Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Here we go

Well, good morning Nashville! One day to go. Thursday is an important election day. Let's do all we can today to involve as many citizens of Nashville as possible. Go ahead and take the risk. Talk to those 20-50 people you come into contact with each day; those people you don't want to "bother" with your political views. Today is the political equivalent of the Great American Smokeout. On that day, perfect strangers accost one another to discourage smoking. Is this irritating to smokers? Yes, but it is also in their best interests, and most smokers reflect on those unsolicited opinions, and some stop smoking.

So, today, I am declaring a Greater Metropolitan Nashville Political Apathy Out. Today, everyone is not only encouraged to share his/her opinion on the Mayor's race, everyone should realize it is his/her responsibility to share political opinions with anyone who hasn't voted. Only early voters are exempt...and no lying; but even early voters are obligated to speak with others. For the next 24-36 hours, everyone gets to know your opinion on the Mayor's race, your local council seat and the at-large candidates. You can do it, and we can all stay friends.

I know people find politics awkward, but the problem is not politics. The problem is the personalization of politics. Zero-sum attack politics leaves us all poorer, but politics that is positive sum enables us to engage our differences and search for compromises that leave us all better off. When politics is at its best, no matter who wins, everyone really wins, but increasingly we all treat politics like sports. In sports, if your team has a bad year, makes bad moves, or employs questionable characters, you stick with your team and hope they will straighten it out. Any Cubs fans understand what I'm saying? Lately, that's the way we've treated our political party affiliations, and it isn't something that is brand new, it has probably always been that way to a greater of lesser degree.

Yet, in politics, the question is not which TEAM wins...the question ought to be which IDEAS win, because when the best ideas are vetted, tested, tweaked, and accepted, WE ALL WIN. The goal is not showing loyalty to the team; the teams ought to be loyal to us. To make that happen, we have to be willing and able to walk away. In short, we need choices.

In this local election, we have some real choices. Each of us has to ask some important questions and do some real looking to find out which choices he or she prefer. What an opportunity!

So, make a decision. It matters. Then share your decision with everyone you see. Start by sharing it here, but make sure you share it with the real potential voters you meet every day. In If you do, you will be building a climate of discussion and dialogue...productive debate. It may feel awakward at first, but you will soon find it isn't all that threatening. Then, our candidates will have to impress us all in order to lead us.

The reference to What's the Matter with Kansas that is the allusion in the title of this blog is instructive here. Nothing is the matter with Tennessee if every person sincerly evaluates electoral choices, if those choices are real, and if we are all able to compromise in order to govern well.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Remember the Mayor's Role in Education

It has gotten pretty far down the list of posts, so I want to bring it back because it is central to my judgement that David Briley will make a better mayor for education than the other candidates. He, more that the rest, has the experience and understanding that will enable him to hit the ground running with the proper role for the mayor's office in the educational policy context. Clement and Dean have good ideas, but it will take a while for these ideas to be translated into actions. The school board, and central administration guard the idea side of things by tradition and authority. The mayor must create a context in which those good ideas move forward and educational policy is supported and celebrated. Dean, Clement, Dozier, and Gentry may be able to do that, and on that list, I think Gentry has the most promising experience and statements, but Briley knows exactly how to do it. He has done it both at the Lockeland school and on the City Council. If you support public education, and everyone has called this the education election, then Briley is the clear choice.

Good work Rascoe and friends!

I was happy to see the story of Rascoe Dean in the Tennessean. Rascoe was one of my favorite students, and as I always told his classmates and him in class, I did not care if their opinions matched mine, but I did care that they had an opinion. I am happy to see the involvement of young voters that Rascoe is getting for this campaign. Building that involvement at a young age will spread to a vibrant civic involvement that will bolster any community. For those who tend to attack the motives of people with different political opinions, I hope this story will make an important point. When I say I respect all the candidates in this race, and appreciate the passion of their supporters, I mean it. I made a choice that I feel passionately about, but in the end, politics is what allows us to debate our collective futures, agree and disagree, and find ways to move forward benefiting from all of that deliberation. It is important that Rascoe's generation be involved. This generation represents a demographic that doesn't vote much, and I hope this election, whatever the outcome will hook large numbers of young voters on that important civic participation.

Rascoe is doing his part, and I'm trying to do mine. Now, you do yours.

And so on, and so on....

Well, this morning's City Paper is already handicapping the runoff between Dean and Clement. I wonder which campaigns released internal numbers showing that foregone conclusion? Fortunately, however, the article provides us yet another reason to vote for Briley. The paper predicts that the runoff will be ugly. Now, I am not going to spend much time on media criticism today. Suffice to say that no one can be sure who any of the alleged "sources" for this story are really working for. The press is too easy to manipulate for anyone to believe much of what each side "says" about the campaign. That's the point I've been trying to make about the inevitability claims by Clement and Dean supporters.

Enough. Thirty two of the visitors to this site said they thought David Briley was best qualified. If each of them found 10 new voters today, the number would be 320 tomorrow. If each of those found 10 new voters tomorrow, the number would be 3200. If each of those found 10 new voters Wednesday, the number would be 32000. That number, 32000 new voters turning out for one candidate on Thursday would more than lock up the election for that candidate. So, nothing is inevitable if people are committed to work for it. 32000 new votes, combined with the 12,000 plus already identified by the campaign would get close to the 50% mark to avoid a runoff. But, let's not get giddy.

Can you find 10 new voters today who will find 10 tomorrow, and so on, and so on....

Friday, July 27, 2007

RIP Skip

I started this blog to join a political discourse in Tennessee, and for the past day I have resisted commenting on the loss of a good man. Yet, as a Demon Deacon and part of the Wake nation, I am deeply touched by the passing of Wake Forest Basketball Coach Skip Prosser. He began as a high school history teacher before moving into the upper echelons of college basketball coaching. I liked him because he was a leader I could be proud of. He did things the right way, treated others fairly, and taught his players to do the same. His sudden passing reminds us all to "learn like we will live forever, but live like we will die tomorrow."

If you want to read about a good man, click here.

I am taking time out to hug my family.

Enclave: No More Deliberation. My Mind is Made Up. David Briley Should Be Our Next Mayor.

Enclave: No More Deliberation. My Mind is Made Up. David Briley Should Be Our Next Mayor.

Framing Funds

Today's Tennessean headline reads:

Cost of Runoff in Mayoral Race Might Favor Two
The City Paper leads with:

Disclosures: Clement Raises More Dean Spends More

Two candidates are featured, and from one way of interpreting the data, this framing of the story might seem appropriate. Is there another story suggested by the financial disclosures? Look closely at the data compiled by the Tennessean:


Money raised July 1-23: $62,053

Money raised overall through July 23: $600,000*** (*** not an exact figure )

Money left to spend: $32,829

Candidate: BOB CLEMENT

Money raised July 1-23: $115,646

Money raised overall through July 23: $1,365,033

Money left to spend: $548,278

Candidate: KARL DEAN

Money raised July 1-23: $356,210* (* includes $325,000 in personal loans)

Money raised overall through July 23: $1,201,000

Money left to spend: $8,973

Candidate: BUCK DOZIER

Money raised July 1-23: $46,807

Money raised overall through July 23: $532,278

Money left to spend: $83,686


Money raised July 1-23: $53,696** (**includes $23,000 in personal loans )

Money raised overall through July 23: $386,744

Money left to spend: $44,016

How about these headlines? Clement and Briley Leading the Pack in Late Fundraising OR Briley Continues to Outdistance Dean in Individual Contributions.

Now, I guess I am responding a bit here to the person who said that Briley supporters were disparaging to Dean when pointing out that Briley's individual contributions are larger than Dean's. While I don't think that Dean's ability to use personal funds for his campaign in any way disqualifies him or taints his candidacy, I do continue to be confused over why the newspapers give the impression that he has more support. I think the level of support is at least an open question, and that question ought to be reported honestly. Let's face it, some people are planning to vote for Dean because they believe he has the "better chance." But in assessing the candidates with the better chance, it is a trap to count personal contributions to one's own campaign. Those do not show support. The campaigns own sound bite on that spending acknowledges the long shot nature of Dean's campaign:

Dean spokeswoman Janel Lacey said the campaign has spent significant resources developing material for his door to-door “grassroots” campaign and emphasized, when asked about Dean’s personal contributions, that he “is not a career politician — so we’ve been working to build his name recognition.” (The City Paper, July 27, 2007)

Material for a door-to-door campaign is nothing like the very large door-to-door campaign that has already been underway a long time in the Briley camp. Lacking name recognition is something that reduces one's chances for winning, but the papers keep reporting this as an advantage for Dean. Not being a career politician is a swipe at Clement and frankly demeaning to people who dedicate themselves to public service. Some newspaper reporter ought to point out that Metro Law Director isn't exactly a private sector job. Karl Dean would not disparage people who dedicate their lives to public and political service, but this unexamined sound bite shows up almost every day in this city's newspapers.

Leaving out personal funds lent to the campaign, the candidates rank this way (All my numbers are drawn directly from the Tennessean and City Paper's reports):

Money Raised July 1-23 (the most recent period, an indicator of late, post-polling momentum):

Clement: $115, 646

Briley: $62,053

Dozier: $46, 807

Dean: $31, 210

Gentry: $30,696

Overall Money Raised through July 23:

Clement: $1,365,033

Briley: $600,000

Dozier: $532,278

Dean: $250,000 ($1.2 M (total); $950,000 in personal money)

Gentry: $363,744 ($386,744 (total); $23,000 in personal money)

So, if the story is about how much the campaign has to spend, then inclusion of personal money is most appropriate, but if the question is what does fundraising show about which candidate has broader support, then Briely's numbers show him solidly in second place and the more likely runoff participant when compared to any of the other non-Clement candidates.

Dollars don't vote. On election day, each contributor and noncontributor gets ONE VOTE. Briley clearly has more individual contributors than anyone with the possible exception of Clement. I see no objective way that this data cannot be interpreted to make Briley a favorite for the runoff. Will Dean supporters now vote for Briley because he has the "better chance?" I don't really think they should, but their unwillingness to offer shows the clear fallacy in the so-called strategy of defensive voting. But, I already revealed the circularity of that argument.

So, get away from polls and dollars and yard signs. Get back to the real question: Who is best qualified to lead Nashville into its future? David Briley is the favorite in that race.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

That Buzz

At lunch today, I ran into one of the people from the Briley event I attended last night, and I could tell that Briley's grasp of the city's challenges and opportunities in transportation had impressed him. As almost always seems to happen when David Briley gets the chance to speak thoughtfully, people were impressed. Far from political calculations, Briley readily admits where the tough questions lie, gives his impressions and, listens to perspectives that differ. These great qualities for a mayor came through once again last night, and I can sense the momentum growing.

Look for Briley supporters canvassing your neighborhood soon. Plenty of work remains in getting supporters to the polls, and you can help. If you are impressed, make sure that the people you know understand why. If you run into people who are not planning to vote, explain the significance of this election for the future of Nashville, and ask them to vote for David Briley.

Early voting runs through Saturday. Be sure to make your voice heard.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dissapointing Coverage

Check this out:

The forum was the 47th since Briley and Dean entered the mayor’s race last fall, according to Evans Donnell, a Gentry spokesman. Clement, Dozier and Gentry participated in three forums before then, Donnell said. (The Tennessean, July 25, 2007)

Did you know that? How many did you see? How available have these candidates made themselves for inspection by citizens as well as the media? By now, we ought to have a very deep sense of where each of these guys stands, and we ought to be nearing a pretty sophisticated set of criteria for making our decisions about the best choice we can make in the Mayor's race.

So, why are the mainstream media endorsements so shallow?

The Scene endorsement is particularly hard to follow. Here is what they say about the guy they chose:

Meanwhile, Karl Dean, the former Metro law director and public defender, is simply an honest broker with a focused message. He’s not politically insecure, and thus doesn’t engage in the kind of cunning doublespeak that others have demonstrated a willingness to practice. His rhetoric is plain and clear, lacking platitudes and kowtowing. Dean has an almost Kennedy-esque persona, and is a sort of Nashville Mr. Smith, a character whose slightly dorky disposition is so genuine as to be endearing.

OK. They celebrate this candidate for avoiding political tricks like saying one thing but not being prepared to follow through. I get that, but look closely at the VERY NEXT LINE:

While we can’t say Dean has offered a blueprint for reducing high school dropout rates in Nashville—which has been the core of his campaign message—we believe he possesses the skills to make such an impact on public education.

WHY? HOW? Is anyone paying attention to this? They like his honesty and his straight talk, and the core of his campaign is based on something that this endorser is not prepared to say he has a plan to accomplish. Now, bear with me, because I actually think this assessment is so far off the mark that it is not really fair to Karl. This observation is about the quality of this endorsement. I am not impressed with the reasoning in this piece, and it does little to add to the reasonable dialogue about who should be mayor.

It gets worse. Here is what they say about the guy the reject:

He [David Briley] has what is probably the finest mind on the 40-member Metro Council—not to mention one of the sharpest in the city. We share his enthusiasm for embracing sustainability, and we appreciate his accessibility and work ethic.

OK. He's very smart. Sounds like a good candidate.
But Briley is also one of Nashville’s most politically calculating
personalities, so much so that he strategizes himself in circles.

Really? That sounds bad. Any evidence? They follow with one piece of "evidence."
Examples are his recently released policy paper on dealing with illegal immigrants in Nashville and a TV ad covering some of the same terrain. While the whole of the policy paper is benign, one section—dealing with punishing local employers who hire illegals—is not only disingenuous, but also outside Metro’s authority, which Briley well knows. We believe Briley’s exploration of the topic was intended to exploit an anti-immigrant sentiment for political advantage.

OK, you are entitled to believe what you want, and this paragraph makes no claim other than that the author believes it to be true. But, you see, that's where I am disappointed. Forty-seven to fifty times these candidates have gone out in public to discuss their views. If Briley is flip flopping and playing political games, the people who have witnessed the forums have not reported it. In fact, the Tennessean reported that at tonight's forum, Briley, Dean, and Gentry all gave essentially the same positions on immigration. Yet a sweeping claim about Briley's character is based on that position and used to wave away all the work he has done while failing to hold the endorsed candidate to the same standard.

And that's the point. These endorsements are not based on standards. They are based on personal opinions and gut feelings. I have suggested standards at this site that describe important characteristics of the mayor to me, and my "endorsement" is clearly linked to those. Whether you agree or disagree with how I applied them, you can at least see and understand where I am coming from. That approach, I hope, adds to discussion and deliberation. The gut feeling (he is politically calculating because he is) really doesn't add understanding or enlightenment.

And that's disappointing.

Defensive Voting?

I am writing to a small demographic today, but whether you are part of that demographic today or not, you will likely entertain the prospect of defensive voting at some point in the future, and I have been wrestling with some thoughts lately that I share for anyone who wants to hear them.

A defensive voter is one who passes on the opportunity to vote for the candidate he/she really prefers in order to vote for a candidate with "a better chance to win." Defensive voting becomes a significant issue in multi-candidate elections like the Mayor's race. So, in this race, someone may say, "I really prefer Briley, but I'm voting for Dean because he has a better chance to make the runoff." This strategic voting is seldom as strategic as it seems in conventional wisdom. I ask you to consider the following weaknesses to this line of thought:

First, chances of winning are unknowable. Assumptions about who is likely to win that are based on polls are always problematic, but beyond that, voting decisions determine who will win. Therefore, strategic decisions that deny the presumptive loser votes become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you think a candidate will lose, so you vote for someone else, then the candidate will lose. The defensive voter is not acting on realities as he/she usual feels. The defensive voter is SHAPING that reality.

Second, the "threat" that the defensive voter defends against is often exaggerated. In the Mayor's race, for instance, the Dean-Briley decision that many blogs are discussing usually evokes some hazy, incomplete description of the supposed horror of a runoff without either of these men. I am not willing to say that that outcome, even though it would not be my preference, is such a real threat that I should throw away my chance to vote for the person I feel will do the best job as Mayor. I have written many times that one of the Mayor's most important jobs is to lead through inspiration. If everyone votes for the candidate he or she believes will do the best job, and Dean and Briley are left out of the runoff, I am not willing to say that Bob Clement would not be a good option. If everyone votes his/her conscience, then whoever makes the runoff will by definition be a candidate who inspires a larger share of Nashville's people. I will have the chance to choose again. Bob Clement, Howard Gentry, and even Buck Dozier are good, honorable men who want to serve. The administrative needs of the city will be well-served by any of them, and the people they will appoint to run city offices will do well in those posts. This conclusion does not mean that I don't passionately prefer Briley's vision and fitness for the job over the rest, but it does mean that I don't really need to throw my vote away "defending" myself against a serious threat. Being able to rally the city is an essential part of leadership, and elections, in the absence of defensive voters, are one clear aspect of demonstrating an ability to do that. Defensive voting, on the other hand, denies a candidate who has already inspired people of the electoral proof of that inspiration.

I am writing today primarily to those who say, "I really prefer Briley (insert the name of your preferred candidate here), but I am voting for "x" because I think he has the better chance to win. Democracy means voting for the person you find best suited for the job. So, if you really think Briley (or any other candidate) is the best suited for the job, I encourage you to vote for him/her. This approach is less likely to polarize our politics and better suited to helping us move forward after an election working together to make our city great.

In football, the commentators often say that the "prevent defense" usually prevents a team from winning. Similarly, defensive voting often defends us against our first choice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Do Polls Matter on Election Day?

The latest poll is in. The City Paper published the results today. This poll shows dramatically different numbers than the previous polls, and that shows what I have been saying all along. Of course, those in the lead will say they are gratified, but they will fear that their supporters will stay home on election day figuring the thing is in the bag. Those behind, fearing their supporters will jump ship to a winner or stay home discouraged, will say that the polls don't matter since it is only the votes on election day that count.

Who is right? Well, they all are. Polls don't elect people. They can, however, affect the outcome if the voters respond to the polls by staying home.

Communication theorists refer to this tendency we have to avoid expressing opinions when we believe we are in the minority as "The Spiral of Silence" (Noelle-Neumann, E. (1974). The spiral of silence: a theory of public opinion. Journal of Communication, 24, 43-51). The rise of election tracking polls has definitely gone hand in hand with the general decline in voter turnout in America over the past 40 years. There are many reasons why people choose not to vote, but keeping a minority opinion to yourself is probably one of them.

Let me point out one more thing and then plead again for everyone to vote so that we can get a candidate that we really want. This poll asked 564 people who they want as mayor. That is interesting information, but I would rather know who all the people of Nashville want. And remember, even if this polls is perfect, it has a margin of error of 4.2%. That means that any number in the poll could be off by as much as 4.2%...up or down. So, let's look at those numbers to see what the poll really tells us:

Candidate Support:

Bob Clement 23%

Karl Dean 21%

Howard Gentry 21%

‘Buck’ Dozier 16%

David Briley 12%

undecided 5%

Kenneth Eaton 1%

Cheryl Lynn Tisdale 1%

Note: Poll of 564 likely voters was conducted July 19-22 and has a margin for error of +/- 4.2%. (City Paper, July 24, 2007)

If the Clement, Dean, and Gentry numbers are high by 4.2%, while the Dozier and Briley numbers are low by 4.2% (and remember that this kind of shift is likely among numbers since a vote shift from one candidate to another is both an increase for one and a decrease for the other), then all of the numbers start to look much closer together.

Further distortions come from the formulas that pollsters use to determine the significance of each voting demographic to the outcome. Briley and Gentry do well among younger voters according to this survey. When the results are calculated, the poll uses some (undisclosed) formula to weight the significance of support in different demographics based on past voting behavior. Since young voters traditionally remain pretty inactive on election day, especially in local elections, this poll very likely skews their impact on the numbers downward. If you want to change the results, change the assumptions. If a larger than expected number of young voters turn out to vote, we could just as easily see Gentry and Briley in the runoff. If a larger number of older voters turnout, then Dozier and Clement may benefit more. The point is that the voters actual decision to vote still matters and shapes the outcome.

I am not saying that this poll won't end up being correct, but I would hate for any survey of 564 people to be correct because it led people to vote as if the poll were an instruction sheet. Everyone needs to make his/her own decision and vote that way. That is the only way democracy really works. Polls are fun to talk about, but if the polls shape how we vote, we are giving our decisions away.

In each election, there are many polls taken. Often on a national level, one of them ends up being pretty close to the results. The problem is that you never know which one will be accurate until after the results are in.

Don't let anyone (polls, bloggers, pundits) decide who you want to be your mayor. You get to make that decision on your own. With just a little over a week remaining, you still have time to consider all of the candidates thoughtfully, and make your own decision. If you want that decision to help shape Nashville's future, just be sure to act on it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dropping Out?

I have to say that some of the best work on this Nashville Mayor's race is coming from Rob Robinson at Think Train. His assessments of both Briley and Dean do a good job of identifying the strengths these two possess that will make them great leaders for our future. While he discounts Clement much more than I do, his grasp of Dean and Briley is really insightful.

Now, however, Rob is suggesting that one of the two drop out of the election. I feel sure it is too late for that strategy to work, and I feel like it may be too cute by half.

If Dean and Briley are the two best suited to serve as Mayor, why shouldn't they be in the runoff against each other? If the people now at odds with each other over the Dean-Briley divide really are such a narrow and inactive slice of the population that they cannot hope to turnout enough votes to overtake Clement, Dozier, and Gentry, then perhaps our little battle is very small. If, on the other hand, the issues these two men represent and the trustworthiness that they exude are really what the mainstream of this city wants, then there is no reason that turnout cannot be high enough to put them both on the ballot.

Why is it a given that Clement will be on the ballot? Has he inspired voters to turnout any more than these others? I doubt it. He is the most well known, and we have been steadily told that he is the front runner, but his support, as far as I have seen has been soft, and it has been gauged more on name recognition than likelihood of turnout. As far as I can tell, all of the candidates have been judged on name recognition in every poll so far.

TURNOUT is all that matters. If more Dean and Briley supporters actually go to the polls, there is no reason these two can't battle it out in the runoff.

The trick is to move away from the computer screen and find some new voters or apathetic voters who need to know how important this election is to the city of Nashville.

Do Netroots Matter?

Returning specifically to my avowed purpose for beginning this blog last fall, the Nashville Mayor's race offers a real opportunity to see if blogging can make a difference.

Last fall, several of the close senate races were studied for the impact of local bloggers on turnout, especially among younger voters. If it is possible to get a blog-buzz going and see it produce a measurable increase in voter turnout for a specific candidate, we ought to be able to see it in an election with turnout predicted to be as low as this one. If everyone reading this blog makes sure that 5 people who would otherwise not have voted turns out, we could see a quick increase in the electorate.

Again, this approach could wind up favoring any candidate with a presence on the web. Are you up for it? If you have a blog that is into this effort to increase voter turnout among the netroots crowd, leave me a comment or send me a link, and let's push turnout in this important election higher.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

To Poll or to Vote; That is the Question

So, who will win? I have received some version of this question from several people in the last 24 hours. The answer depends entirely on you, the voter. When polling data helps you make up your mind whom to vote for based on who you think will win, the process becomes inverted. In elections, you vote for the candidate you want to win, and the polls either reflect that accurately or they don't.

Some polls show Clement in first with Dean surging Dozier, Gentry, and Briley battling for third. Clement's and Briley's support seems softer, and undecideds have gone to Dean over the last month, by and large. However, every poll shows something different, and they all show significant levels of undecided. Jeff Woods of the Scene criticizes the Channel 4 polling (take that for what it's worth) because it was done by random sampling with no attention to likely voters. Polls always produce at least as much controversy over their methods as they offer in enlightenment about the race. Of course, supporters of the front runner and charging candidates thin the polls show exactly what is happening while the rest of the pack tries to dispute them.

Dean and Briley are running similar campaigns and splitting similar voters. If Dean were not in, Briley would probably have easily advanced to the second round, but for some reason that I don't fully get, Dean supporters seem to dislike Briley on some personal rather than issue-based level, so Dean entered the race late and has run a good TV campaign to vault into serious contention. Dean also seems to be running a decent ground operation.

I spent this morning canvassing in East Nashville where Briley is very popular. I saw a projection that less than 100,000 could wind up voting, and early voting numbers have been low, so it should be any one's game in the first round. While it is hard to see an 8 point swing in polling data in a presidential election, that is exactly what Bush got in Ohio in 2004, and while some conspiracy theories dispute the claim, the last Bush campaign showed that attention to the get out the vote (GOTV) phase of the campaign can render polling data highly inaccurate. In a voter field of around 100,000 (about 1/3 of eligible voters in Nashville), very wide discrepancies between polling data and actual election outcomes are virtually certain. So all the campaigns will be focused on getting their supporters to turn out in these last few days. Early voting continues next week, and election day is August 2.

The bottom line is that whoever works hard in the next week and a half and whoever can convince more people to go to the polls during that time will win. Jesse Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota by reminding people that the voting booth is not the betting window at the track. He reminded people that voting is supposed to be an expression of your personal choice for a leader, not your prediction of who you think MIGHT win. In horse racing, you win when you back the horse who wins. In elections you only win if the candidate you back is the right one. Unlike horse racing where you have no control over the actual race, in voting, your selection determines the winner.

Baseball fans will remember that there were "polls" or at least strong conventional wisdom that the lowly St. Louis Cardinals, winners of just 83 regular season games last year, would be eliminated from the playoffs in the first post season round. Fans of the now defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals understand clearly that the discussions and projections add interest to the story, but the actual outcome is determined on the field. Elections are exactly the same.

So, make sure you exercise your control over the process. Now is the time, and every vote counts.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Why I'm voting for David Briley

Those of you following this blog know that I have taken this campaign for mayor very seriously, and I have thoroughly investigated the candidates over the past year. I make no secret of the significance that I think this election will have for our city and our future. I can say that my investigation reveals what is so often true of the men and women who volunteer to lead our communities. In general, these people are bright and capable, compassionate and concerned, and incredibly generous with their willingness to put their lives on hold to work for the good of our community. The candidates for Mayor of Nashville this time around are certainly no exceptions to that general rule, and I am confident that the discussions and debates that have occurred in this campaign will benefit Nashville and its citizens no matter who is elected.

The nature of this year's campaign is also commendable. The issues have really taken center stage, and those who have clear visions for the future of this great city/county have been pressed to describe and defend those visions. These candidates have shown that politics about ideas is still possible and that personal slander and attack are not necessary to the political process. This fact gives me even greater hope for our ability as citizens of Nashville to come together to deal with the issues that will confront us in the years ahead.

I have said all along that my decision would be based on clear criteria that are important to me. I respect and appreciate anyone whose criteria differ from mine or who evaluate the candidates differently along these lines. If you are reading this post, however, you must have at least passing curiosity about what I think, and while I have left my conclusions until now and enjoyed the conversations with many of you that have helped me to clarify my own thinking, it is now time for me to share my thoughts. As always, my goal is to inspire conversation, so please feel free to respond to this post with any thoughts it may provoke.

I have investigated the Mayoral candidates according to the standards I laid out in My Conversation with Bob Clement's Campaign. To remember, my hopes for an education mayor include:

1. Creativity, innovation, and ideas (specific ones) for helping the public schools meet the unique challenges of educating for the next century rather than the past.

2. A willingness and ability to work the legislative and bureaucratic process to secure significant and well-managed monetary increases to support those good ideas.

3. A charismatic personality and the passion to inspire the people of the city to support public education.

As I have followed the campaign and thought about the issues that confront Nashville, I have begun to believe that these criteria, good for education, are also criteria that will help to identify the best candidate on other issues as well. I have broadened my assessment criteria to include the following:

  1. Does the candidate have a clear vision for the future?
  2. Does the candidate have the political and governing skill to realize that vision?
  3. Does the candidate have the ability to inspire the citizens to see and support that vision?

I have decided conclusively that David Briley best meets the 6 criteria and is best suited to be the next Mayor of Nashville. I reach this conclusion knowing that it differs from those reached by some others whom I respect. I reach this conclusion confident that the other candidates would do a fine job and be excellent mayors. I simply believe that David Briley will be an even better mayor.

David Briley has impressed me with his vision. He seems to understand the dynamics of Nashville's current and future growth better than the rest. He has an effectively balanced perspective that can best be termed "wise growth." While other candidates have some very good ideas for the future of Nashville, David Briley seems to have a framing vision into which those ideas fit without becoming sidetracked or part of a single issue campaign. His sharp vision gives him a strong ability to inspire and guide political debates and deal proactively with issues that our city needs to address.

Nashville's Mayors Bill Purcell and Phil Bredesen have established a legacy of wise management and good government that has literally transformed this city over the last 16 years. The current slate of candidates for Mayor are all incredibly well qualified to continue this legacy. The city will be well-managed under Briley's leadership. However, the transformation that has taken place in the last 16 years makes the demands for leadership very different now than they were while Mayors Bredesen and Purcell were working hard to get the metro engine rolling. While each of these men is likely to keep that engine rolling at a high rate, David Briley, more than the rest, has impressed me that he has a clear idea how to be sure that the growth and development in this city will produce an even greater city and not simply more of the same. With all due respect to my friends in Atlanta, Nashville is great because it is not Atlanta, and David Briley convinces me that he understand how to chart a path for the future greatness of Nashville that will make this city both better and more liveable at the same time.

The role of Nashville's Mayor s changing with the city. We have had two great mayors who have taken us from a big, small town to the doorstep of a top tier city. Development, fiscal discipline, strong management, and growth have made this city incredibly popular and strong. David Briley seems to understand, better than the rest, what is required of a big city mayor. Big city mayors can be scary because they can lose touch with their communities, yet David Briley understands that challenge and seems very comfortable leading Nashville to greatness in ways that include all citizens of Nashville and bring us all along. Nashville will become a big city in the next 15 years whether we want to or not. David Briley understands that while the present direction is good, more of the same now will limit the potential that we have to shape our own destiny rather than having that destiny shaped completely by outside forces.

So, David Briley has an important vision, his vision is inspiring, he has the ability to mobilize effective actions both inside the halls of government and among the citizens of Nashville. He has the clarity of vision to understand the tools of a strong education system. His assessment of education issues in Nashville shows clearly that he understands not only the issues and challenges but also the relationship-building and hard work that a mayor must do in working with the School District, the School Board, and the City Council to make sure that all those involved in educating our children share the right vision for their incredible responsibility.

If you agree or disagree, I hope you will let me know. If you are in the 35% of undecided citizens, I hope you will consider my perspective, but whether you agree with me or not, I sincerely hope that you will take seriously the significance of this decision for our future as a community. Politics allows us to agree to disagree and still move forward together. The candidates in this campaign have given us all the opportunity to choose a future for our city, and we owe it to them to take that decision seriously.

David Briley has the clearest vision for a future grounded in our present strengths. He knows how to lead us to becoming a big city worth living in. He has an amazing grasp of the public policy details he will need to make good decisions, and he seems very capable of listening and hearing the good ideas that others have. He has the experience in leading, governing, coordinating, and inspiring that will enable him to bring out the very best in this city.

He can win, but that is something he cannot do without us.

That's why I'm voting for David Briley.