remark was that the net result of the demolition project was probably 2-3 million dollars in market value for the property. In effect, this is cash into Mr. Newbery's pocket, but worth the expense, especially if the benefits go beyond removing the blight and into facilitation of re-development.

Like I said, we had questions, he had answers. When time ran out, he asked for more. I for one was sincerely flattered.

Afterward, I got distracted and missed out on most of my courtesy lunch, but used the opportunity to let Charleta Tavares know that I knew she lived in neighboring Berwick, as Berwick's in the 12th... and I've located nearly every prominent politician in the 12th. That still flusters people for some reason. I also ascertained that Hearcel Craig remembered baby C., and chatted with him about the screaming pic I had put up in his defense. I was glad I got the chance to chat, as the roundtable with the Council Crew was not really conducive to that kind of interaction.

All 4 of the Council Members present were competent and impressive, but I was especially impressed with Council President Mentel. He took my first out-of-the-blue question (the city has explicitly stated that it wants to be more competetive for major conventions and meetings - what are the near term projects supporting that goal?) and listed off direct and indirect actions being taken by the city. It wasn't the content so much as the confidence. Later, when asked about the strategy of running against one-party-rule, a tack being taken by some of their opponents, Andrew Ginther gave an answer much like I might, saying that the issue has never really been one party rule, that the problem was corruption, and that one-party-rule was basically necessary but not sufficient for corruption, etc. Mentel took the mic and said Democrats have a long and excellent record of stewardship of this city. Columbus is the success story of the Midwest. He is proud of what Council has accomplished, he is proud to work with the Mayor as a partner, and he is proud of the teamwork on the Council. If that's what the Republicans say they want to change, let 'em run on that platform.


So anyway, that's the campaign off in the land of Columbus. I'd like to thank everyone, including the organizers, hosts, campaign staffs, fellow bloggers and the candidates. It was fun. Here in Bexley, the lawn signs exploded over the weekend. Lampke is dominating that race, although some streets are overwhelmingly Brennan (my next door neighbor has one of each). Interviewing the big guns may be fun, but you've got to love the races here in the enclave.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Matt, Matt, and how not to make news

I went to Matt Lampke's meet-and-greet this morning, along with S&C. On the way in, the host asked us how we knew Matt, and I told him I ran a website that covered the mayor's race, so I had met him as a candidate.

We got downstairs, poured ourselves coffee, and tried to get C. entertained, during which time the host asked for our attention to make an announcement. This announcement is the focus of this post, but in an attempt to be fair, I will bury the lede, skip ahead, and say that Matt Lampke is an intelligent guy, certainly seems competent, and from the time that he became the first of the eight candidates to announce, I've been impressed with the level at which his campaign has its stuff together. I also, however, have reasons for not personally supporting him given the presence of other credible candidates, which I discussed (here and here) back at the time he announced his mayoral candidacy, which will help give some context here.

See, I wasn't paying much attention as Mr. Lampke discussed the issues facing Bexley, as the first announcement was to call our attention to the presence of Matt Damschroder, resident of Bexley, and "friend and supporter" of Matt Lampke. For those of us who didn't already know, the host told us Mr. Damschroder's title, which is Executive Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections.

So, one of the key figures in the controversies surrounding the 2004 presidential elections, who is also the person in charge of running the Bexley Municipal Elections, including collecting, tabulating, and reporting the votes, is apparently publicly supporting one of the candidates. And not just any candidate, the only registered Republican in the bunch.

Mr. Damschroder is a resident of Bexley, and his position certainly shouldn't be a cause to disenfranchise him, so I would like to say that he certainly should have a personal preference in the Bexley Mayoral race. I would also take the opportunity to point out that Matt D. did not utter a single word during or after this announcement. I doubt it was his idea to publicly endorse a candidate. But as a matter of fact, he did nothing to refute the statement, which was made by someone who knew that there was a blogger in the audience. So I have to assume they wanted y'all to know.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I'm days behind on my news reading, so if there are important issues to discuss that I am ignoring, it is in fact simply due to ignorance. Some things that I am aware of:

The Columbus Messenger printed a voter's guide to the Bexley Mayoral Candidates in the edition that came out this week. I say printed, as despite the new website, I believe it is a print-only feature as of now. The guide contains enough info from the candidates to get you pretty much up to speed. It has everybody's picture but Weinblatt's.

In that same paper a 'correction' is issued on behalf of Hanz Wasserburger, who had his picture inadvertently omitted from the guide to Council candidates. I think the guide may have been the only place I didn't see Mr. Wasserburger's smiling face last week.

And in the final bit of Messenger-sourced info, I was again reminded that I have promised a School Board update, but have not delivered. I've been saved the effort of finding out about Ingrid Emch, as she has dropped out of the race. Before reading this I was also reminded by a reader that I have not done an update on the candidates for the BBE, and that reader expresses some unhappiness at the lack of educational experience among the current board members. The ironic thing about this is that Emch, a professor at Columbus State, is dropping out because of a conflict created by her association with the NEA, one of the major unions representing educators. The commenter, however, is a fan of Michele Kusma, another candidate who apparently does have experience in education.

It's becoming more important that I get to this stuff quickly, as election day is now. Last year, I went down to the Board of Elections on the first day of absentee voting, and voted absentee on the machines. There were some glitches. Despite that, I'm still going to vote absentee on the machines this year, but not so soon. Primarily because I still have no idea whom I'm voting for. I'd like to meet all of the mayoral candidates.

If you're trying to collect all eight yourself, you should know that Matt Lampke has two Meet and Greets coming up: Saturday, Oct. 6, 9:30-11:00 at the Community Room at the Bexley Cup-O-Joe (featuring coffee and pastries), and Monday Oct. 8, 6-8pm at 2751 Fair Ave. (featuring wine and cheese). I'll probably drop by for coffee Saturday Morning, and it looks like everyone is welcome to do so. You might want to let the hosts know if you plan on attending the Monday evening event (I have contact info, or I'm sure the Lampke campaign can forward your regards).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Old Fashioned Social Networking

Interesting weekend. We went to Robyn Jones' party on Saturday evening, it was fun. City BBQ food, football projected onto a tarp on the gazebo, maybe 50 people had come through at the time we left. I didn't get to talk to too many folks, as C. was feeling rambunctious, and what I did talk about was mainly football and the blog. I talked with Ben Kessler about his campaign for Council, and I hope to get a semi-formal interview up here with him soon. In particular, I didn't get much of a chance to talk to Ms. Jones, a fact which she seemed sincerely disappointed about when I was saying good night.

So then we went to Travis Irvine's party today. It was a much different affair, but not as much different as one might expect. Just like last night, most everybody there had met the candidate before, and also just like last night people knew who I was because they recognized S. & C. from Thursday night's picture. Interestingly, I spent most of my time at this party talking about issues, as Travis flipped burgers and handed me a printout of the Bexley City Budget. It was a smaller crowd than at the Jones party, but I learned a lot of South Bexley background.

And Baby C. received her first candidate kiss of the season:

While we were there Mr. Irvine kindly handed me a flyer for a campaign party being held by Gene Weiss this evening, but we ended up skipping that one, so I've got no news from there.

Hopefully I'll become a better society writer by the time the campaign ends a month from now.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Party Time. Excellent.

My alma mater is playing my wife's alma mater this weekend. I may have helped give our daughter a purple mohawk last week, but Charlotte needs to put that in the past, now, and get back behind Da's team.

After our game (which I must watch, as usual, in hiding) , and before the kickoff of everyone else's, is the first candidate-hosted party I've been invited to: the Robyn Jones Tailgate Party. That's at 6:30pm on Saturday the 29th at her South Bexley residence, 825 Vernon Ave. I'm not special. All Bexley's invited, and I'm sure the rest of y'all would be welcome.

Then on Sunday the 30th, while my (legitimately shameful) pro team is getting thrashed by my wife's pro team, Travis Irvine will be holding the second such party I've been invited to. The "Social" will take place from 1-4pm at his family's South Bexley residence, 729 College Ave. Mr. Irvine's campaign is asking for RSVPs at but I would doubt that spontaneous attendance decisions will be dealt with harshly.

Interestingly (at least to me) both candidates have explicitly used the sectional qualifier in their campaign materials. For those of you outside the area, a friend of mine who's lived on the east side much longer slipped the other day and referred to South Bexley as the "poor part of Bexley*." When I laughed at that, she explained that that was how her acquaintances in Bexley thought of South Bexley. Then she paused, amused, and stated that none of them lived in Bexley nowadays anyway.

That series of statements fits pretty well with my impressions and intuitions. I do feel some SoBe solidarity, and I have a bit of a tendency toward class agitation, so the candidates are probably gaining some small amount of ground with me by self-identifying. But does it help overall? I'm curious, and I guess we shall see.

*A rough look at real estate listings yields a current median asking price for single-family homes of about $499k in Central Bexley and about $209k in South Bexley. A considerable and noticeable difference, to be sure, but for someone who has lived in a wide range of circumstances over the lifecourse, it's funny** to me to think of a place like South Bexley as "poor," even in a relative sense.

** In case you were wondering, that's sometimes funny in the sense of 'ha-ha', but other times funny in the sense of 'strange', and under the right circumstances, funny in the sense of 'seething with righteous indignation at the complete lack of understanding of actual poverty.' Given the context, this time was actually just funny-ha-ha, mixed with funny-strange.