While I do admire the folks who mail in their ballots, to me, it’s like kissing over the phone. Good to make your feelings known, but just not nearly as satisfying as the real deal. I want to see who is running the polling station. I want to find out who else has been in to sign the roster. I want to chat with my neighbors and find out how they see things. It’s a ritual, and I just love to be there.
It’s been an interesting race, in part thanks to the unintentionally entertaining Robert Zirgulis. His stand as the “only one who will tell the truth” has often put me in mind of the ancient tradition of the king’s fool. When kings had absolute power, saying the honest thing could get you killed. Still, they were smart enough to know that no one makes the best decisions surrounded by yes-men, and so the court jester became the one who could say anything and still be around the next day. While Zirgulis has offered what he considers to be harsh and important truths about red-light cameras and registered sex offenders, his campaign has been both random and extreme, and his grasp of the problems the council has to deal with utterly absent.
What we need to remember about this tradition is that the Fool does not ever get to be the King. That’s just not how it works.
Those of you planning vote for Zirgulis, you are the same people who voted for Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. Go from me, and never darken my doorway again. Votes are not to be wasted in petty protest.
Jeff Cooper has, if not an army, at least an armada of supporters. Without the thousands of folks claiming him as a friend, a neighbor, a member of their club, he would not have the gravitas needed to be in this race. The job involves a lot more than being a nice guy, but people skills do matter. In his last run, things were cut too close, and while he almost made it, there’s never a medal for fourth place. But when Cooper brings up the example of how he noticed that there were no soap dispensers in the bathrooms and got inspired to get involved with Parks and Recreation, I’m only partially impressed. As of this writing, there is still no soap in the soap dispensers at the parks and the playgrounds, and his kids are off to college already. If the vote count comes up on Cooper’s side, I expect this to be remedied post haste. I would hate to have to use this a recurring metaphor over the next few years. Support is essential and tools are important, but function has to follow. Don’t be an empty soap dispenser.
Meghan Sahli-Wells impresses me. As another parent who went through the La Playa Preschool co-op, we have both had our problem solving skills put to the test on an hourly basis for years at a time. After taking care of small children and training them in the art of civilization, negotiating with people who can speak English and change their own clothes is a piece of cake. Her bravado in simply throwing her hat into this race gets my applause. I like her commitment to living a green life and walking her talk. At the same time, the council is a huge and demanding job, and just bringing your brains and your enthusiasm may not be enough. Even people who speak English (or French of Spanish or Japanese, for that matter) and know how to dress themselves might need to be reminded about taking turns or not calling names. If Sahli-Wells is in the winner’s circle, she might want to reflect on a yard filled with children, and how the big kids treat the little ones. Whether you are three or thirty, it’s not easy to be the new kid. When you are in charge of the yard, you really have to model the behavior you want to see.
Scott Malsin is almost as predictable as the dawn. If not for the huge financial turmoil we’ve all been through in the last few years, I could say he’s like money in the bank. I know where he stands, and I know what he’ll do. I don’t always agree with him, but when I don’t, I can follow his line of logic to the end, and I can see why he votes the way he does. Of course, I know he’s longing for this election to be over so he can get out of these shirtsleeves, put on a nice tie, and feel more like himself again. People who ”dis” Malsin for being too upper-crust are often the same ones who cheer for our “economic diversity.” Doesn’t diversity mean all the colors of the spectrum? Malsin has done a good job, and I would like to see him continue to do so. If he tops the ticket, I would just want to remind him “The value of any action lies in seeing it through to the end.” That quote might not be from a philosopher that leaps to mind instantly, but Genghis Kahn is still remembered for his style of government.
Whatever the outcome on Tuesday night, (or even Wednesday morning-) we will have a fresh mix of ingredients for the council next month. Sometimes just one slight change in a recipe can give you a whole new flavor.