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 here...you 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.