Local elections are tomorrow!
In Cambridge, we’ll be electing the City Council and the School Board through a nice ranked election method called the Single Transferable Vote. We’re one of five cities in the US to have ranked voting.
I’ve taken the time to come up with a ranking of all 18 candidates that I’m going to cast as my vote. I’m sure such a complete ranking is unnecessary (past election results have shown that my votes lower than 8th cannot possibly have mattered), but I might as well participate to the fullest. And if you read to the bottom of my list, you get to read about the truly hilarious candidates.
You can find more information about all of the candidates at vote.rwinters.com.
The candidate I most strongly support is Leland Cheung. But I’m going to choose my #1 vote strategically this year. I believe Leland will get the quota of votes to be elected plus a small margin. If I give him my #1 vote, then my vote probably fills his quota and does nothing else.
I certainly do want to vote for Leland. What I can do is rank above him a candidate who would almost certainly not defeat Leland, which means there’s almost no risk he would be eliminated by my strategic vote. Someone who appeals to the same demographic but is more of a long shot. That candidate is Matt Nelson.
#1: Matt Nelson is somewhere around 30 years old. He grew up in Cambridge and attended Cambridge public schools, so I believe he is very much in tune with the community. I like a lot of his platforms, in particular moving City Hall business outside of working hours, getting local non-profits (hey look) involved in Cambridge education, and allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote. (My high school in New York passed out voter registration forms and didn’t have to filter for 18-year-olds. It works.)
#2: Leland Cheung (incumbent) is the most recently-elected city councillor, a former MIT and Harvard grad student, and has done a great job representing Cambridge’s young demographic. He’s fighting for voters who move often (students) to keep their voter registration and not be incorrectly labeled as inactive, he’s bringing that bike-sharing thing to Cambridge, and he modernized the City of Cambridge website. He is a good guy. He has my strongest support and my #2 vote.
#3: Minka van Beuzekom is a challenger, also in the Leland bloc. She came to my door and even though I don’t usually like to talk to politicians, we had a good chat about getting young people involved in local politics. She was part of starting a school once, apparently. Her campaign platform includes public recycling containers. And every candidate says they want to fight against Cambridge’s rats and mice but apparently Minka has been on a Rodent Task Force while not even being elected.
Her platform also contains a very interesting, complex point about municipal finance. Sounds like Cambridge is using a fund that’s basically a past budget surplus to balance the budget, which makes everyone look good. But running down a surplus to avoid raising taxes isn’t actually “balanced”, and this benefits enormous taxpayers when the surplus could create a more progressive fund. Now there’s a political point you could never make outside of Cambridge.
I would almost rank her over Leland for the same strategic reason as Matt, but Leland is a proven good choice, and casting a double strategic vote is playing with fire.
#4: Sam Seidel (incumbent) was my first choice in 2007. He has done a fine job. He is an expert in city planning who knows what he’s doing. He’s currently tackling the hellishly difficult issue of renovating Mass Ave to Porter Square.
#5: Tom Stohlman rounds out the nerd bloc. He’s got 3 MIT degrees and he’s far too dorky to win. One issue he brings up is that Cambridge’s K-8 public schools are failing in grades 6-8 and all the students who can leave do. He’s got a “Network of Campuses” idea to split off grades 6-8. I don’t think all of his ideas make sense, but if my vote goes this far down the ballot I’d rather have it land on a challenger I approve of instead of an uber-professional incumbent.
#6: Henrietta Davis (incumbent). Everyone likes Henrietta Davis, and this is why she’s been an incumbent since forever, but I like her too. Did you know there’s a law in Cambridge that says cars with car alarms that won’t shut off can be towed away? That was Henrietta Davis.
#7: Charles Marquardt gets my support just because his platform is so extremely detailed. No general platitudes here. When he wants to improve public space, transportation, or health, he tells you exactly how. A detail that concerned me at first was his desire to “review” the city’s Plan E charter, which sounds to me like throwing a bone to morons (see #9), but he follows up with the fact that he thinks it’s a great form of government, and he mostly wants to add a popular vote for mayor.
#8: Denise Simmons (incumbent) mentions in her campaign platform that she’s trying to prevent bus stops along Mass Ave from being eliminated. I think the fact that you can get on the 1 on almost any block is really damn nice, and I’m not even a senior citizen who depends on that to get around. It’s not like traffic moves fast enough for this to make a difference anyway.
#9: Larry Ward (incumbent). I was uncertain whether there was anything interesting about his platform until I got to the part where he’s worked on a statewide coalition about reforming the damaging effects of standardized tests. Not actually related to City Council, I guess, but it gives me trust that he knows what’s going on. He also goes on a long ramble about exactly why Cambridge’s system of government, called “Plan E”, is the best, least corrupt form of government in the world, which I agree with. (There are always disgruntled people in Cambridge who want to repeal Plan E. They are morons.)
#10: Ken Reeves (incumbent) is okay.
#11: David Maher (incumbent) is too.
#12: Tim Toomey (incumbent) should make room for new people. He has been on the council since the 80s.
#13: Craig Kelley (incumbent) is apparently so sure he’s got his quota of votes that he’s just coasting. He could not even be bothered to submit a platform to rwinters.com. Maybe he has a beef with rwinters or something (I can imagine some politicans do) but that is the one site where you can actually find out what the candidates stand for.
#14: Gary Mello wants to cut the budget by 5% and give it back as tax cuts. Good luck finding 1000 Republicans in this election, Gary.
#15: James Williamson got his start in 2009 as a single-issue candidate (“I WANT MY POOL BACK”). He compares City Manager Bob Healy to Hosni Mubarak.
#16: Marjorie Decker (incumbent) is an example of someone who is unacceptably far to the left of me. She apparently wastes the Council’s time with thousands of pointless resolutions on U.S. foreign policy.
The best thing about Marjorie Decker is the sheer ongoing hilarity a political story from 1998 provides. When a several-week-long, politically charged, internal election for mayor didn’t go the way she hoped, she punched the celebratory cake.
(Here’s some of the backstory. And now I learned that Cambridge used to have two opposed political parties called the Cambridge Civic Alliance and the Independent Alliance.)
Anyway, every two years this is amusing all over again, when I get to say “Marjorie DECKER!” while making a punching gesture, and I imagine the horrified and puzzled face of the mayor-elect as cake spatters on the wall.
#17: Gregg Moree is deeply weird. For a while, instead of a campaign platform he had the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hard to disagree with, in a sense, but what? He now has added some coherent things, but still, this is how his new platform begins:
“To the people of Cambridge,
Here is what I mean when I said hydroponic greenhouse.”
His response to his estranged wife’s accusation that he beat her with an umbrella is “The charges are untrue and unfalse”. Was that an extremely politically-inept way of saying “not even wrong”?
#18: Jamake Pascual is the worst candidate I have ever seen.
His platform on rwinters.com contains some unsettling stuff about how the city needs to move past its unhealthy past and its addictions (um, perhaps he’s projecting a bit); some platitudes that would sound nice to someone sufficiently stupid; answers to a questionnaire where he clearly went to great effort to string twenty nearly-grammatical words together at a time, but he forgot to include the questions; a link to his web site that is almost entirely blogspam, apparently written by Associated Content or Mechanical Turk, trying to get him hired as a consultant for god knows what; paranoid ravings against the current government; and really, really bad poetry.
He assaulted a cop using a lit cigarette once, which strikes me as a worse thing to do in anger than punching a cake. His response was that the cops had shot him twice and then misspelled his name. The Cambridge Chronicle points out, in an understated way, that it can confirm only the misspelling of his name.
Anyway, that’s all. Wherever you may live, if it’s got an election tomorrow, please vote in it!