Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chesterfield Sent to the Corner

Following the mishandling of the 2/12 Primary in Chesterfield County and the subsequent follow-up by the State Board of Elections, Chesterfield County has been asked politely to go and stand in the corner.

Chesterfield County experienced and increase in voting on 2/12 i many of its precincts that resulted in poll workers running our of ballots for the Democratic Primary, but not the Republican. Given Chesterfield historically votes at turnout levels in the 20 percentile or less in some instances during Primary election or Firehouse Primaries the turnout to vote Democrat in the Primary caught many poll workers off guard and the County Electoral Board at a loss for ballots.

Ballots of course were printed up months in advance and many of those in the Presidential race that had withdrawn from the race were still listed on these ballots to be used by voters. Inj defense of the Chesterfield County Electoral Board I am sure that they do some study to determine the number of ballots required per cycle and have to have those printed well in advance. At worst the Board was unprepared for the large turnout to vote Democrat as a result of the two way race between Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The result of the shortage was that some 299 votes will be thrown out and not counted. THats more votes mind you than Mike Huckabee got in the entire County, but not nearly enough to create a question regarding the winner, whioch was Barrack Obama in a walk. The question however resides in the integrity of the process.

With so many first time voters in this Primary it certainly sends the wrong message here in Chesterfield regarding our dedication to running efficient elections. People were lined up for hours to vote only for there to be a shortage of ballots. Voters were than asked to place the votes on scrap pieces of paper, which many affluent politicos in the lines new would under the law not be able to be counted.

The result of the scrap voting resulted in there being a descrepency in the number of ballots cast versus the number of voters. A verification nightmare I am sure.

The State Electoral Board has called a meeting with Chesterfield officials to take place March 5 at the General Assembly building in Richmond. Secretary of the State Board at a news conference was quoted as stating that the Chesterfield response "only gives me greater concern".

Horace Mann III, Secretary to Chesterfield County Electoral Board will certainly have to answer on March 5th for the actions of the County in this manner but has insisted that the State has not accurately disscerned the data in which the County provided the Board regarding the issue of having more votes cast than voters.

You often scratch your head and think that these things happen in places like Florida, but not this time. It happened right here in Chesterfield County. Good thing most Republicans stayed home on 2/12 or it could have been much worse.

added: 2/26/08

On the day of the election when voitng was coming in, Chesterfield numbers had only 10,000 or so votes cast in the Chesterfield Republican Primary on the SBE (State Board of Elections) website and stated that 99% of the returns were in and yet know two weeks later the Chesterfield site shows quite a different story. This is very disturbing. many voters that know of the SBE site were left with the impression that turnout was very low in the Republican Primary with only 10K votes in a county of 300K but the reality was only the McCain votes seem to be getting to the SBE site for transmission. I have no explaination for this at all. A week or so later we see the breakdown being much higher for Huckabee who actually earned just under 10K votes throughout Chesterfield to McCain almost 12K.

Personally I found myself sittiing in disbelief that on election night as the county reports were coming into to SBE that Chesterfield Republicans went 95% for McCain. Once the real data was provided it became clear that the Primary day data being sent to SBE was not fully accurate and very misleading as reports on the internet were using data like this to call the State for John McCain. Once the call was officially made that McCain had won Virginia, using all those little models they use, the data for Chesterfield was still inaccurate.

I went to sleep Tuesday night wondering just how Chesterfield coulod go McCain in such lareg numbers. Well a week or so later I feel a little better about Chesterfield Republicans.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Next Vote Matters

After sitting basically on the sidelines this last month and trying to take all of the political mess we have before us in on all levels: local, State, and National I cannot imagine another time in my life save 1979 where our country has been in such a state of complete disconnect and at a crossroads.

We would like to think we addressed this crossroads last Fall on the local level but I am still very skeptical but have extended some benefit of the doubt no I did not say "suspending disbelief" but am willing to give the new Board some time.

Now I know we are witnessing a movement out there being coined as of late as "Obamania" that appears to being attracting large numbers which may simply distract us from the reality that the disconnect truly exists but regardless of ones political persuasion this is a time when many of us are once again, like 1979, questioning exactly what the next five or ten years are likely to be like and concensus is its not good.

Could a victory by Obama be the equivalent of the 1980's Winter Olympic Hockey Team as the mechanism to snap Amercia back just like that great victory over the Soviets. Fact is we are dealing with much the same issues as then; a rising oil market now over $100 a barrel, a falling dollar and economy that is not nerely as bad but has been portrayed as such by the major media outlets, a housing market that is turning upside down, aging infrastructure and an antequated educational system all of which contribute to an individuals view that the next ten years will not be better than the last.

To me this may be the very basis for the broad atrraction of the Obama movement. Its not mere politics. For every reason one could criticize Hillary Clinton, save the War, one could also levy the same criticism on Obama. In fact, Clinton may even be more moderate on some issues than Obama. The differences between the two is not on issues, but rather the struggle for the personification of the Democratic Party. This is the struggle unfolding and the establishment is nervous and so is the special interest.

Setting aside particular issues, what we are witnessing is a debate over the future direction the Democratic Party. In this light you have two very contrasting styles and "personnas" attributed to the campaigns which in my mind are very reflective of the current political dynamic across the country on all levels. The establishment or insider rhelm of control versus that of the will of the people out in the country. ( remember the forgotten immigration issue?)The rhelm of those who seek nothing more than political gain over connecting with and helping fellow Americans. The rhelm of those who seek to undermine an individuals name and family or religion or sexuality for nothing more than poltical points. Many would say that our leaders are nothing more than a reflection of ourselves and to that line of rationale I say; No way.

These pundit folks on MSNBC, FOX, CNN I am sure must have a hard time sitting in church and looking fellow Americans in the eye. In fact, it appears as if politics (not civics) has become the religion of these people who seek to divide us or pigeon hole us as a society in little groups of conflicting interest and seek to exploite that for political gain or for there own perverse motives.

The idea that a Republican is somehow evil comes from where exactly? The idea that Democrats are weak on terror comes from where exactly? Does it come from our hearts? Do we as a nation think that we as citizens are accurately characterized by political distinctions that soemhow if you are a Democrat you care more about the environment/climate change or welfare state and if you are a Republican you care more about a Marriage Amendment or ending same sex marriages or is it simply that these are the issues that the media outlets seek to exploite to perpetuate the divide.

You see I learned a long time ago that people as rational beings would rather have (unfortunately) someone to blame for things than someone to praise. We tend to leave the praising for our Lord and then leave blame to be directed at those on the opposite side of our individual realities. If we are paying more for gas it is the gas companies (business) which are to blame, if our children are falling behind in school or struggling it is the teachers to blame, and if we cannot afford to purchase healthcare insurance it is somehow the insurance companies whom are to blame, and in today's housing market it is the banking/lending/mortgage people to blame for that house going into foreclosure.

The reality is "we" are to blame for much that we experience. We should conserve energy as best we can, we should be seating with our children and reading and writing with them, we should be searching for better jobs where healthcare may be provided by employer at lessor costs than buying it outright from an insurance company and we ought to be responsible enough to know what home we can realistically afford before buying it. Yeah. I know. Not exactly what most of us want to hear is it? We would rather just deflect the responsibility and put it on someone or something else.

You win elections, generally, by qualifying and directing the blame in one particular direction long enough and hard enough for it to be the determining factor in the vote. It creates a mentality of voting against rather than voting for a particular candidate. The media of course plays a pivatal role on all of this. You see the media has the greastes platform in the world to impact the lives of everyone on the planet should the make the choice to do so, but instead they use the platform not to inform but to divide the country. Now that may seem quite harsh but after witnessing all three major news networks during these Primaries its not hard to see that all have thrown objectivity to the wind.

In fact, maybe these networks and those pundits on the programs ought to wear patches like Nascar drivers on their clothes so we know exactly who it is they are shilling for on a daily basis on all the shows they go on. It would make things rather easier I think. If you think that the media has maintained what was once a long tradition of objectivity ask yourself this:

Why was it okay for everyday to call into question Mitt Romney's religion (he of course is Mormon) regardless of the state of the economy and his expertise in this area every time he was mentioned there was a link to Mormonism? Was it to place a fear in the evangelicals in the base of the Republican Party in an attempt to undermine his bid? On the surface it may come across as reporting but then why was Mike Huckabee, whom I feel is a great orator like Obama, was given a pass. This is a guy who stood up and spoke vehemently against same sex marriage, called homosexuality as being sinful and yet Liberals in the media who like to champion more liberal ideals gave him a pass on his religious views. Romney was tame compared to this guy on so many issues that the Liberal media has been on the polar opposite of with Huckabee and yet they attacked Romney at every opportunity. Why exactly was that?

I do not think I ever heard Romney preach his religion to anyone in the public forum and yet Huckabee continually references these things and no one on MSNBC seems to have a problem letting it go unreported or simply giving him a pass as simply being a southern preacher by profession. And yet Mormonism was a bigger issue? No. But it was an issue that they could tear Romney down with and they succeeded in the end of taking out what was probably the best Republican candidate on the big stage. Kudows to the media for using the airwaves not to be objective but to be the determiners of outcomes. They branded Romney "A Mormon" thats all.

And by the way, why if Romney's Mormonism is such a question how is it that Barrack Obama's Muslim faith gets a pass as well. Why is it the same media networks that thrawted Romney every step of the way with the religious conjecture never talk about Obama's religion and if God forbid some actually refers to it the media portrays them as somehow "hatemongering" (ala Obermann). I do not get it. Its okay to question Mormonism, Evangelicalism but not the Muslim faith; thanks for clearing that up MSNBC. In my view using religion as a sword against anyone is out right shameful in America let alone when you pick and chose which religions you are going to go after and which are somehow off topic. Shameful.

Another point is why do the networks feel on national TV in is appropriate to instill division within America. Why do we have to have these guys break down the African-Amercian vote in every Primary? Why do we have to exploit groups as a means of over examining a race? The Womens's vote oh that matters because there is a women in the race, the Black vote matters because there is an African-American running, the Evangelicals because a preacher is running, heck why do we not just disect the entire gambit from religion, race or sexual orientation as a means of examining a race? Please. These crafty folks in the media know that by doing so they can shape an election the way they wish and present what "facts"??? work within the scheme they are forming....all under the guise of reporting. Oh, its entertainment not news reporting or did you not get the memo!!!

If you agree and want to end the divisive act of division then remeber:


So now in 2008 I am at a crossroads.

I know that this election will have every bit of the significance as that of 1979. Why? Simple. My oldest daughter is turning 7 and when the next President leaves office she will almost 12. Why is that significant? I was ten years old when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter. I rememeber dropping the car off the night before in long lines for gas at the pump and coming back to it in the morning with my dad to fill it up. I remember at ten years old my President was Ronald Reagan. By twelve years old I became aligned with Republicanism. I was proud to be an American and by 1982 so was most of the country I think and that time shaped my life and would ultimately lead me to join the military after high school.

This election will seat a President who will have the greatest impact on my daughters political perspective. It could shape her for the rest of her life and though I know down the road she will have to stear the course of her political beliefs I want for her to have the basis I had in 1980. I want her to experience the unity of America and not the divide. I want her to experience the joys of being an American and the pride of being a Virginian. In order for these things to occur I wonder just who we have left on the stage who can deliver such a place that would water that seed.

While in the future it will be a President of her choice, for now her mother and I will have to make that determination both for her and for us as well since we could do with a little more inspiration again given the last two decades.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Vote Cast

Well I must say that time certainly has flown by from the time most of us cast ballots in the November election last Fall that saw quite the upheaval of local politics. This morning it was time again to cast a vote in the Virginia Presidential Primaries. I live in a heavier Republican oriented distrcit so it was now surprise that turnout was light given the issues with the Party on the National level. Not surprising must of the folks on the Virginia ballot were no longer in the hunt.

It was surprising that there was very little signage or folks outside the polls with information this morning.

I must admit that during some coffee this morning at our favorite coffeehouse Cafe Caturra I was able to speak with quite a few of same folks that were active with me during the Supervisor races last Fall and catch up with the tradition of gathering for some early morning coffee before breaking away and heading to our respective voting spots. I must say that much of the enthusiasm that had once been so boiling has somewhat subdued and though it was a Presidential Primary morning much of our conversations centered around local politics and the disappointment thus far being demonstrated by the inaction of BOS.

I kindly pointed out that we have seen this before on a grander scale. Our Congress elected in 2006 on the "change" ticket has done very little given the fact that the Democrats assumed control in an election that saw Democrats winning in areas that had historically been Republican, our Senate race where Jim Webb defeated George Allen is one example. And still little has changed in Washington. That election focus was to move us out of Iraq and of course the Democrats have failed to do so.

At the local level we saw a barrage of anti-growth, anti-developer , good old boy speak leveled against the local Republicans who had overseen the largest growth Chesterfield has experienced in recent times and though it has only been a month in fairness it seems that the same arguements will continue unresolved at the outset of 2008. It comes down to the differences between "campaigning" policy and then the reality of "managing" policy.

So far quite a few measures have been deffered for further review. Things like the impact fees, now being taken up by the General Assembly as proposed by State Sen John Watkins (R) of Powhatan and the implentation of these fees over that of the local use of cash proffers which some see as merely localized "extortion" against developers. Many of us in Chesterfield see the political football being passed somewhat but now it may just come about that the State creates an interception.

I have always been a firm believer that localities should have the ability and right to manage the quality of life within its boundaries as it sees fit, dillon rule not withstanding, and have long stated that the County cash proffers were not high enough at the current levels and yet virtually every politcian refuses to raise them at the same time telling us that growth is getting way out of control, at the same time they approve virtually every major new residential planning proposal, at the same time remain behind on school planning to accomodate the current proposals, and as they ran their repsective campaigns last Fall with a slant on developers they seem content to keep or lower the fees on the very folks they pointed to as being the biggest part of the problem.
As Watkins proposal which would end the use of cash proffers makes its way through the Finance committee in the Virginia Senate. fact has always remained that as the fourth largest area and quickly approaching the third spot in terms of growth and population we have been behind the curve on cash proffer fees as well as business/liscence fees when compared to other areas, both inside the Commonwealth and outside.

The agenda remains clouded at best but I still have not lost hope in the "change" mantra that rang out last Fall. I want to give these new Board members the benefit of the doubt but there are only so many studies and deferments or extensions one can tolerate before people hit rock bottom and begin to re-energize once again and mobilize to be heard. There is alot before the BOS to be sure and potentially some of the issues will hinge on the State but one thing is for sure, if they want to curb the growth and get a handle on things they certainly have the power to do so.

The question remains whether they have the political will.

Its one thing to campaign on smart growth policies and yet another to implement and manage such a policy whereby garnering support from both the public and the developer community. One has to make a stand and hold firm to that position and if Chesterfield should lose some of that developer business than so be it. Afterall, we can hardly manage the growth we have already approved and cannot sustain this same level of growth without some real quantified impacts upon our communities.

Unforunately when you cast a vote for "change" for "change" sake often what you end up with is anything but real change. When "change" is real it can certainly be very meaningful but when "change" simply becomes a "brand" like we have seen in the election in 2006 and 2007 in the local races it begs the questions whether change is truly a reality.