Monday, November 21, 2011

Californian, Back of the Envelope Social Science

Forbes has a neat gadget up right now that lets you see migration patterns within the United States, the one above is for Merced. You can get more details, like precise numbers and the actual names of the counties involved (in case your knowledge of U.S. geography is less than encyclopedic) by going to the website. Merced stands out for how much people are really just coming from and going to other places in California (although it would be interesting to add on international immigration too). The colors are less useful than they could be...shading seems to be based on the ratio of out-migrants to in-migrants, making Los Angeles County show up as a source of in migration and Santa Clara County as a destination for out migration, but the in migrants from Santa Clara County outnumber the in migrants from LA by about a thousand. Similarly, Fresno County and Stanislaus County are the same color, but about thirteen hundred more people decided to head north towards Modesto than to head south towards Fresno, which is probably significant. Anyways, it's a cool thing to play around with. I'd love to hear people's ideas for worthwhile comparisons to make.

(Redding & Chico, my favorite Merced controls so far, have seemingly wider distribution but less concentrated migration coming from or going anywhere, richer migrants, and dramatically less migration overall.)

Holy shit you can look at how migration patterns have changed since 2005 damn!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

American Exceptionalism part OWS

A while back I read this article, and it's really stuck with me as a cool episode of American history, and of how the American system can work. Basically, it's about a guy (Jose Julio Sarria) who, back when this was actually a point that even needed to be made (1961), wanted to make the point that there were a lot of gay voters in San Francisco. And he made it by putting himself out there, running for city council as an openly gay man and giving people a chance to support him secretly through the ballot. He didn't come anywhere close to winning, but he helped put at least a rough, and surprisingly high, number on the strength of the gay vote in the city...which I'm sure changed the decision making process of other politicians from then on. And that's just pretty darn cool.

The article's been out for a while, but I was thinking about it again in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and specifically what is and isn't effective in producing change in this country. The costs that a large scale protest like this impose on people who are just trying to get to their jobs, or just trying to run a business, or just want some peace and quiet can be confusing to justify when the results are so ambiguous. But then again, there is a certain value to protesters who will put themselves out there like that. Without Occupy Wall Street, there would be no polls trying to measure support for Occupy Wall Street, and you can take it as a matter of faith that a lot of political strategists are looking at those polls right now and trying to decide what they mean for their candidates. Which will lead to something, or's hard to tell. It's kind of a cop out, or else just entirely predictable, for me to end this on a note of "I don't know" but the truth is I really don't know what I think about the efficacy of public protest. The Occupy Wall Street movement has me thinking about it more seriously than I ever really have in the past though, which I guess is to it's credit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Local Election

It's off year election day! Is everyone excited? I might be primarily excited by what I expect will be a decrease in the amount of junk mail I get from people who want to be mayor of San Francisco after today, but I'm also pretty pleased to have formed opinions about each and every candidate for city council in the city of Merced.

It's actually really hard to tell the local candidates apart...they're all for job creation and against crime as far as I can tell, and if any of them have a magical way to make that happen they're keeping that to themselves. I was able to rule out one of the mayoral candidates, Michele Gabriault-Acosta, based on her apparent opposition to housing density. One of the things I really like about Merced is the variety of housing can have a gigantic house with a palatial lawn just a few doors down from an identically sized lot with six or so little cottage style rentals. I'm not really interested in a mayor who's going to have a preconceived notion about how people "should" live. Another mayoral candidate, Stan Thurston, really challenges my ability to not bring my opinions on national politics into local issues...he seems to have a fire sale mentality in regards to the current recession, fees and environmentally green requirements for businesses must be tossed aside until the economy improves...financing current levels of public services for the city can be damned in the meantime. I am a big fan of public parks & breathable air, and while I'm not opposed to the idea that fees and regulations can be an impediment to business and that they should be kept on par with other local communities unless you're San Francisco and can afford to take the hit, I also don't think scrapping environmental protections in Merced is going to make us immune from a worldwide recession. But that leaves me with two more candidates, Bill Blake & Bill Spriggs (plus some other guy who is apparently running "for the fun of it"). I think I'm voting for Bill Spriggs, the current mayor, but primarily just because I find his tone realistic and his policy ideas mostly un-objectionable.

The city council election is the one where I found a candidate I think I genuinely actually like. Noah Lor really impresses me with the amount of detail he includes in talking about his plans for the city, with the added bonus of them being details I mostly like. He's not just for jobs and against crime, he's focused on bringing better supermarkets to the south part of the city, balancing residential development with commerce, and increasing interaction between seniors and police to help them feel safe in their neighborhoods. Another candidate might get my vote just for being the only one to talk about business fees in relative terms, recognizing that the most important factor is whether they're more or less here than elsewhere (his not-just-police-and-fire-protection outlook on public safety is a point in his favor, too), and then I'm probably going to cast my third vote for the guy who cast a controversial vote against a Walmart Distribution Center in Merced. I'm not sure that I agree with the vote, but I like that air quality considerations seem to have been a major factor in it. The other  five candidates strike me as fire salers, or just lacking anything to latch onto ideologically. I feel like I could pretty easily change my mind about any of these people with more information, but voting always carries with it the risk of being wrong.