Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Is the bar tender here?

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.


Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.

Termites: the new face of gentrification?: Angry neighbors in Woodley Park argued with zoo keepers at a public meeting last night, saying that the African Termite mound at the zoo's new insect exhibit is taller than what existing zoning allows.

Silver line encounters another setback: Officials have discovered that the Silver Line does not meet the current Virginia fire code and construction will have to start over from scratch. A MWAA spokesperson says the estimated opening is now the year 2525, "if man is still alive."

A religious need for speed?: One motorist sect seeks a religious exemption from traffic laws. The Supreme Court will hear a case that followers of the Futurist Manifesto, who must "sing the beauty of danger" and exalt the "roaring motor-car which seems to run on machine-gun fire," are unfairly burdened.

If this bus is rockin' then it's probably full of passengers: The DC Commission on Human Rights has officially ruled in favor of recommending changing the name of WMATA's H8 bus line to something more friendly like L0V.

Streetcar opponents agree: Skeptics of the Columbia Pike streetcar had asked for a new study comparing the return on investment of streetcars versus enhanced bus on Columbia Pike. When the study, tailored to their specific requests, showed huge benefits to streetcars, at least two skeptics admitted they were wrong.

Takoma Park residents discover station: Some in Takoma Park were surprised to find out that adjacent to the Takoma Green, a park mostly made up of asphalt with some trees around the edge, there is also a Metrorail station. One surprised resident said, "Now I can tell my neighbors they can take the train when I see them walking on the sidewalk while I'm driving to my job near Union Station."

What rhymes with "No Parking"?: A new developer has joined the ongoing debate on the controversial parking lane on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park, submitting a plan to redevelop the road into a 35-yard hopscotch course. Proponents who want to see the lane kept for parking are, naturally, hopping mad.

DC to hold election: The District of Columbia will select nominees for mayor, DC Council, and federal races today, over 7 months before the general election and 9 months before any new winners would take office. If Mayor Gray does not win renomination, the DC government may achieve absolutely nothing of note for ¾ of a year while staff have no idea who will run their agency come 2015.

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Comments

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Golf clap on the joke title there

by Michael Perkins on Apr 1, 2014 8:32 am • linkreport

April Fool!!

by DaveG on Apr 1, 2014 8:33 am • linkreport

This crowd might be a bit young for the reference in #2. All funny, however.

by MLD on Apr 1, 2014 8:55 am • linkreport

Here's hoping for the usual serious breakfast links, too :-)

by DaveG on Apr 1, 2014 8:58 am • linkreport

Now, depending on how the Supreme Court decides, we wait for the real Futurist Manifesto court case ...

by Thad on Apr 1, 2014 9:00 am • linkreport

I hate april fools but even I smiled at the h8 and election news.

All hail mayor Bowser!

by charlie on Apr 1, 2014 9:11 am • linkreport

If woman can survive...

by ksu499 on Apr 1, 2014 9:15 am • linkreport

Sadly, the last one is very true. Why doesn't DC, which is like 85% Democrat, have non-partisan elections. Local politics typically have very little to do with national political parties.

Non-partisan elections (in November) and instant runoff!!! NOW!!!

by TransitSnob on Apr 1, 2014 9:21 am • linkreport

@ TransitSnob:Why doesn't DC, which is like 85% Democrat, have non-partisan elections.

Why let other people into the party? Washingtonians know all about being left out of voting rights, so they practice it at home as well.

by Jasper on Apr 1, 2014 9:28 am • linkreport

You mean the current crop of mayoral candidates are not an April Fool's Day joke?

by Crickey7 on Apr 1, 2014 9:35 am • linkreport

@TransitSnob - recently CM Grosso introduced election reform legislation about which you speak, including the "Open Primary Elections Amendment Act of 2014."

Regrettably, the Open Primary Act is a sham and doesn't actually open the primaries; it only allows a voter to change their party affiliation the day of elections. Public funds should not be used to finance a group's private elections. Either the parties pay for their closed primaries or they open them to all voters. And regardless, the true primary should be an all party primary, top two advance. See here: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/Jun/28/peace-marston-open-presidential-primaries/

by 7r3y3r on Apr 1, 2014 9:37 am • linkreport

 photo apic93.gif

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 1, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

"Local politics typically have very little to do with national political parties. "

NAtional political parties are composed of state and local party organizations. That has been true in the United States since the Jeffersonians made common cause with local Democrat Republican (thats what they were called, folks) societies. Folks who are organized in, say, the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, to impact elections from President to State legislator, are inclined to use the same organization to influence local elections. Creating an alternate general political organization only for local elections is an additional burdern of time and effort. When "non-partisan" elections are held, the reality is that either the elections are dominated by special interests, or by local parties endorsing in the "non-partisan" elections, or both.

Here in Fairfax, school board elections are "non-partisan". but FCDC always endorses a slate, and FCRC always endorses a slate. The party committees vote on who to endorse, after in house campaigns. If you run for the Democrat endorsement, and lose, and then fail to support the FCDC candidates (either running yourself in the general as an independent, or supporting an FCRC candidate) you will basically be banished from FCDC politics forever. The result is that the FCDC and FCRC endorsements function in lieu of primaries.

Maybe in DC, where there isnt anything higher to run for than Mayor and Council, pols would shake off any such discipline from the DC Dem Comm, and nonpartian elections would work.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 9:43 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity - even assuming all that is true, why should the public continue to pay for a private election?

by 7r3y3r on Apr 1, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport

It's hard to top electing a mayor with 30% of a 10% turnout.

But my favorite was Porky's volcano in 1974. Porky secretly set tires on fire in the mouth of a dormant volcano outside Sitka.

 photo TiresVolcano.jpg

http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/af_database/permalink/the_eruption_of_mount_edgecumbe/

There was also the fake iceberg floated into Sydney Harbour.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 1, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

I've been meaning to take a picture of "H8 Mount Pleasant" for years but its kinda hard to get a bus to wait for you. Also who would hate Mount Pleasant?

by BTA on Apr 1, 2014 10:05 am • linkreport

NAtional political parties are composed of state and local party organizations.

Yes, but this totally misses the reason for why people complain about partisan primaries in one-party towns: because the primary becomes the de facto election - and that election is not open to all.

Lots of potential solutions to this issue, but I think you've walked past the actual problem.

by Alex B. on Apr 1, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

"@AWalkerInTheCity - even assuming all that is true, why should the public continue to pay for a private election? "

FCDC meetings are open only to FCDC members (dues paying) and are not publicly funded. Va partisan primaries are open to all (we have open primaries) and are therefore NOT private elections. DC IIUC does not currently have open primaries, you must register by party in advance, but you don't have to pay dues, or make any commitment to support the party. In effect they are not private elections.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 10:08 am • linkreport

Alex - if the requirement to register in advance is a problem, that can be easily addressed by allowing an open primary, as many states have, including virginia.

I am cannot say with certainty how that impacts local elections - here in Fairfax both parties are viable (at least for now, the GOP is trending downward though) and there are not that many contested primaries. In the 8th congressional district, which is more like DC in its partisan make up, and is about to have a very contested primary, I presume GOPers and independents will vote in the Dem primary. There is no particular need in this case, for a non-partisan election to give them that opportunity.

The only problem might be if, say, the 8th CD Dem primary were at the same time as a contested GOP statewide primary (say for US Senate), say, and one had to choose one or the other. Though as far as I know thats usually theoretical.
Its also a problem thats very unlikely to happen in DC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

Great, now I will have that song in my head all morning.

Well done! I particularly enjoyed how the dig on Takoma NIMBYs took a subtle jab at Brookland as well.

by dcmike on Apr 1, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity - I don't know about VA elections, so I won't speak to them, but in most jurisdictions, including DC, primaries are only open to registered members, meaning it's a private election. To be public, it has to be open to everyone. And that's fine and dandy as the 1st Amendment allows political parties the freedom of association. My issue is that the public, including those people who aren't allowed to vote in those primaries (because they're not party members) pay to staff the voting stations, count the votes, etcetera. I'm not calling for nonpartisan elections; I'm advocating for private financing of private elections or, if you will, public financing of only public elections.

tl;dr - If the political parties want to limit who votes in their elections, then they can pay for it.

by 7r3y3r on Apr 1, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

actually quite a number of states have open primaries. Its not that unusual.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_primaries_in_the_United_States#States_with_an_open_presidential_primary

and registering is not a meaningful "membership". You just name a party when you register to vote - you pay no dues and make no commitments. You just forfeit your right to vote in the other party's primary - and even that you can usually change, as long as you do so in advance (typically 6 months I think). Its not a private election in any meaningful sense of that term.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

I think the California Open Primary is really good and work well for DC. Right now we would narrow every race to two candidates (regardless of party), and then in November pick the winner. I'm not sure what happens if you win 50% of the primary vote, but I hope that means you just win instead of 7 more months of campaigning.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonpartisan_blanket_primary#California_Open_Primary

by David C on Apr 1, 2014 12:07 pm • linkreport

The closer analogy would be Chicago and San Francisco which have recently switched to non-partisan open elections for mayor. also...

"""21 of the 25 largest cities in the United States currently have some system of nonpartisan voting in local elections, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Seattle."""

http://www.nysun.com/new-york/new-york-now-lagging-california-in-race-for-non/86995/

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 1, 2014 12:29 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

First of all, I didn't say no or few jurisdictions have open primaries. I said most.

Second, the definition of "public" is "of, relating to, or affecting all the people or the whole area of a nation or state" while the definition of "private" is "intended for or restricted to the use of a particular person, group, or class." It may not be a big deal to you that someone has to classify themselves in order to vote in a publicly financed election, thus forfeiting the right to vote in another publicly financed election (which is a "commitment," by the way), but your personal opinion of the practice does not change the meaningful sense of the term "private."

by 7r3y3r on Apr 1, 2014 12:30 pm • linkreport

I dont think walking up to the polling place and saying "I will vote in the Dem primary today, though I voted in the GOP primary last year" is entering a particular class.

I googled on private primary, and the only relevant hits were from some place called the independent voter network. Its not a real issue that anyone else is even discussing - and its particularly not relevant to DC, where its extremely rare for primaries other than the Dem primary to draw any interest. Your objection is ideological and theoretical only.

For that reason as well, the objection to the closed primary based on the needed "commitment" is not a practical one. The real impact, is not so much on voters, but on candidates. For the Dem primary to function like a non-partisan election, Mr Catania would have to run as a Democrat. For whatever reason, he does not wish to do so.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 12:40 pm • linkreport

I dont think we need open primaries so much in DC but id love to see automatic runoffs.

by BTA on Apr 1, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

I dont think walking up to the polling place and saying "I will vote in the Dem primary today, though I voted in the GOP primary last year" is entering a particular class.

Of course, you can't do this in DC. You cannot change party affiliation on election day.

There's no objection to a political party holding a primary; the objection is due to the fact that the primary is the de facto general election.

Open primaries would help. A non-partisan blanket primary would also be a good reform.

by Alex B. on Apr 1, 2014 1:12 pm • linkreport

Federal employees are allowed to run in the nonpartisan local elections.

by JimT on Apr 1, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

Of course, you can't do this in DC. You cannot change party affiliation on election day.

Right, but it is the reform proposed by Grosso and Wells in the "Open Primary Elections Amendment Act of 2014."

by David C on Apr 1, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

Yes alex, I am familiar with the distinction between an open primary and what DC has. I was addressing 7r3 who objects to public funding of even open primaries.

Again I am trying to see what the practical objections to the party primary being a de facto general election are. In terms of voter commitment, in an open primary they are minimal (forfeiting the right to vote in another party's primary the same day, which as a practical matter is a trivial issue in DC) and even in a "closed" primary not very big (what are the odds that there will be an important contested GOP or IG primary a year from now?) I think the greater practical impact of a partisan primary is on the candidates, but Im not even sure that needs to be that big. In a place like Fairfax for a pol to forfeit support from both parties (as a GOPer who ran in the Dem primary, and then failed to keep the commitment to only support Dems would) would be a real harm to their higher ambitions. But suppose David Catania ran in the Dem primary. And made no commitment to support other Dems. The Dem committee would give him no support in the general, but what would that matter? he would get no support from the Dem or GOP comms for higher office - but after being mayor of DC, to what higher office can he realistically aspire? Unless he has his heart set on say being a delegate to the GOP convention, I see no practical obstacle to Mr Catania running in the Dem primary. That he did not may have been a matter of principle, but more likely was a strategic choice of his own.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

Again I am trying to see what the practical objections to the party primary being a de facto general election are.

1. It is not open to all voters. It's fundamentally undemocratic.

2. A de facto election via the primary means that your actual election is wortheless; and we have plenty of non-partisan positions and other items only contested in the general election that deserve an honest contest.

3. Our current system means that the winner of a multi-candidate race means that you don't have the 'thinning the field' benefit that primaries are supposed to offer.

Bryan Weaver had a great op-ed on this in the Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dcs-next-mayor-could-win-with-the-support-of-12-percent-of-voters-theres-a-better-way/2014/01/31/1101ca8e-886d-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html

Let me flip it to you: if the primary is the de facto general election, then what's the objection to making the primary more small-d democratic?

by Alex B. on Apr 1, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport

" It is not open to all voters. It's fundamentally undemocratic."

Only in theory. As a practical matter it IS open to all voters. All you have to do is register as a Dem. Doing so you lose only the ability to vote in GOP (or Statehood-Green) primaries. Only GOP primary that matters is the one for presidential convention delegates, and that doesnt matter much.

"2. A de facto election via the primary means that your actual election is wortheless; and we have plenty of non-partisan positions and other items only contested in the general election that deserve an honest contest."

NOw thats a good point - it depresses turnout for things like referenda. Okay, gotcha.

"3. Our current system means that the winner of a multi-candidate race means that you don't have the 'thinning the field' benefit that primaries are supposed to offer."

Well thats an advantage to a two stage process, which I gather is whats proposed. To quibble, not all non partisan systems are two stage. To cite Fairfax again, the school board races are non partisan, but there is no run off. Since there are few "independent" candidates, and FCDC and FCRC only each endorse as many candidates as there are positions, thats not generally a problem.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

I think non-partisan instant runoff is a perfect fit for DC. It's not unprecedented in the US: Oakland, San Fran, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and I think Cambridge, Mass all use it.

by dcmike on Apr 1, 2014 2:16 pm • linkreport

Only in theory. As a practical matter it IS open to all voters. All you have to do is register as a Dem.

Again, let me flip the question on you: if that's your solution, then why bother with the partisan primary in the first place?

You can see why this isn't a particularly compelling defense of the status quo.

by Alex B. on Apr 1, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

I guess the argument is that at some point DC might become more contested between parties (either dems vs GOP, or even Dems vs Statehood-Greens). At that point foregoing the other party's primary would be a real commitment - and so would be positive for the party - and the negatives would mostly go away (since the primary would no longer be equivalent to election). But if thats not realistic, than there is no advantage to keeping or dispensing the status quo (other than the turnout for referenda issue, which leans toward change)

Personally I think more partisan commitment has something to be said for it. I am intrigued by the Iowa system of local caucuses where local party members actually have to show up and talk to their neighbors about politics. In FFX we occassionally have a caucus in lieu of a primary, but last one (for sheriff) was county wide, which IMO defeats the idea of using it to build community. And I am aware of the danger of more commitment (as in a caucus) leading to ideological extremism - though here in Va thats much more a problem with one major party than with the other.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

I think more partisan commitment has something to be said for it. I am intrigued by the Iowa system of local caucuses where local party members actually have to show up and talk to their neighbors about politics.

Well, it's hard for people working two shifts at Denny's or with kids or whatever to get out to caucus with their neighbors for several hours. It skews the voters older and richer (and thus whiter).

I'm not sure why we have let old, white, wealthy people in the only state that loves ethanol decide who our president is. Must be a path-dependency issue. If only there were some organization that could deal with these....

by David C on Apr 1, 2014 3:03 pm • linkreport

Ethanol in Iowa would be a problem if they had a primary and 100% turnout.

There could be ways to address the caucus turnout issue, including providing baby sitting at the caucus. But as with everything in life, there are tradeoffs. today we hold local elections in most places in off years - getting lower (and whiter and older and wealthier) turnout, but more focus on the local election. But not getting the face to face benefits of a caucus.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 3:08 pm • linkreport

As I understand it, the other parties in DC (GOP, Statehood Green, Libertarian) aren't interested in a non-partisan blanket primary. They like getting their candidate on every general election ballot.

Also, if we went to a non-partisan primary then we would definitely have to change the primary date to make it later in the year. As it is, it's ridiculous that we are having a primary 7 months before the election.

by MLD on Apr 1, 2014 3:09 pm • linkreport

Personally I think more partisan commitment has something to be said for it.

Sure, I can see that. But that is a terrible idea for a broad-based, city-wide election for offices like Mayor.

Again, none of these reasons are particularly compelling. And none of the proposed reforms (such as the blanket primary, top-two system) would hurt the ability of local political parties to organize.

If you want to defend the role of political parties in local politics, that's fine. But the conversation here is about the effectiveness of voting systems for civic elections, and it's a much bigger conversation.

by Alex B. on Apr 1, 2014 3:09 pm • linkreport

and of course primaries are influenced by parties - a party with the demographics to get more volunteers, has an edge, and its hard for someone working two jobs to volunteer.

I recognize the concern you express, but I have concerns about holding a desire for more and deeper involvement in the process than simply a few seconds in a voting booth, to be the equivalent of George Will desiring to make voting more difficult to improve "the quality of the electorate". There has to be an alternative to high Toryism other than minimal civic involvement.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 3:12 pm • linkreport

Federal employees are allowed to run in the nonpartisan local elections.
You're suggesting that DC's political class might like to exclude federal employees as potential rivals? It's possible.

by Steve S. on Apr 1, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

"And none of the proposed reforms (such as the blanket primary, top-two system) would hurt the ability of local political parties to organize."

I am not particularly against the changes suggested for DC. I just have an issue with some of the arguments for them, which IMO are weak. But a weak argument for still trumps a weaker argument against.

but in jurisdictions with viable two party systems, non-partisan elections lead to fundamental dishonesty - I point again to FFX school board elections - nominally non-partisan - but slates are selected by the parties (and in committee votes, not primaries) and supported by party volunteers, and candidates pledge party loyalty. All thats missing is the party name on the ballot, with the result that lots of money and effort is expending on distributing handbills to let voters know the party endorsement - money and effort that maybe could be used to speak to issues? I think the falsehood involved in calling the elections non-partisan actually lowers (at least a little bit) respect for the entire process.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

Also where a viable 2 party system exists, the partisan primary has different strategic implications than a top two primary.

Given a 2 party general, each party may have incentive to nominate a centrist, to gain an edge in the general. You are likely in that instance to end up with a two person race between a center right ( and a center left candidate. In the case of a multicandidate open primary, with different candidates dividing the vote in complex ways, you could end up with a two person race between a centrist and an extremist of either side, or even between two extremists. That can happen in a partisan primary system, but at least there are incentives against it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

but in jurisdictions with viable two party systems, non-partisan elections lead to fundamental dishonesty

But again: DC does not have a two-party system.

Also, I think you're confusing two different types of non-partisan elections. In the California top-two system, it is the primary election that is non-partisan (e.g. the primary is not segregated by party). The candidates are still affiliated with political parties; they still appear on the ballot with a (D) or (R) next to their name.

Here is a sample ballot from Fresno County, California: http://www2.co.fresno.ca.us/2850/post/root1106/ballots/bt000083.pdf

General election ballot: note the state assembley race between two Republicans. Also note the non-partisan school board elections.

There's a big difference between using a non-partisan election system and declaring certain elected offices to be non-partisan.

by Alex B. on Apr 1, 2014 3:31 pm • linkreport

"But again: DC does not have a two-party system."

Some of the arguments above did not clarify they applied only to a jurisdiction without a two party system.

Thanks for clarifying that a non-partisan primary could still have party IDs on the ballot. Though I guess in that case its purely voluntary - there is no primary, caucus or other party input on that usage, so no party vetting of the candidates (except for endorsements communicated via handbills, etc)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 1, 2014 3:43 pm • linkreport

I voted for Wells, Bonds and Allen (plus Strauss).

by h st ll on Apr 1, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

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