Will VOE = VOA?

Fred Black's picture

During the election season we heard a lot about why Voter Owned Elections (VOE) were needed in Chapel Hill and how it would put power in the hands of the voters instead of some unnamed "big money forces." We now have had the election and the next test is the appointment to fill the Strom seat.

So for those who say the voters should have control, will they now re-frame their arguments to preclude the voters from engaging in a Voter Owned Appointment (VOA)? The facts are simple; there has not only been a debate over when to have the Council make their decision but also who should be appointed.  Some wanted the newly elected Council to make the decision.  Some want the candidate on the ballot who came in fifth to be appointed.

I don't know why Mr. Strom timed his resignation as he did or what advantage he was trying to achieve, but I assume he believed that his sitting colleagues would fill the seat.  We have even been told by Mayor Foy that the person should have Strom-like values.  We have not been told which ones should or should not be included, but the departure "game" is not one that I think we should champion. But as I said, we don't know or understand why this was done, just like I don't understand why Mr. Hill would put his character, integrity or honor on the line to send a questionable message on a postcard to voters.  As a former candidate and Council member he knows the Board of Elections has rules, and one would think he would check before writing his check. So, there are many things we don't know.

We do know that we need to make an appointment.  The person who finished fifth had more votes than any non-candidate had.  Why would we not appoint him, unless we have a non-VOA goal in mind.  Mayor Foy has been open in expressing his social engineering goal.  It appears from the election that our voters will elect African Americans; they put two more on the School Board, suggesting that it is really about the candidates that they have to choose from.

To not select the fifth place finisher says we don't believe in Voter Owned Appointments.  To try to engineer the Council to reflect a social goal will offend citizens of every race; it ignores what voters just said.  So this is not like the situation in prior appointments because we have just voted. And I want to also believe, like President Obama said, that those we elect should be capable of speaking for the entire electorate.

So, very soon we will learn how the members of our new Council of eight , six of whom voted for VOE and/or ran as a VOE candidate, will answer the question.  We can only hope that they also believe in VOA.

Tags: 

issue: 

Total votes: 1

42 Comments

IRV in NC

The NC legislature gave 2 communities, Cary and Hendersonville, the option to use IRV in 2007. This past year, only Hendersonville used that option. Cary went back to regular elections. I'd like to see all 3 of our local government bodies petition the legislature to give Orange County to option to 1) adopt IRV, and 2) to move our elections to years in which there are national election as a means to improve turnout.

Brooks Rainey Pearson's picture

I'll play devil's advocate.

Terri, I agree with both of your suggestions.Fred, I'll play devil's advocate: Tom Jensen's polling found 38% of people in favor of appointing one of the losing candidates from last week's election to Bill Strom's seat.  It also found that 57% think it is important to have an African-American on the Council.  Granted, we can't know how many of the people polled actually voted, but how do we account for those numbers in determining the will of the voters in regards to filling Strom's seat?     

James Barrett's picture

lies damn lies and statistics

I really don't care for your (and Tom's) implication that these are 2 separate sets of people who support a non-winner candidate vs an African-American.  I said "yes" to both questions on the poll -- I do think it is "important" for A-A representation in our town (plenty of examples of previous council members who have provided great representation) and I do support (as did a plurality -- it was certainly closer than your presenting "38%" says) the 5th place finisher getting chosen.  They were 2 different questions, so it was easy (and appropriate) to support both.  The actual discernment between those obviously conflicting choices now rests with the council.

Jason Baker's picture

Actually, James

As per the PPP poll, a plurality did NOT support appointing the fifth place finisher: the results were 38% for, 38% against, and 24% undecided (link).  I think it is a reasonable hypothesis that, like the Council, many members of the electorate were waiting for the result of last Tuesday's election before making up their mind about how the appointment should be made, and that a lack of African American representation on new Council may play into their post-election thinking.

Barbara Crockett's picture

As should the actual vote counts,

the closeness of the races, and the fact that other African American candidates did prevail on election day. I think African American presence is important, as is Hispanic, Asian, and other ethnicities. I think it's nice to have diverse income groups represented (which VOE did not achieve this time around but may in the future), diverse sexual orientations, diverse ages, and the list could go on and on. I think everyone was surprised by how close the PPP poll put the mayoral & town council races - the latter being mostly too close to call.  Knowing what the vote actually turned out to be, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the answers to some of the questions posed before the election would be different if asked today. The PPP poll is interesting, but not conclusive.  

The PPP Poll

Polls are only valid when they are unbiased. Given Tom Jensen's relationship with some of the candidates; given that he did this poll on his own rather than for a client; and given that we know nothing about his sampling strategy, I'm finding it hard to believe that an educated citizenry would be willing to base any decisions on the findings of the poll. The voters of Chapel Hill had an opportunity to elect an African-American to council, and they chose not too. That counts a lot more than any poll in my book. Oh wait a minute---voting is the virtual equivalent of a poll, except that it has real consequences.

Jason Baker's picture

Inappropriate

Quite frankly, I'm getting sick of the baseless accusations and downright conspiracy theories that have been thrown around left and right this Fall, and hoped that once we moved past the election that we could get past that.You insinuating that Tom, a well-regarded pollster whose business depends on his reputation, made up the results of a poll (or at least biased those results) in order for it to oppose the fifth place finisher before we even knew who that person was.  Do you have any evidence whatsoever to support your doubt aside from the fact that the poll doesn't support your view?

Thank you Jason.  Not to

Thank you Jason.  Not to mention that the poll, although largely accurate, actually skewed slightly toward the 'pro-business' candidates by showing Matt with a slight lead over Mark and showing Penny virtually tied with Pohlman and Dehart when she ended up leading them by a good amount.Terri, I don't know what you do for a living, but I am not so in too deep about local politics that I would impugn your professional reputation to score a point in a relatively meaningless discussion on OP.  Let's keep some perspective here folks.

Using polls to drive policy

I am not insinuating that Tom made up any data. I am suggesting that he conducted a poll to drum up some business for his company and provide some interesting fodder for local discussion at the same time. And if all this poll was being used for was fun, I'd agree. But now you
and others are using it as a basis for driving a policy decision. Any
time data is used to drive policy, you better make damn sure the data
is reliable (would get the same results if repeated) and valid
(measures what it intended to measure).

gercohen's picture

From what I know ...

Tom Jensen is someone with a great interest in Chapel Hill, who graduated three or four years ago and moved on to other things, including now being one of the national pollsters with the highest reputation and one of the most accurate. He chose to donate some of his resources to do a poll for Chapel Hill out of personal interest. As he mentions, the poll skewed MORE conservative than the actual results (probably because of the undersampling of younger more Democratic voters who are more likely to use cell phones, something he posted about as he annoucned he was doing the poll). So now we get folks knocking results they don't like because they don't like the results.   By the way, everyone who lost the election did so because they did NOT win. They got less votes.

Pohlman

"The voters of Chapel Hill had an opportunity to elect an African-American to council, and they chose not too."The voters of Chapel Hill had an opportunity to elect Matt Pohlman to council, and they chose not to.

One of the things I'm studying

in my MPA program this semester is how an election design can drastically change the outcome, and how hard it is to design a good election with Kenneth Arrows principles and impossibility theorem and all that.  Which if anything my professor is telling me is true, I shouldn't believe that a 4 way election will tell us who would be 5th in a 5 way election.  I like the idea of the new council which reflects the will of the most recent vote appointing to the position better than the idea of the old council doing so.  The best option to find out who people want in the spot at this point would be to have another election just to fill that one spot, although I doubt if there are provisions for that, and it would probably be pretty expensive too. But if we can't have direct democracy, representative democracy isn't something we're by any means unaccustomed to.  Given that, I think if the newly elected council takes the recent vote results (however poor of predictor for 5th place they might be), the voice of the community in giving them ample opprotunity to express their concerns, and balance that against the strengths and weaknesses of the newly elected council, then they will can come up with an acceptable solution in a situation where there is no ideal solution (short of another election).

Damon Seils's picture

Re: One of the things I'm studying

Jake, your professor is telling you the truth. The outcome of a four-way election does not necessarily bear any relation to who would have come in fifth in a five-way election. That's why the insistence on appointing the imaginary fifth-place finisher is so puzzling, especially when those supporting it claim to want to respect the will of the voters.It seems to me that respecting the will of the voters would involve, among other things, looking at the candidates who did win in this pick-four election (rather than those who lost) and considering how those results might reflect what the voters wanted.

Barbara Crockett's picture

Not imaginary

The fifth place finisher is not imaginary. Even the PPP poll taken a couple of days before the election described all but one of those council seats as "too close to call," and "within the margin of error." That represents support. Would that it mean an invitation to sit at the table.  

Barbara Crockett's picture

5th Place Finisher

In the last election there was a mere 1% difference between the 4th and 5th place finishers. The difference between the 2nd and 3rd place finishers and the 5th place finisher was a scant 2%. Comparatively speaking, a lot of the Chapel Hill electorate supported Mr. Pohlman. The school board race was interesting. There were many fine candidates, but only two were African American. Both African American candidates were among the top vote getters. Out of three open seats, they are filling two. Neither race nor sexual orientation were factors in our recent elections. Bravo to Chapel Hill and Orange County voters. These races were about issues. How many communities can say that?This race was unprecedented for another reason as well. As much as I like and admire our mayor-elect, for the first time ever, or at least for the first time in recent memory, the winner of Chapel Hill's mayoral election received less than 50% of all the votes cast. By any measure a significant segment of the local population does not feel their concerns are heard by municipal government. Ours is a winner-take-all system so the influence of the winners is not proportional to the number of votes cast. Seating Mr. Pohlman will in no way threaten the power base of the Orange County Democratic Party voting block, but even if it did, it would still be the fair thing to do.

James Barrett's picture

school board

Barbara, I have to disagree that the school board race was about issues.  Given the scant media attention overall, the only thing I saw a lot of voters doing was using the Independent as a guide to voting for school board.  And since one of the candidates they endorsed apparently didn't fill out a questionnaire, you have to really wonder if they cared a bit about issues either.

Cam Hill's picture

That time again

FredIsn't now about the time after every election that you proclaim that if the people who didn't vote, had voted; the results would have been different?I did break a rule. In the mailer I should have added: Not paid for by any candidate. The correction to that will appear this week in the paper. Other than that no other rules were broken. I don't know what was questionable about the postcard; it was completely factual.While you feel completely comfortable questioning Bill's and my character willy nilly; I only feel comfortable labeling you an irrelevant, tiresome wind bag.Cam

Fred Black's picture

Willy Nilly?

Cam, you seem to relish being a "rule breaker," as another thread here shows.  Would you have registered your "PAC" if you had not been smoked out? Will you tell us who assisted you, editorially or financially and certify it under oath?Lot's of folks have enjoyed trying to label me over the years, so I'm pretty immune to it, especially when your actions and words above speak volumes about your character and nothing about mine.  Recommendation: When you see my name, hit delete.  When you hear my voice, turn the dial.  When you see me in print, crumble the paper - it's just that simple.  Such actions reveal a true commitment to remaining in your mental cave.

Cam Hill's picture

Under oath?

I DID register the PAC. I was never trying to get away with anything. I made an error listed above which is being corrected as per the NC BOE. They aren't upset with me, why are you? My daughter helped me write it, the next report is due 11/19, you can look at that for a complete $$ picture, the current report might salve your libido until then..... Cam

Fred Black's picture

Next Week?

The election was November 3d so why not register before the fact rather than at the 11th hour?  Why are so many friends and associates of yours, including the candidate that you thought you were helping, upset with what you did? Or, are they not truthful, or did those of us who heard their comments hear wrong? 

Fred Black's picture

Really?

I didn't think right and wrong had a shelf life. Interesting response given all the talk this election about "Chapel Hill values."  As a citizen of Chapel Hill, I think it should be something we just don't dismiss so lightly.

Cam Hill's picture

Under oath? Right and wrong

FredYou don't like what I did, I get that. Impugning my character, mis-stating the facts, hyperventilating about under oath, right and wrong is just silly. Its just not that big a deal. Terri Given your stated opinions it's no wonder that you think PPP's poll is biased. The voters of Chapel Hill had an opportunity to elect Matt Pohlman to council and they chose not to..... Cam

jondehart's picture

He did not identify who he was supporting or who sent it

The content was what it was .   He is entitled to state his opinion of how he sees things . If he had followed the law, this would not be an issue for me . If he did not know, he should have known . Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.  I believe that if you are an elected public offficial or formerly elected public officicial, that you have an obligation that is higher than the standard citizen.   Just as Matt C. and Mark K handled themselves as gentleman . They could have lowered themselves , however they chose to not to. I appreciate how they behaved in public. They both deserve kudos .  

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Zzzz

Perhaps Fred and Cam could get a room? I can think of a few other OP regulars who might join you.  Everyone else is probably either geting bored or annoyed.  I'm going to try to take Fred's advice: "When you see my name, hit delete."  I've got better things to do with my limited time and sanity. PS: Way to spoil the nice community buzz I had after the beautiful celebration of Yonni Chapman's life this afternoon.  I'll try to start a new post on that, maybe titled "WWYD?"

George C's picture

How About Taking A Deep Breadth...?

Alright Cam and Fred, you both have a long history of caring about Chapel Hill.  So how about taking a deep breadth, refraining from further name calling, and let's direct our attention to the real issues:  what are the problems Chapel Hill faces and how might we solve them without slitting each others' throats.The new Council will appoint Bill Strom's replacement and THEY will make the decision as they see most appropriate.  Since everyone has their own opinion as to how that decision should be made I would suggest that everone with an opinion show up at the designated Council meeting and make your opinion known - and in a courteous and civil manner.  Everyone will not be happy with the Council's decision but everyone should be heard who wants to be heard.  And everyone should be courteous to each other and hear each other out.In the meantime, we have some really important issues that the new Council will need to deal with and perhaps instead of insulting each other we might want to start suggesting some solutions.  I certainly didn't hear many during the campaigning.  How best to deal with panhandling?  What are some solutions to the homelessness issues?  How do we get the growth and development necessary to sustain Chapel Hill without gentrifying neighborhoods?With all the brainpower we have in this Community, with all the people who care about this Community, we can do much, much more than waste our time hurling insults or innuendos at each other.  Let's go back to what I remember I like best about Chapel Hill - a willingness to LISTEN to each other and to work out differences with civility and respect.

Hypocrisy

Just imagine if a Matt supporter sent a similar postcard charging that Mark's values were out of sync with those of CH voters. And, then imagine if Matt had won by 100 votes. You all would be OK with it I am sure.By the way, when did "progressives" become values voters?