Vote to be heard

In 2011, any candidate that broke 4,000 votes got a seat on Town Council. This year, it may take even fewer. Even though we are a town of about 50,000 people.

As in 2011, nine candidates are battling, albeit quietly, for four seats on council. This year I’ve heard some voters talk about writing in candidates, something I haven’t heard in previous elections. Presuming the same 7,500 or so voters turn out, as they did in 2011 (though early voting turnout fell to a record low this year), and each voter marks four candidates (though there is no rule that you have to exercise all four choices), the percentage of voters voting off grid, as it were, leaves fewer votes available to distribute among the candidates whose names are printed on the ballot.

To my knowledge, a write-in candidate has never won in Chapel Hill, and I don’t expect any surprise ending this year. Traditionally, incumbents have an advantage – they’re known quantities – but they can’t take their seats for granted. In 2007, Matt Czajkowski bested incumbent Cam Hill, and as a town we have benefited greatly from Czajkowski’s trenchant insights, pointed questions and dogged perseverance in getting his points across.

I don’t blame the low turnout for early voting on voter apathy. Far from it. The massive redevelopment that Chapel Hill looks forward to will affect not only how much we pay in taxes but our quality of life. I perceive more voters taking their ballot choices seriously, and they’re taking time to consider their options carefully. At the forums, every candidate sounds good, yet voters want to know how a candidate will act once in office.

A good way to get a fuller picture of what a candidate thinks is to go to forums presented to different target audiences – Friends of Downtown, Central West and Carol Woods, for instance – because human nature is to play to the crowd. A candidate’s consistent stand on an issue across demographics indicates the candidate’s true beliefs. But this year, it seems the forums have been very poorly publicized. The only people who know about a forum are the candidates and others specifically invited.

I hope for a good turnout on Election Day, because if we can’t rally ourselves to make our voice heard at the polls, I fear cynicism will have won: Voters believe the fix is in, their considered input doesn’t matter, council members will vote the way they always have, and the town can look forward only to more of the same.

Polls are open Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Prove your voice matters.
– Nancy Oates

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20 Comments

  1. Don Evans

     /  November 4, 2013

    The council incumbents won’t get my vote — I’ve seen them in action and it’s not a pretty sight. Maria Palmer and George C won’t make a whit of difference on the board, so a vote for them is wasted.

    As for mayor, there is no race so I plan to use the write-in option. Given Mark Kleinschmidt’s antics lately during council meetings, he needs a reminder that his tenure is subject to scrutiny. So I plan to write in Nancy Oates name for mayor. She’d do a damn-sight better job at it — at least she’s respectful of her opponents and reads the development proposals.

  2. Del Snow

     /  November 4, 2013

    “I hope for a good turnout on Election Day, because if we can’t rally ourselves to make our voice heard at the polls, I fear cynicism will have won: Voters believe the fix is in, their considered input doesn’t matter, council members will vote the way they always have, and the town can look forward only to more of the same. ”

    Nancy, this is exactly what people think, and why should they think any differently? Factual evidence has consistently been ignored when presented by any opposition to a development proposal, while applicant claims are not questioned, no matter how fantastic their assertions.

    Low voter turnout will reflect that belief. A significant number of write in votes will send a strong message, if anyone is actually listening.

  3. Fred Black

     /  November 4, 2013

    If cynicism is winning than I don’t expect much from a write-in campaign. The board of elections records show previous write-in vote totals over the years of 70 to just over 100. None of those totals were for one candidate, so it’s a very long shot.

    Maybe, as many election studies show, low turnout might be about apathy and even acceptance of the status quo. I wouldn’t try to read a whole lot into the numbers.

    These municipal elections are odd, and not just because they occur in odd years!

  4. DOM

     /  November 4, 2013

    Del Snow –

    “Nancy, this is exactly what people think, and why should they think any differently?”

    Not me. Not a lot of people.

    “Speak for yourself and not others.”
    –Ben Franklin

  5. Del Snow

     /  November 4, 2013

    Didn’t say EVERYBODY.

    And that’s why choice is good.

  6. Bruce Springsteen

     /  November 5, 2013

    Some people just don’t clue in to local politics so that’s one reason voter turnout is low. But IMO another reason is the hostility by the local power structure (that includes both some politicians and some politically powerful citizens) towards anyone whose political views are outside a narrow spectrum.

    Chapel Hill and Carrboro are intolerant. Putting it that way may surprise some people but that’s only because people associate intolerance with certain things. Here is the dictionary.com definition of intolerance.

    in·tol·er·ant [in-tol-er-uhnt]
    adjective
    1. not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages, manners, etc., different from one’s own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted.

    That describes Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and probably lots of other places, to a tee. People think of “tolerance” as the championing of certain causes. But if you champion a cause you’re not tolerating it. You only have to tolerate something if you’re not a champion of it. If you only tolerate the things you like then by definition you’re not intolerant.

  7. Diogenes

     /  November 5, 2013

    Bruce, Bruce, Bruce — you must be doing some serious weed up on that mansion on the hill! Just ask anyone. Chapel Hill personifies tolerance — and anyone who disagrees is not welcome here!

  8. Milton Hayek

     /  November 5, 2013

    People don’t care unless it affects their backyard.

    BTW, I wish we would reexamine the need for early voting or at least as long of an early voting period that we have. Any cost analysis would reveal it to be a complete waste.

  9. Bruce Springsteen

     /  November 5, 2013

    I have no idea how much is costs or how much of it is volunteer labor but what surprises/dismays me is how almost all early voting is on weekdays during business hours. Isn’t the point of early voting that it’s a pain for people to vote on Election Day because it’s a Tuesday? So why have the early voting on weekdays too?

    According to the link below (and I don’t know if copied and pasted addresses will work), there were 1,655 early votes on weekdays and 421 on Saturday. But the thing is, there were 12 early voting weekdays and the number of voting hours on those days varies from six to eight. Meanwhile there was one Saturday early voting it is was four hours. So there were 138 votes per early weekday voting day spanning 6-8 hours. That’s 17-23 votes per hour. Meanwhile it was 421 / 4 = 105 votes per hour on Saturday early voting. If people are voting at five times the rate on Saturday then why not have early voting as long as possible on as many Saturdays as possible?

    http://www.co.orange.nc.us/elect/includes/documents/2013NovOne-stopTotals.pdf

  10. Hey Bruce – run for office or get someone else to run for office. Otherwise, it’s just pissing in the wind. Some may say that those who disagree are victims, but if no-one runs who expresses the views of those unfortunate downtrodden, then we are left with nothing by which to measure political gain — and so the cycle of victim-hood continues.

  11. Bruce Springsteen

     /  November 5, 2013

    Read my first post in this thread, Mark. People with differing views don’t even feel safe publicly expressing them, much less running for office.

    The cycle does continue but it’s not one of victimhood, rather it’s one of intolerance.

    Unlike the real Bruce Springsteen, baby I was not born to run.

  12. DOM

     /  November 6, 2013

    Last night’s election – a mandate for moving into the future instead of pining for the past.

    Congrats to all the winners – and the citizens of Chapel Hill!

  13. Bruce – Ha! I teed you up for that one!

  14. DOM: a mandate for new spending, now that Mr. Pease and Dr. Easthom are no longer there to question loud assumptions.

  15. DOM

     /  November 6, 2013

    No, . –

    A mandate to create a more equitable and varied tax base by supporting the introduction of a little more commercial and retail so homeowners aren’t left paying 88% of what we need to run this place.

    ….And a greater opportunity to create some meaningful affordable rental housing by introducing a little more density into our development approval process.

  16. Your loud assumption is that Chapel Hill can lower its tax rate by allowing more and denser mixed use construction.

    Your loud assumption is that 88% of town revenues are provided by homeowners, in contradiction to this:
    http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=12176
    which says that 41% of revenue comes from property tax (both residential and commercial).

    And you assume loudly that the town’s present lower-income housing is not meaningful, so that eliminating it where it exists and then adding 15% affordable units (or “payments in lieu”) in high-end developments will be the ticket.

    A population that grows fast permanently raises taxes to provide police, fire, parks&recreation, waste removal, libraries, storm water management and especially schools. You saw that with the town’s (and the university’s) rapid growth in the 15 years to 2007.

    No one expects you to change your mind in public, but 4,800 voters in a population of 58,000 is not a mandate.

  17. Name Withheld By Request

     /  November 6, 2013

    . –

    “…4,800 voters in a population of 58,000 is not a mandate.”

    Silence is golden, my friend.

  18. Silence may be golden, but anonymity is not.

  19. many

     /  November 7, 2013

    yawn.

  20. DOM

     /  November 7, 2013

    “Silence may be golden, but anonymity is not.”

    Save that kind of talk for the NSA.

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