Fall Fun

I had almost completed a long comment to an existing post and my finger slipped and I deleted the entire thing; so I'm going to post this separately so I can use the "Save" function. I've been reading everyone's comments and I agree with all of them pretty much.......my own experience differs only by degrees.

My association with Chapel Hill politics began two years ago in July when I was running through campus one rainy morning and I found my way blocked by yet another new construction project on campus. My endorphins were stimulated and it was a full moon so I decided to run for mayor. I felt that some different positions besides go-go growth and go growth needed to be voiced. I feel that I shifted the dialogue somewhat. After eight weeks of sitting between Lee and Kevin I became terrified that Lee would become mayor, so I withdrew and threw my support to Kevin. That campaign left me branded as an anti-leaf blower, no-growth wacko.....

So after that I was asked to write a column for the Chapel Hill Herald and I did. I decided to make UNC's Horace Williams development (excuse me, The Centennial Campus at Chapel Hill, er, Carolina North) my hobby; and I was appointed to both UNC's and the town's committees.

In the last two years I have learned that are somewhere between 75 and 150 people who participate actively in local politics, a sort of who's who? or who cares? political register. I've gotten to know lots of them (and have become one) and am extremely grateful that they are involved. I find that in spite of their/our, by definition, wonkiness; it is a great bunch of people. When I began to consider running for council I asked a number of them for advice. These conversations and my observations gave rise to my campaign strategy.

On the issues I was very comfortable with being the most outspoken candidate on the issues of controlling growth, supporting the environment, civil liberties and Town/Gown relations. These are my views and if they appeal to people, great if not, I get my life back. I did lose the "No Growth" slogan and "Ban Gas Powered Leaf Blowers" in the interest of avoiding a wacko label. I firmly believe that Chapel Hill voters are "in sync" with strong messages in these areas and having the strongest message would win. Besides, these are my positions. (I am almost 100% sure that I would have no success in politics outside of Chapel Hill, which illustrates why I live here; not for my political career but for my affinity for the people here).

Folks in the know described the basic Chapel Hill campaign: Neighborhood teas and get-togethers, canvassing, fundraising letters, SIGNS, letters to the editors and print endorsement ads. Add in mailings, answering questionnaires and surveys, attending forums and creating press conferences/releases and that covers it. Radio and newspaper advertising (besides endorsement ads) have been used but are considered luxury items.

Everyone felt it was important for me to contact the people that I didn't know and secure their support. Believe it or not, I am shy and the idea of working all day and making a lot of calls every night did not appeal to me and I did not do it. I felt that if I lost that this would be why. It seems to me that this town is still small enough that some people will not vote for someone that they have not had personal contact with. Neighborhood teas and get-togethers were not things that appealed to me and spending a lot of time getting this together seemed an inefficient use of time.

So I answered all the surveys, went to all the forums. Early on the rap against me was that I wasn't a serious candidate. So we addressed this with SIGNS. Once I put these up I was accepted as a serious candidate. We did a mailing, we had people write endorsement letters, and we ran newspaper ads the last week.

We got endorsements from the Chapel Hill News, the Sierra Club, the Independent and, maybe most important, the Coalition of Neighbors near Campus. This last was big because the CNC worked hard for their candidates and got the vote out.

Every time I heard a radio ad, I thought: that sounds good, I'm gonna lose. Of course every time I saw one of my signs lying down, I thought: I'm going to lose.

We easily raised almost $6K and spent almost as much. I do think there is a high road aspect to less money. We need to discourage higher spending. The process is already less inclusive than it should be. The argument that incumbents have an advantage is valid, but so do good candidates. In Chapel Hill money will not draw voters to an unpopular message.

Lee Pavao said that being a native gives me an advantage of name recognition (the police blotter, late tax payment lists). Wow.

I thought in August that it would be Bill, Sally, Cam and Jim. The amazing thing was that I never felt confident. The best I could ever feel was slightly optimistic and then someone say that I didn't have enough signs and I would sink in to despair...

I think the conventions of Chapel Hill politics are sort of silly. The signs fly in the face of all of our basic beliefs, they are institutionalized litter, almost. The letters to the editor are contrived, the endorsement ads a little simplistic. Of course these things are so easy to do well that they are not big a stretch.

Last Saturday, someone asked me: How do I like politics? I said. It was all right, but that I had heard that politics was like sex and as far as I could tell the only similarity was that they both made me feel inadequate.



Well put, Paul. Let's start looking forward!

Who's coming out to support Will Raymond in the fight against red-light-cameras? Answer here: http://www.orangepolitics.org/archives/000003.html

"Signs Signs

Everywhere there's signs

Blocking up the scenery

Breaking my mind

Do this, don't do that

Can't you read the sign"

Rah - I didn't find anything cryptic about the "Taxes Yes, Merger No" signs they are more clear than some of the candidate signs in both legibility and message.

(No I have nothing to do with them and don't think signs of any kind during political season demand any kind of shame or embarassment - in fact if they are going to be there what about political speech bugs you?) In fact I would like to see more signs that are not just the boring ones from the candidates. "The leaf blower - blows!" etc... Assuming we can't get rid of them and are always doomed to have them - we may as well be entertained and know what other people we live with in this little community are thinking even if we don't personally know them. Yes I am against merger personally but can carry multiple independent political thoughts in my head, chew gum and walk at the same time. Trust me on this, merger will not help preserve the environment, slow development, lead to decreased air pollution or more likely preserve the rural buffer. Think about that.

If the simple black and white "Taxes Yes, Merger No" signs interfere with peoples ability to drive they shouldn't be driving in the first place.

Maybe they should own up to them, maybe not - I don't think it matters they didn't seem to create any more of a safety hazzard than the billion other signs.

Maybe we should listen to the Dr. Seuss at the end of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The Grinch having stolen all the trappings of Christmas sees that the Whos down in Whosville have Christmas any who. He sees that Christmas is more than trees and tinsel and gifts. That Christmas is a heartmelting moment in Whosville any who.

So it is with the elections. They are not games through which we can be coached --entirely. Nor are they endorsement adverts, radio spots or even yardsigns that never find their yards. All of that is no more than a collection of tools to get the person and her plans -- assuming that she has plans -- and her experience -- assuming she has experience -- across to the voters.

If we realize that instead of merely strategizing and critiquing stratigic failings, we'd be here discussing what to do with downtown and Carolina North. Instead if we are misled like the Grinch, we discuss the effectiveness of tea parties.

The engineer in me speaks: Dianne's symbol is a pair

of dividers. Before computer-aided-design, draftsmen and

engineers used these to divide

a distance on a sheet of paper into a number of equal

parts. They're like a compass, except that they have

needle points at both tips, rather than a needle at

one tip and a pencil at the other.

Speaking of signs, I've got a pickup truck full of old

signs -- the flotsam and jetsam of local elections.

I want at the very least to see a picture of Mr Capowski's truckload of signs. I notice some Chilton signs were laminated, so they're already archival... How's the Chapel Hill Museum sound?

Seriously, though, I am happy to see a sense of continuity and history in local campaigns (not to mention governance). Mr Juliano made excellent use of design, and clearly he remembers (or someone in his campaign did) the bright yellow Burma-Capowski signs of campaigns past.

Personally, I will always tresure the Joyce Brown signs of '89 or thereabouts. The care and the values they demonstrated made an embittered college student realize that voting is a vital way of "acting locally".

Nowadays, I wonder if the growing distaste for wholesale campaigns (even nationally) has created a point of diminishing returns when glossy signs show up everywhere. There's a balance to be struck between having a presence on the scene and buying one. I for one am thrilled that my two favorite towns have not yet forgotten which is more important.

By the way, I hope all you successful candidates out there will be posting or emailing or whatever to remind your supporters what you'll be fighting for. Decisions are made by those who show up, and showing up happens more often than biennially.

One last note on signs: has anyone owned up to the cryptically ant- merger signs? I don't want to hear from whoever was responsible for the mess reported in http://www.orangepolitics.org/archives/000071.html -- they should just be ashamed of themselves. But if the anti-merger poster is willing to collect the post-election litter, I'm willing to hear an argument. I'll bet there's already a thread for it...

By their nature, signs and slogans get old. If they didn't they would be ineffective. While campaigning, it became a challenge to vary the text of my talks to at least keep myself interested. People who paid attention throughout the campaign got bored with our rhetoric, while the folks who only saw us occasionally found it fresh and new (ha!).

I thought Bachman's sign was to convey freemasonry. At least that's why I voted for her. Alas. Symbols are not what they used to be.

Cam, you raise a good point about campaign signs. I do think they can help make a candidate seem more credible (ie they publicly display that the candidate is actually spending money on the race). So they do have some value in some situations. And they are definitely silly and ugly for the most part.

Unlike some who post to this site, I thought your signs were good. While "Chapel Hill First" does not mean a lot when taken out of context, it is a very meaningful and powereful and (most of all) compact statement. In the context of knowing anything about Cam, "Chapel Hill First" communicates several points. Cam Hill is from Chapel Hill First (he was born here). He will represent Chapel Hill First (and UNC second). He wants Chapel Hill to become First in leading the edge of progressive politics in North Carolina. (You will have to work hard to catch up with Carrboro, though! Ha ha.)

Dianne Bachman's signs were good, too. They succeeded in communicating the point that Dianne is an architect through the use of the architects' symbol (some kind of drafting device).

Sally's signs were kind of corny with their play on the name Greene. But still it was effective in communicating the point that she was an environmental candidate.

The challenge with signs is that "Bumpass for Council" really tell us nothing about the candidate. Sally, Cam and Dianne managed to tell us a little something more about themselves without making the signs hard to read. By themselves, the signs are not effective, but when you know anything more about the candidates, these signs do manage to reinforce selling points of the candidates.

-Mark Chilton


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