GRANOLAPARK: Free drinks!

IMAGE: Disinterested member of the public (right) pointedly ignores proposed bulletin board design (left) in this drawing from the proposal.


Dear Readers,

That’s the Takoma Park city council you see skipping down the park path, led by the hairy gentleman with all the sharp teeth. Tra-la-la.

The “sponsored” bulletin boards proposal passed June 8 by a quick, unanimous council vote.  The public didn’t notice or didn’t care if a business puts up ads in public parks – ads attached to public bulletin boards. Nobody cares that the company, Landis Construction, gets perpetual advertising for the mere one-time cost of a few pieces of wood and hardware, plus the installation. They don’t even pay for maintenance, the city does that.

Bulletin board note to city: this is not how advertising works. The way it should work is that the city puts up a bulletin board with a blank space, rents the blank space by the month or  year to Landis or whoever else wants to PAY for it, and makes a PROFIT.

In the proposal drawing the bulletin board looks creepily like a guillotine.

Vote or else!

How to get more people to vote in city elections?

Mandatory voting?

Curbside voting?

Randomly drafting an opponent to run in uncontested council races?

Turn it into a festival?

Free ice cream for those who vote?

Free drinks?

Those were all serious, or semi-serious suggestions made by the council and Board of Election members. Except the last one – that’s from Your Gilbert. If they go for that one – your’e welcome.

Mayilynn Abbott BOE Chair reported that the board is gearing up for the coming (fall, 2015!) city election. They are doing voter outreach – by bus. A voter registration bus will be featured at city events such as the annual Folk Festival next September. Apparently they are just going to drive it around and do curb-side registration.


Schultz is in favor. Voting at the Takoma Park city council June 8 meeting.

They are thinking of holding five days of early voting, maybe in different ward locations instead of the usual community center polling place.

For future elections, the board is looking into moving nominating caucus and/or election day dates so there’s a longer period of electioneering, an idea that had Your Gilbert squirming in his seat with horror.

They’re thinking of ways to speed up the hand count, “so we’re not here for six hours counting ballots,” said Abbott.

These are good, said the council, but we want more! MORE!

And what about apartment renters? That was a big issue for the council. Are they turning out in bigger numbers? Did any of the reforms we made work?

Ballot counting at the city community center.

Ballot counting at the city community center, Ward 3 special election, 2014.

Those reforms were requiring apartment building owners to allow access to politicians, and keeping voter registration open until election day.

The BOE has no info on it, said Abbott. Councilmenber Seth Grimes said he’d compile the data himself to see if there’s been an increase in apartment dwellers.

What ways are there to “stir people?” asked Councilmember Fred Schultz.

The question got a storm of answers that rivaled the torrent pounding the community center room that evening.


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“Is there something we can do to enhance election day,” as they do in other countries, asked Shultz.

“We can’t declare a Takoma Park holiday,” said Abbott, and whether or not a race is contested is out of the board’s control.

That sparked Tim Male’s idea of randomly picking someone from the uncontested ward to run against the incumbent.

“We’re open to ideas!” said Abbot.

Hot Diggity, Dear Reader, we’ve got ideas! Free drinks, as we said before, or how about – if no person runs against an incumbent, we can nominate animals? A post-election pie-fight!

Here’s an idea – if a race is uncontested, the ballot should have the alternate choice of “Spank the Incumbent.” If Spank the Incumbent wins, . . . .

How about you? I’ll bet our Dear Readers have plenty of good suggestions. Or put them in the comments below.

Sidewalk skirmish

Sidewalk War

PTSD symptoms flared up among many in the city council chamber, triggered by old Sidewalk War battle cries.

Mayor Bruce Williams said the “clarification” to sidewalk policy has been mis-characterized by critics. The naysayers, rebel veterans all from the previous conflict, didn’t believe him, nor did they believe  the other council members and staff tried to assured them the changes were not what they thought – a change of policy that makes it easier for the city to install sidewalks in neighborhoods that don’t want them.

The skeptics are convinced the council is trying to put one over on them, so when Councilmember Seth Grimes tried to assure them there is “sufficient protection” in the changes, the half-dozen or so who turned out to object grumbled.

When the changes/clarification passed unanimously, there was a single, weak “boo.”

– Gilbert


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About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

2 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Free drinks!"

  1. Randy Marks | June 13, 2015 at 7:59 am |

    I advocate the city having several non-binding referenda during each voting cycle on key issues, such as:

    —Should city maintain tax revenues at current level (with consequences of ___) or maintain tax rate at current level (with consequences of ___).

    —Should city maintain police patrol strength at __, even if it means allocating less to Rec Dept or other City functions.

    —Should city move to phase out all use of USPS, with a resident having an absolute right to receive such communications if electronic communication is not acceptable.

    A Task Force would solicit input from citizens each year and propose ideas to City Council, which would decide on wording of each question.

  2. Takoma Park: Come on down! What we need is a lottery to incentivize voter turnout. Each voter would receive a lottery ticket, and a drawing would be held several days later. The lure of lotteries to encourage voter participation has been examined in some detail by political scientists, who report positive results. The most thorough analysis was published in 2012 by Raymond La Raja and Brian Schaffner of the University of Massachusetts (“Buying Voters: The Effect of Financial Incentives on Intentions to Vote,” American Political Science Association, August 2012, ).
    Their analysis first examined if incentivized voting would be effective in mobilizing turnout. They concluded it would be – the nudge provided by the prospect of financial gain was sufficient to increase turnout by about a quarter. That is quite a significant increase, well over twice the increase in turnout produced by any other reform, even election-day registration. Second, they determined that turnout is maximized with lotteries featuring relatively high odds of winning a modest amount. (The most effective outcome was a general election lottery where 100,000 voters nationwide would win $2,200 apiece.)

    Takoma Park should put this concept to the test and be a national trend setter: I suggest that Takoma Park raise $25,000 in donations, sufficient to cover administrative costs and 20 lottery winners of $1,000 apiece, drawn at random from voters in the next election. If you take up the challenge to test the impact on turnout of a lottery, the first $2,000 will come from me.

    George Tyler
    close friend of a long-time Takoma Park resident
    author of What Went Wrong: How the 1% Hijacked the American Middle Class…And What Other Countries Got Right

Comments are closed.