Friday, November 30, 2012

Bring Back Partisan Judicial Races or Can the Races All Together

Many people who live in states with appointed judges are appalled when they learn some states like North Carolina actually elect our judges.  Honestly, I can't say I disagree with them.  To me, electing judges somehow just doesn't feel right.  Judges should be above the political fray as much as possible.  That's why Federal judges are appointed for life in most cases.  It removes them from the election cycle pressures of changing administrations.

However, an elected judiciary is the system we live with here in North Carolina.  That being the case citizens should be allowed to know the general philosophy they are voting for when selecting a candidate.  That option was taken away from citizens by the Democrats back in the late1990s and early 2000s - not out of any sense of fairness, but because too many Republicans were winning despite the large Democratic registration advantage. 

The result of making the races non-partisan was to obscure who the judges are philosophically by removing information available to the voters - hardly a very small-d democratic thing to do.  As pointed out in this piece from NC Civitas - Will Republicans Become a Lasting Majority in North Carolina? - voting in judicial races plummeted after this change because people no longer knew anything about these races.

While I am not an advocate of straight party voting, I do think people should be given all information available to make their decisions and partisan affiliation can be a critical piece of information.  To know that is true, look no further than both parties' voter guides.  They include conservative or progressive judges in the guides and ironically it is often this non-partisan information that causes people to take the partisan guides.  I can't count the number of times I've tried to hand out Republican voter guides and initially been told "no thanks, I know who I am voting for" then when I say the guide has information about conservative judges people readily and thankfully take them.

End result?  We now seem to have a system that leaves the information distribution on non-partisan races up to the system's most partisan elements.

Now that the Republican Party is firmly in charge in State Government, it has a choice - return to partisan judicial races and let the chips fall where they may or even consider moving to a judicial appointment system (something the NC Bar Association wants).  One would truly put the voters back in charge.  The other would help remove some of the politics from judicial decision making.

The least best option is to keep the system we have.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Davidson CIP Discussion Winds Down to December Vote

Tuesday, the Davidson Board will finalize discussions on millions in proposed new spending - $6.5 million to be exact. See details here.  This is all leading up to what will likely be a unanimous vote, in true Davidson style, in favor of opening the spending fire hose at the December meeting.

Due to previous commitments I won't be able to make this one.  However, in what is sure to be an exciting and well attended public meeting (sarcasm intended), here are some things you likely won't hear if you happen to be there.

You won't hear a single commissioner question the assumption that this spending plan requires the tax rate remain at its current artificially high rate as Mi-Connection subsidies are project to decline.  No tax relief is likely even in the event Mi-Connection improves.

You won't hear a single commissioner question the need for spending to increase Public Works to "Level B" service even when the latest, highly touted Community Survey shows Davidson residents are happy with the current service level.  Instead, the Town will continue to polish the apple.

You won't hear a single commissioner question if there is a fallback plan once commitments are made in the early years of the CIP if Mi-Connection does not continue to show improvement or the other revenue projections don't pan out.  Only time will tell if the economy improves and if the company's string of missed projections will be broken.

If this turns badly down the road, it's what you won't hear tomorrow which will be the reasons why.

Bonus Observation: Tomorrow also will see Commissioner's reports on their assigned special interestes.  Listen for Mayor Woods to provide an update on the Red Line and the discussions with Norfolk Southern on the proposed feasibility study.  How this study proceeds will determine the project's fate.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posting has been light recently due to catching up with other obligations post election, but I wanted to take a quick moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

We'll be back at full speed soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Republican Reboot - 8 Year Countdown

Republicans will say it was the media. They will say it was Hurricane Sandy. They will say Romney was too liberal or that he was too conservative. Some will blame the Establishment. Some will blame the Tea Party. All of that is true, and none of that is true.

Few will accept that the world changed in Election 2012, that the political ground shifted in a way that requires a fundamental reevaluation of the overall approach for conservatives - a transformation.  However if we don't accept that, then we better get used to more nights like this past election night.

Does that sound too radical? Does that sound like panic? If so, then look at the Senate races that were lost and come to a different conclusion. Akin and Mourdock (Tea Party), Allen and Thompson (Establishment), Brown (the ultimate moderate), Mandel (a conservative statewide elected official). All could have won in their respective Senate races. All lost. They only had one thing in common, the R behind their name.

The Republican brand has a problem.  That problem is deep, and it is complex.

But what about our very own state of North Carolina you may be asking? That proves that Republicans can win and win big.  Doesn't it?

Here's the irony of that.  As much as Establishment Republicans may want to think otherwise, the party won in North Carolina this year primarily because of the Tea Party tsunami two years ago.  That and the fact that Pat McCrory was running a 4-year campaign flush with cash against one of the most unpopular governors in the country.  The Legislative and Congressional victories were primarily a result of last year's redistricting.  Democrats actually received many more total votes in the combined Congressional races than Republicans.  They won three seats in overwhelming landslides skewing the results for several of the others. However, in other statewide races the Democrats still locked down most of the Council of State with the only other partisan statewide race, Lieutenant Governor, still locked in a recount.  It's hard to say Republicans won a landslide popularity contest in the state when redistricting is taken out of the equation.

Eight short years from now, we redistrict again.

The question is will Republicans recognize what needs to be done prior to that.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Davidson "Needs" list to pass tomorrow...

The Davidson Town Board will vote Tuesday to approve $223k in "needs"

Only $55k of the $223k that will be approved Tuesday are in fact needs by most commonly accepted definitions of the word.  $40k goes to immediate public safety needs for police and fire equipment.  An additional $15k is for needed computer equipment.  Public safety is the primary responsibility of government and the computers are required to actually run the government.  Those are needs.

Also considered "needs":

1. $10,000 for greenway easement acquisition when during the last public discussion on the subject there was no project underway 'need'ing anything.  However, based on those discussions this one will likely turn into an annual payment.

2. $1,200 for the Red Line trail - not the Red Line train - the Red Line trail - a planned bikeway roughly paralleling the proposed Red Line train.  At the last presentation on this project, the usage of the trail was based on the existence of the train which is at best many, many years off.  Tomorrow it will qualify as a "need".

3. $5,500 for a Town newsletter.  While potentially useful, the town has numerous other mechanisms to distribute this information including email, twitter, facebook, posting it on the website and using the Town phone broadcast to drive traffic.

4. $8,000 for a grant match for a "pedestrian plan".  How about spending that money on fixing more sidewalks?  Considering there were dozens of projects around town that need that money when Public Works made its presentation that would seem like a better "pedestrian plan".

5. $50,000 for updated Parks and Rec and Community Wellness Master Plan - The reason this is designated a "need" is that when applying for grants a more current plan is needed in addition to additional matching funds.  The Town is spending money as a "need" so that it can apply for more projects to spend more money.

6. $4,380 for audio visual aids for Town Hall.  iPads are simply not enough.

7. $33,000 for bathrooms at Ada Jenkins gym to allow for more Town use.  See number #4 about the sidewalks.

8. $40,000 for a public safety staffing study.  The travesty here is that it was relegated to the unfunded needs list when the Town was finalizing it's budget a few short months ago.  Back in June the Town funded a $75,000 re-write of its planning ordinance.  That made the cut but ensuring public safety runs efficiently did not.

It's about priorities, and "wants" rather than "needs" would be a better description for most of tomorrow's list.

Update: After months of discussion when it came time to voter on the first of multiple spending plans, there was no discussion.  No questions asked.  The $223k in "needs" passed unanimously.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What doomed Republicans on election night? Demographics and Mechanics

"Something is off. These numbers can't be right!"

Those must have been words bouncing around the heads of Karl Rove and Michael Barone on election night. Just day's before the election they predicted a solid Romney victory based on the "numbers".  Those words or something like them were definitely being spoken by the Romney campaign as they watched the night unfold. "Shellshocked" was the word reported by

Others in the prediction game got it right.  Nate Silver of the NYTimes 538 blog and Josh Putnam  of our very own Davidson College had been predicting the eventual outcome correctly for months.

They were all looking at the same data, but they had come to distinctly different answers as to what it meant.  How did that happen?  How can very smart people on both sides come to such different conclusions?  The answer is in their different assumptions about the "fundamentals" at work in this election.

Republicans believed the fundamentals at work were the traditional ones.  High unemployment, a sluggish economy, and massive deficits were the primary issues.  Romney-Ryan was the dream team to address them.  Obama's newness had worn off.  He was no longer the rockstar of 2008.  Romney had the greater momentum.  It showed in the his large crowds while Obama sometimes struggled to fill smaller venues.  Republicans also had a better machine this time around after being caught by surprise in 2008 by the Obama Campaign's high-tech approach.  They had evened the playing field enough.

Those were reasonable assumptions.  Were being the operative word - as in past tense. 

Democrats believed the primary fundamental at work was demographics.  Specifically, the changing demographics of the United States.

The Democrats were right.

Just as importantly, they built an even better machine to exploit that assumption.

Demographics and Mechanics made for a lethal combination.

It's a combination that Republicans must address, and the clock is ticking.  The only question is will we run out of time.

UPDATE: From last week, no better explanation of why Republican's lost the Mechanics of this race.  As an Information Technology professional for almost 20 years, I can say with confidence that "haribrained scheme" is a polite description of what they were trying to do.  (More on mechanics in a later post.)

Exclusive - Inside Orca: How the Romney Campaign Suppressed Its Own Vote

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This is it! Go vote!

Polls open in North Carolina momentarily...

...if you don't vote, don't complain.

...if you don't vote, accept what you get.

Go vote so your opinion matters!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Will Davidson Turn Wildcat Red on Tuesday?

Cornelius Town Hall Early Voting, Sat 11/3.
The early vote stats for 2012 in Davidson are in the books, and at this point it appears to be a Republican advantage when compared to the basically even early vote contest in 2008.

As of the Friday before election day four years ago, Democrats cast 39 more votes than Republicans.  This year Republicans have 342 more votes in the books.  In both years Unaffiliated voters came in 3rd even though they are the largest block of registered voters.

However, what may be the biggest difference between the two cycles is the overall early voting turnout.  Over 1200 more Davidson voters have already turned out this cycle compared to 2008.  That means there are fewer votes remaining to be cast. 

If the trends continue on election day, Davidson could be an unexpected Wildcat Red this election cycle.

Related coverage...Davidson Village...Last Bastion for Democrats in the LKN Area

Help Spread the Word...Hurricane Sandy Relief from Bradford Neighborhood

Sabrina Hicks of Poetry Way is collecting donations for a trip that will leave early Wednesday morning for New Jersey.   If you are interested in donating, please drop items at the moving truck on Poetry Way in Davidson.

Here is a article about the effort.   Drive collects supplies for N.J. victims of Hurricane Sandy. They also got a mention in this web version of a story by WSOC-TV.  Locals collect donations to help those impacted by Sandy