This race for US Senate has, quite frankly, disgusted me. It has been fully of grandstanding, backroom dealing, vicious personal attacks, rampant trolling, and general idiocy. I can usually manage to find someone worth my vote as the best choice (even if not necessarily a good one), but this particular race has me thinking that “none of the above” may be the best option out there.
There have been a lot of waves made lately over candidates who want to overturn the 17th Amendment and return the selection of US Senators to the various legislatures. Certainly, I believe the system of appointed Senators made a lot of sense. It allowed states to directly have a say in the affairs of the national government, contained the power of the political elites to a single house of Congress, and created a much more deliberative body that would act as a check on popular sentiment. All that said, I don’t think the genie can be put back in the bottle quite that easily.
The biggest roadblock is Congress itself. Senators would be essentially asked to vote against their own re-election prospects. Any Senator not on good terms with the legislature of their home state could find themselves quickly out of a job. You then still need 38 state legislatures to sign off on repealing the amendment to get it to go into effect. All of this would need to happen in the midst of citizens likely protesting moving a previously elected position to an appointed one.
Even if a repeal of the 17th Amendment passed, there is nothing to restrict a legislature from retaining a de facto system of direct election anyway. Just a few years before the ratification of the amendment, 29 states allowed some form of popular vote for senators. There’s no reason to believe that most, if not all, states won’t pass statutes to preserve the status quo.
In short, even if a repeal of the 17th Amendment was probable (which it isn’t), it isn’t likely to even change anything. It’s nice to theorize about rolling it back, but taking a hard-line policy position on it as a candidate amounts to so much grandstanding.
School board is one of those positions that, like city council, not enough voters pay attention to. When they do pay attention, it is all to often a reaction to an unpopular policy, not proactive involvement. I don’t yet have any children enrolled in a public school, but that means now is the time to get involved, before the bad decisions get made.
I want to preface this with saying that I think all of the four candidates vying for the seat are good candidates. I did not dismiss any one of them out-of-hand because they all sound like reasonable people that won’t do anything too rash. (Of course, how do you know until they are there?) Each of them responded to my e-mail inquiries within 24 hours, so responsiveness is not an issue. Each of them provided detailed answers to my questions either via phone or e-mail and it appears that they have all put some thought into running for this position.
Even though all of them are good candidates, one stands apart from the rest: Steve Wrigley. I feel that he has both a good understanding of how the district is currently operating combined with a willingness to try out new things to see if they will work, but not without doing some research ahead of time. Some of his main planks include moving 9th grade to high school and 6th grade to junior high to better utilize existing facilities, increasing building energy efficiency with an eye towards a reasonable ROI, better partnerships with local governments and businesses, and exploring the use of ebooks to replace costly textbooks. Despite his plethora of ideas, I came away with the feeling that he will not grow complacent with the status quo and always be looking for ways to improve how the district operates.
I would encourage each of you who can to vote for Steve Wrigley in the Tuesday primary for Canyons School Board #5.
Note: below is contact information for all of the candidates currently running. The Salt Lake County Clerk doesn’t list this information online, but will happily e-mail most of it to you on request.
Four years ago, I was absolutely aghast that Sherrie Swenson would claim that there was nothing wrong with the Diebold voting machines in use by the county despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Her constant denials of any problems rather than taking ownership of the issue demonstrated a lack of real leadership and put me off from ever considering her for public office. It is especially disconcerting that Ms. Swenson is so cavalier about one of her most basic responsibilities, ensuring fair and honest elections.
These problems with our current County Clerk do not automatically guarantee an endorsement for her opponent. I’m perfectly happy to vote “none of the above” when it suits me. (I’m seriously considering it for the US Senate race.) Jeremy Votaw, a web designer, is currently running to replace Sherrie Swenson and I e-mailed him to find out a bit more about why he thinks he should be the new County Clerk.
I’m pleased to report that Mr. Votaw is very well-acquainted with the issues facing Diebold voting machines generally and electronic voting machines in particular, but is also realistic in accepting that the decision to purchase said machines can’t be undone due to the sunk cost. As a fellow technologist, I’m also confident that he can use technology to improve operations at the Clerk’s office; I was appalled that I could not find candidate information on their website, but instead had to e-mail to get it. It’s only slightly inconvenient, but why have a person do the job of a machine? I think that belies a need to better modernize the office, something that the current Clerk has had ample time to do.
Is this a perfect choice? No. The snarky exchanges between the two on Twitter over the age of their campaign photos, while hilarious, also made me wince a little at the lack of decorum. (But still, super funny, so I can let it slide.) Given how strongly I feel about Sherrie Swenson’s ignorance on electronic voting machines and the contrasting familiarity with them on the part of her opponent, I fully endorse Jeremy Votaw to replace her this November.
Remember the talking points in favor of splitting the Jordan School District a couple of years ago? We were told that splitting up the district would lower costs and result in a much leaner and responsive school district. Almost immediately, however, I noticed that my property tax bill for the newly-created Canyons School District shot up rather sharply over the previous year. Apparently, that wasn’t enough.