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Tim Myers: Campaign 2010: the election of complaints

Myers' Musings

Posted: April 3, 2010 10:49 p.m.
Updated: April 4, 2010 4:55 a.m.

On this Easter Sunday 2010, now just nine days from vote-counting day on April 13, I continue with my humble historical monograph of the 2010 City Council elections that ended about 10 to 12 days ago with the submission of sufficient vote-by-mail ballots to fix the outcome.

In these installments, I attempt to provide a historical context to this election when compared with the 10 elections that came before. I began this journey last May with the incredibly safe assertion that the incumbents, who announced their intent to run like a parliamentary slate, would sweep back into office easily - counting on the power of incumbency, a fragmented opposition and the general apathy of the local community to deliver a low voter turnout. Remember that only twice in local electoral history did a challenger unseat a sitting incumbent, and never two incumbents in one election.

But the election season moved apace and three challengers who planned to run actual campaigns stepped forward, with a small collection of wannabes and the deluded ones who would go through the motions. Their partisans, who constituted a not-insignificant number of the engaged electorate, believed it "could be different this time," and even though I cast votes for challengers TimBen Boydston and Harrison Katz, I held little hope these plucky candidates could bend the arc of incumbent invincibility in the SCV.

But I do believe now that the challengers did run this campaign differently, and no one stands more anxious than me to see if it actually worked.

From my personal witness since 1998 and reports from "old timers" like John Boston and Leon Worden from before, one can see campaigns from non-incumbents always revolve around complaints. This makes perfect sense since a difficulty exists around campaigning that your opponent did a great job but you can do even better.

In elections past, the complaints always revolved around traffic and growth. I assert boldly that traffic complaints amount to a local trope, similar to complaints about the weather. I drive all over Southern California and by any objective and nonemotional analysis, the traffic in the SCV moves very well and actually much better than it did in the past.

Old-timers who honestly reflect will tell you how prior to 1996, before Newhall Land and Farming Company punched Decoro Drive through to Seco Canyon Road from McBean Parkway, every person who lived up Bouquet Canyon or Seco Canyon needed to transit the two blocks of Bouquet near Best Buy between Newhall Ranch Road and Seco Canyon Road to get home. On Fridays, traffic would literally back up all the way to Target on Magic Mountain Parkway while the home-bound commuters inched through this bottleneck.
On growth, in the past people complained because growth stood very visible, with heavy earth movers grinding down the ridgelines and tract housing popping up like a plague. Well, the credit crunch and Great Recession put a stop, albeit temporary, to that.

Now in 2010, without much growth activity visible, the challengers invoked a whole litany of complaints I call the spaghetti strategy. (Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.)

Over the course of the campaign I isolated the following major complaints:

* The city code enforcement people mistreat the residents (Bonelli tract);

* The incumbents don't listen;

* One of the incumbents yells at people and does things that violate campaign finance laws;

* One of the incumbents has mysterious financial interests that conflict with their elected duties;

* One of the incumbents is not very bright;

* The incumbents don't care about small business;

* Illegal immigrants are running rampant in the city and the incumbents don't care; 

* Massage parlors are tearing at the very fabric of Western Civilization and the incumbents don't care;

* The new library design sucks and the incumbents don't care.

One will notice that nearly all of these complaints relate to negligence rather than venality, but all of the complaints mention the incumbents. Very little focus relates to the positive things the challenger will do. Supporters claim TimBen Boydston will "listen to people." Dave Gauny appears "clear and concise" and Harrison Katz represents the youth of the community.

Political pundits state that elections are never won on complaints and fear, but a positive vision of the future. Will the spaghetti strategy of complaints prevail on vote-counting day?

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Myers' Musings" appears Sundays in The Signal.


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