Election season open thread

Yard signs are popping up, there are forums every week, elected officials are suddenly acting a lot nicer to us... what else is new y'all?



OK, I'll start. How about the recent shooting (6 hurt, http://www.newsobserver.com/264/story/722164.html ) and apartment fire (1 dead, http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/721956.html). WTF?

My first post! :)

Did anyone go to the Women's League Forum for Chapel Hill Town Council candidates tonight? I had to miss and would love a recap.

This morning I deviated from my usual morning bike route and biked up Rogers to Eubanks. I was surprised to see not a single campaign sign anywhere along Rogers -- quite different from what I'm seeing near and in the residential neighborhoods in town both in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

What's up with that? Seems odd to me.

Well, I've got a nice set of matching green signs on my lawn. As for the shooting, I agree, WTF. The DTH did a nice job informing the student body about ONE-STOP NO EXCUSES.

Eric, my signs, like last round, will be out on Rogers, Eubanks, etc.

I'd be interested in hearing the impressions of other folks who went to the forum tonight or watched it on tv.

Kevin Wolff's performance from start to finish was the oddest I've even seen someone do in one of these things.

Eric, When my signs go up, they'll be distributed around the district as the campaign volunteers can do. Of course, we can always use more volunteers. Mike

Hey Brooks. The LoWV has kindly allowed me to post a video of tonight's forum on GoogleVideo. I'm about half-way done preparing the video. It'll take about 10 hours to upload. I'll post a link as soon as it's available.

BTW, originally the Sierra Club was going to let me help them post their forum on the 'net but Loren H. has since said they plan to post it themselves. As soon as I find out the status of that video I'll post a link to it.

I haven't seen a peep about the Carrboro LoWV forum on here unless I missed it, was it recorded too? I couldn't locate a transcript or video on the local chapter's website.

Jay, I'll ask Vicki if that one is available. If so, I'll see if they will let me post it on the 'net.

BTW, haven't heard back from the Sierra Club yet - I'll try to get a copy of both forums if anyone is interested.

Great...can someone post the links to the forum when they are up?

The N&O rather pointedly blames the apartment complex's structural design (above ground) for letting the fire spread so quickly. It crossed my mind while reading the paper that Carrboro's Land Use Ordinance might need some tweaking. The report doesn't say when (on whose watch) the complex was built.

As for the shootings on Rosemary Street, I wish that building could be condemned. A fire inspector could have a field day in there. The entrance is cooped and dangerous, the walls and floor are painted black, it's lit with black lights, yuck. Kevin Foy said something about shutting the club down, but the place invites trouble even under new management. Who owns it?

I just have to say that I miss the dollar theater. We have so few cool theaters left, and the last thing we needed was another icky club.

I think I'm in the mood to review the current crop of campaign signs, as always with an eye on graphics, clarity, message, aesthetic and artistic appeal, structural integrity, etc. I'll start work soon.

I think I may like to carve out a niche for myself as "campaign sign critic," in the non-pejorative sense.


Duncan, go for it! Yard signage = art.

Go, Duncan! Send it on when you are ready...

I'm over here in Egypt wishing it were a bit easier to get an absentee ballot. It's not THAT hard, but I wish it were easy. So I'm feeling a wee bit disenfranchised.

I didn't get a chance to listen to all of Ron's WCHL morning show today but, from what I heard, the only thing WCHL considered important from last night's event was Jim giving me a hard time because I went 19 seconds over on an answer.

Is that really the only thing of value from last night? Really disappointing.

Luckily, the upload is almost finished and folks will have some small opportunity to see that 1) unlike WCHL's characterization that the non-incumbents were scrambling they each brought a fairly developed agenda, 2) the incumbents were challenged on their record and 3) I wasn't the only person running over the time limit ;-) (heck, when Jim got a chance to answer the same question I did he went 14 seconds over).

I have 11 teams of people putting up signs around the school district but I am encouraging them to take their time because the ground is rock hard. Folks are getting creative with their methods including slamming the stakes with five-pound weights. Anyone else used or heard of creative methods to get this job done?

A cordless drill with an old auger or paddle bit.

we would used to take some water to the holes and drive them in

I've used Mark's technique, and it works like a charm, especially for the metal, two-footed signs with the narrow gauge. For the wooden stakes, using the drill works also, but you've got to drill a few holes right next to each other to loosen up a big enough hole. Also, don't use a hammer or mallet or anything else directly on the sign, whether it's metal-framed or wood-staked. Have a small scrap piece of 2x4 or a scrap piece of plywood to use between hammer and sign. You'll break far fewer signs.


I used a ten-lb sledge hammer (shortening up the grip so I was using it almost like a regular hammer) for the STROM signs I put up. This technique would not be for everyone but I got 49/50 signs in without breaking the wooden stake. And they were all in far enough to withstand a pretty good tug from all directions.

And remember not to staple your signs to the stakes before you nail them in. The jarring of the hammer will loosen the staples and, if it ever rains again, the signs will then fall off the stakes. Hammer the stake in and then staple the signs on.

You can buy a 1" paddle bit that will work for bigger holes for wooden stakes.

Another way to solve the problem is not to have signs. Having signs has been such conventional wisdom that we really have no proof that they do any good anyway.

Candidates in Cornelius, North Carolina outside Charlotte entered into a compact to all not do signs this year. This apparently has been done in Davidson for years.

I'd like to see that happen here. Too late for this fall but maybe our Senate and County Commissioner candidates could do it next year.

Candidates can either raise less money if they don't have signs or use the money they would have spent on signs to communicate with voters in a more substantive manner about the issues.

But it would only work if everyone agreed.

Just food for thought...

I think not having signs is a great idea. I'd like to see mailers go as well. Not a very good allocation of resources if you ask me, and for all the people with green signs, claiming to be green, that sure is a lot of paper.

Video of last night's forum is available here.

Thanks again to the Orange Chatham Durham League of Women Voters for both sponsoring the forum and making this video more widely accessible.

Still haven't heard back from the Sierra Club. I'm hoping their forum will be posted by the end of this week.

But if there aren't any signs, then Duncan won't have anything to do!

It looks this year like most candidates are using wooden stakes. They're a bitch to pound in, compared with the metal h-frames. The metal frames are less green, made to insert into plastic signs which are a lot less green, but gosh it's a much easier proposition.

PS: I would be fine with a sign-free election season. The campaign industry has probably studied their value.

I like Mr. Jensen idea of no sign pact.

I always used paper and wooden stakes because these were renewable products and would decay if they didn't get picked up after the election.

Steel is recyclable (scrap prices have never been higher) and the paper signs that go on them are the same as the ones that go on the wood stakes.........

Steel frames hold paper signs if and only if you opt for paper signs. I've seen at least a few in past few cycles which were plastic-board. Steel takes a great deal of energy to recycle, but my wooden stakes from last cycle have held up a great number of tomatoes, contained a compost heap, and even formed a nice shelf for some potted plants, while still being quite usable to hold yard signs should that opportunity ever arise again. :)

I recycled my steel frames by passing them along to another candidate. It pleases me to see them planted all over Carrboro again.

In 2005 I went with a modest amount of signs and waited fairly late to put them up. I sent two targeted printings both on recycled card stock. I believe the joint card that Mark, Laurin, Bill and I sent was also on recycled material.

I lost to a guy who sent me and my neighbors thousands of bucks of huge, glossy cards, whose signs I spent the better part of three weeks picking up, who even had some last minute laminates for the polling locales. I also lost to Bill Thorpe who ran a more modest operation.

So, how important is the paper blizzard in today's Chapel Hill? Hard to say.

As far as my signs - they're getting reused/recycled this round. Many of the stakes I've picked up over the years have made their way back into other campaigns, gardens, playhouses and other useful purposes.

If you take care of the cardboard stock (and it's of OK quality - not droopy like Ed's) you can actually retarget them (AFTER THE ELECTION, PLEASE) to announce all sorts of nonsense.

I've had signs I collected that candidates told me to recycle end up advertising yard sales, Emerson-Waldorf's festival, school events, etc.

Finally, as far as steel versus wooden stakes - I chose steel.

It was a more difficult choice than one might expect. The secondary environmental consequences of using fresh cut lumber versus rolled steel are not quite commensurate. I decided to go with something I knew could be reused and recycled over many years. The vendor claimed (something I couldn't verify) that their hangers were made in a micro-mill for recycled steel.

The downside of steel - from a cost point of view - is it is more expensive to purchase and more expensive to ship.

I've collected quite a few hangers and redistributed them over the years. Unfortunately I was fresh out this year or I would've sent some down to Raleigh.

Mine have worked this year while Bill Strom's and Penny Rich's haven't (I've fixed a ton of their signs so far - whomever is doing Sally's has got the trick of it - I suggest candidates do a quick consult with her).

Along with my yearly cleanup of signs I think I'm going to start a small clearinghouse (with my wife's permission) for steel hangers. There's no reason we can't help the next round of candidates cut their costs and do the right thing by the environment.

Again, any candidate that would like me to pickup their signs after the election, drop me a line at signs AT willraymond.org. Please indicate your preferred disposition.

I agree with Tom Jensen. A sign has never changed my view on a candidate. They are more of an eyesore, become pollution after the election, and in 2007, money can be more environmentally and visually less offensively spent on protraying the candidate in progressive ways.
If I had 11 teams of people putting up signs, I'd use them to meet the voters and express their passion about issues and change. I retain more from a friendly face, than from a floppy sign in the highway right of way.

back in the 70s they was an informal understanding in Chapel Hill -- no yard signs. I never had one in any of my 4 campaigns, nor do I remember seeing one.

Oh yeah, 1970s ...the sign revolt..."Sign, sign everywhere a sign, blocking up the scenery, breakin my mind. Do this, don't do that can't you read the sign?"

Great, now this'll be running thru my head all night...why are we talking about signs?

Let's face it. If one candidate chooses not to put signs, that candidate will lose. The cardinal rule of campaigning is to do what everybody else does. This means putting signs, printing brochures, sending letters, and showing up in public.

sunflower seed, money plant good. Run for the legislature, do not give out meat.

http://www.ncleg.net/enactedlegislation/statutes/html/bysection/chapter_... (last amended in 1801)

Once, again. Your sign will not get you elected.
Your personality and endorsements will.

A few years ago I proposed a modest "public financing" proposal.

There is plenty of wood going into the landfill that can be ripped into sign stakes. A town employee could take a day, rip hundreds of stakes, and make them available for pick-up by registered candidates.

Based on my experience working on campaigns I would say there is an inversely proportional relationship between the amount of time a candidate spends personally worrying about and working on his/her signs and electoral success.

As long as everyone has them signs are pretty much a wash and having more signs at more intersections might pick you up about 20 votes.

Candidates are much better served spending the time they devote to signs going door to door, meeting with potential supporters, and doing other things that resonate with voters on a one on one basis- the best way to get a vote.

That all said, I am definitely looking forward to Duncan's analysis!

Last night the Carrboro BOA agreed to contact Chapel Hill about approaching OWASA for tightening their drought restrictions. Since OWASA still has to generate revenue, their relatively lax irrigation policies do serve a purpose--the organization has to meet its payroll and maintain infrastructure. Are there ways for the towns to help OWASA meet those budget expenses while protecting our water resources (lakes were 54% full as of yesterday and the state climatologist is predicting a drier than normal winter)?

Is drought one of the first impacts of global warming that elected officials need to begin addressing now, instead of waiting until its even more of an emergency? If so, what are some good questions to pose to Carrboro candidates at next weeks Chamber of Commerce forum and the Orange County Dems forum?

Terri, maybe the question should be one of "carrying capacity"? We've been saying there's limits to growth beyond the traditional metrics our local elected folks have been using - we should be leveraging concern about the drought to move us forward.

A real inventory of those elements that make a community sustainable would be a good start. Establishing policy - whether we're going to ship garbage far afield and draw water from remote locales - or try to "live within our means" would be a great next step.

Mark, like the idea.

Toms probably right about becoming too concerned about signs. I've had help this year putting up and maintaining my signs. I've asked them to keep an eye on them as they go to-and-fro but that's about it.

This year I made a conscious decision not to go sign crazy like Bill or others have. One thing though, I don't like the signs littering the landscape - and this year - for some reason - particular candidates signs are ending up trashing the roadsides. If you see me out on the side of the road this year, there's a very good chance I'm picking up some other candidates signs (which I try to repair).

I would LOVE to see other candidates - including the incumbents - out picking up their signs and trying to keep our community from becoming a trash pile. Nothing like a little sweat equity and hands on responsibility.

An open note to Matt Czajkowski:

620 Market Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Regal Timberlyne 6
120 Banks Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Chelsea Theater
Timberlyne Shopping Center
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Varsity Theatre
123 E. Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

I would suggest that you get to know Chapel Hill, instead of deserting us for The Streets at South Point. Come to Southern Village, park in one of the many lots or garages, have dinner, walk to a movie, then stroll up the block for a gelato and coffee afterwards. Spend your tax dollars here.

Excellent suggestion Robert - thanks for pointing this out to the challenger in question.

The block rates that took effect on Monday will help revenue stabilization. Higher water users will pay more.

Basically, we need to take the long view. Water rates will rise with decreased useage. But they will not rise as much as they will with increased useage. In other words, the cost of water is going up and conservation is the strategy to minimize the increases. New water supplies are the most expensive option of all.

The good news - we have great opportunities to reduce our water useage in this community.

OK, now I guess I need to actually write something about signs again. I need a little help, because I think it would work best as a web slideshow. I was up in Chapel Hill inspecting this year's crop of signs, but I forgot my camera, and now that I'm back at my desk some of the signs are already fading from memory. (That should tell me something.)

Anyway, if candidates, volunteers, and/or nice random people with digital cameras were to send me photos of the signs in Orange County, I'd really appreciate it. Please send them to letters@rattlejar.com . Once I get a bunch of photos, I'll know which ones I still need to get, and then I can go out with my camera and hunt them down.

And for the record, I'd be in favor of some sort of mutual disarmament on signs. Campaign signs interest me, for one thing, because so many of them are ineffective. Good ones are gold, though.

(I'm also interested because my parents used to take me down to the National Museum of American History in DC, where I loved the section on elections with the huge collection of buttons and signs -- "I Like Ike", etc., which also included recordings of campaign jingles. THAT'S something I'd like to hear more -- campaign jingles. A good campaign jingle can be a very sophisticated and fun way to get your name very securely planted in a voter's brain.)

Does anyone other than me think that it is time to add a discussion about the number of new residences the area's water supply can handle ? Why are we limiting the use of current customers while putting no limit on the new faucets ?

Duncan, first 2003's movie madness and now you're suggesting putting music to the madness? For shame ;-)!

30,000 gallons a month per meter. I've never had any customer in the OWASA area ever use that much, even without restrictions. Even with damaged pipes.
I did the calculations on several IRRIGATION systems that I manage and the average use per house per IRRIGATION cycle is about 550 gallons.
With current water restrictions, that comes to about 2700 gallons per month. Far under the 30,000 gallon IRRIGATION assumption.



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