Thursday, October 28, 2010

Election ’10: Lessons Learned

Due to the deadlines for Echo Weekly, I had to submit this piece without knowing the results of the 2010 Municipal Election on Monday, but to get all that be sure to take a peak at my blog, Guelph Politico, at So in the void of not really knowing what the new council now looks like, I look back as I look forward to try and gleam some meaning out of the election that was/is. I will share some of those meandering thoughts now.

1) I Know Who I Am; Do You Know Who You Are?

One of the major minor issues of the election had nothing to do with how council is spending our money, or how mad everybody is at the endless construction, but has everything to do with anonymity on a blog. Cathy Downer, a campaigner for Mayor Karen Farbridge, was caught for posting multiple times, under multiple names on the Guelph Mercury’s 59 Carden St. blog. Later, Ward 4 candidate Cam Guthrie admitted that he was also guilty of multiple personality disorder on the blog. While I think there was something important to say here about the nature of the blogosphere and the blanket comfort of saying what you want and not having to put your name on it, it seems that a lot of that got lost in the conversation. Of course, the human drama over the perception of sneakiness is easier to grasp then the larger issues of how one conducts themselves on the digital soapbox. I suppose discretion has always been half of the internet, but creating imaginary people to agree with you seems a little too All the President’s Men for me.

2) Facebook May Work on Film, But…

When it comes to electioneering on a local level, the results are decidedly mixed. A quick glance on the social networking site shows that the candidates with the most “friends” (or “supporters” I guess), barely top off at about 530. While it’s certainly admirable that many of the candidates went signless and focused on the paperless campaign on the internet, there’s still, obviously, a huge emphasis on traditional communication forms like signs, pamphlets and newspapers. Perhaps it’s because of the enthusiasm gap on a municipal level, but the internet’s still yet to be lit up by the campaign, and even signless proponents like Ward 1’s Allan Boynton had banners in storefronts downtown. For my money, I did find several candidates more responsive to media requests from blogs and websites, that is unless that candidate’s name was David Birtwistle. (Inside joke, sorry.)

3) Sometimes, the “Kooks” Are Right.

The thing about local politics is that it brings out the people that lack the spit and polish of a national-level campaign and it gives them the spotlight. On the Politico blog, a poster called mayoral candidate Ray Mitchell “this is one craaaazy dude,” and said of Mitchell’s fellow nominee Scott Nightingale that he “sounds like he sent his intern application to the wrong department.” Now unless Mitchell’s packing a four-leaf clover, or if Nightingale’s been hording horseshoes, they’re probably not the Mayor-Elect right now. Still, it’s a very rare person that is completely able to write-off Mitchell and Nightingale. Were they unpolished? Sure. Did they take rather non-mainstream perspectives on key issues? Absolutely.

Last week, the internet became fascinated by Jimmy McMillan, a retired postal worker running for the Governor of New York for The Rent’s 2 Damn High Party. While I’ll submit that McMillan’s insistence that cutting rents in New York would create three to six million new jobs and $6 trillion in surpluses is out there, there is a kernel of truth there not really considered: Paying less for rent means more money for other things. You Tube “Jimmy McMillan” and you can see for yourself, that he’s nearly a studio audience away from being an SNL sketch, but his ideas are interesting, and say what you want about him, but he’s engaged. And that’s something you can’t say about the mass majority of people on a municipal level in the City of Guelph. Of course I could be wrong. I’m right now looking at the election as a future event.

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