Friday, November 23, 2007

Fine Tuning Elections

As each election passes we find things that seem to need some fine tuning. It is said that democracy begins when people show up. How is it that turnout can be so poor when most items on any ballot involves money? Are people that convinced that their vote doesn’t count? Here in Oregon it is so easy to vote, being all of our ballots are mail-in ballots. There are no special trips to a polling precinct, though there are drop off sites for those who do not wish to invest in a postage stamp to practice their right to vote.

One problem with voting by mail is that the public has way too much time to sit on their ballots. In the recent election ballots were being received by the voters on October 19 giving them nineteen days to vote. This is far too much time that spans three full weekends. Many people will mark their ballots when they receive them while there is still three weeks for situations and opinions to change. Another reason it is too much time is that people may misplace their ballots. Also fierce and expensive campaigning gets bumped up during this period making issues a financial popularity contest. Two weekends should be sufficient, and eight days would be even more preferred.

Next, it would be nice to see some limits on campaign spending. The tobacco industry spent an obscene amount of money countering measure 50. The Governor has even stated that big tobacco bought the voters in Oregon. How about a plan where each side of a campaign can spend no more than their opponent? This will put under funded campaigns on a level playing field with special interest groups with deep pockets.

This may be easier said than done in most cases because there are often Political Action Committees that raise fund in support or opposition of several measures on the ballot. Asking for cohesion between like minded camps is a recipe for disaster as well.

Another problem is, let’s say that no one put up any money to promote a measure. This would mean that the opposition could not put up any funds either. It will be difficult to find a solution to campaign financing, and financing is the major obstacle to getting the word out in many instances.

Sometimes even well funded messages don’t have legs to stand on. Take for example Clatsop County Measure 4-123. The Yes side raised $7,268, which was $477 more than the No side with $6,791. The Yes side spent $8,139.93, which was $1,014.76 more than the No side, which spent $7,125.17. Both campaigns are now in debt, Yes by $871.93 and No by $334.17. The side that raised and spent the most in this instance lost this election.

Next, why is it that the primaries in two or three states dictates what two main stream candidates will be in the run for President? There should be one primary day for all fifty states. It is also time to do away with the electoral college.

Finally, it would be good if campaigns and polls were prevented from calling people who have telephone numbers listed on the National Do Not Call List. Campaigning by phone is a telemarketing call no matter how one looks at it. Polls are often campaign calls in disguise. Campaigns have invaded our front doors, our televisions, our radios, our mail boxes, our print media, and pop-up boxes on the Internet. We should have at least one safe harbor where they can’t get to us.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The dramas of our lives

Tuesday evening, Nov. 20th, at 6 pm Mr. Marquis will be tempted by yet another opportunity to present to the Clatsop County Board of County Commissioners the performance measures which were due last winter, on March 8th. In a gesture of goodwill, and to show those who are beginning to doubt his intelligence, he should show that he does, indeed, value the efforts that these commissioners are making in bringing this county into the 21st century in providing their community with a fiscally transparent government. However, is this Tuesday evening the best time to do so?

Of course, it would be juvenile to expect the immediate self gratification of monetary compensation for performing the task that the rest of the departments complied with eight months ago. Even the newly hired department head for the Health department doesn’t expect a raise with his first compliance of expected duties. However, how much can one expect from the man who has put this county through the hell that he has for the last half of a year?

Sadly, it can be expected that if Mr. Marquis does, indeed, present his performance measures to the CCBOCC Tuesday evening it will be with full drama. While he could simply send this addendum to his budget through the County Manager, one can bet when he does finally get around to it he will be sure to have media present, his colluding commissioner will be ready to immediately make a motion to reinstate the stipend, Mr. Marquis might even have two or three people signed up to speak on the matter and will ask that the CCBOCC immediately make a decision. Joe Gamm will stand ready to interpret every raised eyebrow as a sign of drunkenness or vindictive anger.

Mr. Marquis, give the citizens of our community a break. Be a true Rotarian, man. Get your performance based measures done (and if you're going to use a bunch of statistics at least explain how they relate to staff time spent on a case and in front of the third judge) and present them, quietly, with no drama, to the County Manager, so they can be reviewed by the budget committee to see if they do indeed meet the requirements as set forth in the budget guidelines and so they can make their recommendations to the CCBOCC. Don’t grandstand. Don’t be a victim. Don’t encourage your cohort commissioner, Sam Patrick, to further participate in the
unethical behavior of colluding with you.

Sam, if he has colluded with you about when he plans to make a presentation, please recuse yourself.

Do you think either one of them can resist the drama? One can hope, can’t one?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Divided We Stand, United We Fall

That, should realistically be the way the saying goes. Whether you view yourself as part of a corporation, a family unit, a community or a nation – you are truly considered a "part" of those units and those groups are only as strong as their weakest link.

For instance, these past several months has seen this community ripped apart by the ego of one man. Damage has been caused to the citizens of Clatsop County by this individual and his maniacal following of "minions" to the point that it undoubtedly will take an Herculean effort to overcome if he does not do the right thing and plan his exit strategy soon.

As much as we like to think of ourselves as individuals, very few people will be remembered that way. What we leave behind, for most of us unless we are outstanding in a freakish way, like Vincent van Gogh or Adolph Hitler, will be what we did do or did not do as a society,nation or culture as a whole.

This person responsible for this division locally will undoubtedly be but a blip on the radar screen of the common Clatsopian's conscience in the coming decades, but being as he has been here doing his best to pit himself and "his flock" against the rest of the world for the last 14 years, it may take another 14 years for us all to get the bad taste out of our collective mouths.

For The DA and his trusty sidekick The Editor, however, it is still not over. Up next on their agenda appear to be continuing deviciveness in the form of recalls of Commissioners and more "humor" editorials which have to be irking at least the majority of voters who have now said "no" officially.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Many Losers of The Campaign

Frankly I am glad, yet surprised that Measure 4-123 failed. The “Yes” people had all the advantages in this campaign. They got their signs out first. Their signs were placed at the most visible real estate locations in Astoria. Josh got hours of free time on the Lars Larson Show. He got good air time on KAST. The Daily Astorian, I mean The Daily Marquis, gave him press that others couldn’t buy. His name and photo appeared above the fold on way too many occasions. They gave him positive editorials and vilified the County Commission. They rarely printed letters of opposition. In one case Patrick Webb called an opposition writer and tried to convince him his opinion was wrong and denied knowledge of any wrong doing by the DAs wife. They refused to run an ad from the opposition even when the opposition had documentation to substantiate their claims.

The “yes” side ran more ads in print and on the radio. They campaigned long and hard and were better organized than the opposition.

With all the lies and misstatements and free press and promotion stacked in their favor they still lost, so far by 46 votes. The only possible turn around could only come if 49 of the fifty uncounted ballots are for the Yes side, but that is statistically unlikely to happen.

Many comments seemed to make this a contest between a dislike for Josh or Commissioner Lee, however we can only hope that the voters saw through this fog and voted on the unwise nature of changing the County Charter.

Though the election was close there will still be fall-out that will continue to be seen in upcoming elections. Betsy Johnson, who always had bi-partisan support, lost a lot of respect in our County. She got personally involved in the will of the people to protect their county charter. She could have done so much good for the situation on the State level, but chose to side with Josh on a local level. It will cost her.

The Clatsop County Democratic Party had been hurt by Larry Taylor’s commitment of the Party’s backing of Josh. It would have been acceptable if this were a partisan issue where the philosophy of one Party was up against an opposing Party, but Larry committed the support of the entire Party, which alienated many members and caused some defections. New Party leadership is in order there and efforts should be made to mend fences with those they offended and gave “Cold Shoulders” to.

The Commissioners have had their reputations soiled by a lot of innuendo. They will need to step back up to the plate and get on with the business of the County and rebuild the trust that was undercut and eroded by the campaign. They simply need to hold Josh’s feet to the fire and get the performance measures they wanted and consider reinstating the stipend only if they get what they have asked for. Another problem this may bring to the surface is that if he reports true statistics it will reflect that his office is over-staffed and there will need to be a correction to bring it in line with reality. This provocative remedy will once again bring out the showman in Josh and he will accuse the Commission of punishing him, further dividing the community.

Josh is finished. He speaks of the County Government setting their underwear on fire while he is walking around with soiled underwear himself. He ran a very dirty campaign. He is an officer of the court and he lied openly on several occasions. He lost his election as President of the National District Attorneys Association. His wife lost her election for County Commission and he lost 4-123. His bitterness is more than obvious and he’s left the County divided and it will not be able to heal until he is gone. If he has one ounce of compassion for healing this community he should look for employment elsewhere. Unfortunately, I don’t think his ego will allow him to back down. There are just enough supporters to make him think everything will be fine if he just sticks with his message. His message is flawed and can no longer be trusted as a truthful elected official or Officer of the Court. He needs to work as an ADA somewhere (not here) and learn how to behave and be humble. He needs to learn how to do his job without the media.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Freedom From The oPRESSion

Patrick Webb, managing editor of the Daily Astorian, recently refused the advertising of the opponents of Ballot Measure 4-123. Why? First he stated that what the advertisement claimed wasn’t supported. When the supporting documentation was offered he then stated that the Daily Astorian didn’t allow opinion advertising.

WHAT? All these past weeks' political ads have been opinions. Ads claiming that flyers opposing Ballot Measure 4-123 were “lies” were someone's opinion. Ads claiming that county commissioners “lied” about Mr. Marquis were opinions. Ads claiming that the department head lacked the ability to do a performance based budget were an opinion. Advertising is opinion based. Obviously, Patrick Webb is a liar, in our opinion. Does this make the newspaper he manages fraught with lies? Definitely, in our opinion.

Freedom of the press is a constitutional right and one which, supposedly, is a cornerstone of the basic principles of our country. Irresponsible freedom is a corruption of those principles. There is little difference between a dictator forcing a paper to print what he wants and a newspaper editor slanting news and accepting advertising in a fashion that the readers only hear one side of all issues. Especially when a community has no competing daily, hard copy, news source, the damage done is that of a tyrant with the absolute control of censorship.

The very freedom that the press has for so long, the world over, labored to obtain for itself, it now jealously keeps all for itself. The Daily Astorian’s tyrannical hold over information, complete censorship over all that it deems in opposition to the opinion of its editors, and complete disregard for the rights of the citizens to hear all sides of all issues is the act of a group of people who have no love for a free community.

Every once in awhile everyone has the opportunity to step forward and say, “Enough!” Today, in Clatsop County, everyone has two opportunities. First, put down the Daily Astorian. Call 503-325-3211 and cancel your subscription, or tell them you will not buy their paper again or subscribe again until their policies have changed. Tell them that for one week you will not buy their paper to show the power does not lay with them but with YOU the reader. When you pick up the paper again it had better have changed. If it hasn’t, put it down again for another week. Second, do not vote in the way it has encouraged you. If a ballot measure is good it will be back in the spring. As of Oct 31st a little over 6,700 ballots have come in to the local election office. With 20,865 registered voters in Clatsop County 14,000 people are left to cast their ballots.

Think about your future, think about our future. And while you are at it, think about freedom. Freedom of the press and especially, locally, freedom from the press.