Campaign Digital Newsletter: Week 2

Dear Friends,

Campaign headquarters continues to bustle. I am grateful to all of you who reached out to help over the last week. Many of you sent me names of friends to add to my campaign email list, some of you volunteered to design campaign buttons, host a house party get together, collect petition signatures, research a policy paper, handout flyers, and help with the campaign website. This election is important, and that's why we're all doing this.

Government Operations and Campaign Finance

This past Monday, July 8, I attended the Government Operations Committee Meeting chaired by Vice Mayor Devereux. This was a public hearing to discuss a report from the City Manager and the City Solicitor on proposals for a publicly financed municipal election program and a municipal people's pledge. A draft on the proposed People's Pledge can be found here:

https://cambridgema.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?MeetingID=1913&ID=5451

and commentary on the pledge here:

http://www.cambridgeday.com/2017/09/11/new-chance-for-election-reform-on-ballot-toomey-proposes-pledge-approach-instead/

While public financing of elections and a voluntary people's pledge are both good ideas if they can be designed and executed properly, neither addresses the very important issue of ethical conflicts of interest in campaign donations. In my public comment, I attempted to delineate the various issues involved in campaign finance and to direct the focus onto ethical conflicts of interest. I also suggested modifying the people's pledge to include a sentence pledging to not take ethically conflicted money. Of course, implementation of my suggestion would be quite problematic for at least half of the city council. Prior to my speaking, Robert Winters posited an interesting game-theoretical failure mode that could occur when merging a rank-choice voting system with a public financing system. Dr. Winters' comments begin at 12:29 by the clock on the screen and mine follow:

http://cambridgema.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=2454

Also this week, I discussed pay-for-play politics with a politician at the state level. He referred me to testimony given to the Council by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. This testimony is fascinating, please click on the link:

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/denniscarlone/pages/154/attachments/original/1427986588/260605305-Lessig-Testimony-to-Cambridge-City-Council.pdf?1427986588

When nothing changes after one of the leading experts in the world on campaign finance gives testimony to the city council about issues of corruption within the city council, you know there's a problem.


AHO (Overlay) Planning Board Meeting

On Tuesday, July 9th, I attended the second AHO discussion of the planning board. There was a strong turnout from residents and neighborhood leaders who oppose this zoning proposal. Vice Mayor Devereux wrote an excellent blog post summarizing the proceedings:

https://jandevereux.com/2019/07/12/affordable-housing-overlay-deconstructed-part-iii/

The 3.5 hour meeting was at times a quite unsightly affair. In my opinion, the chair of the committee behaved inappropriately aggressively towards members who did not share their views. The members of the planning board are volunteers appointed by the city manager. The two newest associate members of the board are ringers brought in to push through the AHO proposal. During the meeting, these members presented almost no substantive input and argued for the AHO along ideological grounds.

As I have in the past, I focused my public comment on debunking what I believe to be a fallacy currently being promulgated by one of the proponents of the AHO on the council. This councilor is claiming that even though the city and planning board will essentially be giving up all permitting and design control, the city will still be able to throttle developments that we do not like by using the leverage of the affordable housing trust. However, as I and many others have pointed out, these developments will become so profitable if this proposal passes, that they will likely not need funding from the affordable housing trust. The comments of our neighborhood leaders begin at 2:55:20. My comments are at 3:26:46:

http://cambridgema.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=2464&Format=Agenda

Walking out of that meeting that evening, I felt the most uncomfortable that I have felt from any of these meetings. What's going on feels really wrong.

Odds and Ends

For those of you interested in understanding the economic forces that lead to the increasing disparity between rich and poor and the social tension this causes in our city and our country, I recommend watching the second half of this youtube video, which discusses the effects of quantitative easing and low interest rates at the end of a long-term debt cycle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHe0bXAIuk0

Shortly after pulling my papers I received a fancy color brochure in the mail from a campaign supply company out in Hingham. I called the guy and he said, "Yeah, so you send me a picture of yourself, your family, your issues, you know, all the wonderful things you're going to do for the city, blah blah blah. Then we'll make up some palm cards and yard signs and it will give you legitimacy." Hmm. I also learned that the cheapo yard signs only use one color and are $6, and the more expensive signs with two or more colors are like $11 or more. Unclear if additional colors will translate to more #1 votes, but now I know what to look for from the other campaigns when yard sign season starts. The below link shows how much each campaign spent in dollars per vote. However, no one that I know of has compiled data on votes per yard sign.

http://cambridgecivic.com/?p=5428

That's all for this week folks. Keep on pushing.