Thursday, September 14, 2017

Kids Win, No On Everything Faction Loses in Iowa City School Vote

Iowa City School District voters crushed the nay-sayers and shattered every turnout record in the books Tuesday as the $191 million bond issue passed with a solid 65-35% win.

The turnout really is the biggest story of the day. I have been expecting a record for months. In the early spring I put my best analysis to the test - because turnout projections are literally part of my job -  and months ago I was projecting about 5500 early votes and 10,000 at the polls - my exact number was 15,653.

That scared me, because that meant we were expecting more than 1500 voters each in Coralville and North Liberty - because of combined school precincts, that's bigger than presidential crowds.

(Tangent: While I didn't like the bill combining city and school elections effective in 2019, I will not miss explaining to voters that school precincts are different - which I spent most of the day doing.)

I had also expected huge lines in the February 2003 school bond, my benchmark for this election, and the election I considered the "real" record.Technically we were higher in December 1992, but as I explained in the prior post that was kind of a fluke because of a failed satellite voting experiment.

Our early vote numbers were even higher in 2003 than this year. But instead that turned out to be our first ever election with more early voters than election day voters.

My early vote projections were dead on; we counted 5,396 votes. So as I waited for the first turnout update at 9 AM, that was my question: Is it the scenario I expected, with about a third of the vote cast early and 10,000 at the polls? Or will this be another 50% early vote election?

We soon learned that it was the first scenario, so I spend the day fretting about lines and supplies. Once you're in the zone or Above The All Time Record, it gets very hard to predict by how much.

All the voters got taken care off and the final result exceeded my projection by a bit, with 11,324 at the polls and a grand total of 16,700. And we pushed 1975 voters through North Liberty, an all time school election record.

But Lemme had the highest percentage turnout, at 22.8%. And that was my POLITICAL worry of the day. Was the vote at Lemme the Save Hoover vote, looking to scuttle the whole plan? Or was it the City High vote. looking for the Hoover lot adjacent to the high school for expansion? It turned out to be the former, as Yes led 63-37 at Lemme, just a hair below the district total.

In fact, Yes was a very consistent winner across the district, topping 60% in every precinct except an overwhelming No vote in Hills. They're always the weakest supporters of school money issues, and Hills was subjected to the They're Gonna Close Your School scare tactics of the No campaign. They're also, by far, the smallest school precinct.

My other, anecdotal  worry was an unusually large number of voters asking where to vote in the Twain precinct.  The southeast side has also leaned against school funding. It's a polarized area, with a young minority community that's less likely to vote next to a lot of older empty nesters who do vote. Not only did these voters not know they voted at Twain for school elections - they had no idea where the school was! The Twain precinct But even Twain, just barely, voted 60% Yes.

The Mercer precinct also voted 60% yes despite the heavy concentration of senior voters that make up part of the 20% anti-taxer Automatic No vote any money measure faces.

North Liberty, as mentioned, saw a spike, and I was convinced that the high North Liberty vote was Liberty Football Field vote. They voted 71% yes. But the highest Yes vote was in the Manville Heights precinct. Despite Team No pushing the They're Gonna Close Lincoln scare tactic, the doctors and professors voted 73% Yes.

I can always tell what an election is REALLY about by voter comments: "Can I vote in the county attorneys election?" "I want to vote for supervisor, and how soon can I change my party back." This election I heard "I want to vote on the bond" and "do I have to vote on everything?"

Over a quarter of voters, 28%  skipped the two-year school board race, and the average voter cast just 2.2 of their three votes in the full term race. That's people who voted for two, or one, or skipped it entirely.

But only 0.4% (74 out of 16,700) of voters skipped the bond. That's a lower undervote than you see for president. That's people who made mistakes marking their ballot.



The fiscal conservative 20% Automatic No faction loses none of their very little credibility; there are just X number of people who hate government and hate taxes, even in the People's Republic. (A lot of my stress over the outcome came from waiting on voters who had just paid their property taxes, which come due at the end of this month.)

People campaigning for Yes votes on any bond just have to work around them, and have to know that they have to get their 60% from the remaining 80%.

Put another way, they need to get 3/4 of the persuadable voters, a very difficult near-consensus level that requires a a broad based coalition of the center, near left, and near right. Or as I say, you need everyone from John Balmer to John Deeth - and Yes had both of us.

But in addition to the Anti-Tax Automatic No vote, Johnson County has another faction, a faux "progressive" faction, that would rather destroy than build. A faction that asks the impossible and attacks workable plans because they aren't perfect. A faction that consistently aims their bitter anger at the wrong targets, and that disguises personal vendettas with misleading and flat out wrong "facts." A faction that has scuttled at least two  good candidates over narrow issues. A faction that looks at a broad coalition of the sensible center and accuses labor and the pragmatic progressives of being sell-outs to Big Business.

This No To Everything Left faction, and the Save Hoover faction int allied with, goes down as the election's biggest loser. If the No campaign had simply shut up and let the considerable doubt simmer, or if they had let some of the more sensible anti-tax conservatives be their visible leaders, they might have gained the five points they needed.

But by letting their most disingenuous and abrasive people be their public faces - should I name the three names or do I even need to bother? - No's campaign effort probably cost itself more votes than it gained. They were the loudest voices, but they've now been shown up as weak and non-influential. Those faces have now damaged their credibility for other causes and candidates they support.

Case in point: the board races.



Since Yes outnumbered No, and since people who don't care about education policy beyond "don't raise my taxes," were more likely to skip the board races, the Yes candidates were the big winners.

I had projected J.P. Claussen in first place, which wasn't hard. He was a Yes on the bond but he was seen as an acceptable enough school district administration critic that he was a third choice for a lot of No voters. Claussen was in first place everywhere except the anomalous Hills precinct where he was a close second.

The race for second was close, with Ruthina Malone just 268 votes ahead of Janet Godwin. Malone had some small advantages: a labor endorsement and support from a number of "vote for two" Yes voters who backed her and Claussen.  Malone was second across most ofIowa City, while Godwin ran second in Coralville and North Liberty and on the west side.

Godwin in third ran FAR - 3300+ votes - ahead of fourth place finisher Laura Westemeyer, who was the only explicit Vote No and Fire Murley candidate. Westemeyer 's only bright spot was Hills, which she lives near. She won and Claussen was a close second; Hills had the highest under-vote share so it appears they voted for just two. But the district's smallest precinct, with just 1% of the district wide vote, is a weak electoral base to say the least.

Westemeyer edged to 37% at the old City High precinct (now voting at Our Redeemer Church) where most of the Save Hoover vote lives, but she was under a third of the vote everywhere else.

I wish Karen Woltman had chosen a better race and better allies for her first electoral run. She tried to hedge on the bond but was clearly IDd as a No, and the yard signs seemed deliberately designed to resemble the SAVE HOOVER look. Woltman was last in every precinct, only inching above 30% in the Hoover area.

The two year race was the only close contest. Shawn Eyestone, who had switched over from the full term race, rode a lead in Coralville and his own North Liberty to a close win over Charlie Eastham. Both Eyestone and Claussen had lost earlier races.

Clear Creek Amana also passed a bond, with much less controversy and a near record 71.1% yes; the February 2003 Iowa City bond was just a tenth of a point more popular.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Numbers to watch today

Record turnout for a regular Iowa City School District election is 8733 in 2013. This is certain to be broken; we already have already 5000+ early votes. Perspective: Until 2013 the ICCSD turnout record was 5814 in 1995. (That election included the bond that built Wickham school.) We have almost that many EARLY votes already.

Today's record will stand forever since this is the last regularly scheduled September school election. Starting in 2019, school election will be combined with the November of odd years city election.

The best ICCSD comparison for today's turnout would be with the February 2003 bond vote total of 12,480 voters  (School precincts were different then, so only the grand total is useful to compare.)

The record ICCSD bond turnout was 13,139 on 12/8/1992. That's well within reach today.  Turnout was boosted that election by offering December school ballots at satellite sites in the final days before the presidential election; this turned out to be a very bad idea that confused voters. (Lots of wrong ballot in envelope kind of mistakes.)

Check back late late tonight for analysis.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day Roll Call

It's become a Labor Day tradition for me to post a roll call of the politicians present at the Iowa City Federation Of Labor picnic. Which I did via Twitter but I've had an ask for a one-stop list.t
It's another tradition that Dave Loebsack shows up VERY early at the noon-starting event on his way between the larger QC and Burlington events.

Two of the 74 governor candidates showed up:

On to the local stuff. We're eight days away from the school election and the three labor endorsed candidates were on hand: J.P. Claussen and Ruthina Malone for the full terms and Charlie Eastham for the two year term. The Yes bond campaign was working the crowd. (Some prominent opponents were also on site and may have been talking, but weren't handing anything out; labor has endorsed a Yes vote.)

 Also attending were not-endorsed Janet Godwin (who had a good labor survey and interview) and Karen Woltman (who entered the race late after endorsements were made) and board incumbent Phil Hemingway, who's in mid-term and not on the ballot.

City Fed has also made its Iowa City council endorsements, and all three were present: incumbent Kingsley Botchway and newcomer Mazahir Salih in the at large race and challenger Ryan Hall from the District B race. The off-cycle incumbents were well represented with mayor Jim Throgmorton and council members Rockne Cole and Pauline Taylor.

Endorsements have not been made yet in Coralville, but candidates Meghann Foster and Elizabeth Dinschel were in attendance along with mid-term incumbent Mitch Gross.

County employees were better represented by bosses than rank and file members (I may have been the only one). All five supervisors - Mike Carberry, Kurt Friese, Lisa Green-Douglass, Janelle Rettig, and Rod Sullivan - were at the picnic, though not all at once. Rettig and Carberry are up for re-election next year. Also spotted: Pat Heiden, who finished a very close fourth behind Friese in the 2016 primary for three seats and has been very visible ever since.

County Recorder Kim Painter and County Attorney Janet Lyness were also on hand. Both are on the ballot next year; Painter has seen no opposition since her first term in 1998, and Lyness crushed a 2014 primary opponent by more than two to one.

All three Johnson County state senators - Bob Dvorsky, Joe Bolkcom, and Kevin Kinney - are up next year and all were on hand, along with Rep. Mary Mascher.

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Eclipse


The beauty of the mechanics of the universe, one of God's greatest miracles.

Since I was six years old, during the 1970 event, I have wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun. On Monday, that dream came true. Words have largely failed me since, but as part of my new blogging plan of taking my tweet storms and Facebook posts and archiving them here, I'll try to sum up.

I did not take the photos above. I know just enough about photography to know that astronomical photos are tricky and just enough about astronomy to know that the solar corona is especially hard to capture. So I decided long in advance to simply watch.

And dude, Total Eclipse is a band you gotta see live.

Since seeing the eclipse, I have not been in the mood to Facebook fight about counterproductive political crap, and I'm trying to keep that euphoria going. Though politics, as always, came up even on Eclipse Day.


But Twitter's winner for the day without question was The Boss:

I missed the first day of early voting for the school election:
(Don't worry, I got voted on Wednesday.)

So the eclipse was everything I wanted and more, and now I'm trying to choose a spot for April 8. 2024. I'm thinking Cleveland and the  Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Maybe Bruce will loan me some eclipse shades.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Farmer's Market Fascism

I'm happy with the way things went down at the Farmer's Market.

Vendor has idiotic opinions, looks even more foolish trying to defend himself.

City says no, we can't ban him or break his contract just because of his opinions.

Citizens organize, express their opposition to his opinion, inform the public, and recruit other vendors to their side.

Other citizens decide they would prefer not to do business with a bigot. Business suffers.

This is how it is supposed to work - not with bans, but with the truth winning in the marketplace of ideas.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mein Trumpf, Zweites Buch


There's a lot of scary numbers in this HuffPo poll, but my takeaway post-Charlottesville is: Ballpark of 20% of America really believes this crap. Not to the swastikas level, maybe, but they really do think that Those People are Out Of Line and need to Get Back In Their Place, and that the tiki torch brigade "took it too far" but had some good ideas.  And they would say so themselves if they felt the social and economic independence to do so.


These are the voters who nominated Donald Trump, specifically because of his ethno-nationalism message, spoken openly rather than in thinly veiled code.

But he was elected because the rest of the Republican Party was willing to ignore it.

If "mainstream" Republicans had been serious in their "Never Trump" denunciations, they would have abandoned party for the only viable Stop Trump candidate - Hillary Clinton. That's what many did in 1964 with the then-inacceptable Barry Goldwater. They punted, then they won four years later. And there were fleeting moments of hints of this around convention time.

But those hints faded. First, no one thought Trump would actually win, Then, at end game, they knew he Trump would sign whatever McConnell and Ryan would pass and would appoint staunch conservative judged. So they were willing to overlook Trump's explicit racism/sexism in the hopes he would tone it down once in office, and would be content as a figurehead - which he is in some ways

But the racism/sexism is the one thing Trump really believes, and the mass rallies are the one aspect of the "job" he enjoys. He never wanted the JOB - he wanted the WIN. And beating the most qualified woman in American history just made it sweeter for him.

Part of the problem is Trump, but the bigger problem is the 20% or so of America that actually supports his ethno-nationalism. This is the stock in trade that Steve King has been peddling for 15 years - the anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, anti-liberal stuff that his constituents can't quite define, but can label as "political correctness."

I was saying this months before the caucuses and years ago about Steve King: the Trump base genuinely wants a white monocultural America. They voted for him because they literally want the wall and actually believes in mass deportation. They haven't quite figured out what to do with African Americans yet, but they know they don't want to hear anyone speaking Spanish or any other foreign languages in America.

And I think Trump actually wants these things too. I thing he legitimately does believe that anyone who is not a wealthy white American male is a lesser being. His base is willing to overlook the "wealthy" part, because they dream of becoming rich themselves

It's these cultural things, not "economic anxiety," that shifted the non-college white male working class to Trump, and the only way to win them back is to abandon  the true multicultural base of the modern Democratic party. Which is why, though I will go down fighting, I believe Iowa is lost. We are too old and too white. Texas and Georgia and Arizona will flip to the Democrats, but Iowa is moving the other way.


I say this privately a lot and rarely get disagreement - but you get pushed out of discussion groups if you dare suggest, for example, that the 4th CD is not winnable under any circumstances for a Democrat. Or that a message of Socialism! and Revolution! will win back old white men who are pissed off about "political correctness" because they got called into HR for telling the same Mexican Walks Into A Bar joke their dads used to tell. To these guys, Donald Trump is an aspirational fantasy - a guy (apparantly) so rich that he can day and do anything he wants with no consequences.

And I'm tired of being expected to pretend shit that ain't true.

I don't see a scenario in which the business/mainstream wing of the Republican Party is willing to abandon Trump, the Trumpists, and Trumpism. And that is a big big part of the problem.

I spent way too much of 2016 reading and re-reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. But from that I remember that the Nazi base, the core of genuine anti-semitic Brown Shirt Support, peaked at about 20%. It was only when the Nazis became the de facto party of big business to stop the left that they became the largest party in 1932.  So the "mainstream" conservatives bore some responsibility then - as they do now.

The other fatal mistake in 1930s Germany was the bitter split between center-left and the far left, spurred by the dogmatism of the far left. The Communists were more focused on defeating the Social Democratic Party, which they called "Social Fascists," than in beating the actual fascists. And I fear the repetition of that mistake.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Old Enough To Fight, Old Enough To Smoke?

I hate having to agree with Paul LePage, the Little Trump of Maine, but he does have a point:

Gov. Paul LePage said again Tuesday that he would propose increasing the age to vote or join the military to 21 to be consistent with a new law hiking the legal age to buy tobacco.
“This law subverts the United States Constitution and attempts to ‘social engineer’ legal behavior by adults who want to use a legal product that you don’t like,” LePage wrote to lawmakers on Tuesday. “If you don’t believe 18-year-olds are adults who can make their own decisions, then I hope you will support legislation that increases the voting age to 21 and prevents military service until a person turns 21.”
Unfortunately for LePage, two things would stand in his way: the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. military...
The 26th Amendment, passed in 1971 was only in part about voting rights. It was about the age of adulthood, and really about Vietnam and the draft. "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote" was too powerful an argument to ignore, and rather than give up the Vietnam draftees, they decided to lower the voting age, and the amendment passed in record time

So in the middle of the most unpopular war in our history, we decided by a supermajority that 18 year olds were adults. We believed it so strongly that we locked it into the Constitution itself.

As the 70s continued, we expanded that 18 Is Adult concept into other areas of the law, most notably the drinking age. But by the 80s we started rolling those rights back, starting with the drinking age, and now continuing into smoking.
But we did it differently. We had expanded adult rights to 18 year olds by enshrining it in the Constitution. But in the 80s with alcohol and now with tobacco, we're taking rights away by mere legislation & ordinances.

The fact that we put it in the Constitution, rather than passing mere legislation, means a lot to me, and that needs to be part of any discussion of the issue.

Sadly, in this era you probably could pass an amendment taking the vote away from 18-19-20 year olds, especially since they vote disproportionately Democratic, and disenfranchisement seems to be Page One of the GOP playbook these days.

Through the three bar elections, it was nearly impossible to get anyone to engage me on the issue at this level. It's always: "Yeah, but I hate drunk assholes." And, now, "I hate smokers." (So much of the rhetoric of anti-smokING is really anti-smokER and vilifies people for their own struggle with addiction.)
Most people, even legislators, privately concede to me that 21 is not about 19 and 20 year old college students drinking. No one cares much about that unless they're doing something else that causes trouble. 21 is about 18 year old high school seniors buying for younger friends. To which I say, graduate people at 17, like Harry Potter and I did (oh, wait, Harry never went back to school for year seven) and punish actual offenders instead.

Maybe 18 Is Adult was a mistake, and I know far too well and personally the harm of young adult drinking. If I could change one thing about my life from 17 to 21 - my entire life, really - I would not drink. Alcohol abuse cost me an extra year of college, a point off my GPA and my first serious relationship.

But the age of majority should be consistent and I would rather expand rights than take rights away, even if those rights, like smoking, drinking, and gambling, are of dubious merit.Things would have been very, very different if, instead of expanding voting rights so they could keep shipping 18 year old draftees to Vietnam, they had raised the draft age to 21 instead. 

All I know is no military recruiter should be allowed to contact or even SPEAK to someone who can't order a beer.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Solar Eclipse Play List

I saw a very slim crescent moon last night which means you can now watch the moon and literally count days until it passes right smack in the way of the sun on the August 21 total eclipse.

I've got about a 5 1/2 hour drive to Columbia, Missouri, where I'll be watching the eclipse, and when I have a drive, I need a playlist. It's unfortunately old and uncool, but long time readers know I quit caring.

Let 's get THIS over with first:



Bonnie Tyler's overwrought camp classic has very little if anything to do with astronomy, even if you really stretch and count "your love is like a shadow on me all of the time." Eclipses do involve shadows but they don't happen All Of The Time. In fact, on average any given place on Earth only sees a total eclipse every 375 years. (Carbondale, Illinois is above average and double dipping; they get another one in just seven years on April 8, 2024.)

"Total Eclipse Of The Heart" is just a turn of a phrase by Jim Steinman, the man who gave us Meat Loaf. And if either the moon or sun were heart shaped there would be serious issues with gravity.  But because it's the only song most people can think of that actually has "Total Eclipse" right there in the name, we'll be hearing it all of eclipse week, just like we heard "1999" all over again that one New Years.




Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon is a better listen, and concludes with astronomical accuracy: "There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark." The closing song is even called "Eclipse" and it runs just over two minutes, the approximate duration of totality.

As the narrator notes, "dark side of the moon" is often used incorrectly to refer to the FAR side of the moon that perpetually faces away from Earth. The far side of the moon will be the LIGHT side of the moon during the eclipse, and the near side will be the dark side as it blocks the sun. You may be able to glimpse the surface features of the moon, lit by "earthshine," during totality.

Despite claims by Tori Amos on her 2007 American Doll Posse album, there is absolutely no "Dark Side Of The Sun." Tori clearly flunked Astronomy 101 and needs to listen to They Might Be Giants:



Nice beret. They also offer classes in Turkish geography.

Let's see what more we can learn about eclipses from our playlist.

"Moon Shadow" by Cat Stevens - because an eclipse is the moon's shadow on the earth. If you're being followed by a moon shadow, it'll catch up to you very, very quickly since it's traveling at about 1600 MPH.

I always found this song's imagery of losing parts of your body kind of disturbing when I was a kid. And if I ever lose my eyes... well, then, I guess I won't see the eclipse, will I?




Planet Earth is still mourning the loss of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell but you can sing "black hole sun, won't you come" as you wait for totality, because that's what it looks like. His later effort with Audioslave, "Shadow On The Sun," is astronomically inaccurate. Honorable mention: "Under The Big Black Sun" by X.


"Blinded By The Light" - You can choose the Springsteen original (the eclipse is only 78% total in Asbury Park, New Jersey) or the Manfred Mann hit version, but you'll be Blinded by The Light if you look at the partial phases of the eclipse without proper eye protection. For this reason, "Cheap Sunglasses" by ZZ Top should not be on the playlist.

My eclipse glasses are Stevie Wonder/Ray Charles dark, but looking at the sun through them looks like a rising orange full moon. Honorable mention: U2's "Staring At The Sun."




"Total Eclipse," Iron Maiden: From the classic The Number Of The Beast album, which you know is totally kick-ass because the cover looks like Tipper Gore's nightmare.  This one captures the superstition and fear ancient societies felt about eclipses:
Cold as steel the darkness waits, it's hour will come
A cry of fear for the chosen worshipping the sun
Mother natures black revenge on those who waste her life
War babies in the garden of Eden shall turn our ashes to ice
They could have just cranked this one to 11 and it would have scared the shit out of the sun-eating dragon. Speaking of goes to 11, you do NOT want to hear Spinal Tap's "Rainy Day Sun" on August 21.



"New Moon On Monday," Duran Duran: Because the eclipse is on a Monday and a total eclipse only occurs at new moon. No word on whether a lonely satellite will be visible during totality, but it may be a cold day; there will be a noticeable temperature drop even in places with a significant partial eclipse. The loss of light is enough that it'll affect solar power generation.

"Earth And Sun and Moon," Midnight Oil: Actually that should be "Earth and Moon And Sun." The lineup of Earth, sun, moon would be Bad.


And while the end of totality may be bittersweet, the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun" is an easy choice.

If you want less music and more actual information, nationaleclipse.com is a great resource. You're probably too late for a day off work or booking a hotel, and traffic may be challenging on E-Day. (Normally when I say "E-Day" I mean Election Day.) But I've seen a heavy partial eclipse, in 1979, and even that is pretty cool.

A total eclipse, though, has been on my bucket list since the March 7, 1970 eclipse that Carly Simon so famously sang about. Pro tip: If you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia, you'd be in one of the worst places to watch with just 57% totality.

Not on the list: "It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding," Bob Dylan. Opening line "Darkness at the break of noon" should make it an automatic. But he loses points for the astronomically impossible "eclipses both the sun and moon," and gets crossed off entirely for "even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked." Not even Melania wants to see that.