What happened Tuesday, and why the public doesn’t understand, doesn’t care and doesn’t benefit

Note: this is a long post. It’s an important one. Please read it – and then discuss with your friends and neighbors. Elections are too important to be sold or manipulated unfairly.

“Better luck next time, Dave!” was what was yelled at me yesterday by a neighbor as his wife drove him past me with my handful of plumbing supplies. I’d just finished putting a new kitchen faucet in for my parents, a project that has been on hold for the last 3 months while I’ve been on this campaign adventure.

Now, the thing is, my neighbor and his wife are both politically astute people, one with a Ph.D. and the other with an MD. Not only that, they donated to my campaign.

When I called back that I’m on the ballot- they were confused. I’d done everything I needed to in the special election without spending a small fortune, and I’m ready to spend the next 6 months doing what it takes to convince about 20,000 voters that I’m a viable candidate and their best choice. That means I need every voter who voted for me to tell 10 others why, or I need to do it myself. In 6 months, that is possible. In two months, it’s not. And that’s what we just went through, for the first time in 20 years.

And that’s the thing, a majority of voters in Dayton doesn’t even know what happened Tuesday. This is a fundamental problem in our community, and despite our grand efforts at citizen participation via the vaunted “Priority Boards”- voters stayed home, or cost an arm and a leg to convince one who to vote for. Because I’m not like any of the other candidates, I’m going to quote a friend, who has a blog of sorts (you can’t comment on his), and post a link, even though his general opinion of my candidacy is that I’m unelectable and a poor candidate:

Plenty of people think that the amount of money involved in politics is obscene, and I won’t argue with them. That people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in a runoff election where fewer than 10,000 people vote is insane.

Or is it?

The candidates who pledged to spend less than $10,000 this year (incumbent mayor Gary Leitzell, perennial candidate David Esrati and community volunteer David Greer) and the candidate who couldn’t even raise $1,000 (Joe Lutz) all lost.

Leitzell and Lutz lost absolutely—they will not be on the ballot this November. (Leitzell is the first sitting mayor of Dayton in 50 years to lose before the general election.)

Greer and Esrati technically won the right to be on the November ballot, but I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that neither will win in the fall. Williams and Mims each got more votes than Whaley; Greer and Esrati each got fewer votes than Leitzell. I see absolutely nothing to make me believe that Greer and Esrati are going to do significantly better in the general election.

So the winning candidates know something about elections that the losing candidates do not—given the status quo, money matters in winning elections. Wish that it didn’t at your peril.

via David’s blog: David Esrati.

Now, while I’m supporting A.J. Wagner in November, because I think he’s not suffering from megalomania and doesn’t have a bevy of patronage-dependent people working on his campaign at taxpayer expense, I find Lauri’s criticism of A.J.’s website accurate, but entertaining, since A.J. has zero knowledge of how to use or craft a site. He’s made poor choices in developers (this is his third, the first was mocked on this site for being done in DC, the second was a temporary fix by a local ad agency that’s had multiple contracts with the city and the county and then this one). I thought I’d include a screen shot and an explanation of what Lauri’s talking about before it gets fixed. When you roll over a link, you should get an alt text tag explaining where the link goes- for visually impaired people. Try it on this site. If you are using Firefox as a browser, you can see the link that will be launched in the lower left corner.

Screen shot of AJ's issues coding gaffe

Roll over issues- to see the real issue “donations to the max” for AJ Wagner’s website

In A.J.’s case, as David Lauri points out, when you roll over “the issues”- you see the link is to http://www.ajwagnerformayor.com/donations-to-the-max/ – the link’s pretty url- one with words instead of /?=p123 for example, says “Donations to the max” and when you click on it- sadly, it comes to a blank issues page.

screenshot of AJ's blank issues page

And coming in second as Dayton’s candidate for Mayor is A.J. Wagner with no issues to speak of

So, spending close to $100,000, campaigning since April of last year, and coming in with half the votes, is a successful campaign for mayor- capturing the right to run against someone who spent twice that? While our sitting mayor is mocked for coming in 240 odd votes short while spending maybe $2,500.

Note also, that while David Lauri points out all the foibles and makes predictions- he didn’t bother to vote Tuesday.

Which is our MAJOR problem.

A few weeks ago a voter with a Whaley sign in her front yard got in a heated argument with me about what I was going to do if elected as part of the Independent Dayton team- to which my first answer was to change the charter to fix this mess. She scoffed at me. The saddest thing was that not only did she not understand the importance of this- she lives in the Oregon District where things are pretty good. I guess that’s how you feel when you can afford to buy your candidate too.

The charter change is overdue. And it’s not to put in a strong-mayor form of government, which I believe is the secret (and not so secret) desire of both candidates left in the mayor’s race. The issues that need immediate addressing are- and I’ve asked Mayor Leitzell to try to put these on the November ballot- to see if Joey Williams  and Nan Whaley will support them in a vote, are:

Change the requirement of percentage of registered voters’ signatures needed to put changes to the charter on the ballot and percentage of registered voters needed to recall a sitting member of the commission- to percentage of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election. While is may not seem critical to many- currently both of these acts of citizen participation are impossible due to swollen voter rolls caused by changes in the voter registration laws. This would align with the standards statewide in the Ohio Revised Code.

Another minor change, would be to revise the commission petition form, which is forcing more candidates off the ballot than allowing on due to arcane and obtuse language, poor form design and archaic requirements. Read a lot more here: Dayton’s Flawed Petition Process. I’ve even done the redesign in a long ago post, which you can find if you read through them all. First to post the link in comments gets free admission to my next Pancake Breakfast.

The Nan voter thought I was crazy to make this a fundamental issue of my campaign. I believe that fair and honest elections are fundamental to living in a democracy. Excuse me.

If I had my way, our government would take campaign finance out of private parties’ hands, and roll it into the cost of government, because I think that right now it’s costing us a lot more by having politicians who are slaves to their donor/masters.

The mayor had people coming up to him too- “what do you mean you aren’t on the ballot, I thought the primary was to decide who ran against you in the fall.” Wow. More uneducated voters. But can you blame them, primaries/special elections are a rare occurrence in Dayton as I’ve said. Another Ph.D. that I talked to pre-primary/special election said he didn’t vote in them because he didn’t want to affiliate himself with a party. That’s why I posted this post a few weeks ago: “Election Questions That Need Answers” to provide answers to voters who don’t understand the process.

So what did we accomplish Tuesday? We eliminated choice from voters early in the process, without giving the candidates or the citizens time to fully explain their issues and get voters to know who they are and what they stand for. The taxpayers spent about $150,000 to support this, btw. We forced candidates to “win” over voters in a compressed time frame- shifting the power to those already elected or to those supported by special interests. And this was after a flawed petition process eliminated a bevy of other candidates: Who’s running in 2013

I’m not the only one lamenting the lack of knowledge shown by the American voter, Frank Bruni rails against it in the New York Times today:

That we Americans are out to lunch isn’t news. But every once in a while a fresh factoid like the Obamacare ignorance comes along to remind us that we’re out to breakfast and dinner as well. And it adds an important, infrequently acknowledged bit of perspective to all the commentary, from us journalists and from political strategists alike, about how voters behave and whom they reward. We purport to interpret an informed, rational universe, because we’d undercut our own insights if we purported anything else.

But only limited sense can be made of what is often nonsensical, and the truth is that a great big chunk of the electorate is tuned out, zonked out or combing Roswell for alien remains. Polls over the last few years have variously shown that about 30 percent of us couldn’t name the vice president, about 35 percent couldn’t assign the proper century to the American Revolution

via America the Clueless – NYTimes.com.

This is why I run for office. This is why I invest so much time keeping this blog going, talking about real issues, real reasons to make good voting decisions, and trying to be transparent. It’s why I believe that if the voters finally have a 6-month period of time to get to know me, they too will think my election is a good idea. But, it takes at least 6 months- not two or three. David Lauri thinks that I can’t do it on $10k or less. History showed us four years ago that Gary Leitzell could win despite 6-to-1 spending odds, so I don’t know why it’s so far fetched.

I’ve been told I’ve mellowed this time around. I think part of it comes with just starting all my campaign talks with “excuse my booming command voice, I was taught to use this voice in the Army so you can hear me clearly (since you didn’t provide a real PA system) and it doesn’t mean I’m angry, mad or yelling at you- it means I want you to be able to hear what I’m saying.” Old people thank me, now.

We’ve just seen a lot of money spent to get a very few people to the polls. If that’s what it takes to get elected, we’re in trouble, because the people in Dayton are still struggling. They can’t afford to buy their politicians, nor can they afford what their bought politicians give them in return. If you would like to help me do the impossible, for the right reasons, I urge you to go to www.electesrati.com and either fill out the volunteer form and take responsibility for informing voters, or donate to the cause.

I’ve spelled out my issues. There is no blank page on my site. I actually do my own campaign materials, videos, and websites. And for the first time, I have a real campaign window. Watch me work.

And for those of you who read the whole thing- thank you. I’m sorry it’s so long.

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12 Responses

  1. Hall May 12, 2013 / 12:27 pm
    Regarding the charter changes, it’s been over 3 years and the issue hasn’t been brought to the commission…. Doesn’t matter if it would be out-voted – the issue should have been brought up and gotten attention about it.
  2. David Esrati May 12, 2013 / 1:02 pm

    @Hall- the issue has been up for 20 years- and hasn’t been brought up. It’s part of the cultural issues of city hall- that nothing even gets discussed in public until they’ve already discussed it and figured out they have 3 votes- at least, it’s been since Abner Orick was on the commission, or to a lesser extent, Dick Zimmer RIP.

    They’ve had at least 2 charter changes in the last 8 years- these changes were never even discussed.

  3. Geoff May 12, 2013 / 2:11 pm
    Great post.  However, you’ve got a link that isn’t ( Dayton’s Flawed Petition Process.) and there’s an egregious misspelling in your headline.  Other than that, thumbs up.
     
  4. Geoff May 12, 2013 / 2:13 pm
    Whoops, I see you caught the misspelling…good eye!
  5. David Esrati May 12, 2013 / 2:48 pm

    Geoff- fixed the link for you- thanks.

     

  6. Hall May 12, 2013 / 11:00 pm
    I meant that Gary could have brought it up. Granted, it would have been shot down by a 4-1 vote, but it could have been made known…
  7. David Esrati May 13, 2013 / 9:13 am

    @Hall- it’s been brought up by me before. It will be brought up this week at the commission meeting. It’s time to end this BS once and for all.

  8. Kim Owens May 13, 2013 / 10:43 am
    I believe the major cause of voter apathy in Dayton is that it doesn’t matter who we vote for because nothing will change. My interpretation of most of your solutions is that we need to change the charter, we need to get the current commissioners out, and we need to change the structure of Dayton’s government. Those are all valid solutions and yet it appears that no progress has been made. I admire your persistence but this entire situation is very discouraging for me. I certainly do not understand a lot of behind-the-scenes political issues, therefore I am completely blown away by the amount of money being spent on the race for mayor. How can a position with supposedly very little power and relatively low pay be that lucrative?
  9. David Esrati May 13, 2013 / 11:09 am

    @Kim- if you read today’s paper- both mayoral candidates seem to think they are being elected King of the Region. It’s going to be a battle to hire a strong, competent city manager with either of these candidates- but, I still believe, although he’s stubborn, AJ is a much more well rounded and experienced candidate.
    Government changes slowly. Let’s at least clean house and replace Whaley and put a non-party person in her seat for starters.

     

  10. Diane May 13, 2013 / 12:37 pm
    Kim, perhaps both candidates for mayor have visions of parlaying that position to gain a seat in Washington like Turner did.
    Talk about lucrative. Cha-ching!
  11. Hall May 13, 2013 / 9:19 pm
    It’s quite clear that Nan is being “groomed” for advancement by the Democratic Party

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