Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Election 2010 - No shows at the polls

Have you wondered as I have about the no-shows in The Woodlands Township election, 92% of registered voters who did not vote? I took some proactive steps as I canvassed neighborhoods to check on the pulse of voters. What I found out was simply amazing!
Top Issue Number Percentage Percentage removing the no issues and unknowns
MUD 2 1%         1%
Other Svcs 2 1%         1%
Trees 5 2%         3%
Other 4 1%         2%
Schools 1 0%         1%
Parks 0 0%         0%
Mobility/noise 12 4%         7%
Animal Control 2 1%         1%
Garbage 0 0%         0%
Crime/law enforcement 17 6%         10%
Safety 4 1%         2%
Alerts/watch 1 0%         1%
Ad valorem taxes unfair or too high 17 6%         10%
Common area maintenance 4 1%         2%
Covenants and related services 16 6%         10%
No issues 104             38%       
Unknown 53 19%
Big government and local politics 17 6%         10%
Against commercialization 5 2%         3%
In favor of commercialization 2 1%         1%
Loyalty 4 1%         2%
Total including no issues and unknown 272 100%
Total less No issues and unknown 168 62%       100%
This was not a scientific survey. There was no attempt to balance demographics or lifestyles. It was collected solely from middle class neighborhoods. I did sample different types of neighborhoods. All villages are represented by approximately equal numbers. Generally speaking, each village was different and each neighborhood was somewhat different in responses. A total of 168 unique responses were generalized into categories. The question was "What is your top concern in The Woodlands?" Five categories accounted for 47% of the total. Some people skirted the question, which resulted in the 19% unknown. The "No issues" category came primarily from newcomers, who explained they had not been here long enough to understand local issues. Some were perfectly content with the way things are run. Others just do not understand the political arena nor how things work here.

Safety signifies true safety issues such as children in the middle of the street without adult supervision, or ants on the trails establishing a high risk to allergic children and adults. Crime concerns are mostly from the press or politicians, not any first hand experiences except for one. Mobility issues were generally the result of living close to a major road. "Close" is rapidly changing from being the adjoining street to the major road, to three streets away from the major road.  Access and noise were the focus of those discussions. Loud trucks and motorcycles are the primary concern, but the constant hum of traffic is also irritating.

Covenants were large issues in several neighborhoods. I have passed on the complaints to the administrative staff. I found issues in almost every village.

The big government category is a serious one. Many people beyond this exercise have expressed their concern about putting too much power in the hands of a few, especially when it seems there is a little voting club along with what appears to be some rubber stamping and inept, unprepared decision making. Term limits has been suggested to overcome the "been there too long" and to remove defensive attitudes associated with pet projects. After all, taxes belong to the public, not the government.

So what gets people out to vote? You can immediately strike off the "No issues" crowd or in this case 37% of the registered voters. They were happy. If we assumed the 19% unknown group also are no-shows, then we have 56% of the registered voters expected not to show up. So what happened to the other 36%? Could they have been out of town for mother's day? Some yes. Could they have had other priorities? Maybe, but my assessment is that at least 36% of the registered voters were just not sufficiently interested enough to go out and vote. Ball games, picnics, children activities, and all those things you want to do on a Saturday were beckoning on such a beautiful day.

How do we fix the problem?  It is fairly hopeless. So what do candidates do? There is not much hope to tell you the truth. Incumbents get the draw because there are no intelligent voters. This is what some are saying and this is what will bring America down. People will complain when their taxes go up. Hey - not my problem say those who challenged the incumbents. People will complain when they suffer from a crime because of the wrong metrics and an ineffective police staffing method. They will complain when the traffic is bad. Those who can see the future issues cannot reach the general public, who is too busy to discuss the issues.  Urban living is more complicated than people seem to realize. That makes the issues more complicated as well. What everyone needs is a means to understand the issues with little time invested. Based on the discussions I had, we are a society that crosses our fingers and hopes for the best. That is, things will work out out of natural order and process.

Elections are great but we won't have many contenders, given the lack of consideration of the process. Who wants to throw away their money on a public that does not care? This is a new The Woodlands? This is what it has become?

Consider that the 2% who responded with a "you are wasting your time here. He is my pastor" attitude. Instead of 2%, it probably turned out to be in the neighborhood of 25-50%. I will likely explain that in another article. These are the loyalty votes, not based on issues, not based on anything, except that the man preaches sermons on Sunday mornings, has lived in this community a very long time, and is an expert collector of people's money. Sad but true. There really is no way for the public to be educated. As it turned out, there was probably no reason for his team to spend so much money, but they were not sure.  What is apparent is that the election for some reason was very very important to him and his team, enough to spend lots and lots of money to make certain he was elected for this two-year term. These two years are the critical years for establishing a new government. The people of this community will be hand fed into the desired results by those who are commercial-centric. Issues such as expansion west will be pushed onto the population of this community. You can expect the quality of life to continue to deteriorate as a result. My family is a victim of the general issue of development, so we know first hand about it.

If you are one of those who did speak out by voting, make sure your voice is again heard when we consider a new government, have a meeting on taxes, establish a budget, and every major major issue along the way. I hope to publish major subjects that need your attention as we go forward. There will be two meetings a month. One will be in the evening where you can speak out.  Those who did not vote I do not expect to take part in any of the proceedings, but realize at least some of you missed your chance for good cause. I hope you participate in the meetings. Now I have to say that you will not likely be pleased with the opportunity to speak out. The Board of Directors will continue with the before meeting / after meeting method of resident comment. It is a cold governmental process. Residents will probably never be able to engage in the actual discussion and deliberation of issues. Well, maybe at town halls.

I hope this makes some people stop and think about what happened on May 8th and will help those interested to overcome the election process issues. We have only begun to fight. We will take it wherever it needs to go to get fixed. Maybe, just maybe by some remote chance, we will see some reforms, stoppage of arrogance and actual representation of the real public. I am not holding my breath.

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