Friday, January 09, 2009

The ANC Curse Continues

I wasn’t feeling well, so I missed the ANC meeting Wednesday night, naively thinking that a new era of civility and cooperation had begun. So it was with great dismay that the next morning I found the Shaw list serve full of angry posts about the re-election (by deadlock) of Doris Brooks as ANC chair. Since I wasn’t there, I’m basically relying on Si’s account of the meeting; I’ve always found her to be a fair and accurate reporter.

I have to add my voice to those who think reinstating Doris was a bad idea. I agree with Si that Doris has shown herself to be incompetent and that she has no idea how to run a meeting or an organization. After all, that was the ostensible justification for Leroy Thorpe being her “parliamentarian” and “executive assistant”.

I don’t know why Theresa did what she did. (I spoke to her briefly last night, but didn’t have a chance to question her about this.) Perhaps Alex assumed he had an entitlement to becoming the Chair, having suffered through years of abuse during the Thorpe regime, and maybe she took umbrage at what appeared to be a display of arrogance. It doesn’t make sense to me, but she undoubtedly had her reasons.

Leroy must be having a good laugh right now, and who could blame him?

Still, I think everyone needs to calm down and take a deep breath. I’m glad a couple of people like Jeff Wellbaum have taken a conciliatory approach. This isn’t the end of the world, and the worst thing that could happen is if the new ANC dissolves into another two years of toxic antagonism.

Here’s my suggestion: Why not have the chairmanship rotate among the four commissioners? Let each one preside for, say, three months, and then pass the gavel to the next person. The European Union operates this way, why can’t ANC2C? Obviously, everyone isn’t going to have the same strengths, but no one has to be the Top Dog and no one needs to feel slighted. If one person doesn’t do such a great job…well, it’s only for a short time and then someone else has a chance.

Presumably this would require some change in the ANC by-laws, but that could be easily accomplished if the four commissioners set aside their bruised feelings and put their heads together.

I think it’s less important who is the titular chair than what the ANC decides to do. I would like to see the sort of communication innovations (like a website, maybe!) that we all have discussed. We could have some committees of concerned residents who want to work on certain issues (e.g., development, public safety, vacant properties, etc.) and maybe do some of the preliminary work on issues that come before the ANC so that everything doesn’t fall on the four commissioners.

There’s still a chance to make this work. Let’s not blow it!


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Questions About DC Voting Rolls

I was just reading about the growing controversy about voting irregularities in Alaska, stemming from the extraordinarily low number of counted votes in Tuesday's election. See here and here.

This made me curious about the numbers here in DC and I started looking at the figures. They're pretty interesting.

According to the DCBOEE, there were 426,761 registered voters in DC for the 2008 election. That seemed like a lot, given the population of the District, so I looked it up and in 2006 (the latest official estimate I found), there were 474,895 residents in DC aged 18 or over. That means that 89.9 percent of all residents old enough to vote were registered, which struck me as a very high number. (It also means that only 52% of registered voters actually cast ballots in this election, which I find surprisingly low.)

But those 474K residents also include a large number of foreigners who can't (legally) vote, as well as a big population of people who come to live and work in DC but keep their voter registration in their home states, plus people who have other impediments to voting. I don't know how many people that would be, but I'm guessing that if they were subtracted from the 18+ population, it would make voter registration close to or maybe even over 100%.

So just for comparison, I looked at the analogous statistics for Maryland, and it turns out that for the state of Maryland, only 73.6 percent of residents 18 and over were registered to vote this year. That's a pretty big difference.

There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that DC voting rolls continue to list lots of people who are no longer resident here or who are dead, and the system (if you can call it that) for purging such people from the rolls are inadequate, to be polite. I think these
aggregate numbers tend to support this.

It has become very clear that there are serious problems with the voting systems throughout the country. We saw that at work here during the September primaries, and it's not evident that there has been any serious effort to resolve these questions. If you can't trust the elections, it strikes at the very basis of democracy.

We tend not to think about such things between elections, but maybe this is something we should press our elected officials on before the next one.

Just sayin'....

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Great Night!

I've had an Obama sticker on my car for 2 years because I was convinced the first time that I heard him speak that he was someone truly extraordinary. The campaign he waged to win office was honorable and even-tempered despite the nastiness and outright lies thrown his way by his opponents. I believe and fervently hope that he will be able to fulfill his promise as president and that, as Colin Powell put it, he will be a transformational figure in American history. So yes, I'm excited and grateful that he will have that chance.

Regarding our ANC, I see new hope for that as well. What I believe are the final tallies are posted here and here. So it looks like it will be Padro, Chapple, Sule, and Brooks. Congratulations to all the winners.

This should break the logjam that has prevented ANC2C from becoming something much more than it is today. Theresa Sule brings a new approach and energy, and I'm delighted that she will now bring her talents to the ANC. I hope that Ms. Brooks will become a constructive player in the new commission. There's a lot that can be done there.

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Voting Day

Got to our precinct voting location (Shiloh) a bit before opening, and lines were already around the block onto Q Street. It took a little over an hour to cast the ballot--not bad, considering the crowd. Looks like most people were opting for paper ballots (good idea!), but even so those seemed to be moving faster than the electronic voting machines. So far, it looks like the election officials are doing a good job.

Went back by there a little after 10:00 a.m., and there was no line outside the building. So if you haven't voted yet, looks like mid-day would be a good time to do it. There will probably be another rush after working hours later.

Now to find something constructive to do with my anxiety over the pending results.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Another Local Election to Think About

I've already spouted off about the ANC2C races, but there's another local election that deserves some attention too--maybe more.

That's the one for DC council member at large. You get to vote for two candidates for this race. Kwame Brown is probably a lock. But the other one isn't. There are six candidates on the ballot, but basically, it's between Michael Brown, Patrick Mara (the Republican who upset Carol Schwartz in the primary), and Carol Schwartz (running as a write-in).

Mari of In Shaw has already weighed in about Michael Brown and why she can't stand him, and she makes a good case. Then there was a very interesting article by Colbert King in the WaPo a couple of days ago, that really lays out what's at stake here.

I think the biggest thing is that Michael Brown will likely try to sabotage Michelle Rhee's program to reform the DC public schools. I don't know if Rhee will succeed, but finally there's someone with the vision and drive to make real changes, and if this chance is lost then it's probably beyond fixing.

Then there's the fact that M. Brown is endorsed by Marion Barry, which alone is enough to vote against him in my book.

So now I'm trying to overcome my gag response and vote for a Republican--just having a hard time deciding between Mara (endorsed by the Post) and Carol.

Okay, one more time on the ANC:

Please vote for Alexander Padro (ANC2C01), Kevin Chapple (ANC2C02), Jessica Lanza (ANC2C03), or Theresa Sule (ANC2C04). If you want to know why I think this way, look here.


Canvassing for Obama in the Burbs

Yesterday evening I volunteered to canvas voters for the Democratic party out in Virginia--a new experience for me.

First, I gotta say that the Obama people definitely have their act together. The organization was nothing short of phenomenal; if Obama wins and they can run the country the way this campaign is being run, we'll be in good shape!

When I got to the DNC parking lot on S. Capitol, they had direction sheets ready to send volunteers to local offices in the outer ring of the VA burbs, normally Republican territory. I got Ashburn in Loudoun County--out beyond Dulles Airport. This is the land of McMansions (the kind with brick facades on the front and vinyl siding on the rest of the house) and long commutes.

The local Democratic office in a very anonymous-looking office park had the packets ready with the names and addresses of the households we were to visit. The detailed info on the sheets was amazing. The addresses had already been visited twice, and we were only going to the ones where there had been no one at home, or where there was support for Obama--the idea being to make sure those people get to the polls. They even had flashlights for the canvassers (it was already dark at 6 p.m.)!

I was paired with a very sharp young woman who works in Sen. Patty Murray's office, and we headed off to a subdivision about 4 miles away--one of those with curving streets and lots of cul-de-sacs. I gotta say walking around suburbia at night seems pretty creepy.

Happily, no one pulled a gun on us, and most people were surprisingly cordial. Someone came to every door we knocked on. At the first house we hit, they actually wanted to engage in conversation about the election, so we hung around for a good ten minutes. A number of the households were divided about the election, but there seemed to be pretty good support for Obama--including a number of yard signs at houses we didn't visit. We were also supposed to say stuff about Mark Warner and Judy Feder, but people really seemed focused only on the presidential race. Only one guy (at a house with a big American flag on the porch and a "no tresspassing" sign in the window) told us to beat it--wonder who he's voting for.

So I don't know if this helped the cause, but I'm glad I did it, because it feels good to have done something besides give money.

I think they're still taking volunteers, so if you're interested, you can call at 202-579-2584.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Palin on SNL

Just in case you have a life and weren't home to see Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, I can report that she didn't do much of anything to rehabilitate her image. In fact, she didn't say or do much of anything period except to yell out the "Live from New York..." tag line.

I thought that SNL might decide to make nice with her, and pull the punches, but the odd thing was that Palin showed up to lend her presence on a show that continued to parody and ridicule her public persona.
The show opened with another devastating mock press conference with Tina Fey, who I thought for a split second was the real Palin. Then during the Weekend Update segment, she had to sit silently while awkwardly pretending to be groovin' during a funny rap skit by Amy Poehler and the cast that satirized her--pretty roughly, I thought. I wonder if she knew what was happening.

Here's the video--oddly on a pro-McCain site. Second segment is here.

Now I guess she'll go back to inciting hatred among Real Americans, who apparently look like this.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Catania Bakery Robbed. Again.

Part of my Saturday routine is to go by the Catania Bakery to get their fantastic fresh croissants and bread. This morning when I arrived, there were police outside and the bakery was closed. The officer outside told me that there had been a robbery. (In Shaw has a post on this as well.)

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time. They were hit a year or so ago, and a family member was assaulted, and there have been previous robberies. The Tramontes have shown amazing toughness and resilience, and I'm sure they'll bounce back, but they shouldn't have to suffer these depredations again and again. My condolences and support to Nicole and her family.

When they reopen, as I'm confident they will, I hope the neighborhood will support them by buying their pastries and bread. They're normally open for retail on Saturday morning and offer coffee for folks who just want to hang out and schmooze. The bakery is at 1404 N. Capitol Street, between O and P.


Friday, October 17, 2008

When Does This Become a Hate Crime?

Seriously, folks, this is the robocall that the Republican National Committee has authorized and is being used in Virginia right now. I don't know if this sort of crap works, but the mere fact that McCain's party and campaign authorizes this kind of vicious lie is outrageous. Didn't you just love McCain's smarmy pitch in the last debate and on Letterman last night that he was really the victim of negative campaigning?

Meanwhile, Palin is referring to the "pro-America" parts of the country (guess which ones they are). So I guess the rest of us are...what...Iranians? Russians? Or, gasp, French? You can get the t-shirt here.

A bit of levity: This video is hilarious.


I just saw this post from which this excerpt is taken:

Over in Indiana, PA and Northern Cambria, PA, volunteers fielded complaints of a massive wave of ugly robocalls both paid for by John McCain's campaign and those paid for by third parties. The third party call was interactive, and purported to be from Barack Obama himself. The call starts out reasonably, and then "Obama" asks what the listener thinks is the most important issue. Whatever the response, "Obama" then launches into a profane and crazed tirade using "n***er" and other shock language.

I guess it's now official: McCain has no honor left.

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