Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lessons learned from Medford’s 2015 local election

1. There were originally going to be three mayoral debates. The first was cancelled, so there were only two, and the second was only a few days before the election. That leaves most people’s opinions set before the debates, which makes them spectacle instead of information. Recommendation: Be clear about the schedule and venue, schedule them earlier in the election cycle, and make sure they are available online.

2. The city council forum happened after the primary, which meant that the most interested voters had to vote once for city council before that forum. It also was not a real debate of any sort. Recommendation: Schedule an actual debate earlier in the election cycle, and make sure it is available online.

3. The school committee forum happened shortly before the election, and was never made available online. Recommendation: Schedule an actual debate earlier in the election cycle, and make sure it is available online.

4. The city completely failed to make videos available, despite having multiple public access channels and a lot of video equipment. There should have been clear videos from the candidates, and clear videos of the debates and forums. An informed electorate makes for a better community.

5. The city mostly failed to publicize the primary and the general election. Other communities near us do a much better job. We should be trying to increase public participation in our elections.

6. Candidates did not want to run in slates, and no community group stepped up to create a slate. It is difficult to do research on 28 candidates for various local offices, and it is difficult to decide whether to prioritize bullet voting for your favorite candidate or to use all your votes to try to vote against your least favorite candidate or to increase the chances of electing incumbents or challengers. Slates simplify research and help elect people. There are principled reasons to oppose slate voting, but there are practical reasons to support slate voting. The only time that a slate was used in the last 8 elections was when a local school advocacy group formed and recommended a slate of 4 candidates for the 6 school committee slots. That slate won.

7. Voters are actually willing to support a tax override for a reasonably specific purpose.

8. Voters elect incumbents, even when there are highly qualified challengers.

9. Voters rejected the only two teachers running for school committee, the only city planner running for city council, and the only two minority candidates for city council.

10. There’s a lot of noisy fear-mongering and hate-mongering on social media.

11. Penta seemed to have a huge advantage in yard signs, advertising, noisy supporters, social media presence, and actual campaigning in the community. It was not enough to overcome his long history of alienating people as a hateful politician. He tried to make this election a referendum on McGlynn, but it ended up being a referendum on Penta.

12. Falco has huge support in the community. It would be interesting to see him run for mayor.

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