Thursday, November 03, 2011

Sustain, Not Payne

The buzzword of the Jarrett Mitchell campaign has been "sustainability." That sounds really nice to Iowa City lefty environmentalists, recycling their stuff and riding their bikes to New Pi.

But a closer look shows that Mitchell offers little in the way of practical solutions, and that the real choice for sustainability in the at large race is Raj Patel.

On his entry into the race, much mirth was made about Mitchell being "the chicken guy," due to his support for the urban chicken permit proposal that fizzled a couple years ago. He embraced the label, posing with a chicken for his campaign photo. The resulting ID ("I'm voting for the Chicken Man") probably gave him the eleven extra votes he needed to overcome a heavily favored Mark McCallum for fourth place in the primary.

To be direct, Mitchell's appeal is his persona. Lefties who'd like to Stick It To The Man love the vision of a pigtailed coffee shop owner carrying a chicken into Harvat Hall. And image is part of any candidate's complete package. Iowa City lefties have elected unconventional politicians before. Some, and Karen Kubby stands out, have been extremely effective at working within the system while pushing the boundaries. Others, like Steven Kanner, have been obstacles that in the long term set the local progressive cause back. Mitchell shows signs of the latter.

I'm not trying to pick on appearance, I had shoulder length hair myself until it fell out around age 30. Let's look at substance. Here's how Mitchell leads his discussion of sustainability.
I am concerned with both sustainability and discouraging governmental favoritism of corporate interests over local business.

Sustainability through cycling and urban farming is becoming exponentially more popular regardless of City Council’s stance on these issues. Will City Council be proactive in changing zoning and animal ordinances to allow citizens to legally provide for themselves and the community, or will they continue to obstruct and compartmentalize our lives?

Urban chickens and urban farming are symbiotic. Ordinances in countless other communities have proven that only the most responsible citizens take advantage of the legal right to own chickens. They will be the ones who recognize how important our proximity to our food source is.

Sustainability proliferates through tangible experience; let us not make this experience illegal.
Chickens take up way too much space. There's more, sure, but the emphasis seems very single issue, axe to grind.

What's the impact? The Gazette recently looked at the issue in Cedar Rapids and found only 19 chicken permits in a city of over 100,000. Iowa City is smaller but more earthy-crunchy, so let's round that up to a couple dozen. How many jobs is that? How much carbon footprint is that? It's a cool symbol, and matters a whole lot to a very few people, but it's not a real solution.

Here's what Michelle Payne (R-Midamerican) has to say about sustainability.
(chirp... chirp...)
OK, so it's not her thing. What IS her thing? "We need to grow our community through economic development. Growing the existing businesses and encouraging new development will increase our tax base and create more jobs."

As noted yesterday, Payne is the candidate of the old guard, business as usual crowd in Iowa City, the developers and contractors. So if you're about sustainability, you need to stop her.

Raj Patel puts sustainability at the very top of his platform page:
I Want to Make Jobs and Quality of Life a Priority in Iowa City by…

  • Promoting a sustainable future in Iowa City

  • Incentivizing businesses and residents to improve the environmental efficiency of their buildings by providing tax incentives to individuals willing to retrofit their dwellings

  • Working with organizations like the homebuilder’s association to determine what would be necessary to ensure that new development projects that provide housing in the city also include affordable housing units.

  • Encouraging new buildings to seek US Green Building Association LEED certification
  • Look at the primary results. Payne and Raj Patel finished very, very close, 72 votes apart and well behind Matt Hayek. Mitchell was an order of magnitude behind. Candidates have recovered from narrow primary deficits to win in November, but no one in the 36 year history of Iowa City's present electoral system has ever come back from a poor fourth place in the October primary to win.

    Yeah, in a theoretical way this election would be a neat test of a ranked voting system. We don't have that. We have the top two wins. Jarrett Mitchell will not be in the top two. He will not be in the top three. The choice is between Raj Patel and Michelle Payne.

    What's more significant to sustainability: a niche proposal affecting very few people, or LEED certified buildings?

    What's more significant to the progressive cause in Iowa City: a protest vote for a guy with a funky persona, or actually electing someone with a constructive plan?

    If your motivations are partisan, the two Democrats in the race are Hayek and Patel. Mitchell is a libertarian and Payne, in a strong statement of core beliefs in a 70% Obama county, is a registered Republican.

    What if your real motivation is Sticking It To The Man? It's clear who The Man wants: Michelle Payne. Sticking It To The Man means defeating her. A bullet vote for the earthy-crunchiest candidate -- Mitchell is openly asking people to only vote for him and not use their second vote -- risks electing her.

    If you're willing to give Matt Hayek a pass for being "a good Democrat," a vote for him doesn't really hurt. I like Matt personally and don't really want him to lose. I just didn't feel like I could affirmatively vote for him again, and he's going to win anyway without my one little vote.

    But if you do, don't mark that ballot just for Matt. The important thing is not to be fooled by the pink signs and the unfortunate lack of other women on the ballot, and take the most positive action you can to stop Michelle Payne. If you really feel the need to make that Jarrett Mitchell statement, then mark that second choice for the electable sustainable candidate, Raj Patel.

    And if you're thinking Hayek and Mitchell, think strategically. Matt will win without your second vote just as well as he will without mine. Why risk getting Hayek and Payne instead?

    And if you really want to Stick It To The Man, what better way than electing the first student in 32 years?

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