Monday, May 18, 2009

ACM's Democratic Primary voters' guide (micro-election, May'09)

I've gotten to meet and/or hear from a large percentage of the candidates this year, but that hasn't always given me a clear sense of preferences, as you'll see. The big-ticket races tomorrow are District Attorney and City Controller, both important and interesting races, but most of the ballot contains judicial races, which is where small numbers of thoughtful voters can really make a difference.
  • At the bottom of the ballot, D.A.: I was very enthusiastic about Seth Williams four years ago, and I still recommend him this time. However, the field as a whole is quite strong, and I find Williams rather off-putting in person (in the sense that while he's still shaking your hand he's already looking over your shoulder for Somebody More Important), so I'm not putting any foot power into this race. Still, Williams has done great as Inspector General, has clear and convincing plans for the D.A.'s office, and avoids much of the unseemly political connections that dog some of his rivals, so I think he merits your vote.

  • City Controller: How well this office does its job becomes starkly clear in these times of fiscal crisis, and a conscientious Controller can find the inefficiencies, root out nepotism, and make sure that budgets are using realistic assumptions. Incumbent Butkovitz has done well with a few high-profile investigations, but has steered around many political minefields (including putting off a PPA audit requested by the Governor!) that make it clear his experience as a politician have left him too indebted to those he's supposed to keep honest. In contrast, Brett Mandel seems a dedicated reformer, has experience in the Controller's office under Saidel, and looks well set to be the bulldog he claims to be. I worry some about his corporatist outlook (he's focussed on cutting business taxes for years), but I don't think that matters much in this job, and he's got the energy to get stuff done on many fronts. Again, not working for this campaign, but recommending him for your vote. (The third horse in this race, Braxton, seems like a good guy, but he's been nearly invisible and thus is unlikely to succeed.)

  • Judges of many stripes: There aren't really any stand-outs here to me, as there have been in the past, at least at the local level. Be sure that you vote for Anne Lazarus for Superior Court, as she is one of the most highly recommended and universally acclaimed jurors to get on the ballot, and she missed this seat last time by just a few votes...

    1. Supreme Court (1 vote): Panella
    2. Superior Court (3 votes): Lazarus, Younge and Colville
    3. Comonwealth Court (2 votes): Lynn and Pollock
    4. Common Pleas (up to 7): Thompson, Robert Coleman, Roca, Woelpper, Anders, Eubanks
    5. Municipal (up to 4): Segal, Hayden, Dugan
There are also two ballot questions, one to establish posthumous promotion for police, firemen, etc., killed in the line of duty, and the other to let City Council change its rules on announcing hearings, bids, etc. more easily (I think). Committee of Seventy recommends a yes on the latter, to give the government flexibility (especially if a major paper closes), but my instinct is to vote against it because I'm not sure Council can be trusted -- unannounced hearings and invisible calls for bids seem well within their peskiness. Anyway, just be forewarned that these questions will be there; no solid advice from me.