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Sunday, January 24, 2010

RCV May Aid Incumbent Mayor in the Fall

Santos Gets Five Extra Months to Rake in the Dough | 'R' Still Comes Before 'S' | Captain Save-A-Country

Supporters of Ranked Choice Voting from the left-leaning New America Foundation had the ear of both Mayor Tony Santos and Councilman Jim Prola from the beginning. Both gave passionate speeches in favor and seemed relieved by its passing Tuesday night. Santos even had New America's director, Steven Hill, in his hotel room in the nation's capitol as Tuesday night's meeting headed towards two in the morning Eastern time. Santos' arguments seemed desperate at times. Making like a lawyer, he aimed to put doubt in every single dollar amount given by the city staff. At one point, he called them "not factual", but focused on the premise the numbers were incorrect and bound to be cheaper than advertised rather than more expensive. Nevertheless,New America's talking points were clearly evident in the discussion of RCV's benefits, namely the notion the voting system is a boon for democracy by increasing voter turnout and making it cheaper for more citizens to run for office. Lost in the argument which mainly focused on the larger one-time costs of RCV to the city is the fact plurality voting in November would have also decided races with a larger number of voters. Ah, but the city's voters changed the charter in 2000 to 50 percent plus one to decide its leaders. As has been written her before, the impetus for that change was the so-called “Corbett Rule” when the current state senator won the mayor's office in 1994 with far less than a majority in a crowded field of candidates. One long-time watcher of politics in San Leandro said, “They old guard in San Leandro didn't like a woman in the mayor's office,” which leads to one of Santos' main points Tuesday night about the 2000 change to the city's charter. He said 63 percent of San Leandrans had already approved RCV with that vote. The measure, two people involved in that election say, mentions the approval of some form of RCV if it becomes available, but the impetus for the measure was about gaining a majority vote to win office, not RCV which is currently its nascent stages and was barely a blip on election reform in 2000. In December, Councilwoman Diana Souza also scoffed at Santos' argument during a city council meeting last December.


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EITHER WAY, YOU GOT TO PAY TO PLAY On the campaign fundraiser side of RCV, the benefits of lower costs for interested candidates might not translate, at least, not this year. The decision of mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy to back RCV is an interesting look into his campaign's psyche. His Hobson's Choice amounts to, do I save money by running for one election, instead of hopefully two under the runoff system—he is likely the candidate with the least access to campaign donations—or take a minor hit to his oft-quoted talking point of imminent bankruptcy for the city if budget constraint is not instituted. Cassidy made it clear Tuesday he figures his best chance to unseat Santos is to gather momentum to November saying RCV is “best for democracy.” There's one problem in the cost savings of one election over possibly two; it may give Santos five extra months to add to already sizable fundraising advantage. The mayor is having a second fundraiser Jan. 26. Santos has labor, name recognition and the Democratic Party behind him. It may have been in Cassidy's favor to take two shots at Santos rather than an all-or-nothing strategy to slay the incumbent. In the end, the whole single election argument may be moot in 2010. People close to the Santos campaign have told The Citizen, the mayor would have won 50 percent of the vote in a June primary, making a runoff in November unnecessary.

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CLOSER THAN IT LOOKED The San Leandro City Council's vote to approve RCV starting this November was far closer than the 5-2 tally would suggest. Since Santos participated in Tuesday's meeting by teleconference from Washington, D.C., the council voted alphabetically by roll call instead of electronically as they normally do. Councilwoman Ursula Reed, who most viewed was the swing vote, sided with RCV after questioning whether the city was gravitating towards a revenue-enhancement measure in June or November. Of Course, Reed comes before Souza, alphabetically. Did Souza switch her vote on RCV after Reed's vote had already clinched its passing? Of all the councilmembers, Souza was the most skeptical about the mechanics of RCV in addition to the addition costs to the city. Nonetheless, After coming out on the minority side of the vote, Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak looked obviously peeved at the outcome of the vote as she sat in Santos' seat while he was out of town. The loss may not sting Starosciak politically, though. She can always maintain she was against RCV for budgetary reasons when or if the city's budget continues to fall on its face.

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PATTING YOURSELF ON THE BACK From the "Just Saying Department." The amount of effort from private citizens to help with relief effort in Haiti by donating money and goods has been extraordinary, but when it comes to corporations a bit of cynicism sometimes creeps in the mind. This week, Sutter Health donated $1.25 million to the effort through Doctors Without Borders and San Leandro's MedShare. Undeniably generous, but one can't help but think the inclusion of the local company medical supply company was a stroke of public relations genius. Santos, who many criticize for being too cozy to Sutter in his public comments, visited the local warehouse and lauded the company has something he was proud to have in his city. Sutter is even sending its chief medical officer for the East Bay to Haiti. The embattled hospital provider could certainly use positive news coverage after being hammered for controversies with attempts to close hospitals in San Francisco and, of course, San Leandro Hospital. Incidentally, one of the arguments against closing the hospital from supporters is the possibility of an epic earthquake on the scale of the 7.0 temblor in Haiti rattling the Hayward Fault....I won't finish this sentence for the sake of jinxing us, but hopefully that is not what it takes to keep San Leandro Hospital open. -S.T.

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8 comments :

What will be next? Some RCV advocates in Oakland who are members of the Green Party would like to see all seats as city wide seats , with no districts.San Leandro candidates run for district seats but need votes city wide. That way a third party candidate might come in 4th or 5th city wide , with second and third choice support. left leaning Democrats giving a Green Party candidate a vote as their second or third choice.This is how it worked in the old days in New York city where four or five different parties had representation on the city council.

One progressive recently argued that had Haiti not been required to import Louisiana rice people could have stayed on their farms instead of moving to the cities. Same thing happened to Mexico, which is the major reason why there is so much Mexican migration. Thank NAFTA.

San Leandro is mentioned in a book I picked up by Jefferson Cowie on de-industrialization.
It's also mentioned in the recent independent film Medicine for melancholy , featuring Comedy Central,Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac.

Craig

"Santos even had New America's director, Steven Hill, in his hotel room in the nation's capitol as Tuesday night's meeting headed towards two in the morning Eastern time"

Unbelievable. Imagine a highly paid lobbyist sitting next to each councilperson during the discussion, writing talking points for them.

A quick search on Hill shows he just published a book called "Europe's Promise, Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age"???

Yes, proportional representation is the goal with these people, getting rid of districts. Maybe even a Prime Minister and parliament.....

Tom C.

Tom, at this moment in our nation's history it's foolish to argue that our Government is superior to all others. Our Country's problems are large, and neither the private or public sector is solving them. Note that you didn't make an argument against RCV, just a smear.

As far as the Sutter Health donation to MedShare on behalf of Haitian earthquake victims mentioned here: Sutter is ready to put money in the community selectively on behalf of Haitians, but is actively preventing options from being fully explored which could put money in the community to save the health and welfare of San Leandrans and other County residents at San Leandro Hospital.

Doug,

I don't think I even mentioned RCV at all, let alone smear it. And we do live in the greatest nation on this earth, warts and all and I wouldn't trade it for any country. Would you?

RCV is now the way to vote in San Leandro, so no need to argue against it, nor smear it.

RCV is known to be an "incumbency protection" device, which is why Santos may have been so gung ho about it. Incumbents get voted out less often with RCV than traditional elections because they get so many down ballot votes (2nd, 3rd place ranks) due to name recognition. But no need to quibble now. Time will tell how well it goes, and it will take years before a true sense of its value can be determined either way.

But to have RCV's lobbyist at your side during the discussion - that's unheard of.

A country doesn't remain "the greatest nation on this earth" if it refuses to solve its largest problems, or look to others who have created better solutions for our persistent problems. "American exceptionalism", if insisted upon as stridently as is today's fashion, will quickly cause us to cease being "the greatest".

Before our exceptionalism was the exceptionalism of a thousand empires; all assumed they would reign for a thousand years, and all were wrong.

Can you advise whether Mayor Santos violated your city's public meeting laws or not by having the IRV lobbyist meet with him in his hotel room?

Most towns and cities require that when the public, including lobbyists, meet with city council or Mayors who vote on city council - that the meeting be in front of the public.

I've seen citizens file lawsuits when the open meetings laws were violated.

Can you advise?

The RCV voting methods removes voter rights to:

1. cast a vote with a known positive effect on the candidates they vote for

2. participate in the final counting rounds (unless a voter knows who the final two choices are in advance)

3. have their votes treated equally with other voters (only some voters' 2nd choices are counted when their 1st choice loses)

4. have a publicly verifiably accurate election

5. have precinct counts that add up to the totals

RCV is most likely the worst possible alternative voting method and the only proposed alternative voting method that fails more of Arrow's fairness criteria for elections than plurality voting does.

People really need to learn more about it instead of believing the hype of the misnomered group called Fair Vote which has lobbied for e-ballots and Internet voting in the past.

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