Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Consolation Column

[Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2009 edition of Ferndale Friends]

Welcome to my consolation column! Were I a presidential candidate I may have gotten a million dollar book deal and speaking engagements crisscrossing the country. All things being relative, after losing the Ferndale council race to incumbent T. Scott Galloway and new-comer Melanie Piana, I'm instead contributing an article to Ferndale Friends and my speaking engagements are limited to lecturing my kids.

On the plus-side of the ledger I won't have to balance a $15 million budget that's $3 million lighter than last year.

Losing does have its advantages.

This is probably the last opportunity comments on November's election can be indulged or at least forgiven. Please read-on with either one or both of those in mind.

Let me share a major difference I noticed between this year's campaign and 2007's. This year I limited the houses I visited personally to only those that voted in 2007's off-year election. When I ran in 2007 I used 2006’s gubernatorial voter list which had a couple thousand more voters. The difference between the two lists is the people I was lucky enough to speak with this year were generally more informed about local politics than the bigger list.

Believe it or not, in 2007 I had a conversation with a voter that went something like this.
"Hello, my name is Thomas Gagne. I'm running for mayor and would like to ask you a few questions."

"Mayor of what?" she said.

“Let me start with, do you have children?”
I also learned this year I can’t extrapolate election results based on the people I talk to going door-to-door. To be honest, I bet I spoke to fewer than 10% of the residents whose homes I visited. All were unanimously against spending any money on city hall and wanted council to immediately stop their Pay-Consults-For-Everything Economic Stimulus program ($65,000 and rising). Though most agreed Nine Mile and Woodward sparkles (Mayor Craig Covey’s word, not mine) many felt it was time the DDA stop baby-sitting our downtown businesses and agreed it was time to show Hilton some love.

If that’s how voters really felt and if those were my issues, then I should have been a shoe-in.

Well, there was certainly a shoe involved when the results were in, but not where I anticipated it.

It turns out the best predictor of 2009’s election was a gentleman I spoke to that told me he felt everything was OK. As long as he’s lived in the city taxes have always been high, council has always spent money on silly projects, and too much attention has always been paid downtown. But as none of that threatened him personally he wasn’t inclined to change anything.

Maybe that explains both the results and the low voter turnout (14%). Without pain, a mayoral contest, or a major issue on the ballot there just wasn’t much to get people to skip Desperate Housewives or Grey’s Anatomy.

A quick story.

At a meeting for the candidates held by the city clerk, Cherilynn Tallman, and city manager, Bob Bruner, we were discussing the lack of a current city map. Apparently the original map used to make copies from disappeared a couple years ago after Mayor Bob Porter left office. Greg PAW-lica suggested the map that hangs on the wall near the city council table could be used as a new original. We all went over to it to take a closer look.

While studying the map’s superior quality and imagining its potential to make dittos I couldn’t help but notice the little bit of real-estate cut-out of Ferndale’s northwest corner to make room for Pleasant Ridge.

“How many police officers does Pleasant Ridge have? Five? Six?”, I asked.

“Maybe six. Eight tops,” someone else replied.

“Hmm. And they don’t have their own fire department,” I said. “I bet if we took our 60+ police officers and fireman, along with a few allies from Oak Park we could easily invade on three fronts and take over the city. As liberal a city as it is there’s bound to be few armed residents. It should be easy.”

Melanie Piana’s mouth fell open and her face had that shocked you-can’t-possibly-be-serious look on it. Greg paw-LICA was LOL. Apparently, Melanie wasn’t familiar with my sense of humor. I mean really, who would want to annex Pleasant Ridge? Is the pool that nice?

I wonder. Maybe that could be an issue for 2011?

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