Meme Watch – Election Edition

With election results now official, it’s worth noting a few things on the recent election.

The ongoing meme during Mayor Thane’s term centers on the notion that somehow, someway, her administration lacks standing , or perhaps better said, does not truly represent the views and policies of the community-at-large. This manifests itself in a number of ways but largely serves as a recurring, recycled, and repackaged set of talking points espoused by her critics across the media landscape. How many times have we listened to folks wrap themselves in the cloak of the common folks with claims to reflect the “will of the people” or “respecting taxpayers” and on.

Of course, a key channel for spreading the meme is the local airwaves and especially its vocal propagandist who rants and raves on how the players in the Thane administration need to be “put in their place”; I’m not sure what that place would be for the Corporation Counsel but it’s been made clear, to great hilarity, by a local politico that Mayor Thane’s place is — and I am not making this up– “the kitchen”.

So when you read in today’s Recorder this statement from the defeated mayoral candidate:

It certainly doesn’t show she has a mandate,” Emanuele continued. “That’s not the message being sent by voters. But I’m just going to continue to keep the positive outlook for our city, and continue to serve on the Industrial Development Agency board and support the Republicans as county chairman, and stay as active as I can in the political arena here in Montgomery County.”

You see the meme merely shape-shifting like a spectre awaiting its return to haunt the next years of this term. See kids, it’s not a mandate so the legitimacy of the administration lacks standing and as such, really does not reflect –wait for it– “the will of the people”.

In many ways, this is reflective of the broader attack on the legitimacy of President Obama, largely fueled by the same rhetoric, as somehow being “otherly”. In other words, not one of us but one of them. The fact that this comes from the chairman of the opposition party seems wholly consistent with the line of attack.

I don’t want to digress too far from our fair city but I must note that Republicans were rather silent on the notion of a mandate when Bush lost the popular vote to Gore in 2000. Somehow that was a valid outcome from a “democratic process” which somehow applies not to Ms Thane nor to President Obama. let me get back on point.

I am curious, by that very same standard, if Mr. Wierzbicki or Mr Chiara by their very slim margins also lack a mandate in their respective roles. It would appear so because a handful of votes hardly scream mandate to me. As such, should we question their legitimacy and standing in their official roles. Oh my, what about “the will of the people”?!

It’s also interesting to discuss the “message sent by voters”. Overall, the message sent by most voters is one of disengagement — turnout plummeted compared to previous elections. To me that is the loudest message sent by voters.

The other message sent by voters enforces what is happening nationally — the public is fairly divided and that chasm appears to be growing. I think the mayoral election represents two different views to where the city is headed. As someone who thinks we need a new course and strategy, I’m heartened to see that a sizable bloc of the voters feel likewise. Sometimes it feels rather lonely on pushing forward some ideas against the never-ending-inertia here.

What strikes me as more interesting than “the message sent by voters” is the “message sent to voters”. The campaigns in this regard are quite different along a key dimension — the role of the Web. It is quite clear that Mayor Thane embraced a digital strategy to complement the legacy direct mail and radio ads. Mr. Emanuele eschewed the Web opting for direct mail, print and radio(?). Interestingly Mayor Thane opted-out from a print campaign.

This is quite telling and a “teachable moment”.

In such a closely contested election, I think the Web quite likely tipped the election; I think it has hard to dispute the overall messaging on social media from Facebook to blogs to the Mayor’s web site favored Mayor Thane. It’s shocking that a campaign in 2011 would allow a Google search on a candidate to direct a viewer to an opposition page to said candidate or other pages either not relevant to the campaign or in fact supporting his opponent. As not an unbiased observer, I simply could not believe that this was not addressed.

It’s like Googling Pepsi and every page takes you to Coca-Cola. Do you think Pepsi would say “no worries” and just ramp up direct mail pieces? Laughable at best.

But the above should come as no surprise as the contempt and irrelevance of the Web along with the contempt of marketing and advertising to selling the city is another of the local memes championed by a large bloc of the political, editorial and pundit class. Even more, many of Mayor Thane’s critics mock her ability to market and her advocacy of the Web as a tool for marketing. That meme is ever present.

But like most memes, it simply falls apart when you step back and look at how the opposing camp’s failure to adopt the Web and a focused marketing campaign likely cost them the election. I believe this was noted by Mr. Isabel who pointed to the role of blogs in influencing the outcome. (I can’t find the article but attest to the statement)

My hope is that this outcome gives folks some pause in their assumptions on the role of technology and how radically it shifts and changes the way we do things. I think this shift needs to be considered in light of how we position and strategize on the role and the shape of the city moving forward. It’s ironic that we just had a lengthy exchange on the role of AIDA and its relevance — or as I argued its irrelevance– to economic development. So it’s worth noting this from the article above:

[snip]But I’m just going to continue to keep the positive outlook for our city, and continue to serve on the Industrial Development Agency board [snip]

I’ll hand the mandate to Mayor Thane.

Apathy 12010

Here’s an interesting statistic and trend for our fair city– the plummeting voter turnout.

For the 2007 Mayoral Race, the total votes cast were 4495.

For the 2011 Mayoral Race, the total votes cast were 3435.

The 2007 to 2011 trend is  -23.5% . Wow

If we look at the off-election year results of 2009 compared to 2005, we see this:

Ward 2005 2009 Change %Change
1st 1043 717 -326 -31.3%
2nd*** (figures 2001) 881 499 -382 -43.4%
3rd 692 561 -131 -18.9%
4th 575 403 -172 -29.9%
5th 959 402 -557 -58.1%
Total Turnout 4150 2582 -1568 -37.8%

I’m not sure what accounts for the steep drop in turnout but let me offer a few snarky and not-so-snarky hypotheses:
1) Voters are sharing services by collectively not voting; they are sharing the service of apathy and indifference.
2) Voters are consolidating their vote by putting the election into the hands of a smaller group. That, by definition, is consolidation and as we’ve been scolded by our local pundits, righteous and good.
3) Local voters are tuning out from the political process driven largely by a dysfunctional political culture and ecosystem that kills and sucks life from innovative, progressive and future-thinking policies.
4) Local voters are tuning out from a local media culture driven by demagoguery, nihilism, cronyism and ideologues.
5) City voters have no incentive to vote given the ultimate dissolution of the city once it consolidates with the town so what does their vote matter anyway? It’s kind of like Heaven’s Gate– why bother with earthly matters when you’ve got to catch the spaceship to Planet Consolidation?

Hypotheses welcome.

The Morning After (Updated)

I’ll have a post later today on voter turnout, blogs and social media, the echo chamber and local media. And most importantly, why local voters just turned their backs on senior citizens.

That’s all I have time for now now…

 

UPDATE: Here is a link to the election results on Montgomery COunty BOE SIte

 

 

Why Mayor Thane Should be Re-Elected

I think it comes down to two words: Livable City. 

Bear with me and let me explain.

I first and foremost consider Amsterdam to be a city, not the great city it once was, but a city at its core with all the good and the bad that goes with a city. For a long while, the bad has outweighed the good and if you live here, you are pummeled day-by-day with that reminder. The drumbeat is deafening.

But if you live here, you realize that the city still clutches to its livability even though a host of actors past and present deny and reject the essential nourishment that this city needs to remain viable and livable. What they want is anything but a livable city. Indeed they want the city and the essence of a city subverted to industrialization (more industrial parks), suburbanization (more parking lots) and ultimately disintegration — the dissolution of the city and its very fabric.

I profoundly disagree with that assessment. In a time where local cities are fighting back and reclaiming some lost ground, the notion of a livable and viable city should not be rejected; it should be embraced.

It’s this embrace of livability and viability of this city that drives my support for Mayor Thane for another term.

What is indisputable elsewhere — that vision and strategy shape the future; that growth requires investment and nurture; that building trumps demolition; and that small cities can stage comebacks  – becomes the essence of controversy here with the attacks on Mayor Thane’s embrace of these principles.

I like living in a small city. I don’t want to live next to a C&D landfill; I don’t want to live next door to a casino; I don’t want to live in suburbia or the country.

And I don’t want to live in a city where the mayor, the elected leader and voice of the city, abandons the city to a slew of interests and voices who care not the least for the city or who simply cannot muster the courage to champion the city.

I want someone to stick up for this city — a livable city, a viable city, a comeback city. A proud city.

That’s why I support Mayor Thane.

Pre-Election Must Reads

I’m going to have a number of posts for a special Sunday Edition covering the following:

1) Why Mayor Thane Should be Re-Elected

2) Why Thom Georgia Should be Elected as Third Ward Alderman

3) Why The Politicians, Local Media and Community Leaders Who Decry the Sad State of the City, the State of Local Budgets and Economies Have Themselves To Blame

4) Why Cronyism Trumps Governance

5) Why Shared Services and Consolidation is a Hoax

That’s a lot of ground to cover but I think it needs to said.

In the meanwhile, you should read the following if you are interested in the upcoming election and how issues get framed:

Tim Becker on his ParsNova blog posts a smart, critical and hardly asked set of questions on the consolidation and shared services mantra– namely, where’s the business case that consolidating locally makes sense (hint: there is none) and the impolite question of does the city stand to gain from consolidation?

Dan Weaver at Mohawk Valley Independent dissects the Recorder endorsement. As I discussed in my piece on the endorsement for controller which I found ‘bewildering’, Dan looks at the substance of the mayoral endorsement and finds it ‘boggling’.